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Portrait of Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax, by Robert Walker (before 1658)

THOMAS FAIRFAX, third Lord Fairfax (1612-1671)

THOMAS FAIRFAX, third Lord Fairfax (1612-1671), general, son of Ferdinando, second lord Fairfax, was born at Denton in Yorkshire on 17 Jan. 1611-12.1 In 1626 he matriculated at St. John's College, Cambridge, and three years later was sent to the Low Countries to learn the art of war under Sir Horace Vere.2 He was present at the siege of Bois-le-Duc (1629), travelled for a time in France and elsewhere, and returned to England in 1632 in hopes of obtaining permission to join the Swedish army in Germany.3 Fairfax married, on 20 June 1637, Anne Vere, the daughter of his old commander.4 During the first Scotch war Fairfax commanded a troop of 160 Yorkshire dragoons, and was knighted by the king [Charles I] on 28 Jan. 1640.5 According to Burnet he had a command in the army which was defeated at Newburn, 'and did not stick to own that till he passed the Tees his legs trembled under him.'6 Nevertheless it is doubtful whether he took any part in the second Scotch war.

From the commencement of the civil war Fairfax was prominent among the supporters of the parliament in Yorkshire. On 3 June 1642 he presented to the king on Heyworth Moor a petition of the Yorkshire gentry and freeholders. The king refused to accept it, and is said to have attempted to ride over him.7 Fairfax also signed the protest of the Yorkshire parliamentarians on 29 Aug. 1642, and was one of the negotiators of the treaty of neutrality of 29 Sept. When the treaty was annulled he became second in command to his father, and distinguished himself in many skirmishes during the later months of 1642. His first important exploit, however, was the recapture of Leeds on 23 Jan. 1643.8 Two months later (30 March 1643) Fairfax was severely defeated by General Goring on Seacroft Moor, as he was engaged in covering the retreat of Lord Fairfax and the main body of his army from Selby to Leeds.9 Nicholas, in relating this event to Prince Rupert, terms Fairfax 'the man most beloved and relied upon by the rebels in the north.'10

The capture of Wakefield on 21 May following amply compensated for this misfortune. No more remarkable success was gained by any general during the civil wars. With fifteen hundred men Fairfax stormed a town held by twice that number, taking General Goring himself, twenty-eight colours, and fourteen hundred prisoners. Looking back on it many years later he described it as 'more a miracle than a victory.'11 May compares it to 'a lightening before death,' for it was followed almost immediately by the total defeat of the two Fairfaxes at Adwalton Moor (30 June). In that fatal battle Sir Thomas led the right wing, and, escaping from the rout with a portion of his troops, he threw himself into Bradford, and when Bradford could resist no longer cut his way through Newcastle's forces, and succeeded in reaching his father at Leeds.12 During the flying march to Hull which now took place he commanded the rear-guard, and was severely wounded. When Hull was besieged he was sent into Lincolnshire with twenty troops of horse to join Cromwell and Manchester, and took part with them in the victory of Winceby on 11 Oct. 1643. 'Come let us fall on, I never prospered better than when I fought against the enemy three or four to one,' said Fairfax when he first viewed the royalists, and marked their numbers. Manchester, in his despatch to the lords, writes: 'Sir Thomas Fairfax is a person that exceeds any expressions as a commendation of his resolution and valour.'13

On 29 Jan. 1644 Fairfax defeated Lord Byron and the English troops recalled from Ireland at Nantwich in Cheshire, took fifteen hundred prisoners, and followed up the victory by capturing three royalist garrisons. In March 1644 he returned into Yorkshire, and shared in the victory at Selby, to which his own leading of the cavalry very greatly contributed, 10 April 1644.14 According to Clarendon,' this was the first action Sir Thomas Fairfax was taken notice for.'15 At Marston Moor Fairfax commanded the horse of the right wing, consisting of fifty-five troops of Yorkshire cavalry and twenty-two of Scots, in all about four thousand men. The regiment under his immediate command charged successfully, but the rest of his division was routed, and he reached with difficulty, wounded and almost alone, the victorious left of the parliamentary army.16

At the siege of Helmsley Castle, during the following August, Fairfax was dangerously wounded by a musket-ball, which broke his shoulder, and a royalist newspaper exultingly prophesied for him the fate of Hampden.17 While he was slowly recovering from his wound parliament undertook the reorganisation of its army. Fairfax had stronger claims than any one, now that members of the two houses were to be excluded from command. It was at first rumoured that he was to command merely the cavalry of the new army, but on 21 Jan. 1645, by 101 to 69 votes, the House of Commons appointed him to command in chief.18 The ordinance for new modelling the army finally passed on 15 Feb., and on 19 Feb. Fairfax was solemnly thanked by the speaker for his past services, and informed that parliament 'had thought fit to put upon him the greatest trust and confidence that was ever put into the hands of a subject.'

