Friday, 28 August 2015

Anne Dormer's Hungerford marriage

Anne Dormer (1525-1603) became the second wife of Walter Hungerford (1526-96) in May 1558 and the couple had four children; Susan (b.1564), Edmund (1562-85), Jane (b.1566) and Lucy (b.1560). However this was not a happy marriage, and within ten years Walter was suing his wife for a divorce.

In 1568 Walter Hungerford sued his wife for a divorce on the grounds of adultery and attempted murder. He claimed that Anne had tried to poison him in 1564, as well as her having had an affair with their neighbour William Darrell (1539-89) from 1560 to 1568 and having a child by him. 

William Darrell, known as 'Wild Will', was a notorious scoundrel already having a mistress at his home when he began his affair with Anne Hungerford. Many of her letters to her 'dear Dorrell' still survive and provide evidence that the accusations of her husband were not unfounded. Despite one quite damning letter from Anne saying "I, by the oath I have sworn upon the holy evangelist, do acknowledge that if Sir Walter Hungerford, my husband now living, do depart out of this life ... I will take you to my husband". The court case for the divorce stated that "in Easter term 1565 Walter Hungerford was sick in London...during his sickness William Darrell frequented his house at Farley and sojourned there...with Dame Anne careless of his sickness". Indicating that perhaps a poisoning wasn't too far fetched.
Anne and William had a son together, also named William Darrell. From the divorce case submitted by Walter Hungerford it stated that there were several eyewitnesses from the Hungerford household to the affair - William Jones, Hugh Richards, Alice Jones. "William Darrell was wont to enter the bedchamber of Dame Anne in the absence of Sir Walter Hungerford and lie down with her 'solus cum sola familiariter jocando, ridendo, osculando, palpando, et amplectando' (alone together, familiarly talking, laughing, kissing, touching and embracing). One Christmas time Darrell had broken a bone and had it set in a plaster cast - "the said plaster was found in Dame Anne's bed between the sheets". "John Golif...wente to my ladies chamber dore and there harkening hard Mr Darrell and my Lady in bedd together. Wheruppon he called Alice Check, in the nurcery chamber going to bedd, who came forth unto him and they two went togetheres to my Ladies chamber and secretlie conveyed themselves into the chamber behind the portal and the hangings of the chamber when they hard and sawe the saide Darrell and Lady in bedd together". One witness, Hugh Richards, who was appointed to serve William Darrell while he was staying at the Hungerford house testified that William Darrell was often at the house, especially when Sir Walter was away, and he would stay over and would spend the night in Anne's bed rather than his own and his bed was often unslept in. An example from the testimony which seems to exemplify the couple's relationship was that; "when Mr. Hungerford the same Xmas time hath byn absent a hawking she hath come into my ladie's chamber. Darrell lyeing on the bedd by my Lady dalieng with her and embrasing, kissing and toying. And when Sir Walter hatli come in he hath slipt away to his own chamber at a back paier of stayres towards the nurcery and then by and by has fayned to cum up the other staires and call to Sir Walter asking him if he wer up as though he had not known him to be abrode".
In 1567-8 it was said that William would visit Anne in London in secret and that he wore "pore man's apparell because he would not be knowen in as secret sort and maner as possible he could because they would have no evell suspicion conceyved of their lewd cumunyng or resorting together."

Two years later the case seemed to be resolved finally as on April 19th 1570 Sir Francis Englefield, a cousin of Sir Walter, reported that 'my Lady Hungerfords great suit has ended by sentence to her sufficient purgation, though neither sufficient for her recompense nor his punishment'. Sir Francis seems to have been on Anne's side during this case and tried to help her. He was sympathetic to her situation and that although she had friends to help her financially as much as they could, he thought that she would be stuck in this miserable situation "untyll God send that the justyce of her cause may be better hearde,and that greate beaste my cosen compellyd bothe to recompensthe injuryes doone her, and to furnyse her wythe yerely lyvyng accordyng to the portion that she brought hym". Surprisingly, Walter had failed to prove his case in court. He was ordered to pay Anne £250 compensation and told to support her financially despite the couple being separated; he refused to do either of these things but said he was willing to take her back as his wife. For this, Walter then spent three years in Fleet prison. 

