The Twickenham Museum
People : Landowners and Gentry

Cecilia Bulstrode
1582 - 1609

Cecilia Bulstrode was the daughter of Edward Bulstrode (1550-98) and Cecilia Croke (1553-99). Her nephew, Bulstrode Whitelocke was Commissioner of the Great Seal of England and Cromwell's ambassador to Sweden. The Bulstrodes were an old and distinguished family, claiming descent from most of the ancient royal families of Britain and Europe. The fortunes of the family declined after the Restoration because, with one notable exception, the family had supported Cromwell and Parliament.

At Twickenham Park

Cecilia was a kinswoman and friend of Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford. While staying at Twickenham Park in 1609 she and Lady Bridget Markham, Lucy's sister, died in quick succession. John Donne visited her on her death bed and he outlines his views of her health in 'Letter to Severall Persons of Honour by John Donne'

Bridget and Cecilia were buried at St Mary's Church in Twickenham on 19 May and 6 August respectively. There is no surviving memorial to Cecilia, unlike Bridget who has a long Latin dedication in her memory. Cecilia was possibly hastened to her death by the attentions of a local “quack” doctor. His report of the treatment (available at 'Early English Books Online'), is called The Apologie, or defence of a verity heretofore published concerning a medicine called aurum potabile, by Francis Anthony.

Life at Court

Cecilia is described in 1607 as one of the gentlewomen of the queen's bedchamber, in "Liber Famelicus" the memoirs of her brother-in-law, Sir James Whitelocke. She was the subject of a scandalous poem by Ben Jonson called 'An Epigram on the Court Pucelle' (harlot). Apparently she had slighted him at Court and this was his response. Jonson says in his "Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden" that the poem was stolen from his pocket by a gentleman who had got him drunk. It was shown to Cecilia and caused him great embarrassment. In Jonson's epitaph following Cecilia's death, he describes her quite differently: modest, chaste, virginal, devout. Too late, perhaps, for reconciliation.

Cecilia was a member of a select group of 'wits, Lords and sermoneers' who met in her chambers at Court. She wrote a prose piece for "The Conceited Newes of Sir Thomas Overbury and his Friends called "Newes of my morning work". The "Newes game" figures prominently in Jonson's "Court Pucelle" poem. She was also the subject of poems by John Cooke, John Roe and Edward Herbert and was a member of the Thomas Overbury group.

Donne wrote two elegies for Cecilia, 'Elegie on Mistris Boulstred' is included in works called 'Epicedes and Obsequies'. This was Donne's second elegy to Cecilia, evidently Lucy didn't think the first was strong enough. It was titled 'Death be not Proud'. Donne is believed to have written the epitaph which appeared on Cecilia's tomb, but it has been destroyed, possibly when the nave of the church collapsed in 1713.

Later family connections with TwickenhamThe family established a later connection with the area. In 1704 Whitelocke Bulstrode (1651-1724) purchased the manor of Hounslow, subsequently adding other lands including the manor of Heston. His grandson Richard inherited all this in 1772 and married Sophia Tryon. She was a daughter of Charles Tryon of Bulwick who had married Lady Mary Shirley, a daughter of the 1st Earl Ferrers by his second marriage. Lady Mary was a sister of the Hon George Shirley who inherited the Heath Lane Lodge estate in the centre of Twickenham on the death of his mother in 1762. Sophia's brother was General William Tryon, appointed Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1764. Although not apparently recorded as resident in Twickenham several members of the family, including the General were buried in St Mary's churchyard, some sharing the Ferrers tomb.

(Compiled from information supplied by Desley Reid who is married to a descendant of Cecilia)

Further reading

Gillian M Morris, The History of Hounslow Manor and the Bulstrode Family, The Hounslow and District History Society, 1980.
Dictionary of National Biography

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