6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (26) AS 1595-99: Personal Tragedy and Some Local Magic

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 (26) of (1) to (45) AS. [2013 HM]


(26) 1595-99: personal tragedy and some local magic

1595-99. Three children were born to AS and Alice during this period and all died young, plus daughter Anne, who survived. No names or baptisms of the three who died young have survived, but we can hazard a guess that if one was a daughter she would have been named Margaret after AS’s mother and if two were sons they would have been named Ralph after his Assheton grandfather and Alexander after his father. We only know about them today because of an elusive report that Alice had ten children. (See under 1604, Alice’s death.) Daughter Anne is known because she was named in her father’s will in 1622, at which time she was not married, nor left any later record of marriage, nor, indeed, any other record. She was not named in her brother Captain Ralph’s will in 1637, so might well have died before then. With such regular appearances of children, it seems that AS was probably playing the role of squire for most of the time, but he must have kept abreast of national events and various eminent visitors to Lancashire.

1595, 26 January. William Stanley, meanwhile 6th Earl of Derby, married Elizabeth de Vere at Greenwich Palace, in the presence of the Queen. There is no suggestion that AS was present, but given his later relationship with William’s sister-in-law Countess Alice, he must have continued to have contact with the Stanleys. Honigmann (1985) presents convincing arguments for this wedding being a strong candidate for the first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

1595. Dr John Dee, mathematician, astrologer, alchemist, necromancer, friend of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Earls of Derby and, it seems, all luminaries of the time, was appointed Warden of Manchester College, where he stayed for many years. This brings his biography (DNB) into the local story, not least because of his previous necromancy act with Edward Kelly alias Talbot in the churchyard at Walton-le-Dale, owned by Baron Thomas Langton. The last told the story to John Weever, who, Honigmann proposes (Weever, 1987), might have been his nephew (he had an Uncle Thomas as sponsor), and who soon afterwards started writing his epigrams (he arrived in Cambridge in 1594), including one each ‘ad Gulielmum Shakespeare’, to Edward Alleyn the actor and Edmund Spenser the poet, the last two from Lancashire families and all three rather famous in London by the mid-1590s. Alleyn’s mother was a Towneley of Towneley, Spenser still has a house in Hurstwood, near Towneley, named ‘Spenser’s House’ and firmly associated with him by local tradition, and Towneley Hall acquired its current front door from Standish Hall, because of a later Towneley-Standish marriage, merely the last of so many previous links by marriage. Spenser also claimed kinship to Countess Alice and Alleyn was the leading actor in her first husband’s Strange’s Players. It seems that another close look at all these in the North might shed more light.

Thomas Conlan discovered Edward Alleyn’s immediate ancestry, which takes us round in a few more circles.

I have at long last discovered Edward Alleyn’s provenance, a question which has long nagged me! I found it in the first book I picked up here – ‘History of Prior Park College’ by Rev. Br. J. S. Roche (Irish Christian Brother) (Burns Oates, 1931, Appendix B, pp. 286-7. The Appendix consists of a quotation from ‘The Bath and Wilts Chronicle & Herald’ (Dec. 11, 1925) - it concerns Ralph Allen, who built Prior Park (his dates 1684-1764). A correspondent who is a descendant of Ralph Allen quotes his pedigree. Ralph Allen is described as “The Man of Bath” [he built a lot of it], postal reformer, philanthropist, friend of [Alexander] Pope & [novelist] Fielding (& of Quincey & Garrick!] & original of Squire Allworthy in ‘Tom Jones’ [by Fielding]. Ralph Allen [son of innkeeper] was the great-grandson of William Alleine, brother of Edward Alleyn of Willen (died 1570) who was the father of Edward Alleyn (1566-1626), the founder of Dulwich College. The writer appears to be unaware that this is Shakespeare’s co-actor! Now this means that Margaret Towneley, who married Edward Alleyn of Willen, gave birth to Edward Alleyn there, lived at Willen & Willen is only 7 miles from Grafton Regis (SW of it and S. of Newport Pagnell (Bucks. I think). [The question arises: Is the Grafton Portrait that of Edward Alleyn?] Now Margaret Towneley married (2) Robert Browne (actor-manager of Derby’s men) & Sir Richard Hoghton, as I pointed out in a previous letter, married a daughter of Roger Browne (their illegitimate son was Richard Hoghton of Park Hall . . . who kept a series of Catholic Schoolmasters for a least 20 years & was arrested at Lyford because of Campion’s books. (Letter to Peter Milward, from Bath, 9 April 1967.)

Now there is some food for thought. These Alleyns seemed to produce actors and friends of actors over a couple of centuries, with Ralph’s acquaintances in the 18th century the equivalent of Edward’s in the 16th and 17th. Cardinal William Allen’s family of Rossall in Lancashire originated further south (biography DNB), which might give them the same origin as the Willen Alle(y/i)ns (there must have been some connection for Margaret Towneley to find her first husband there). The Grafton portrait (of Shakespeare? Alleyn?) is today in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, having been bought by a Stockport businessman in the 19th century and bequeathed to this library. (This is closed at the moment for two years for restoration, but the history of the portrait has been widely reported, including Schoenbaum, Shakespeare's Lives, 1975, who was as sceptical and humorous as always. We will probably never know the ‘truth’, but all the various owners and buyers over the centuries seem to have been convinced that it was Shakespeare.) The Towneleys were very much allied to the Standishes and Hoghtons, and with Edward Alleyn’s established presence as a son of a Towneley, this raises some interesting questions as to whether (and where?) AS, Shakespeare and Weever might have first seen Alleyn in performance. It seems ever more likely that this might have been when he was on tour in Strange’s Players and before they all landed in London. Another jigsaw puzzle for someone here?

[Research for my book on Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs brought many other interesting connections to light concerning the Grafton Portrait. A report will appear asap on this website in LANCASTRIAN SHAKESPEARE. 2013 HM.]


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