Lady Anne Clifford, (1590–1676) was the only surviving child of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland and his wife Lady Margaret Russell, daughter of Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford. In 1605, she became the 14th Baroness de Clifford in her own right, and hereditary High Sheriff of Westmorland.
When her father died in 1605, she succeeded to the title of Baroness Clifford, but her father had willed his earldom and estates to his brother Francis Clifford, 4th Earl of Cumberland. Starting at the age of only 15, she became involved in a long and complex legal battle to obtain the family estates, instead of the £15,000 her father had willed to her.
Because her marriage to her first husband (Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset) was reportedly difficult, contemporaries blamed Lady Anne’s unyielding personality as a cause, even though the Earl’s first marriage before Lady Anne was also a difficult one. Lady Anne’s cousin Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford, compared her to the Rhone River, so we can guess that she had a willful and unyielding personality which was not viewed favorably in women at the time.
Lady Anne was an important patron of authors and literature; and her many letters and diary, which she kept from 1603 through 1616, made her a literary personage in her own right. John Donne is reported to have said that she could “discourse of all things from Predestination to Slea-silk.”
In 1656, she erected the Countess Pillar in memory of her late mother. During her lifetime, she restored several churches at Appleby-in-Westmorland, Ninekirks, Brougham and Mallerstang. She was also responsible for the improvement and expansion of many of the Clifford family’s castles across Northern England, including those at Pendragon, Brough, Skipton and Appleby (her home).
“Lady Anne’s Way” is a 100 mile walk through places associated with Lady Anne Clifford. It starts at her birth place, Skipton, goes through Wharfedale and Wensleydale and finishes in Cumbria at Brougham Castle near Penrith, where she died.
- Image of Lady Anne Clifford courtesy Wikimedia Commons
- Beamsley Hospital © Copyright John Tomlinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
- Lady Anne’s Yew Tree by david_pics on Flickr available under a Creative Commons license
Keri is an autodidact and women’s history buff who founded Amazing Women in History in 2011.