6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (9) AS What Happened Between 1569 and 1573?

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


(9) What happened between 1569 and 1573?

Something must have happened between 1569 and 1573 to take the Standishes of Duxbury away from Chorley Parish Church (briefly to Standish) and then to return, and the only plausible explanation lies in the local history of the times, the background history of the Counter-Reformation, the history of Rectors of Chorley and Standish Parish Churches, and perhaps other details still awaiting research. A few geographical details are also relevant. The township of Duxbury was at the extreme northern end of the ancient Parish of Standish, which stretched seven miles in a long thin line north to south, with Standish at the southern end. Still today there is a Duxbury Chapel in St Wilfrid’s, Standish and several Standish of Duxbury memorials have survived. Duxbury was, however, much closer to St Laurence’s, Chorley Parish Church and - presumably mainly for convenience - they used this over centuries as their main church for baptisms and burials. (The most detailed and fairly definitive published history of the parish of Standish still remains that by Porteus, 1927 and the most definitive history of St Laurence’s also that by Porteus, c.1946, quoted from below.)

Two rather important local events in 1569 were the Northern Rebellion (pro-Catholic) and the departure into exile of AS’s uncle Thomas Hoghton ‘The Exile’, which all Hoghton researchers have assumed might not be unconnected. It may be a total coincidence that Durham Cathedral was the scene of the most blatant anti-Protestant demonstration during the Rebellion and that a Lancashire man, James Pilkington, was at that time the first Protestant Bishop of Durham appointed by Elizabeth. (The story of ‘Thomas the Exile’ has been told many times, with a summary and full references by Honigmann, 1985; the story of James Pilkington most thoroughly so far by Margaret Kay in The History of Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School.)

Various strange financial settlements within AS’s family were recorded during this time (DP397/21/7-11, 1565-73). Further close scrutiny and full transcription might well reveal a similar situation as with the Hoghtons, with recusancy playing the largest role. (Documents 1 & 2 of 1572/3 bought by Jonathan Sheard, when put together with these, might shed a little more light on the biographies of AS’s father and grandfather.)

1570 also saw a hare-brained scheme to free Mary, Queen of Scots from Chatsworth in Derbyshire or Sheffield Castle, two homes of the current Earl of Shrewsbury, Mary’s guardian and a Talbot with his origins in the Ribble valley. The plan was apparently to spirit her away to the Isle of Man (governed by the Earl of Derby via a succession of relatives), from where she could have sailed to France or Spain or wherever else she might have been welcomed. It failed, like all later ‘plots and plans’ to save her. Several of AS’s relatives were involved, most importantly Sir Thomas Gerard of Bryn and several Stanleys, who were imprisoned and fined heavily for their participation and thus subsequently termed as ‘traitors’.

[The complete story has meanwhile appeared in my book ‘Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs in Tong Shropshire’, 2013. HM]

Details of all these are scattered throughout Lancashire literature and need drawing together, including all later ‘plots’. I have yet to read any ‘national’ account of the various ‘plots’ in Elizabeth’s and James’s reigns that emphasises the number of Lancastrians involved. The closest so far is Antonia Fraser, The Gunpowder Plot, who at least mentions Lancashire several times. She also relates the story of James I knighting Thomas Gerard of Bryn Jr because his father had been so active on behalf of his mother (James’s mother Queen Mary) (Fraser, p. xxxiv). These Gerards also owned lands in Brindle near Duxbury. Another is Francis Edwards, Plots and Plotters in the reign of Elizabeth I, 2000. Fraser is Catholic and Edwards a Jesuit, which lays them both open to the accusation of being partisan in their sympathetic pro-Catholic interpretations.

Another expert on ‘plots’, particularly the big one in 1605, is Dr Mark Nicholls, Librarian and Fellow at St John’s, Cambridge. I was privileged to meet him in the summer of 2002 when I popped into St John’s library, mainly in pursuit of all the Lancashire lads who studied there in the 16th century. He differs somewhat in his conclusions from Antonia Fraser. I leave it up to the academics to continue this debate and only hope that this Lancashire input might be of use somehow.

Thomas Hoghton ‘The Exile’ was married to a Gerard of Bryn daughter, and other Gerard daughters married into many local gentry families, including the Ardernes of Cheshire, Mary Arderne’s family. One of the Stanleys involved in 1570 was Sir Thomas, brother of the 4th Earl of Derby, for whom Shakespeare later wrote an epitaph. (See Honigmann, 1985, Ch. VII for a simple family tree of this Stanley branch and a full account of Shakespeare’s Epitaphs.)

This, then, was the world in which AS spent his early years. Catholic plots involving relatives, a Catholic uncle just flown into exile, his grandfather James making strange settlements, the family fairly obviously torn between remaining Catholic or conforming, three older brothers already dead or about to die, leaving AS as the son and heir of Duxbury Hall and dependent estates. He also had dozens of Catholic Hoghton cousins and endless kinsmen in Duxbury and neighbouring manors. He was probably oblivious to most of the political and religious background and just enjoyed his early childhood wandering through Duxbury Woods with children of his father’s tenants.


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