Booth, George (1622-1684) (DNB00)

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BOOTH, GEORGE (1622–1684), first Lord Delamer or Delamere, was descended from a younger branch of the Booths of Barton, Lancashire, which since 1433 had been settled at Durham Massey, Cheshire (Pedigree in Ormerod's Cheshire, ed. Helshy, i. 534). He was the second son of William Booth by Vere, third daughter and coheiress of Sir Thomas Egerton, son of the lord chancellor of England, and was born in August 1622. His father dying in 1636, he became the ward of his grandfather, Sir George Booth of Dunham Massey, who on the outbreak of the civil war was one of the chief supporters of the parliamentary party in Cheshire. The younger Booth therefore, as was to be expected, took an active part in the struggle on behalf of the parliament. On his grandfather's death in 1652 he succeeded to the baronetcy. In March 1654–5 he was appointed a military commissioner for Cheshire, and treasurer-at-war (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1654, p. 78). He became representative of Cheshire in the Long parliament in May 1645 (list of the Long parliament in Carlyle's Cromwell), and was also returned to Cromwell's parliaments in 1654 and 1656. In 1659 he was chosen one of the committee of fourteen who were appointed by the excluded members to ‘go up and try whether they could find admittance to their places’ in the revised Rump parliament after the resignation of Richard Cromwell, but who ‘found such a restraint put upon them that they scarce could get into the lobby’ (Eachard, Hist. England, 3rd ed. 740). As was therefore to be expected, he became one of the leaders of the party of Cromwellian malcontents, called ‘the New Royalists,’ who, with the cavaliers, concocted the ‘general plot’ for the restoration of Charles II. Arrangements were completed for a general rising on 5 Aug. in the various districts of the kingdom, and Booth, who, says Clarendon, ‘was a person of the best fortune and interest in Cheshire, and for the memory of his grandfather of absolute power with the presbyterians’ (History (1849), ii. 127), was constituted commander of the king's forces in Cheshire, Lancashire, and North Wales. Only in the district included in Booth's commission was the plot successful. For a considerable time Thurloe had, through treachery, been fully conversant with its various ramifications, and many suspected persons were put under arrest. Two several messengers were sent to warn Booth that the enterprise had miscarried, but both were suspected and stopped. In some other cases, where the leaders of the plot were neither warned by friends nor interfered with by the authorities, the lukewarmness of the support they obtained or the tempestuous character of the night rendered the intended rendezvous a failure. Totally ignorant of how matters had gone in other parts of the kingdom, Booth, along with the Earl of Derby, Colonel Egerton, and others, at the head of four thousand men, seized on the city of Chester, where they were shortly afterwards joined by Sir Thomas Middleton from Wales. The whole district was at once completely in their grasp. From Chester they issued a proclamation in which the name of the king was not mentioned, but which asserted that ‘they had taken arms in vindication of the freedom of parliament, of the known laws, liberty and property, and of the good people of this kingdom, groaning under uncomfortable taxes.’ Leaving a sufficient force to hold the town of Chester against the parliamentary general who still resolutely defended himself in the castle, Sir Thomas Middleton proceeded south into Wales, and Booth marched towards York, which it was supposed would inevitably fall into his hands. On the way thither he, however, learned that in other parts of England the whole enterprise had miscarried, and that Lambert, the general of the Rump, was on the march towards Cheshire. He therefore retraced his steps, and took up a position in a meadow near Nantwich bridge, on which he placed a guard. The two armies spent the night on the banks of the river, and in the morning Lambert, attacking with great impetuosity, drove the guard from the bridge and dispersed the royalists. After making his escape from the field of battle, Booth disguised himself in female attire, with the view of proceeding to London and thence to the continent; but his disguise having been penetrated by an innkeeper at Newport Pagnell, he was apprehended and conveyed to the Tower. The conjectures hazarded by different writers as to the manner in which the suspicions of the innkeeper were aroused are discounted by a very detailed and graphic account of the affair published at the time and entitled ‘True Narrative of the manner of the Taking of Sir George Booth on Tuesday night last at Newport Pannel, being disguised in Woman's Apparel.’ From this pamphlet, of which there is a copy in the British Museum, it appears that the suspicions of the innkeeper received their final confirmation from the fact that the three companions of the ‘lady’ purchased a razor from the barber whom they had called in to operate on themselves. The inn was surrounded while the process of shaving was going on, and Booth on being apprehended divulged who he was. The headlong flight of the forces of Booth and the ludicrous circumstances attending his capture furnished a tempting theme for contemporary ridicule. A sarcastic pamphleteer heads his broadsheet thus: ‘Whether Sir George Booth's valour in the late engagement near Warrington, or his petticoats at Newport Pagnel will make him seem most like a woman in the eyes of the next generation?’ and the incident is also the subject of some rather scurrilous verses entitled ‘The Last Observations of Sir George Booth,' appended to an account of ‘The Dreadful and most Prodigions Tempest at Markfield in Leicestershire.'

