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One of the most famous castle restorers of any century in Britain would most certainly be Lady Anne Clifford. Born into a noble inheritance on the 30th of January in 1590 at Skipton Castle in North Yorkshire, she lived most of her life trying to regain her inheritance of wealth and castles back from Francis Clifford, the 4th Earl of Cumberland who was her father’s brother. Later, it was his son, Henry Clifford, the 5th Earl who was her last adversary to her rightful proprietorship. He died at York without a male heir in 1643 finally clearing the encumbrance her father had inadvertently set in motion when he made out his will in 1603 opposing King Edward II’s stipulation that Clifford lands should always descend to the direct heir, male or female.
The family triptych photo, in the center panel are her two brothers (who died), her mother and father.
She was born to parents who both had aristocratic lineage, her father’s going back all the way to Robert de Viteripont (aka Vieuxpont), whose grandfather arrived in England with William the Conqueror. Robert was a favorite of King John and married an heiress through this association garnering wealth and power along with possession of most of Westmorland which was once a large section of Cumberland. His son John married Isobel Fitz Geoffrey who produced two girls, Isobel and Idonea who were left very young heirs (10 years of age and a one year old baby) when John died fighting King Henry III. They received their inheritance after their marriages were arranged by their guardianship- Idonea with Sir Roger de Leybourne and Isobel with Sir Roger de Clifford. Idonea’s dowry entailed Brough and Pendragon Castles but she outlived three husbands dying at the age of eighty-six and apparently had no surviving direct heirs so her inheritance reverted to her sister’s grandson. This is how Lady Anne came to inherit such a vast estate.
Her castles were Appleby, Brough, Brougham Castle, Brougham Hall, Pendragon, Penrith, Skipton, and Barden Tower and she built numerous almshouses, a hospital, several churches at Appleby, Brougham, Dacre, and Mallerstang in Westmorland in much later years. She also had many connections to other castles in North England by familial associations. Her cousins were numerous and spread throughout north England. Her father died when she was a teenager and he inexplicably left his estate to his brother in his will. Both of Lady Anne’s brothers died in early childhood so she was the sole heir to George Clifford. Her mother kept a portion of the estate by possession only.
With Anne’s first marriage to Richard Sackville (the 3rd Earl of Dorsett) she had three sons and two daughters. All three sons died in infancy but the daughters lived to marry and had children. Theirs was a rocky marriage albeit one of clear advantage for Lady Anne. Because Sackville’s seat was at Knole House on the southern end of Sevenoaks in Kent she was nearby to the court of the King of England and was kin to many of his subjects at hand. Nevertheless, domestication with Sackville wore on her because he didn’t support her claims to her inheritance. The 365 rooms of Knole were very lonely at times because of his lengthy forays away from the household. Even today Knole is the largest private house in England- a late medieval castle built over with Jacobean features and beautiful carving and plasterwork. Lady Anne was a devout Christian and became iron-willed by the second half of her life.
In 1616 Lady Anne, in frustration and concern, traveled up to Westmorland to see her mother who had years before set papers before the throne of England to gain her daughter’s rightful inheritance back. She met her at Brougham on Easter of that year and because of trickery on her husband’s part, she left soon after that, only staying with her mother two days and parting with her on the Appleby Road just prior to reaching Brougham Castle. It would be the last time she would see her alive. Forty years later, Lady Anne built a monument there which is known as the Countess’ Pillar especially in memory of her mother. It must have been a poignant parting.
