[taken from Chapter 3 Manx Worthies, A.W.Moore, 1901]
the second son of the Rev. John Christian who was Vicar of Maughold between 1580 and 1625, played many parts in life. He was at one time a merchant adventurer, then a captain in the Royal Navy, then Deputy-Governor of the island, Commander of the insular militia, reformer, and patriot, or rebel. His early life was spent at sea, where, becoming the owner as well as the captain of a vessel, he amassed a fortune under the auspices of the " East Indy Co."1 We next find him at the English Court as one of the suit of the Duke of Buckingham, by whose influence he was appointed to the " Bonaventure," frigate, of 37 guns. On returning to his native island in 1627, he at once attracted the attention of its ruler, James, Lord Strange, who writes of him as follows: " 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 good 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 until I chose another . . . 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 civilized himself half a year at Court, where he served the Duke of Buckingham."2
Such being CHRISTIAN'S qualifications, Lord Strange, in 1628, appointed him "lieutenant and captain,"3 and "for some few years he," says his master, "pleased me very well," for he " had a quality of the best servant-that what I directed him to do, if it succeeded ill, he would take the same upon himself; and what happened well would give me the glory of it."4 In 1633, while he held this office, he got into trouble with the Admiralty, on the accusation of Captain Thomas James, of H.M.S. " Lion's Whelp," for " trucking with a pirate." CHRISTIAN replied that the supposed pirate had shown him a commission which appeared to be in order, so that he had not detained him. This explanation does not seem to have been satisfactory to Sir Thomas Wentworth (afterwards Earl of Stratford), then Lord Deputy and (Governor-General of Ireland, since, in a letter to the Admiralty, he says that there were further proofs against CHRISTIAN, and he remarks: " Surely so long as these pirates may make their return thither (to Man) as to a market overt for the vending of their stolen goods, they will hardly be beaten from their harassing and infecting this channel, and therefore again I beseech your Lordships that there may be a severe hand held upon him, and heavily to feel his transgression both towards his Majesty and the quiet and necessary convenience of his subjects in these parts."5 In reply to this, the secretary, Coke, writes: I will also give you account what order shall be taken with Captain CHRISTIAN, whose trucking with pirates and manner of inviting rather than apprehending such people is not to be endured.6 Shortly afterwards, in January, 1634, the Commissioners for the Admiralty sent an order to Lord Strange that " Captain CHRISTIAN fayle not personally to attend us at the Council Chamber in Whitehall upon Friday the 14th day of Ffebruarie next at the farthest.'' Lord Strange thereupon sent a messenger to Man, who reported that CHRISTIAN was "soe weak and soe farr spent in body by reason of his long and lingeringe sickness that he is in noe way able to travaile on horseback at all, nor in any other way, without eminent danger of his life."7 This report was duly forwarded to the Admiralty by Lord Strange. who again sent for CHRISTIAN in April, when he was still " sick." Whether he ultimately went we do not know, but, as he stated that he "would not faile to wait on his Lordship as soone as possiblie he could," he probably did. Nor do we know what the result of his interview with the Admiralty was, but it does not seem to have resulted in his disgrace with Lord Strange, because, though Ewan Christian held the deputy-governorship (probably merely as his substitute) between 163 l and 1636, he did not finally lose that office8 till 1639, when he once more got into disgrace. He was, however, restored to favour, for the second time in 1642, being, on the breaking out of the civil war in England, appointed "Sergeant-Major"9 of the insular forces. But the earl soon found that he had " believed and trusted him too much," discovering, as it was stated in evidence at his trial, that he was the " adviser, counsellor, and persuader " of the people who came armed to Tynwald on the 24th June, 1642, threatening that they would pay no more tithes; and there is no doubt that he was the leader of the popular party. In the following May, there was a serious riot at Douglas, originated by the arrest of a man who had declined to pay tithes, which is also said to have been instigated by him. In June, 1643, Lord Derby