The Tomb and Effigy of Anne Lake 1630
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St. Leonard's Church
St. Leonard's Church
The tomb lies within St. Leonard’s church Rodney Stoke in Somerset. It is a magnificent example of the use of Somerset alabaster, quarried near Watchet. The alabaster deposits there were discovered by a Dutchman in the 17th century and it is believed this tomb monument and several others in the same material to be found in the South West Region e.g. in Dunster, Wivelsombe, Cothelstone and Pitminster, may have been carved by Dutch masons.
The monument comprises a tomb atop of which is a life-
“Here resteth in the Peace of God the body of the Right Honourable Anne Lakes Daughter of Sir Thomas Lakes of Channons in Middlesex. Sometime principal Secretary and Counsellor of King James First… Married to William Cecil Lord Roos, eldest sonne unto the Second Earl of Exeter of that Family…ince when to George Rodney Esq. Sonne of Sir George Rodney Knt. by the space of 10 years who by this stone doth acknowledge her deserth towards him and desireth to perpetuate the memory of a good wife and most penitent Christian. She died in the year of Grace 1630 of her own age and now only hopes for a joyful resurrection”
So what crime had Anne committed for which she was ‘most penitent’? Her story is summarised below.
Anne was the daughter of Thomas Lake, son of a lowly customs official, and Mary Ryder. After a grammar school education Thomas entered the service of Secretary Walsingham at a menial level but his abilities where soon recognised and he became Walsingham’s personal secretary and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Upon the death of Elizabeth I he became a favourite of James I and was knighted in 1603 and eventually rose to become a Secretary of State in 1616. In the same year Anne married William Cecil, Lord Roos, grandson and heir of the Earl of Exeter. William apparently turned out to be a licentious cruel beast and the marriage quickly failed. Lord Roos had mortgaged his Walthamstow estate to Sir Thomas and as a result of the breakdown of the marriage Sir Thomas, using the influence his office afforded him, insisted that the estate be transferred to his daughter. To keep up the pressure both Anne and her mother Mary perpetrated malicious rumours about Roos, who was threatened that if he did not agree, Lady Roos would sue for an annulment on the grounds of his impotence and make public a string of nefarious deeds they claim he was involved in. Roos did agree, but his grandfather, influenced by his young wife the Countess of Exeter, refused to allow the deal to go ahead. The Lake family was absolutely furious and a bitter feud between the two families ensued. Roos was assaulted by Anne’s brother and eventually, with the Lake family’s insinuations hanging over him, he could stand it no longer and decamped to Italy. Anne then turned her attentions on the Countess of Exeter, whom she now insinuated, quite falsely, had had an incestuous relationship with her husband and also accused her of trying to poison her. She also forged a paper purported to be in the Countess’s handwriting admitting her guilt together with another paper supposedly signed by one of the Countess’s servants, which stated that she had also tried to poison Sir Thomas. Lord Exeter could not let such accusations go unchallenged and petitioned the king. The king referred the case to the Star Chamber and the Lakes were eventually, in 1620, found guilty of defamation, suborning witnesses and forging evidence, and were heavily fined and imprisoned in the Tower for a time. Sir Thomas lost his position, which he never regained, though he was eventually readmitted to Court and became an MP in later years. Meanwhile Lord Roos had died in Italy in 1618. (Ref 2) After admitting her guilt Anne was released from prison and married George Rodney, son of Sir John Rodney, by whom she had one child, Anthony Rodney, through whom the Rodney family line continues to this day. The scandal resulted in her vilification in a ribald contemporary poem, A Lybell uppon the Ladie Rosse and that the scandal lived on is evidenced by the fact that this poem was repeated in an unpublished play of 1650 by Francis Osbourne The True Tragicomedy Formerly Acted at Court
The poem reproduced below, which is a transcriptionof a manuscript held at Chester County Record Office (MS CR 63/2/19, fol 20r), has been copied from Early Stuart Libels (Ref 3) by kind permission of Professor Andrew McRae, University of Exeter.
“A Lybell uppon the Ladie Rosse”
Waste not a signe that courtlye Rosse should fall
when that her Mirkine lost his Coronall
what tricke in dancinge could the devill produce
to fitte her too a haire and make it loose
Twas no Caper for she hath ofte bene boulder
when she advancte her legge on one mans shoulder
Sure some crosse poynte for in open waye
her Mirkine nere was foundered or made straye
who had the harder chance I praye you reade
the Page that founde or she that lost her bearde.
Mirkine: merkin. The exact meaning of the term is a little vague here; in contemporary usage, a merkin could be the female pudenda, a fake vagina, or fake pubic hair.
Coronall: crown; here, presumably, pubic hair.
Caper: an energetic type of dance.
crosse poynte: a dance step.
in open waye: here implying sexual intercourse.
A further five poems relating to the Lake – Roos affair have been published in Early Stuart Libels.
1. Gerard, John. (1633). Particular Description of Somerset. Reprinted in Somerset Record Society XV, (1900).
2. Gardiner, Samuel Rawson. History of England from the Accession to the Outbreak of the Civil War. Vol.3,189-194. Available online at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015009153746;view=1up;seq=13 accessed 28.05.2017
3. Early Stuart Libels: an edition of poetry from manuscript sources. Ed. Alastair Bellany and Andrew McRae. EarlyModernLiteraryTextSeries(2005).http://purl.oclc.org/emls/texts/libels/ (accessed 20.05.2017)