STANDISH OF DUXBURY
6.1. (45) AS Friend Rev. William Leigh (1550-1639)
Helen Moorwood 2013
This section is presented as yet another Postcript to AS’s biography. They obviously knew each other rather well. Over the years I collected together several writings about him (and some of their friends who appeared together in some documents). I have suggested elsewhere that he is a strong candidate for a close relative of Barbara, Myles Standish’s second wife. (This will appear in the folder MYLES STANDISH.) The following is presented merely as a meandering through various references, with various thoughts on the way, and will perhaps serve as the basis for a new biography of William Leigh. Much of the following already appeared in 2004 on the Duxbury Family History Site, but is here slightly updated. The preparation of this website, which involved re-reading everything I had previously published or accumulated on the Standishes of Duxbury, made me ever more aware that Rev. W. is worthy of further research.
Rev. William Leigh (Rev. W from now on in this section) was from Westhoughton near Bolton and was the Rector at Standish for an impressive fifty-three years: 1586-1639. His first published biography was in Anthony Wood’s Athenae in the 1660s. His inclusion by Wood is because Rev. W was a prominent former scholar at Oxford, and Wood’s publication was devoted to preserving details of Oxford luminaries. Rev. W’s reputation in his lifetime and for the following decades seems to have been fairly considerable, but languished for a few centuries until ‘C.W.S.’ produced the next (rather brief) biography in the DNB at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, drawing heavily on Wood. Rev. T. C. Porteus, in his History of the Parish of Standish (1927) was the next to take up his story, obviously examined in close detail all information in Wood’s and the DNB versions of Rev. W’s biography, read his sermons, and provided many more local details from the history of Standish Parish and Church. These are scattered throughout his book of 1927, but all readily accessible from his index. It is on these three publications that I draw in the following account for the bare bones, supplemented by other contemporary references, which lead to suspicions that the full story still remains to be told. Rev. W, among his many talents, was also a fellow justice of the peace at a witch trial in Lancaster with Edward Chisnall in 1612 (Brazendale, Lancashire’s Historic Houses, p. 94).
He was chaplain to the Earls of Derby (he appears frequently giving sermons in the Derby Household Books) and to Prince Henry in London, James I’s elder son, on whom he apparently had a great influence (DNB). He was a good friend of the Standishes of Duxbury (who were assumed by Porteus in all his publications to be Protestant verging on Puritan) and had regular problems coping with his most influential local parishioners, the Catholic Standishes of Standish. Rev. W’s initials appear with Thomas and Alexander Standish of Duxbury’s initials on a beam in Standish Church dated 1589 (Porteus, 1927, p. 67), which identifies them as Thomas and his stepson Alexander (AS).
Standish Parish Registers reveal that he baptised at least one Standish of Duxbury child (Gilbert, last son of Thomas the MP). I have conducted intensive research on the baptisms of all Standish of Duxbury babies, hunting for dozens who left no record in extant local Parish Registers around the turn of the 16th to 17th centuries, yet survived long enough to leave records elsewhere of their existence (mainly in Visitation Pedigrees and the Standish of Duxbury Muniments). These very absences, and the absence of pretty well all marriages in Standish of Duxbury Family A (at periods when the registers seem to be rather complete) leads to the most plausible explanation that some of these ceremonies were conducted in their own private chapel at Duxbury Hall, and the most logical person to have been involved was Rev. W, an obvious friend of the family. He appears in the wills of Alexander (AS) in 1622 and Captain Ralph in 1637. By the same logic, the elusive baptism of Captain Myles Standish and his marriage to his first wife Rose might have disappeared here along with all the others.
