6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (1) AS Background: Meandering Around Duxbury

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


(1) Background: meandering around Duxbury

My first significant encounter with this particular Alexander Standish of Duxbury (AS from now on, to distinguish him from all the others with this name) as a potentially interesting character was when I first read (c.1996) his Inquisition post mortem (Ipm) of 1623, which included the intriguing detail that he had installed Countess Alice of Derby rent-free for the remainder of her life in his manor of Anglezarke, near Duxbury in Lancashire. (The full text of his Ipm appears below under 1623.) This Ipm was the end of AS’s story (he was well and truly dead) and the beginning of several of mine, whilst trying to understand what might have happened in and around Duxbury in the 16th and 17th centuries. I have continued to meander through history books, several collections of unpublished documents, walked across and over many local fields and hills in the Duxbury area and visited many local halls.

I am still meandering, most recently through a thorough re-reading of everything on my shelves. Most of the people who helped in these early meanderings appeared on the A Duxbury Family Website under Acknowledgements and I have spoken on the phone to many since. They have been joined by a few more, whose names appear below.

AS emerged (for me and several years ago) as very obviously not just a local country squire, but also involved in events of national importance. He just seems to have been rather forgotten during the ravages of time, along with many of his relatives and friends. AS and Countess Alice have taken me on many ‘magical mystery tours’ up and down the country, literally and figuratively. AS’s very dates and family papers placed him in Lancashire and London during all the tumultuous events of the Counter-Reformation, with Catholic Plots, the Armada, threats of invasions by the Spanish via Ireland, Witch Trials and heaven knows what else happening all around him. Everyone seems to have been rather confused at the time (and many more than a little secretive), but AS’s family papers shed a little light in places.

His liaison with Countess Alice was startling enough in itself to lead to further research into Duxbury in general, the Standishes of Duxbury, the Earls of Derby, ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’, ‘Catholic Shakespeare’, Captain Myles Standish and Countess Alice’s family, given that she was née Spencer of Althorp (yes, Diana’s family), as well as a patroness of several poets, including Shakespeare, and she was related to Edmund Spenser, who still has a ‘Spenser’s House’ in Hurstwood near Burnley. What a heady mixture!

One could probably choose any little patch of England and find a similarly interesting group of people, whose stories still remain to be retold and connected. I just happened to hit on Duxbury. The latest news on ‘Shakespeare’s Lancashire Links’ (all of whom must have been known to AS) is that all the Earls proposed as Alternative Authorship Candidates for Shakespeare’s Works have kept bumping into each other, the latest significant bumping being the Earls of Derby and Rutland in Tong in Shropshire, where Shakespeare dashed off a couple of epitaphs in c.1600 (chiselled in stone* and still there today), which has led to recent correspondence with the Venerable John Hall, Archdeacon of Salop, his secretary Mrs Anne Taylor and David Dixon, one of the guides. They have all been wonderfully helpful and I look forward to meeting them some time in 2004. John Hall, coincidentally, was the name of Shakespeare’s son-in-law, husband of daughter Susanna, and Anne Taylor was governess of Lady Anne Clifford, who enters the background story because she was a cousin of the Earls of Derby and married two earls of relevance to Shakespeare. For the most scholarly accounts so far on Shakespeare’s Stanley epitaphs in Tong Church, I refer to Honigmann, Shakespeare: the ‘lost years’ (1985, 1998) and the two latest titles to appear from Tong, quoted from below (1601-2).

[I duly visited Tong in the summer of 2004, and this visit led nine years later – after many side-trackings and absorption in many other matters – to the publication of ‘Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs in Tong Shropshire’, RJL Smith & Associates, Much Wenlock, Shropshire. All details on my Homepage. One detail in the paragraph above which changed is that the Shakespeare Epitaphs were not *“chiselled in stone”, but painted in gold on marble. HM 2013]

My main questions when I read AS’s Ipm were: What the flip was Countess Alice doing in Anglezarke in the early 1620s? Where did she live? What relationship did she have with Alexander Standish? How long did she stay on in Anglezarke before returning to her houses in Middlesex? If AS knew her so well, how many other prominent people did he know, and how involved was he in so many of the local dramatic events during his lifetime? Answers to many of these questions have gradually emerged, some definite, some probable and others still based on conjecture from surrounding circumstances.

While bringing a few people up to date recently I have spoken to several who appear in my Acknowledgements. One of the most hilarious chats was with Alan Duxbury. Alan had a long career at the Royal Ordinance Factory near Chorley, is therefore a bit of a bomb expert, and has provided me with so many local details, including that the Dambuster bombs were stored in Duxbury Hall during the Second World War. He recently provided more information on bombs in the Falklands War, including the reason that many of the bombs didn’t explode on the runway at Stanley airport was because there was too much mud! (I realise that I have still not understood the technical details as to whether they bounced when they shouldn’t have, or didn’t bounce when they should have: we were laughing too much at the time. Alan has read the technical details.) It is a tragic rather than funny story, and no offence is meant to anyone involved, but it seemed to provide a suitable recent backdrop to what I was writing at the time about 17th century Duxbury: Guy Fawkes popping up in Lancashire doing a bit of plotting with Standish of Duxbury relatives about ‘bombs’ (or rather gunpowder) that never went off (because it disintegrated); a bit more about soldier Myles Standish, who was fighting on the other side from Guy Fawkes against the Spanish in the Netherlands. Much of this history is also muddy.

I hardly dare to add that George W. Bush is a descendant of Myles Standish (via a female line), and we all saw him fly into Iraq with a huge turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving in November 2003 with some of his soldiers there, as a great morale booster; or at least we thought we did. He has his ancestor Myles Standish & Co. to thank for Thanksgiving. Many of us are not at all sure what we have to thank George W. Bush for, but he has certainly sent off a large number of bombs. My family found it quite hilarious (and sad) when the news broke that the huge turkey was plastic! I am still not sure whether Myles Standish should be turning in his grave.

This R.O.F. is no more; Duxbury Hall is no more; but AS’s family papers still are. The one thing I (think I) know is that his liaison with Countess Alice was significant, but has so far been overlooked by anyone interested in any of the surrounding stories. AS is therefore used below as a peg to hang many details onto. His background story is identical in many places, of course, to that of so many of his relatives and friends. We just need to put all these details together again and hence more meandering is required.

I have committed myself to giving a three-day course 27-30 August at Alston Hall (Longridge, Lancashire, run by Lancashire County Council) entitled ‘Shakespeare’s Lancashire Links’, details of which appear in their latest brochure and on their web site (January 2004 onwards). I envisage a follow-up course on Myles Standish, but the timing must remain up in the air until after the Shakespeare course and an assessment by all concerned whether this should have its own follow up. In all cases, AS will appear as a significant character. My main aim, therefore, was to present his biography well in advance, so that I could refer to this and some who attend might even have read it. In the meantime I think it might be of interest to a few others, including Duxbury ‘cousins’ who regularly visit Peter Duxbury’s website. Maybe a few might even want to join in with the search for a few more details?

[The course at Alston Hall duly took place, followed by a talk on Myles Standish immediately afterwards in St Laurence’s, Chorley, organised by the Rector, the Revd John Cree, who had recently become enthusiastic about Myles and the Standish of Duxbury connections with his church. This was followed up the following year by ‘The Myles Standish Festival’ in Chorley, at which I also gave a talk in St Laurence’s. I’ve still never found time to write the promised book about Myles, but it will happen within the not too distant future, when I’ve ‘got Shakespeare out of the way’. HM 2013]


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