Clifford, Anne (1590–1676)

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Clifford, Anne (1590–1676)

Countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery, who was a diarist and biographer. Name variations: Lady Anne Clifford. Born in Yorkshire, England, on January 30, 1590; died in Westmoreland, England, on March 22, 1676; only surviving child of George Clifford, 3rd earl of Cumberland (a naval commander and buccaneer), and Margaret (Russell) Clifford (c. 1560–1616); educated by Samuel Daniel, the poet; married Richard Sackville, Lord Buchhurst, earl of Dorset (claimed the barony of Clifford in 1628), in February 1609 (died 1624); married Philip Herbert, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, in 1630 (died 1650); children: (first marriage) three sons, all of whom died in infancy; two daughters.

Anne Clifford's life was marred by two unhappy marriages and an extensive lawsuit to regain her inheritance. Her first marriage to Richard Sackville, a spendthrift and philanderer, produced three sons, all of whom tragically died in infancy, and two daughters. Widowed in 1624, she later married Philip Herbert, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, from whom she was separated.

Upon the death of her father George Clifford, 3rd earl of Cumberland, in 1605, Anne's male cousin commandeered the lands and title that were rightfully hers. Clifford, along with her mother Margaret Clifford , initiated a legal battle to regain the estates. Even though Clifford's first husband and the king tried to persuade her to accept a cash settlement, she continued her lawsuits. But it wasn't until 1643, when her cousin died with no male heir, that Anne Clifford inherited the Clifford estates after a 38-year struggle.

Clifford, Margaret (c. 1560–1616)

Countess of Cumberland. Born Margaret Russell around 1560; died in 1616; youngest daughter of Francis Russell, earl of Bedford; married George Clifford, 3rd earl of Cumberland, in 1577 (separated); children: Anne Clifford (1590–1676), countess of Dorset.

For the rest of her life, she rebuilt her six castles, secured a reputation for "bounty and hospitality," and continued to defend her rights. When the secretary of state for King Charles II wrote to her, naming his own candidate for one of her pocket boroughs, she replied: "I have been bullied by a usurper, I have been neglected by a court, but I will not be dictated to by a subject; your man shan't stand." Clifford engaged in numerous other charitable activities and also embarked on an extensive family history, including her own autobiography and the biographies of her parents. The work, edited by J.P. Gilson, was published in 1916. Her extensive diary, which she kept until her death, was published in 1923. In a funeral sermon, published in 1677, Edward Rainbow, bishop of Carlisle, remarked on Clifford's penetrating wit and quoted John Donne's remark that "she knew well how to discourse on all things, from predestination to slea-silk."


Blodgett, Harriet. The English Woman's Diary. London: Fourth Estate, 1991.

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

suggested reading:

Holmes, Martin. Proud Northern Lady: Lady Anne Clifford 1590–1676, 1975.

Sackville-West, Vita, ed. The Diary of Lady Anne Clifford, 1923.

Williamson, George. Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery, 1922 (2nd edition, 1967).

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts