Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary

By Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves et al. | Go to book overview

ANNE HALKETT
(1623-1699)

Britain
Diarist and Political Activist

Intrigue, scandal, and romance fill the pages of Lady Anne Murray Halkett's memoirs, and through her personal accounts, the reader learns of a remarkable woman who enjoyed neither aristocratic status nor financial security but achieved an unusually independent and exciting lifestyle in the early modern period. Although her diaries were not published until 1701, Anne began writing them in 1677. By writing them later in her life, she was able not only to record the daily events of her life but also to reflect upon those moments that were more significant to her. It is only through her memoirs that the details of her life survive today.

Anne Murray admired her parents, Thomas Murray, provost of Eton College, and Jane Drummond Murray, governess to the Duke of Gloucester and the Princess Elizabeth. Even more remarkable, her mother was asked to serve as provost for one year following her husband's death. With her father's death in April 1623, three short months after her birth, the responsibility for her education fell to her mother who "spared no expense in educating all of her children in the most suitable way to improve them," as Anne said later. Anne, along with her sister, learned to write, speak French, play the lute, dance, sew needlework, and read, a task that she readily employed with the Bible and her devotions. As a remarkably learned woman, Anne acknowledged her debt of gratitude to her mother's commitment to her daughter's education.

It is clear from Murray's writings that aside from being highly educated she was extremely attractive, a fact attested to by the number of men who courted her. She first fell in love with Thomas Howard, the eldest son of Edward, Lord Howard of Escrick. His title and fortune were well above Anne's, and she did not have a sufficient dowry. However, her mother, upset that Anne would even consider such a match, ordered Howard to either marry another's daughter or

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