Fairfax received his appointment, if his later apologies can be trusted, with some diffidence: 'I was so far from desiring it that had not so great an authority commanded obedience, being then unseparated from the royal interest, besides the persuasions of nearest friends not to decline so free and general a call, I should have hid myself among the staff to have avoided so great a charge.'19 A dispute arose between the two houses concerning the appointment of the officers, whom Fairfax was empowered to nominate subject to their approval. The terms of his commission gave rise to long discussions. The commission, as finally passed, differed in one important particular from that of Essex: in spite of the opposition of the lords the name of the king and the clause requiring the preservation of his person were left out.20 The new army and its general were scoffed at by foes and distrusted by many of their friends. 'When I went to take my leave of a great person,' says Fairfax, 'he told me he was sorry I was going out with the army, for he did believe we should be beaten.'21 In his letters to the queen the king styled Fairfax 'the rebels' new brutish general,' and confidently anticipated beating him.22

All April Fairfax was engaged in organising the 'new model.' On 1 May he set out from Reading intending to relieve Taunton, but was recalled halfway to undertake the siege of Oxford. Left to himself he would have followed the king and forced him to fight, but the orders of parliament were peremptory. 'I am very sorry,' he wrote to his father, 'we should spend our time unprofitably before a town, whilst the king hath time to strengthen himself, and by terror to force obedience of all places where he comes.'23 Oxford was blockaded rather than besieged from 19 May to 5 June, when the welcome order came to raise the siege. At Naseby, on Saturday, 14 June 1645, Fairfax brought the king to a battle, and defeated him with the loss of all his infantry, artillery, and baggage. All accounts of the battle agree in describing the reckless courage which the general himself displayed. He headed several charges, and captured a standard with his own hand.24 'As much for bravery may be given to him in this action as to a man,' observes Cromwell.25

Fairfax now, after recapturing Leicester, turned west, relieved Taunton, and defeated Goring at Langport in Somersetshire on 10 July. The last royal army of any strength was thus shattered. 'We cannot esteem this mercy less, all things considered, than that of Naseby fight,' wrote Fairfax.26 Bridgwater fell a fortnight later (24 July), and Bristol was stormed after a three weeks' siege (10 Sept.). The letter in which Fairfax summoned Prince Rupert to surrender that city contains a remarkable exposition of his political creed at this period of his life.27 In October the army went into winter quarters after establishing a line of posts to confine Goring to Cornwall and Devonshire, and to block up Exeter. The campaign of 1646 opened with the capture of Dartmouth (18 Jan.), which was followed by the defeat of Hopton at Torrington (16 Feb.), and the capitulation of Hopton's army (14 March). At Torrington Fairfax had a narrow escape owing to the explosion of a royalist magazine. 'I must acknowledge,' he writes,' God's great mercy to me and some others, that stood where great webs of lead fell thickest, yet, praised be God, no man hurt.'28 The rest of the war consisted of sieges; Exeter, surrendered on 9 April, Oxford on 20 June, and Raglan on 17 Aug.

Portrait of Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax, by Robert Walker (before 1658) After the capitulation of Oxford Fairfax retired for a time to Bath for the benefit of his health, which was greatly impaired by the campaign and by his many old wounds. Rheumatism and the stone appear to have been his chief ailments.29 In November he returned to London to receive the thanks of both houses of parliament and of the city. 'Hereafter,' said Lenthal, 'as the successors of Julius Caesar took the name of Caesar, all famous and victorious succeeding generals in this kingdom will desire the addition of the name of Fairfax.'30 After Naseby parliament had voted £70031 for a 'jewel' to be presented to Fairfax in commemoration of his victory. This, after passing through the hands of Thoresby and Horace Walpole, was in 1870 in the possession of Lord Hastings.32 In the Uxbridge propositions in December 1645 parliament had stipulated that the king should create Fairfax an English baron, and that he should be endowed with lands to the value of £5,00033 a year. Lands to that value were settled upon him after the failure of the treaty.34

In the spring of 1647 parliament took in hand the reduction of the army, and voted on 5 March that Fairfax should be general of the limited force to be still maintained. 'Some wondered,' says Whitelocke,' it should admit a debate and question.'35 The soldiers objected to be disbanded until they were paid their arrears, and secured from civil suits for military actions, and they petitioned Fairfax to that effect. Fairfax was ordered to suppress their petition, and did so, but this did not put a stop to the agitation among them. Waller and Holles unjustly throw a doubt on the sincerity of his efforts.36 Negotiations between the commissioners of the parliament and the representatives of the army continued during April and May. From 21 April to 21 May Fairfax was in London consulting a physician. His friends' entreaties overcame his own wish to resign.37 At the end of May parliament ordered him back to the army, one of the members insultingly saying that he had time enough to go to Hyde Park but not to attend to his duty. He communicated the final offers of the parliament to a meeting of officers at Bury St. Edmunds on 28 May. They declared them unsatisfactory and pressed him to appoint a general rendezvous of the army for the consideration of the question. In forwarding the resolutions of the council of war to parliament Fairfax earnestly begged the latter to adopt a more moderate course, and defined his own attitude: 'I intreat you that there may be ways of love and composure thought upon. I shall do my endeavours, though I am forced to yield something out of order, to keep the army from disorder or worse inconveniences.'38

Three days later the seizure of the king by Joyce took place, 3 July, an act which showed how completely the army had thrown off the control of the general. Fairfax states that he immediately sent Colonel Whalley and a couple of regiments to remove Joyce's force and conduct the king back to Holmby, but the king refused to return, and when Fairfax himself attempted to persuade him to do so said to him, 'Sir, I have as good interest in the army as you.' The general's proposal to punish Joyce for insubordination was rejected by a council of war.39 In the account which Fairfax gave to the parliament of these events he explains his unwilling assumption of the charge, and states that he has placed a trusty guard round the king 'to secure his majesty's person from danger, and prevent any attempts of such as may design by the advantage of his person the better to raise any new war in this kingdom.'40

In the general rendezvous at Newmarket on 5 June the army established a council for its own government, consisting of the general officers who had composed the old council of war and representatives of the officers and soldiers of each regiment. By this body the army was governed till the outbreak of the second civil war, and by it the political manifestos of the army were drawn up. Fairfax states 'from the time they declared their usurped authority at Triploe Heath I never gave my free consent to anything they did; but, being yet undischarged of my place, they set my name in a way of course to all their papers whether I consented or not.'41 The declarations of the army are usually signed 'John Rushworth, by the appointment of his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax and the Council of War.' With parts of the policy followed by the council of war Fairfax seems nevertheless to have entirely agreed. In a long letter of 8 July he vindicates the conduct of the army in treating with the king, and their policy towards him. He recommends 'all kind usage to his majesty's person,' and urges 'that tender, equitable, and moderate dealing towards his majesty, his royal family, and his late party, so lar as may stand with safety to the kingdom, is the most hopeful course to take away the seeds of war or future feuds amongst us for posterity, and to procure a lasting peace and agreement in this now distracted nation.'42

At the end of July the army marched on London, ostensibly to protect the parliament from the violence of the city. The general professed himself 'deeply afflicted with the late carriages towards the parliament,' and promised to use all his power 'to preserve them, and in them the interest of the nation.'43 Nine lords and about one hundred commoners joined the army, and engaged to live and die with Fairfax and the army in vindication of the honour and freedom of parliament, 4 Aug. 1648. On 6 Aug. he brought them back to Westminster, and received the thanks of parliament for his services. There is little doubt that in the negotiations of the following months Fairfax continued to side with those who desired to make terms with the king, but he confined himself mainly to his military duties, and his name appears hardly ever in the accounts of the negotiations.

To a considerable extent he succeeded in restoring the discipline of the army. Early in September he was able to report to parliament that six thousand foot and two thousand horse were ready to serve in Ireland if their arrears were satisfied. He never ceased to urge on parliament the necessity of providing for the pay of the soldiers.44 In the great reviews which took place in the following November the mutinous regiments were reduced to obedience, and the levellers for a time suppressed. 'Without redress of these abuses and disorders,' announced Fairfax, 'his excellency cannot, nor will any longer undergo or undertake, further to discharge his present trust to the parliament, the army, and the kingdom.' In the second place, 'though he is far above any such low thoughts as to court or woo the army to continue him their general, yet to discharge himself to the utmost and to bring the business to a certain and clear issue,' he promised to adhere to the army in the endeavour to obtain the satisfaction of their claims as soldiers, and the reform of parliament. Other political questions were to be left to parliament. Every regiment solemnly engaged to accept this compromise.45 It was more easy, however, to restore order in the ranks than to moderate the political zeal of the council of war. According to Fairfax, that body resolved at one time 'to remove all out of the house whom they conceived to be guilty of obstructing the public settlement.' Cromwell and others pressed him urgently to sign orders for that purpose, but his delaying to do so for three or four days, and the outbreak of the second civil war, prevented the fulfilment of this design.46

