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Excellent Shirley website:


Staunton Harold in the County Leicester
What a magnificent estate!

Descendants of Thomas Shirley, Sir

Generation No. 1




2. i. HUGH2 SHIRLEY , SIR, b. n Eatington, co. Warwick; d. July 22, 1403.


Generation No. 2

2. HUGH2 SHIRLEY , SIR (THOMAS1) was born in n Eatington, co. Warwick, and died July 22, 1403. He married BEATRIX DE BRAOSE.



3. i. RALPH3 SHIRLEY , SIR, b. Eatington.


Generation No. 3

3. RALPH3 SHIRLEY , SIR (HUGH2, THOMAS1) was born in Eatington. He married JOAN BASSET.





Generation No. 4



Staunton Harold in Leicester County England

Betty Shirley maintains a web site for the Shirley Family association. This picture is her s and I quote from her web site:

About 1450, Ralph Shirley in Derbyshire married Margaret Staunton. She was the heiress of he r family's estate, Staunton Harold. Their great, great, great, great, great grandson, Robert Shirley, built a church at Staunton Harold during Oliver Cromwell's time. Cromwell directed an order for Sir Robert Shirley to outfit a ship saying, "He that could afford to build a church, could no doubt afford to equip a ship?" Sir Robert Shirley refused and was taken to the Tower of London in 1656, where he died at age 27, victim of a suspected poisoning. His widow received a letter from Charles II saying, "He would retain a very kind memory of Robert by the care I shall have of you and all his relations; and this you can depend upon". Charles II confirmed unto the eldest son, Robert Shirley, and his heirs the ancient Baronies of Ferrers of Chartley. In 1711, Sir Robert Shirley was advanced to the titles of Viscount Tamworth and Earl Ferrer.


Betty Shirley maintains a web site for the Shirley Family association. This picture is hers and I quote from her web site:

About 1450, Ralph Shirley in Derbyshire married Margaret Staunton. Shewas the heiress of he r family's estate, Staunton Harold. Their great, great, great, great, great grandson, Robert Shirley, built a church at Staunton Harold during Oliver Cromwells time. Cromwell directed an order for Sir Robert Shirley to outfit a ship saying, "He that could afford to build a church, could no doubt afford to equip a ship?" Sir Robert Shirley refused and was taken to the Tower o f London in 1656, where headed at age 27, victim of a suspected poisoning. His widow receive d a letter from Charles II saying, "He would retain a very kind memory of Robert by the car e I shall have of you and all his relations; and thisyou can depend upon". Charles II confirm ed unto the eldest son, Robert Shirley, and his heirs the ancient Baronies of Ferrers of Chartley. In1711, Sir Robert Shirley was advanced to the titles of Viscount Tamworth and Earl Ferrer.



5. i. RALPH5 SHIRLEY , SIR, b. 1517.


Generation No. 5

5. RALPH5 SHIRLEY , SIR (RALPH4, RALPH3, HUGH2, THOMAS1) was born 1517. He married JOAN SHEFFIELD 1514 in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire.



6. i. FRANCIS6 SHIRLEY , ESQ, b. January 26, 1514/15, Staunton-Harold, county of Leicester; d. August 1571, Breedon on the Hill.


Generation No. 6

6. FRANCIS6 SHIRLEY , ESQ (RALPH5, RALPH4, RALPH3, HUGH2, THOMAS1) was born January 26, 1514/15 in Staunton-Harold, county of Leicester, and died August 1571 in Breedon on the Hill. He married DOROTHY GIFFORD.





Generation No. 7




i. ROBERT BRUCE8 COTTON, b. January 22, 1570/71, Connington, Huntingdonshire, England; m. ELIZABETH BROCAS.



Librarian, record-keeper, one of the founders of modern government and rule by precedence an d common-law.

His 1000-book library significantly changes history.
British Academy - Royal Historical Society JOINT COMMITTEE ON

Son of Thomas Cotton of Huntingdonshire (original family name was probably de Cotun). Family had profited well by the dissolution of the monasteries and by marriage. They were neighbor s and `kinsmen' of the Huntingdonshire Montagus (that is, the Duke of Manchester), and distant relatives of Robert the Bruce of Scotland (original family name was probably de Bruis, de Broix, de Brois, etc).