Lady Anne returned to Knole House where pressure from the King’s courts (and her own husband) continued for her to sign away her rights to her property. Only her neighbor, Lady Selby who lived at Ightham Mote, vocally supported her for not signing the Royal Composition. Then, the shocking news of her mother’s death on May 24th, after she had recovered from a long illness, delivered to her by clergy messengers on the 29th, dealt her a severe blow. In her diary she wrote, “Mr James brought me a letter from Mr Woolrich wherein it seem’d it was my Mother’s pleasure her Body should be convey’d to what Place I appointed which was some contentment to my aggrieved Soul.” At Lady Anne’s direction, her mother’s body lay in state, sheathed in lead, until she was finally able to make the journey back north on July 1st. On July 11th, Margaret, Countess of Cumberland was buried at Appleby at noon. Lady Anne then set about contacting all the tenants in the area that the dispute was on and to keep their money until it was ascertained who had a right to it. She stayed in Cumberland for some time finally leaving from Brougham Castle on December 9th. Her cousin Henry Clifford made trouble on numerous occasions during her lengthy stay but to his own disadvantage, as he was disliked by the common folk of Cumberland.
She had it impressed upon her very early in life that her rights had been violated and her refusal to change her mind was the only thing that saved her inheritance in the end. Sackville and the courts never let up on the pressure. She suspected him of adultery. For awhile she was relieved from the constant subterfuge when her husband died in 1624 at the young age of thirty-five, a few short years after he vowed to take control over her inheritance if she ever came into it. Inexplicably, his will named his brother Edward as his main heir, who treated Lady Anne like an enemy. The best revenge therefore, was that Richard Sackville had been such a spendthrift and extravagant in his spending that there was no money left for his brother to inherit. Edward’s malicious nature didn’t end until after he hired robbers to break into Knole House to rob Lady Anne. His worst final acts were thwarted by servants of her house.
For six years into widowhood she became a bit of a wayfarer of sorts by staying alternately with her daughters at Chenies House in Buckinghamshire which was her mother’s family seat, then later Bolebroke House in Sussex for quite a bit of time. Her eldest daughter, Margaret, was married to Lord John Tufton who became the Earl of Thanet before Lady Anne married for a second time in 1630. Anne’s marriage to Philip Herbert proved to be of little advantage and caused her delay of her inheritance for quite a span of years. He was completely unsuitable for Anne who was quiet and studious and given to ladies handiwork. This man, who was the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, was loud, violent by nature and never so much as cracked a book. He lifted not a single finger to help her regain her inheritance. As a matter of fact the only good that came out of the association at all was that she was introduced to Inigo Jones during her stay in Salisbury at Herbert’s seat, Wilton House in Wiltshire. She was caught up in the restoration which was going on under his direction and it set something in motion for Anne which would revitalize her life in her late years and those of the people around her. She had two sons by Herbert, both of which didn’t survive infancy and their marriage became a mere inconvenience when they separated with her staying at Wilton and later Baynard’s Castle in London when the Civil War became unsafe for her and many others. He went to Whitehall in London, dying there in 1650.
By that time, she had moved to Cumberland to claim her rightful inheritance. It had been cleared for her to regain by 1643 upon the death of her cousin Henry but the Civil War was raging and making it impossible for her safe passage until around the time of the death of her husband. He did not inhibit her passage as Sackville had done but he basically abandoned the marriage and left her to her own devices which she showed to be considerable even in advancing years. King Charles execution had more to do with her move north and when she arrived she found quite a bit of devastation to her properties on account of damage by Cromwell, the Parliamentarians and normal dilapidation. This did not faze her at all and her determined words were, “Let him destroy my castles if he will, as often as he levels them I will rebuild them, so long as he leaves me a shilling in my pocket.”
Lady Anne didn’t waste a minute of time in setting about her restoration work. She spent thousands of pounds of her own money for rebuilding not only her castles, treating each and every one as a private residence, but she also rebuilt outbuildings, churches, bridges and schools. Her castles were spread throughout North England. Most were in Cumberland and Westmorland (which today is incorporated with Cumberland and small portions of Lancashire, as Cumbria) and there were also Skipton Castle (where she was born) and Barden Tower in Yorkshire. She visited cousins in Durham at Bowes, Lancaster in Lancashire and many more in Yorkshire. Appleby was a castle she returned to often in those years. Comfort and the fact that it was the official Clifford county seat may have been the main consideration. Brougham Castle was also close to her heart because her father was born there and her mother also preferred it and died there.
