Research Summary

9 08 2013


The key findings presented in my May 2013 article “Revisiting Anne Line” (Recusant History, Vol.31, No.3, 375-389.) are as follows:

1. ‘Anne Line’s father is more accurately described as ‘William Higham of Jenkyn Maldon’ than ‘of Dunmow’, as Jenkyn Maldon was his principal inheritance and the place where it is most likely that Anne Line was brought up.’ (386)

2. ‘Anne Line was the elder daughter of William Higham and officially her name was Alice, as this is the name that consistently appears on legal documents. Notwithstanding this, she was known as Anne by her Catholic friends and associates.’ (386)

3. ‘Anne and Roger Line were connected through Roger Line’s aunt to a wide network of Catholic Guldefords, Fitzwilliams, Shelleys, Gages, and others, including the household of the Earl of Worcester.’ (386)

4. ‘Anne Line was closely related to Giles Aleyn of Hazeleigh, the Puritan landowner who engaged in a dispute over Burbage’s Theatre in Shoreditch that was a very important venue for Shakespeare.’ (386)

The manor house of Jenkyn Maldon (also called Maldon Jenkyns) was just south of Maldon in the parish of Hazeleigh though it does not appear on modern maps or in Anne Line biography up to this point. On google maps it is at Jenkyn Maldon (now Bury Farm). You can see the Woodham Mortimer Brook running alongside the site and east towards the marshes. This house was almost certainly where Anne Line was born and brought up. Presumably she was baptized in the Hazeleigh parish church of St Nicholas sometime in the late 1550s or early 1560s though there is no record of this because the baptism register only goes back to 1590.

Anne Line’s father inherited both the Jenkyn Maldons manor house and the associated estate of perhaps 100 acres of land when he was nineteen years old. There are two manor houses in the parish of Hazeleigh marked on an eighteenth century map that date from at least two hundred years earlier: one is Jenkyn Maldons and the other is the manor of Hazeleigh Hall that was owned by Giles Aleyn, a man described as ‘Lord and patron of this parish’ on his death in 1608. The two manor houses have a footpath running the approximately one mile distance between them and it is not greatly surprising that the eligible young William Higham, Anne Line’s father, would marry a relative of Giles Aleyn. This was Agnes Aleyn, the mother of Anne Line, who was, as far as I can establish, Giles Aleyn’s first cousin. The connection to Giles Aleyn is potentially very significant as it gives us a link to Shoreditch and Burbage’s Theatre, and a means by which William Shakespeare could have become aware of Anne Line’s story. I intend to do a separate post on Shoreditch.

It has long been assumed that Anne Line came from Dunmow because her father is associated with Dunmow later on, and it is possible that William Higham concurrently owned both the Jenkyn Maldons estate and a house in Dunmow, however, I consider it much more likely that Higham purchased a house in Dunmow with the proceeds of selling the Jenkyn Maldons estate and moved there later in life, perhaps to be in the healthier air away from the marshes, or maybe he was just fed up with Maldon – Who knows? But the Jenkyn Maldons estate had passed into other hands by the mid 1590s and there is no record of Higham’s connection to Dunmow earlier than the 1612 visitation of Essex.

& Shakespeare

The points above summarise findings of my biographical research but not the implications for understanding Shakespeare texts. The most significant new material of this kind (see Tragic Muse) relates to a fairly dramatic new interpretation of Cymbeline, a play that has often puzzled critics. If I am right, this play is constructed on an inner core of subtext that is directed at a coterie audience that knew about Anne Line. Even as I write this I can imagine readers inwardly groaning as they conclude that this is yet another wild fantasy about Shakespeare that is about as likely as Elvis Presley being discovered living happily on the moon. I honestly have no idea how to get beyond this perception other than to patiently present the evidence. Why has no-one seen it before? For two reasons that arise from two long-forgotten facts; firstly, that Anne Line came from Maldon (or just outside), and secondly, that in Shakespeare’s day it was believed that the ancient British King Cymbeline had his court at Maldon. Shakespeare used that “co-incidence” to smuggle a portrait of Anne Line past the censor.

There are very specific details in the text that support this argument. Indeed, I have identified at least three occasions where editors have ‘corrected’ the original First Folio text because they assume there has been a typo, but where the original makes complete sense in the light of the subtext. I believe I have also explained something that has been long suspected by certain critics, and that is the link between Shakespeare’s cryptic poem, “The Phoenix and the Turtle”, and his enigmatic play, Cymbeline.



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