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Fairfax family Part 5

Sir Thomas Fairfax]
Fairfax family Part 1]
Fairfax family Part 2]
Fairfax family Part 3]
Fairfax family Part 4]
[Fairfax family Part 5]
Tom Fairfax armour]

Fairfax Family - Part 5.

At his family home at Nun Appleton Tom settled down to family life with his devoted and courageous wife Ann and their 12 year old daughter Mary. He developed a keen interest in flowers and gardening. Horses were a continuing passion. Tom and his wife appointed the Hull poet Andrew Marvell as tutor to their young daughter. Marvell was to spend 2 happy years in the Fairfax household writing some of his best works at Nun Appleton.

Tom was a literary man and spent long hours in his splendid library and produced his own metrical version of the psalms and Biblical songs and translations of some Latin works. He wrote with authority about the breeding of horses and how they should be reared and managed.

It seems that large portions of his arrears from Parliament were never paid to him but he was granted a substantial portion of the confiscated estates of the Duke of Buckingham.

In 1657, when Mary was 19, she was engaged to be married to Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield. The fact that Tom and his wife could approve of such a marriage is something of a mystery because Stanhope was described as  “the greatest knave in England.” Be that as it may the banns were read twice. The marriage never took place and Stanhope left to console himself with the 17 year old Barbara Villiers, future mistress of Charles II . What followed is even more inexplicable.

Mary met and fell in love with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, whose physical attractions, intellect and charm were legendary in the courts of Europe. Buckingham was a brave Royalist and an educated and intelligent man. However he wasted his talents gambling away a fortune and “wearing himself to a thread with whoring.” Mary had grown up to be a plain girl and it is clear that Buckingham saw this marriage only as a way to recover some of his family wealth and estates which had been passed into the Fairfax family. When Cromwell first heard of the proposed marriage he refused to believe it and later tried to have Buckingham arrested. The couple were married at Bolton Percy in September 1657.

The marriage was not a success. Buckingham was soon suspected of organising a Presbyterian plot against the government and an order was issued for his detainment. He was placed under house arrest at York House in April 1658, and having broken bounds was re-arrested on August and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he remained till February 1659. Tom went to London to intercede on behalf of his son in law and quarrelled bitterly with Cromwell just before his death. Buckingham was freed after promising not to assist the enemies of the government, and on Tom’s security of 20,000.

With Parliament and the country moving towards the restoration of the monarchy political unrest resurfaced as some of the hard liners, notably John Lambert, were prepared to make a final stand in support of the “Good Old Cause.” When General Monck marched against Lambert in 1659, Tom raised the gentry of Yorkshire in support of Monck. Tom seized York from Colonel Robert Lilburne on 1st January 1660 and  handed it over to Monck urging him to restore the Monarchy. Tom was elected as MP for Yorkshire in the Convention Parliament. Later he was to provided the horse which King Charles II rode at his coronation in 1660. This horse was a foal of the mare Tom had ridden at the Battle of Naseby.

After the restoration of the monarchy Buckingham found himself much in favour in court and Mary became a great personage in her own right. Her husband, having recovered his estates, paid less and less attention to her. He was involved in numerous brawls and three times sent to the Tower for general rowdiness. He was also implicated in a number of scandals, most notably with the notorious Lady Shrewsbury whose husband he killed in a duel. Buckingham lived quite openly with this woman in spite of Mary’s outrage and protests. Buckingham built a great house at Cliveden for his harlot and had their bastard son buried at Westminster Abbey.

What Tom and his wife thought of the behaviour of their degenerate of a son in law is is not recorded although ultimately it was their responsibility for his reputation was well known beforehand and they agreed to the marriage in spite of this.

Tom must also have been greatly depressed by the state of affairs in England following the restoration of the monarchy and humiliations suffered by his country during the reign of the “Merry Monarch.”  but he kept his thoughts to himself.. The days of the “Good Old Cause” and everything it stood for were now long gone. Tom’s friend, Edward Bowles, is quoted as saying at this time.

“As for me, I have buried the Good Old Cause, and am now going to bury myself.”

With his health failing fast Tom took time to write 2 Short Memorials, one an account of his part in the northern campaigns in 1642 to 1645 and the other of his failure to purge Parliament and prevent the execution of the King. The later has been used  against him by his critics who cite its inaccuracies as evidence of how out of touch he was with real events. It is important to bear in mind however that at the time he wrote it he was ageing fast and not a well man.

Anne Fairfax died at Nun Appleton in 1665. They had been married 28 years. The loss of his dear wife was a terrible blow. Crippled with gout and increasingly troubled by his old wounds he was confined to a wheel chair  but lived on for 5 more unhappy years. He was greatly saddened that his beloved Mary, little Moll, would not visit him in the last years of his life and wrote a very poignant letter to an unknown lady requesting news of his daughter as he had not heard one word from her but had heard she was away in France.

Tom died at Nun Appleton in November 1671 at the age of 60 and was buried at Bilbrough Parish Church with his dear wife Anne as he had requested -

“ In such a manner as may be convenient and decent rather than pompous.”

At Tom’s death his son-in-law, the Duke of Buckingham, wrote of him;

'He never knew what envy was nor hate, His soul was fill'd with worth and honesty. And with another thing besides, quite out of date, call'd modesty.'

In 1674 the Duke of Buckingham retired into private life. He reformed his ways, attended church with Mary and began to pay off his debts. The couple had no children. Buckingham died in 1687 and Mary in 1704.

David W. Berryfell


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