Lady Anne was a true antiquarian of her era. She rebuilt medieval castles at a time that the renaissance period of Greek and Roman revival had already swept the country and Elizabethan and Jacobean styles were fashionable. Most older houses and castles were altered and modernized, not rebuilt. The chief features of the Elizabethan great houses involved symmetry of the exterior, a long gallery, beautiful sweeping and grand staircases and extensive formal gardens. It is evident, however, that Lady Anne was traditional in her approach to everything and possessed a civility that hearkened back to the age of chivalry in its most positive aspect. John Donne once said of her, “(She could) discourse of all things, from Predestination to Slea Silk.” The admiration must have been mutual because there was evidence of his writings in her library.
Her greatest joy was in being visited by her two daughters who both married well. The eldest daughter, Margaret, had 11 children with John Tufton, six sons and five daughters. Two of Lady Anne’s grandsons produced great grandchildren. One, Thomas, who became the 6th Earl of Thanet married Catherine Cavendish (who was the daughter of the Duke of Newcastle) and had five daughters! Isabella, her younger daughter, married James Compton, Earl of Northampton at the Church of Clerkenwell on July 5, 1647. Isabella had six children, four of whom survived infancy but most of them didn’t survive childhood. This was a great tragedy to Lady Anne who cherished her family. Isabella’s last born daughter, Alethea, married Sir Edward Hungerford but died at the tender age of seventeen not yet having bore any children. Isabella herself died not long after Alethea was born at the age of 39.
In the pages of her diary from 1650, which is referred to by historians as the Kendal Diary, she recounts the joys of her days after retaking her inheritance. She was dedicated in the extreme to restorations of her castles, journeying to each and every one by coach or a simple one horse litter, sometimes in inclement weather. In England’s north country this would require the strongest sort of bravery. She wrote about the progress of certain castles and served as a Sheriffess in Westmorland the office of which had been sadly neglected and required a lot of court time to hear complaints, setting boundaries and reorganizing Westmorland and Craven in Yorkshire, which was under jurisdiction of Skipton Castle. It is difficult to imagine that a good portion of these castles are in ruins and not habitable today. Hundreds of years in passage can do an equal amount of damage and irreparably so. Skipton is the rare exception which she prodigiously had rebuilt. Today it is one of the finest medieval castles you can visit. In the conduit court, of which entrance leads to the dungeon, the yew tree which Lady Anne planted in the center of the court in 1649 still shades visitors today. Her three-time Great Grandfather’s coat-of-arms is still firmly in place above the arched entrance.
Anne recorded the visits of relatives, clergy, judges, businessmen, subjects, renters and her daughters and grandchildren in some detail throughout those years often falling into lapses of repetition on sadder memories of the past. Many major events of her time were also recorded making her writings a confirmation of many milestone historical events. She passed out of this world at the same time that the last of the Stuart line did also but found great comfort in knowing that she fulfilled every Christian duty allotted her. Lady Anne’s extensive inheritance, tenacity and strength of spirit inspired not only members of her family but many generations of North Englishmen clear up to the present. Because of this woman we can still view and appreciate the singlemost marvel of our Anglo-Saxon inheritance~ lovely ruined and not-so-ruined castles.
With a view to a preserved history for the future generations,
Lady Anne’s motto: Preserve your Loyalties, Defend your Rights.
“Now clean, now hideous, meln, Appleby and Brough.”
– Attributed to Thomas Gray when he visited the tombs of
Lady Anne Clifford and her mother in St. Lawrence’s Church, Appleby, in 1767.
To see photos of Lady Anne’s many castles you can view the photo albums for Yorkshire and Cumberland on Skydrive and also check out my map on Cumberland at my official web site. www.ilovecastles.com Click on Links and then on Cumberland for the map.
(Jan. 15th 2012 note: Sorry about the temporary problem of the individual pages missing. More later.)