Lambert was despatched to the north to check the march of the Scots, Cromwell to the west to suppress the insurrection in Wales, while the general himself undertook to provide for the safety of London. Clarendon goes so far as to say that Fairfax, even at this date, refused to serve against the Scots.47 The Kentish royalists were crushingly defeated at Maidstone on 2 June, and on 13 June Fairfax laid siege to Colchester, into which the leaders of the insurrection and the remnant of their army had thrown themselves.48 The garrison held out for seventy-five days, till hunger and the impossibility of relief forced them to surrender (27 Aug. 1648). Fairfax has been severely blamed for the execution of Lucas and Lisle, and the subsequent condemnation of Lord Capel. Their execution, however, 'was no breach of the terms on which Colchester capitulated. By those terms the lives of the soldiers and inferior officers were guaranteed, but the superior officers surrendered 'at mercy,' which was beforehand defined to mean 'so as the lord-general may be free to put some immediately to the sword, if he see cause; although his excellency intends chiefly ... to surrender them to the mercy of the parliament.'49 In accordance with the discretionary power thus reserved, Lucas and Lisle were immediately shot by sentence of the council of war, 'for some satisfaction of military justice and in part of avenge for the innocent blood they have caused to be spilt, and the trouble, damage, and mischief they have brought upon the town and the kingdom.'50 'The other leaders,' wrote Fairfax, 'I do hereby render unto the parliament's judgment for further public justice and mercy, to be used as you shall see cause.' Parliament thought fit to condemn Capel to death, and for that sentence Fairfax was in no way responsible. Capel pleaded that quarter had been promised him, and Fairfax was called on to explain to the high court of justice that the promise was subject to the reservations above mentioned, and did not in any way bind the hands of the civil authority.51 The charge of equivocation which Clarendon brings against him is entirely unfounded.52

While the siege of Colchester was in progress parliament had opened negotiations with the king on terms which the army and the independents deemed unsatisfactory. Both called on Fairfax to intervene. During the siege of Colchester, Milton addressed to him a sonnet, in which he was summoned to take in hand the settlement of the kingdom and clear the land of avarice and rapine (Sonnet XV). Ludlow came to the camp and urged him to prevent the conclusion of the treaty, to which Fairfax answered in general terms that he was resolved to use the power he had to maintain the cause of the public.53 As soon as the siege was over, regiment after regiment presented addresses to their general against the policy of parliament. He transmitted to the House of Commons the army remonstrance of 16 Nov., in which the rupture of the treaty and the punishment of the king were demanded in the plainest terms. He requested, on their behalf and his own, that the remonstrance might be immediately considered, 'and that no failing in circumstances or expressions might prejudice either the reason or justice of what was tendered or their intentions.'54 At the same time, to prevent the escape or the removal of the king, he sent Ewer to replace Hammond as governor of the Isle of Wight. On 30 Nov. another declaration was published in the name of the general and army complaining of the laying aside of their remonstrance, disowning the authority of the majority of the House of Commons as corrupt, and promising to own that of the honest minority if they would separate themselves from the rest. Like the former, this was backed by a private letter from Fairfax to the speaker.55 The army then occupied London, and on 6 Dec. Pride's Purge took place [see Rump Parliament]. Fairfax protests that he had no knowledge of the forcible exclusion of the members until it had actually taken place, and the statements of Ludlow, Clarendon, and Whitelocke appear to confirm this.

