John Lambert - Pre Civil War.
John Lambert was born at Calton Hall, Kirkby Malham, in the West Riding of Yorkshire and was baptised at the local church on the 7th September 1619. His family was of ancient lineage long settled in the county and well connected with the Yorkshire nobility and gentry.
The Calton line of the Lambert family was established from 1516 by John’s great grandfather, also called John, who became a prominent landowner and lawyer. Increase in his estates led to a growing status for the family in the region at a time when the wealth of some of his social equals was on the wane. In addition to land owning and farming interests the family also owned copper mines north west of Malham. These later passed into the hands of the Listers of Gisburn Park.
The family continued to prosper for some years but, by the early 17th century, it was clear that Josias Lambert, John’s father, was in financial difficulties and was forced to make efforts to ease his plight. He arranged various loans with several well known Yorkshire families over a long period. By 1621 Lambert’s financial plight became serious and he was forced to seek further financial assistance from various prominent families in the region. This unfortunate position was probably due in some part to the slump in the wool prices on which most of the Lambert family wealth was based.
John Lambert was born in 1619. Little is known of his early life but he certainly educated locally and studied law at Cambridge and possibly one of the London Inns of Court. He was clearly a young man of considerable intellect, imagination and culture. He enjoyed a wide range of interests in later life outside his military and political world. His skill at gardening and love of flowers he learnt from his good friend and fellow Yorkshireman, Sir Thomas Fairfax. He was also an excellent mathematician and lover of fine paintings which he collected during his period in London in the 1650s. It is also said that he enjoyed needlework which quite possibly he learnt from his wife. He was clearly a fine horseman and judge of good horses. His outstanding military career as a cavalry man testifies to that. The Lambert family were Puritan in their beliefs and this was certainly a factor in John’s commitment to Parliament during the Civil Wars.
Josias died in 1632 and had continued throughout his later years to try and restore the family fortunes. The Lamberts were still established members of the Yorkshire gentry with whom they had many close ties, both financial and social.
This status was enhanced when John married Frances, daughter of Sir William Lister. The Listers were a prominent and well connected Yorkshire family. Sir William had known young John since he was a boy and had taken an active interest in his education and development. This marriage may have been arranged between the Sir William and Josias before the later died and could have been part of a debt transaction.
Whatever the reason there is no doubt that the marriage proved a good match. Frances was a most influential figure in the life of John, particularly in the years after the Civil Wars. She was a woman of great wit and intelligence and later became known for her friendship and sympathy with prominent radicals and Quakers.
This marriage now elevated John into the upper echelons of the Yorkshire gentry in no uncertain terms and he came into closer contact with both the Fairfax and Belasyse families although the Lambert family were certainly known to the Fairfaxes beforehand being relatively near neighbours.
Although a junior member of this elite John had ample opportunity to observe and no doubt be influenced by the various personalities and groupings in the Yorkshire hierarchy and the complex local and national disputes at that time.
President of the Yorkshire Council was Sir Thomas Wentworth. The Council was embroiled in rivalries and arguments and Yorkshire politics in general were affected throughout with various factions and disputes.
Prominent amongst these was an loose alliance of the Lister, Fairfax, Slingsby and Belasyse families. This was tied together by a common connection with Lord Faulconberg ( leading member of the Belasyse family ) who was at their head. Sir Thomas Fairfax senior was Faulconberg’s uncle and Sir Henry Slingsby and Sir William Lister were both his son in laws. This group held a wide range of divergent opinions with Sir Thomas Wentworth which set them apart.
A serious dispute arose between the 2 parties over the proposed marriage of Charles Wandeforde, who was Wentworth’s close ally, to one of Wentworth’s wards and not one of Faulconberg’s daughters as had originally been agreed. Faulconberg became so incensed he petitioned the King charging Wentworth with “injustice”. The case was dismissed and resulted in Faulconberg and his son, Henry Belasyse, being imprisoned for not paying due respect to Wentworth at a Council meeting.
The feuding between Faulconberg and Wentworth was verging on open conflict in 1631. Faulconberg had far greater regional support than Wentworth, particularly in the north of the county, and was also supported by his allies amongst the gentry, notably the Listers and Fairfaxes.
Many were concerned regarding Wentworth’s role as the Kings representative in Yorkshire, which carried great power, and yearned for a return to the days of Queen Elizabeth and King James. This era was perceived as less oppressive although perhaps not as efficient. Wentworth was certainly a good administrator.
