Part Five ------------------THE “LOST YEARS


(Part five)

Helen Moorwood



We left Myles in Leyden in 1609-10 (LHQ Volume 4, Issue No.1), wondering where and how he might have spent his “lost years” until 1620. In 1609 he was in his early twenties, already a lieutenant and a veteran soldier and had met John Robinson's exile community there. His later American life full of adventure, discovery, initiative, leadership and military skills suggests that these qualities might have developed much earlier, and would therefore have led him during the lost years to seek another scene of adventure, rather than stay twiddling his thumbs on garrison duty in the Netherlands.

He must also have continued to show leadership qualities somewhere to be promoted to captain. Where? The only wars being waged in northern Europe at this time were by Gustav(us II) Adolph(us), the new young King of Sweden, who had inherited wars on three fronts against Denmark, Poland and Russia, as a result of his father's inept policies. When he succeeded to the throne in 1611 he was not yet seventeen. The war against Denmark was terminated in 1613 by a treaty involving crippling reparations, but the other two continued. The cessation of hostilities between Sweden and Denmark was welcomed by James I (of England, VI of Scotland), most particularly because Christian IV, King of Denmark and Norway, was his father-in-law. The peace treaty also meant that any English or Scottish mercenary could now fight for the Swedes without being considered disloyal to James.

The war in the Low Countries had served as a military academy for the Swedish as well as the English and Scottish nobility and gentry, who wished to learn from the progressive tactics and innovations of Prince Maurice, as well as from the brilliant leadership of the de Veres.

Swedish General de la Gardie had absorbed from these leaders some of the tactics which were later to lead to Gustav Adolph's spectacular successes in the Thirty Years War. It was presumably in the Netherlands that de Ia Gardie met Alexander Leslie. later 1st Earl of Leven arid Lord Balgonie, a Scot who fought in the Netherlands, joined the Swedish army in 1605. and rose to become a field-marshal under Gustav Adolph. How many more English and Scottish soldiers were recruited from Holland for the Swedish army? Could Myles have been one of ihem?

The strongest argument against this speculation is that Myles never mentioned it loudly enough for it to have been recorded or for any oral tradition to have survived among his descendants. But his library later contained two volumes on the Thirty Years War, including a biography of Gustav Adolph (GA) ("the Garman (sic) History" and ‘the Sweden Intelligencer'). Does the presence of these volumes speak volumes? Were they there just because of his general interest in the great war raging in Germany and his desire to read about military tactics?

He also had on his shelves a copy of Homer's Iliad” (the favourite war epic of the day), Caesars "Commentaries" (one of the greatest manuals on military tactics ever written) and Col. William Bariffes "Artillery, sub-titled Militarie Discipline; or thc Young Artillery Man, Wherein is Discoursed and Shown the Postures, both of the Musket and Pike, the exactest way, &c. Together with the Exercise of the Foot in their Motions, with much variety: As also, diverse and several Forms for the Imbatteling small or great Bodies demonstrated by the number of a single Company with their Reducements. Very Necessary for all such as are Studious in the Art Military. Whereunto is also added the Postures and Beneficial Use of the Half-Pike joyned with the Musket. With the way to draw up the Swedish Brigade”.1 Now you couldn't think up a much catchier title than that. Believe it or not, it was a best-seller (really! --- it went through several editions), and was presumably in Myles shopping basket because he was Studious in the Art Military.

Maybe he bought Gustav Adolph just as an up-date, so that he could check whether the greatest Protestant commander of the day still drew up his brigades as Bariffe had told him to. Was this so that Myles could draw up a brigade against the Indians, who had no pikes or muskets? Mind you, they were pretty nifty in their Foot in their Motions, with much variety. Or maybe it was so that he could learn more from GA to help him later to Imbattel small or great Bodies against the Dutch in New Amsterdam?

