[from Jefferys A Descriptive Account of the Isle of Man, 1808]


As it is not my intention to attempt the character of an historian, I shall only give such an abstract of the general history of the Isle of Man as will be sufficient to lead to my subject.

The Isle of Man is very centrally situated, between England, Ireland,and Scotland, being about 30 miles from each. Its length, from north to south, is between 30 and 40 miles,and its breadth from 10 to 15.

The name of MAN is supposed to refer to its situation to the surrounding kingdoms, from the Saxon word MANG, signifying among. Its ancient heraldic bearing was a Ship; but it is at present, and has been for centuries, Three Legs. So long as the kings of Man wrote Rex Manniae et Insularum, they bore the Ship; but when the Scots had possession of the Isle of Man with the Western Islands, the Three Legs were substituted.

It is now said of the Three Legs,that with the toe of the one they spurn at Ireland, with the spur of the other they kick at Scotland, and with the third they bow to England.

It is supposed the first inhabitants were British, and that they were succeeded by the Druids till the fourth century, when Christianity was introduced into the Island.

The kings of Man are often mentioned in history; and though we have no regular account of their succession, and know but few of their names, yet they were undoubtedly for ages masters of those seas.

A succession of kings of the Danish line were sovereigns of the island in the tenth century, and in the eleventh century the sovereignty was in the Norwegian line. These were succeeded by a line of Scottish monarchs till 1344, when Sir William Montacute was crowned, by order of Edward III. of England, who had enabled him to conquer it.

It then descended to Sir William Scroope, who was beheaded. After that it was granted, by Henry IV, toPercy, earl of Northumberland, who again deprived him of it.

In the 6th of Henry IV, a grant was made to Sir John Stanley (an ancestor of the earls of Derby) his heirs and assigns, of the Island, Castle Peel, and Lordship of Man, and all the islands, lordships, royalties, regalities,and appurtenances, with the patronage of the bishopric and all ecclesiastical benefices, in as full and ample a manner as they had been possessed by any former kings or lords of Man, to be holden by homage, and the service of rendering to his Majesty and to his successors, at their coronation,

The Stanley family continued to be the sovereigns of the Isle of Man till 1504, when Thomas, the second earl of Derby, voluntarily resigned the regal title. His reasons for doing so are explained in the following extract of a letter from a succeeding earl of Derby 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, was by his patent stiled King of Man, as were his successors
After him, to the time of Thomas, second earl of Derby, who, for great and wise reasons, 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 our great and wise ancestor, Thomas, the second earl of Derby; and, with him conceive, that to be a great lord is more honorable than to be 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: for witness the scruples raised, and objections made by my enemies in his Majesty's council, of my being too nearly allied to Royalty to be trusted with too great power,whose jealousies and vile suggestions have proved of very ill consequence to his Majesty's interest and my service of him.

Take it for granted, therefore, that it is your honor to give honor to your Sovereign; it is safe and comfortable. Therefore, in all your actions, let it visibly appear in this Isle."

From that time they were called Lords of Man, as the regal title was never resumed by any of his successors, though their power and dignity remained undiminished.

King James I. gave to William, earl of Derby, a new grant of the Island, equally liberal with that of Henry IV, which was confirmed by act of parliament.

In 1642, Jangles, the seventh earl of Derby, lost his head, by supporting king Charles I, for which Charles II.proved afterwards very ungrateful.

During the rebellion, the Island was besieged by the parliamentary forces under the command of colonels Birch and Duckenfield, and surrendered; and in 1652 it was granted by the parliament to Lord Fairfax, but at the restoration the Derby family were reinstated in all their rights.

Charles, earl of Derby, son of the earl who suffered at Bolton, was the first Lord of the Isle after the restoration. He died in 1672.

James, the younger son, then succeeded his brother, as tenth earl of Derby. He ascertained, and confirmed to the Manks, their tenures, which were before very injurious to themselves, and involved in intricacy. - This was termed the Act of Settlement; it passed in 1703, and very considerably augmented the happiness and prosperity of the Island. It is called the MANKS MAGNA CHARTA. He died in 1785.


The last Lord having no issue, the kingdom of Man devolved on James, second duke of Athol, who was descended from Lady Mary Sophia, youngest daughter of the seventh earl of Derby, and the wife of his grandfather John, marquis of Athol.

During his reign, illicit commerce gained a great footing in his dominions; and the British government, alarmed at the diminution of its revenue, made attempts to purchase the Island, but they were evaded.

James, duke of Athol, died in 1764.

John, his nephew, succeeded him as third duke of Athol. He married, in 1755, Lady Charlotte, second daughter of his uncle, the late duke.

Government still renewing overtures of purchase, he agreed to resign the kingdom, in 1765, for £70,000; which has been thought a sum by no means adequate for the advantages gained by the British government,or for the injury done to his posterityby its alienation from the family. The act annexing it to the British Crown is called the REVESTING ACT.Since which the parliament has granted an annuity of £2000 on the lives of the duke and duchess of Athol, by way of additional compensation.

The kings of England always claimed sovereignty over the Isle of Man, as lords paramount; but they interfered not with its government. The lord's power was ample; he coined money, punished or pardoned delinquents, &c. &c

John, the present duke of Athol, the eldest son of the late duke, was born in 1755.


By an act of Henry VIII, the bishopric of Sodor and Man was declared to be in the province of York. The two bishoprics of Sodor and Man were united under the Norwegian kings, and continued so until the lowland was conquered by the English; since which time the bishop of Sodor and Man retained the united title; adds the Scottish bights were stiled Bishops of the Isles


Buchanan says, that the word Sodor was, before his time, the name of a town in the Isle of Man; and in Gough's edition of Camden it is said,this title was given to the small island of Peel, on which the ruins of Peel Castle now stand. But the following is the most rational account of it: The Western Isles were divided into two clusters, and were, in the Norwegian language, called Sudor and Nordor, signifying Southern and Northern.

Man was included in the Sudor,which, anglicized, became Sodor; and upon the union of the whole into one diocese, the bishop was termed Bishop of Sodor and Man.

Of the succession and character of many of the bishops, an account will be subsequently given.

The established religion in the Isle of Man is that of the church of England, and the service is performed three Sundays in the English, and one in the Manks language.

Camden says of the Manks, that

" the richer sort, and those that have estates, imitate the gentry of Lancashire in splendid living and integrity. The people are very religious, and zealously conformable to the church of England. They are likewise great enemies to the disorders, as well civil as ecclesiastical, of their neighbour countries."

The same author says,

" no small" stir was raised among the ancients, in deciding to which of the territories (England or Ireland) they belonged. At last the difference way adjusted, in regard that the venomous animals would live here that were brought over from England; for experiment's sake, it was generally thought to belong to Britain. Yet the inhabitants are very like Irish, both in their speech and manners."


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001