Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fortescue, Faithful

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FORTESCUE, Sir FAITHFUL (1581?–1666), royalist commander, was second son of William Fortescue of Buckland Filleigh, Devon, and the descendant in the fifth generation of Sir John Fortescue, lord chief justice [q. v.]

In 1598 Fortescue's maternal uncle, Sir Arthur (afterwards Lord) Chichester [q. v.], went to Ireland in command of a regiment of infantry, and took with him Faithful Fortescue. In a brief memoir of his uncle, compiled after his death, printed by Lord Clermont, Fortescue says: ‘With the first Lord Chichester I had, from coming young from school, my education, and by him the foundation of my advancement and fortune I acquired in Ireland.’ In 1604 Sir Arthur Chichester was appointed lord deputy, an office which he held until 1616. During these memorable years the settlement of Ulster was carried through, and Fortescue acquired his share both of offices and of lands in the north of Ireland. In 1606 he received a patent for life of the post of constable of Carrickfergus, otherwise known as Knockfergus Castle, one of the most important fortified places in the north of Ireland (M'Skimmin, History of Carrickfergus, p. 56).

A few years later he obtained a grant from the crown erecting into the manor of Fortescue an extensive range of territory in Antrim, which had formerly belonged to an Irish chieftain named Rory Oige MacQuillane. A part of this land he sold in 1624; the remainder, together with the property of Dromiskin in Louth, still remains in possession of his descendants. In the parliament of 1613 every effort was made to swamp the native Irish vote by means of creating a number of borough and county franchises among the new English and Scotch settlements in Ulster. Fortescue was elected to this parliament as member for Charlemont in the county of Armagh; in the subsequent parliaments of 1634 and 1639 he sat as member for the county of Armagh, while his eldest son succeeded him as representative of Charlemont.

In 1624 he obtained the command of a company in the force raised in England to serve in the Netherlands under Count Mansfeld, but through the interest of Lord Chichester he was permitted to exchange into a regiment then being enlisted in Cumberland and other northern counties of England for service in Ireland (Calendar of State Papers, Dom. 1623–5, pp. 334, 371, 375, 380, 501).

Lord Wentworth, appointed lord deputy in July 1633, some months before his arrival in Ireland, commissioned Fortescue to raise for him a troop of horse, of which he was to have the command. The commission brought with it nothing but heavy expenditure and a long series of personal differences with Lord Strafford, of which Fortescue gives a pathetic account in a ‘Relation of Passages of the Earle of Strafford’ (Lord Clermont, History, pp. 179–82). His troubles began as soon as Lord Wentworth landed in Ireland, when he immediately dismissed, without any pay, forty of the newly enrolled troopers, to make room for the gentlemen and servants he had brought with him; difficulties about payments followed, then refusals to promote Fortescue and his sons, then scandals about his lordship's visits to a ‘noble lady,’ then a personal quarrel in which Fortescue ‘could not hold from passionately speaking’ his mind; the whole ending in a letter from Lord Strafford, after he had left Ireland and was imprisoned in the Tower, ordering his steward to discharge Fortescue from the command of his troop, as if, Fortescue says, ‘I had beene his mercinary servant or scullion of his kitchin (and not the king's officer), to bee throwne owt by the tounge of his steward.’

In 1640 or 1641 Fortescue petitioned the House of Commons for promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel on the Irish establishment. On 27 Jan. 1641–2 this petition came before the house; on that day a report was received from Pym, on behalf of the committee for Irish affairs, to the effect that the king had commanded the lord-lieutenant, the Earl of Leicester, to recommend seven officers to the house for commands in Ireland. The committee ‘earnestly recommended’ Fortescue, the house ‘being very well satisfied that he is a man of honour and experience and worthy of such an employment’ (House of Commons' Journals, ii. 398, 407).

Fortescue received the appointment of governor of Drogheda during the summer of 1641. In October of that year the rebellion in Ulster broke out. The insurgents were able, without resistance, to seize at once upon Newry, Carrick, Charlemont, and other places, and threatened Drogheda, the only fortified town between them and Dublin. The place was entirely ungarrisoned, and the only troops Fortescue was able to obtain consisted of sixty-six horse and three companies of foot, raised hurriedly by his brother-in-law, Viscount Moore. Finding this small body of men totally inadequate to the defence of the place, and receiving no reply to his appeals to the lords justices, Fortescue threw up his commission and passed to England to endeavour to raise troops to serve against the rebels. Dean Bernard, who was in Drogheda during the siege which followed, says of Fortescue on this occasion that, ‘though willing to hazard his life for us, yet he was loath to lose his reputation also.’ Although he abandoned his post, Fortescue left behind him his eldest son, Chichester, who was in command of a company in Lord Moore's regiment, and who died during the siege, and his second son, John, who was slain by the rebels. Shortly after his departure Sir Henry Tichbourne was appointed by the lords justices governor of the place, and brought to its relief a force of a thousand foot and a hundred horse (Bernard, Whole Proceedings of the Siege of Drogheda; D'Alton, Hist. of Drogheda, vol. ii.)