Gustav Adolf

Or was there a more personal interest? If he had he fought under him, even gained his commission as captain from him? Maybe one day someone will search in the Swedish military archives and perhaps establish this one way or the other — or not. One must in the mearitime wonder why books on GA arid the Thirty Years War were on Myles' shelf at his death in 1656, hut not a single book on Cromwell or the English Civil War, which towards the end of his life had such a devastating effect on his relatives hack in Duxbury, and indeed his own destiny and that of his son Alexander. (2)

Wherever he was and whatever he did from 1602 onwards, he would presumably have returned to Lancashire for longer or shorter periods, passing through East Anglia or London, where he had many friends and relatives, and where he would have become well aware of the new colonies in Virginia and the recent exploits of Captain John Smith and Thomas West, Baron de la Warr, the saviour of Jamestown in 1610. who bequeathed his name to Delaware State, Bay and River; the Wests were another family with their origins in Lancashire. He must have been there during the year before the voyage, discussing plans with the Merchant Adventurers who were financing the new colony, and buying some of his guns and ammunition. With his gentry connections and his main role until then as ‘soldier abroad (A Good Thing) rather than ‘Separatist in exile' (A Bad Thing), he must have been extremely useful to the Leyden group when they were planning their emigration and negotiating with various members of James' government and other prominent people in London.

Maybe he visited some of Alexander Standish of Duxbury's sons at Gray's Inn or Cambridge'? (3) Maybe he visited The Globe theatre when passing through London, and saw performances of Shakespeare's latest plays? One of the trustees was Thomas Savage of Rufford, related to the Heskeths and through them to the Standishes, Maybe he met the l.ancashire poet John Weever, who was related to Alexander?

Maybe he called on Sir Gilbert Hoghton of Hoghton Tower, a dashing young courtier, and a cousin of Alexanders? Maybe he met Rev. William Leigh again (we bumped into him before when he probably baptised Myles). who was a tutor of Prince Henry, King James' elder son, and often preached at court? Maybe he stopped off at Canon Row, Westminster to visit the 6th Earl of Derby and his wife Elizabeth de Vere, whose father was a cousin of his commanders Sir Francis and Sir Horace? Or maybe he visited Dowager Countess Alice, patroness of poets, widow of the 5th Earl of Derby and a closc friend of Alexander's? The connections at this time between the London world of Shakespeare and the gentry of Myles' part of Lancashire were endless. (4) As a Standish of Duxbury and Standish, and the only one to uphoid the family's long military tradition, he would have had entry to at least the lower echelons of these circles, where all presumabiy would have been interested to hear about his latest exploits. Might he even have served as a model for one of Shakespeare's or Jonsons soldiers? Pure speculation, of course, but what fun to imagine!

One thing he certainly did was equip himself with a few useful books. Hc was obviously a very practical man; he bought "a law book', the Countrey ffarmer”, “the Phisitions practice” (all ‘do-it-yourseif' manuals), and the delightfuiiy named “dodines earbail', which turned out to be Rembert Dodoens' “Cruydeboek (Herbal), one of the foremost botanical works of the mid-16th century. It had been translated into English in 1578 and was virtuaily copied directiy by John Gerrard (aiso from a Lancashire famiiy) for his “Herbal' in 1597, but it seems that Myles had a Dutch version. Presumabiy he bought this in the hope that he would be abie to identify edibie (or, more importantly, poisonous) plants, rather than to go flower-spotting. History does not tell us how useful the European earball' was, as they iearnt about the local plants and crops from the local Indians -eminently sensible. We do know that they were very suprised to see turkeys running around, as most of Europe thought that they came from Turkey (hence the name) or India (hence French d'inde and Dutch kalkoen = caljcut hen), and they had not a clue what to do with maize, until taught. In any case, this item in Myles' inventory is a real gem, as it gives us a glimpse of his pronunciation - ‘i wer still reet Lanky! Actually the name must have been given by widow Barbara or son Alexander, but if Barbara was from Lancashire, they presumably passed on some of their pronunciation to their children.

He was obviously interested in history, as he had "the history of the world", ‘the turkish history”, ‘a cronicle of England', ye history of queen Ellisabeth' and ‘the ffrench Akademay' (with another wonderfully meandering sub-title, including the lives of ancient sages arid famous men. translated from the French and published in London in 1586). He also owned, of course, the prerequisites for a Puritan: a few (old) Bibles, a Testament, a Psalmbook and “Calvins Institutions".

