Friday, 6 January 2012

ON THIS DAY in 1588: The Birth of Lady Elizabeth Stanley (6 January)

Lady Elizabeth Stanley, Countess of Huntingdon, Lady Hastings of Hungerford and Lady Botreaux (6 January 1588 – 20 January 1633)

Lady Elizabeth was born and baptised on 6 January 1588,[1] in Knowsley, Lancashire, the third and youngest daughter, and co-heir of Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby, Lord of Mann, (1559-April 16, 1594) and Alice Spencer (4 May 1559 -January 1637) Her paternal great-grandmother was Lady Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland, daughter of Princess Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France and Sir Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Another paternal great-grandmother was Lady Dorothy Howard, daughter of Sir Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his second wife, Agnes Tilney.

As the great-great-granddaughter of Princess Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk, the younger sister of King Henry VIII, Elizabeth became, after the death of her grandmother, Lady Margaret Clifford in 1596, third in line of succession to the English throne. Her father, Ferdinando, had died before his mother. Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, Elizabeth and her older sisters, Lady Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven, heir presumptive, and Lady Frances Stanley were passed over in favour of King James VI of Scotland, who was descended from King Henry's elder sister Margaret Tudor.

She was one of the dancers in Ben Jonson's, The Masque of Queens performed at Whitehall Palace in 1609.

Shortly after her 13th birthday, she married Henry Hastings (1586-1643), later the 5th Earl of Huntingdon, only son of Francis Hastings, Baron Hastings and Sarah Harrington on January 15, 1601. As his father had died in 1595, Henry was heir to the earldom of Huntingdon. On 31 December 1604, upon the death of his grandfather George Hastings, 4th Earl of Huntingdon, he succeeded as the fifth earl.

They made their principal home at Ashby de la Zouch Castle, Leicestershire, where the earls of Huntingdon had their family seat. Together Henry and Elizabeth had four children:[2][3]
  • Lady Alice Hastings (1606–1667), married Sir Gervase Clinton; died childless.[3]
  • Ferdinando Hastings, 6th Earl of Huntingdon (18 January 1608- 13 February 1655), married Lucy Davis, by whom he had issue.[3]
  • Lord Henry Hastings, 1st Baron Loughborough of Loughborough (28 September 1610- 10 January 1667), died unmarried without issue.[3]
  • Lady Elizabeth Hastings (born ca. 1605), married Sir Hugh Calverley; died childless.[3]
Lady Elizabeth was a patron of the arts, as well as a writer. She was the author of five Huntington Library manuscripts: four copies of prayers, biblical extracts, and meditations, and one volume of sermon notes. Forty-six of her letters (written from 1605 until late 1632), which provide a keen insight into her life and personal sentiments, survive in the Hastings Collection of the Huntington Library. In one of these letters, she described a visit to the royal court where she watched the rehearsals and final production of a masque, at which she was kissed by both King James and Queen Anne.

Her miniature portrait by Nicholas Hilliard was painted sometime between 1601 and 1610. She was also the subject of a portrait by Paul van Somer painted in about 1614.

Tomb of Alice Spencer, Countess of Derby which depicts her three daughters L to R: Anne, Frances and Elizabeth
Elizabeth died on 20 January 1633 shortly after her 45th birthday at Whitefriars, London at the home of her brother-in-law, John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater. A procession took her body to the parish church of St. Helen in Ashby-de-la-Zouch where she was buried on 9 February. The minister praised her in conventional terms, but he also mentioned her literary activities. The four manuscripts of her religious writings represented her thoughts right up to her death; in three of her four manuscripts, her final meditation was Of Death. Her husband died 10 years later in 1643.


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