The Tudor Society
  • Alice Spencer, Countess of Derby (1559-1637)

    Alice was the youngest of eight daughters of Sir John Spencer (d.1586) and Katherine Kyston. She was born at Althorp, the seat of the Spencer family in Northamptonshire. Sir John was a prominent English gentleman, landowner, sheriff and Member of Parliament. John’s family would continue a dynasty that would grow throughout the seventeenth/eighteenth century as one of the country’s foremost aristocratic families. John’s motivation enabled the family to acquire great wealth through skilful land management and sheep farming, with all the Spencer daughters provided for in their marriages.

    Alice married twice, with her first husband being Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, heir to the earldom of Derby. His mother was Margaret Clifford, Countess of Derby, a claimant to the English throne through her maternal grandmother, Mary Tudor, Queen of France and sister to the former king, Henry VIII. This placed Ferdinando in a precarious situation, as his existence would be viewed with suspicion by the queen. This sense of Queen Elizabeth’s anxiety is evident from her treatment of Lady Katherine Grey, who was placed under house arrest several times (sister of Lady Jane Grey, another potential claimant to the throne through Mary Tudor). Alice and Lord Strange had a reportedly affectionate marriage that produced three daughters: Anne, Frances and Elizabeth.

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