DUXBURY, LANCASHIRE AND MASSACHUSETTS
LANCASHIRE TO LEYDEN
Part Three presented Myles’ “new’ birthdate of c. 1587, his soldier father probably named Alexander, his baptism almost certainly at the Standish private chapel in Duxbury, his most likely attendance for some years at Rivington Grammar School, his continuing intimacy with his Standish relatives at Duxbury Hall, and his departure to the war in Flanders as a rather small young drummer in c.1601, most likely accompanying a relative, probably part of a Lancashire contingent in the English army recruited to aid the Dutch against the Spanish.
We know, from a brief biography written shortly after his death in 1656, that “in his younger time he went over into the low countries, and was a soldier there’. That is all that we know for certain about his military career in Europe, other than that he was later promoted to Lieutenant and Captain, but historical events provide parameters for a reconstruction, and details from his later life provide several hints.
If we are correct in sending Myles marching off to the Low Countries in mid-1601, it would probably have been as a result of recruitment for the Siege of Ostend. His eagerness to participate would presumably have been bolstered by his family’s military tradition, their fervent Protestant beliefs and the news of the recent victory at Nieu(w)p(o)ort, which at last heralded the end of a long period of doom and gloom. The nineties had been a decade of depression, with poor harvests, soaring prices, high taxes, general unrest, a stale-mate and escalating costs in the war against Spain, and the constant threat of invasion from Ireland by the Spanish and Irish, which saw Alexander Standish of Duxbury at the head of 200 troops in 1596.1 The Irish campaign of J 1599 had
been costly, bloody and a failure; Essex (1567-1601)2 returned in disgrace and many English soldiers returned to Flanders with their commanders to continue the fight there. The only heroic and inspiring national event since the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 had been the destruction of the Spanish fleet at Cadiz in 1596 by Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?-1618) & Co..
Now, at last, there was a new victory. On 2nd July, 1601, an army of 4,350, including 1,600 English under Sir Francis de Vere (1569-1609), won the battle of Nieuport, a few miles SW of Ostend. The cost was high - 800 English killed or wounded, including the death of a Capt. Duxbury,3 presumably a Lancashire lad. The Spanish launched an immediate counter-attack and on 5th July, with 20,000 men and fifty guns, laid siege to Ostend, which was thereafter provisioned entirely by sea. All England rang with the praises of de Vere and an immediate recruitment campaign resulted in thousands of English flocking to Ostend over the summer.
The war in the Low Countries had already served for many years as a military academy for the sons of nobility and gentry families from the whole of Protestant Northern Europe, eager to learn from the progressive tactics and innovations of Stadholder Maurice (1567-1625), Count of Nassau, Prince of Orange. They also wished to learn from the brilliant leadership of Sir Francis, and later from his brother Sir Horace de Vere (1565-1635). De Vere’s discipline at Ostend was strict, however, and many who had arrived purely in search of adventure but without any serious commitment were sent home, leaving a core of two thousand or so over the winter. There were regular sallies and attempts to breach the defences, which resulted in many early skirmishes and the inevitable large number of casualties, some from the incessant bombardment of the town.
Two hospitals that received the wounded were St. Catherine’s and St. Elizabeth’s in Leyden. An entry in the hospital records of 1601-1620
shows that “Nys Sickem’, altered to Myls Stansen’, was admitted on 18th October, 1601, with a later note recording that he died on 1st November of that year. Dr. Jeremy Bangs, founder-curator of the American Pilgrim Museum in Leyden,4 interprets the name as a Dutchified version of Myles Standish, and conjectures that the report of death was probably the result of a clerical muddie and an error for ‘discharge. He may well be right, and we will never know, but if one accepts the entry as correct, then the corollary is that a second Myles Standish was the one who died. This could most plausibly be explained by assuming that it was the accompanying relative already proposed - a namesake uncle? This would at the same time account for the statement by Thomas Morton (c.1590-c.1647) in 1637 that Myles had been “bred a soldier in the low countries, with the possible implication that an older relative was involved in his military upbringing. It would also provide an additional hint that Myles father might have had one or more brothers, and therefore not (yet?) inherited the family lands that Myles was later to claim in his Will.
Interestingly, the company commander of ‘Myls Stansen was given as Captain Gernaer, a name which appears again in 1602 as Captain Garnae, which Bangs suggests might be a Dutch version of Garner or possibly Gardiner. A Gardiner appears on the 1575 list of pupils at Rivington Grammar School and there was one of this name on the Mayflower. One wonders if these are pure coincidences or if they were connected somehow? Myles must have demonstrated considerable military prowess or leadership skills fairly soon, as he was promoted to Lieutenant during the reign of Elizabeth, who died in March 1603, when he was maximum 16 years old. Maybe the promotion was helped or secured by the support of the current (6th) Earl of Derby, whose predecessors had been comrades-in-arms, friends and patrons of the Standishes for several centuries? The commissioning document was in the hands of Myles’ American descendants at the beginning of the 19th century, but has unfortunately since disappeared. It was perhaps from the assumption of his descendants that he must have been at least 18 to obtain this
commission that they calculated his date of birth as c1584, His established age of only 15-16 in 1602-3 would, however, have been no impediment; there are records of several contemporary weil—connected officers of this age.
In March 1602 de Vere returned to the Netherlands from England after another recruitment campaign, at the head of an English army of 8,000 paid by the States-General, which soon laid siege to the small town of Grave in Brabant and was subsequently active in other campaigns. Ostend was finally surrendered to the Spanish on 24th September. 1604, when James I, who had a abhorrence of wars, negotiated a peace treaty with Spain. From then on the Dutch fought on their own, although many foreign mercenaries still remained on their pay-roll.
We will never know where or when Myles fought, but it is likely that he was in some of the campaigns mentioned above and continued to serve in the Netherlands until the truce with Spain in April 1609, which recognised an independent Dutch republic, as in that year or a little later he came into contact with the English Separatist community in Leyden, some of whom were destined to become Pilgrim Fathers. This meeting is known from the report of Nathaniel Morton in 1669 that Myles ‘came acquainted with the church at Leyden”.
In 1608 this group of dissenters, led by their Pastor John Robinson (c.1575-1625) from Sturton-le-Steeple in Nottinghamshire, had fled from persecution in England, under dramatic and dangerous circumstances. Their extreme Puritan faith, which led them to believe that the Anglican church could not be reformed from within, became treasonable after the passing of the Canons in 1604, and they lived, along with Catholics, under the constant threat of excommunication and incarceration.
After two distraught attempts and a horrendous voyage, they finally reached the haven of Amsterdam, where they joined earlier religious exile groups under the leadership of Henry Ainsworth (1571-1622) and Francis Johnson (1562-1618). Books by these would later end up on Myles shelves. There were soon disagreements among the different communities,
however, and in 1609 Robinsons group of about a hundred applied successfully for permission to settle in the prosperous textile and university city of Leyden, whcre they subsequently earned their living in a variety of ways: weaving, printing, trading, teaching and other activities.
Sometime after this Myles, by now in his early twenties, but presumably already a veteran soldier, visited Leyden and was befriended by Robinson, as is attested by later New England documents. Two others that Myles must have met at this time, who had also fled with Robinson, were William Bradford (1590-1657) from Austerfield in S. Yorkshire and William Brewster (1567-1644) from nearby Scrooby in N. Nottinghamshire. These two, along with Myles, were destined to be the future leaders of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts as Governor Bradford, Elder Brewster and Military Governor Standish.
Many paths leading away from and back to Lancashire, mainly via Cambridge University, East Anglia and London, suggest that Myles was probably already well aware of this community before they arrived in the Netherlands. Also Lancashire surnames that appear in contemporary documents in Leyden suggest that some later immigrants, who increased Robinson’s congregation to about three hundred, were from the County Palatine. This would hardly be surprising, as Lancashire was a noted home of Non-conformism. It still is. Lancashire place-surnames that appear are Ainsworth, Allerton, Howarth, Lee/Leigh and Southworth; other surnames long established in Lancashire are Butler, Finch, Greenwood, Jepson, Nelson, Norris, West and White.5 Myles must have felt almost at home. Or could he even have played a role in later emigrations from Lancashire? It is therefore perhaps not so remarkable that he, among all the thousands of English soldiers who served in the Netherlands, should have been invited later to be the military leader of the planned emigration to Virginia, in search of a new life of freedom to practise their religion, maintain their Englishness and hopefully establish a higher standard of living. He was even chosen in preference to Captain John Smith (1580-1631), of Pocahontas fame, who had already founded a colony in Virginia, mapped the whole coast, was a national hero and had offered his services. Myles must have presented not only the best possible military credentials, but also other qualities and connections as well. Meanwhile, 1609-20 remain as Myles’ ‘lost years. If wc accept that he perhaps stayed in Leyden long enough after 1609 for the consolidation of his friendship with John Robinson, we can perhaps replace the earlier date
by 1610. If we can assume that the preparations for the emigration in 1620 (buying necessary weapons, etc.) occupied him for up to a year beforehand, we can perhaps replace the later date by 1619. The only engagement of English troops in Europe in this period was in the summer of 1610 when 4,000 under Sir Edward Cecil (1572-1638) participated in the siege of Juliers, undcr the overall command of Prince Christian of Anhalt. Was Myles perhaps there?
This still leaves 1610-1619 as ‘lost years. After the truce of 1609 between the United Provinces and Spain many English and Scottish soldiers remained on garrison duty in various Dutch towns until 1616, but no name resembling Standish has been found on any lists. Nor has any record been found of his commission as Captain, the rank held until his death, even when later appointed commander-in-chief of all of New England’s forces. It is difficult to believe that he would have adopted, or even been allowed to adopt the rank and title of Captain, without an official commission. Who granted this, and where? Maybe he stayed in Holland after 1610 to serve on garrison duty or maybe he returned to Lancashire. It is difficult, however, to imagine either of these options as satisfying his obvious wanderlust and desire for action. If he retired from active service for a decade, why did the Separatists in Leyden choose him as their military leader? This gives rise to a niggling suspicion that he might well have offered his undoubted military skills to another master. Who might this have been? (To be continued)
1. William Walker, Duxbury in Decline, Palatine Books, 1995, p.15.
2. All eminent (inter)national personages whose dates are given in brackets have a biography in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and/or in the Dictionary of National Biography.
3. T.C. Porteus, Captain Myles Slandish, 1920, Manchester University Press, p.17, with reference to State Papers, Holland, Vol. 60, 199.
4. Bangs important finding in the Leiden Municipal Archives, his conjectures about spellings and errors, and the entries of Capt. “Gardiner’, were reported by G. V. C. Young My/es Standish, First Manx -American, Manx-Svenska, 1984, p.
22. It is not clear whether the entries for the hospitals were combined or separate, but the mention of St. Elizabeth’s is included here for the persona’ and totafly irrelevant reason that my elder daughtcr was born there!
The current hospital is, of course, a modern building and is today in the neighbouring borough of Leiderdorp. I have adopted the spelling of Leyden in the
STANDISH OF DUXBURY, LANCASHIRE AND
THE “LOST YEARS”
We left Myles in Leyden in 1609-10 (LHQ Volume 4, Issue No.1), wondering where and how he might have spent his “lost years” until 1620. In 1609 he was in his early twenties, already a lieutenant and a veteran soldier and had met John Robinson’s exile community there. His later American life full of adventure, discovery, initiative, leadership and military skills suggests that these qualities might have developed much earlier, and would therefore have led him during the lost years to seek another scene of adventure, rather than stay twiddling his thumbs on garrison duty in the Netherlands.
He must also have continued to show leadership qualities somewhere to be promoted to captain. Where? The only wars being waged in northern Europe at this time were by Gustav(us II) Adolph(us), the new young King of Sweden, who had inherited wars on three fronts against Denmark, Poland and Russia, as a result of his father’s inept policies. When he succeeded to the throne in 1611 he was not yet seventeen. The war against Denmark was terminated in 1613 by a treaty involving crippling reparations, but the other two continued. The cessation of hostilities between Sweden and Denmark was welcomed by James I (of England, VI of Scotland), most particularly because Christian IV, King of Denmark and Norway, was his father-in-law. The peace treaty also meant that any English or Scottish mercenary could now fight for the Swedes without being considered disloyal to James.
The war in the Low Countries had served as a military academy for the Swedish as well as the English and Scottish nobility and
gentry, who wished to learn from the progressive tactics and innovations of Prince Maurice, as well as from the brilliant leadership of the de Veres.
Swedish General de la Gardie had absorbed from these leaders some of the tactics which were later to lead to Gustav Adolph's spectacular successes in the Thirty Years War. It was presumably in the Netherlands that de Ia Gardie met Alexander Leslie. later 1st Earl of Leven arid Lord Balgonie, a Scot who fought in the Netherlands, joined the Swedish army in 1605. and rose to become a field-marshal under Gustav Adolph. How many more English and Scottish soldiers were recruited from Holland for the Swedish army? Could Myles have been one of ihem?
The strongest argument against this speculation is that Myles never mentioned it loudly enough for it to have been recorded or for any oral tradition to have survived among his descendants. But his library later contained two volumes on the Thirty Years War, including a biography of Gustav Adolph (GA) ("the Garman (sic) History" and ‘the Sweden Intelligencer’). Does the presence of these volumes speak volumes? Were they there just because of his general interest in the great war raging in Germany and his desire to read about military tactics?
He also had on his shelves a copy of Homer’s Iliad” (the favourite war epic of the day), Caesars "Commentaries" (one of the greatest manuals on military tactics ever written) and Col. William Bariffes "Artillery, sub-titled Militarie Discipline; or thc Young Artillery Man, Wherein is Discoursed and Shown the Postures, both of the Musket and Pike, the exactest way, &c. Together with the Exercise of the Foot in their Motions, with much variety: As also, diverse and several Forms for the Imbatteling small or great Bodies demonstrated by the number of a single Company with their Reducements. Very Necessary for all such as are Studious in the Art Military. Whereunto is also added the Postures and Beneficial Use of the Half-Pike joyned with the Musket. With the way to draw up the Swedish Brigade”.1 Now you couldn't think up a much catchier title than that. Believe it or not, it was a best-seller (really! --- it went through several editions), and was presumably in Myles shopping basket because he was Studious in the Art Military. Maybe he bought Gustav Adolph just as an up-date, so that he could check whether the greatest Protestant commander of the day still drew up his brigades as Bariffe had told him to. Was this so that Myles could draw up a brigade against the Indians, who had no pikes or muskets? Mind you, they were pretty nifty in their Foot in their Motions, with much variety. Or maybe it was so that he could learn more from GA to help him later to Imbattel small or great Bodies against the Dutch in New Amsterdam?
Or was there a more personal interest? I lad he foughi tinder him, even gained his commission as captain from him? Maybe one day someone will search in the Swedish military archives and perhaps establish this one way or the other — or not. One must in the mearitimc wonder why books on GA arid the Thirty Years War were on Myles’ shelf at his death in 1656, hut not a single book on Cromwell or the English Civil War, which towards the end of his life had such a devastating effect on his relatives hack in Duxbury, and indeed his own destiny and that of his son Alexander.2
Wherever he was and whatever he did from 1602 onwards, he would presumably have returned to Lancashire for longer or shorter periods, passing through East Anglia or London, where he had many friends and relatives, and where he would have become well aware of the new colonies in Virginia and the recent exploits of Captain John Smith and Thomas West, Baron de la Warr, the saviour of Jamestown in 1610. who bequeathed his name to Delaware State, Bay and River; the Wests were another family with their origins in Lancashire. He must have been there during the year before the voyage, discussing plans with the Merchant Adventurers who were financing the new colony, and buying some of his guns and ammunition. With his gentry connections and his main role until then as ‘soldier abroad (A Good Thing) rather than ‘Separatist in exile’ (A Bad Thing), he must have been extremely useful to the Leyden group when they were planning their emigration and negotiating with various members of James’ government and other prominent people in London.
Maybe he visited some of Alexander Standish of Duxbury's sons at Gray’s inn or Cambridge’?3 Maybe he visited The Globe theatre when passing through London, and saw performances of Shakespeare’s latest plays? One of the trustees was Thomas Savage of Rufford, related to the Heskeths and through them to the Standishes, Maybe he met the l.ancashire poet John Weever, who was related to Alexander? Maybe he called on Sir Gilbert
Hoghton of Hoghton Tower, a dashing young courtier, and a cousin of Alexanders? Maybe he met Rev. William Leigh again (we bumped into him before when he probably baptised Myles). who was a tutor of Prince Henry, King James’ elder son, and often preached at court? Maybe he stopped off at Canon Row, Westminster to visit the 6th Earl of Derby and his wife Elizabeth de Vere, whose father was a cousin of his commanders Sir Francis and Sir Horace? Or maybe he visited Dowager Countess Alice, patroness of poets, widow of the 5th Earl of Derby and a closc friend of Alexander’s? The connections at this time between the London world of Shakespeare and the gentry of Myles’ part of Lancashire were endless.4 As a Standish of Duxbury and Standish, and the only one to uphoid the family’s long miiitary tradition, he would have had entry to at least the lower echelons of these circles, where all presumabiy would have been interested to hear about his latest exploits. Might he even have served as a model for one of Shakespeare’s or Jonsons soldiers? Pure speculation, of course, but what fun to imagine!
One thing he certainly did was equip himself with a few useful books. Hc was obviously a very practical man; he bought "a law book’, the Countrey ffarmer”, “the Phisitions practice” (all ‘do-it-yourseif’ manuals), and the delightfuiiy named “dodines earbail’, which turned out to be Rembert Dodoens’ “Cruydeboek (Herbal), one of the foremost botanical works of the mid-16th century. It had been translated into English in 1578 and was virtuaily copied directiy by John Gerrard (aiso from a Lancashire famiiy) for his “Herbal’ in 1597, but it seems that Myles had a Dutch version. Presumabiy he bought this in the hope that he would be abie to identify edibie (or, more importantly, poisonous) plants, rather than to go flower-spotting. History does not tell us how useful the European earball’ was, as they iearnt about the local plants and crops from the local Indians -eminently sensible. We do know that they were very suprised to see turkeys running around, as most of Europe thought that they came from Turkey (hence the name) or India (hence French d’inde and Dutch kalkoen = caljcut hen), and they had not a clue what to do with maize, until taught. In any case, this item in Myles’ inventory is a real gem, as it gives us a glimpse of his pronunciation - ‘i wer still reet Lanky! Actually the name must have been given by widow Barbara or son Alexander, but if Barbara was from Lancashire, they presumably passed on some of their pronunciation to their children.
He was obviously interested in history, as he had "the history of the world",
‘the turkish history”, ‘a cronicle of England’, ye history of queen Ellisabeth’ and ‘the ffrench Akademay’ (with another wonderfully meandering sub-title, including the lives of ancient sages arid famous men. translated from the French and published in London in 1586). He also owned, of course, the prerequisites for a Puritan: a few (old) Bibles, a Testament, a Psalmbook and “Calvins Institutions".
His other twenty-five named books were all religious tracts, ranging from middle-of-the-road to Puritan, some of which he probably took with him, but some of which must have been later mail-orders from Duxbury, Massachusetts. One of them, incidentally, allegation against B P of Durham’ must have referred to “Bishop Pilkington of Durham’, the founder of Rivington Grammar School. This is the main clue referred to in the article on Myles’s childhood that he was very likely a pupil there for some years.
The only other established fact from his “lost years” is that he married Rose.5 Many previous biographers have waxed eloquent about ‘lovely, brave Rose, the perfect example of that intrepid band of wives, etc.” In fact, the only thing we know for certain about her identity is her Christian name. We have no idea when they married, only that they had no children with them on the Mayflower, or later. The sad reason for “or later was that she was one of the many passengers who died during the terrible first winter.
It is likely that Myles was back in Leyden with John Robinson’s Separatist community-in-exile for the final preparations, and boarded the Speedwell at Delftshaven on 21 July, 1620, along with the rest of the group setting out on their great adventure.6 They anchored at Southampton, where the Mayflower was waiting, sailed from there on 6 August, but had to put in at Dartmouth because the Speedwell started to leak badly. Exactly where and when Rose joined him will never be known, but she was on one of the ships when they sailed from Dartmouth on 23 August. Again the Speedwell sprang leaks and after four days they were forced to return, this time to Plymouth. After much deliberation it was decided to use just the Mayflower. Some of the less hardy stayed behind and the rest crowded aboard, carrying many of the “goods and chattels" that would appear later in New England inventories. Finally the Mayflower sailed out of Plymouth Harbour on 6 September with about 30 crew and 102 passengers, heading for a brave new world and a remarkable place in its future history. Rose and most of the others would never see the old world again.
1 Myles’ will and inventory are on the Mayflower Web Pages. An identification of most of the books in his library is in T. C. Porteus “Captain Myles Standish”, ch. 8, Manchester U. P., 1920. Inexplicably, he omitted two of them, “Vusebious" (Eusebious, the early Christian writer) and ‘dodines earball’; he also identified “allegation against B P of Durham wrongly. The proof of this will be presented in the chapter in my forthcoming book on Myles that discusses the contents of his library. Grateful thanks to Roger Norris of the Dean and Chapter Library, Durham Cathedral, for useful and informative conversations and correspondence about Myles’ library.
2 See Note 3.
3 Alexander, who lived at Duxbury Hall, was Myles patron, friend and main link
to other gentry families. He had four surviving sons, (who appeared on the Family
Tree in Vol. 3, No. 3), who almost certainly followed the family path of Rivington
Grammar School, St. John’s Cambridge and Grays Inn. By 1647 they and their
sons were all dead, some killed, some fighting for Charles, some for Parliament, at which point Myles became heir to the Duxbury estates. Eventually we will reach this part of the story, with the dastardly” Col. Richard and the ‘surreptitious detention” of Myles lands, but we still need to cover the American bit. Chapters on Thomas Savage and John Weever appear in E. A. J. Honigmann, Shakespeare, the ‘lost years’, Manchester University Press, 1985, 1998.
4. This is hardly surprising, as Shakespeare’s ancestry in the Shakeshaftes of Lancashire has recently been established, along with his relationship to the Earls of Derby through Mary Arden. (Really!) This tiny footnote might well be the first public announcement of these rather amazing and exciting findings; or they might have already appeared elsewhere. I really wanted this news to appear first in LHQ, whose readers are the backbone of Lancashire local history, but the timing was a little complicated. If any reader of my series of articles has wondered why the book on Myles has not yet appeared, the answer is Shakespeare! He got in the way.
5. We know this from New England records, as usual. She was recorded in the three separate diaries/accounts by Governor William Bradford. There are also several family traditions about her. All details will be given in the next article, which will finally take us to Massachusetts!
6 G.V.C. Young in “Myles Standish", 25 ff. (Manx-Svenska, 1984) argues persuasively that this was so. (End)
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