[From Land of Home Rule, 1893]



THE Act, which confirmed the sale of the island by Ferdinand's daughters to their uncle, vested it in perpetuity in William, Lord Derby, his wife Elizabeth (or the survivor), and their son James, Lord Strange, and his right heirs. Lord Derby, however, resigned his interest in the island to Lord Strange in 1637, five years before his death, and from that year Lord Strange-whom the Manx know as the great Earl of Derby-became Lord of Man.

For some years before 1637, Earl William 1 seems to have paid little attention to his insular kingdom. Orders, indeed, were issued in 1609 and 1610, presumably by his authority, regulating the rate of wages, regulating the herring-fishery, and regulating the garrisons. But in 1613 the Government appears to have been carried on in Lady Derby's name, since she framed a statute, which was promulgated in that year, prescribing the dues to be paid by fishermen; and from 1627 Lord Strange conducted the government in person.

In that year, one Edward Christian, who was to become famous both in Manx history and in English literature, was appointed Governor; and Lord Strange, writing years afterwards to his son, admitted that the appointment was his own making. " I was newly got acquainted with Captain Christian, whom I observed soon to have abilities enough to do me service. . . . I was told he had already made himself a fortune in the Indies ; that he was a Manxman born; but, which took most with me, that when he offered his service it was on these terms, that . . . he would be contented to hold the staff 1 until I chose another, which most willingly he would then resign without repine. . . . For the pay he so little valued that, as he would be content to do service without any, or as little of it as it pleased me. . . . He is excellent good company, as rude as a sea-captain should be, but refined as one that had civilised himself half a year at court, where he served the Duke of Buckingham."

And for some years Edward Christian fulfilled his Lord's expectations. "He pleased me very well, and had a quality of the best servant, that what I directed him to do, if it succeeded ill, he would take upon himself, and what happened well would give me the glory of it."

But he had one fault. " He was ever forward to make me many requests, which, while they were fit for me to grant, I did never deny him. . . . But I observed that the more I gave, the more he asked. . . . So as after a while I sometimes did refuse him. And it was sure to fall out, according to the old observation, that when a prince hath given all, and the favourite can desire no more, they both grow weary with one another." 1

So it happened that Edward Christian was removed, and in 1640 Lord Strange made Captain Greenhalgh 2 Governor. His reasons for this appointment were again explained to his son.

"First, he is a gentleman horn, and such will usually scorn to do a base act.

" His ancestors have dwelt in my house, as the best, if not all the good families in Lancashire have done. This certainly might breed a desire is the man that the house where his predecessors have served might still flourish.

" He hath a good estate of his own, and therefore need not borrow of another, which hath heretofore been a fault in this country. For that Governors who have wanted were forced to be beholden unto those that, may be, were the parties most offending against Lord and country. The borrower becomes servant to the lender.

" He was a deputy-lieutenant and justice of the peace in this country; in which places he did his king and country good service ; and with good reputation.

" He governed his own affairs well ; he was, therefore, much more likely to do mine so.

" He hath been approved valiant, and is therefore fitter for voter trust.

" He is such, that I thank God for him, and I charge you love and cherish him." 1

In the meanwhile, affairs in England were rapidly reaching an acute crisis. Lord Derby was among the most strenuous supporters of Charles I. He joined the King at York in 1642 ; he raised, at his own charge, a considerable force in support of the royal cause. But his efforts, strangely enough, were received with coldness at Whitehall. The men who surrounded Charles were always already to hint that Lord Derby, like the King, was descended from Henry VII. ; and Charles, faithless himself, was easily induced to distrust the man whose birth placed him inconveniently near the throne. But Lord Derby's conduct gave no cause for these suspicions, When his own efforts were received with coldness, and when mismanagement flung the county of Lancashire into the cause of the Parliament, he was ready to lay the blame on others, and not on the King.

Meanwhile," to use his own words, " I received letters from the Isle of Man intimating the great danger there, for that the people had begun the fashion of England in murmuring, and by some damned spirit had been taught the same lessons as I have known in London-to come in tumultuous manners desiring new laws--a change of the old-that they would have no bishops, pay no tithes to the clergy. They despised authority, and rescued some committed- by the Governor for such insolent behaviour, and the like. I t was also feared that they had discovered themselves thus far, thereby to invite some strangers into the island. It was bruited also that a ship-of-war I then had for the defence of the isle was taken by Parliament ships, which proved true. All these considered, it behoved me to prevent the mischief betimes both for his -Majesty' service and mine own good."