But his retention of his post after Pride's Purge, his answers to the demands of the commons for the release of their members, and his signature of warrants for the confinement of the prisoners render it impossible to acquit him entirely of responsibility.56 His attitude with respect to the king's execution, though somewhat similar, was more decided. It may be conjectured that Fairfax approved of the trial and deposition of the king, but did not contemplate his execution. The army remonstrance had styled Charles 'the capital and grand author of our troubles' and demanded that he should be specially brought to justice for 'the treason, blood, and mischief he is guilty of.' This ought to have opened the eyes of Fairfax to the probable consequences of putting force on the parliament. He was appointed one of the king's judges, and attended the preliminary meeting of the commissioners (8 Jan. 1649), but that meeting only. When the name of Fairfax was read out at the head of the list of judges, on the first day of the trial, Lady Fairfax is said to have protested that her husband was not there, nor ever would sit among them, and that they did wrong to name him as a sitting commissioner.57 Fairfax says himself of the king's death: 'My afflicted and troubled mind for it and my earnest endeavours to prevent it will sufficiently testify my dislike and abhorrence of the fact.'58 What the precise nature of those endeavours was is uncertain. According to Brian Fairfax, 'on the night of 29 Jan. some of the general's friends proposed to him to attempt the next day to rescue the king, telling him that twenty thousand men were ready to join with him; he said he was ready to venture his own life, but not the lives of others, against the army united against them.'59 On 30 Jan. itself Herbert describes Fairfax as 'being all that morning, as indeed at other times, using all his power and interest to have the execution deferred for some days, forbearing his coming among the officers, and fully resolved with his own regiment to prevent the execution or have it deferred till he could make a party in the army to second his design.60 Prince Charles wrote to Fairfax urging him to save and restore the king, and the queen begged his pass to come to her husband, but their communications remained unanswered.61 Clarendon concludes his account of the conduct of Fairfax during this period by saying: 'Out of the stupidity of his soul he was throughout overwitted by Cromwell, and made a property to bring that to pass which could very hardly have been otherwise effected.'62 But the truth is, Fairfax and Cromwell alike were carried away by the army, and he was their instrument rather than Cromwell's.

He marked his disapproval of the king's death by the reservations which he made in his engagement to be faithful to the Commonwealth. Like the other peers who became members of the council of state, he declared that he had served the parliament faithfully, and was willing to do so still, there being now no power but that of the House of Commons, but could not sign the engagement because it was retrospective.63 Besides sitting in the council of state Fairfax also entered the House of Commons as member for Cirencester (7 Feb. 1649). He was also reappointed commander-in-chief of all the forces in England and Ireland.64 In that capacity Fairfax was immediately called upon to suppress a mutiny of the levelling party in the army, which he effected at Burford on 14 May 1649.65 After the suppression of the mutiny, Fairfax visited Oxford and was created a D.C.L.66 on 19 May 1649, while so many of his officers received honorary degrees that this was termed the Fairfaxian Creation.67

In the summer of 1650 war with Scotland became imminent, and the council of state determined to anticipate the expected attack of the Scots by an invasion of Scotland. Fairfax was willing to command against the Scots if they invaded England again, but resigned rather than attack them. 'Human probabilities,' he said, 'are not sufficient grounds to make war upon a neighbour nation, especially our brethren of Scotland, to whom we are engaged in a solemn league and covenant.' A committee of the council of state was sent to persuade him to retain his post, but he adhered to his conscientious scruples.68 His letter of resignation is dated 25 June 1650.69 Whitelocke, Ludlow, and Mrs. Hutchinson agree in attributing Fairfax's scruples to the influence of his wife and the presbyterian clergy.70 For the rest of the Commonwealth and during the protectorate Fairfax lived in retirement at Nun Appleton, Yorkshire, devoting his leisure chiefly to literature. He made a collection of coins and engravings, which afterwards came into the hands of Ralph Thoresby. He translated 'Vegetius' from the Latin, and 'Mercurius Trismegistus' from the French. He also composed a history of the church up to the time of the Reformation, a little treatise on the breeding of horses, a metrical version of the psalms and other portions of the Bible, and a considerable amount of original verse.71

Throughout the protectorate Fairfax was continually reported by Thurloe's spies to be engaged in the intrigues of the royalists against the government. In 1655, on Penruddock's rising, in 1658, at the time of Hewitt's plot, and in 1659, when Booth's rising took place, royalist agents reported that he was about to declare for the king. All these reports appear to have been unfounded. He refused a letter tendered to him from the king, and is said to have acquainted Cromwell with the overtures which had been made to him.72 Towards the end of the protectorate, however, the relations between Fairfax and Cromwell became extremely strained. A portion of the forfeited estates of George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, had been granted to Fairfax in satisfaction of his arrears and his pension. Buckingham conceived the idea of recovering his estates by marrying the only daughter of Lord Fairfax. Mary Fairfax (b. 1638) had been contracted to Philip, second earl of Chesterfield, but the match was broken off, and on 15 Sept. 1657 she became the wife of Buckingham.73 The marriage is said to have been arranged by Lady Vere, the mother of Lady Fairfax, and Major Robert Harley, a prominent presbyterian leader. The government regarded it with suspicion, partly as being 'a presbyterian plot,' and partly on account of Buckingham's past career as a royalist.74 A warrant was issued for Buckingham's arrest, and Fairfax vainly solicited Cromwell and the council to let him remain at liberty.75 In spite of the efforts of his father-in-law, Buckingham was imprisoned, and, though released on parole, did not permanently obtain his liberty till it was granted him by parliament on Fairfax giving bail for £20,00076 for the duke's good behaviour.77 Fairfax was highly indignant at this affront, and is reported to have declared in private that 'since the dissolving of the [Long] parliament, which was broke up wrongfully, there was nothing but shifting and a kind of confusion; and that he knew not but he might choose by his old commission as general to appear in arms on behalf of the people of these nations.'78