arrived in the island and, shortly afterwards, CHRISTIAN was arrested and imprisoned. He was kept some time in prison before his trial took place. On this, Lord Derby comments: " I believe many wonder thereat, as savouring of injustice.... But, in my own knowledge, he deserves what he hash, and a great deal more," and, he continues, " I believe such a course will be taken, that he shall groan under the burden of it. But whether it will reach his life, know not; for his judges do pretend they want precedents.10 On this, he shrewdly remarks: "And, indeed, in this country any offence will be excused, if of never so high a nature, provided he steal not sheep, and that because the judges be sheepmasters.". Lord Derby evidently thought that, " if a jury of the people do pass upon him (being he hath so cajoled them to believe he suffers for their sakes), it is likely they would quit him,"11 so he deliberately altered the ordinary procedure, and instead of bringing him first before a jury, he had him tried by the Keys, whom he had probably terrorised. The trial began in December, when the chief charges brought against him were (1) That he had said that the Keys should be elected by the people (2) That the deemsters should be chosen out of the 24 Keys, one by the lord, the other by the people, and that they should hold office for three years only; (3) That he had encouraged the people to resist the payment of tithes; (4) That he had endeavoured tieet Peel Castle into his power; (5) That he had urged the people to behave seditiously against the lord. With regard to these accusations, the first two exhibit CHRISTIAN as a patriot, since both the deemsters and the Keys had formerly been elected by the people, but we can well understand how revolutionary such ideas would appear in the days of the Stuarts. With regard to the third charge, it only shows that CHRISTIAN had imbibed the notions in vogue at that time. But the last two, especially considering his position of trust as commander of the insular forces, were very serious, and fully justify the finding of the Keys, on the 13th of December, that CHRISTIAN had " most seditiously and tumultuously behaved himself." Upon perusal of this finding, the governor and Council, " for the greate and manifest misdemeanors of the said EDWARD CHRISTIAN, do adjudge and censure him . . . in one thousand markes fine, and his bodie to perpetual! imprisonment, or until he shall be released by the Lord of the Isle."12 This verdict probably disappointed the earl, who remarks, with reference to CHRISTIAN, that " It was safer much to take men's lives than their estates."13 In November, 1651, he was released on the Parliament taking possession of the island. We hear nothing more of him till 1659. It is probable that he was so broken down by the effect of his long imprisonment as not to be able to take any part in public affairs. In October of that year he seems to have been implicated in a plot against Fairfax's governor, Chaloner, and so was again committed to Peel Castle in January, 1660. He remained there till September in the same year, when he was let out for a few days to plead personally in a suit, but was sent back again, and died there on the 19th January, 1661. Three days later he was buried in Kirk Maughold Church.
It will be remembered that one of the characters portrayed by Sir Walter Scott in "Peveril of the Peak " was called Edward Christian, and that he was depicted as a wretch of unbounded depravity. Deemster John Christian, of Milntown, wrote to Sir Walter protesting against this description, and he received the reply that " the Edward Christian of the isle is a mere creature of the imagination."14
|| He is sometimes styled Edward and sometimes Edmond
1 Manx Soc., Vol.
III., p. 39.
2 Knowsley Muniments
3 Manx Soc., Vol. III., p. 40.
4 Admiralty Papers (Manx Sun, T. Talbot).
5 Lib Scacc.
6 Manx Soc., Vol. IX., pp. 140-1,
7 He signed an Act of Tynwald in that capacity in 1637
8 This was the highest military rank in Man after that of the lord who was colonel. It does not in any way correspond to the rank so called at the present day.
9 Manx Soc., Vol. III,, p52
10 Ibid, p. 53.
11 Document in Rolls Office. signed by Council and Keys,
12 Manx Soc., Vol. III., p. 53
13 Introduction to "Peveril of the Peak."' It may be mentioned that the 'Historical Notices ' of Edward and William Christian, which were recommended "to Sir Walter by Deemster Christian, and were published by him in an appendix, attempt to vindicate their characters, but they are unfortunately full of inaccuracies. they were said to have been written by a Mr Marsden in 1823.