Fairfax, Thomas (1560-1640) (DNB00)

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FAIRFAX, THOMAS, first Lord Fairfax of Cameron in the Scottish peerage (1560-1640), eldest son of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Denton and Nun Appleton, both in Yorkshire, was born at Bilbrough, near York, in 1560. As a young man he saw much service in the Low Countries, where be commanded a company of foot under Sir Francis Vere. In 1582 he married Ellen, daughter of Robert Aske of Aughton, Yorkshire. Before and after the death of Mary Queen of Scots he was employed by Elizabeth on several diplomatic communications with James VI of Scotland. James offered him a title, which he had the prudence to decline. In 1586 he tendered his services to James to suppress a rebellion under Lord Maxwell; and on the death of Elizabeth he was, with six of his nearest kindred, one of the first Englishmen who went to Scotland to swear fealty to the king. He had served in France under the Earl of Essex [see Devereux, Robert, 1567-1601], and was knighted by him before Rouen in 1591.

After the accession of James I to the throne, he settled down upon his estate at Denton. He bred horses, and wrote a treatise entitled 'Conjectures about Horsemanship,' yet extant in manuscript. He ruled his household with military precision. 'The Order for the Government of the House of Denton,' laying down in great detail the duties of every servant, is also extant, and gives an admirable picture of a gentleman's household at that period.

As a member of the council of the north he was brought into connection with Lord Sheffield, its president. His eldest son, Sir Ferdinando Fairfax [q. v.], married Sheffield's daughter, Mary, in 1607. In 1620 Fairfax's younger sons, William and John, were with the English army in the Low Countries. A letter from William states that his 'white-haired father' had come over to join them, bought horses and arms, and been received with the respect due to his former services. He soon returned, however, and in 1631 heard from their general that both his sons had been killed at the siege of Frankenthal. Two other sons are stated by Thoresby to have died a violent death in the same year: Peregrine at La Rochelle and Thomas in Turkey. Upon the accession of Charles I, Fairfax unsuccessfully sought a seat for Yorkshire in the parliament of 1625. He drew up a statement of his services, and on 4 May 1627 was created Baron Fairfax of Cameron in the Peerage of Scotland. The grant was facilitates by a payment of 1,500l., which was to include all the fees and other expenses. He complained that he had to provide the bags required by the royal emissaries to convey the coin from Denton to Scotland.

Fairfax spent the remainder of his life at Denton, taking, however, even to the last, an active interest in northern political affairs. Archbisbop Matthews having complained that of his three sons one had wit without grace, another grace without wit, and a third neither grace nor wit, Fairfax to comfort him said that of his own three sons, Ferdinando, bred to be a soldier, was a mere coward; Henry [q. v.], meant for a divine, was only good as a lawyer: and Charles, sent to the inns of court, was no lawyer though a sound divine. He said on another occasion that he expected something from his grandson, Thomas, afterwards the general [q. v.], but shortly before death told his son Charles [q. v.] that he was in great trouble about his family, thinking that it would be ruined after his death by the ambition of Thomas, 'led much by his wife.' On 13 June 1639 he wrote to his 'ever-loving grandchild, Thomas Fairfax, captain of a troop of horse in his majesty's service.' exhorting him to serve the king, obey his general, avoid private quarrels, and do his best against the common enemy (the Scots), having apparently some doubts of 'Tom's' prudence.

Fairfax died 1 May 1640. He was buried, by the side of his wife, who had died in 1620, in the south transept of Otley Church, where a large altar-tomb, surmounted with their effigies, still commemorates their virtues. The legend, written by Edward Fairfax the poet, Fairfax's brother, desribes his wife:

Here lies Leah's fruitfulness, here Rachel's beauty;
Here Rebecca's faith, here Sarah's duty.

Besides the sons mentioned above, Fairfax had two daughters: Dorothy, married to Sir William Constable, and Anne, wife of Sir George Wentworth of Woolley.

Fairfax is said in 'Analecta Fairfaxiana' to have written: 1. A discourse, containing 150 pages, entitled 'Dangers Diverted, or the Highway to Heidelbergh.' 2, 'Conjectures about Horsemanship.' 3. 'The Malitia of' Yorkshire.' 4. A large tract on the Yorkshire cavalry and against horse racing. 5. 'The Malitia of Durham.' 6. 'Orders for the House,' &c. 7. Many excellent treatises upon several subjects and not bound together.

[Herald and Genealogical, October 1870; Fairfax Correspondence, vols. i. and ii.; Douglas and Wood's Scottish Peerage, i. 569; Markham's History of the third Lord Fairfax; Hart's Lecture on Wharfdale; Analectiana Fairfaxiana (manuscript).]

T. P.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.120
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
140 ii 24f.e. Fairfax, Thomas, 1st Lord Fairfax: after 1591. insert He was M.P. for Lincoln 1586, for Aldborough 1588, and for Boroughbridge 1601.
141 i 6-7  for unsuccessfully sought a seat read was elected M.P. for
8  after 1625. insert He was unseated on petition, but was returned at a by-election four months later (in August of the same year).