Entered Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1581 and received his BA in 1585. Had begun `antiquarian studies' under William Camden at Westminster School before going to Cambridge. He began collecting notes on the history of Huntingdonshire county when he was seventeen and never stopped collecting information, specifically old government documents. His collection of records surpassed that of the government. He effectively established the first public law library, open government `public records', and what we might call today a scholarly `think-tank'. The DNB puts it thus: the library of Cotton House became the meeting-place of all the scholars of t he country.

C.J. Wright, of the British Library, puts it as follows:

"The Library of Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) is arguably the most important collection of manuscripts ever assembled in Britain by a private individual. Amongst its many treasures are t he Lindisfarne Gospels, two of the contemporary exemplifications of Magna Carta and the only surviving manuscript of `Beowulf'. Early on in his career, Cotton had advocated the foundation of a national library of which his collection would form a part... he was always generous in the loans he made other scholars.


... the Restoration and the revival of a political culture in which disputes were solved by precedent rather than violence placed the Cottonian library again at the centre of the overlap ping circles of scholarship and politics." (SRCC)

In 1590 joined the Antiquarian Society (renewing contact with Camden) and presented a number of papers based on old manuscripts. He also collected Roman monuments, coins, fossils, etc . At the end of the reign of Elizabeth, the Society was meeting at Cotton's house and his collection of manuscripts had gained fame within the Society. In 1600 the queen's advisors contacted him on a question of official protocol with respect to Spanish ambassadors. He assiste d Camden in preparing Camden's Britannia. Francis Bacon and Ben Johnson often used his library.

When king James arrived from Scotland, he knighted Cotton in 1603 and called him `cousin' (after which Cotton always signed his name Robert Cotton Bruceus). He became a favorite of James , represented Huntingdon in Parliament, drew up a pedigree (family tree) of James, wrote a hi story of Henry III, and wrote tracts such as `An Answer to such motives as were offered by certain military men to Prince Henry to incite him to affect arms more than peace.' In 1608 h e investigated abuses within the Navy, and was invited to attend the Privy Council (this was important since this was really the ruling body of England, no doubt his role was that of a n `expert witness').

King James seems to have consulted with him on schemes for increasing government revenue, an d he wrote a survey of the various mechanisms by which previous Kings had raised money. He strongly supported (if not invented) raising money by establishing a new feudal rank, the baron et (this was a new `feudal' rank below that of baron; essentially you could just buy it if you had the money. This was widely used (not that different from political fund-raising today)) .

Collaborated on Speed's History of England and Camden's History of Elizabeth, perhaps to the point where he should be credited (Francis Bacon considered him the author of History of Elizabeth; when Camden died he willed much of his material to Cotton). King James wanted him t o write a history of the Church of England, but Cotton provided all the material to Archbishop Ussher. When Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower, he borrowed manuscripts from Cotton. Francis Bacon wrote the Life of Henry VII in Cotton's library.

People were beginning to fear Cotton's library. The DNB puts it thus:

"A feeling was taking shape... that there was danger to the state in the absorption into private hands of so large a collection of official documents as Cotton was acquiring. In 1614.. . a friend, Arthur Agard, keeper of the public records, died, leaving his private collection of manuscripts to Cotton. Strong representations were made against allowing Cotton to exercise any influence in filling up the vacant post. The Record Office was injured, it was argue d in many quarters, by Cotton's `having such things as he hath cunningly scraped together.' I n the following year damning proof was given of the evil uses to which Cotton's palaeographical knowledge could be put. ..." (DNB)

He was involved in dealing with the Spanish ambassador on behalf of Somerset, an enemy of Buckingham. He confessed everything and spent eight months imprisoned without a trial, after which he was pardoned. He was then employed searching Sir Edward Coke's library.

The DNB provides a feel for the interaction of his library and politics:

"... Cotton ... was studying the records of the past in order to arrive at definite conclusio ns respecting those powers of parliament which the king was already disputing.... In 1621 h e wrote a tract to show that kings must consult their council and parliament `of marriage, pe ace, and warre'. ...

Cotton appeared in the House of Commons for the third time as member for Old Sarum... and was returned (ed, as representative to Parliament in 1625). Here he first made open profession of his new political faith. ... Eliot's friends made a determined stand against the government, then practically in the hands of Buckingham. ... (ed, Cotton did not speak in the debate ) but ... handed to Eliot an elaborate series of notes on the working of the constitution. The paper was circulated in the house in manuscript...

In September 1626 he protested, in behalf of the London merchants, against the proposed debasement of the coinage, and his arguments, which he wrote out in A Discourse touching Alteration of Coyne chiefly led to the abandonment of the vicious scheme. ... he drew up an elaborate account of the law offices existing in Elizabeth's reign... the (Privy) council invited hi s opinion on the question of summoning a new parliament, and he strongly recommended that course... In 1628 he published a review of the political situation ... The Dangers wherein the Kingdom now standeth, and the Remedye, where he drew attention to the ... sacred obligation o f the king to put his trust in parliaments. (ed, in 1628) the opposition leaders Eliot, Wentworth, Pym, Selden, and Sir E. Coke, met at Cotton's house to formulate their policy. In parliament Cotton was appointed chairman of the committee on disputed elections..." DNB

After this, Cotton was an enemy of the king, and was destroyed. Essentially, Cotton was frame d on charges of `treason', and the library seized by Charles I (on the instigation of Bucking ham). Cotton died of a broken heart, but everyone understood that the library had been seized for political reasons. Upon the Restoration, Cotton's `national library' was restored, pretty much along the lines of Cotton's original vision.

A particularly good overview of Robert Cotton and the historical impact of his library is Sir Robert Cotton, 1586-1631: History and Politics in Early Modern England, by Keven Sharpe (Ox ford U. Press). The following is an extended extract that I hope well serves Sharpe's material:

"To understand how Cotton used his own library, we must investigate how he bound, stored, an d catalogued his books. ... Cotton viewed his library as a working collection and adopted a n arrangement that was utilitarian rather than bibliographically correct by modern standards. .. Things were bound together that were consulted together....

... the library was arranged under the famous busts of the emperors of Rome (ed. Cotton's library was about 26 feet by 6 feet. Each bookcase had a Roman Emperor on top, and thus books were cataloged by Emperor. Sharpe provides a diagram of the layout of the library.)

... in the absence of a catalogue ... Cotton's knowledge of the library's contents was all the more important. ... he knew the contents and the use of his own books very well. ... The full description required by the Privy Council when it ordered a catalogue (ed. from Cotton, which he provided), suggests how well, in the absence of such an index, Cotton knew his manuscripts and books.

... Cotton was assisted by his librarian, Richard James, who, despite D'Ewes's accusation that he sold his master's papers, seems to have served Cotton well. ... if we are to believe ... . gossip ... Cotton (also) enjoyed the help of one of his bastard sons.

Why was Cotton's library so important in the intellectual and political history of James I' s reign? Apart from the Royal Library, the collections of the Inns of Court and the College o f Arms, London libraries were predominantly ecclesiastical. ...

... the library ... seems frequently to have shifted... It was probably not until 1622... that the library was located ... at Westminster, next to the Houses of Parliament. ...

... Several grateful borrowers commented on the freedom with which Cotton allowed all to consult his material. ...

The importance of the collection was not due to its size. With less than a thousand volumes , it did not compete favourably in size with other private libraries of the period. But the Cottonian collection was essentially a library of manuscripts, possessing a monopoly of the most important material for early English history.

But Cotton's loan lists show that many with literary interests wider than the purely historic al borrowed...

For lawyers and judges, the library was a storehouse of the case law which it has been argue d (with considerable exaggeration) dominated their attitudes. Sir Henry Montagu  sought to borrow the civil law collections against Hanse privileges; Coke required abridgments of parliamentary records. ... Cotton's legal friends who were former members of the Society of Antiquaries continued to use ... their colleague's collection...

For those in government positions, the library acted as a state paper office and research institute, providing a better service than the unsatisfactory official collections and repositories in the Tower and Exchequer. Clement Edwards, a clerk of the Privy Council, went to Cotton for the Council books... Henry Montagu , when Lord Treasurer in 1620, used Cotton's collection of notes on ways of increasing royal revenue; ...

The list of those borrowing... reads like a Who's Who of the Jacobean administration: it includes the King and Queen, Attorney Francis Bacon... leading court noblemen often sought deed s to prove claims of land, especially title to property...

... the loan lists yet illustrate clearly the pure quest for knowledge and the breadth of interest of some of those who were active in political life. Such evidence is a firm warning against limiting the outlook of early seventeenth-century men. ... the lawyer's of Cotton's acquaintance continued an interest in history ... William Camden was no mere herald, but a scholar in the widest sense; Bacon's writings were by no means the creation of one who was but the king's solicitor. ...

The strife of court factions seems much more subdued when seen through the world of exchange of books. Neither are there indications of rival cultures of `court' and `country' in the names of those borrowing from Cotton's library. ... Cotton's library, ... as far as the evidence suggests, stayed open to all as a public institution.

Perhaps the very existence of the library as a public collection accounted for its stormy history. Though a storehouse of official papers and arcana imperii, the library was open to all , and the failings of divine monarchs were laid bare to lowly mortals. ... Cotton's library seemed to substantiate criticism of royal policy. The arguments from precedent were won by the antiquaries and lawyers of the House of Commons.

... By 1622, Thomas Wilson, Keeper of the Records, was worried about official papers remaining in Cotton's hands. ...

.... In 1626 Buckingham advised Charles I to close the library...

In 1629 the library was closed by order of the king. ... Charles I thought it time to investigate Cotton's library... The Council ordered that the library be searched by Sir Henry Vane and, ironically, Sir Edward Coke, whose own collection had been scrutinized by Cotton some years earlier.

... (William) Boswell was instructed to supervise the drawing of a catalogue which was commenced with Cotton's assistance. ... the library was never returned to Cotton in his lifetime. . ..

... Cotton's friends... understood the partisan nature of the arrests and the closure of the library. Montagu  and Arundel defended Cotton against what Arundel openly called the `pretence' of the investigating committee.

... the Privy Seal, the Earl of Manchester  (a Montagu, ed.) ... and others , having examined Cotton's library, reported to Charles I the efforts Cotton had expended i n building the library and his readiness to serve the king. Manchester was Cotton's kinsman . ..

But it was too late: in May 1631 Cotton died ... King Charles sent Manchester to comfort Cott on on his deathbed. ..." Sharpe

Sharpe also provides an interesting look at the politics of the day, involving the Montagu's :

"The Earl of Manchester <h_1642_henry.htm> wrote to Edward Montagu <h_1644_edward.htm> that t he examination of his kinsman Cotton `makes a great noise in the country'. ...

No lawyer, Cotton yet possessed a knowledge of the law sufficient for him to be consulted .. . on legal questions. ...

It is evident of Cotton's standing in the House of Commons that though he did not sit in th e Parliament of 1614, he was consulted on the most important issue. ...

Cotton's assistance was crucial... On 20 May, Sir Edward Montagu  and Henry Cotton went with William Hakewill and Sir Roger Owen to research in Cotton's library. ...

(In the Parliament of 1621) ... Both Sir Edward and Sir Henry Montagu  sought their kinsman Cotton's advice during the parliament, but the Montagu influence was not exercised, or was exercised unsuccessfully, on his behalf at the hustings.

It is excellent evidence of Cotton's importance that he was again consulted on many of the is sues for which that parliament has been remembered. ... " Sharpe

Sidney Montagu (neighbor of Cotton's Conington estate) is on record as promising to return so me books. I wonder if he ever did? Wright writes:

"... it seems that Conington Castle may have been a second major repository for the Cottonian collection. ... Camden refers to Cotton's `cabinet' at Huntingdon... He evidently kept stat e papers and documents at Conington, and may have had books there: Sidney Montagu  promised to return borrowed books to Conington..." Wright

Bishop Richard Montague  a library borrower, called Cotton's library a ` Magazine of History' (presumably using `magazine' in the sense of a storehouse).

Part of the DNB summary of his work is as follows:

"... His collection of coins and medals was one of the earliest. Very many languages were rep resented in his library. His rich collection of Saxon charters proved the foundation of the scholarly study of pre-Norman-English history... Original authorities for every period of English history were in his possesion. His reputation was European. ...

Cotton wrote nothing that adequately represented his learning... His English style is readable, although not distinctive, and his power of research was inexhaustible. Only two works, both very short, were printed in his lifetime, The Raigne of Henry III, 1627, and The Dangers wherein the Kingdom now standeth, 1628. ...

Many of his tracts were issued as parliamentary pamphlets at the beginning of the civil war s .... In 1657 James Howell collected fourteen of Cotton's tracts, under the title Cottoni Posthuma. ... Eight papers read by Cotton before the Antiquarian Society are printed in Hearne' s Curious Discourses (1771)."

Sir Edward Coke ( is considered one of the important figures in the history of common law.

A letter from the Inner Temple Library (reproduced in Sharpe), containing Cotton's response t o the request for Parliament to use his library in 1614 while he was ill:

"I held it my bownden dutie to that House (to which I owe my service & life) to preferre to t heir satisfactions before my owne safetye. And for that purpose adventured to my house, that I might recomend unto yor hands (as the principall servant of that bodye) the use of all such collections of parliament as I had (out of my duty to ye publique) taken paines to gathe r those gatheringes that may properly bee of use this time are sorted together under the titl e of parliament bookes and had my memorye (now distracted by infirmitye) beene soe ready I could wishe I should have beene able to make that searche shorte which I must now humbly recomend to the labour of such as the house shall leave the charge to. let me I pray you soe far be g of your love and the bounty of the house that Sir Edward Montagu (one amongst them) and Mr Cotton of the Middle Temple my brother may see the deliv[er]y out of such bookes as the House shall require for I have been intrusted with most of the mayne passage s of state and to suffer those secretts to passe in vulgar may cause much blame to me and little service to the House. Besides let me presume to begg that the labours of my life (which I a m most ready to offer to all publique service) may not be prostitute to private uses. And that only such thinges as concerne the pointed now in question may be extracted and the rest left unto that servant of the house which hopeth shortly to give his dutiful attendance at their further pleasures." Cotton

Other Resources:

Sources: <References.htm>[DNB][SRCC].[SRC].

Burke's dormant and Extinct Peerages: COTTON

Robert Cotton, esq. of Connington, one of the most learned men of his time, was born 22nd January 1570, at the village of Denton, in the vicinity of the family seat, and after receiving a n early education of the first description, was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge. He subsequently devoted himself to literature and the collecting of those celebrated manuscripts which have since immortalized his name, under the designation of "The Cottonian Library." He began this great work in the year 1588, when funding his residence at home not altogether adequate to the object he had in view, he came up to London, associated himself with Camden, and became a member of the Society of Antiquaries. In 1603, Mr. Cotton received the honor of knighthood fro m KING JAMES I, being one of those so distinguished immediately before his majesty's coronation. During this reign, and in the many and various difficulties arising instate points, Sir Robert was looked upon, by common suffrage, one of the best instructed therein; hence, Henry, Ear l of Northampton, lord privy seal in 1608, became his familiar and perpetual friend, consulted him in what he publicly delivered, made him his confidant and friend and found are turn of wisdom and fidelity." He was, subsequently, often consulted upon public affairs, and was amongst those who to recruit the treasury, devised the order of hereditary knights, or Baronets, t o which dignity he was himself one of the first gentlemen raised, having been created a baronet on the 29th June, 1611. In the same reign Sir Robert was twice sent to parliament by the county of Huntingdon and fully sustained in the senate the high reputation he had attained in literature. He d. on the6th may, 1631, in his sixty-first year, at his house in Westminster, whence, with solemn pomp, his remains were conveyed to Connington, as appointed by his will, and interred on the south side of the church, under a fair monument, erected by the piety of his wife and won; which lady was Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of William Brocas, esq. of Thedingworth, in the county of Leicester.

Cotton Royal Blood

"Royal Blood," A Fly in Amber, Hope Mirrlees, p. 15.

In the fourteenth century a cadet of the ancient Cheshire family of Cotton acquired through marriage the Staffordshire Manor of Hamstall Ridware. Then in the reign of Henry Vi, William , a younger son of the Staffordshire Cottons, married a Leicestershire lady called Mary deFolville. Their son, Thomas, was the first Cotton of Huntingdon, for he inherited the manor of Conington in that county from his mother's maternal grandfather, Robert de Wesenham. (Robert d e Wesenham left the property to his great-grandson Thomas Cotton in a will made in 1460) Robert Cotton, the famous antiquary and the hero of this book, was fourth in descent from Thomas an d became in due time, "lord of Conington". But it was not there that, on January 22nd, 1571 , he first saw the light of day. His birthplace was a hamlet three miles away called Denton , and thereby hangs a tale. The Life of Cotton by his grandson's librarian, the Non-juror Dr . Thomas Smith, is not only written in Latin, which removes if several degrees from reality, but, as well, it is without one single spark of humour. It is not entirely lacking, however, i n touches of nature, and here is one of them:

'Not long after their marriage, Cotton's parents moved to Denton, for two  reasons,--namely, that they might live in greater magnificence, and, by an increase in the number of their servant s, more in consonance with the dignity of their birth, and also to enable them to enjoy a greater independence, and that they might be free from the inconveniences which this large addition to their household would have caused had they remained under a paternal roof.'

Surely this is a hint, though a very discreet one, of domestic drama. The old castle was probably uncomfortable. It had been built soon after1242, and may well by the time of Cotton's birth already have been dilapidated, for by 1586 it was an abandoned ruin, described by Camden as the 'expressed remains of an ancient castle within a four square trench'. Moreover, it was t he generation of Cotton's parents who first built habitable handsome houses. One of his contemporaries, Archdeacon Hakewill, says that "the houses of private men were in the memory of our Fathers, for the most part very homely'. And when the famous Lord Keeper Williams, who we s hall meet more than once in the course of Cotton's life, first went, as Bishop of Lincoln, t o reside in his Huntingdon Palace of Buckden, 'he found an house', says his biographer, 'nothing to  his content to entertain him.' Twas large enough, but rude, waste and untrimmed, and i n much the outward Dress, like the Grange of a farm.' And the Elizabethan parson, William Harrison, describing England in 1577,contrasts with the ancient timber manor houses those recently erected'eighter of brick or hardstone, their rooms large and comely'.

So the young couple probably resented the lack of amenities in the old  castle. But I suspect that it was also not grand enough for them. Without meaning to, Smith conveys an impression of pomposity. So also does a humble witness who flourished when they and all who knew the m had long been dust. In the middle of the last century, an old village woman who remembered t he Denton manor house before it was dismantled in1816 described it to the new Rector (and being the author of . Verdant Green, he relished the description) as having been 'very auncius, find, and old-established, with a sight of rooms, the floors all done in firestone'. Although w e cannot be certain that this magnificent mansion was the one built by Cotton's parents, the o ld woman's description certainly implies that the latter was regarded as a very old house. No etymologist, it is true, with the exception of Humpty Dumpty, would  venture to explain auncious, but it certainly looks like a variety of ancient, and old-established is clear enough, while bits of furniture she remembered sound like genuine antiques. There was a bedstead, 'its he had carved with images and cut amazing fine in nicks'; there were also, and this is the pith o f her testimony, two oak chairs, each with a royal  crown on it.

I am convinced that those chairs belonged to Cotton's parents. And the reason of my conviction is that his mother was a Shirley. One of her grand-nephews was to boast that their family h ad the honour to be joined in a near degree of blood with the royal stem of England, both Saxon andNorman, as likewise to those of France, Scotland, Denmark, Aragon, Leon, Castille, the Holy Roman Empirie, and almost to all the princely houses of Christendom'. Elizabeth Cotton, t o be sure, could not herself lay claim o those illustrious descents, as the royal blood of the Shirleys came through the marriage of her eldest nephew to Francis Berkeley, who was half a Howard; and through the marriage of this couples eldest son to a Devereux. The maker of the boast, however, might with perfect decorum have had an aunt who sat in a chair adorned with a crown.

But the crowns had a raison d'etre. The Cottons' ancestress, Agnes, wife of Hugh de Wesenham , was born a Bruce. And it was in virtue of their descent from the brother of William, King o f the Scots that the Bruces inherited the crown of Scotland and the castle of Conington.

Now to carve crowns on one's chairs because of an ancestor with royal blood who lived three hundred years ago, while undeniably silly, indicates a certain amount of imagination and a certain amount of culture. In studying the history of an ancient family, one sometimes notices that after many obscure generations whose only deeds are title deeds and whose only achievement s are heraldic, it alters suddenly in character and produces sons who, as well as inheriting a distinguished name, make one also for themselves. And yo can generally trace this change t o an ancestress sprung from an intellectual family. Though to be sure, it was not exactly by intellect that the Shirleys shone--at least, not the three famous brothers of the Sussex branch , Sir Thomas, Sir Anthony and Sir Robert. Sir Thomas Shirley distnguished himself principally by turning pirate; Sir Robert by marrying a Circassian--feats, it must be admitted, that suggest character more than intellect. But a touch of fantasy in all three of them and the dash of the poetry of action testify to a richer blood than that of most country squires. And i f the pirate's brilliant playwright son had not died young we might have had two famous dramatists called Shirley.

The Leicestershire branch of the family to which Cotton's mother belonged (she was a daughter of the head of the family, Shirley of Staunton Harold), though perhaps equally romantic was less flamboyant, for it produced antiquaries instead of prates, and its poets were Methodists. Not only was Elizabeth Cotton's son a distinguished antiquary, but so also was her grand nephew, the one who so pompously blazoned the Shirleys' royal blood. In the nineteenth century on e of the Shirleys was a distinguished archaeologist, while, in the days of Wesley, Walter Shirley, grandson of the first Lord Ferrers, was a close ally of the' enthusiastic' Lady Huntingdon and a noted hymn-writer. We may therefore conclude that Cotton inherited his talents from h is mother. And to his mother we may surely give entire credit for the device of the two crown son two oak chairs; which chairs , by the way, were bought in 1816 for a shilling by Adams , the Denton parish clerk.

But-and here we step right into the den of discord--this fantastic lady was not an heiress, while her mother-in-law was not only an heir is (in a heraldic Visitation of Huntingdon she is de scribed as "Lucia, filia etcohareres Thomae Harvye'), but, to judge by her husband's extensive purchases of land, a very substantial one. And though her family was ancient it was completely obscure. We know it was obscure, because its only record is its coat of arms; and from the austerity of the latter (ora chevron between three leopards faces gules) we know that it w as ancient. No, the Harveys of Elmstoke, Lincolnshire, were not likely to have produced either antiquaries or pirates--or to have had any patience with whimsies. One can almost hear the older lady's bat-like, Holbeinesque (a squeak because her voice comes from such a distant 'station' , batlike because she is a ghost) protesting with many an angry'bone deus!' and many a scornful 'Tilly valley!' at the airs and graces of the bride, and the army of idle hungry servants , and the notion that what is good enough for herself and her husband will not do for this beggar on horseback.

So the old manor house was probably as uncomfortable in atmosphere as it was in architecture an d the young couple must have been very glad to escape to Denton--and the old couple very glad to be rid of them.

But the change of residence did not, I suspect, produce any change of heart; and at the christening of our hero, one seems to catch a glimpse of yet another scene in this domestic drama . It was an almost universal custom








Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster