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Lady Anne Clifford – travelling 17thC style, with 40 carts

You can’t live in the Westmorland area and not know anything about Lady Anne Clifford. In the 17th century she travelled William_Larkin_Anne_Clifford,_Countess_of_Dorset (2)around her vast Northern estates accompanied by more than forty carts which contained everything she needed to make herself comfortable at her great castles, which were in ill-repair. What she took with her included her large oak bed, and a pane of glass (very expensive in those days) for her bedroom window.

As well as restoring her ruined estates, from 1649 to 1662 she was a patron of the arts, including architecture, sculpture and painting. She also had a keen interest in books, including manuscript illumination and calligraphy. These were passions gained from her mother, Margaret Clifford, from whom she inherited not only her staunch Anglican faith, but also a love of literature and the classics. However, her early life was far from easy, as she spent much of her life in a long and complex battle to regain her inheritance.

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George Clifford (after Hilliard)

She was born at Skipton Castle, the daughter of George Clifford, who had been a favourite at Queen Elizabeth’s court as a skilled jouster, and by now had been given extensive lands in the North, including no less than four castles. When Anne was only 15, her father died, and as her two brothers both died young, that left Anne as the only surviving heir.

Her father, fearing she was still too young to manage all his lands, left his entire estate and all his titles to his brother Francis Clifford, leaving Anne £15,000 in compensation. Anne was outraged, for she knew this to be in breach of a legal entail, one which stated that the Clifford lands were to be left to the eldest heir, whether male or female. This law dated back to the time of King Edward II. The lands included Skipton, Pendragon, Appleby, Brough and Brougham Castles.

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Brough Castle – owned by the Cliffords. Now a ruin, it was one of the castles she restored, now with English Heritage

But Anne was stubborn and determined. She began legal proceedings, and in 1607, the judges decided that the Skipton properties were rightfully Anne’s. Her uncle, however, was not prepared to give up without a fight, and refused to give up the estates.

Skipton
Skipton Castle Yorkshire

Two years later Anne married Richard Sackville, the third earl of Dorset, who tried to take charge of her affairs. In 1617, despite the advice of her husband, and amid growing pressure from King James I himself, she refused to accept a settlement of the dispute. Hardly surprising, considering it proposed all the estates were to be given to Francis, her uncle, and his male heirs, and only £17,000 was to be given in compensation to Anne. Nevertheless, the settlement went through, and to Anne’s frustration, her husband quickly took control of the money.

Anne had to wait for the death of her cousin in 1643, before finally getting back her inheritance, but there is a happy ending to this tale. After the English Civil Wars had ended, Anne moved back to the North. An old woman by now, she spent the next 26 years of her life lovingly restoring her ruined family castles along with the churches on her lands.

Lady Anne Clifford died in 1676 at Brougham Castle, in her family home. Read more about her in her own diary, surprisingly available on kindle a mere three hundred and fifty years later. Told in a sparse matter-of-fact way, it details the comings and goings of this remarkable woman, who was never in one place for long, and seemed to have inexhaustible reserves of energy.

Appleby Castle
Appleby Castle, one of Lady Anne Clifford’s estates
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Almshouses built for poor widows by Lady Anne Clifford, in Appleby

 

 

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Award-winning writer Charlotte Betts reveals her favourite English chateau

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I have just finished Charlotte Betts’s latest novel, Chateau on the Lake, which is yet another gripping romance from this award-winning novelist. I first came across Charlotte because she has written several books in one of my favourite periods – the seventeenth century, but for this novel we are invited to explore the 18th century and Revolutionary France.

 

After the death of her parents Madeleine Moreau must travel to France to search for the relatives she has heard of, but never met. The meeting proves disastrous and she is given shelter at Chateau Mirabelle, a breathtakingly beautiful castle which is home to the aristocrat Etienne D’Aubery. Of course there is a little competition for Madeleine’s affections, with the handsome Jean Luc, and plenty of dark secrets in the Chateau’s past.

 

Charlotte Betts recreates the detail of the period painstakingly, whilst still providing a pacy and satisfying romance. The sense of the course of the French revolution with all its horrors – the guillotine, the starving peasants, the mob violence – all these are faithfully depicted, whilst never losing the forward momentum of the plot. It is a hard thing to do, to juggle romance against such gritty realism, but Charlotte Betts does it seamlessly.

 

I wondered, after the attractions of France, which was Charlotte’s favourite English chateau in which to spend a quiet afternoon –

Corfe Castle is one of my favourite historical sites to visit. We often holiday in Dorset and I love the way the castle is the focal point of the village. It’s always been sunny when I’ve visited and I like to sit quietly in the sunshine and allow the tourists’ voices fade away. If I close my eyes and listen to the echoes of time it’s almost possible to unlock the secrets of the past. I conjure up a vision of Lady Mary Bankes who, when her husband was away, led the defence of the castle during a six week siege by the Parliamentarians. What a wonderful novel that would make! Perhaps I shall write about that one day.
Charlotte 
National Trust
Corfe

With her talk of English Civil War sieges, I might just beat her to it! (Only joking!)

Find out more about Charlotte Betts on her website