And so, leaving his heroic wife to defend as best she could Lathom House, Lord Derby in 1643 crossed over to the Island, landing in it probably for the first time.

The country he found better than he had been told. " For which I blame myself that I formerly inquired so little of it." But the people were of " many different humours." Some unaffectedly glad to see their Lord, others only pretending gladness. Captain Greenhalgh had in the interval before Lord Derby's arrival managed to maintain "authority and to awe the people with the same, which he did not in any threatening manner, for so it might have occasioned the people, in that mad mood, to oppose the same by some daring deeds or words." 1

Trained in the atmosphere of Stuart England, and regarding the Stuarts as the best of sovereigns, Lord Derby knew how to hide a hand of iron in a glove of silk. "When first I came among the people, I seemed affable and kind to all, so I offended none. For taking off your hat, a good word, a smile, or the like, will cost you nothing, but may gain you much."-' And he took perhaps the wisest course which was open to him. He appointed "a meeting in the heart of the country, wishing every man freely to tell his grievance; that I would hear all complaints and give remedy the best I could." The meeting was adjourned to Castle Rushen, "a strong place, where a few days before I entertained into the garrison some soldiers (whom I brought with me out of England) and some commanders (who kept me company that day), though without any sign of the least apprehension of the people. , . , Each parish gave me a petition of their several grievances, and I gave them a few good words, promising to take them into consideration, and they parted fairly." r Fair words were the only results of this assembly. Another meeting was fixed for the r Sth July at the Lord's other chief residence, " Castle Peel, where I expected some wrangling, and had it. I provided there also for my own safety, and, if occasion were, to curb the rest." But Lord Derby did more than provide for his own safety at Peel. " Before the day of the meeting I provided me of some informers, who unsuspectedly might mingle with the people, thereby discovering beforehand the motions they would make me, their champions they relied on, and what likeliest might best content them." 2 The grievances of which the people complained were twofold in their character. The first related to the exactions of the Church, which had been only imperfectly remedied by the legislation of the previous centuries ; the second to the tenure of land, which, since the time of Goddard Crovan, had been uncertain. It ought to be added that to this meeting Lord Derby summoned "the officers, spirituall and temporall, with the twenty-four Keys of the said Island, and four men of every parish," to study and devise such convenient remedy and redress as might best stand with the maintenance and preservation of his Lordship's royalties, rights, and prerogatives, the good and welfare of the Church and commons, and the peace and safety of the whole State in general.

The assembly, however, which was thus convened, was only intrusted with very limited powers. "It was mutually condescended and agreed unto by all parties, and it was their humble desires, that his Lordship should chancelarise, order, and decide all and every their matters and business of complaint or aggrievance whatsoever. . . . To which order, doom, and decree every one of them, viz., the Right Reverend Father in God, Richard, the Lord Bishop of the Isle, with his officers spirituall and the body of his clergy, the twenty-four Keys of the Island, with the four men of every parish, in the name of themselves and of the whole commons of the Isle, by whom they were chosen and thither sent for that purpose, did condescend and agree for them, their heirs and successors, to stand, to perform, and abide such his Lordship's order, doome, and decree therein, as should be thereafter published under his honour's hand and seale."

Having thus got the whole power unconditionally surrendered into his own hands, Lord Derby next directed that "a select jury and grand inquest of twenty-four rnen, newly chosen, whereof twelve of the twenty-four Keys to be part, and twelve of the four men of the parishes then present the other part, should be impanelled and sworn to find out and present all such wrongs and abuses as have been committed or acted against his Lordship's prerogative, the ]awes of the island, or the good of the comonaltie."

The meeting in Peel, however, was not destined to end without disturbance; for Captain Christian, to quote Lord Derby's own words, "seeming desirous to make a right under-standing between me and the people, at the rising of the court, asked me if we did not agree thus and thus, mentioning some things he had instructed the people to ask, which very happily they had forgot. Presently some catched thereat; but as soon as I catched at the words, saying 'he was much to blame so unseasonably to move new matter, seeing that we so happily had ended the day, and set all business in a blessed way for the good of me and the country' . . . and so, rising from my seat, I assured the people they needed no other advocate than myself to plead for them, because I had a resolution to do all that in reason they at any time might desire of me . . . and, if any base fellow told them otherwise of me, I wish they would hold him an enemy to themselves. And whoever durst say to me I had not their loves, I would give such the lie, and deliver him to them to tear in pieces, as I thought he might well deserve. So I bade the Court to rise, and no man to speak a word more. . . . Christian hereat grew very blank ; " and he had reason, for a few days afterwards Lord Derby flung him into prison in Peel, where he is said to have remained for many years.' Others were imprisoned with him, and others "deeply fined. So as having picked them thus one by one (which was the more easy and ready way), it terrified all that had any hand in these matters . . . those who were fined, by their good behaviour hope to be forgiven the said fines, and are thereby in good awe. Others make way to their peace before-hand, to prevent imprisonment and fine. And so, God be thanked, we are very quiet." 2

In the meanwhile the grand inquest proceeded to make its report. The grievances of which it complained chiefly concerned "particular abuses of the clergy, by particular ministers and proctors, in the collecting of their tithes and duties to the Church, contrary to the known laws and orders of the Island." Lord Derby called on the proctors and clergy for explanations : he obtained from them a "promise of reformation for future time," and " such feizable reasons of their just grievances against the commonaltie, that his Lordship (for preservation of love and unity betwixt the clergy and commonaltie for time to come) thinks fitt that those matters of particular grievances on both parts shall be no more remembered." But at the same time he had the good sense to put an end to certain exactions of the Church. When a minor died, the Church had exacted a fee of 3s. 4d. before passing his goods to his brothers and sisters ; Lord Derby limited the fee to 6d. The Church had claimed the right of writing every man's will, and had charged a fee for doing so ; Lord Derby directed that "every man may make, or cause to be made, his own will, by whom he shall please to direct." The Church had directed that, in the case of an intestate, " the whole team of oxen and the cropp of corne" should go to the eldest son;" Lord Derby ordered that the goods should be divided equally among all the children. The Church had taken a corpse present of ten per cent. on a deceadant's goods; Lord Derby practically limited the corpse present to one penny in the pound. The Church had insisted, by an " undecent order," that tithe butter and tithe cheese should be paid on the Sabbath-day on the altar; Lord Derby terminated a practice "much out of use in most parts of the King's dominions," and commuted the tithe for a small money payment on each cow, goat, and sheep. The Church had prevented the farmer from hauling his corn before the proctor came and took the tithe corn ; Lord Derby directed that, if the proctor neglected, after due notice, to remove the tithe corn, the farmer might carry his own corn, taking "two neighbours to justify with him that he hath left his due tithe." The Church had directed that sundry small tithes and payments should be made on Easter Sunday, "and sometimes will stop the people from receiving the blessed Sacrament, because they have not paid their duties;" Lord Derby gave order that these small tithes and oblations should be payable on Monday and Tuesday in Easter week, after the people had received the Communion, and that the Church should have only the usual though summary remedy against those in default.'

Lord Derby's orders undoubtedly remedied some of the worst grievances of which the people complained; and his power was so absolute or his influence so great, that he pro-cured their acceptance both by the laity and the Church. For this purpose he summoned the clergy, his Council, the Keys, and the twenty-four men of every parish, to Castle Rushen on the 30th October, and made them, or such of them as were present,' subscribe their names to the orders. If Lord Derby had been satisfied with this victory, insular history in the next few years might have taken a different course. After settling the affairs of the Church, however, Lord Derby went on to enforce his own rights. In the course of ages, the people (as has been shown in a previous chapter) had gradually acquired a kind of tenant-right in their holdings : they had even of recent years claimed a right of alienating them. Lord Derby from the first laboured strenuously to terminate a practice which he thought injuriously affected his own interests he referred in 1643 the matter to a commission composed of 'members of his Council, and he succeeded in 1645 in inducing the Tynwald Court to accept the conclusions of the commission. Under the arrangement which was then made the old system of land tenure was altered, The tenants of the Lord, whose lands had hitherto passed from father to child, and who had almost acquired by usage a right of sale, were persuaded to become leaseholders, receiving their lands on leases for twenty-one years or on leases for their lives. Lord Derby was very proud of this piece of legislation, but it brought the Island and his successors nothing but trouble, till it was terminated in the following century by the most important Act which Tynwald had ever passed.

