Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Anne Stanley, heiress presumptive

When Elizabeth Tudor died in 1603 there were few doubts that despite her refusal to name an heir, she would be succeeded by her cousin James VI of Scotland, however according to English law James was not the legal heir, it was in fact a more distant relative by the name of Anne Stanley.

Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York  
Mary Rose Tudor and Charles Brandon  
Eleanor Brandon and Henry Clifford 
Margaret Clifford and Henry Stanley  
Ferdinando Stanley and Alice Spencer  
Anne Stanley

According to the Third Succession Act made by King Henry VIII, if all three of his children died without heirs then the throne was to pass to their heirs of his younger sister Mary Rose Tudor; at the time of Elizabeth's death in 1603 the eldest, legitimate and closest in blood surviving descendant of Mary and her husband Charles Brandon was Anne Stanley.
The figure on the far left represents Anne Stanley
Anne Stanley was born in 1580 as the eldest daughter to Ferdinando Stanley and his wife Alice Spencer, she would later on have two younger sisters; Frances (1583-1636) and Elizabeth (1588-1633). Ferdinando was the sovereign ruler of the Isle of Man and held property all over England, this made his three daughters widely sought after heiresses. Anne inherited her claim to the throne from her grandmother Margaret Clifford, who died in 1596, as her father Ferdinando predeceased his mother.
In February 1607 Anne married Grey Brydges, 5th Baron Chandos of Sudeley (1580-1621), the couple had five children together; Robert, Anne, Elizabeth, George and William.
After the death of her first husband, Anne married again in July 1624 to Sir Mervyn Tuchet, Earl of Castlehaven (1593-1631) with whom she had a daughter; Anne Tuchet.
Mervyn Tuchet, Earl of Castlehaven
This second marriage was to be a disastrous one resulting in sexual corruption, debauchery and abuse which ended only when Mervyn Tuchet was arrested, imprisoned and executed for his crimes of sodomy and rape. The Earl was accused of having a sexual relationship with his manservant Giles Broadway, as well as the both of them being jointly accused by Anne of rape with her husband restraining her after which she attempted to kill herself, this resulted in Anne bearing a child who was fathered by Broadway. It was Tuchet's son and heir James that officially brought charges against his father in 1630, due to his growing fear of disinheritance in favour of his father's lowborn favourites as well as his own distaste for his father. The Earl disliked his son James and was incredibly hostile towards him; James was married to Anne Stanley's daughter Elizabeth (1614-79) from her first marriage, however the Earl attempted to have Elizabeth impregnated by a friend of the Earl called Henry Skipwith so that the heir would be fathered by someone other than his son.
The Earl was arrested and spent six months in prison without counsel until the case was investigated and brought to court in April 1631. The Earl saw these accusations as plotting between his wife and heir to commit murder using the law courts and pleaded innocent of all charges throughout the legal proceedings. This case has been of interest to historians as not only one of the earliest legal trials concerning homosexuality, and it also set a precedent within spousal rights in that the wife was permitted to testify against her husband. The outcome of the case, announced on April 25th, was that Mervyn Tuchet was guilty of sodomy with his page Laurence FitzPatrick who had confessed to the crime, and the rape of his wife along with Giles Broadway; the jury voted that Tuchet was guilty of rape 26-1, and of sodomy 15-11. All three men were executed, with Tuchet's first on May 14th and the other two being hanged at Tyburn on the 6th of July.
During the trials it was also argued that Anne had had an affair with Henry Skipwith among others; FitzPatrick had stated during the trial that Anne "was the wickedest woman in the world, and had more to answer for than any woman who lived." The trials and execution speeches of Tuchet and Broadway began accusations against Anne despite her protests of innocence and the pardons of innocence given to her and her daughter in 1631. All popular accounts of the case and executions, manuscripts and pamphlets, had Anne portrayed not as a victim of her husband but as a whore. The Earl's sister Eleanor called Anne a 'Jezebel' in private petitions to the king and also in two published pamphlets.
The Dowager Countess sold her rights to her house at Harefield to repay her debts, and spent the rest of her years at Heydons; a mansion intended for her son William. Anne Stanley died in October 1647. 

A house in gross disorder: sex. law and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven
Cynthia B Herrup
Oxford University Press, 1999

The trial of Mervyn Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven 1631, The Great Queens of History, 2009
Rictor Norton

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