6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (20) AS 1586-8: Back in Lancashire with Rev. William Leigh and the Earls of Derby

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


(20) 1586-8: back in Lancashire with Rev. William Leigh and the Earls of Derby

1586. Rev. William Leigh became Rector at Standish, and the Standish of Duxbury family was to be connected to him regularly until his death in 1639. He might well be the explanation for so many missing Standish baptisms at Chorley, if, as seems likely, he performed many Standish ceremonies at their private chapel at Duxbury Hall. As no records have survived, this must remain as speculation, but it is the most plausible explanation in the light of all surrounding evidence, and would account for Myles leaving no record of his baptism in 1587/8 (not 1584, as in the ‘conventional’ story, with arguments and references presented in my articles on Myles). Rev. William certainly performed several Standish of Duxbury ceremonies, as revealed by Standish Parish Registers. He was also a frequent preacher to the Earl of Derby (he appears in the Derby Household Books on many Sundays), was presumably recommended by him to King James, and therefore appointed chaplain to Prince Henry. (At the moment his main biographies appear in the DNB, which approaches this predominantly from his years in Oxford and his surviving publications, and Porteus, 1927, who provided many Lancashire details. He deserves a new one. Let us see if he receives one in the New DNB.)

He has emerged as another key figure, as his presence at Prince Henry’s court put him into direct contact with all others in his entourage, many of whom have been directly connected to Shakespeare. His long years at Brasenose, Oxford, also put him into direct contact with so many who became schoolmasters at Stratford Grammar School and/ or Jesuits. He has so far been totally overlooked by Shakespeare biographers, including those writing on ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’, and also by biographers of Prince Henry. (See, e.g. Roy Strong, Henry Prince of Wales, Thames and Hudson, 1986, Pimlico 2000, pb. This is a magnificent presentation of Renaissance art, but Rev. William doesn’t even get his nose in.)

He also might well have played an important role for Myles Standish in finding a suitable second wife for him, prepared to take the tremendous step of departing for Plymouth across the Atlantic Ocean to marry a man she did not know. Or did Barbara know him? Someone in England must have known her and Myles well enough to think that this marriage might work, as indeed it did. The strongest possible candidate so far for this ‘someone’ is Rev. William Leigh. But Barbara did not sail until 1623, by when AS was dead, so this story, with all details and references, is postponed.

1587-90. This is the period covered by the Derby Household Books, with the record of visitors kept by William Farington of Worden, which shows all the local gentry turning up at the various Lancashire residences of the Earl of Derby, including a few Standishes. AS is not mentioned by name during these years, but it would probably not be too wild a speculation to assume that he accompanied his stepfather on occasion, particularly because his favourite cousin from his mother's side (in AS’s will) was Bridget Stanley née Hoghton, married to a Stanley who lived very close to Lathom and Ormskirk. Also recorded are the visits of several groups of Players. Was Shakespeare in one of these groups? Was he in the Queen’s Players in the autumn of 1589, whose movements around the North of England and on to James’s court in Scotland are fairly well documented? At the very least one can assume that AS was aware of some of these comings and goings on his various returns to Lancashire during this period.

1588, spring. Henry, 4th Earl of Derby departed on a mission to the Netherlands to negotiate with the Spanish in an attempt to delay or avert the Spanish Armada. In this he was unsuccessful, but when he returned to Lancashire after the debacle was greeted as a hero. This mission and his return are reported in literature on the Earls of Derby but I have yet to read it featured prominently in ‘national’ literature. It might or might not be of relevance that Earl Henry’s close kinsman Sir William Stanley ‘The Adventurer/ Traitor’ was at the head of several hundred English Catholic exiles, poised to cross the Channel after the Spanish had invaded and install his friend from Lancashire, Cardinal William Allen, as Archbishop of Canterbury. We all know that this did not happen, but it might be at least one reason why Earl Henry was sent on this mission, rather than another earl. It might or might not be of relevance that this Sir William Stanley was of the Stanley family of Hooton in the Wirrall, which regularly married into the Arderne family of Cheshire and the Hoghton family of Lancashire.

I plead no case here, but merely report: Ormerod (in the first half of the 19th century) established the fairly definitive ancestry of this Stanley family; Mary Arderne’s family were kinsmen; this Sir William Stanley was definitely in close contact over the years with Cardinal William Allen; and Earl Henry’s role in the events of 1588 seems so far to have been overlooked in most accounts of the Armada. At the very least we can be fairly certain that Shakespeare and AS, wherever they were in this year, had every opportunity to stay abreast of events, like everyone else. Myles Standish was still a baby.


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