Bedingfeld, Frances

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English religious and educator during penal times; b. Redlingfield, Norfolk, 1616; d. Munich, Germany, 1704. Frances, a member of a devout Catholic family of Norfolk, from which 12 daughters entered religion, joined the English Institute of Mary, known also as the Institute of English Virgins, at Munich and was professed in 1633. This society had been founded in 1603 for the Catholic education of young Englishwomen. Mother Bedingfeld succeeded her sister as superior of the motherhouse in 1666 and three years later was invited by Catherine of Braganza, Catholic consort of Charles II, to open a school in London. With several English companions, she founded an academy at Hammersmith; seven years later another school was established at Mickelgate Bar, York. Mother Bedingfeld's years in England coincided with the intensification of harassment of Catholics by the authorities. She was forced to adopt the alias of Mrs. Long and to wear secular dress, and she was repeatedly called before the local magistrates. During the hysteria of the "Popish Plot," she was briefly committed to Ousebridge jail in York in 1679. In 1699 she returned to the convent at Munich, where she enjoyed a wide reputation for sanctity. She lived to see the rule of her order approved by Clement IX in 1703.

Bibliography: h. foley, ed., Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, 7 v. (London 187782) 5.1:579582. j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time 1:166168.

[h. f. gretsch]