Muriel St. Clare Byrne

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Muriel St. Clare Byrne, (1895 - 1983),[1] was a prominent historical researcher, specializing in the Tudor period and the reign of Henry VIII of England.


Born Hoylake, Cheshire, England May 31, 1895. She was the granddaughter of naval architect and yacht designer St Clare John Byrne with whom she and her mother lived when her father (Henry) died in 1905. Her mother was Artemisia Desdemona Burtner (1868-1923) from Muscatine, Iowa, USA.


Belvedere School, Liverpool; Somerville College, Oxford, B.A. 1916, M.A 1920. Oxford did not grant degrees to women prior to 1920, but she would have completed the academic requirements in 1916.


She was assistant tutor in English at Somerville College in 1919 and lecturer at the Army Education School, Rouen, France, 1918-19. She then taught at Morley College and University of London. From 1920-1925 she served as coach for final honors at Oxford and from 1920-1927 she lectured at Oxford's University Extension in London. She held a lectureship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, specializing in Elizabethan theater and eventually became a governor at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Editor, writer and researcher in English History, art and literature from 1917.

Published works[edit]

Muriel St Clare Byrne devoted a lifetime to the study of Tudor England, gathered together and edited primary sources and published these, including the Lisle Letters, and the Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, as well as publishing books which were entirely her own work, such as Elizabethan Life in Town and Country, Elizabethan Home and Common or Garden Child. A not-unfaithful record.[2]

The Lisle letters are the correspondence of Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle, consisting of 3000 letters. These were seized on the orders of Henry VIII when Lisle was accused of treason and sent to the Tower of London. They were discovered by Byrne in the London Public Records Office, neglected and largely undiscovered down the centuries. She felt these works, that detailed an important period in the reign of Henry VIII, should be made available to the public. However, the difficulties with deciphering the handwriting and the inconsistent spelling, resulted in Byrne spending almost 50 years producing the 6 volumes of her work. It has been described as the masterpiece of Byrne's distinguished career, woven together by her learned and poetic commentary. It required the donations from many generous people including Queen Elizabeth II, to eventually get the work published in 1981 on Byrne's 86th birthday.[3]

A friend of Dorothy L. Sayers, she co-wrote the play upon which Sayers's novel Busman's Honeymoon was later based. She died December 2, 1983 and was buried in Marylebone Cemetery, London.


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  3. ^ Editor -Devine, Elizabeth (1983). The Annual Obituary - Muriel St Clare Byrne. St James Press. pp. 573–575. 

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