Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knowsley Hall

A few miles out of Liverpool is the village of Prescot, where Kemble the tragedian was born, and where the people at the present time are largely engaged in watchmaking. Not far from Prescot is one of the famous homes of England—Knowsley Hall, the seat of the Stanleys and of the Earls of Derby for five hundred years. The park covers two thousand acres and is almost ten miles in circumference. The greater portion of the famous house was built in the time of George II. It is an extensive and magnificent structure, and contains many art-treasures in its picture-gallery by Rembrandt, Rubens, Correggio, Teniers, Vandyke, Salvator Rosa, and others.

The Stanleys are one of the governing families of England, the last Earl of Derby having been premier in 1866, and the present earl having also been a cabinet minister. The crest of the Stanleys represents the Eagle and the Child, and is derived from the story of a remote ancestor who, cherishing an ardent desire for a male heir, and having only a daughter, contrived to have an infant conveyed to the foot of a tree in the park frequented by an eagle. Here he and his lady, taking a walk, found the child as if by accident, and the lady, considering it a gift from Heaven brought by the eagle and miraculously preserved, adopted the boy as her heir. From this time the crest was assumed, but we are told that the old knight's conscience smote him at the trick, and on his deathbed he bequeathed the chief part of his fortune to the daughter, from whom are descended the present family.

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