Between the issue of the commission in 1643, and the promulgation of the Act in 1645, Lord Derby temporarily left the Island ; for news was brought to him that his heroic wife, Charlotte de la Tremouille, was besieged in Lathom House and in need of succour. This is hardly the place to re-tell the story of that famous siege, to relate how Lady Derby, placed, as she declared, under a double trust of loyalty and faith to her husband and of allegiance and duty to her sovereign, refused to yield ; how she accompanied her own troops in a sally beyond the walls, and mastered the enemy's works ; how she desired her trumpeters to tell that insolent rebel Rigby that, if he presumed to send any fresh summons to the house, she would- hang up his messenger at the gates ; or how the advance of Prince Rupert compelled the Parliament troop; after four months of work and suffering to raise the siege. Lord Derby reached Lathom in time to receive Prince Rupert in the house which had been made illustrious by Lady Derby's courage ; but the Prince, " better and more fully acquainted than the Earl with those undeserved jealousies and suspicions still subsisting against him by the great ones at court, and also of their vile and scurrilous suggestions and insinuations to his Majesty that it was not safe to trust him with too much power who had so near an alliance to the crown and knew so well how to use it to his own advantage,"' advised him to return with all speed to the island. Charles I., in short, still continued to distrust the man who stood in the same relation to Henry VII. as himself, but who throughout his 'life proved the warmest supporter of the Stuart dynasty.

Accordingly, leaving Lathom House in charge of a gallant Royalist, Colonel Rawsthorne, who had stood by Lady Derby's side during the famous siege, Lord Derby took his wife, his children, and his chaplain, Mr. Rutter, with him, and returned to the island. He had not been there many years before his conduct gave signal proof of the unworthiness of the suspicions of his detractors. For after the death of Charles I. the Parlia-ment desired to get the island into its own keeping, and Ireton wrote to Lord Derby, and offered to secure him in his English estates if he would yield up his insular kingdom. Lord Derby returned the following answer :-

" I received your letter with indignation and scorn, and return you this answer : that I cannot but wonder whence you should gather any hopes from me that I should, like you, prove treacherous to my sovereign, since you cannot but be sensible of my former actings in his late Majesty's service, from which principles of loyalty .I am no whit departed.

" I scorn your proffers, disdain your favour, abhor your treason, and am so far from delivering up this island to your advantage, that I will keep it, to the utmost of my power, to your destruction. Take this your final answer, and forbear any further solicitations. For if you trouble me with any more messages on this occasion, I will burn the paper and hang the bearer.' This is the immutable resolution, and shall be the undoubted practice of him, who accounts it his chiefest glory to be His Majesty's most loyal and obedient servant. DERBY.

"CASTLETOWN,July 12, 1649."

Once again, and for the last time in her history, the Isle of Man was defying the whole might of England, and for more than two years, while Lord Derby lived, he made good his boast. England either did not think it worth while or worth the risk to attempt the conquest of the little island in the Irish Sea. In 1651, however, the attempt of Charles II. to regain his crown recalled Lord Derby to England. He carried with him the Governor, Captain Greenhalgh, and a regiment of his Manx subjects, and after an obstinate engagement in Lancashire, in which he was worsted, he joined the King, and took part in the battle of Worcester. After the defeat he fled with Charles into Staffordshire, where " having seen [Charles] hopefully secured in such a place and with such trusty persons, by whose means he most happily escaped the cruel hands of those bloodthirsty rebels who then sought his life, shifting for himself, he had the hard hap to be taken in Cheshire by one Major Edge, but upon condition of quarter. Nevertheless, against the law of arms, he was afterwards most barbarously sentenced to death by a certain number of faithless men, who, calling themselves a court-martial, sat at Chester, where, having voted him guilty of a breach of the Act of August 12, 1651, intituled an Act for prohibiting correspondency with Charles Stuart or his party, and sentenced him to be put to death at Bolton in Lancashire upon the 15th of October. He there suffered most Christianly."

