Publication Date



abuse, control, marriage


[T]hese hard laws I live under must keepe us from seeing one another.

Anne Dormer

When Anne Dormer, of Rousham, Oxfordshire, wrote to her sister, Elizabeth Trumbull, in August 1686, she complained that she would not be able to greet her on her return from a tumultuous year in France. Elizabeth (sometimes called Katherine) was married to the special envoy William Trumbull and had just endured the events of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Anne’s husband, Robert Dormer, had certain “laws” under which his wife had to live, one of which prohibited her from going to London to visit her relatives. We know from Anne’s account of her marriage in a series of intimate letters to her sister that she experienced her husband’s sovereignty over her as an “insupportable Tyranny,” and there were no higher “laws” in the land to overrule her husband’s edicts. Robert, twenty years her senior, was jealous, angry, and violent. He employed what we would today call psychological abuse, if not actual physical beatings, to maintain complete control over his wife. The thirty-two letters from Anne, some fifty-five thousand words written between 1685 and 1691 to Elizabeth in France and later in Constantinople, offer a rich first-hand account of this seventeenth-century woman’s abuse. This paper will examine Anne Dormer’s complex letters not only for their representation of the everyday life of an abused early modern