In Richard Cromwell's parliament Fairfax represented Yorkshire, and though he spoke little exerted considerable influence. The only thing notable in his few recorded remarks is his expressed fear of military rule.79 He sat next to Haslerig and voted regularly with the opposition. 'He sides with the republicans, and carries a name above Lambert,' writes one of Hyde's correspondents; while another adds that he was 'extolled as a fortunate man, and not ambitious,' and there was some thought of putting him forward again as general.80 Bordeaux in his despatches describes Fairfax as a leader of the presbyterian party.81 On 19 May 1659 he was elected a member of the council of state, but never acted.82

Fairfax's negotiations with Monck began in November 1659, immediately after the expulsion of the parliament by Lambert. They were conducted through two intermediaries, Edward Bowles and Sir Thomas Clarges. From the first Fairfax designed not merely the restoration of the Rump, but the admission of the secluded members and a free parliament.83 According to Clarendon he was moved to action by a letter from the king [Charles II] delivered to him by Sir Horatio Townshend.84 Fairfax and his friends gathered in arms on 30 Dec., and on 1 Jan. York submitted to them. The same day Monck crossed the Tweed, and in consequence of their success was able to advance unopposed into England. Some of the supporters of Fairfax endeavoured to extract from the leader a declaration of adherence to the Rump, or at least an engagement against any single person, but he refused to give more than a general promise to support the authority of parliament. When Monck passed through York (12-17 Jan.), Fairfax urged him to declare for a free parliament and for the king. Monck refused to commit himself, and in order to force his hand Fairfax originated and sent to him (10 Feb. 1660) the declaration of the Yorkshire gentlemen, demanding either the restoration of the secluded members or a free parliament. These dates show conclusively the influence exercised by Fairfax in bringing about the Restoration, and the tenacity with which he pursued that object.85 Nevertheless, Fairfax does not seem to have desired to restore the king without conditions. The royalists believed him to be entirely their own, when they were startled by hearing that he had joined Lord Manchester's party, which wished to oblige Charles to accept the terms offered to his party at Newport.86 But all plans of this nature were frustrated by the conduct of Monck. Fairfax sat in the interim council of state,87 was again elected member for Yorkshire (March 1660), and was chosen to head the commissioners of the two houses sent to the king at the Hague.

Although he had done so much to forward the Restoration, he returned to Nun Appleton without either honours or rewards. Ludlow represents him as opposing the vindictive policy of the Convention parliament and saying openly 'that if any man deserved to be excepted, he knew no man that deserved it more than himself, who being general of the army, and having power sufficient to prevent the proceedings against the king, had not thought fit to make use of it to that end.'88 One of Fairfax's last letters is an earnest plea for the moderate and equitable treatment of the persons suspected of a share in the so-called Yorkshire plot (1663). During the last seven years of his life Fairfax was crippled by disease. His cousin Brian thus describes him: 'He sat like an old Roman, his manly countenance striking awe and reverence into all that beheld him, and yet mixed with so much modesty and meekness as no figure of a mortal man ever represented more. Most of his time did he spend in religious duties, and much of the rest in reading good books.'89 During this period he composed his two autobiographical works: 'A Short Memorial of the Northern Actions during the War there, from the Year 1642 till 1644;' and 'Short Memorials of some things to be cleared during my Command in the Army.' The first of these deals with the military history of the Yorkshire campaigns; the second is a vindication of his conduct while general, and somewhat too much of a political apology to be entirely trusted.

