Wandesford, Christopher (DNB00)

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WANDESWORTH, CHRISTOPHER (1592–1640), lord deputy of Ireland, born on 24 Sept. and baptised on 18 Oct. 1592 at Bishop Burton, near Beverley, was the son of Sir George Wandesford, knt. (1573–1612), of Kirklington, Yorkshire, by Catherine, daughter of Ralph Hansby of Gray's Inn (Comber, Life of Wandesford, p. 1; Whitaker, History of Richmondshire, ii. 147; Autobiogr. of Mrs. Alice Thornton, p. 345). About the age of fifteen Wandesford entered Clare College, Cambridge, where he was under the tuition of Dr. Milner. He was admitted to Gray's Inn on 1 Nov. 1612 (Foster, Gray's Inn Register, p. 131). Wandesford left Cambridge in 1612, just before the death of his father, and succeeded to an estate worth about 560l. per annum, but much encumbered by debts and annuities to relatives. By strict economy, the skilful management of his lands, and the judicious employment of his wife's marriage portion, he paid off all these encumbrances, and was able by 1630 to lay out large sums on building (Whitaker, ii. 149–152, 157).

Wandesford represented Aldborough in the parliaments of 1621 and 1624, Richmond in 1625 and 1626, and Thirsk in 1628. In the contested election for Yorkshire in 1621 he was one of the strongest supporters of Sir Thomas Wentworth (afterwards Earl of Strafford) [q. v.], who was a distant kinsman of Wandesford (Comber, p. 10), stood godfather to his son George in 1623, and was thenceforward his most intimate friend (Strafford Papers, i. 9, 17, 21, 32). In the parliament of 1626 Wandesford took a prominent part in the attack on Buckingham, being chairman of the committee which investigated the evidence, and one of the eight managers of the impeachment. He was specially charged with the conduct of the thirteenth article, accusing the duke of criminal presumption in administering medicine to James I during his last illness (Forster, Life of Eliot, i. 489, 512, 578; Old Parliamentary History, vii. 147; Rushworth, i. 207, 352; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1625–6, p. 292). In the parliament of 1628, when the king forbade the commons to proceed with any business which might asperse the government or the ministers, Wandesford was one of the proposers of the ‘Remonstrance’ which made the king assent to the ‘Petition of Right’ (ib. i. 607; Old Parliamentary History, viii. 193).

After 1629 Wandesford, like Wentworth, whose appointment as president of the north he had joyfully welcomed, passed from opposition to the service of the crown (Strafford Papers, i. 49). On 17 April 1630 he was appointed one of a commission to inquire into fees and new offices (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1629–31, p. 236). Wentworth's influence was the motive which led him to abandon his retirement and accompany his kinsman to Ireland. ‘My affection to the person of my lord deputy, purposing to attend upon his lordship as near as I could in all fortunes, carried me along with him whithersoever he went, and no premeditated thoughts of ambition’ (Instructions to his Son, p. 62). On 17 May 1633 the king appointed him a member of the Irish privy council, and he was sworn in on 25 July, the same day that Wentworth was sworn lord deputy. Before this date the mastership of the rolls in Ireland had been also conferred upon Wandesford, which was secured to him for life by patent dated 22 March 1633–4 and 17 May 1639 (Lodge, Peerage of Ireland, iii. 196; Strafford Letters, i. 84). The lord deputy consulted with Wandesford and Sir George Radcliffe [q. v.] in all business of importance, thinking them the only privy councillors unswayed by local prejudices or personal aims. ‘There is not a minister on this side knows anything I write or intend,’ he told the lord treasurer, ‘excepting the master of the rolls and Sir George Radcliffe, for whose assistance in this government and comfort to myself amidst this generation I am not able sufficiently to pour forth my humble acknowledgments to his majesty. Sure I were the most solitary man without them that ever served a king in such a place’ (ib. i. 99, 194, ii. 433). During Wentworth's visits to England Wandesford was invariably appointed one of the lords justices who governed Ireland in his absence, at one time in association with Adam Loftus, first viscount Loftus of Ely [q. v.] (3 July 1636), and on a second occasion with Robert, lord Dillon (12 Sept. 1639). During the first of these instances Wentworth addressed to Wandesford an account of an interview with the king which contains the best account of his rule in Ireland, and is the best proof of the entire agreement of the two friends in their political aims (ib. ii. 13; cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 291).

When Strafford finally left Ireland, Wandesford was appointed lord deputy (1 April 1640), being sworn in two days later. The spirit of opposition which prevailed in England spread to Ireland, and the new lord deputy found the Irish parliament no longer subservient. The commons had granted the king four entire subsidies in March 1640; in June they demanded the adoption of a new way of levying the three of these subsidies still unpaid, a change which would in any case cause delay, and largely reduce the amount received by the government. Wandesford temporised, allowing the declaration of the commons claiming the control of taxation to be entered in the council books, but proroguing the parliament to 1 Oct. in order to put a stop to the agitation. This had no effect, and on 9 Nov. the king ordered Wandesford to cause two orders of the commons relating to this question to be torn out of the journals (Carte, Ormonde, ed. 1851, i. 195, 202, 214; Mountmorres, History of the Irish Parliament, ii. 40). On 7 Nov. 1640 the commons also drew up a remonstrance against Strafford's government of Ireland, and sent a committee of their own members to present it to the king. Wandesford prorogued the parliament again on 12 Nov., and would probably have stopped the passage of the committee if he could, but they left Ireland without waiting for his license (Carte, i. 216, 231). These difficulties, and the news of the fall and imprisonment of Strafford, so affected Wandesford that he fell ill of a fever, and died on 3 Dec. 1640. He was buried in Christ Church on 10 Dec.; and his friend Bramhall, bishop of Derry, preached his funeral sermon (Autobiogr. of Alice Thornton, pp. 19–26; English Historical Review, ix. 550). ‘Since I left Ireland,’ wrote Strafford to Sir Adam Loftus, ‘I have passed through all sorts of afflictions … but indeed the loss of my excellent friend the lord deputy more afflicts me than all the rest’ (Strafford Papers, ii. 414). According to Carte, who is confirmed by contemporaries, Wandesford was universally lamented in Ireland, as a man ‘of great prudence, moderation, virtue, and integrity.’ It was observed at his funeral, as a sign of ‘the love God had given to that worthy person, that the Irish party did set up their lamentable hone, as they call it, for him in the church, which was never known before for any Englishman done’ (Thornton, p. 26; Carte, i. 233).