Thus 'lived and thus died the most striking figure that had yet arisen in insular history. In Orry, the founder of the Norwegian kingdom, it is difficult to separate the legendary from the real. The character of the seventh Earl of Derby is evident, on the contrary, from his actions, his writings, and his laws. A man who lived in Stuart times could hardly be expected to be a perfect ruler. In his miniature stage he aped the manners of his own monarch, and quenched opposition by securing his opponents in gaol. Yet he did much to remedy the abuses he found. A strong Churchman, he restricted the exactions of the Church ; and he strove, after the fashion of his time, to maintain order by severe punishment of crime. His land laws were stamped with the fault that they were based on the principles which perhaps found favour in the seventeenth century with every great landowner. They left a legacy of hate, which explain the revolt of the island after his death, and which was not extinguished till the laws themselves were abrogated by a later successor. In other respects he did good work, and did it with the best intention. He was careful in the choice of his ecclesiastics and his officers, gracious in his manner, princely in his expenditure; he had courage which made him worthy of his heroic wife, loyalty which deserved a better sovereign, intelligence which would have been useful on a wider stage. His defects were perhaps the defects of his age ; his virtues were his own ; and so even those who dissent from his policy may agree in according to him the title, by which -Manxmen still know him, of the great Earl of Derby.


1 There is some mystery attaching to this William, Lord Derby. Seaconle (History, House of Stanley, p. 65) says that he had been abroad for many years before the death of his brother, Earl Ferdinand, in 1595 (? 1594), and that, on his return to England after his brother's decease, few persons could identify; him. "This story," writes Sir James Gell (Manx Soc. Pub., vol. xii. pp. 75, 76), "seems to lie more strange than true, as Earl William (when he was the Honourable William Stanley) was governor of the island from 1592 to 1591. If at any time his identity became a difficulty, the probability is that it was subsequently to his being confirmed in the Lordship of Man ; for, strange to say, it does not appear (so far as I have been able to search the insular records);that he ever did any act as Lord of the island, either solely or in conjunction with his wife ; but from 1612 to 1627 the island appears to have been ruled by the Countess Elizabeth alone. It is presumed that the Countess Elizabeth died in 1626 or 1627, as in the latter year, James, Lord Strange, son of Earl William and of the Countess Elizabeth, assumed the rule of the island, though Earl William lived until the 29th September 1641." This Countess Elizabeth was the daughter of Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford. Her son Jame; was summoned to Parliament in 1627 as Baron Strange, under an impression that such a barony was enjoyed by his father; that, however, not teeing the case, the summons amounted to the creation of a new peerage, which eventually devolved upon the ducal House of Atholl (Burke's Peerage).

2 The "staff" was the common term for the Government. The highest Court of Appeal in the island, in which the Governor always sits in person, is " the Staff of Government," or the Staff of Government Division of the High Court ; and the Governor, when he is sworn in, holds a staff in his right hand, and swears "truly and uprightly (to) deal between our Sovereign Lady the Queen and her subjects within this isle, and as indifferently between party and party as this staff now standeth, so far as in the lyeth." See the oath in Manx Soc. Pub., vol. xix, p. 36.

3 Manx Soc. Pub., vol. iii. Pp. 39-40

4 There is a short memoir of Captain Greenhalgh in Mans Soc. Pub., vol. xxx.

5 Manx Soc. Pub., vol. iii. p. i6,

6 Manx Soc. Pub.. vol, iii, p, r;,

7 1llici- f 33•

8 Manx Soc. Pub., vol. iii. p. 26.

9-bid., P. zg.

10 Train, vol. i. p. 197 ; but cf. Manx Soc. Pub., vol. -x,-% i. p. go )7.

11 Manx Soc. Pub., ,ol, iii. P. 35•

12 statutes, lsle of Man, vol, i,

13 A note was appended that the reason why the full body of the twenty-four Keys and the four men of each parish are not all inserted is because their meeting at Castle Rushen, the said 30th October '43, proved a very tempestuouss day of rain and wind ; they could not conveniently travel without hazard, åc. Statutes, Isle of \'Ian, vol. i, p, 100,

14 Seacome's House of Stanley, p. ior.

15 One is almost tempted to think that this language must have been inspired by Lady Derby, it so exactly resembles Lady Derby's answer to Rigby (Scacome's House of Stanley, p. 9=, which has already been quoted). Cf. ibid., p. 130.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2002