Sunday, March 07, 2010

Question from Elizabeth M - Margaret Clifford

I am curious about Margaret Clifford, a first cousin of the Grey sisters. She earned Elizabeth I's ire for something and was kept under house arrest for a number of years? What did she do? Can anyone tell me about her? I know she was Ferdinando Stanley's mother, but that is about all. Judging from her portrait, she was quite attractive.


Lara said...

Coincidentally, I was just thinking that I also wanted to know more about her after her mentions in "The Sisters Who Would Be Queen". In that book, the reason for her imprisonment was an accusation of employing a magician to cast spells against Elizabeth (since Margaret was Elizabeth's heir after the death of the Grey sisters and Katherine Grey's children being declared illegitimate).

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a dedicated entry about her in the ODNB, just some mentions in others' entries.

Kathy said...

There is some information on Margaret Clifford Stanley, Lady Strange and Countess of Derby in Dulcie M. Ashdown's Tudor Cousins: Rivals for the Throne.

The house arrest stemmed from her association with her physician, a Dr. Randall. He was more noted as an astrologer than a physician, and they were both charged with attempting to forecast the date of the Queen's death and who her successor would be. Margaret protested that she had hired Randall only because of her rheumatism and tooth problems. Randall was hanged in 1581. Margaret was eventually released from the house imprisonment, but Elizabeth seems to have held her in disfavor for the rest of her life.

Also, although Margaret herself doesn't seem to have had any strong religious convictions and conformed to whatever was in vogue at the time, her husband's family were staunch Catholics and two of her husband's brothers were sent to the Tower for plotting to free Mary, Queen of Scots.

At one point in the 1590's, the Vatican seems to have tried to have decided that Ferdinando would make a good candidate to install as king if they could ever get rid of Elizabeth. He was approached by an agent on this, but promptly had the man arrested. Ferdinando's death in 1594 after a very short, painful illness was whispered about to be caused by poison by the Catholics in retaliation for his acts.

Incidentally, Margaret was a spendthrift and chronically short of money, a trait her son Ferdinando inherited. Part of his money he spent on maintaining a theatre troupe, Lord Strange's Men, for whom Shakespeare was quite possibly an actor in his early days in London. So at least part of his money certainly wasn't squandered.

kb said...

Margaret Clifford was indeed in debt much of the time. The sate papers are full of references. See for example, PRO PC 2/12 f.764 where in 1579 the Privy Council is trying to sort out her creditors. The council took up the issue of her debts several times.

The State Papers relating to Venice contain multiple references to her and her place in the succession. Camden accuses her of 'womanish curiosity' and 'consulting with wizards'.

Mendoza reported that:

"I learn that one of the charges against the countess of Derby, besides talking about the marriage [Elizabeth's possible marriage to Alencon] is that she tried to discover by means of witchcraft (and there are a great number of witches here) whether the Queen would live long. They have not yet dared to put her into the Tower, although orders had been given to that effect, but a large number of men and women have been arrested
on the charge of witchcraft." London, 25th August 1579. See the Archives of Simancas vol. II

Lara said...

Test post, just ignore

Foose said...

In two of his books (The Fighting Tudors and Mary Tudor: The Tragical History of the First Queen of England ), David Loades describes Margaret Clifford as Mary Tudor's preferred choice as a successor - he also describes her in the second book as the Chief Mourner at Mary's funeral.

Although Catholic, she was the youngest of the potential contenders and her selection would have been problematic; Clifford would have inevitably been drawn into a dynastic quarrel with Elizabeth, Katherine Grey -- senior to her in the Suffolk line of succession under Henry VIII's will -- Margaret Douglas (who had a son to back her up, although her Scottish connections would have told against her), and of course Mary Queen of Scots, whose liabilities are well known.

This statement contradicts Loades' own assertion in The Tudor Queens of England that Margaret Douglas was both Mary's chosen successor and her Chief Mourner.

Biographers Judith Richards and Anna Whitelock both confirm Margaret Douglas as the Chief Mourner, with Richards going into some detail on why the Countess of Lennox was also the queen's choice as her successor.