[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]

[note the early history is rather garbled!]




ALEXANDER OF SCOTLAND, wishing to make sure of his sovereignty of Man, entered into a treaty at Perth, in 1266 A.D., with Magnus VI., King of Norway, the successor of Hacon Hakonson, in which Magnus ceded to him all his claims and interest in the sovereignty and episcopacy of Man for the sum of 4,000 marks, to be paid in four yearly instalments of 1,000 marks each, and an annual pension of 100 marks. Alexander, however, had very great difficulties in getting the Manx themselves to accede to this arrangement, which was the first sale of the island. He had to send a powerful army, under the command of Alexander Stuart, of Paisley, to reduce them to a state of obedience.

Stuart fought a decisive battle at Ronaldsway, where the Manx were badly beaten, losing five hundred gentlemen of the best families, and their leader, Ivan the Bold.

On establishing his authority, Alexander, in token of his conquest, abolished the ancient armorial ensign of the island—the ship with the motto Rex Mannae et Insularem, substituting the more ancient device of the Three Legs.

It was a long time before the Manx settled down quietly under their new Scottish rulers. The Scottish Kings governed the island by nobles or Thanes, the generality of whom were so tyrannical that at last the Manx rose in revolt in very considerable numbers, and when the two armies were drawn up before each other, the Bishop, Marcus Galvadiensio, a Scotch-man, interfered to prevent bloodshed, and obtained the mutual consent of both parties to decide the contest by thirty champions on each side.

The contest took place, and extraordinary feats of heroism were performed on both sides. The Manx champions were all slain, and twenty-five of the Scottish champions perished also. This affair settled the matter, and the people quietly submitted to their fate.

On the death of Alexander of Scotland, the con tentions of Bruce and Baliol gave Edward I. of England the opportunity of seizing the Isle of Man for a period; and in the meantime two claimants for the Manx crown appeared in the field—both females.

The first lady was Mary, daughter of Reginald III.; the other was Alfrida, a daughter of Olaf III., the Black, King of Man. This latter lady was married to an English nobleman, Sir Simon de Montacute, and in her favour the all-powerful Edward I. decided.

Their son, Sir William de Montacute, a reckless young gentleman—a sort of medieval fast young man hanging around the English Court—having overrun the constable, mortgaged the island and its revenue to his ‘uncle,’ Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham and Patriarch of Jerusalem, to whom the King of England afterwards made a grant of it for his life.

This is believed to be the first recorded instance of a hard-up gentleman depositing his property with his ‘uncle’ as security for cash advanced. If they have not already done so, and they think they require a patron saint, it would not be amiss for the pawn brokers to adopt this Bishop Anthony Beck for the purpose, as they have already done by taking the arms of Lombardy for their sign.

The avuncular Bishop enjoyed his security for just seventeen years, when he was gathered to his fathers. As the fast-living Sir William de Montacute was either dead or in too great difficulties to show up, and his son and heir was but an infant of tender years, the reigning King of England, Edward II., who was noted for his generosity to his favourites— especially when he had the opportunity of exercising it with other people’s property—presented the Isle of Man successively to his proteges, Piers de Gaveston, Gilbert MacGaskell, and Henry de Beaumont.

Not one of these Court butterflies cared about being a resident King of Man, much preferring to spend what moneys the revenues afforded them in the gaieties of London. Consequently Man presented a good opportunity for the energetic Bruce, who, in 1313 A.D., made a descent upon it, and besieged the English garrison in Castle Rushen. This fortress, however, was gallantly defended by Dougall MacDoul for a period of six months, before he and his brave men surrendered. On the English garrison being at length driven out of the island, Bruce, King of Scotland, presented the crown of Man to his nephew, Randolph, Earl of Murray.

In the following reign of Edward III. of England, known as the ‘Hammer of Scotland,’ Man again fell into English hands. Mary de Waldefeof, a lady, presented her claims to the English King. Edward had other and much weightier matters on hand to attend to, but managed to find time to very speedily settle the claims of both aspirants of the rival houses. He united them by giving the Lady Mary de Waldefeof in marriage to William de Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, the grandson of Sir Simon de Montacute and Alfrida, the daughter of King Olaf the Black.

In the year 1344 A.D., the Earl and Countess of Salisbury were crowned King and Queen of Man, with great pomp and ceremony, in the Cathedral of St. Germain’s, in Peel Castle.

The Salisbury family set but little store on their insular throne, for in 1393 A.D. the chronicles inform us that the Earl of Salisbury, son of the one who married Mary de Waldefeof, sold to William de Scroop, afterwards Earl of Wiltshire, the Isle of Man, with the title of King, and the right of being crowned with a golden crown.

