Retain your loyalty, preserve your rights.”
Such was the motto of Lady Anne Clifford, the woman who defied King James I and risked everything by opposing her family, friends, and the law in a battle to reclaim her inheritance. Anne’s father, the Earl of Cumberland, died in 1605 and bequeathed his great northern estates not to his sole surviving child but to his brother, believing that a prophecy by his great-grandfather would eventually come true and return the estates to Anne. Only fifteen years old at the time, she and her mother vowed to contest the will, and Anne spent the next three decades battling for what she believed was rightfully hers.
Lady Anne Clifford steadfastly (and treasonably) refused to accept the king’s decision, whatever the consequences, but was defeated and left with the prophecy as her only hope. Widowed at the age of thirty-four, she survived an anxious period alone with her two young daughters before surprising everyone with an ill-judged second marriage that gave her access to the highest in the land. But the Civil War destroyed that power and confined the fifty-two-year-old Anne to a grand palace in London for six years. Would she ever attain “ye landes of mine inheritance”? The Will to Succeed, the first novel to tell the story of Lady Anne Clifford, chronicles her brave attempt to take back what she was owed and gives readers a glimpse into some of the issues that women faced in the seventeenth century.
I love a bit of historical fiction revisiting women whose lives might otherwise have been buried and forgotten.
Lady Anne Clifford is one of those women.
The lives of noble women tend to be known about a bit more because their births, marriages, children, deaths would all be recorded, especially if they’re close to the throne. But in Lady Anne’s case it is also because of the extraordinary battle for her inheritance.
Drawing on Lady Anne’s own detailed diary, Raafat has recreated the court of James I & VI, replete with gossip and scandal, a place Anne came to know through both her marriages.
This is vividly drawn, well written and Lady Anne comes across an empathetic and resourceful as she fights the court for her inheritance.
I really enjoyed this book, with its attention to detail at the turbulent 17th Century.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.