By 1570 Anne was living in unhappy and impoverished circumstances, as evidenced in letters she wrote on the 25th March to Dorothy Essex, lady in waiting to her sister Jane Dormer. Anne had had to sell her possessions to afford her accommodation; "I have byn in that nesessete y' I have solde all my weringclothes and my tabell clothe and suche linens as you knowe I hade " and all to helpe me to maintane my sute in lavve inclering me of myn innoseence..O my deare Doll what endelles messeres do I live in ! O what frendes had I that this most vrechedly hathe utterly caste me and all mine away. I am not abell to write ye one quarter of my trobeles whiche I have indured". Anne claimed she had not seen her children in more than a year; "My cheldrene I have not harde of this xj mountes and more. Y? ar loste for wante of good plassing; Susane is as I hear clen spoilled, she has forgotten to rede and hur complexsione clengone w' an yeche, and she hathe skante to shefte her w' all. Jane is a semster in Malboro very evel to [do]. Surly I werhappy if God wolde take them out of this Hfe."

In 1571 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, obtained for Anne a licence to travel to Louvain to visit her dying grandmother, Jane Dormer, nee Newdigate (b.1487). Jane Newdigate had become a prominent figure in the English Catholic exiles community in Louvain since her arrival there in 1559. After her grandmother Jane Newdigate's death on the 7th July 1571, Anne took over her household in Louvain and remained living there until her own death.  In August 1571 Anne's sister Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria, wrote to Queen Elizabeth requesting that Anne's licence be extended from six months to two years so that she could live at a safe distance from her husband. In 1573 Anne was granted a pension of 1100 livres a year by the King of Spain and in 1583 a further 50 escudos per month; this may have been due to her sister Jane's influence as her husband was a close confidant of the Spanish King. Anne became involved in Flanders politics, often in collaboration with her sister Jane in Spain.

After Anne and Walter's only son Edmund died in 1585, Anne was convinced that Walter was trying to defraud their three daughters of their marriage portions and she wrote many letters to her daughters as well as other family members in England. On the 29th March 1586 Anne wrote to Sir Francis Walsingham asking for him to protect her daughters from their father's attempts to disinherit them. Anne's fears may not have been unfounded; around this time Walter made a deed of conveyance to his half-brother Edward, which contained the clause that the property in question would pass to any sons that he may have in the future by any woman - legitimate or not - which suggests that Walter did intend to have more children and make them his heirs in place of his daughters with Anne.

Whilst Anne was living in Louvain, her husband Walter Hungerford in England had taken a mistress who lived with him; Margery Bright who was a 'poor tenants daughter'. Walter and Margery had four children together; two sons, a daughter and another son born after Walter's death.

On the 14th November 1596 Walter Hungerford wrote his will. He left two farms to Margery Bright, and the residue of his estate to his half-brother Edward Hungerford and his heirs. Soon after, Walter heard rumours that his wife Anne had died in Louvain, and therefore he believed himself a widower, and as such he married Margery just weeks before his death 'for her better colour or excuse of ill life'.

When Walter Hungerford died in December 1596 there were then two claimants to his estate, as both Anne and Margery claimed their rights to inherit as his widow in place of Edward Hungerford. Margery also demanded financial support for her youngest son until he reached his age of majority. She claimed that Walter had given Edward lands worth £3000 a year during his lifetime - a claim which supports Anne's previous claim that he was defrauding their daughters - and the remainder he received at his death was worth either £20,000 or £80,000. Unsurprisingly Anne won and was granted a 'generous dower'.

Anne Hungerford died in Louvain in 1603, never having returned to England.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article. Thank you.

    Do you know when Lucy Hungerford died? Is this Hungerford family of Farley Hungerford or another branch, and if so, which?

    Many thanks, Sylvia