Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/253

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195
LADY HOWARD

complete control over the ward, who generally lived in his house, could marry the ward as he liked, this also being generally an affair of money, and received the rents of the minor's estate without any liability to account."[1]

Accordingly, at the age of nine, little Mary Fitz was taken from her mother, but under whose charge she was placed at first does not appear. A year or two later, she was living in the house of Lady Elizabeth Hatton, second wife of Sir Edmund Coke, then Master of the Court of Wards. At once the Earl of Northumberland sent his brother, Sir Allan Percy, into Devon to look over the estates of Mary Fitz and make what money he could out of them by felling timber.

Sir Allan was, apparently, quite satisfied with what he saw; he was a needy man, and resolved on marrying the heiress, and this he did about 1608, when he was aged thirty-one and she twelve. But as she was so young it was arranged that she should not live with her husband till she reached a nubile age. She never did live with him, for he caught a severe chill through lying on the damp ground when hot and tired with hunting, and he died in November, 1611. She was the wealthiest heiress in Devonshire, and the Earl of Suffolk schemed to obtain her for his third son, Sir Thomas Howard. She was not only rich, but beautiful. Her father had been a remarkably handsome man, and Lord Clarendon, long after this date, speaks of her as "having been of extraordinary beauty." But she balked all schemers by running away with Thomas Darcy, a young man of her own age, son of Lord Darcy, of Chiche, afterwards Earl Rivers. Lord Darcy could not object to the match, but Mary Fitz was still a

  1. "Lady Howard, of Fitzford," in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1890.