Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 15 October 2021

The unfortunate fate of the seventh Earl of Derby

Today is the 370th anniversary of the beheading of James Stanley, seventh Earl of Derby at Bolton after his capture and court martial following the Battle of Worcester on September 3rd that year.

James, Earl of Derby
From a family portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyke

Image: Wikipedia 

To some he is seen as a Royalist martyr, to others as one of the men responsible for an outrage recalled as the Sack of Bolton in May 1644 - and hence it was the place chosen for his execution.

The scale of the events at Bolton and the loss of life that day is unclear - record and rumour do not agree. This is, of course, often the case in civil conflicts. Parliamentarian pamphleteers made the most of the attack on the Puritan inclined town and laid the blame on the Earl and his overall commander Prince Rupert - a figure they were ever keen to demonise. As C.V. Wedgwood points out in The King’s War the Royalist attack which became known as the Sack of Brentford in 1642 - for which see Battle of Brentford (1642) - was equated by Parliamentarian writers with the devastating  Sack of Magdeburg in the Thirty Years War in 1631…..’False News’ anyone?

There is a biography of the Earl of Derby on Wikipedia at James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby and that site also has an account of the events of 1644 at Storming of Bolton

An article from a local newspaper discusses where exactly the Earl spent his last night as well as stories of his ghost at Earl of Derby did NOT spend his last night at Man and Scythe

The Earl was also Lord of Mann, the island lordship which his family had held from the beginning of the fifteenth century. Earlier this year there was a report about what appears to be a memorial ring commemorating the Earl which was discovered on the Isle of Man and which can be seen at 370-year-old gold ring may have honored beheaded earl

The Isle was not and is not part of the Kingdom of England, so in 1660 the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion did not apply there. As a consequence the Earl’s principal opponent in his fiefdom himself paid the ultimate penalty for rebellion against the Stanley family when they, like the King, came into their own again.

No comments: