Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Slanning, Nicholas

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SLANNING, Sir NICHOLAS (1606–1643), royalist, son of Gamaliel Slanning of Maristow, Devonshire, by Margaret Marler, was born about 2 Sept. 1606 (Winslow-Jones, The Slannings of Leye Bickleigh and Maristow, p. 9). In November 1628 he was admitted to the Inner Temple, was knighted on 24 Aug. 1632, and was appointed governor of Pendennis Castle on 17 April 1635 (ib.) In 1639 he served in the army collected for the first Scottish war (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1638–9, pp. 502, 580). He represented the borough of Plympton in the Short parliament of 1640, and Penryn in the Long parliament.

Slanning was one of the fifty-nine Straffordians whose names were posted up in Palace Yard as voting against the bill for Strafford's attainder (Rushworth). When Sir Ralph Hopton entered Cornwall and set up the king's standard there, Slanning raised a foot regiment and joined him (Clarendon, Rebellion, vi. 244). Slanning, who is described as general of the ordnance in Hopton's army, fought throughout the western campaign, specially distinguishing himself at the battles of Bradock Down (19 Jan. 1643), at Sourton Down (April 1643), and at Stratton (16 May 1643). At Lansdowne (5 July 1643), with three hundred musketeers, he beat Waller's reserve of dragoons, and had a horse killed under him. In the retreat to Devizes he commanded Hopton's rear-guard, and his Cornish foot soldiers completed the victory at Roundway Down on 13 July 1643 (ib. vi. 249, vii. 88, 106, 111). When Rupert took Bristol by storm (26 July 1643), the Cornish were assigned the task of assaulting the Somerset side of the city, where the fortifications were strongest, and were repulsed with great loss. Slanning was mortally wounded, and died about September following (ib. vii. 132; Warburton, Prince Rupert, ii. 258; Winslow-Jones, p. 12).

Clarendon describes Slanning as a man ‘of a small stature, but very handsome and of a lovely countenance, of excellent parts and invincible courage. … He was of a very acceptable presence, great wit, and spake very well, and with notable vivacity, and was well beloved by the people.’ He told Clarendon, who came to visit him after he was wounded, ‘that he had always despised bullets, having been so used to them, and almost thought they could not hit him,’ and ‘professed great joy and satisfaction in the losing his life in the king's service’ (Clarendon, Rebellion, vi. 121 n. ed. Macray).

Slanning's estates were sequestrated by the parliament (Cal. of Committee for Compounding, p. 2210). He married, on 23 Sept. 1625, Gertrude, daughter of Sir James Bagge, of Little Saltram, and left a son Nicholas, who was created a baronet on 19 Jan. 1663, and was governor of Plymouth in 1688, when the Prince of Orange landed. He died in 1692. Margaret, Slanning's eldest daughter, was granted at the Restoration the profits of Dartmoor Forest (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, pp. 144, 194). She married Sir John Molesworth; while her younger sister, Elizabeth, married Sir James Modyford [q. v.], lieutenant-governor of Jamaica. An account of the later history of the family and a pedigree are given by Mr. Winslow-Jones.

[Winslow-Jones's Slannings of Leye Bickleigh and Maristow; Transactions of the Devonshire Society for the Advancement of Science, Literature, &c., 1887, xix. 451; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, ed. Macray, 1888; Clarendon MS. 1738; David Lloyd's Memoirs of Excellent Personages, 1668, p. 657; Prince's Worthies of Devon.]

C. H. F.