February 22nd, 2012
The letter of note this week is F
F is for Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea
the portrait is by Peter Cross c.1690
at present in the National Portrait Gallery, London
Anne Kingsmill was born in April, 1661, the third child of Sir William Kingsmill and Anne Haslewood.
At the age of 23 she went to the court of Charles II as a maid of honour to the Duchess of York.
She married Heneage Finch, a courtier and soldier appointed Groom of the Bedchamber to
James, Duke of York, It was a rewarding marriage for both of them. Thirty-nine years later Heneage still noted the anniversary of their wedding in his private journal as "Most blessed day."
Because of their strong loyalty to the Stuarts both she and her husband were
forcibly retired when James II was deposed, and in April 1690, Heneage was arrested on charges of Jacobitism for attempting to join James II in France. Until November, when the charge was finally discharged, Anne and Heneage were separated and it was a time of great anxiety for them.
The Finches were invited to live at Eastwell, the home of Charles Finch, Earl of Winchilsea (Heneages' eldest brother's son. There Anne continued to write and received great support from her husband.
In the Kentish countryside and from the safety of a private country house
Finch bravely published a volume of her poetry, despite the mockery
she received as an aristocratic woman writer.
In 1712 Charles, the Earl of Winchilsea, died unexpectedly and without children. Heneage became the Earl of Winchilsea and Anne Finch the Countess of Wilchilsea. They were beset by both financial and
political problems. Anne died in London on August 5th, 1720.
Heneage transcribed an eloquent obituary to her which read, in part,
"To draw her Ladyship's just Character requires a masterly Pen like her own (She being a fine Writer, and an excellent Poet); we shall only presume to say, she was the most faithful Servant to her Royal Mistress, the best Wife to her Noble Lord, and in every other Relation, publick and private, so illustrious an Example of such extraordinary Endowments, both of Body and Mind, that the Court of England never bred a more accomplished Lady, nor the Church of England a better Christian."
Her poetry 'sparkles with witty commentary and playful humour'.
It is said she wrote with clear conviction of what she saw and experienced
and with a direct and personal voice.
It has also been suggested that she may be the best woman poet in England prior
to the nineteenth century.
See, Phoebus breaking from the willing skies,
See, how the soaring Lark, does with him rise,
And through the air, is such a journy borne
As if she never thought of a return.
Now to his noon, behold him proudly goe,
And look with scorn on all that's great below.
A Monark he, and ruler of the day,
A fav'rite She, that in his beams does play.
Glorious and high, but shall they ever bee,
Glorious, and high, and fixt where now we see?
No, both must fall, nor can their stations keep,
She to the Earth, and he below the Deep.
At night both fall, but the swift hand of time
Renews the morning and again they climb,
Then lett no cloudy change, create my sorrow,
I'll think 'tis night, and I may rise to-morrow.
Anne Kingsmill Finch
For more interesting Fs visit here, at ABC Wednesday, and enjoy the efforts of all who take part in this great meme, sponsored by Mrs. Nesbitt and her fabulous helpers.