The Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery (1590-1676) is one of the most important women of the 17th century.  She spent her childhood close to the court of Elizabeth I, at times sleeping in a chamber nearby the Queen, of whom Anne Clifford said she was “well beloved”. Her relationship with James I was not so cordial, though she danced in the masques of his Queen, Anne of Denmark.  Her friendships were wide and varied, from the poets Samuel Daniel and Ben Jonson, to divines including John Donne and George Herbert.  She was an antiquarian and spent much of her life collecting documents related to her family’s history—working with men like Roger Dodsworth, William Dugdale, and John Selden.   Most spectacularly, she was a builder, rebuilding and extending her five castles of Skipton, Brougham, Brough, Appleby and Pendragon.  She was also a renowned philanthropist, her charitable work known throughout the country.  Her most important historical work was her Great Books of Record. She is most famous for her autobiographies in which her personal joys, struggles, and day to day experiences are set within the grand political and social narratives of the times.   She outlived three monarchs, and Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, and came to be known by many as the Queen of the North, so absolute was her influence in the ancient county of Westmorland, and north-western Yorkshire.

Professor Jessica L. Malay began the Anne Clifford project in 2010 with the intention of producing the first edition of Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record  (published in 2015 by Manchester University Press) and the first complete edition of Anne Clifford’s Autobiographies (published in 2018) by Manchester University Press. Professor Malay continues to publish articles and essays related to Anne Clifford. Future plans include a biography of Anne Clifford that places her firmly within the socio/political structures and events of the seventeenth century.

Recent Events:

Prof Jessica Malay on Lady Anne Clifford, Huddersfield Literature Festival, 8 March 2018,


Recently Released: Anne Clifford’s Autobiographical Writing (Manchester University Press, 2018)

Anne Clifford is best known for her autobiographical writing, and is one of the most quoted individuals in the seventeenth century.  References to her autobiographical writing along with quotations began appearing in print, with the earliest of these appearing in Thomas Pennant’s A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772 (1776).  This was followed closely by William Seward’s Anecdotes of Some Distinguished Person (1795) which includes a long extract from Anne Clifford’s memoir of 1603.  Anne Clifford autobiographical work comes in many forms: memoir, diaries, and diurnal account of days.  The first modern edition of any of Anne Clifford’s autobiographies was published by Vita Sackville-West in 1623. This was an edition of the 1603 memoirs, and the 1616,1617 and 1619 diaries.  In 1990 D.J.H. Clifford published these, and also a large portion of the yearly memoirs from 1650-1676, and most of the Daybook of 1676.

In 2015 the Anne Clifford Project undertook the task of producing the first complete edition of Anne Clifford’s autobiographies.  This edition supports all known autobiographical texts by Anne Clifford with detailed annotations, and brings to the public for the first time the complete autobiographical work of this important 17th century figure.  This edition was supported in part by an MHRA  Research Associateship which was held by Dr Mary Chadwick.


The Great Books of Record (Manchester University Press, 2015)

The Great Books of Record are difficult to place in any particular genre.  They include the genealogical record of the Cliffords from the 12th century into the 18th. They feature biographical sketches, and longer biographies.  They contain a rich variety of documentary evidence of the social, economic and political life of a number of individuals stretching over 600 years.  Perhaps the Great Books are best characterized as early modern historiography with its rich mixture of narratives of lives embedded within the evidences through which those lives are evidenced and placed within broader social structures.

The Great Books Project, funded by a Leverhulme Project Grant produced the first print edition of Anne Clifford’s most important textual achievement, published by Manchester University Press in  2015.


Publications Related to this book:

Malay, J. L. “Lady Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record: Remembrances of a Dynasty.”  A History of Early Modern Women's Writing. Ed. Patricia Phillippy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017

Malay, J. L. “Constructing Narrative of Time and Place: Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record.” Review of English Studies  66.277 (2015), 859-875.


Reviews of this book:

Burton, J. “Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record, a review.” Life Writing 15.1 (2018).

Salzman, P. “Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record, a review.” Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 11.2 (2017).


Additional Publications on Anne Clifford and her social circle:

Malay, J. L. “The Cleopatra Portrait: Literary and Visual Intersections in Female Devisership.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, 17.3 (2018). 

 Malay, J. L. “Crossing Generations: Female Alliances and the Exercise of Dynastic Power in Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record.” The Politics of Female Alliance in Early Modern England. Eds. Christina Luckyj and Niamh J. O'Leary Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2017.

Malay, J. L. “Beyond the Palace: The Transmission of Political Power in the Clifford Circle.” Family Politics in Early Modern Literature. Eds. Hannah Crawforth and Sarah Lewis. London: Palgrave, 2017.

Malay, J. L.  “Constructing Narrative of Time and Place: Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record.” Review of English Studies 66.277 (2015).

 Malay, J. L. “Positioning Patronage: Lanyer's Salve Deus Rex Judæorum and the Countess of Cumberland in Time and Place.” The Seventeenth Century 28.3 (2013).

Malay, J. L. “The Marrying of Anne Clifford: Marriage Strategy in the Clifford Inheritance Dispute.” Northern History 159.2 (2012). 

anne clifford

Key Stage 2 Activity pack


Useful Links


The Anne Clifford Great Books Project has no formal connection with, or influence over the content of, any other websites, but information about the world of the Anne Clifford, and links to other sites of interest, may be found on the following websites:
Abbot Hall Art Gallery is the home of Anne Clifford’s Great Picture. They also exhibit other portraits of Anne Clifford and her contemporaries.

A large collection of Anne Clifford related material is held by the Cumbria Archives Service, including the three sets of Anne Clifford’s Great Books of Record.

Anne Clifford’s letters, at present unpublished and spread across the UK in a number of archives, provide insight into the network of relationships in which this powerful woman was embedded.  They provide a first hand view into the events that shaped her life. Here we learn of the strategies that she and her mother considered as they engaged in the battle for the Clifford inheritance, and later the political machinations of Anne Clifford and her daughter as they sought to place Anne Clifford’s grandson in parliament against strong institutional opposition.  During the fraught years at the end of the 1650s we follow her attempts to protect her rights against both governmental and local opposition. We can trace Anne Clifford’s affectionate relationship with her many grandchildren and experience the many joys and the great grief that were part of these important relationships. We learn of Anne Clifford’s business acumen and the way in which she enforced her nearly autonomous political control in Westmorland. We get a sense in these letters of her wide ranging relationships with leading families as well as more humble individuals.  Her relationship with leading scholars of the day are also revealed.  The letters fill the gaps found in Anne Clifford’s autobiographical writing and will provide scholars with not only a wealth of information on this important northern woman, but also early modern culture more widely.  The Anne Clifford Project will produce an edited collection of these letters which will appear in 2019.