Although the plot in behalf of Charles was thus externally a failure, it had undoubtedly no small effect in hastening the Restoration. Booth, after undergoing examination by Haslerig and Vane, was retained to be dealt with by the council of state, but afterwards was set at liberty on bail. He took his seat in the Convention parliament, and was the first of the twelve members, elected 7 May 1660, to curry to King Charles the reply of the commons to his majesty's declaration. On I3 July following the House of Commons ordered that the sum of 10,000l. should be conferred on him as a reward for his great services, the original sum proposed being 20,000l., which was reduced by one half at his own request. On the occasion of the coronation he was, with five others, raised to the dignity of baron, his designation being Lord Delamere. Liberty was also given him to nominate six gentlemen to receive the honour of knighthood. In the same year he was appointed custos rotulorum of the county of Cheshire, an office which he retained till 1673, when he was succeeded in it by his son Henry. Retaining throughout life his early love of civil liberty, he latterly found himself in entire opposition to the general policy of Charles. He died at Dunham Massey 8 Aug. 1684, and was buried at Bowdon, in the vault of the family. On a brass let into the flag which covers the Dunham vault there is a eulogistic inscription to George Booth, written by one of his servants. By his first wife, Catherine Clinton, daughter and coheiress of Theophilus, earl of Lincoln, he had one daughter; and by his second wife, Elizabeth Grey, eldest daughter of Henry, earl of Stamford, he had seven sons and five daughters. Under his direction three manuscript volumes were compiled, chiefly containing genealogical documents relating to his own and the neighbouring families (Ormerod's Cheshire, ed. Helsby, i. xxxviii). The original volumes are still at Dunham, and important extracts from them made by Randle Holme are preserved in the British Musseum (MS. Harleian, 2131).

[A Bloudy Fight between the Parliament's Forces and Sir George Booth’s, 1659; A Declaration of Sir George Booth at the last Rendezvous, on Tuesday last near the city of Chester, 1659; Sir George Booth's Letter of 2 Aug. 1659, showing the reasons of his present engagement; A Plea for Sir George Booth and the Cheshire Gentlemen, by W. P. (W. Prynne), 1659; An Express from the Knights and Gentlemen engaged with Sir George Booth, 1659; One and Twentie Chester Queries, 1659; A Dialogue between Sir George Booth and Sir John Presbyter at their meeting at Chester, upon the Rendezvous of the Army, 1659; A True Narrative of the manner of the Taking of Sir George Booth on Tuesday last at Newport Pannel, being disguised in Woman’s Apparel, likewise the Parliaments resolve touching the the Sir George, also his Examination in the Tower, 1659; Collins’s Peerage (ed. 1735), vol, ii, part ii. pp. 477.-483; Biog. Brit.. (Kippis), ii. 408-9; Cal. State Papers (Dom.); Clarendon's History of the Rebellion; Ludlow's Memoirs; Whitelocke's Memorials ; Ormerod’s Cheshire.]

T. F. H.