STANDISH OF DUXBURY

6. BIOGRAPHIES

6.4. Alexander Standish of Duxbury[11A4] (1604-1662>1664)

A4 Royalist Alexander, the fourth brother with the sword

The centripetal person in solving many muddles

The longest-living survivor of all the Standishes of his generation

His first-ever biography

Helen Moorwood 2013

6.4. (1) A4 Introduction: Background & Sources

First and foremost, a word of explanation is needed as to why this Alexander’s biography has been placed as the last in the series of four and not in third place immediately after his father 6.1. Alexander[10A1] and his brother 6.2. Thomas MP[11A1]. The answer lies in two facts:

1) he was the fourth brother and so acquired the PIN number [11A4] and

2) he lived longer than his brother Thomas, who died in 1642 and his ‘cousin’ Colonel Richard, who took over the Standish of Duxbury estates and died in 1662.

It thus made more sense to put him in last place, as the last survivor, and leave all the 4s with this Alexander, as [11A4], abbreviated to A4 in the titles. The A stands both for Alexander and that he was from Family A. He also happens to have been born in 1604 and the last notice of him is his absence in 1664, providing two more 4s. Thus the apt abbreviation A4.

The first sub-title above “with the sword” is how I dubbed this Alexander for a long time (not least to distinguish him from all the other Alexanders in the family). He was the youngest of four brothers, the four surviving sons of Alexander[10A1]. Last son Alexander[11A4] was born in 1604 and was the one who inherited his brother Captain Ralph’s sword in the latter’s Will of 21 December 1637 (hence “with the sword”), with Ralph dying soon afterwards, buried at Chorley on 15 January 1638. From the same Will we learn that A4 was married (wife unknown) and had a daughter Joan. This is the only mention of their daughter, whose baptismal record has not survived, nor any further details of her life.

Alexander[11A4] was also appointed joint-executor of brother Captain Ralph’s Will, along with the local Edward Farnworth of Duxbury, whose family seems to have acted as ‘stewards’ for the Standish family in Duxbury. (Full text of this Will in 5. WILLS, ADMONS & IPMS, 5.3. 1637 Captain Ralph. Edward Farnworth of Euxton, yeoman, was an executor of his brother Thomas the MP’S Will in 1642 and John Farnworth appears as a trustee in Col. Richard’s Codicil of 1661/2.)

From this situation in 1637 one might reasonably deduce that A4 was still living in or close to Duxbury. He then appeared as an executor in brother Thomas the MP’s Will in 1642. At this point he was the only brother left. Richard[11A2] had either already died before their mother Alice in 1604 – or was possibly but unlikely the “Mr Richard” whose burial  was recorded in Chorley Parish Register in 1628.

A4’s anonymous wife was buried at Chorley as “vx: Alexandri Standish de Duxbury” on 10 April 1644. At least, one might assume that it was his wife, unless this was the first wife of his nephew Colonel Alexander[12A2]? This possibility only recently and belatedly registered with me, when I read on a 19th century pedigree chart that Colonel Alexander had two wives, with one daughter from each: 1) “Alice Farington of Shawe Hall, relict of Banastre of Bank” and 2) “Margaret, widow of Colonel Clifton”. This is the only record ever found of them, but Colonel Alexander’s widow in 1647 was certainly Margaret (see later). Whatever the identity of the wives and daughters of these two namesakes, uncle and nephew, the one to survive beyond 1647 and the ‘take-over’ of Duxbury Hall by Colonel Richard[11B1] was Alexander the uncle “with the sword”, A4. 

 A4 then disappeared from the Standish of Duxbury Muniments. For a long time he was an enigma. It was all too easy to imagine that he too had died shortly afterwards and for quite a long time I considered him as a candidate for the Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Standish, who left an ‘Obligation’ in 1648 (L.R.O. WCW 1648 Alexander Standish), having apparently been killed at the Battle of Preston.Subsequently this identification proved to be impossible, as ever more details emerged about Alexander[11A4]. One possible contestant for the Lieutenant-Colonel is Colonel Richard’s younger brother Alexander[11B3].

Meanwhile, back in Duxbury, on brother Thomas the MP’s death in 1642, just after the outbreak of the Civil War, Duxbury Hall and dependent estates went by natural law of primogeniture to Thomas’s second son Alexander[12A2], now Lord of the Manor of Duxbury. We will remember that the eldest son Captain Thomas[12A1] had been killed shortly before by a sniper’s bullet in Manchester. Then five years later, in 1647, in the middle of the Civil War, Alexander[12A2] died. He had meanwhile become a Colonel (almost certainly in the Royalist army), and was buried as such at St Laurence’s, Chorley on 15 March 1647as “Alexrus Coll: Standish de Duxbury”.

