Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stapleton, Philip
STAPLETON or STAPILTON, Sir PHILIP (1603–1647), soldier, born in 1603, was the second son of Henry Stapleton of Wighill, Yorkshire, and Mary, daughter of Sir John Foster of Bamborough. Stapleton was admitted a fellow-commoner of Queens' College, Cambridge, on 16 May 1617. In 1627 he married the widow of John Gee of Bishop Burton (eldest daughter of Sir John Hotham), and shortly after bought the estate of Warter Priory in Yorkshire (Chetwynd-Stapylton, The Stapletons of Yorkshire, p. 253). He was knighted on 25 May 1630 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 190). Clarendon describes Stapleton as ‘a proper man of fair extraction; but being a branch of a younger family inherited but a moderate estate, about five hundred pounds the year in Yorkshire, and, according to the education of that country, spent his time in those delights which horses and dogs administer’ (Rebellion, iv. 19). In June 1640 Stapleton was one of the signatories of the petition of the Yorkshire gentlemen against free quarter (Rushworth, iii. 1214). In November he was returned to the Long parliament as member for Boroughbridge, and joined Sir John Hotham [q. v.] and other ‘northern men’ in the prosecution of Strafford (ib.; Trial of Strafford, pp. 14, 33, 601, 604). The popular leaders noted him as ‘a man of vigour in body and mind,’ and he ‘quickly outgrew his friends and countrymen in the confidence of those who governed.’ On 20 Aug. 1641 he was selected as one of the two commissioners whom the House of Commons appointed to attend the king to Scotland, and was joined with John Hampden that he might be ‘initiated under so great a master’ (Clarendon, iv. 19; Lords' Journals, iv. 372, 401, v. 398).
In the second session of the Long parliament Stapleton was one of the four persons selected by the commons to bear their answer to the king's demand for the arrest of the five members (3 Jan. 1642), and one of the committee of twenty-five appointed to sit in the Guildhall during the adjournment of the house (Forster, Arrest of the Five Members, ed. 1860, pp. 126, 280; Notes and Queries, 9th ser. ii. 122–3). A week later he made a vigorous speech against Colonel Thomas Lunsford [q. v.], Lord Digby, and other delinquents (Old Parl. Hist. x. 210). When Charles went to York and attempted to possess himself of Hull, Stapleton was one of the five parliamentary commissioners sent down to report and resist his movements—a difficult task, and one which exposed the commissioners to many insults from the king's followers (ib. x. 493, 511, 518; Rushworth, iv. 620).
At the opening of the civil war Stapleton became commander of the hundred gentlemen who formed Essex's life-guard and colonel of his regiment of horse (Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. 1894, p. 39). At Edgehill he did excellent service, and the rout of the king's foot was due specially to him and to Sir William Balfour (ib. p. 42; Rushworth, v. 36). At Chalgrove Field he rallied the defeated parliamentary horse (A Letter from His Excellency the Earl of Essex, 19 June 1643, p. 3). In the march to Gloucester and in the first battle of Newbury no man's services were more conspicuous (Bibliotheca Gloucestrensis, pp. 237–44; May, History of the Long Parliament, p. 348). Whitelocke quotes from the newspapers of the day anecdotes of his courage (Memorials, i. 217).
Stapleton marched with Essex on his western campaign, but was not with it at the disaster in Cornwall; for Essex, about the end of July, sent him to London to give an account of the state of his army and of the condition of the western counties (Devereux, Lives of the Earls of Essex, p. 423; Tanner MSS. lxi. 32). It was to Stapleton that Essex addressed his narrative of the defeat, and his complaints of the government which had left them unsuccoured (Rushworth, vi. 701). As the bosom friend of Essex, Stapleton enjoyed considerable influence in the House of Commons, where he was held to represent the general's opinions on questions of war and negotiations (Sanford, Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, pp. 541–4, 571). He was also a member of the committee of safety (4 July 1642) and of the committee of both kingdoms (16 Feb. 1644). The self-denying ordinance, which deprived him of his military position, he strongly opposed, and he was one of the originators of the plan for accusing Cromwell as an incendiary which the partisans of Essex projected (Whitelocke, Memorials, i. 349). He was generally coupled with Denzil Holles as a leader of the English presbyterians. ‘What a sway,’ said Cromwell in 1647, ‘Stapleton and Holles had heretofore in the kingdom,’ adding, according to Major Huntington, that ‘he was as able to govern the kingdom as either of them’ (Maseres, Select Tracts, i. 405). The value at which the parliament estimated his services was shown by their vote on 1 Dec. 1645, when they asked the king to make Stapleton a baron and endow him with 2,000l. a year (Commons' Journals, iv. 361).
