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

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

LADY ANNE CLIFFORD
(1590-1676)

Britain
Artistic and Literary Patron, Builder, and Diarist

"Preserve your Loyalties, Defend your Rights" was Lady Anne Clifford's personal motto, and she dedicated her life to fulfilling it. As the daughter of George, the 3rd Earl of Cumberland, and Margaret Russell, daughter of the Earl of Bedford, Anne Clifford stood to inherit her father's entire estate. Centuries earlier, an entail by King Edward II decreed that the Clifford estate should pass to the direct heir regardless of gender. Therefore, Anne, their only surviving child after the deaths of her brothers Robert and Francis, should have received title to the nearly 90,000 acres of land in the counties of Westmoreland and North Yorkshire. However, George willed Anne £ 15,000 and left all his lands to his brother Francis, disinheriting his daughter who at the time was only sixteen years old.

Without delay, Margaret initiated a case on Anne's behalf to regain the Clifford estates. Anne obviously inherited her mother's determination and iron will because she, upon the death of her mother in 1616, assumed the fight to reclaim her inheritance, which continued for many years. Anne was undoubtedly an intelligent and well- educated woman; Samuel Daniel, poet, writer, and historian, was her childhood tutor and lifelong friend. Anne gathered documents and recorded her family's history to strengthen her case. To prove herself the rightful heir to the Clifford estates, Anne kept a diary called the Great Book, which documented her family connections and personal life.

Anne took great pride in her family's history, even though her father had disinherited her. Despite her disenfranchisement, Anne secured herself a good marriage in 1609 to Richard Sackville, the 3rd Earl of Dorset, a nobleman with great political influence. He did not, however, completely support Anne's pursuit of her inheritance, claiming that her obsession made her "devoid of reason." Anne simply responded, "Be assured that I will stand as constantly to my birth-

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