BBC Radio programme to debate legacy of King’s Lynn’s Margery Kempe

The ballad of Margery Kempe was performed in Hanse House at the Hanse Festival by composer Anto Morra (Flesh) and singer Melanie Calway (Margery in heaven).
The ballad of Margery Kempe was performed in Hanse House at the Hanse Festival by composer Anto Morra (Flesh) and singer Melanie Calway (Margery in heaven).

The contribution made by a mediaeval Lynn housewife to the history of ideas will be celebrated in a radio documentary this week.

Margery Kempe is the subject of BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time programme this Thursday.

Daughter of mayor and MP John Brunham, Margery wrote, by dictation, the first English language autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe, in the early 15th century.

As well as details of the medieval world she lived in, as a mother of 14 children, it is mostly about the visions she received - first of devils, then of a beautiful loving Jesus - after her first traumatic labour.

Her claims to divine visions of Jesus, of a loving God, a virgin Mary and a robin redbreast singing merrily in her right ear, which she believed was the holy ghost, defied all conventions.

To the authorities she was either a would-be saint, which her married status prohibited and her not being a virgin called into question, or possessed of the devil.

She was accused of, and tried for, heresy, for which her parish priest was burnt in 1401,

The programme, presented by Melvyn Bragg, is broadcast at 9am and 9.30pm on Thursday.

For extra information about Margery copy and paste this link into your browser https://soundcloud.com/gaz29-1/the-ballad-of-margery-kempe