In reality Yorkshire was too large to be dominated by one man, Wentworth, on behalf of the King. Wentworth was seen as the agent of the King and instrument for the implementation of numerous unpopular and hated policies of the Crown in respect of religious reforms, taxation and trade in general. The self interest of the rival factions was clearly a motivating factor rather than just pure ideals.
The defeat by the Scots in the Bishop’s War and the subsequent actions of the King hardened attitudes. However families like the Fairfaxes and Listers, although much concerned about events, took up arms against the Scots and contributed to the forced loans to the King. Their dislike for and disagreements with Wentworth and the King were outweighed by the threat of the Scots so near to their own county. Disputes were put aside in the face of a common enemy.
Ferdinando Fairfax commanded Trained Bands ( Militia ) from the region. His son, Thomas, raised and commanded a regiment of dragoons and was knighted by the King for his services in the Bishop’s War. It is almost certain that John Lambert saw active service in some capacity during this period. Being a country gentleman probably as a cavalry officer.
Subsequent actions by the King in the wake of the humiliation by the Scots further exacerbated the discontent in the county. Opinions against both Wentworth and the King were certainly hardening and clearly defined strong alignments developing on both sides.
In May 1640 Belasyse was imprisoned by the Privy Council for his denunciation of the military charges in the Short Parliament. In July Fairfax, Faulconberg and Henry Belasyse with others petitioned the King regarding financial pledges he had made to encourage the raising of soldiers for the Bishop’s War. The King charged them with making false returns for their military service and reprimanded them for submitting their petition directly to him and not to the Lord Lieutenant. This further alienated many of the notables in the county.
It was felt that the King, his Catholic Queen Henrietta and their representatives and councillors could not be trusted. William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle, close ally to the Queen and the chief member of the nobility in the north was also viewed with great suspicion and dislike.
The Fairfax family became the most prominent amongst the Yorkshire dissidents in the early 1640s as the Faulconberg/Belasyse family grouping split away. Faulconberg’s Catholicism was a factor.
The Yorkshire dissidents increasingly felt that they were defending traditional government against the aggressive civil, fiscal, administrative and religious policies and the reforms of an untrustworthy King who was ruling as an absolute monarch without the mandate of Parliament.
This increasing unrest in Yorkshire and England as a whole festered in the background of the religious 30 Years War on the continent which engendered a feeling of suspicion and indeed fear between Catholics and non Catholics. Many of the young men from the Yorkshire gentry had fought in Holland in this ongoing and bloody conflict. Notably Sir Thomas Fairfax and Sir John Hotham. This religious aspect further deteriorated in the wake of the Irish Rebellion in 1641 which was thought by many as a serious threat to the mainland and viewed with great trepidation.
As divisions grew the Yorkshire dissidents commented that, when they attended the King in the north in 1642, they were abused openly by his close associates and councillors. The King demanded that they raise a Guard to provide him with security during his travels around the county. The dissidents answered that the King would be secure within the confines of the county without the need of any Guard and ensured him of their co-operation and assistance. They also raised a number of grievances of their own.
The signatures of the petition were all notable Yorkshiremen including Sir Thomas Fairfax, Charles Fairfax, Sir Matthew Boynton, Sir William Constable, Sir William Lister and John Lambert. All went on to fight for Parliament, Fairfax and Lambert with great distinction.
Despite signing the document Sir William Lister, considered by the King’s councillors as possibly still uncommitted, was named on the Commission of Array alongside others who would go on to side with the King, notably Faulconberg and Henry and John Belasyse, once leaders of the Yorkshire dissidents.
At the great meeting of the Yorkshire gentry with the King at Heworth Moor, York in June 1642 the dissidents tried twice unsuccessfully to present their petition to the King. At the third attempt Sir Thomas Fairfax thrust the document onto the pommel of the King’s horse and was nearly trampled by the animal in the process.
At the end of August the King considered a plan to have the Fairfaxes arrested. He was persuaded that this was unwise and likely to lead to more support to the dissident grouping.
Matters were now clearly reaching a crisis point as the King raised his standard at Nottingham in Sept. In Yorkshire the Fairfax family and the other dissidents prepared for war. A declaration that they were prepared to resort to arms to defend the county against aggression was signed by Ferdinando, Sir Thomas and Charles Fairfax, Sir William Lister, Richard Hawksworth and John Bright. Apart from Faulconberg and Henry Belasyse the majority of the pre war dissident faction sided with Parliament.
By 1642 John Lambert was 22 years of age. He clearly had no hesitation in supporting his kinsmen and mentors, the Listers and Fairfaxes, in what was to become the British Civil Wars.