Sir Richard Fanshawe Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Sir Richard Fanshawe would have made the perfect hero for a nineteenth century historical novel. His life was shaped by the events of the English Civil War (1640-1660). King Charles I’s disputes with the Puritans over church ritual and with Parliament over taxation brought two decades of rebellion, a regicide, and a Commonwealth government under Oliver Cromwell. Fanshawe’s social class and ideals ensured that he would remain faithful to the Royalist cause and that he would spare neither expense nor energy in defense of monarchy. The war years brought Fanshawe dramatic and romantic adventures, a courageous and ardent wife, and a series of important political posts. He was, in Alfred Harbage’s phrase, “royal quixote and married lover.”

Fanshawe was born in 1608, the son of Sir Henry Fanshawe, third remembrancer to James I. At fifteen, Fanshawe entered Jesus College, Cambridge, where he excelled at classical languages. Three years later, he went to the Inner Temple to study law but found it a less agreeable subject. Two early poems record his fidelity to the Muse of poetry and to aristocratic ideals. A tour of France and Spain in the early 1630’s allowed Fanshawe to indulge his love of languages and to prepare for a diplomatic career. The tour was rewarded: From 1635 to 1638, he served as secretary to the English ambassador in Spain.

The eruption of civil war in 1640 brought Fanshawe into the Royal Army. Quartered at Oxford in 1643, he met Anne Harrison, seventeen years younger and the daughter of an impoverished knight. Fanshawe married her in 1644 and was appointed secretary of war to Prince Rupert....

(The entire section is 667 words.)