Internet Shakespeare Editions


Lady Anne Clifford

Lady Anne Clifford was the eldest surviving child of Baron George Clifford and Lady Margaret Russell, and was the heir to an extensive barony in the north-west of England because of the original documents issued during the reign of Edward II. Clifford's father, however, willed the estate to his brother and his male line, with the condition that it would revert to his daughter only if there were no male heirs. This legal contradiction enmeshed Lady Clifford in lawsuits for many years, for the courts resisted the idea that a woman could rise to such a position of authority. Nevertheless, her uncle's son died in 1643, and Clifford (after delays caused by the civil war) took possession of her properties in 1649, where she presided over the region for the next 27 years. She instituted ambitious rebuilding programs, including convening local courts (an almost unprecedented accomplishment for a woman of this time), founding almshouses for the poor, and writing her family's history.

Her Writings

Anne Clifford wrote at least four autobiographical tracts at different stages in her life, all of which were intended, at least in part, to justify her legal and moral claim on her inheritance. Her Diary contains more detail about everyday life than many other similar diaries of the period. The Diary opens with Clifford remembering the funeral of Queen Elizabeth and the surrounding events, thereby situating Clifford's life within the larger historical context:

The 2nd Queen died at Hampton Cort between two and three in the morning. The King was then at Newmarket. Legge brought me the news of her death about four in the afternoon, I being in my bedchamber at Knole where I had the first news of my mother's death about the same time hour. . . She died in the same room that Queen Jane, Harry VIII's wife died in, the Prince was there when the pangs of death came upon her, but went into another chamber some half an hour before she died. . . Most of the great ladies about the town put themselves in mourning and did watch the Queen's corpse at Denmark House, which lay there with much state.