A Leigh Vicar Marries an Earl’s Daughter
In 1661, Lady Anne Sidney, daughter of Robert, 2nd Early of Leicester and of Penshurst place, married the Rev. Joseph Carte, Vicar of Leigh. Julia Cartwright, in her biography of Anne’s elder sister, the Countess of Sutherland, gives this account of the consternation in the Sidney family caused by Anne’s decision to marry.
“The same year, 1661, witnessed a domestic event which, in the eyes of the old Earl, was one of the most calamitous to have befallen him in his whole life. His daughter, Lady Anne, having reached the mature age of 34, and being yet a spinster, thought well to marry Mr Joseph Carte, the new Vicar of Leigh and chaplain to the household at Penshurst. The step was a grave misalliance in the sight of her contemporaries, and it is not surprising to learn that her father refused to give his consent to the match. Whether he so far forgave her as to see her again during his lifetime, we do not know, but there is no mention of her in his Will, where both his other surviving daughters, Dorothy Lady Sunderland and Lady Lucy Pelham, are expressly named. Nor do we find any mention of Lady Anne in any of the other Penshurst manuscripts or in her brother or sister’s letters of this time. She vanishes from our sight and is forgotten in the oblivion of the lonely lot which had been her choice and for the sake of which she had dared to brave the opposition of her friends and the scorn of the world.”
Anne died in 1693 and is buried in the chancel of Leigh church. Her husband certainly appreciated her qualities as he had this typically 17th century eulogy engraved on her tombstone which today is hidden by the platform on which the altar now stands.
“Divine and natural gifts in her combined
Did show the greatness of her birth and mind
So pious, that she kept an equal pace
With the best Saints in every Christian grace
Which gave her peace and confidence to say
She was God’s child and to him went away.
Why should we of her absence ere complain?
What is our greatest losse, to her is gain”.
By Lawrence Biddle (Parish Magazine: February 1991)