I am a romantic at heart and can’t resist a good love story. Combine this with the 17th Century and this girl becomes putty.
One of my favourite couples is Ann and Richard Fanshawe. There were perfectly devoted to each other and their relationship was the stuff of romance.
The following article was originally written for the English Historical Fiction Authors blog and published March 2015. If you enjoy English history and haven’t visited the blog, check out the EHFA site here.
Journaling became fashionable during the 17th century. Well-known diarists, such as Samuel Pepys, and John Evelyn documented the affairs of the day, but the memoirs of Ann Fanshawe are a charming testimony of her love for her husband, Richard Fanshawe. She wrote it for her only surviving son, Richard, who was only ten months old when his father died. Ann wanted him to know the character of his father and achievements during his lifetime.
Ann Harrison Fanshawe was born in London on March 25, 1625, the eldest daughter of Sir John Harrison of Balls (Hertfordshire). She had a carefree childhood, and although she was taught the necessary skills expected of one in her station, she was high-spirited:
“I learned as well as most did, yet was I wild to that degree, that the hours of my beloved recreation took up too much of my time, for I loved riding in the first place, running, and all active pastimes; in short, I was that which we graver people call a hoyting girl; but to be just to myself, I never did mischief to myself or people, nor one immodest word or action in my life, though skipping and activity was my delight.”
Throughout her life, she never lost her passionate and spirited nature. If her words mirrored her essence, she was an engaging and charming woman. There is no doubt that this is one of the traits that endeared her to Richard Fanshawe.
Had it not have been for the English Civil War, Ann and Richard may never have become acquainted. Although Ann was related to the Fanshawes through her mother’s side, Richard, who was seventeen years her senior, spent years abroad on the Crown’s business, only returning before the war.
Richard Fanshawe was born in June 1608 to an ancient family whose lineage traced back to the time of William of Normandy. Richard’s great-grandfather improved the family fortunes when he became a respected civil servant during the reign of Henry VIII. Richard followed in his ancestor’s footsteps. He attended Cambridge for law, but the subject did not suit him, and instead travelled to Paris and Madrid where he became secretary to the English Ambassador to Spain. When the English Civil War broke, King Charles I appointed Richard Secretary of War to the Prince of Wales (future Charles II).
“He was ever much esteemed by his two masters, Charles the First and Charles the Second, both for great parts and honesty, as for his conversation, in which they took great delight, he being so free from passion, that made him beloved of all that knew him.”
The couple was married on May 18, 1644. Even though they had good prospects, this was a time of war and uncertainty so had very little resources to get them settled.
“We might truly be called merchant adventurers, for the stock we set up our trading with did not amount to twenty pounds betwixt us;”
In her memoirs, Ann described Richard’s personality with a great deal of affection. She took joy in remembering their special times together.
“He never used exercise but walking, and that generally with some book in his hand, which oftentimes was poetry, in which he spent his idle hours; sometimes he would ride out to take the air, but his most delight was, to go only with me in a coach some miles, and there discourse of those things which then most pleased him.”
Here was an intelligent and reserved man, a complimentary opposite to Ann’s more vivacious nature. Ann’s love for her husband remained undimmed after twenty-two years of marriage. Theirs was a perfect match:
“Glory be to God, we never had but one mind throughout our lives. Our souls were wrapped up in each other’s; our aims and designs one, our loves one, and our resentments one. We so studied one the other, that we knew each other’s mind by our looks. Whatever was real happiness, God gave it me in him;”
Over the course of their marriage, there were times when they had to be apart due to Richard’s work, and Ann felt those separations keenly. The first time, and possibly the most difficult, was after the birth of their first son, when Richard left to join the Prince of Wales in Bristol as his personal secretary. The child was sickly and did not survive*
“I then lying-in of my first son, Harrison Fanshawe, who was born on the 22nd of February , he left me behind him. As for that, it was the first time we had parted a day since we married; he was extremely afflicted, even to tears, though passion was against his nature; but the sense of leaving me with a dying child, which did die two days after, in a garrison town, extremely weak, and very poor, were such circumstances as he could not bear with, only the argument of necessity;”
Richard sent for her as quickly as he could and in May of that year, Ann joined him in Bristol. By then, the war was not going in the King’s favour, and the Fanshawe’s were forced to move around as dictated by the changes in Royal fortune. They lived one year in Ireland, when Richard was Treasurer of the King’s navy, but were forced to leave for the continent when Cromwell arrived with an invading army.
