Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Katherine Bruen

Female Bef 1579 - 1601  (> 22 years)


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  • Name Katherine Bruen 
    Born Bef 13 Feb 1579  Bruen Stapleford in Tarvin, Cheshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Female 
    Baptised 13 Feb 1579  Bruen Stapleford in Tarvin, Cheshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Died 31 May 1601  [1, 2
    Buried 3 Jun 1601  Childwall, Cheshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Person ID I15974  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others
    Last Modified 8 Aug 2018 

    Father John Bruen,   b. Abt 1509, of Bruen Stapleford in Tarvin, Cheshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 May 1587  (Age ~ 78 years) 
    Mother Dorothy Holford 
    Family ID F9334  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family William Brettergh,   b. Abt 1571 
    Last Modified 4 Aug 2018 
    Family ID F9825  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

      Her short life was dominated by her illustrious elder brother, the godly gentleman John Bruen, who had care of Katherine and ten of her siblings, bringing them up in an atmosphere of strict household discipline and rigorous religious observance. About 1599 Katherine married another of the self-professed godly, William Brettergh of Brettergh Holt, near Liverpool, with whom she had one child, Anne. The two shared an extraordinarily pious lifestyle at Little Woolton in Childwall, Lancashire, reading at least eight chapters of the Bible every day and hearing two sermons on Sundays whenever possible, and she appears to have stiffened his resolve in withstanding the hostility, mockery, and harassment of the parish's strong Roman Catholic minority, organized by a local seminary priest, Thurstan Hunt, and the lord of the manors of Speke and Garston, Edward Norris. In turn, William Brettergh's attempt as high constable of West Derby hundred to apprehend recusants within the parishes of Huyton and Childwall in May 1600 provoked not only a full-scale riot but the maiming of Brettergh's cattle on two separate occasions over the following months.

      However, it is Katherine's premature and agonizing death rather than her short life which brought her most fame, and which provoked the biographies that provide virtually all the evidence of her godly lifestyle. At the age of twenty-two she succumbed to an unknown illness, and on her deathbed suffered from a terrible crisis of faith, during which she raged against God's unmercifulness and threw her Bible repeatedly to the floor. She died on 31 May 1601. Her agonies formed the centrepiece of a polemical account of her embattled life appended to the two sermons preached by William Harrison and William Leigh at her funeral in Childwall church on 3 June 1601, published together in 1602 as Death's Advantage Little Regarded, of which five editions had appeared by 1617 and a further two by 1641. Harrison in particular attempted to explain her deathbed anguish as the consequence of a diabolical assault on her virtue rather than a providential punishment for sin and hypocrisy. As a result her death became not only a gigantic struggle between God and Satan for her soul, but also, through a pamphlet exchange (of which the Catholic side has unfortunately not survived), a furious debate between Romanists and puritans over which religion could promise the more merciful death. From this perspective the conspicuous absence of any reference to Katherine's deathbed crisis in William Hinde's elaborate biography of her older brother, published in 1641, seems striking, perhaps even deliberately evasive.

      From the 1885-1900 Dictionary of National Biography:

      Her biographers are indignant at the imputation that she died despairing. She was buried at Childwall Church on Wednesday, 3 June, as appears from the title of the little book which forms the chief authority as to her life: Death's Advantage little Regarded, or the Soule's Solace against Sorrow, preached in two funerall sermons at Childwall, in Lancashire, at the buriall of Mistris Katherine Brettergh, 3 June 1601. The one by William Harrison, the other by William Leygh, B.D., whereunto is annexed the christian life and godly death of the said gentlewoman, London, 1601. There is a portrait of her in Clarke's second part of the Marrow of Ecclesiastical History, book ii., London, 1675, p. 52, from which it seems that her puritanism did not forbid a very elaborate ruff. The face is oval, the features refined, the hair closely confined by a sort of skull-cap, over which towers a sugarloaf hat.

  • Sources 
    1. [S76] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-ongoing).

    2. [S77] The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester by George Ormerod. Second edition, revised and enlarged by Thomas Helsby. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882.

    3. [S160] Wikipedia.