Monday, 23 November 2009

Lady Ann Fanshawe 1625-1680

Ann Fanshawe [nee Harrison] and John Fanshawe
The eldest daughter and 4th child of Sir John Harrison of Balls Park, Hertfordshire, and Margaret Fanshawe, Ann had three older brothers, John, William [killed in 1643] and Simon, and one younger sister, Margaret. When Ann was 15, her mother died, and her father, whom Ann describes as 'a handsome gentleman, of great natural parts', subsequently remarried, and had a son and a daughter with his second wife.

Sir John declared for the King in 1642 and Roundhead soldiers arrested him at his house. While ostensibly retriving some important papers, he took the opportunity to slip out of the house. He fled to join King Charles at his exiled court in Oxford, sending for his other children to join him.

The Harrisons lived in genteel poverty in Oxford during the Civil War years before Oxford was seized by Parliament, living in a garret above a baker’s shop. Ann began a friendship with Catherine Howard, Lady D'Aubigny, the young widow of Lord Heorge Stuart, and the notorious Lady Isabella Thynne, wife of Sir John Thynne who inveigled Ann into dressing in an angel costume, and a page and a singing boy, serenaded the ‘gigantic, choleric, woman-hating Dr Kettle’, President of Trinity College on his lawn.

Whilst at Oxford, Ann grew close to her Royalist cousin, Richard Fanshawe, who served as secretary to the Council of War, Ireland, between 1639 and 1641, and was appointed King's Remembrancer in 1641, and Secretary for War to the Prince of Wales in 1644. They married at Wolvercot Church in May 1644, the only guests apart from family were Edward Hyde, later Lord Clarendon, and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. The genial bridegroom who was of "more than the common height of men," and so popular that everyone, even the King, called him Dick. They began married life on 20 pounds and the forlorn hope of their Sovereign's promise of eventual compensation.

In March 1645, Richard went to Bristol with the Prince of Wales, leaving Ann at Oxford, in delicate health, with scarcely a penny and a dying first-born. She relates how she was sitting in the garden of St. John's College breathing the air for the first time after her illness, when a letter came from Bristol, to her "unspeakable joy" containing fifty gold pieces and a summons to join Mr. Fanshawe.

Thus began the long series of separations, reunions, hardships, and extraordinary adventures with the exiled Charles I and then Charles II. Ann seems hardly ever to have gone to sea without being nearly "cast away." From Red Abbey in Ireland she and her babies and servants had to fly at the peril of their lives through "an unruly tumult with swords in their hands." On the Isles of Scilly she was put ashore more dead than alive, and plundered of all her possessions by the sailors. At Portsmouth she and her husband were fired upon by Dutch men-of-war, and another time they were shipwrecked in the Bay of Biscay.

Once, Ann borrowed . . . 'a cabin boy's blue thrum-cap and tarred coat for half a crown' to stand beside her husband on the deck when they were threatened by a Turkish galley on their way to Spain. After the Battle of Worcester, where Sir Richard was made a prisoner, during the wettest Autumn ever known, Ann walked along the sleeping Strand early each morning to stand beneath his prison window on the bowling-green at Whitehall. She wrote that "the rain went in at her neck and out at her heels."

Sir Richard was released on parole by Cromwell, and for seven years, the Fanshawes lived in comparative retirement until after the Lord Protector’s death in 1658 they went to join Charles II in Flanders. Richard Fanshawe was appointed Latin Secretary and Master of Requests, and was knighted at Breda. Charles II gave Sir Richard his portrait framed in diamonds, and sent him first on an embassy to Portugal to negotiate his marriage to Catherine of Braganza, and then appointed him Ambassador to Spain. On June 26, 1666, he died at Madrid of fever at the age of fifty-eight. Ann set off overland to Calais with her baby son, four daughters under 14, and the body of her husband.

Her memoirs, dated May 1676, addressed to her only surviving son, Richard, are a vivid and fascinating account of the tragedy, poverty and loss which do not dilute the Fanshawe's passion for the Royalist cause. Between 1645 and 1665, Ann gave birth to fourteen children, of whom four daughters and one son lived to adulthood. Her account of her lost children is poignantly written in her own words:

My dear husband had six sons and eight daughters, born and christened, and I miscarried of six more, three at several times, and once of three sons when I was about half gone my time. Harrison, my eldest son, and Henry, my second son; Richard, my third; Henry, my fourth; and Richard, my fifth, are all dead; my second lies buried in the Protestant Church-yard in Paris, by the father of the Earl of Bristol; my eldest daughter Anne lies buried in the Parish Church of Tankersley, in Yorkshire, where she died; Elizabeth lies in the Chapel of the French Hospital at Madrid, where she died of a fever at ten days old; my next daughter of her name lies buried in the Parish of Foot's Cray, in Kent, near Frog-Pool, my brother Warwick's house, where she died; and my daughter Mary lies in my father's vault in Hertford, with my first son Henry; my eldest lies buried in the Parish Church of St. John's College in Oxford, where he was born; my second Henry lies in Bengy Church, in Hertfordshire; and my second Richard in the Esperanza in Lisbon in Portugal, he being born ten weeks before my time when I was in that Court. I praise God I have living yourself and four sisters, Katherine unmarried, Margaret married to Vincent Grantham, Esq., of Goltho, in the county of Lincoln, Anne, and Elizabeth.

Richard Fanshawe succeeded his father in 1666, and became the second Baronet. He is said to have been deprived of his hearing, and at length of his speech, in consequence of a fever, and to have died unmarried about 1695

Ann Fanshawe’s memoirs are available online at Project Gutenberg:

1 comment:

Gillian Bagwell said...

Great stuff, Anita. I was just watching "The Devil's Whore," which seems to be VERY LOOSELY based on the Fanshawes. Much poetic/dramatic license, but very enjoyable.