Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Elizabeth de Vere Stanley, Countess Derby, and the Isle of Man

Elizabeth de Vere was the eldest child of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and his wife, Anne Cecil.

There was considerable doubt in Oxford’s mind as to whether he had really fathered the girl; she was born (July 2, 1575; christened July 10) while he was overseas… and he did not feel the math added up correctly for his role in her conception. Nevertheless, Oxford did come to accept her, and the three surviving daughters he had with Anne (Elizabeth, Susan and Bridget, all granddaughters of England’s Lord Treasurer Burghley) all married well (i.e., to wealthy aristocrats).

Elizabeth married Wiliam Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby in January, 1594/5, at the Royal Court at Greenwich. There is some thought, even in orthodox Shakespeare theory, that Midsummer Night’s Dream was written for this ceremony and first performed on that occasion.

This page at the British Library mentions the Derby wedding theory (without mentioning that the bride’s father might very well have written the play).

The purpose of playing : Shakespeare and the cultural politics of the Elizabethan theatre by Louis Adrian Montrose, 1996 has a representative entry.

Mark Anderson’s Beauty and the Paradigm goes into more detail about why the Vere-Stanley 1595 wedding is a good candidate for the theme of MND.

The Stanley – Derbys were the hereditary “owners” and rulers of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. However, due to the suspicious death of Ferdinando Stanley in April 1594, Not only was William Stanley’s inheritance in question, but the rulership of Man was brought into dispute. Elizabeth Vere eventually took on many administrative roles appertaining to the Isle, and as early as 1609 we have her attempting to influence business on behalf of the Island.
What’s interesting is that at exactly this time (1609) the normative management and power of the Isle of Man had completely slipped it’s moorings.

This list is instructive:

LORDS OF THE ISLE OF MAN c 1570 - 1627
*Oct. 24, 1572 - Sep. 25, 1593 -- Sir Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby (1531-1593) 

* Sep.
25, 1593 - Apr. 16, 1594 --Ferdinando Stanley, Earl of Derby (1559-1594) 

* Apr. 16, 1594 – 1607 -- Vacant; disputed by daughters of Ferdinando 

* 1607 - 1608 Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, (1540-1614) 

* 1608 - 1609 Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury (1563-1612) 

* Jul. 7, 1609 - 1627 William IV Stanley, Earl of Derby (c.1561-1642) 

* 1612 - 1627 Elizabeth, Countess of Derby (1575-1627) 

(government admin) 

* Mar. 10, 1627 - Oct. 15, 1651 James I Stanley, Baron Strange (1607-1651) 

(from 1642, Earl of Derby)
 (from Sep. 1651, in rebellion)

Here is Countess Derby’s September 15, 1609, letter to Robert Cecil regarding the Isle of Man.

The Countess of Derby to the Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Suffolk
1609, Sept. 15.

I have made choice of John Ireland, esq, your Lordships' lieutenant and captain of the Isle of Man, for the receiving of all moneys henceforth due upon the foot of the accounts of officers there, and to cause the same to be transported to Liverpole for my use. The doing thereof may sometimes prove dangerous by means of piracy or wreck, and I hold it not convenient the loss should be charged upon him. I pray your Lordships by your letters will be pleased to undertake the saving of him harmless from such casualty and danger, so as the same happen not through his own negligence. I hereby promise to discharge your Lordships from all loss that may grow to you by such undertaking. From the Stronde, the 15th day of September, 1609.

Signed: 'Your lordshipes moost loving nece and cosin, E.Derbye.'

Endorsed "Countess of Derby's undertaking to save my Lord and Lord Chamberlain harmless for the warrant they have given the Lieutenant of the Isle of Man for transportation of money from thence.'

Note, in the list above the letter, that Countess Derby was the Lord of Man from 1612 to 1627. This is probably the only recorded time in Manx history that a woman was the “ruler” of Mnax affairs. Elizabeth de Vere Stanley, Countess Derby, died in 1627 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

John Ireland (mentioned in the letter) was Governor of Isle of Man 1609 - 1623.

The Earl of Suffolk in 1609 was Thomas Howard 1st Earl of Suffolk (fourth and final creation). This Thomas Howard (seen below) was Admiral and a Knight of the Garter. He achieved political prominence in the Jacobean era. At first, King James favored him, making Suffolk his Lord Chamberlain immediately in April 1603. Later, James distrusted him, calling Howard/Suffolk, along with Cecil/Salisbury and Howard/Northampton his “trinity of knaves.”

The above Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk was the son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk (pictured below), who was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth in 1569 for scheming to marry Mary Queen of Scots. Next he was involved in the related Ridolfi plot, sent to the Tower, and executed for Treason in 1572. The doomed Norfolk followed in his father’s footsteps. His parents were Henry Howard the poetical Earl of Surrey and his wife, Frances de Vere.

So the 1609 Earl of Suffolk in question was a close cousin to Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford, and an uncle or “cousin” to Elizabeth Vere.