Of course, in the absence of records, these will always remain unknown, but a brief foray into Chorley Parish Registers will immediately confirm the baptism and burial of many Standish of Duxbury babies there from the earliest records (1538), a little patchy in later decades, but after Rev. W. arrived at Standish in 1586 there is a complete gap in Standish of Duxbury baptisms until 1617 and again from 1627 to 1650. Some explanation is demanded and, given the dates and the turbulent history of the times, the obvious one lies in the religious leanings of any concerned, with the Standishes of Duxbury disagreeing with the vicar of Chorley during this period. Perhaps significantly, the only one to baptise babies there between 1617 and 1627 was Thomas the MP, who was later to become staunchly Parliamentarian. Even he chose to ignore Chorley when he baptised his last son Gilbert.
Several of the texts of Rev. W’s sermons have survived (listed in the DNB), including one in praise of Queen Elizabeth, one on the first anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and another at the funeral in 1605 of Thomas Leigh of Adlington in Cheshire (a relative?). Along with William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby and Countess Alice, he is one of the few local and national figures who lived to a ripe old age, spanning the lifetime of Shakespeare and most of Captain Myles Standish’s life, and a myriad details indicate that these must all have known each other rather well. It is in this context that the following details are presented, as any one of these might lead to future discoveries about others.
He was from the Legh/ Leigh/ Lea/ Lee family, originally from Leigh near Wigan (home today of the Standish of Standish family papers, which seems highly appropriate), which produced the Leghs of Lyme and Adlington in Cheshire, according to Whitaker, the historian of much of Lancashire in the late 18th century. This was thus a family closely involved in the Standish, Stanley, Arderne, Hoghton and Weever stories (and therefore Shakespeare's biography). Whether these were connected with the Lea/ Leigh/ Lee family of Lea/ Leigh near Preston, one home of the Hoghtons of Lea and Hoghton Tower, or those of High Leigh in Cheshire, established there since before the Conquest, has never been satisfactorily explained (to me, at least), and a scrutiny of anything ever written about any local Leigh/ Lee families seems long overdue. This will include the branch that moved to Staffordshire (Rylands) apparently around the time of Bosworth, and produced Gerard Lee/ Leigh, who became a King of Arms (Woodcock) and Sir Henry Lee, a luminary at Elizabeth’s court. I present this family as a ‘signpost’ for someone else to pursue. As a Leigh family in Burgh in Duxbury also had lands in Westhoughton (Farrrer), it might be that Rev. W spent part of his youth next door to the Standishes.
His biography in the DNB states that he was from Lancashire and educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, entering in 1571 and elected a fellow in 1573, graduating as B.A. on 10 December 1574, M.A. on 29 January 1578 and B.D. on 2 July 1586. These dates from Brasenose read authoritatively, but give no origin or details of his education in Lancashire. One cannot help but wonder whether he might have been one and the same as “William Lee”, recorded as proceeding from Burnley Grammar School to Brasenose in 1572. (Bennett, Burnley, Vol. 2. p. 147), where a footnote indicates that William Lee was a Nowell Scholar in 1572, with reference to Grosart, Spending of the money of Robt. Nowell. Grosart was Rev. Alexander Grosart, a vicar in Blackburn at the end of the 19th century, a friend of the historian W. Abram, and a highly respected transcriber and publisher of Renaissance texts, whose name, therefore, appears in literally hundreds of references in the DNB. There seems little reason to doubt the accuracy of his transcription, and the only doubt is whether or not (future Rev.) William Leigh from Lancashire, persistently recorded at Brasenose 1571-86, and William Lee from Burnley Grammar School at Brasenose in 1572 on a Nowell scholarship, were one and the same. It seems more than plausible to accept that they were, as no others with this name were reported in either place. For the moment I therefore assume this, although would happily accept refutation if further evidence emerges. This is of most interest because many others proceeding from Burnley to Brasenose in this period became Catholic priests, some of them martyrs.
Rev. W therefore overlapped at Brasenose with other students from Lancashire who appear in Shakespeare’s biography as teachers at Stratford Grammar School. This series of teachers is listed in Honigmann (1985, p. 131) as:
(1) Walter Roche (1569-71),
(2) Simon Hunt (1571-5),
(3) John Cottom (1579-81)
(4) Alexander Aspinall (1582-1624).
