Anne Clifford’s autobiographical writing, 1590–1676

Lady Anne Clifford was Countess of Pembroke, Dorset and Montgomery by marriage, and by birth Baroness Clifford. Anne began her life with the expectation that she would live the typical and prescribed life of a seventeenth-century aristocratic woman - marrying into an important family. With the death of her brother Robert in 1591, the one-year-old Anne became sole heir of the vast Clifford hereditary estates in Westmorland and north-west Yorkshire. However, her status as heir was soon compromised by her father, who began legal manoeuvres to place his own brother Francis as heir. This and George Clifford's infidelities led to great strains in his marriage to Margaret Russell, which Anne describes in detail in the 1603 Memoir. George Clifford died in 1605 and by his will left some hereditary estates to his brother Francis Clifford. The will stipulated that, should his brother leave no direct male heirs, his daughter Anne would inherit these estates. Margaret Russell refused to accept the will and this ignited an inheritance dispute that would last for decades, with repercussions that rumbled on for over a century. Anne's mother led the battle to regain her daughter's inheritance in the early years of the lawsuit. Anne Clifford lived during the reigns of four monarchs and two heads of state in her long life of eighty-six years. She experienced exile and isolation as well as great political power. Anne Clifford's surviving autobiographical writing reveals her deep commitment to maintaining a record or account of her life.

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‘The edition succeeds in rendering the text of the Great Books far more accessible than hitherto, and so represents a significant milestone in the study of the manuscripts created under the countess's direction. Professor Malay's hope that it 'will encourage greater interest in and scholarship on Anne Clifford' will surely be realised.'
David X. Carpenter, University of Oxford
EHR
February 2018

‘These memoirs, and the diary and daybook that bookend Malay's well-edited and annotated volume, will be invaluable to scholars and students of the period looking for a window into a remarkable life and the deliberate acts of autobiographical preservation-both literary and material-that memorialize that life.
Seventeenth-Century News
January 2020

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