Lady Anne Clifford, 14th Baroness de Clifford

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Lady Anne Clifford
Suo jure Baroness Clifford
Countess of Dorset
Countess of Pembroke and Montgomery
William Larkin Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset.jpg
Portrait of Lady Anne Clifford by William Larkin
(National Portrait Gallery[1])
Spouse(s) Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset
Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke
Lady Isabella Sackville
Lady Margaret Sackville
Noble family Clifford
Father George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
Mother Lady Margaret Russell
Born 30 January 1590
Died 22 March 1676 (aged 86)
Buried St. Lawrence's Church, Appleby-in-Westmorland, England

Lady Anne Clifford, 14th Baroness de Clifford, Countess Dowager of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery (30 January 1590 – 22 March 1676) [2] was the only surviving child of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558–1605) by his wife Lady Margaret Russell, daughter of Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford.[3][4] In 1605, she became the suo jure Baroness Clifford and hereditary High Sheriff of Westmorland.[3]

She was a patron of authors and literature; and her many letters and diary made her a literary personage in her own right.

Early years[edit]

Lady Anne was born on 30 January 1590 and baptised the following 22 February at Skipton Church in Yorkshire.

Her parents' marriage was soured by the deaths of Anne's two elder brothers: her parents lived apart for most of her childhood. Upon the death of her father which occurred on 30 October 1605, she succeeded to the title of suo jure Baroness Clifford but her father had willed his earldom and estates to his brother Francis Clifford, 4th Earl of Cumberland. In her young adulthood she was involved in a long and complex legal battle to obtain the family estates,[5] (which had been granted by Edward II under absolute cognatic primogeniture) instead of the £15,000 willed to her. The main grounds were that she was 15 years old at the time. It was not until Francis' only son Henry died without a male heir in 1643 that she managed to secure the family estates, although it was 1649 before she could take possession.[6]

She was brought up in an almost entirely female household—evoked in Emilia Lanier's Description of Cookeham—and given an excellent education by her tutor, the poet Samuel Daniel. As a child she was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I of England; she also danced in masques with Anne of Denmark, queen of King James I of England. She was the Nymph of the Air in Daniel's masque Tethys's Festival, and filled roles in several of the early court masques of Ben Jonson, including The Masque of Beauty (1608) and The Masque of Queens (1609).


Lady Anne's first husband was Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset, whom she married on 27 February 1609. After his death in 1624, she married Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery in 1630. She was Herbert's second wife; his first wife, Lady Susan de Vere had died the year before. Both marriages were reportedly difficult; contemporaries sometimes cited Lady Anne's unyielding personality as a cause. (Her cousin Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford compared her to the Rhone River.)[7] A more sympathetic view would blame some of the troubles in her first marriage on her husband's spendthrift extravagance and his infidelities.

She bore five children by her first husband— although none of their three sons survived to adulthood. Her two surviving daughters both married and had issues. A central conflict with her second husband lay in her decision to allow her younger daughter to make her own choice of husband. The younger daughter, Lady Isabella Sackville (1622-1661), married James, 3rd Earl of Northampton. Lady Anne's elder daughter, Lady Margaret Sackville (1614-1676) married John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet (1609-1664) and had eleven children. Isabella's children died without issue, and Lady Isabella's inheritances from Lady Anne subsequently reverted to the Earls of Thanet.

A triptych portrait of the Clifford family. Lady Anne is depicted on the left panel, aged 15, and on the right, aged 56

Arts patron[edit]

She was an important patron of authors and literature; her letters, and the diary she kept from 1603 to 1616, have made her a secondary literary figure in her own right. John Donne is reported to have said that she could "discourse of all things from Predestination to Slea-silk". The artist Jan van Belcamp painted a triptych portrait of Anne Clifford to her own design and specifications. Titled "The Great Picture," it portrays Lady Anne at three points in her life—at age 56, at age 15, and before birth in her mother's womb. In connection with the painting, Anne Clifford dated her own conception to 1 May 1589—certainly an unusual act of precision.[8]

In 1656, she erected the Countess Pillar in memory of her late mother. She restored 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 (Mallerstang), Brough, Skipton, Appleby, and Brougham. After moving north, she rotated her residences amongst her castles, living in various ones for several months to a year at a time. She died in Brougham, in the same room where her father had been born and her mother had died.[9]

She served as High Sheriff of Westmorland from 1653 to 1676. At her death, aged 86, she was the Dowager Countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery. Her tomb is in St Lawrence's Church, Appleby-in-Westmorland.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Profile,, 3 October 2013; accessed 24 March 2014.
  2. ^ Clifford, D.H, ed. (1990). The Diaries of Lady Anne Clifford. Gloucestershire: Alan Sutton Publishing. 
  3. ^ a b  "Clifford, Anne". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  4. ^ Record for Anne Clifford, Baroness Clifford on
  5. ^
  6. ^ DeMers, p. 123.
  7. ^ Richardson, p. 117.
  8. ^ Snook, p. 1
  9. ^ "Appleby Castle". Castle Explorer. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 


  • Clifford, Lady Anne. The Diaries of Lady Anne Clifford. Ed. D. J. H. Clifford. Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2009.
  • Demers, Patrica A. Women's Writing in English: Early Modern England. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2005.
  • Richardson, Jerusha D. Famous Ladies of the English Court. H. Stone, 1899.
  • Snook, Edith. Women, Reading, and the Cultural Politics of Early Modern England. London, Ashgate, 2005.
  • Williamson, George. Lady Anne Clifford Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery 1590-1676: Her Life, Letters, and Work. 2nd edition, East Ardley, S.R. Publishers, 1967.

Further reading[edit]

  • Charlton, John (1977), "The Lady Anne Clifford (1590–1676)", Ancient Monuments and Their Interpretation: Essays Presented to A. J. Taylor, Chichester: Phillimore & Co, pp. 303–314, ISBN 0-85033-239-7 

External links[edit]

Peerage of England
Preceded by
George Clifford
Baroness de Clifford
Succeeded by
Nicholas Tufton