6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (18) AS 1584: Queens’ College, Cambridge

Helen Moorwood 2013

N.B. By clicking on the coloured title you can return to the original articles written in early 2004 and placed by Peter Duxbury on A Duxbury Family Website in March 2004, where it still is, under:

Helen's Story: from Duxbury to Shakespeare. The story of William Shakespeare's Lancashire Ancestry, by Helen Moorwood

10. The Biography of Alexander Standish

N.B. Most of this still stands, but where appropriate the 2004 version is now updated below by interspersed commentary in square brackets and italics. Some reformatting was necessary, and the occasional typo – whether by Peter or myself - has been silently corrected. Asap a shorter narrative version of his biography will appear, based, of course, on all details and documents in this file. Meanwhile, this is part (18) of (1) to (45) AS. [2013 HM]


(18) 1584: Queens' College, Cambridge

1584. AS matriculated at Queens’ College, Cambridge. (Kay, History of Rivington Grammar School, accepted the details given below in Venn, Alumni Cantabrigiensis). He was 14 [17] at this time, a normal age for proceeding to university, so this may well have been him, although it might have been the other Alexander from Family B. A Radcliffe document illustrates the age of 14, from the will in 1589 of Sir John Radcliffe of Ordsall.

I would have these children brought up in learning so that after they accomplish 14 years I would have them sent to Oxford or Cambridge, there to continue till one of them be able to go to the Inns of Court, if it be his pleasure, or to tarry and reside in the University.

(The Book of the Radclyffes, Constable, Edinburgh U.P., 1948, p. 154.)

A list of contemporaries at Cambridge might well reveal interesting potential connections. As mentioned above, the favourite destination for Lancashire schoolboys was St John’s, a Lancastrian foundation by Lady Margaret Beaufort, second wife of the 1st Earl of Derby, and mother of Henry VII. The second favourite destination was Queens’, chosen by the Standish family, for whatever reason. This is revealed by the several dozen Standish entries in Venn, whose entry for AS is:

STANDISH, ALEXANDER. Matric. pens. from QUEENS’, Easter, 1584. Of Lancashire. Doubtless s. and h. of Thomas, of Duxbury, Esq. (and Margaret, dau. of Sir Thomas Hoghton , of Hoghton Tower). Adm. at Gray’s Inn, Nov. 1, 1586. Married Margaret, dau. of Sir Ralph Assheton, of Whalley Abbey , Bart. doubtless father of the next and of Thomas (1607-8).

The underlinings are mine. The two ‘doubtless’ are by no means ‘doubtless’, but might have referred to the other Alexander, three years older than AS [this reservation in 2004 has now been supplanted by the near certainty that it was AS. 2013]; if it is AS, ‘Sir Thomas Hoghton’ should be replaced by ‘Sir Richard Hoghton’; and ‘Margaret’ by ‘Alice’ Assheton. I have never fathomed how this ‘Margaret’ Assheton entered the picture, as AS’s wife is very clearly Alice in all local documentation, including their marriage record at Bolton, at which we will arrive shortly. ‘Whalley Abbey’ should perhaps be supplemented by ‘and Great Lever near Bolton’, which explains their marriage at Bolton Parish Church. Venn detected no record of AS obtaining a degree at Cambridge, which might simply mean that no record has survived, or might be a hint that he did not swear the Oath of Allegiance. We will probably never know. At least we know from Venn that one Alexander Standish matriculated at Queens’ at Easter 1584 and, on a balance of probabilities, it seems more likely that this was indeed AS, followed there by sons Thomas and Alexander.

1584 also saw another round up of recusants in Lancashire, including many Standish and Hoghton relatives. Sir Thomas Hesketh (host by tradition of Shakespeare for a while) was released because of a petition to the Earl of Leicester, at that time Chamberlain of Chester. (Honigmann, 1985 gives this story and full references.)

1585 January-March. Henry, 4th Earl of Derby was on a mission to France with several Standish and Hoghton relatives, ostensibly to award the Order of the Garter to Henri III, but in reality also to discuss the situation in the Netherlands, where the Protestant Dutch were fighting the Catholic Spanish. Coward, The Stanleys reports on this mission and gives a list of Henry’s personal entourage (p. 150). (An extensive commentary appears [will appear] in my Shakespeare book.) AS was presumably still studying in Cambridge but would have heard the details at the latest on his next return to Lancashire.

1585 September. Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, departed for the Netherlands, in charge of the troops sent to fight against the Spanish. This was the beginning of English participation in the war in which Myles Standish and his father and/ or uncle would later appear. There has been much speculation in Shakespeare biography literature as to whether he might have accompanied Leicester. Either he did or he didn’t and we will almost certainly never know. I have not come across any mention in Shakespeare literature that the Earl of Leicester at this time was Chamberlain of Chester, which would have made this county (and Lancashire) an obvious mustering area in addition to the Midlands, with his main residence at Kenilworth. He also happened to be Lord of Denbigh, which might have brought a few Welshmen into his army. Denbigh certainly enters the ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ story in the form of The Phoenix and the Turtle (see Honigmann’s chapter on this, 1985).

Was this when Myles Standish’s father or uncle was recruited? One or other of them was certainly there later in the century, by the latest c.1601, as the only way to account for later written reports about Myles from New England.

Meanwhile, it seems that AS did not “tarry and reside in the university”, but proceeded from Cambridge to London, leaving little or no possibility that he participated in Leicester’s campaign, but he must have heard many details about it.


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