The only exception was Thomas Jenkins (1575-9), a “Londoner”, although with a suspiciously Welsh-sounding name. All known and published details about these by 1985 are referenced by Honigmann and readily accessible from his index and endnotes. The most important details for Rev. W. are that he must have been subjected to the same influences that produced so many Catholic school teachers, Catholic priests and Jesuits from this Oxford college, and he must have been aware of the careers of at least some of these, most of whom he outlived. How these fit into Rev. Porteus’s conclusion that he was a leader of the local Puritan community all his life is still a mystery (to me). Peter Milward spoke about “Shakespeare’s Jesuit Schoolmasters” at the Lancastrian Shakespeare Conference in 1999, and his talk appeared recently from Manchester University Press, first volume Theatre and Religion: Lancastrian Shakespeare. Somehow, Rev. W needs to be fitted into this picture.
Let us survey Rev W’s early career and some of the potential implications. If he was the “William Lee”, Nowell scholar from Burnley Grammar School, then he had a thoroughly Catholic early education. Another Nowell scholar born around the same time (?1552 is the date given in standard sources) was the future poet Edmund Spencer/ Spenser. Given that by tradition he was from the Spencer family near Burnley, although he himself was born in London and attended the Merchant Taylors’ school, this might provide a valuable clue to why the future Rev. W was sent to this school rather than one of several other local Grammar Schools with Catholic schoolmasters at the time (at least Preston and Blackburn). It should perhaps be noted in passing that until Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558, most Grammar Schools in Lancashire seem to have had Catholic schoolmasters. It was only after the return of many Lancashire Protestant exiles after Mary’s reign, and their subsequent preferment by Elizabeth, that several Protestant Grammar Schools were established in Lancashire. (Kay, A History of Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School, gives a brief history of these.)
Whether he was this William Lee or not, his main studies were at Brasenose College, Oxford, a hotbed at the time for many later Catholic priests and Jesuits. His first major appointment in late 1586 was to Standish Parish Church, by Bishop Chadderton, Bishop of Chester (from Lancashire). This resulted in him appearing regularly 1587-90 (Derby Household Books), along with the Bishop and other local preachers, when Henry, 4th Earl of Derby, was in residence at his various Lancashire homes. Earl Henry was notoriously lenient to any with Catholic beliefs and many of his recorded visitors among his friends and relatives were certainly practising Catholics and convicted and imprisoned recusants, several of them having been involved with various unsuccessful plots to help Mary Queen of Scots to escape. Earl Henry was among the judges at her trial, which resulted, of course, in her execution in 1587. This seems to have been more from loyalty to Elizabeth rather than anti-Catholic feelings. At the moment, therefore, it seems fair enough to conclude that Rev. W was a firm Royalist, and also that until 1587, at that time in his late 30s, he had been almost totally under the influence of or moving in the circles of many noted Catholics or those with known Catholic sympathies.
At what point did he become (according to Porteus) a leader of the local Puritan community? Or did he ever? The next major recorded event in his life was the continuation of the renovation of Standish Parish Church, which left the beam dated as 1589, with his initials together with those of Thomas and Alexander Duxbury, and, as we have already read and will read again and again, it is by no means certain that Family A were all Puritan, the ‘conventional’ picture presented until now. Alexander married into the very Protestant (Puritan?) Assheton family, and he chose to baptise some of his children at Bolton. Then the very appearance of Rev. W in Captain Ralph Standish’s Will in 1637 indicates some affinity between the two and this Will makes it fairly clear that Ralph had Royalist sympathies. This would certainly not exclude Protestant, but at this time might well exclude Puritan.
Perhaps a closer analysis of the affinities of his parishioners and his other known friends will be one step forward to understanding Rev. W’s stance, but any parish priest who survived in the same post for over fifty years during these turbulent times must have been something like the proverbial Vicar of Bray. Rev. W seems to have been rather unique among his local fellow clergymen, not only because of his longevity, but also because he appears to have remained popular throughout with his more humble parishioners and also with the highest in the county and the land. And yet despite his royal and noble patrons he remained a simple parish priest, which is puzzling. We know from his will that he was close to the Derbys way beyond his frequent appearance at their homes in 1587-90 (Raines, The Derby Household Books), because his brother-in-law Edward Wrightington was bequeathed an engraven ring, and a silver gilt bowl given to him by the late Countess of Derby (Porteus, 1927, p. 103).
This simple statement places him yet again in the middle of Shakespeare circles because of the “late Countess of Derby” and “Edward Wrightington”. The former has two candidates, the wives of the 5th and 6th Earls, but the more likely candidate was Countess Alice née Spencer, Baroness Ellesmere, mother-in-law of the 1st Earl of Bridgewater, etc., close friend of Alexander Standish of Duxbury (1567-1622), living in Anglezarke near Duxbury in 1623 rent-free for life (in AS’sInquisition post more mortem), who had died in 1637 after a long life spent in Shakespeare circles. The latter was Elizabeth née de Vere, daughter of the 17th Earl of Oxford, who had died in 1627 after a not so long life spent in Shakespeare circles. Let us leave Rev. W for the moment and look at his brother-in-law, Edward Wrightington.
(Sir) Edward Wrightington (1581-1658)
Brother-in-law Edward Wrightington appeared in Rev. W’s Will receiving a ring and a silver bowl via the “late” Countess of Derby. His very name presents some extremely interesting connections and another possible series of muddles somewhere along the line. Only one local contemporary of this name has ever been reported in the local and county histories referenced below, and the outside dates given in the title above (1581-1658) seem reasonable for someone who lived to be nearly eighty. These dates definitely apply to Sir Edward, as they are given on his tomb in St Wilfrid’s, Standish, by his nephew and heir, who erected it. However, many details reported about Edward so far lead to an interim conclusion there are still a few muddles to be sorted out, or at least gaps to be filled in, to be sure that we are dealing with only one and not two different Edward Wrightingtons of Wrightington of two different generations, the older one still to be identified and the younger one (the last of the line) commemorated by a monument in Standish Church in 1658.
For me, he was but the latest in a whole series of two or more contemporaries with the same name who have been previously muddled: all the 16th century Thomas Standishes of Duxbury and Thomas Ardernes in the Midlands, all the John Shakespeares in Stratford and quite a few more. I invite any interested reader to join me in yet another Magical Mystery Tour into the ‘real story’ of Edward Wrightington and hope that one reader might be inspired to pursue him.
None of this would be of more than peripheral and local interest except that Edward Wrightington is yet another name that pops up in Standish and Shakespeare circles and therefore seems worthy of a few moments of study. The comforting thought at the moment is that all details discovered so far indicate that we perhaps have only two to sort out, and they might even turn out to be the same one. For the moment all we can do is first list the details and ask many questions. Farrer gave his version of his history in the Victoria County History of Wrightington, Porteus gave his version from monuments in Standish Parish Church and Rev. W’s will and Honigmann gave his version in his study of Weever’s Epigrammes, 1599 (Honigmann, 1987).
