6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (31) AS 1601-2: With Some Stanleys and Other Earls

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


(31) 1601-2: with some Stanleys and other earls

1601, 13 March. AS busied himself this month with some estate management in Heath Charnock, before becoming indirectly involved the next year with a few earls.

Agreement: for £10: Robert Chernocke of Astley, esq. to Alexander Standishe of Duxburie, esq. - Alexander Standishe to have and enjoy the first part, Charnock, belonging to both Robert Chernocke and Alexander Standishe, lately divided by Robert Chernocke - under 5 heads, with detailed schedules of both parts attached. Reference to stones from the Slate Ridge feeld. 13 Mar. 1600/1. (Catalogue: DP397/12/3.)

Robert Charnock lived at Astley Hall in Chorley, the local stately home, still there today and well worth a visit. The Charnocks were another important gentry family, who provided, amongst many others, a Catholic martyr, a one-eyed Royalist Colonel in the Civil War and a husband for one of AS’s daughters. Their history is in Heyes, The History of Chorley.

1602, 25 June. AS baptised his son Ralph at Bolton. He must have been named after father-in-law Ralph Assheton and this was presumably during a family reunion at the estate in Great Lever.

1602, 30 August. AS attended Preston Guild with sons Thomas, Richard and Ralph (all registered, in Abram, Preston Guild Rolls). As Ralph was only two months old at the time, one might presume mother Alice was also there. Or maybe he was registered just to ensure that he would qualify for privileges when he came of age, shortly before the next one in 1622?

Everyone else notable was there, as usual, including William, 6th Earl of Derby and his cousin Sir Edward Stanley of Winwick and Tong, for whom Shakespeare had just written or was about to write an epitaph for his tomb in Tong church, as also for Sir Thomas Stanley, his father, who had died. (Honigmann, 1985, Chapter VII, ‘The Shakespeare epitaphs and the Stanleys’, estimates the date of composition as 1600-3.) Sir Edward’s mother was Margaret Vernon and his wife was Lucy Percy, which brings a few more interesting families and places into the background picture. My excuse for including them in AS’s biography is merely that I am using him as a peg to hang another fascinating story onto, which includes some people he must have known - certainly Sir Edward.

GEORGE VERNON, KNIGHT, of Tong and Haddon, “the king of the Peak”, born 1514, married

(1) Margaret, daughter and heiress of Gilbert Talboys, knight, and by her had Margaret, born 1540, and Dorothy, born 1545.

(1) Margaret inherited Tong, and married in 1558, Thomas Stanley, Knight, second son of Edward, Earl of Derby.

(2) Dorothy inherited Haddon, and married, circa 1568, John Manners, second son of the Earl of Rutland. Her eldest child George was born in 1569 and she died 24 June 1584. John Manners died 4 June 1611.

George Vernon married (2ndly) Matilda daughter of Ralph Longford, knight, but by her had no issue. He died in 1565 and was buried at Bakewell.


Apparently he did not take up his residence at Tong for about 9 years after he inherited the property in 1565. For in the Taylor mss. in the Shrewsbury School Library, (also quoted in Owen and Blakeway’s History of Shrewsbury (p. 365), is the following note:-

“A.D. 1575 Now latlie by credible report Sir Thomas Stanley is cum to dwell in this cuntrie, and many papists gentilmen resorte unto hym.”

His son and heir Edward Stanley was born in 1562, and on his birth Thomas’ father, the Earl of Derby, made a deed of settlement granting to Sir Thomas for life all his manors and lands in the counties of Chester, Warwick, Oxford and Devon with remainder to his wife Margaret for life, with remainder to their son Edward for life.

Sir Thomas Stanley died 21 December 1576, being succeeded by his only son, Edward, then aged 14. Of the vast possessions of Sir Edward Stanley, Erdeswick writing circa 1596, speaks of him as “now Lord of Harlaston”, and says of Cubleston “Edward Stanley is now owner thereof,” and of West Bromwich, “now one of the Stanleys hath the seat of his house there”. But in 1603 he sold Harlaston to Sir Edward Brabazon, and about the same time, the manor of West Bromwich to his cousin Sir Richard Sheldon, and Tong to Sir Thomas Harris.

Sir Edward Stanley married Lucy, 2nd daughter of Thomas, Earl of Northumberland, by whom he had one son and seven daughters, of whom only 3 daughters grew up:-

(?was the son buried in the vault with his grandfather?)

Venetia , born 1600, married Sir Kenelm Digby, died 1633.