Lady Fairfax died on 16 Oct. 1665, Fairfax himself on 12 Nov. 1671; both were buried in the church of Bilbrough, near York. The will of Lord Fairfax is reprinted by Markham, who also gives a list of portraits, medals, and engravings representing him (pp. 430, 440). According to the same authority the best portrait of Fairfax is a miniature by Hoskins, painted about 1650. In complexion he was so dark that, like Strafford, he was nicknamed 'Black Tom.' Sprigge, who devotes several pages to an account of his character and person, terms him 'tall, yet not above first proportion, but taller as some say when he is in the field than at home.'90 Whitelocke thus describes Fairfax in 1646: 'The general was a person of as meek and humble carriage as ever I saw in great employment, and but of few words in discourse or council. . . . But I have observed him at councils of war, that he hath said little, but hath ordered things expressly contrary to the judgment of all his council; and in action in the field I have seen him so highly transported, that scarce any one durst speak a word to him, and he would seem more like a man distracted and furious, than of his ordinary mildness, and so far different temper.'91 His personal courage was so conspicuous that his enemies denied him the other qualities of a general. Walker styles him 'a gentleman of an irrational and brutish valour.'92 But Fairfax had also signal merits as a leader. He was remarkable for the rapidity of his marches, the vigour of his attacks, and the excellence of the discipline which he maintained. In his Yorkshire campaigns, though always outnumbered, he continually took the offensive. In the campaign of 1645 the rapidity with which he captured so many fortresses and the smallness of his losses prove his skill in sieges. In victory he was distinguished by the moderation of the terms he imposed, and by generosity to his opponents. The letter in which he proposed a treaty to Hopton in March 1646 is an example of this, and his numerous letters on behalf of royalist officers show the care with which he watched over the observance of articles of surrender. The execution of Lucas and Lisle was a solitary instance of severity, and by no means an indefensible one.

Fairfax was a man of strong literary tastes, and, in the words of Aubrey, 'a lover of learning.' His first act after the surrender of Oxford was to set a strong guard to preserve the Bodleian.93 He assisted the genealogical researches of Dodsworth, and continued the pension which his grandfather had granted to him. By his will Fairfax bequeathed to the Bodleian twenty-eight valuable manuscripts and the whole of the collection formed by Dodsworth. That library also acquired in 1858 a volume of poems and translations by Fairfax entitled 'The Employment of my Solitude,' extracts from which are printed by Markham.94