They set sail on a sixty-gun merchant ship, laden with rich goods, and encountered a Turkish galley. Fearing to be taken as a prize if the Turks realized they were not a man o’ war, the captain locked the women in their cabins and prepared for battle. Ann was beside herself with worry for Richard, who joined the ship’s crew armed with gun and sword. As a true heroine, Ann was determined to meet this enemy by her husband’s side. Resourceful woman that she was, she bribed a cabin boy to release her:
“I, all in tears, desired him [the cabin boy] to be so good as to give me his blue thrum cap he wore, and his tarred coat, which he did, and I gave him half-a-crown, and putting them on and flinging away my night clothes, I crept up softly and stood upon the deck by my husband’s side, as free from sickness and fear as, I confess, from discretion; but it was the effect of that passion, which I could never master.”
Richard must have been shocked when she appeared on deck dressed as a cabin boy. The first chance he could, he:
“snatched me up in his arms, saying, ‘Good God, that love can make this change!’ and though he seemingly chid me, he would laugh at it as often as he remembered that voyage.”
The next years were financially difficult for them, and rather than live on credit, Ann made frequent trips to England to obtain funds for her husband. In 1650, a year after the execution of Charles I, Richard left for Scotland to join Charles II in his bid to win back his father’s throne.
Richard fought at Worcester on September 3, 1651, the fateful battle of the civil war when the King lost to Cromwell and barely escaped with his life. Ann went wild with worry not knowing what happened to her husband.
“When the King being missed, and nothing heard of your father being dead or alive, for three days it was inexpressible what affliction I was in. I neither eat nor slept, but trembled at every motion I heard, expecting the fatal news, which at last came in their news-book, which mentioned your father a prisoner.”
She wasted no time and left for London. By chance, she met an acquaintance who gave her information about Richard and promised to make arrangements for her to meet him. She arrived at a Charing Cross inn with her father and the friends, not knowing if that would be the last time she would see him. When Richard saw Ann crying, he said, “Cease weeping, no other thing upon earth can move me.”
After this, Richard was taken to Whitehall and held prisoner in isolation for ten weeks. Not even Ann was not allowed to visit him, but every day she would go to Whitehall and see him at his window:
“During the time of his imprisonment, I failed not constantly to go, when the clock struck four in the morning, with a dark lantern in my hand, all alone and on foot, from my lodging in Chancery Lane, at my cousin Young’s, to Whitehall, in at the entry that went out of King Street into the bowling-green. There I would go under his window and softly call him: he, after the first time excepted, never failed to put out his head at the first call: thus we talked together, and sometimes I was so wet with the rain, that it went in at my neck and out at my heels.”
It was Oliver Cromwell who was instrumental in gaining his release. Richard’s health was poor, and he advised Ann to get a doctor’s certificate stating that her husband was near death. Cromwell argued in favour of his release so he could receive treatment, and Richard was released on £4,000 bail.
Richard was now on parole and would continue to be until the death of Oliver Cromwell. When he was released from his bond, he relocated his family to Paris where he remained with the exiled King until the Restoration. At Charles II’s coronation, Richard occupied a place of honour, riding upon the King’s left hand with “rich foot-clots, and four men in rich liveries.” Ann’s pride in her husband could not be surpassed.
On June 26, 1666, Richard fell ill of the ague and died abroad, leaving Ann to raise their son and four daughters alone. She made arrangements to bring him home for burial where he was eventually laid to rest at St. Mary’s in Ware.
Ann included a lengthy prayer in her memoirs that spoke of her grief, even eleven years after Richard’s death. She admitted that she considered withdrawing from society in Richard’s memory but her duties as mother prevented her from doing so.
Ann Fanshawe passed away on January 20, 1679 at the age of 55, twelve years after Richard died. I believe that she was at peace in her final moments with the knowledge that she would soon be reunited with her love.
*Ann bore Richard eight daughter and six sons, though most died at birth or infancy. This does not include the six others that she miscarried.
Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe, Wife of Sir Richard Fanshawe
Complete Baronetage, Volume III, 1649-1664, by George Edward Cokayne.