My father [Henry Stanley] was married 7 Feb 1554 to Margaret, only surviving child of Henry Clifford, 2º Earl of Cumberland, by Eleanor, daughter to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, by Mary, Queen Dowager of France, eldest daughter of Henry VII. The marriage was celebrated in the presence of Queen Mary and Felipe of Spain, in the Royal Chapel at Whitehall palace, in London, prior to the wicked designs of the latter for the Conquest of England.
Finally became fed up with his wife and went to live with his mistress (and 2nd cousin), Jane Halsall of Knowsley, by whom he had two sons and two daughters. Both Here
According to the records I was said to be one of the two illegitimate daughters of Jane Halsall, Henry Stanley's second cousin, but that was to hide the truth about my being in the line of succession. My mother was really Margaret the wife of Henry Stanley and in the line of succession. My date of birth was changed but it only got in some of the records. Want to see? Just google 'Ursula Stanley' and check out the different accounts of my birth and death. In some my birthdate is 1560 and others 1568 (which was after my father was known to have moved in with Jane Halsall). I think my actual birthdate was about 1558. (You will also notice that my death changes as well from 1591 to 1636. That is because I kept killing myself off and changing identities to prevent my being assassinated.)
The dates were changed because of who my real mother Margaret was. Her grandmother was the queen of France. She was also the oldest daughter of Henry VII of England.
Over time my nearness to the throne changed from 6th in line to 1st in line. When I was born there were the three children of Henry VIII, Edward, (bloody) Mary and Elizabeth ahead of me. Then there was Mary Queen of Scots and her son who became King James and my brother Fertinando (who was assassinated due to his closeness to the throne) and I think there may have been one other but I forgot who it was. Anyway by the time I was about 45 that list was down to just King James. [You will find on this website that I mention the distance I am from the crown as sometimes being next in line and at other times fifth in line. That is because I am remembering a time in that life when I was that distance from the throne. When I recall my childhood I remember being 5th from the throne. When I recall my memories of when I was 45 years old then I recall being next in line.]
If that isn't enough to warp your mind I actually had a very strong direct claim to the throne of England at all times because it was matrilineal (for four generations) which is the only way to be certain of having a person who has royal blood (genes). My links, and those of my children by Robert Cecil, to royalty were all through my mothers, mothers, mother so there can be no question that I was King Henry VII's descendant through his daughter Mary the Queen of France, my great grandmother, etc. If it was through a male member then you could never be certain his genes were involved (until DNA testing came into being). Some countries considered those of matrilineal descent to be a more valid claim than patriarchal.
Royalty often hid if they had no hope of ever ruling. When they were fifth in line the saying was that in order for them to rule there would have to be too much blood shed and that would mean they would be the next one to die. My own brother, Fertinando, the fifth Earl of Derby, was actually murdered because others thought he might claim the throne of England if Elizabeth was overthrown or died. Since I was his sister I could have had the same thing happen to me so it was important that my mothers identity remain a secret. The same with my children.
Now you know who taught me to hide behind a mask of aliases and to not let people ever know who I really was.
Hiding the children and especially the identity of the daughters of royalty was quite common. Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII had a daughter named 'Mary Seymore' who was hidden immediately after her birth. The same thing happened with me.
This was perhaps the only way the child of royal lineage could ever live a half way decent life.
Just look at the hell little princess Elizabeth went through at the hands of her sister Mary. Imprisonment and several times Mary nearly had her head cut off. She issued the order but the scribe put down his quill in the middle of a sentence and explained to her how bad it would be for the court without Elizabeth to be there if anything happened to Mary while she was queen. They explained in a way she understood that she would be dead before she managed to put to death Elizabeth. Then they would leave. At three different times, with two different scribes, she ordered her half sister's execution.
How did they explain it in a way that Mary understood? When she looked away they flipped the quill in such a way that a spot of ink landed expertly on her neck. Then when she used a mirror and she did that a lot since she was vain that way she would see that mark and then again and again for about a month or so. Then it reappeared several times during the rest of her reign.