1581 Born (tomb), son & heir of John Wrightington (Farrer), a deputy lieutenant and
JP (Stanley Papers), ‘not Heraldic’ (Stanley Papers - Honigmann)
1594 At Brasenose, Oxford (Farrer)
159? At Gray’s Inn (Farrer)
1599 Received epigram in John Weever’s Epigrammes (Honigmann, 1987)
1631 Refused knighthood (Farrer)
1639 In Rev. W’s will as his brother-in-law (Porteus)
1641 ‘Sir Edward’ guarantor for Thomas Standish of Duxbury Jr’s marriage
settlement (Standish of Duxbury Muniments, DP 397/21/14)
1642 Removed from the commission of the peace by the Parliament (Farrer)
1644 One of the captors of Liverpool (Farrer)
? Made his peace with the Parliament (Farrer)
? Member of the Council of the North (Porteus)
1658 Died (tomb), coat of arms (Porteus)
We have therefore met Edward in 1639, before knighthood, as very definitely Rev. W’s brother-in-law and the recipient of the Countess of Derby’s silver bowl. We met him earlier when he received an epigram in Shakespeare circles from John Weever in 1599. This Edward’s identity remained elusive for Honigmann:
vi. 25] Edward [Wrightington] was probably related to John Wrightington, Esq., of Wrightington, Lancs., a deputy lieutenant and JP. “The family was not Heraldic, and never appeared at the Lancashire Visitations” (The Stanley Papers, Part II (CS, xxxi, 1853, p. 120).
(Honigmann, Weever, 1987, p. 126.)
His tomb in Standish Parish Church seems to prove that his family was heraldic. Interestingly, Honigmann assumed that Edward Wrightington was one of Weever’s Lancashire and Cheshire luminaries from whom he was seeking patronage. As Edward was only 18 at the time of publication (1599) and many of the epigrams seem to have been written at least one year earlier, it appears that he must have had a different relationship to qualify for inclusion. It is also strange that the quote from The Stanley Papers claims that this family was ‘not Heraldic’, when his coat of arms appears on his tomb. Maybe the author based this judgement on the fact that they never presented a Visitation Pedigree, and had no knowledge of his tomb in Standish Church? In any case, we have already met the first few little muddles.
On the south side of the chancel stands a marble altar tomb with the effigy of Sir Edward Wrightington, a member of the Council of the North, who died 1658, erected by Hugh Dicconson of Wrightington, his heir. On the west end is the coat of Wrightington (or, a chevron, between three cross-crosslets fitchee azure) and the motto, “Per crucem honos.” (Porteus, 1927, p. 71.)
Then we meet several more details on other pages of Porteus and Farrer. From Porteus, 1927 (p. 102) we learn that Rev. W “married Mary, daughter of John Wrightington of Wrightington” and from his will of 1639 it seems clear that Edward was Mary’s brother to qualifiy as Rev. W’s brother-in-law. Another little anomaly. Sir Edward was born in 1581 and Rev. W in 1550, so brother Edward and sister Mary were presumably born several decades apart. This is always possible, of course, if one was an early child of a first marriage and the other a later child of a later marriage, but requires a little more investigation before it can be established that these Edwards were indeed one and the same.
The attentive reader might even remember someone else who inherited something else in Wrightington about this time or not too long afterwards – Captain Myles Standish inherited lands there as part of his small inheritance (named in his will of 1656). Farrer’s account of the history of Wrightington reads like the usual list of local families, in this case with the Hoghtons, the Heskeths (who inherited Hugh Standish of Ormskirk’s lands here via the Stopforths) and the Butlers rather prominent, but no mention of any Standishes, although we know that Hugh Standish owned lands here. Farrer himself admitted to a certain amount of confusion in the descent of various lands in Wrightington. The history of this manor is indeed confused, as it was subsumed under the early parish of Eccleston, which stretched in a long thin line from north to south, to the west of Duxbury and Standish manors and townships and more or less parallel to the long and thin Standish Parish, and so seems to present a hotch-potch of details from manors, townships and families all around, rather than a clearly documented story. In the middle of all this Farrer gives a brief biography of Sir Edward:
Sir Edward Wrightington of Gray’s Inn was the son and heir of John Wrightington. He entered Brasenose Coll., Oxf., in 1594, being then thirteen years of age; Foster, Alumni Oxon. He paid £25 on refusing knighthood in 1631; Misc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs and Ches.), 1, 214. Sir Edward Wrightington was a Royalist and therefore removed from the commission of the peace in 1642 by the Parliament; Civil War Tracts (Chet. Soc.) 60. Afterwards he appears among the captors of Liverpool, but made his peace with the Parliament; Royalist Comp. Papers (Rec. Soc. Lancs. and Ches.), i. 45; Cal. Com. for Comp. i, 506. He died in Oct. 1658, aged seventy-eight, and was buried in Standish Church, where a monument still remains, erected by his nephew (nepos) and heir Hugh Dicconson. (V.C.H., Vol. 6, p. 172.)
So Edward of Wrightington entered Brasenose (Rev. W’s college and rather renowned for producing Lancashire Catholic priests and schoolmasters at Stratford Grammar School), aged thirteen, in the same year as John Weever entered Queens’ College, Cambridge, a college attended by many Standishes of Duxbury (Venn). And Edward was then at Gray’s Inn, following in the footsteps of so many from Lancashire, at a time when Shakespeare’s early plays were being performed there.
He refused a knighthood in 1631 and retained the same status in 1639. If they were one and the same, then his appearance as a knight in the Standish of Duxbury Muniments in early 1641 narrows the period down to shortly before this. Why might he have changed his mind, one wonders? Are there examples of others who followed a similar path? And what was he doing anyway between 1599 and 1631? What services had he performed that qualified him for a knighthood in 1631 and again in late 1639? Does his attendance at Brasenose, his knighthood from Charles I and his commitment as a Royalist at least during the early stages of the Civil War imply that he was a Catholic or at least had Catholic sympathies? In any case his appearance at Liverpool (captured after a long siege by Prince Rupert) certainly puts him fairly and squarely within Derby circles.
Very interestingly, also, his arms have three cross-crosslets fitchee, just like the Ardernes of Cheshire (and Mary’s family of Warwickshire and Bedfordshire) and the Shaws/ Asshaws of Heath Charnock. Ormerod, the eminent historian of Cheshire at the beginning of the 19th century, concluded that the Cheshire Arderne arms were perhaps those of the fee of Aldford, awarded to Sir John Arderne by Randle de Blundeville, Earl of Chester, c. 1220, but it seems that they might all be derived from a coat of arms of an earlier owner of much of Lancashire and Cheshire, perhaps one of the very early Earls of Chester, within a century of the Norman Conquest. Did all these families retain a memory of the origin of their coats of arms held in common?
At the very least it seems that Edward Wrightington provides yet another ‘signpost’ to others in his circle. The only additional item on offering at the moment is the text of Weever’s epigram, in case anyone can make anything of it.
The sixt weeke (sic).
Epig. 25 In Ed. Wrightington
(I offer the following as my rendition from the facsimile given in Honigmann, 1987. Although printed, the facsimile is by no means straightforward to read! Honigmann makes many valuable comments on the compositing.)
If vertuous youth now in his chiefest prime,
To vertues love be wholy thus addicted,
What doth grave old (?) with milke-white haires in time
Assure us of one vice to be afflicted?
For by and by the plant doth straight appeare,
Which afterward great store of fruit will beare.
Whatever this might mean, it perhaps on its own serves to prove why John Weever’s reputation has sunk to that of a very minor Tudor poet and yet why anything he wrote might still reveal a few more contemporary secrets about his friends and acquaintances, one of whom was very obviously Shakespeare. Very interestingly, this epigram is accompanied by a large wiggly bracket down the left hand side, inserted by hand, which includes all five lines. This leads to a suspicion that one previous owner of this copy of Weever also spotted Edward Wrightington as an enigma and a possible clue to something or other, particularly when one sees which others are accompanied by a similar wiggly line. This particular copy finally ended up in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. More anon, when I publish my analysis of all the Weever dedicatees. Meanwhile, perhaps someone other than me might ponder on whether this was written to a younger or an older man. Probably younger, but is one at ‘his chiefest prime’ if aged 17? And how might Weever at Cambridge have known Wrightington at Oxford? After they both arrived in London? Or already in Lancashire via Rev. William Leigh?
Colonel Edward Chisnall
Another with a tomb in Standish Parish Church is Edward Chisnall.
On the south pier is an elaborate marble, adorned with military and literary emblems, to the memory of Edward Chisnall of Chisnall in Coppull, one of the defenders of Lathom House. It records that he bravely took from the besiegers "a fire-vomiting mortar"; and that he was the author of the Catholic History, a defence of the Church of England. He died 1653. There was formerly another marble recording the two colonelcy commissions granted to Edward Chisnall, one from Prince Rupert and the other from Charles II. (Porteus, 1927, p. 72.)
So Edward Chisnall of Coppull (immediately to the south of Duxbury) was presumably with Prince Rupert at Liverpool along with Sir Edward Wrightington and at the siege of Lathom House with Captain Henry Ogle, Captain Ralph Standish’s nephew. He was also a fellow Colonel with Colonel of Cavalry Alexander Standish of Standish. It almost starts to seem that the whole of the parish of Standish (including Duxbury) was on the side of the King in the early stages of the war, with not a Puritan anywhere in sight. The only exception, it seems, was Thomas Standish the MP, whose credentials as a “zealous Parliamentarian” seem to be fairly sound, but with no evidence that he was a Puritan. It also becomes much more plausible that Colonel Alexander Standish of Duxbury started the war in the Royalist army, following perhaps a similar path to Sir Edward Wrightington. And they all knew Countess Alice née Spencer and the Earls of Derby, who moved in court and had moved in Shakespeare circles. And Rev. W certainly knew them all and also moved in court circles. Maybe someone will find a way out of this particular maze to produce a reassessment of the biographies of all concerned.
Some Catholic and Puritan matters in Lancashire, and back to Rev. W
It should perhaps be pointed out somewhere to any reader new to this area, and therefore here is as good a place as any, that the history of Tudor and Stuart Catholics and Royalists and Puritans and Parliamentarians in Lancashire makes it very clear that none of these terms were synonymous or mutually exclusive throughout this tumultuous period, and there is no way the population during the Civil War could simply be divided into pro-Cavaliers and pro-Roundheads. No criticism intended, but rather awe and praise for anyone who has contributed. I have, however, felt extremely disconcerted that so many ‘national’ histories of this period have contained not a single reference to any Lancashire character, when it was so obvious that so many were crucial in events of national importance.
The Standishes of Duxbury provide a microcosmic and exemplary picture of all my worries. Every account so far sees them as Protestant if not Puritan by the turn of the 16th to the 17th century, and certainly staunchly Parliamentarian by the Civil War, with the little hiccup of Captain Thomas on the Royalist side. The Standish of Duxbury Muniments show that this was far from the truth. They veered from one position to another, allying themselves with families from both extremes and anywhere else inbetween and by the beginning of the Civil War were predominantly Royalist and Protestant, but not obviously Puritan.
Many committed or crypto-Catholic Lancashire gentry during Elizabeth’s reign were intensely patriotic and Royalist whereas others were constantly plotting to put Mary Queen of Scots or other later candidates on the throne. These attempts were not so much anti-Elizabeth, who tried very hard to create a Church that would allow everyone to follow their own conscience, as long as they were loyal to her, but rather pro-Papist and anti-Elizabeth’s main ministers, particularly Lord Burghley. In James I’s reign the main antagonist from the Lancashire point of view seems to have become Burghley’s son Robert Cecil, later Earl of Salisbury. In Central Lancashire, these seem to have been divided fairly equally between those that stayed in the county and continued as persistent recusants, paying up their fines and occasionally or frequently being imprisoned, and those who opted for exile, or at least continued to send their children to Catholic schools in exile. The majority, however, conformed at least outwardly by attending the required number of Anglican services, but it is hardly surprising if some of them were rather confused as to where their loyalties lay.
During James I’s reign the situation became more complicated, with his anti-Catholic, pro-Protestant and Presbyterian and anti-Puritanical, particularly anti-Separatist views, particularly after the Gunpowder Plot (and yet with a Catholic wife). During his son Charles I’s reign they polarised somewhat, with his pro-Catholic and anti-Parliamentarian views. By the time of the Civil War, one could perhaps find the following equations in Lancashire, at least:
- Catholic = Royalist (the Standishes of Standish are a good example)
- Puritan = Parliamentarian (the Asshetons of Whalley are perhaps a good example)
- Royalist = quite simply anyone who wished to maintain the monarchy, including a whole mixture of Catholics and Protestants of many hues. One prime example here is James, 7th Earl of Derby, whose religious inclination was Protestant verging on Puritan, but was nevertheless a total Royalist and very sympathetic to any Catholic who would fight for him. Those Standishes of Duxbury who followed him perhaps had a similar background.
- Parliamentarian = quite simply anyone who saw the rule of Parliament as the only way forward. Thomas the MP and Colonel Richard seem to be good examples here.
A prime example of someone caught in the middle of this dilemma is Colonel Alexander Standish of Duxbury[12A2] (d. 1647), who might well have fought on both sides but in any case had a father on the Parliamentarian side, and two brothers and an uncle on the Royalist side. Where, in a situation like this, did your loyalties lie? Presumably, unless you were an idealist, on the side which seemed most likely to win.
Where did Rev. W’s loyalties lie? It was suggested above that he was not a leader of the local Puritan community, the conventional story, and was almost certainly a Royalist at most points in his career. He was perhaps lucky (in retrospect) to have died in 1639 and was thus been spared the sight of so many old friends slaughtering each other on opposite sides in the Civil War.
He needs a new biographer and good luck to anyone who embarks on this. He is rather well documented in Lancashire, although many details still need to be put together. His position on the national stage seems to be have been rather neglected, as indeed seems to be the case for so many in Lancashire in histories written with a southern bias. This is perhaps the reason for the London end of his story escaping the attention of biographers of those royals by whom he was obviously so highly regarded. To give but two titles: King James VI of Scotland and I of England, by Bryan Bevan, London, 1996, and Henry Prince of Wales (and England's Lost Renaissance), by Roy Strong, London, 1986, Pimlico, 2000 give not a single mention of him. Fair enough, as these were already dealing with such an enormous amount of documentation, but Rev. W surely deserves at least a footnote in any future biography of these patrons.
Before we leave him, I offer a few more thoughts to ponder on. He was obviously travelling regularly up and down between Lancashire and London, and after 1608 was master of Ewelme Hospital, Oxfordshire (DNB), which would have provided a good stopping off place. Did he leave any more records in the Midlands? Did he return to visit his old college, which would have provided another convenient place en route? Did he call in on Shakespeare when passing through Stratford? He must have known him in London when he was visiting King James and Prince Henry, at a time when Shakespeare was in the King’s Players. Did he also know Alexander Aspinall, another Brasenose scholar from Lancashire, who was certainly a friend of Shakespeare’s, and schoolmaster at Stratford Grammar School from 1582 until 1624? He certainly knew many of Aspinall’s Lancashire neighbours when they were all visiting the Earl of Derby together (Raines Derby Household Books) or attending the Preston Guild (Abram, Preston). As such a well known preacher, was he ever invited to give one of the “three official foundation sermons with which the bailiff and council were edified in the chapel each year”? Could he even have been the one entertained by Shakespeare with “one quart of sack and one quart of claret wine” at New Place in 1614? (Schoenbaum, p. 280.) Which other wills did he appear in, apart from those of two Standishes of Duxbury? Was his Leigh family, one of the very few in Lancashire with Barbaras and Charleses (IGI), the source of Myles’s second wife Barbara, who named their first son Charles? Maybe no answers will be found, but it seemed worth asking the questions. Rev. W has intrigued me for many years and I suspect he might turn out to be a rather large piece in the Myles Standish and ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ jigsaw puzzles.