Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wagstaffe, Joseph

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720510Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58 — Wagstaffe, Joseph1899Charles Harding Firth

WAGSTAFFE, Sir JOSEPH (fl. 1655), royalist, born about 1612, was probably the seventh and youngest son of Richard Wagstaffe of Herberbury in Warwickshire, by his wife Anne, daughter of John Hanslap of Stonythorpe in the same county (Visit. Warwickshire, 1619, p. 289; Dugdale, Warwickshire, i. 354, 531). Thomas Wagstaffe [q. v.], the nonjuror, and William Wagstaffe [q. v.] were connected with the same family.

Joseph was a soldier of fortune, and at the beginning of 1642 was major in an Irish regiment in the service of France (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, i. 222). In June 1642 he became lieutenant-colonel in the army destined by the parliament for the recovery of Ireland, and in the following autumn held the same rank in Hampden's regiment of foot in the Earl of Essex's army (Peacock, Army Lists, pp. 46, 70). Taken prisoner by the royalists in January 1643, he changed sides and accepted a commission to raise a regiment for the king (Mercurius Aulicus, 5 Jan. 1643; Black, Oxford Docquets, p. 1). Subsequently he was major-general of foot under Prince Maurice in the west of England, was knighted at Crediton on 27 July 1644, and distinguished himself by his soldierly retreat in the disastrous battle of Langport (Symonds, Diary, p. 2; Memoirs of Sir Richard Bulstrode, p. 140; Cal. Clarendon Papers, i. 263, 290).

In 1655 the western royalists asked for Wagstaffe to be their leader in their intended rising against Cromwell, he being well known to them and generally beloved. Clarendon characterises him as fitted ‘rather for execution than counsel, a stout man who looked not far before him, yet he had a great companionableness in his nature, which exceedingly prevailed with those who in the intermission of fighting loved to spend their time in jollity and mirth.’ With about two hundred Wiltshire royalists Wagstaffe entered Salisbury early on 12 March 1655, and proclaimed Charles II. The judges on circuit and sheriff were seized in their beds, and Wagstaffe thought of hanging them as a seasonable example, but was prevented by the opposition of Colonel Penruddock and the country gentlemen. Leaving Salisbury with about four hundred men, the royalists marched into Dorset, but gained few recruits on their way. When they entered Somerset their numbers began to diminish, and the few who remained were taken or dispersed by Captain Unton Croke at South Molton on the night of 14 March. Wagstaffe himself escaped all the searches made after him, and was back in Holland by July (Clarendon, Rebellion, xiv. 130–4; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655, p. 245; Nicholas Papers, ii. 240, 243, 259–62). He survived the Restoration, petitioned for the reversion of an office which he did not obtain, and received a small grant of some of the late king's goods in 1662 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1 p. 288, 1661–2 p. 535).

[Authorities mentioned in the article. On the rising headed by Wagstaffe, see ‘Cromwell and the Insurrection of 1655,’ in the English Historical Review for 1888–9.]

C. H. F.