Before executions the doctor would always mark the person's neck (on the back of it though) between the second and third vertebrae so that the executioners axe or sword would go between the vertebrae and not hit one of them. People often wonder why in England they often used swords for executions rather than an axe such as with Anne Boleyn (who Mary liked a lot). It was for greater accuracy. You can also probably see why the spot of ink worked on Mary and kept Elizabeth alive for years. For years Elizabeth swung between horrified and petrified every time Mary threatened her with death. Anne Boleyn had been Elizabeth's mother and since she had been executed Elizabeth saw the possibility as her likely eventuality. And Mary all too often used the threat as a form of torture.
Then there was an endless line of jerks just messing with Elizabeths mind to get close to her and/or try to make her totally dependent on them. I felt nothing but sorry for her for the longest time. And I got to live happily ever after or something close to it.
Back to the issue of matrilineal descent. According to the older standard using matrilineal descent which was used by many countries I had what amounted to as good a claim and by several countries standards I had an even better claim to the crown than anyone else. It meant nothing as long as England went by patriarchal rules.
However, if one of those countries that used matrilineal descent had invaded they would use their rules and want to make me a puppet ruler. Since I would never act as their puppet they would murder me and my children so that they could use someone else. Even if I was not the first contender they would want me dead since I would start a rebellion using their own standards for my claim to the throne. Since take overs were often done by several countries in alliance if I managed to make the rebellion against two or more Catholic countries then it would have reverted to the papal rules which I am pretty certain automatically made me the Queen of England. Had the Spanish invaded it would have given me at least real muscle even within the ranks of their own Army and Navy and could have caused a rebellion within their ranks. For certain it would have allowed other Catholic and non Catholic countries to align with my army. Those were some of the alternate plans if there was an invasion. My position as a Chamberlady to Queen Elizabeth was in part a type of 'Queen in training program'. (You can tell I spent a lot of time thinking all this through.)
Until he was murdered in 1594 my wonderful and kindly brother Ferdinando was the first alternate plan since he was older and had a valid claim to both the English, and since he was a man, the French throne also. There is even a reference to it and how important his death was in his bio.)
Henry Stanley the 4th Earl of Derby's, my father's, bio in part reads:
By his wife he had four sons and one daughter. Two sons, Edward and Francis, died young; Ferdinando became the fifth Earl, and William the sixth Earl. Finally became fed up with his wife and went to live with his mistress (and 2nd cousin), Jane Halsall of Knowsley, by whom he had two sons and two daughters.
Daddy paid for the theater and the production costs
It's at least a 400 year old con of daughters and sons who want to go into the business to get their well heeled father to buy them a theater (and you thought you were the first one to come up with this idea?) He sponsored the entire thing as a playground for his children.
The theater company was in fact originally formed as Lord Strange's Men. Lord Strange was my brother Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby.
It's all quite well documented. The main two things that are not is that my father was mainly responsible and that I wrote the plays.
My brother Ferdinando was very active in the day to day operation of the theater. He often came by the theater to help edit the plays. I have always thought faster than I could write and certain people can fill in my missing words accurately. He was one and when he came by he would get happily stuck for up to five days or more. He ask me when and how often and what he should write in his letters to his wife in order to keep her from worrying. (The theaters had scandalous reputation which we set out to improve...and it worked,)
There are lots of other connections between me and people involved in the plays.
My other brother was William the 6th Earl of Derby and he actually has been often promoted as a possible candidate for writing my plays:
The case for William Stanley rests on two 1599 documents, one describing him as "busied only in penning comedies for the common players," and the other, by his wife in a letter to Robert Cecil, as "taking delight in the players" Here
When we were short of help he also set up the scenery between scenes and thought of dressing up Falstaff in a hat. He acted in several scenes but he always wore a disguise because of his position. It was said that it was possible that he would become the next King of England which I don't know about but certainly he was headed for high office so we had to keep his involvement at a low profile.
My father also had to keep his involvement a secret though he was often there wearing a poor disguise. He often got compliments on how his disguise made him look like the Earl of Derby so I don't know if you would say it worked or not.