His widow Margaret (who had not produced a son & heir) decided that the most sensible course of action was to hand over Duxbury Hall and all dependent estates to a Standish ‘cousin’, who seemed to have the best qualifications to manage and keep all the hereditary estates within the family. He was Richard[11B1], a descendant of Family B, a junior branch. Because he later became a Colonel in the Parliamentary army, he was given the label of Colonel Richard prematurely (by HM), to distinguish him from all the other Richard Standishes of Duxbury. His father Richard[10B3] (or possibly his father Thomas[9B1], married to a daughter of Sir Alexander Radcliffe of Ordsall in Salford) had moved to Manchester, where Colonel Richard had been raised, married and had a large family. These all moved into Duxbury Hall in 1647. If Alexander[11A4] was still alive in 1647, surely he would have entered the picture at this point to put in a bid to claim at least part of his inheritance? But he didn’t.

Such was the story revealed by ‘research in progress’ in 2004, when I wrote an article on a particularly interesting document of 1655. In this, an “Alexander Standish, gent.”, along with his lawyer Edward May, had taken Colonel Richard to Lancashire Assize Court, claiming – and being granted – Duxbury Hall and many dependent estates. A settlement was reached, but Colonel Richard[11B1] still retained the Manor and Hall. At the time, believing that Alexander[11A4] had been dead for some years, I looked around for any other Alexander Standishes of Duxbury known to be alive. One that leapt out from the history books was Alexander, son and heir of Pilgrim Father Captain Myles Standish in Duxbury, Massachusetts. In 1655 Myles was still alive, and it was not to be until the following year that he wrote his Will, producing his own enigma when he claimed lands in Lancashire that had been “surreptitiously detained”. These were in six townships in Lancashire, with no mention of Duxbury. We knew, however, that the settlers in New England had been kept very much informed about events in the Civil War back in Old England. We could also reasonably suppose that the family in Duxbury, New England had kept in touch with the family back in Duxbury near Chorley. They must have known about the transfer of the core estates from Family A to Family B. Myles himself was from Family A and might, quite justifiably, think that he had a better claim to Duxbury Hall than Colonel Richard.

My article was duly placed on the Duxbury Family History website by Peter Duxbury, who was enthusiastic about all things Duxbury, whether the family or the place. Not too long afterwards I started to have serious doubts about this identification of “Alexander Standish, gent.” as Myles’s son, not least when Bill Walker, a historian of Duxbury (author of Duxbury in Decline, 1756-1932, 1995) found “my true and loving friend Alexander Standish of Liverpool” mentioned in a MS Codicil of 1661 to Colonel Richard’s Will in the John Rylands Library in Manchester. In his article, written in 2005/6 for the newly founded St Laurence’s Historical Society, he commented on my online article, gently chiding my previous assumption. One suggestion of his was the possible identification of this Alexander in 1655 with Thomas the MP’s brother Alexander[11A4]. I agreed, but put any action on the back-burner until more information should or might emerge.

The surrounding years had seen and were to see many relevant events. Sadly Peter Duxbury died in 2005, which meant that his website went ‘on hold’ (as it turned out, until 2007/8, when ‘cousin’ Ronald Duxbury Taylor in Hong Kong took over as webmaster). Bill Walker’s article was duly placed on the newly founded website mylesstandish.info in 2007. My resolution to take a close look at Colonel Richard’s Codicil was thwarted by the closure for three years for renovation of the John Rylands Library.

Meanwhile, however, my online article of 2004 had been read by someone who wrote an article on Myles Standish the following year and published it in 2006. This included a rather vitriolic attack on my claims in my article of 2004. The author was Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, Founder-Curator of the American Leiden Pilgrim Museum. This online article was duly referenced as a source by an anonymous ‘editor’ of the Myles Standish entry on Wikipedia: 

Bangs, Jeremy D. (2006). "Myles Standish, Born Where? The State of the Question". SAIL 1620. Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved March 8, 2010.

Publication of my ‘reply’ to this article still awaits. Although written several years ago, I realised that there was no point in publishing it until I had published (online or in print) complete transcriptions of all the relevant documentation. It has taken until now for me to find time to produce all on this website. The relevant documentation and my reply will appear asap in the folder MYLES STANDISH. First of all, however, it seemed useful – even necessary - to write the first-ever biography of Alexander[11A4].

