Open main menu

Sir Anthony or Antony Standen (b. c. 1548 - d. ?) English spy or intelligencer.

Standen was a "goodly tall fair man with flaxen hair and beard". According to his own accounts, in 1565 Standen came to Scotland at the instance of Margaret Douglas Countess of Lennox and was appointed an equerry of the royal stable to Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. His younger brother, also called Anthony was made the cupbearer at the queen's table.[1] Standen helped the queen during the murder of David Riccio and escaped with her to Dunbar Castle.[2] According to a narrative of a talk between Darnley and his father, Standen smuggled his mistress into Edinburgh Castle during Mary's pregnancy, and it was rumoured the woman was Darnley's mistress.[3]

Mary sent him to Charles IX of France and he received a pension of annuity from the Cardinal of Lorraine. (Anthony the younger brother was imprisoned at Berwick for a year). In 1570 he was said to be involved with Corbeyran de Cardaillac Sarlabous in a plot to invade England.[4]

In 1576 he was banished from Antwerp by Philip II of Spain for over familiarity with Madame de Blomberg, mother of Don John of Austria. From 1582 Standen worked for Mary Queen of Scots in Florence, and in 1587 started working for Francis Walsingham. He was at the Spanish court reporting on preparations for the Armada.[5]

In 1590 Standen was in prison in Bordeaux and was helped by Anthony Bacon who paid his debts, and made his return to England possible.[6]

Rowland Whyte mentioned that Standen was too old to be a "gallant suitor" to a rich widow Mrs Shelley in February 1598. Standen's suit was favoured by Lord Buckhurst, but the Earl of Essex preferred another candidate, Sir Thomas Smith who he had knighted at Cadiz in 1596.[7]

In 1603 Standen was asked to travel and announce the succession of James VI and I to the English throne. He went to Rome to collect altar ornaments and beads for Anna of Denmark which was supposed to open a relationship leading to the conversion of England to the Catholic religion. Standen himself wrote to Robert Persons that "the Queene [is] warned from dealing in Cath: causes, and she ys very assyduous at sermons," so his efforts would not be successful. He hoped the queen would become Catholic, "doubtless and reconciled", perhaps by the means of Anne Howard, Countess of Arundel.[8] Confronted by Robert Cecil with this letter, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.[9]

He obtained a licence to travel in July 1605 from the king.[10] In August 1606 Anne of Denmark sent a letter to Christina of Lorraine Duchess of Tuscany on behalf of her servant Standen who was travelling in Italy for reasons of conscience and religion.[11] He was still in Rome in 1615.

External LinksEdit


  1. ^ Joseph Stevenson, History of Mary Stewart by Claude Nau (Edinburgh, 1883), pp. cii-civ.
  2. ^ HMC Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury at Hatfield, vol. 16, p. 15.
  3. ^ Cambridge University Library, 'Some parte of the talke between the late king of Scotland my sonne and me, therle of Lennox ryding between Dondasse and Lythkoo', 3434 Oo. VII. 57.
  4. ^ Kathleen Lea, 'Sir Antony Standen and Some Anglo-Italian Letters', English Historical Review, vol. 47 no. 187 (July 1932), p. 463-4.
  5. ^ Kathleen Lea, 'Sir Antony Standen and Some Anglo-Italian Letters', English Historical Review, vol. 47 no. 187 (July 1932), p. 465-6.
  6. ^ Will Tosh, Male Friendship and Testimonies of Love in Shakespeare's England (London, 2016), pp. 59-71.
  7. ^ Michael Brennan, Noel Kinnamon, Margaret Hannay, The Letters of Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sidney (Philadelphia, 2013), p. 292 (Arthur Collins, II, (1746), pp. 89-90).
  8. ^ Kathleen Lea, 'Sir Antony Standen and Some Anglo-Italian Letters', English Historical Review, vol. 47 no. 187 (July 1932), p. 475.
  9. ^ Leo Hicks, 'The Embassy of Sir Anthony Standen in 1603', British Catholic History, vol. 7 issue 2 (April 1963), pp. 50-81.
  10. ^ HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 17 (London, 1938), p. 300.
  11. ^ HMC 3rd Report, Rev. Hopkinson (London, 1872), p. 264.