Lady Anne Clifford



Anne Clifford, The Memoir of 1603 and The Diary of 1616-1619, ed. Katherine Acheson (Peterborough, Ontario, 2007)

Clifford, Diaries

The Diaries of Lady Anne Clifford, ed. D. J. H. Clifford (Stroud, 1990; reprinted 1994)

Spence (1997)

Richard T. Spence, Lady Anne Clifford: Countess of Pembroke, Dorset and Montgomery (1590-1676) (Stroud, 1997)


Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, Dorset and Montgomery, was a formidable aristocratic lady who has a place in the history of letters principally because of her near-lifelong pursuit of what she regarded as her rightful baronial titles and estates, entitlements which she largely achieved during nearly forty years of relentless litigation. In consequence of this obsessional effort was that, with professional help (including advice from the antiquaries Roger Dodsworth and Charles Fairfax), she became a remarkable family historian, producing manuscript volumes detailing or reproducing in full, all the currently available evidence of her family's history and estates. The most notable of these genealogical writings, compiled some years after the principal settlement of her claims in 1643, is her ‘Great Books’, a series of three huge cartularies of which three sets of copies were made (two for Skipton and Appleby Castles and one for her legal advisor Sir Mathew Hale, of Lincoln's Inn), all now reunited in the Cumbria Record Office, Kendal (*CdA 1). At some point a one-volume abridgement of these ‘Great Books’ was made — and copies circulated among the family. Besides CdA 2-4 recorded below, a number of manuscript copies of this abridgement probably remain in private ownership.

Lady Anne also incorporated in these manuscripts her autobiography, generally entitled ‘A Summary of the Records and a True Memorial of the Life of Me the Lady Anne Clifford’, dated 1652, and she kept diaries, as well as financial accounts, one of her early journals including verses probably by her tutor (until 1602), Samuel Daniel (DaS 29).

Lady Clifford's Books

There is, moreover, clear evidence of her love of literature and of reading (or at least of having books read to her). She had a large library, partly inherited from her mother, Lady Margaret Clifford (née Russell).These books have been widely dispersed, but occasional volumes owned by her come to light (CdA 14-22), some with annotations in her characteristic rugged italic. An unspecified number of her books are in one or more private collections through family descent. No doubt more of her books will surface in due course.

The Clifford Triptych

The single best-known tribute to her literary tastes remains the cel ebrated and frequently reproduced triptych of Lady Anne Clifford, painted c.1647 by Jan van Belcamp (and possibly Peter Lely), of which there are two copies, the principal one formerly in Appleby Castle currently in the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal. The various books on the shelves shown in this painting, presumably her favourites, include Sidney's Arcadia (see CdA 20), and works by Montaigne, Cervantes, Castiglione, Guicciardini, Ovid, Plutarch, Chaucer, Spenser, Fulke Greville, Camden, Joseph Hall, George Sandys, Sir Henry Wotton, John Donne, George Herbert, Ben Jonson, and Samuel Daniel, as well as portraits of Daniel and her governess Anne Taylor. This evidence of Lady Anne's books can be supplemented by a later inventory of books at one of her principal seats, ‘A Catalogue of the Books in the Closset in the Passage Room next the Pantry in Skipton Castlle 28th August 1739’ (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, DD121/111), a list of books and manuscripts almost certainly belonging to Lady Anne Clifford. This is printed in full in Spence, pp. 257-60.

Letters and Documents

A few extant letters and documents of Lady Clifford can be recorded (CdA 23-26), including her will (*CdA 27), but no doubt various other papers by or relating to her are scattered in libraries and record offices and will come to light in due course.

Peter Beal