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  • Kristin Bundesen, PhD

Arranging your own abduction - Odelia de Morada

On 3 January 1589, Odelia de Morada arranged her own abduction from Dordecht to save her from marriage to a Spanish Catholic cousin. The lucky protestant bridegroom was Thomas Knollys, first cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth, son of Katherine Carey Knollys and Sir Francis Knollys. Thomas was serving with the English forces in the Low Countries as was his cousin Thomas Morgan who abducted Odelia’s sister at the same time.

The abductions caused such a stir in Bergen-Op-Zoom, at the time under Spanish influence in what is now The Netherlands, that the news was reported back to the English court within days. Odelia’s mother, the Marchionate of Bergen Op Zoom, sent a warship after the couple but was unsuccessful in preventing her daughters’ ‘ravishment’. The Marchioness also complained to the States-General, albeit unsuccessfully.

Arms of the Knollys family - The red roses are reminiscent of the single red rose due annually as payment for their manor Greys Court.

The English reaction was quite different. Thomas’s father, Sir Francis Knollys, wrote to the Marchioness saying he approved the alliance and she should forgive the young peoples’ disrespect in marrying without her permission. Queen Elizabeth’s approval was of the same character in that English emissaries were sent to the States-General to defend the young couple.

Map of Dordecht 1581. Dordecht is now part of The Netherlands.

Thomas intended to send his new wife to his sister Elizabeth Knollys Leighton and his niece Penelope Devereux Rich at court, however the couple seems to have stayed in Bergen for a while as a daughter was christened there in June of 1589 with Sir Robert Sidney standing in as deputy for the Earl of Essex, the child’s official godfather. Given the date of the birth of their child, clearly Odelia had known Thomas intimately before the alleged abduction. It would also appear that Knollys’s relationship with the queen combined with the righteousness of rescuing a young noble woman from forced marriage to the enemy was sufficient to nullify even international suits. Odelia became a member of the Queen’s extended family and probably took up residence in England around 1590. So far, I am not aware of her presence in any further archival sources.

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