The Great English Convent Case of 1869

Illustration of Mrs. Starr in the February 20, 1869 issue of Vanity Fair, by artist Carlo Pelligrini under the pseudonym "Ape." Public domain

This case fed an already growing anti-Catholic movement in England in the 1860s. Additionally, it played on the shock of women being incredibly cruel to one another – something that was even used by the plaintiff’s legal team when speaking to the jury.

Holly's Research:

  • Joseph, Sister Mary Scholastica, Complainant .“The great convent case; Saurin v. Star & Kenedy, tried before Lord Chief Justice Cockburn in the court of Queen's Bench, February 1869 : containing the speeches of counsel on both sides, and the evidence of the various witnesses.” London : Ward, Lock and Tyler. 1869. Accessed online:
  • Coleridge, John Duke. “Speeches Delivered in the Court of Queen's Bench, in the Case of Saurin V. Starr & Another.” Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1869. Accessed online:
  • “The Convents of the United Kingdom.” Fraser's Magazine. 1874. Accessed online:
  • Matthews, Roy T. and Peter Mellini. “In ‘Vanity Fair.’” University of California Press. 1982.
  • “THE GREAT ENGLISH CONVENT CASE.” South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1868 - 1881). Sat. 17 Apr 1869. Page 6. Accessed online:
  • Diamond, Michael. “Victorian Sensation: Or the Spectacular, the Shocking and the Scandalous in Nineteeth-Century Britain.” Anthem Press. 2004.
  • Hoeveler, Diane Long. “The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780-1880.” University of Wales Press. 2014.

Topics in this Podcast: 19th century, Crime, trial, European history, British history, religion, court cases