STANDISH OF DUXBURY

6. BIOGRAPHIES

6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (42) AS Daughter-in-law Anne and Countess Alice

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

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(42) Daughter-in-law Anne and friend Countess Alice

Having accounted (or not) for all the men mentioned in AS’s Inquisition, we are left with the women mentioned. There are only two, daughter-in-law Anne and Countess Alice.

Anne’s story is clear and sad. Between AS’s will in 1622 and Inquisition in 1623, she died in her early twenties. Her husband Thomas the MP married again and had three more children.

[Their stories are told in the biography of 6.2. Thomas MP[11A1] (1693-1642).  2013 HM]

This leaves us with Countess Alice, whose [full] biography still remains to be told. In brief, she was the youngest daughter of Sir John Spencer of Althorp in Northamptonshire and her main relevance to Shakespeare was her marriage to Ferdinando, Lord Strange, later 5th Earl of Derby, patron of Strange’s Players/Men, who performed some of Shakespeare’s early plays, by whom she had three daughters. Ferdinando died in 1594 and in 1600 she married her second husband, Sir Thomas Egerton of Cheshire, later Baron Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley, King James’s Lord Chancellor until his death in 1617. Details of her early life are non-existent at Althorp Hall; details of her life as Lady Strange and Countess of Derby have been noted by historians of the Earls of Derby; details of her life at court, including frequent mentions of dedications by poets to her, and her performance in various Masques by Ben Jonson and others, have been noted in scattered publications; details of her main residences in Middlesex during her marriage to Baron Ellesmere have been noted by historians in Middlesex, where she has a magnificent tomb in Harefield Parish Church. All these will be brought together in ‘Materials for a future biography of Countess Alice’. Into these will need to be incorporated the following detail from AS’s inquisition.

the manor of Anlezargh . . . after the death of Alice Countess of Derby , who holds the said manor and other the premises in Anlezargh for life; the said Countess is yet living at Anlezargh.

(Extract from AS’s Inquisition post mortem of 1623.)

And so in the last document naming him in first place, AS left behind his most intriguing mystery: his close relationship with Countess Alice. How long had she been there? Was her stay there only during her second widowhood after 1617? Was their friendship anything at all to do with AS never marrying again? Why did Alice agree to live in a remote Northern moorland township when she had a grand house near London and the court life in which she took so much pleasure? None of her three daughters lived anywhere near here. Why did she accept a rent-free residence for life in a manor from someone else when she owned so many manors and houses of her own? Did she expect to spend most of the rest of her life near AS, thwarted only by his death? How long did she stay on here in Anglezarke?

So far she has turned up in only one other local document: Rev. William Leigh’s will in 1639, where he recorded a gift of a “silver gilt bowl given by the late Countess of Derby” (Porteus, 1927, p. 103). This might, however, have been given to him during her days at Knowsley in the 1580s and early 1590s as Lady Strange, when he made frequent appearances to preach sermons there. She and Rev. William outlived AS by many years, she living into her late seventies and he into his eighty-ninth year. Unfortunately they took most of their secrets with them to their graves, Rev. William in Standish and Alice in Harefield, Middlesex.

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