As a staunch presbyterian Stapleton enjoyed great influence with the Scottish commissioners. They relied upon him and his friends to counterwork the independents and the army. ‘Stapleton and Holles, and some others of the eleven members,’ wrote Baillie in September 1647, ‘had been the main persuaders of us to remove out of England and leave the king to them, upon assurance, which was most likely, that this was the only means to get the evil army disbanded, the king and peace settled according to our minds’ (Letters, iii. 16). Just before the disbanding of the army was attempted, Stapleton incurred the special animosity of the soldiers by assaulting a certain Major Tulidah, who was one of the presenters of a petition the circulation of which parliament wished to prevent. Tulidah was imprisoned for a week by order of the commons, and Stapleton was denounced as seeking to destroy the right of petition. When the eleven presbyterian leaders in the commons were impeached by the army (16 June 1647), he was accused, like the rest, of endeavouring to overthrow the liberties of the subject and to cause another civil war, to which the charge of obstructing the relief of Ireland was added (Gardiner, Great Civil War, iii. 256, 298; Lilburne, Rash Oaths Unwarrantable, 1647, pp. 36–42). On 6 July more detailed articles were presented, to which a lengthy answer was drawn up by William Prynne on behalf of the eleven (Old Parliamentary History, xvi. 69, 116). The accused members preferred to withdraw from the house rather than to let the impeachment take its course, and on 20 July the house gave them leave to absent themselves and passes to go beyond seas if they desired (Commons' Journals, v. 251). After the riots of 26 July, however, Stapleton and the accused members returned to the house, and he was one of the committee of safety originally appointed on 11 June, and revived 30 July 1647 (Rushworth, vi. 653). When the resistance of the city collapsed, he and five others of the accused obtained passes from the speaker and took ship off Essex for Calais (14 Aug.). The partisans of the army were eager to prevent their escape, and a certain Captain Lamming overtook the fugitives a few miles from Calais, and forced them to return. Vice-admiral Batten, commander of the fleet in the Downs, at once dismissed them (Rushworth, vii. 785), and they landed at Calais on 17 Aug. Stapleton was ill, and the hardships of the journey increased his fever to such an extent that he died on the following day, at an inn called the Three Silver Lions, and, as his illness was suspected to be the plague, he was buried immediately in the protestant burying-ground at Calais (A True Relation of Captain Batten, &c., 1647, 4to; A Short and True Narrative of the Sickness and Death of Sir Philip Stapleton, 1647, 4to).
A friendly biographer, supposed to be Denzil Holles, describes Stapleton as a man ‘of a thin body and a weak constitution, but full of spirit,’ adding that he was ‘quick of apprehension, sound of judgment, of clear and good elocution’ (ib. pp. 3, 5). Robert Baillie styles him, ‘after Holles, the second gentleman for all gallantry in England’ (Letters, iii. 19). The Sutherland Clarendon in the Bodleian Library contains four engraved portraits of Stapleton.
Stapleton married twice: first, the widow of John Gee, of Bishop Burton, Yorkshire, 1627. By her he left four children: (1) John Stapleton of Warter; (2) Robert Stapleton of Wighill (d. 1675); (3) Katherine, married George Leeson of Dublin; (4) Mary, married first one Bigges of Gray's Inn; secondly, Thomas, fourth viscount Fitzwilliam, of Merrion in Ireland. By his second wife, Barbara, daughter of Henry Lennard, twelfth lord Dacre of Hurstmonceaux, whom he married at St. Anne's, Blackfriars, 6 Feb. 1638 (Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, ii. 376), he had two sons—Henry and Philip—and a daughter Frances, who married Sir Nathaniel Powell of Ewhurst Place, Sussex, besides other children who died young.
[The only biography of Stapleton is contained in a series of articles by H. E. Chetwynd-Stapylton, printed in the Journal of the Yorkshire Archæological Society, 1883–4, vol. viii., and reprinted in 1896 under the title of The Stapeltons of Yorkshire.]