At this period the golden crown appears to have brought anything but good fortune to its wearer, for the Earl of Wiltshire got into serious trouble, and was beheaded in 1399 A.D. for high treason against Henry IV. of England, who bestowed the little kingdom on Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland; but he in his turn got into disgrace, and was attainted and banished by King Henry, who made another grant of the Isle of Man, in 1406 A.D., to Sir John Stanley—’ to him and his heirs for ever; to be held from the Kings of England, subject to an annual tribute of a cast of falcons.’ Henry Bolingbroke was a King who did things thoroughly.

Sir John Stanley married the daughter of Sir Thomas Lathom, of Lathom and Knowsley, in Lancashire, and thus founded the noble family of Stanley and Derby, who held the sovereignty of Man for very many years. Its several members made frequent visits to their little kingdom, but governed chiefly by lieutenants, who either resided at Peel or Rushen Castles, both of which were garrisoned, and considered amongst the strongest fortified places in the British Isles.

Henry Byron, one of these Lieutenant-Governors, is spoken of with great respect by the Manx people of the present day. He remodelled the House of Keys, and restored that body to its original number of twenty-four. It will be remembered that Man sent sixteen, and the other isles eight members, to Tynwald Parliament. Several years previous to Governor Byron’s time, the Soderen Isles had in reality been separated from Man. Byron so rearranged the members that every parish sent one, making in all twenty-four, the original number first instituted by King Orry.

In the reign of Richard II. of England the Earl of Warwick was banished to Peel Castle, in the Isle of Man, but after a while was recalled, and his honours all restored.

Another notable English prisoner in Peel Castle was Eleanor Cobham, the wife of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, sentenced to perpetual imprisonment for witchcraft by King Henry VI. of England—vide Shakespeare, ‘Henry VI.,’ Part II., Act II., Scene 3, Hall of Justice:

‘KING HENRY. Stand forth, Dame Eleanor Cobham, Glo’ster’s wife
In sight of God and us, your guilt is great:
Receive the sentence of the law for sins
Such as by God’s Book are adjudged to death.
* * * * *
You, madam, for you are more nobly born,
Despoiled of your honour in your life,
Shall, after three days’ open penance done,
Live in your country here in banishment,
With Sir John Stanley, in the Isle of Man.

DUCHESS. Welcome is banishment; welcome were my death,’ etc.

Scene 4, after the Duchess has done penance:

‘DUCHESS. Stanley, I prithee, go, and take me hence; I care not whither, for I beg no favour,
Only convey me where thou art commanded.

STANLEY. Why, madam, that is to the Isle of Man; There to be used according to your state.’

In the reign of Henry VI. the Stanleys were raised to the peerage, and created barons, Sir Thomas Stanley being the first Lord Stanley. He died in 1459 A.D., and it was his son, also named Thomas, who played the all-important part at Bosworth Field, when, after taking part in the battle against the unpopular Richard III., he crowned the victorious Earl of Richmond, on the field of battle, Henry V II., King of England, for which services Henry created him Earl of Derby.

The regal title of King of Man was resigned in 1504 A.D. by Thomas, second Earl of Derby, who explained his reasons in the following letter to his son:

‘The Isle was sometime governed by Kings, natives of its own, who were converted to Christianity by St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland; and Sir John Stanley, the first possessor of it of that family, was by his Patent styled King of Man, as were his successors after him. For great and wise reasons I have thought fit to forbear that title. Some might think it a mark of grandeur that the Lords of this Isle have been called kings; and I might be of that opinion if I knew how this country could maintain itself independent of other nations; and that I had no interest in another place; but herein I agree with your great and wise ancestor, and with him conceive that to be a great Lord is more honourable than a petty king.

Besides, it is not fit for a king to be subject to any other king but the King of Kings; nor does it hardly please a king that any of his subjects should affect that title, were it but to act it in a play; witness the scruples raised and objections made by my enemies in His Majesty’s Council, of my being too nearly allied to the Royalty to be trusted with too great power (as hereinbefore mentioned); whose jealousies and vile suggestions have proved very ill consequence to his Majesties interest and my service of him. Take it for granted that it is your honour to give honour to your sovereign; it is safe and comfortable; therefore in all your actions let it visibly appear in this Isle.


Ever since that time the title has been Lord of Man, not King. The Queen of England at the present day is Lady of Man.

Edward Stanley, third Earl of Derby, was a great favourite of the Bluff King Hal, Henry VIII. of England. During his life the revenues of Rushen Abbey, at Ballasalla, were seized upon and confiscated, and the building was dismantled as a religious house. Rushen was the last of the abbeys that fell under the rapacious hand of Henry VIII.

In 1610 A.D. a new charter was obtained from the King of England—James 1.—for insuring and establishing the Isle of Man in the name and blood of William, Earl of Derby; and in 1637 A.D. this Earl William, being tired of public life, resigned all his dignities and titles to his son, James Stanley, so celebrated in history as the great Earl of Derby.


Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001