The background story since 2004 (from my end) has been at the same time one of neglect and interesting new discoveries about Alexander[11A4]. The “neglect” came because I had in the meantime (since 2004) become very involved in researching Stanley-Shakespeare stories, as a background to ‘Lancastrian Shakespeare’, which also, unsurprisingly, included the Standishes of Duxbury at many points. This period finally culminated very recently with the publication of my book Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs in Tong Shropshire (2013), which will be followed up asap by Shakespeare’s Lancashire Links. In the meantime much of relevance will appear on this website.

The “interesting new discoveries” concerning the identification of Alexander Standish and Thomas May in the 1655 Assize Court case came from:

  1. Assembling and scrutinising, with full transcriptions, three surviving copies of Colonel Richard’s Will of 1657 and four copies of the Codicil of 1661: the original Will signed on every page by Colonel Richard, in the Lancashire Record Office (renamed Lancashire Archives); a copy of this and the Codicil, also in Lancashire Archives; a Probate copy of all in the Borthwick Institute, York; and a much later copy (1813) in the John Rylands Research Library in Manchester (since re-opened after its long closure for renovation).
  2. A close scrutiny of Preston Guild Rolls up to 1662 (I had previously stopped at 1622), which revealed many relevant details about Alexander Standish[11A4] and the presumed family of his lawyer Thomas May, one of whom was Sir Humphrey May, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and MP for Lancaster.
  3. A close scrutiny (yet again) and reassessment of all potentially relevant documents in the Standish of Duxbury Muniments, DP397.
  4. A close scrutiny (yet again) of all Standish of Duxbury Wills and Inventories during the relevant years.

To my surprise and delight, these now allowed a much more detailed biography of Alexander[11A4], who was undoubtedly the “Alexander Standish, gent.” in the 1655 Assize Court case. I felt amused, morally sustained and vindicated (concerning my erroneous interim conclusion of 2004) by a quote from George Bernard Shaw, when he realised that he had been wrong in his identification of Mary Fitton as Shakespeare’s Dark Lady after he realised that she had been blonde.

. . . it is by exhausting all the hypotheses that we reach the verifiable one; and after all, the wrong road always leads somewhere.

(George Bernard Shaw, Dark Lady of the Sonnets, 1910, Preface, p. 6.)

The “wrong road” in my case had led not just to “somewhere”, but in the case of Myles Standish, had sorted out many ‘Myles Mysteries & Muddles’. Along the way, my journey had revealed pretty well the whole story of his and his son Alexander’s frustrated claims to regain their ‘lost lands’. By travelling down a few other “wrong roads”, another story had also emerged:  pretty well the whole story behind the belief by his descendants in the 19th century that Myles had indeed had a justifiable claim to Duxbury Hall. This in turn led to a total vindication of my ‘theory’ of Myles’s ancestry as given on the various Family Trees on this website, heralding the final death knolls of the ‘Manx Myles’ theory. This hypothesis, too, with hindsight, had been another perfect example of “the wrong road always leads somewhere”, the “wrong road” in this case having led to the Isle of Man and the “somewhere” in this case being the historical truth of Myles’s ancestry, beyond all reasonable doubt.

It will take quite some time to tell all these stories, but we have to start somewhere. We start here with Alexander Standish[11A4]’s first-ever biography. It turns out that his relatively long life allows us to use him as a ‘peg’ on which to hang some of the dramatic events which unfurled around him during his lifetime. Hence my second sub-title above of him being “the centripetal person in solving many muddles”.

He lived through the period of the building of Duxbury (New) Hall as the splendid replacement for the old family house The Pele. He survived the Civil War unscathed, thus outliving his three older brothers. He also outlived Colonel Richard, who had taken over the Lordship of the Manor of Duxbury and the Hall in 1647. We know this because Alexander was the only Standish of Duxbury to attend Preston Guild in August/September 1662, Colonel Richard having died very recently. No further record of him has been detected, so one can only presume that he lived on quietly and died peacefully, probably somewhere in Lancashire, but possibly elsewhere. At the very least he can claim the distinction of being the longest-living male survivor of his generation of Standishes.

Given his lifespan from 1604 until at least 1662, A4 thus lived at the same time as his ‘cousin’ Myles Standish was performing all his exploits in New England. He would presumably have known about him departing on The Mayflower in 1620, perhaps met him on his only return to England in 1625/6, and would certainly have known about his ‘lost lands’, “surruptuously detained” during the Civil War. It seems unlikely that A4 was living locally in 1664, or he would surely have been consulted about his ancestry in the Standishes of Duxbury by Sir William Dugdale when conducting his Visitation of Lancashire. He might well, of course, have already died, and this reasonable assumption explains his date of death always given as 1662>1664. 

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