Monthly Archives: June 2023

MEMS alumna in the news again

Graduates of the MEMS MA make good use of their training. An outstanding example of this truth is how the research of Kate McCaffrey has received international attention. Kate came to MEMS in 2019 and the work she did for her MA dissertation on a printed Book of Hours owned by Anne Boleyn gained headlines around the world. Now she has hit them again with another exciting discovery.

After graduating from Kent, Kate became Assistant Curator at Hever Castle, childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and now owner of her copy of the Book of Hours. Kate has continued her research into the printing and noted there was another copy of it in Wren Library in Trinity College, Cambridge. She and her colleagues, Dr Owen Emmerson and Alison Palmer, visited the library to study the copy which is in a jewelled binding.

Kate McCaffrey

Kate at the Wren Library in Trinity College Cambridge with Cromwell’s copy of the Book of Hours.

After their visit, Alison commented that the binding looked very much like the one seen in the portrait of Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein. This sent Kate and Owen on a search for more evidence and, remarkably, they have been able to confirm that the Wren Book of Hours is, indeed, the book with which Cromwell was seen sitting in the portrait. The discovery was announced in early June 2023 and has attracted wide media attention in Britain and the States.

Holbein Cromwell

Hans Holbein the Younger, Thomas Cromwell (c. 1532-34, Frick Collection, New York).

Kate acknowledges that her role of in the research would not have been possible without the training she received with MEMS. She says:

studying with MEMS equipped me with a wide range of interdisciplinary skills which left me confident enough to see the details and make them tell the full story. This is what trained me to search for the minute detail and then widen the lens to place these discoveries in a significant, broad narrative.

Her most recent research has significant consequences for our understanding of Cromwell, Holbein and the wider culture of the late 1520s and early 1530s. She is now working with her colleagues on teasing out these implications, so expect more announcements in the near future!

Prof. Barbara Bombi FBA to be the 2023 Anselm Lecturer

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies is pleased to invite you to the final of the four public annual lectures that it organises. These lectures, which range across the wide area covered by MEMS, are intended to celebrate the vitality of scholarship by bringing internationally renowned experts to Canterbury to share and discuss their research. For the 2023 Anselm Lecture, we are able to look to our own community for a scholar of such standing. We are delighted that MEMS’s own Prof. Barbara Bombi will be giving this year’s Anselm Lecture at 5pm on 8th June in the Templeman Lecture Theatre.

Prof. Barbara Bombi

In the summer of 2022, Prof. Bombi was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. That election is a reflection of the high standing she has within Britain’s academic world, and beyond. Her reputation has had material benefit to the University of Kent, attracting both funding and students to its campus. As well as an outstanding historian with several important monographs to her name, she is an excellent academic citizen: in her role as the School of History’s Director of Research, she was instrumental in co-ordinating the submission to the Research Excellence Framework that saw the University of Kent achieving the accolade of having the top-ranked history department in the UK. Prof. Bombi has always been a stalwart supporter of MEMS, its work and its scholars.

Prof. Bombi’s lecture is entitled ‘Memories of Italian merchants in fourteenth-century England: A tale of Fortune and Misfortune’. Below you will find an abstract for the lecture.

The lecture will be followed by a reception, to which you are also invited. If you cannot attend in present and so want to join online, do contact the Centre.


Italian merchants became an essential tool of funding for the English Crown between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They were instrumental in funding the Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-French wars and moving cash and goods between northern Europe and Italy via Flanders and France. However, many Italian merchant companies that embarked on these commercial enterprises faced bankruptcy owing to lack of liquidity and because of the challenges faced by the English Crown vis-à-vis its creditors. This paper will investigate the rise and fall of the Frescobaldi company in England at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the paper will not only investigate financial accounts and correspondence, but also how the bankruptcy of the Frescobaldi was recorded in some contemporary literary sources and sonnets produced in the context of the dolce stil novo.