C. H. F.

1. Fairfax Correspondence, i. 61.
2. ib. i. 56, 160; Markham, Life of the Great Lord Fairfax, p. 13.
3. Fairfax Correspondence, i. 163.
4. ib. i. 296-305; Markham, p. 20.
5. Rushworth, iii. 926; Catalogue of Knights.
6. Own Time, 1838, p. 16.
7. Markham, p. 48; Rushworth , iv. 632.
8. Rushworth, v. 125; Markham, pp. 60-90.
9. Mercurius Aulicus, 4 April 1643; Short Memorial, p. 16.
10. Warburton, ii. 150.
11. Rushworth, v. 270; Short Memorial, p. 18.
12. Rushworth, v. 279; Short Memorial, p. 19.
13. Vicars, God's Ark, p. 47; Old Parliamentary Hist. xii. 423.
14. Rushworth, v. 617.
15. Rebellion, vii. 400.
16. Short Memorial, p. 29.
17. Mercurius Aulicus, 10 Sept. 1644.
18. Commons' Journals, iv. 26.
19. Short Memorials, p. 3.
20. Old Parliamentary Hist. xiii. 422, 432, 436.
21. Short Memorials, p. 3.
22. 'King's Cabinet Opened,' Harleian Miscellany, vii. 547, 553.
23. Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 228.
24. Sprigge, p. 43; Whitelocke, vol. i.; Markham, p. 221.
25. Carlyle, Letter xxix..
26. Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 235.
27. Sprigge, p. 108.
28. ib. iii. 285.
29. ib. iii. 251; Sprigge, p. 315.
30. Old Parliamentary Hist. xv. 166.
31. £700 in 1645 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £92,600 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
32. Markham, p. 435.
33. £5,000 in 1645 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £661,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
34. Whitelocke, ii. 73; Old Parliamentary Hist. xiv. 139.
35. Memorials, ii. 119.
36. Waller, Vindication, pp. 52, 72, 81, 85; Holles, Memoirs, ed. 1699, pp. 84, 88.
37. Short Memorial, p. 4.
38. Old Parliamentary Hist. xv. 383-90.
39. Short Memorial, p. 7.
40. Old Parliamentary Hist. xv. 411.
41. Short Memorial, p. 9.
42. Old Parliamentary Hist. xvi. 104.
43. ib. p. 188.
44. Rushworth, vii. 795, 815.
45. Old Parliamentary Hist. xvi. 340.
46. Short Memorials, p. 5.
47. Rebellion, xi. 8, 68.
48. Rushworth, vii. 1137, 1155.
49. ib. vii. 1247.
50. ib. vii. 1243.
51. Short Memorials, p. 9.
52. Rebellion, xi. 257.
53. Memoirs, ed. 1751, p. 101.
54. Old Parliamentary Hist. xviii. 160; Rushworth, vii. 1330.
55. Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 70.
56. Old Parliamentary Hist. xviii. 461, 465.
57. Rushworth, vii. 1395; Clarendon, xi. 235.
58. Short Memorials, p. 9.
59. Brian Fairfax, Life of Buckingham, p. 7.
60. Memoirs, ed. 1702, p. 135.
61. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649-50, p. 5; Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 101.
62. Rebellion, xi. 235.
63. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649-50, p. 9.
64. ib. p. 62, 30 March 1649.
65. A Declaration of his Excellency concerning the Present Distempers; A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Lord General in the Reducing of the Revolted Troops, 1649.
66. Doctor of Civil Law.
67. Anthony à Wood, Fasti Oxonienses, 1649.
68. Whitelocke, ff. 460-2.
69. Slingsby, Diary, ed. Parsons, p. 340.
70. Ludlow, ed. 1751, p. 121; Hutchinson, ed. 1885, ii. 166.
71. Markham, p. 368.
72. Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 383, 426; Thurloe, iv. 434.
73. Markham, p. 372.
74. Thurloe, vi. 617; Brian Fairfax, Life of Buckingham, prefixed to Arber's ed. of the Rehearsal, 1868, p. 6.
75. Thurloe, vi. 580, 617, 648; Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 177.
76. £20,000 in 1659 was roughly equivalent in purchasing power to £2,210,000 in 2010.
Source: Measuring Worth.
77. Burton, Diary, iii. 370, 21 Feb. 1659.
78. Thurloe, vi. 706.
79. Burton, iii. 140, 273.
80. Thurloe, vii. 616; Clarendon State Papers, iii. 423.
81. Guizot, Richard Cromwell, ed. 1856, 1. 372, 450.
82. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658-9, p. 349.
83. Baker, Chronicle, continued by Phillips, 1670, pp. 690, 691; Fairfax Corresp. iv. 169.
84. Rebellion, xvi. 117.
85. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659-60, pp. 288,293-6,356; Kennett, Register, pp. 13, 19, 22; Fairfax Corresp. iv. 170.
86. Clarendon State Papers, iii. 721, 729.
87. 3 March 1660, Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659-60, p. xxvi.
88. Memoirs, p. 344.
89. Markham, p. 392.
90. Anglia Rediviva, ed. 1854, pp. 47, 325.
91. Memorials, ed. 1853, ii. 20.
92. Hist. of Independency, ed. 1660, i. 29.
93. Aubrey, Lives, ii. 346.
94. Life of Fairfax, pp. 415-27; Macray, Annals of the Bodleian, p. 95.

Firth, C. H. "Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax."
Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. XVIII. Leslie Stephen, Ed.
New York: Macmillan and Co., 1889. 141-148.

Other Local Resources:

Books for further study:

Gibb, M. A. The Lord General: A Life of Thomas Fairfax
           Lindsay Drummon, Ltd., 1938.

Hopper, Andrew. Black Tom: Sir Thomas Fairfax and the English Revolution
           Manchester University Press, 2007.

Lord Fairfax on the Web:

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This page created April 30, 2012. Last updated March 6, 2023.

Index of Encyclopedia Entries:

Medieval Cosmology
Prices of Items in Medieval England

Edward II
Isabella of France, Queen of England
Piers Gaveston
Thomas of Brotherton, E. of Norfolk
Edmund of Woodstock, E. of Kent
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Lancaster
Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster
Roger Mortimer, Earl of March
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Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Edward III
Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England
Edward, Black Prince of Wales
John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
The Battle of Crécy, 1346
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Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
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Richard of York, E. of Cambridge
Richard Fitzalan, 3. Earl of Arundel
Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
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Richard II
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Lords Appellant, 1388
Richard Fitzalan, 4. Earl of Arundel
Archbishop Thomas Arundel
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Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford
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     5th Earl of Northumberland
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Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
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Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
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Thomas Linacre
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Pico della Mirandola
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The Sweating Sickness

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Robert Aske
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Oath of Supremacy
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The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
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The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
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The Rose Theatre
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The Isle of Dogs, 1597

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First Fruits & Tenths
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King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster


Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
London in late 16th century
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's View of London, 1616
Larger Visscher's View in Sections
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London

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