In 1635 Wandesford had purchased from the Earl of Kildare the lands of Sigginstown, near Naas, but resold the estate to Strafford, who intended to build a royal residence there. Instead of it Wandesford acquired (25 July 1637) Castlecomer and the territory of Edough or Idough in the county of Kilkenny. The title to this district had been found to be in the crown by inquisition taken at Kilkenny on 11 May 1635 and the sept of the Brennans who held it declared to have no legal claim to their lands. Strafford expelled them by force, and Wandesford rebuilt the castle, restocked the park, and settled a number of English families on the estate. Wandesford's conscience does not seem to have been quite easy, and by his will, made on 2 Oct. 1640, he ordered his executors to pay them a certain sum in compensation. It recites that they had several times refused ‘such proffers of benefit as he thought good out of his own private charity and conscience to tender to them,’ and that, though neither by law nor equity could he be compelled to give them any consideration at all for their pretended interest, his trustees were to pay them a sum amounting to the value of a twenty-one years' lease of the lands they held in 1635. The legacy, however, owing to the rebellion, was never paid; and in 1695 Wandesford's grandson, the first Lord Castlecomer, obtained a decree extinguishing the claim of the Brennans to it, they having been attainted as rebels (Lodge, iii. 197; Carte, i. 234; Prendergast, Ireland from the Restoration to the Revolution, pp. 126–38; Whitaker, ii. 150; for an abstract of the will see Thornton, p. 183). It is said that Charles I, at the instigation of Strafford, offered Wandesford a peerage in the summer of 1640, with the title of Viscount Castlecomer, which Wandesford refused, saying: ‘Is it a time for a faithful subject to be exalted when the king, the fountain of honour, is likely to be reduced lower than ever?’ (Whitaker, ii. 162; Comber, p. 122). Wandesford was the author of a book of ‘Instructions’ to his son George, ‘in order to the regulating of his whole life,’ which was written in 1636 and published in 1777 (see Autobiogr. of Alice Thornton, pp. 20, 187).

A portrait of Wandesford by Van Dyck was in the Houghton collection, and one belonging to his descendant, the Rev. H. G. W. Comber of Oswaldkirk, was exhibited at Leeds in 1868. He is described as ‘a fair, oval-faced man, with a sanguine complexion and auburn hair’ (Whitaker, Life of Sir George Radcliffe, p. 289; Cartwright, Chapters from Yorkshire History, p. 200; Autobiography of Mrs. Alice Thornton, p. vi).

Wandesford is said to have married twice: first, the daughter of William and sister of Sir John Ramsden of Byrom, Yorkshire, by whom he had no issue (Lodge, iii. 198; Burke, Extinct Baronetage, 1st edit. 1844, p. 550), but of this first marriage there seems to be no good evidence; secondly, Alice, daughter of Sir Hewett Osborne (22 Sept. 1614), who died 10 Dec. 1659, aged 67 (Thornton, pp. 100–22, 345). By her he had seven children, of whom Catherine, the eldest daughter, married Sir Thomas Danby, knt., of Thorpe Perrow; and Alice (b. 1626), married William Thornton of East Newton, Yorkshire; her autobiography was edited by Mr. Charles Jackson for the Surtees Society in 1875.

Of the sons, Christopher, the third, born 2 Feb. 1627–8, was created a baronet on 5 Aug. 1662, and died on 23 Feb. 1687. By his marriage with Eleanor, daughter of Sir John Lowther, he was the father of Christopher, second baronet and first viscount Castlecomer in the peerage of Ireland. Sir Christopher Wandesford, second Viscount Castlecomer (d. 1719), was the eldest son of Christopher, first viscount, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of George Montagu of Horton in Northamptonshire. He was returned to the British parliament for Morpeth on 17 Oct. 1710, retaining his seat till 1713, and was again returned on 4 Feb. 1714–15 for Ripon. In 1714 he was sworn of the privy council, and in 1715 appointed governor of Kilkenny. On 14 March 1717–18 he was appointed secretary at war, a post which he resigned in May. He died without issue on 23 June 1719, and was buried at Charlton in Kent. He married, in 1717, Frances, daughter of Thomas Pelham, first baron Pelham [q. v.]

[Thomas Comber published in 1778 Memoirs of the Life and Death of the Lord-deputy Wandesford, 12mo, Cambridge; and also, in 1777, A Book of Instructions, written by Sir Christopher Wandesford to his son, George Wandesford. These two works form the basis of the account of Wandesford's life given by T. D. Whitaker in his History of Richmondshire, ii. 147–63. Much of the material used by Comber is to be found in the Autobiography of Alice Thornton. Letters written by Wandesford are printed in the Strafford Letters, Whitaker's Life of Sir George Radcliffe, Berwick's Rawdon Papers, 1819; unpublished letters are to be found in the Carte collection in the Bodleian Library and among the Marquis of Ormonde's manuscripts at Kilkenny Castle. See also Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. i. 271, 314, x. 277, and 5th ser. ii. 327, 370, iii. 158, 338, vi. 356.]

C. H. F.