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By Mary Ray
S ilently, she followed the
solemn funeral proces-
sion to the gravesite.

Hiding behind the tall
shrubby, she watched as careful hands
placed the body of the nine-year-old
girl into the cold earth. Selina thought,
“She is the same age as I am.” The
scene was embedded into the young
girl’s serious mind, and she often went
back to the quiet churchyard to gaze at
the small grave.

Selina Shirley was born on August
24, 1707, at Staunton Harold in Ash-
by-de-Zouch, Leicestershire, England.

Staunton Harold is a stately Georgian
mansion surrounded by 150 acres of
peaceful woodland. As I stood on the
small stone bridge in front of Staunton
Harold and looked back at the impos-
ing mansion, the beauty of it all over-
whelmed me.

Selina’s grandfather and father
had impressive titles. She could trace

keen memory. She had the ability to
learn quickly and was a good judge of
character. While other young women of
noble birth were enamored with par-
Because of her
compassion for the
poor and needy,
they referred to her as
“Lady Bountiful.”
ties and social functions, Selina was
not at all impressed with the lifestyle
that was hers because of her family’s
royal titles. In fact, she would rather
find a quiet place, read her Bible, and
pray. One prayer she often prayed was
that she would marry into a serious
family. She felt that God answered
Mary Ray at Staunton Harold
her ancestry back to Edward the Con-
fessor. Visitors to Staunton Hall were
members of the English aristocracy.

princes, dukes, earls, countesses,
kings, and queens were frequent guests
in the Shirley home.

Washington Shirley, Selina’s fa-
ther, was a kind man and had a gener-
ous spirit. His friends knew him as a
man of integrity. As one of his three
daughters, Selina had a secure and
privileged childhood. A child of no-
ble birth, she was trained in manners
and deportment so that she would be
equipped to take her place in society.

She was highly intelligent and had a
that prayer when she married Theo-
philus Hastings, who was the ninth
earl of Huntingdon. While many of
the English aristocrats married for the
convenience of matching titles, rank,
and wealth, the Hastings’s marriage
was one of deep love and respect for
one another.

Theophilus had studied at Oxford