Two Households

The Sackvilles of Knole

[Click on image to enlarge] Knole, in Kent, was the country house of Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset, and his wife Anne (Clifford). For some sense of the activities, familial roles, and domestic relations in this household, we can look again to pictures and in this case to the wife's writings.

Anne and Richard were both nineteen when they were married on February 25, 1609; the imminent death of Richard's father prompted haste in order to protect him from the dangers of wardship. Two days later the newlyweds became Earl and Countess of Dorset. Anne was the only surviving daughter of George Clifford, the dashing Elizabethan sea-adventurer, flamboyant courtier, and notorious womanizer, and his wife Margaret (Russell). Account books indicate that Anne had a dancing master, that she was taught French and music, and that she participated in the craze for raising silkworms. She later attributed her good education to her mother and "that religious and honest poet" Samuel Daniel (NAEL 8, 1.997), her tutor; her father, she reported, forbade her to learn Latin, "but for all other knowledge fit for her sex none was bred up to greater perfection than she." The female household described in Aemilia Lanyer's poem A Description of Cooke-ham (NAEL 8, 1.1319) was a residence inhabited sometimes by Margaret Clifford while she was an estranged wife and widow, as well as by Anne before her marriage, and the poet Lanyer.

At his death in 1605 George Clifford settled all his estates upon his younger brother, who would inherit the title, making a monetary provision of £15,000 to Anne, with a reversion of the properties to her if his brother had no male heirs. In doing so he ignored a deed from the reign of Edward II entailing much of his property upon his child, regardless of sex; he also willed to his brother properties and titles in Westmoreland which constituted the jointure of his wife. Margaret Clifford and later Anne engaged in continual litigation and court appeals over Anne's right to those estates, taking on the combined force of law courts, powerful courtiers, their husbands, and the king himself. Anne's Diary records some part of her long struggle against her husband, Dorset, who pressured her continually — by exiling her to the country, cutting off her allowance, and even taking away her beloved child — to give over her suits and accept the monetary award, which he needed desperately to keep up his flamboyant lifestyle at court. The diary provides an insight from the woman's perspective into the very prevalent litigation over women's property rights in the period, whose grounds are discussed in The Law's Resolutions of Women's Rights. It also provides an insight from the woman's perspective into life in a household embroiled in such a struggle. After widowhood, a second marriage (to Philip Herbert, by which she became Countess of Pembroke and Montgomery), and a second widowhood, Anne saw the male line of Cliffords fail and so came to enjoy the long-sought northern properties. For more than thirty years, she enjoyed the titles and powers they brought, as Baroness Clifford, Westmoreland and Vessey, lady of the Honor of Skipton in Craven, and high Sheriffess of the County of Westmoreland.

 

The "Great Picture" of the Cliffords

[Click on image to enlarge] The "Great Picture" of the Clifford family, now at Appleby Castle, Cumbria, was commissioned by Anne at about age fifty-six, when she came into her inheritance. The artist, probably Jan van Belcamp, had to paint much of it from earlier portraits. The center panel of the triptych presents Anne's father, mother, and the two brothers who died, leaving her Clifford's only living child. The pictures on the wall are of noble members of both families. The left-hand panel presents Anne at age fifteen; the pictures on the wall are of her governess and her tutor, the poet Samuel Daniel. She is shown with her lute and a considerable library of books that she evidently studied as a young girl — among them, the Bible, Augustine's City of God, John Downame's Christian Warfare, Camden's Britannia, Daniel's prose Chronicle of England, Abraham Ortelius's Map of the World, Ovid's Metamorphoses, >> note 1 Castiglione's Courtier (NAEL 8, 1.646), Montaigne's Essays, Cervantes' Don Quixote, Chaucer's and Spenser's works (NAEL 8, 1.213, 1.705), and Sidney's Arcadia (NAEL 8, 1.948). The right panel shows her at about age fifty-six; the portraits on the wall are of her two husbands, Dorset and Pembroke. The paper she touches on the table may represent her own writings: a diary, biographies of members of her family, an autobiography, family histories, and the sea chronicles of her father. The books on the shelf, in considerable disarray as if in constant use, are works of religion, moral philosophy, history, and recent literature; they include the Bible, Henry More's Map of Mortality, Bishop Henry King's Sermons, Donne's Sermons (NAEL 8, 1.1303), Plutarch's Morals and Lives, Guiccardini's History in French translation, Henry Wotton's Book of Architecture, Donne's Poems (NAEL 8, 1.1263), Jonson's Works (NAEL 8, 1.1324), and Herbert's The Temple (NAEL 8, 1.1607).


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