Frances , married Sir John Fortescue.

Petronella, died unmarried.

Sir Edward Stanley died in 1632, at Eynsham, co. Oxford , aged 70, leaving his property to his daughter Petronella.

(A History of Tong, Volume 1, notes on the Parish of Tong collected by J. E. Auden, Vicar of Tong, 1896-1913, typed and arranged by Joyce Frost, 2003, pp. 3-4.)

The latest guidebook to Tong Church provides the full MI and more information:

The monument was originally beside the high altar, beneath which the Stanleys are buried in lead coffins. Sir Thomas Stanley was the Governor of the Isle of Man. Sir Edward Stanley, their son, was married to Lady Lucy Percy whose father was executed by Elizabeth I in 1572 for plotting against her. Her grandfather had been executed by Henry VIII. Sir Edward Stanley, who was regarded by the Puritans as a dangerous papist, died in 1632 having sold Tong Castle to Sir Thomas Harries in 1613. The inscription on the side of the tomb reads:

Thomas Stanley, second son of Edward Earl of Derbie, Lord Stanley and Strange Descended from the Familie of the Stanleys Married Margaret Vernon one of the daughters and cohairs of Sir George Vernon of Nether Haddon in the Countie of Derbie Knight. By whom he had Issue Two Sons Henry and Edw: Henry died an infant and E survived to whom Thos Lordships Descended and Married the La Lucie Percie second daughter to Thomas Earl of Northumberland by her had issue 7 daughters and one soone Shee and her 4 daughters 18 Arabella 16 Marie 15 Alice and 13 Priscilla are interred under a monument in ye Churche of Waltham in ye countie of Essex. Thomas his soone died in infancie and is Buried in Ye parishe Church of Winckle in Ye Countie of Lanca: Ye other Three Petronella Francis and Venesie are living.

(St Bartholomew’s Church Tong Shropshire, text researched and compiled by the Very Reverend Dr Robert Jeffrey, Vicar of Tong 1978-87, latest reprint 2002.)

So now we know that little son Thomas was buried in Winwick (Winckle) in Lancashire and his wife and four daughters at Waltham in Essex (why there?). Sir Edward, although he died in Oxfordshire, having sold Tong Castle, chose to be buried in Tong Church and erected a magnificent monument with effigies of himself and his parents, still there today, replete with two epitaphs by Shakespeare. It would be interesting to know more about Sir Edward and his “dangerous papist” activities. Was he involved in a few plots, like his father? He must have known Sir Everard Digby, one of the Gunpowder Plotters, because his son Kenelm fell in love as a teenager with his daughter Venetia. Sir Edward’s main role in Lancashire (as detected so far) seems to have been visiting his cousin William, the 6th Earl. Aubrey told Venetia’s story quaintly later in the century:

Venetia Digby (1600-33)

Venetia Stanley was daughter of Sir Edward Stanley. She was a most beautiful desirable creature; and being of a mature age was let by her father to live with a tenant and servants at Eynsham Abbey (his land, or the Earl of Derby’s) in Oxfordshire; but as private as that place was, it seems her beauty could not lie hid. The young eagles had espied her, and she was sanguine and tractable, and of much suavity (which to abuse was great pity).

In those days Richard Earl of Dorset (grandson and heir to the Lord Treasurer) lived in the greatest splendour of any nobleman of England. Among other pleasures that he enjoyed, Venus was not the least. (Samual Daniel: ‘Cheeks of roses, locks of amber, To b’enprisoned in a chamber etc.) This pretty creature’s fame quickly came to his lordship’s ears, who made no delay to catch at such an opportunity.

I have now forgotten who first brought her to town, but I have heard my uncle Danvers say (who was her contemporary) that she was so commonly courted, and that by grandees, that it was written over her lodging one night in uncial letters,

Pray come not near,

for Dame Venetia lodgeth here.

The Earl of Dorset, aforesaid, was her greatest gallant, who was extremely enamoured of her, and had one if not more children by her. He settled on her an annuity of £500 per annum.

Among other young sparks of that time, Sir Kenelm Digby grew acquainted with her, and fell so much in love with her that he married her, much against the good will of his mother; he would say that 'a wise man, and lusty, could make an honest woman out of a brothel house'. Sir Edmund Wyld had her picture (and you may imagine was very familiar with her), which picture is now at Droitwich in Worcestershire, at an inn, where now the town keep their meetings. Also at Mr Rose's, a jeweller in Henrietta Stree in Covent Garden , is an excellent piece of her, drawn after she was newly dead.