His other twenty-five named books were all religious tracts, ranging from middle-of-the-road to Puritan, some of which he probably took with him, but some of which must have been later mail-orders from Duxbury, Massachusetts. One of them, incidentally, allegation against B P of Durham' must have referred to “Bishop Pilkington of Durham', the founder of Rivington Grammar School. This is the main clue referred to in the article on Myles's childhood that he was very likely a pupil there for some years.

The only other established fact from his “lost years” is that he married Rose. (5) Many previous biographers have waxed eloquent about ‘lovely, brave Rose, the perfect example of that intrepid band of wives, etc.” In fact, the only thing we know for certain about her identity is her Christian name. We have no idea when they married, only that they had no children with them on the Mayflower, or later. The sad reason for “or later was that she was one of the many passengers who died during the terrible first winter.

It is likely that Myles was back in Leyden with John Robinson's Separatist community-in-exile for the final preparations, and boarded the Speedwell at Delftshaven on 21 July, 1620, along with the rest of the group setting out on their great adventure. 6 They anchored at Southampton, where the Mayflower was waiting, sailed from there on 6 August, but had to put in at Dartmouth because the Speedwell started to leak badly. Exactly where and when Rose joined him will never be known, but she was on one of the ships when they sailed from Dartmouth on 23 August. Again the Speedwell sprang leaks and after four days they were forced to return, this time to Plymouth. After much deliberation it was decided to use just the Mayflower. Some of the less hardy stayed behind and the rest crowded aboard, carrying many of the “goods and chattels" that would appear later in New England inventories. Finally the Mayflower sailed out of Plymouth Harbour on 6 September with about 30 crew and 102 passengers, heading for a brave new world and a remarkable place in its future history. Rose and most of the others would never see the old world again.


1 Myles' will and inventory are on the Mayflower Web Pages. An identification of most of the books in his library is in T. C. Porteus “Captain Myles Standish”, ch. 8, Manchester U. P., 1920. Inexplicably, he omitted two of them, “Vusebious" (Eusebious, the early Christian writer) and ‘dodines earball'; he also identified “allegation against B P of Durham wrongly. The proof of this will be presented in the chapter in my forthcoming book on Myles that discusses the contents of his library. Grateful thanks to Roger Norris of the Dean and Chapter Library, Durham Cathedral, for useful and informative conversations and correspondence about Myles' library.

2 See Note 3.

3 Alexander, who lived at Duxbury Hall, was Myles patron, friend and main link to other gentry families. He had four surviving sons, (who appeared on the Family Tree in Vol. 3, No. 3), who almost certainly followed the family path of Rivington Grammar School, St. John's Cambridge and Grays Inn. By 1647 they and their sons were all dead, some killed, some fighting for Charles, some for Parliament, at which point Myles became heir to the Duxbury estates. Eventually we will reach this part of the story, with the dastardly” Col. Richard and the ‘surreptitious detention” of Myles lands, but we still need to cover the American bit. Chapters on Thomas Savage and John Weever appear in E. A. J. Honigmann, Shakespeare, the ‘lost years', Manchester University Press, 1985, 1998.

4. This is hardly surprising, as Shakespeare's ancestry in the Shakeshaftes of Lancashire has recently been established, along with his relationship to the Earls of Derby through Mary Arden. (Really!) This tiny footnote might well be the first public announcement of these rather amazing and exciting findings; or they might have already appeared elsewhere. I really wanted this news to appear first in LHQ, whose readers are the backbone of Lancashire local history, but the timing was a little complicated. If any reader of my series of articles has wondered why the book on Myles has not yet appeared, the answer is Shakespeare! He got in the way.

5. We know this from New England records, as usual. She was recorded in the three separate diaries/accounts by Governor William Bradford. There are also several family traditions about her. All details will be given in the next article, which will finally take us to Massachusetts!

6 G.V.C. Young in “Myles Standish", 25 ff. (Manx-Svenska, 1984) argues persuasively that this was so.