6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (4) AS The Potential Importance of Alexander Standish

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


(4) The potential importance of Alexander Standish

The main Duxbury puzzles (with some answers) have been the following.

(i) The history of certain buildings in Duxbury. Who lived at Duxbury (Old) Hall after the Duxburys left in 1524? Who built Duxbury (New) Hall in central Duxbury? And who built the cruck barn, still there today? And how did the moated site at Bretters Farm in neighbouring Heath Charnock fit into the picture? The main answers are that some of AS’s family lived at Duxbury (Old) Hall, Duxbury (New) Hall was almost certainly built and extended by A.S. and his son and heir Thomas MP, with the major building or extension in 1623; the cruck barn might have been built around this time or earlier; and Bretters Farm came firmly into the Standish of Duxbury family at the latest in 1577, when AS’s stepfather bought the northern half of the manor of Heath Charnock. One previous owner was Sir Thomas Banastre, leader of the Banastre Rebellion in 1315, which ultimately (but not immediately) led to the Duxburys losing the Lordship of the manor to the Standishes c.1380. A book on buildings associated with the Duxburys and Standishes of Duxbury was envisioned years ago as one of ‘The Duxbury Quartet’, before Shakespeare entered my life and almost took it over. It will appear some time, but not yet awhile.

(ii) The history of the 16th and 17th century Standishes of Duxbury. Were they really solidly Protestant verging on Puritan, as previously claimed, but which I had increasingly come to doubt? The main answer is that various Standish of Duxbury families were split down the middle and that we need to distinguish two totally separate branches. Family A, AS’s, was split right through to the end of the Civil War, which saw this family dying out in the male line. Family B, a collateral family descended from Sir Hugh Standish de Duxbury, knighted at Agincourt, was firmly Protestant and Parliamentarian during the Civil War. One Protestant son of this family during Elizabeth’s reign moved to Protestant (later Parliamentarian) Manchester, with his son and heir Richard returning to Duxbury in 1647-8 to take over all estates ever owned by Families A and B: this was Colonel Richard (c.1597-1663). His biography is now in place (from contemporary MSS), but will only make sense when AS’s biography has been digested by all interested, followed by biographies of his children and grandchildren. The fairly complete story of the Duxburys and Standishes of Duxbury before AS will follow asap.

(iii) Exactly how had Colonel Richard managed to acquire all the estates of Family A during the Civil War?And how did this fit into Myles Standish’s claims in his Massachusetts will in 1655/6 and his son Alexander’s pursuits later in Lancashire? The answers lay in various documents written in Duxbury and at the Assize Court in Lancaster. Three particular documents from 1647, 1655 and 1657 were immediately dubbed ‘Dynamite Documents’, because on their own they revealed the story and dynamited all previous accounts. Out of context, they would mean very little to anyone else, but will be reproduced in full in Colonel Richard’s biography, in which they played a very important role, and also, indeed, for Myles’s son Alexander. AS was meanwhile long dead, and the story is that of his grandsons.

[These ‘Dynamite Documents’ have retained their dynamism, although the ‘true story’ has since emerged somewhat differently from the one envisaged in 2004. For full details please read them in the appropriate years in Colonel Richard’s biography 6.3. Colonel Richard[11B1]. 21013 HM]

(iv) The Lancashire end of the history of Myles Standish. Which lands exactly did he and his son Alexander keep trying to claim, on what basis, and what was the result? And why was Myles recorded nowhere in the genealogy of the two main Standish families of Standish and Duxbury? Years ago I had already come across strong hints of skulduggery on someone’s part during the Commonwealth and after the Restoration, and finally read the proof and background to this when Colonel Richard was taken to court twice in 1655 and 1657 by lawyer Edward May (an interesting name, with several Mays in New England at the time) on behalf of Myles’s son Alexander.

[This is the most important change. The “Alexander, gent.” in the 1655 document has now been identified beyond all reasonable doubt as Alexander[11A4], fourth son of Alexander[10A1]. In itself, however, this in turn has large implications for the later claims of Myles’s descendants in the 19th century. This should be borne in mind when reading the following 2004 interpretation. This Alexander’s first-ever biography is in the folder BIOGRAPHIES, as 6.4. Alexander[11A4]). 2013 HM]

My main conclusion now is that Colonel Richard was a gentleman and is now exonerated of any previous suspicions that he might have been anything else; the skulduggery lay elsewhere. The main puzzles were solved by the identification of two completely separate claims by Myles and his son Alexander [or rather, by his descendants] of two completely different sets of estates, one from the Standishes of Standish and the other from the Standishes of Duxbury. I presented the basic story in my articles on Myles Standish and stand by everything claimed there; all that has changed in the meantime is that all details discovered then have been verified by details discovered since. Yet again, we first need to go back to AS’s biography.

(v) The rather amazing story of two sieges of Duxbury Hall and many other puzzling claims in the 19th century. On what basis did any of the numerous claimants of Duxbury Hall, including Myles’s descendants, entertain even the remotest hope of gaining possession? The answer again goes back to AS and Colonel Richard, with vestiges of the Colonel’s take over of the lands of Family A during the Civil War remaining in local folk memory - and also in the memory of Myles’s descendants in New England. All were sure they were descended from one of AS’s family but could not prove it, the main reason being the disappearance of the family papers from Duxbury in the 1830s. Whether this was a deliberate or chance disappearance remains unknown, but disappear they did. How the MSS that Jonathan Sheard has just bought became separated from the rest will probably remain a mystery. Maybe they became separated from the Hoghton MSS? This query is based on the fact that Hoghtons appear frequently.

[These particular puzzles have now been solved by the identification of Alexander[A4] in the 1655 document, and the rest of his biography, q.v. in 6.4. Alexander[llA4]. 2013 HM]

(vi) The tradition that Shakespeare spent time in Lancashire in his youth. If he really was with the Hoghtons and Heskeths (according to old and persistent and independent traditions in both families), what took him there? I was very doubtful from the beginning about Honigmann’s tentative conclusion that John Cottam, the schoolmaster at Stratford and a ‘servant’ of the Hoghtons, might have been the most important link. Important certainly, but not, I suspected, the most important. Some of the dates from the Midlands end of the story just did not fit with those at the Lancashire end. AS was obviously involved in the ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ story somehow, but how? His main links emerged from his being a nephew of all the relevant Hoghton brothers, with himself almost certainly named after his uncle Alexander Hoghton, who wrote the perplexing will in 1581 naming William Shakeshafte, the ‘smoking gun'’ for Shakespeare researchers about young Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’. Other revelations were the intimate links of all these with the Earls of Derby, and the most intimate link for AS was the installation of a widowed Countess of Derby in one of his manors near Duxbury, rent-free for life. And thereby hangs another tale of ‘everything connects’. This particular Countess takes her place in our history because, in the course of a long and busy life, Lady Alice, patroness of the arts, knew personally four of the greatest poets of the English tongue, Spenser, Donne, Shakespeare and Milton. In this she is believed to be unique. Edmund Spenser claimed to be her kinsman and dedicated his “Teares of the Muses” to her. John Donne, foremost of English metaphysical poets, she helped out of a matrimonial scrape. Shakespeare was a member of the theatrical company of which her first husband was patron, while in her later years young John Milton composed “Comus” for the pleasure and delight of herself and her family. I recently went to Harefield to find out more about this lovely countess, who lived in the far-off dates of Elizabethan exploits. And in the ancient church I met her as she really was.

The effigy on her painted monument is so lifelike that I expected her to sit up and tell me about that famous visit of 31st July to the 2nd August, 1602, when Queen Elizabeth came to stay and it rained all the time.

(Iva Howard, “The Lady of Harefield Place”, Middlesex Quarterly, Winter 1953,

from a copy in the Local Studies Library of Ruislip.)

This little snippet (among many other lengthy offerings) was received with gratitude in September 2003 from Sylvia Ladyman, Secretary of the Local History Society. It provided a rather large amount of Middlesex icing on the cake already baked in Lancashire by AS, the Hoghtons and the Earls of Derby. Sylvia has since visited Harefield Church, taken photos of Countess Alice’s tomb from every possible angle, transcribed the MIs, and the results landed in my postbox in November 2003. Countess Alice’s biography will follow as soon as possible.

[Materials for this did appear soon afterwards on 11. Countess Alice of Derby. The full story still awaits. 2013 HM]


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