1.5. Interview via FAQs (2002)

Helen Moorwood 2013

1.5. (16) Main conclusions and brief up-date on Duxbury-Shakespeare research over the past four years (1998-2002)

1. My ‘early Duxburys of Duxbury’ outline story was right, with little bits of it confirmed again and again by ‘new’ documents in the Standish of Duxbury Muniments and the final version will be all the richer for awaiting completion of research here and other research and conclusions reported below.

2. We may never find documents that prove the precise details of 16th century Duxbury migrations, and might have to fall back on a conclusion based on a balance of probabilities. I have come to the reluctant but inevitable conclusion that the solution to many early problems (16th century and earlier) will ultimately have be reached by a consensus of opinion based on a balance of probabilities of the most likely explanation, based on the documentary evidence that has survived and surrounding historical facts. Anyone who insists on a precise document proving any specific relationship or event in the 16th century or earlier is often doomed to disappointment. The documents have just not survived, and in the case of several of the families I have researched it is actually on record how, why and when they disappeared, most often in fires.

3. My ‘early Standishes of Duxbury’ outline story was right, with just a minor adjustment needed in the 16th century family tree in my articles. A final search among the Standish of Duxbury Muniments saw me checking a few innocent sounding transactions that turned out to contain dynamite. One revealed the final secrets of three very confusing contemporary Thomas Standishes of Duxbury in the 16th century, and at the same time tied one of these and his son even more intimately to the ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ story; another provided the solution to all the dramas and traumas that happened in Duxbury during the Civil War. (A link to these documents and stories will appear asap.)

4. Captain Myles Standish’s ancestry in the Standishes of Duxbury and Standish, as presented in my articles from June 1999 onwards was right. The proof was there before I wrote these, of course (otherwise I wouldn’t have claimed this), although it was rather complicated and the proof only presentable after the full Standish of Duxbury story had been told. Finally, the proof was there at one fell swoop on its own in a third ‘dynamite document’, in my hands and transcribed in the Lancashire Record Office in the summer of 1999 (DP 397/21/17). (It is there for anyone to read, but unless they know the full biographies of the two main Standishes involved, it will probably not mean very much, as it obviously did not to whichever anonymous archivist produced the magnificent catalogue of this collection.) This finally knocked on the head any notion, first suspected by Porteus (1914), that Myles might have been a son of the Standish of Standish family in the Isle of Man. He wasn’t, but very demonstrably provable the 3x and 2x great-grandson of Sir Alexander Standish of Standish and Sir Christopher Standish of Duxbury, both knighted during the siege of Berwick in 1482 (Metcalfe) and at Bosworth three years later. 

5. Sir Alexander was certainly at Bosworth(Porteus, 1933) and Sir Christopher almost certainly there (unless he was ill at the time). They were in the army under their liege Lord Thomas Stanley of Lathom and Knowsley (stepfather of Henry Tudor, via his marriage to Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry), who won the battle with his brother Sir William of Holt (Coward, Bennett, M.). Very interestingly for the Duxbury-Shakespeare story, a few thousand other great-grandfathers of Elizabethan Lancastrians fought at Bosworthand in later battles. Were any Duxburys there? We will probably never know, but John Shakespeare’s and Mary Arderne’s great-grandfathers were, and their awards from Henry VII took them to estates in the Midlands. This was the main reason why their ancestries were never discovered in Warwickshire and explains many of the mysteries that have surrounded the Bard for the last few centuries.

6. My final (current) and main conclusions about Shakespeare’s ancestry and biography were that many people during his lifetime and in the two or three generations after his death knew many of the precise details; some Shakespeare descendants and neighbours reported anecdotes fairly accurately but with a few intervening muddles; 18th and 19th century researchers were magnificent in their research and reporting of newly discovered documents, but started to muddle the documents and the early reports; by the beginning of the 20th century the ‘conventional’ biographies of the Shakespeares were fairly firmly in place and continued so apart from the hiccup of the Lancashire episode gradually gaining ground and the family’s Catholicism being rather recently discovered and promoted. My early and ultimate conclusions were that the answers probably lay more reliably in 16th and 17th century documents, early reports and a strong dose of common sense (based on genealogical and heraldic rules), rather than in 18th-19th century interpretations based on incomplete documentation. For me it was the ‘Myles Standish story’ all over again. Or the ‘Standish of Duxbury’ story. Or the ‘Duxbury of Duxbury’ story. The answers were all there, but in a rather complicated form. How to present this to others and cut through the prejudice of centuries? The interview above and bibliography is my first attempt in public.

Helen Moorwood, Sauerlach, Germany, March 2002


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[More than a decade on I find that most of my conclusions back then are still valid now. Several of the intervening years were taken up with research which resulted in the publication of my book  ‘Shakespeare’s Stanley Epitaphs in Tong Shropshire’ (pub. August 2013). This establishes the central role played by the Stanleys, Earls of Derby in Shakespeare’s early career and serves as a prequel to further publications, which will each, in turn, provide all the documentary evidence referenced above. Much of this evidence will also appear in the folder LANCASTRIAN SHAKESPEARE.  HM 2013]


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