Magazine article History Today

The Countess' Pillar, Westmoreland

Magazine article History Today

The Countess' Pillar, Westmoreland

Article excerpt

* There is a small, railed enclosure where the drive from Brougham Castle meets the road from Penrith to Appleby. Inside stand an octagonal pillar and a low table, both made of local stone. The pillar supports a square capital, on three sides of which are sundials, on the fourth a pair of heraldic shields. The inscription reads:

This Pillar was Erected Anno

1656 By ye R. Honoble Anne

Countess Dowager of Pembrook

&c Daughter & Sole Heire of ye

Rt Honoble George Earl of

Cumberland &c For a Memorial

of her last Parting in this place

with her good & Pious Mother

ye Rt Honoble Margaret

Countes Dowager of

Cumberland ye 2d of April

1616. In Memory whereof she

also left an Annuity of Four

pounds to be distributed to ye

poor within this parish of

Brougham every 2nd day of

April for ever upon ye stone

table here hard by

Laus Deo

As the Bishop of Carlisle noted when he preached her funeral some thirty years later, this little shrine was one of the first of the many building projects Lady Anne undertook when she gained control of the Clifford lands which she had fought for since her father's death in 1605:

Indeed, one of the first things...

which she built, was (what Jacob

had first done) a Pillar. She built a

Pillar, a Monument which stands

in the nigh-way, at the place

where her endeared Mother and

she last parted, and took their

final farewel. And as Jacob did,

she poured oyl upon

this pillar, the oyl of Charity,

pouring down then and yearly

since...; and withall to be as a

precious ointment to perfume

her pious Mother's Memory,

that her good name, and their

mutual clearness of Affection,

might be engraver, and

remembered by their Posterity

and the Poor to all generations.

The Pillar is a monument to a moment: the moment of cessation of the most important relationship of Lady Anne's life. It takes us into a world of complex emotional, financial and political allegiances, in which women had constantly to struggle for autonomy, but in which it was possible, if one struggled hard enough and lived long enough, to achieve independence and fulfilment.

Anne Clifford (1590-1676) was the only surviving child of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland by his wife Margaret Russell, daughter of the Earl of Bedford. The marriage was soured by the deaths of Anne's two elder brothers: her parents lived apart for most of her childhood. She was brought up in an almost entirely female household -- evoked in Emilia Lanier's Description of Cookeham -- and given an excellent education by her tutor, the poet Samuel Daniel. As a child she was a favourite of Elizabeth I; she danced in masques with Anne of Denmark, James I's queen.

Although the Clifford lands were not entailed, the Earl willed them to his brother, with reversion to his daughter only if the male line should fail. Lady Anne was still a substantial heiress, but she and her mother deeply resented this disposition, and united in fighting it. Anne resisted many attempts to persuade her to sell her claim on the Clifford estates, including an order from James I (she was advised by his wife not to trust him). The struggle poisoned her first marriage (to Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset in 1609), and may have contributed to the failure of her second in 1630 to Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery. In 1646 the male line of Clifford failed, and Anne, now separated from Herbert, finally inherited her family estate. Although the Civil War prevented her from going to her northern estates for several years, once there she never left them. …

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