She had a most lovely and sweet-turned face, delicate dark brown hair. She had a perfect healthy consitution; strong; good skin; well proportioned; much inclining to a wanton (near altogether). Her face, a short oval; dark brown eyebrow, about which much sweetness, as also in the opening of her eyelids. The colour of her cheeks was just that of the damask rose, which is neither too hot nor too pale. She was of a just stature, not very tall.

Sir Kenelm had several pictures of her by Vandyke, etc. He had her hands cast in plaster, and her feet and her face. See Ben Jonson's second volume, where he made her live in poetry, in his drawing of her, both body and mind:

‘Sitting, and read to be drawn,

What makes these tiffany, silks, and lawn,

Embroideries, feathers, fringes, lace,

When every limb takes like a face!’ - etc.

When these verses were made she had three children by Sir Kenelm, who are there mentioned, viz Kenelm, George and John.

Her picture drawn by Sir Anthony Vandyke hangs in the queen’s drawing room, at Windsor Castle , over the chimney.

(John Aubrey: Brief Lives, ed. Richard Barber, Boydell, 1975, 1982, pp. 105-6.)

The account continues, preceded in this edition by a biography of Sir Kenelm. Venetia must have been quite a lady! The portrait of her on her deathbed is on the cover of the 1982 edition, the original now in Dulwich Picture Gallery. As seen above, Ben Jonson wrote a poem about her, as did Samuel Daniel, which leads to another interesting connection. Daniel was tutor to Lady Anne Clifford, another cousin of William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby; she was the daughter of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, brother of Margaret Clifford, wife of Henry, 4th Earl of Derby. In 1602 she was only 12 and Venetia had not yet been born, but later their lives were to become entangled, because Lady Anne married Richard, Earl of Dorset, who had Venetia as his mistress. Lady Anne’s biography has been told several times (the one on my shelf is by Martin Holmes, Proud Northern Lady, Phillimore, 1975, 1984). She was another formidable lady, who enters Shakespeare’s story inasmuch as her second husband (1630) was Philip, Earl of Montgomery, one of the brothers to whom Shakespeare’s First Folio was dedicated in 1623.

James Wright, The History and Antiquities of the County of Rutland (p. IX) provides the position of the John Manners above in relation to the Earls of Rutland. His elder brother was Henry, the 2nd Earl (died 17 September 1563), who had two sons Edward, the 3rd Earl (died 14 April 1587 osp) and John, the 4th Earl for a short time (died 21 February 1588), and his sons inherited the Earldom. The eldest of these was Roger, the 5th Earl, who has often been associated with Shakespeare circles as a very good friend of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and dedicatee of his two long poems. John Michell, Who Wrote Shakespeare? gives Roger’s biography (p. 211 ff.) while considering his case as an Alternative Authorship Candidate (failed). Roger went to Queens’ Cambridge in 1587 (too late for him to have overlapped with AS); Wriothesley was at St John’s at the same time, they both joined Essex on some of his campaigns, with Rutland on the expedition to the Azores in 1597 and Ireland in 1599. Rutland also accompanied the Earl of Northumberland to the Netherlands in 1600 in the war against the Spanish, joined in with Essex’s Rebellion in 1601, was imprisoned but escaped with a hefty fine. He also happened to marry the only daughter of Sir Philip Sidney, who had died of his wounds in that war in 1586 and who had attended Shrewsbury Grammar School along with his friend Sir Fulke Greville. Rutland had large estates in Cheshire, which took him there quite often, his uncle Edward had married a daughter of Thomas Holcroft of Vale Royal, Lady Elizabeth Manners had married Sir John Savage of Rock Savage, and one of their daughters married Baron Langton (of the ‘affray at Lea’). This takes us straight into the circle who had received epigrams from the poet John Weever in 1599. Another notable fact is that Rutland received James I at Belvoir in 1603, where he was entertained with a Ben Jonson play, and in December joined the king at Wilton House at the same time as Shakespeare is reported to have been there. They must all have known each other rather well. Maybe AS knew them all too?

[This was what I knew in 2004, before visiting Tong Church. Since then, after researching this family in depth, my book appeared recently: ‘Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs in Tong Shropshire’. As far as possible, this books sticks to the title and everything that contributed to producing the first-ever biographies of the people whose effigies are on the tomb: Sir Thomas Stanley and his wife Lady Margaret née Vernon, and their only son and heir Sir Edward Stanley Jr. Other details discovered about others will appear on this website or in a future book. 2013 HM]


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