The commissioners of parliament appointed to raise a force for the suppression of the Irish rebellion selected Fortescue in June 1642 for the command of the third troop of horse to serve under Lord Wharton, lord-general of Ireland. In addition to this body of cavalry, Fortescue also raised for service in Ireland a company of infantry, which was attached to the Earl of Peterborough's regiment, and was compelled to serve with the parliamentary army in England during the civil war (List of the Field Officers chosen for the Irish Expedition, &c., pp. 18, 28).

While waiting at Bristol to cross to Ireland, Fortescue's troop was placed under the command of the Earl of Essex, and marched to the midlands to take part in the campaign on the side of the parliament. There can be no question that this action on the part of the parliamentary leaders constituted a distinct breach of faith. Charles issued a protest against the proceedings of the parliament on this occasion, in which he says ‘that many soldiers raised under pretence of being sent to Ireland were, contrary to their expectation and engagement, forced to serve under the Earl of Essex,’ and names especially Fortescue and his troop of horse (Clarendon, History, Oxford ed., 1704, ii. 120–1). On the eve of the battle of Edgehill, Fortescue, who was acting as major in Lord Wharton's regiment of horse, is said to have entered into negotiations with Prince Rupert, and to have promised to desert the army with which he had been against his will compelled to serve on the first opportunity (May, Hist. of the Parliament, Oxford ed., 1854, p. 256).

On the next day, when Prince Rupert charged the left wing of the parliamentary army, Fortescue with his troop drew off from the rest of Lord Wharton's regiment and rode over to the royal horse. His action had no small effect upon the fate of the battle. Unfortunately many of Fortescue's troopers forgot in their haste to throw away the orange scarfs worn as the Earl of Essex's colours, and not less than eighteen out of the sixty men of the troop (Army Lists of Cavaliers, &c., pp. 44–53) were slain or wounded by the cavalry whom they had joined (Clarendon, ii. 36–8; Gardiner, Hist. of the Civil War, i. 52, 53).

Soon after the battle of Edgehill, Fortescue was appointed to the command of the 10th regiment of the royal infantry, and served with the army whose headquarters were at Oxford during the remainder of the civil war (Peacock, Army Lists, p. 18; Harl. MS. 986, fol. 88). In 1647 he accompanied the Marquis of Ormonde during his Irish campaign, and remained with him until the retreat of the royal army from Dublin to Drogheda, when he made his way to the Isle of Man, and thence crossed to Wales. At Beaumaris he was arrested and imprisoned by order of the House of Commons, first at Denbigh Castle, and afterwards at Carnarvon Castle (Commons' Journals, v. 280, 657). No order for his release is to be found in the ‘Commons' Journals,’ but his imprisonment cannot have been of long duration, since he was able to join Charles II at Stirling in the spring of 1651 (Nicoll, Diary, Bannatyne Club, p. 52), and took part in the campaign which ended in the decisive battle of Worcester. After this action Fortescue retired to the continent, where he remained, at first in France, and afterwards in the Netherlands, until the Restoration. By royal warrant of 21 Aug. 1660 he was restored to the post of constable of Carrickfergus Castle, an office which he was permitted to transfer a few months later to his eldest surviving son, Sir Thomas (Carte MSS. xli. 29, xlii. 219), and was created a gentleman of the privy chamber. This office attached him to the court, and he remained chiefly in London until he was driven to the Isle of Wight by the outbreak of the plague in 1665. He died in the manor-house of Bowcombe, near Carisbrooke, in May 1666, being more than eighty-five years of age, and was buried at Carisbrooke. Fortescue was twice married, first to Anne, daughter of the first Viscount Moore, by whom he had a numerous family, and secondly to Eleanor, daughter of Sir M. Whitechurch, by whom he had no issue. His two elder sons died during the siege of Drogheda; his third son, Sir Thomas, who held a commission in the royal army during the civil war, succeeded his father in his estates, and was the ancestor of the late Lord Clermont, and of his brother, Lord Carlingford.

[Lord Clermont's Hist. of the Family of Fortescue.]

G. K. F.