, second Viscount Falkland (1609/101643), politician and author
, was born at Burford Priory in Oxfordshire, the son of , and . The poet was one of his younger brothers; was one of four sisters who converted to Catholicism and became Benedictine nuns.
Lucius was admitted to St John's College, Cambridge, in 1621. In 1622, when Lucius was twelve, his father was appointed lord deputy of Ireland and in the same year Lucius was transferred to Trinity College, Dublin, graduating BA in July 1625. That year his maternal grandfather, Sir Lawrence Tanfield, died, having entailed estates in Oxfordshire at Great Tew and Burford upon Lucius and his offspring. He took possession of this inheritance on the family's return from Ireland in November 1629. However, his father left Ireland following a violent quarrel with many of the Irish privy council and lords justices over the command of a company of 500 or 600 men, and this prompted Lucius to challenge Sir Francis Willoughby, to whom the commission was granted, to a duel. He was briefly imprisoned in the Fleet in January 1630, and it is possible that disillusionment with Irish politics may help to explain his subsequent hostility towards the earl of Strafford.
In 1630 Lucius married Lettice Morison (c
]. His father fiercely opposed the marriage, possibly because Lettice was from a poor family, and possibly because of his own exclusion from the Tanfield inheritance. Lucius offered to surrender the estate to his father, but the offer was rejected. Deeply upset by this quarrel, Lucius went to the Dutch republic seeking military service, but when he failed to find a suitable post he returned to England and settled at Great Tew about 1632. On his father's death in September the following year, he became the second Viscount Falkland. His father left him estates valued at nearly £57,000, with an annual income of £2700 but encumbered with debts said to be over £3000 a year. Falkland claimed in December 1636 that what he had to pay to and for his mother was neere as much yearely as (my debts considerd) I had to maintaine my selfe, my wife, my children and my family (TNA: PRO, SP 16/337/40, Falkland to the privy council, 16 Dec 1636). At Great Tew he lived a secluded life: he apparently played no part in local government and was not even a JP in Oxfordshire. He refused to pay ship money for his lands at Aldenham, Hertfordshire, and the bayleiffe durst not distraine for feare of being sued (TNA: PRO, SP 16/376/106, ship money arrears in Hertfordshire, 1636). However, heavy debts were owed on these Aldenham lands and the fact that Falkland did pay ship money in Oxfordshire suggests that this was a dispute over rating rather than a refusal to pay on principle. Falkland was also admitted, on William Lenthall's recommendation, to Lincoln's Inn on 18 January 1638.
Falkland and the Great Tew circle
For most of the 1630s Falkland lived quietly at Great Tew. There he assembled an extensive library and read voraciously. He learned Greek and studied the works of Greek historians and the fathers; he also wrote verse, mainly in the form of eclogues, elegies, and short dedicatory poems. But the most remarkable feature of this period of his life was the coterie of friends whom he invited to Great Tew at regular intervals from about 1634 onwards and who became known as the Great Tew circle. Falkland was a host of singular courtesy and urbanity, and at the heart of the circle were his closest friend Edward Hyde, his chaplain Charles Gataker, and the philosopher William Chillingworth. Other frequent visitors included divines such as Gilbert Sheldon, George Morley, Henry Hammond, and John Earle, poets like Sidney Godolphin, Sir John Suckling, and Edmund Waller, the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and possibly the playwright Ben Jonson. Many of these subsequently testified to the intellectual stimulus that they found at Falkland's house, as well as to his generous hospitality and great capacity for friendship. Hyde later wrote that Great Tew, being within ten or twelve miles of the University [of Oxford], looked like the University itself, by the company that was always found there (Life of … Clarendon
Falkland's talent as the host of this circle lay above all in his gentle tolerance and his respect for the intellectual differences among his guests. If he was the genial spirit presiding over the circle, Chillingworth has been described as its intellectual motor and as Falkland's closest intellectual friend (Trevor-Roper, 169, 170). Chillingworth's book The Religion of Protestants
(1638) was written at Great Tew and was a direct product of the discussions which took place there. Although there was no single outlook associated with the members of the circle, the group nevertheless possessed some intellectual cohesion and certain common attitudes and values were evident. These included a characteristic blend of tolerance and scepticism which cast doubt on the possibility of any infallible authority in religion. Falkland himself wrote a tract entitled Of the Infallibilitie of the Church of Rome
(1645), in which he argued that he could not see why someone:
should be saved, because, by reason of his parents' beleife, or the religion of the countrey, or some such accident, the truth was offered to his understanding, when had the contrary been offered he would have received that; and the other damned that beleeves falshood, upon as good ground as the other doth truth. (p. 12)
Falkland certainly followed this maxim in his own life, and Hyde wrote that he never thought the worse, or in any degree declined the familiarity, of those who were of another mind (Life of … Clarendon
, 1.49). This tolerant acceptance of others' beliefs, and sceptical attitude towards religious authority, may in part have stemmed from Falkland's own experience of resisting his mother's attempts to convert him to Catholicism following her conversion about 1626.
Falkland and other members of the circle were also drawn towards the application of reason to religious mysteries, and as a result were sometimes accused of Socinianism. They were not Socinians in the strict sense of denying the doctrine of the Trinity, but rather in the more general sense of applying rational approaches to religious issues. They found Socinian writings attractive and Falkland amassed a large collection of them. This Socinianism was closely linked to a strongly ecumenical outlook: committed to religious peace, the members of the Great Tew circle drew much inspiration from Erasmus, Philippe du Plessis Mornay, Richard Hooker, and above all Grotius, to whom Falkland dedicated one of his poems. Falkland and his friends were steeped in this Erasmian tradition, and profoundly disliked the narrow dogmatism associated on the one hand with Laudianism and on the other with radical Calvinism. Instead they sought the reunion of Christendom and admired Hooker's ideal of a via media
between Catholicism and protestantism. They embraced tolerance, especially in matters indifferent, and abhorred violent or revolutionary change. These attitudes may help to explain why in 1639 Falkland served under Essex in the first bishops' war against the Scottish covenanters, and equally why in 1641 he attacked Laudianism while defending the institution of episcopacy.
Member of parliament, 16401641
In 1640 Falkland was returned as member for Newport in the Isle of Wight to both the Short and Long Parliaments. He apparently had no previous connection with Newport or the Isle of Wight, and he may have been returned through the patronage of Jerome Weston, second earl of Portland, who as governor of the island exercised considerable electoral influence over the borough. Although he does not appear to have been particularly close to Portland, his link with him may have dated back to the later 1620s when Falkland's father briefly hoped that he might marry Portland's sister, and Falkland later opposed John Pym's bid to oust Portland from the governorship on the grounds that he was a papist by arguing that he regularly went to church. In the Commons, Falkland soon emerged into national prominence as an eloquent critic of the policies of Thorough. When the Commons debated the Laudian altar policy on 29 April 1640 Falkland advised members to read the rubrick and then resolve (Diary of Sir Thomas Aston
, 88). This view reflected the fervent desire to defend the rule of law which became a consistent theme of Falkland's many documented speeches. In the opening weeks of the Long Parliament he played a particularly prominent role in the attack on ship money and the judges who had upheld it. In a speech on 7 December 1640 he reportedly asserted that the constitution of this commonwealth hath established, or rather endeavoured to establish to us the security of our goods, and the security of those laws which would secure us and our goods (Rushworth, 4.86). The judges who had defended ship money, who should have been as dogs to defend the sheep, have been as wolves to worry them (ibid.). He argued that their judgment was contrary to statute, and also to apparent evidences, for they had supposed mighty and eminent dangers, in the most serene, quiet, and halcion days that could possibly be imagined (ibid.). He believed that the fundamental cause of England's troubles lay in breaches of the rule of law committed by a badly advised monarch:
the cause of all the miseries we have suffered, and the cause of all our jealousies we have had, that we should yet suffer, is, that a most excellent prince hath been infinitely abused by his judges, telling him that by policy he might do what he pleased. (ibid., 87)
Other future royalists, including his friend Hyde, supported Falkland's denunciation and the Commons then established a committee, chaired by Falkland, to investigate how the judges were solicited or threatened, and in what manner, and by whom to give their opinions (JHC
, 2, 164042, 46). In the light of the committee's findings impeachment articles were drawn up against Lord Keeper Finch, and when these were read on 14 January 1641 Falkland made another powerful speech in which he described Finch's life as a perpetual warfare (by mines, and by battery, by battel, and by strategem) against our fundamental laws … against the excellent constitution of this kingdom (Rushworth, 4.139). Once again Falkland's preoccupation with the rule of law was very evident: he argued that Finch had coerced the judges into signing opinions contrary to law, and had thus committed a treason as well against the king as against the kingdom; for whatsoever is against the whole, is undoubtedly against the head, which takes from His Majesty the ground of his rule, the laws (ibid., 140). At the end of the debate Falkland was one of four members to whom the Commons expressed its special thanks for the great service they have performed, to the honour of this House, and good of the Commonwealth, in … the Business of the Ship-Money (JHC
, 2, 164042, 68); the others were Hyde and the future parliamentarians Bulstrode Whitelocke and Oliver St John.
Falkland's commitment to the rule of law was closely connected to a desire to preserve the institutional structures of the Church of England, including episcopacy, once the influence of the Laudians had been curtailed. When on 89 February 1641 the Commons debated whether or not to refer the London root-and-branch petition to a committee, Falkland declared that he found the Laudians to have been the destruction of unity, under pretence of uniformity; to have brought in superstition and scandal under the titles of reverence and decency; [and] to have defiled our Church by adorning our churches (Rushworth, 4.184). He declared himself content to take away all those things from them, which to any considerable degree of probability may again beget the like mischiefs, if they be not taken away (ibid., 186). While he felt that neither their lordships, their judging of tythes, wills and marriages, no nor their voices in Parliaments are jure divino
, equally they were not injuria humana
(ibid., 186, 187). Falkland therefore did not think it fair to abolish, upon a few days debate, an order which hath lasted … in most churches these sixteen hundred years (ibid., 187). He concluded that:
we should not root up this ancient tree, as dead as it appears, till we have tryed whether by this, or the like lopping of the branches, the sap which was unable to feed the whole, may not serve to make what is left both grow and flourish. (ibid.)
This wish to reform rather than abolish episcopacy was highly characteristic of those who subsequently rallied to Charles, and the speakers who opposed root-and-branch reform in February 1641 almost without exception became royalists the following year.
The moderate constitutionalism of Falkland's attitudes towards both church and state went along with a hostility towards the policies associated with Thorough. He supported the attainder of Strafford, and on 15 April 1641 advocated the doctrine of cumulative treason:
how many haires breadths makes a tall man, and how many makes a little man, noe man can well say, yet wee know a tall man when wee see him from a low man, soe 'tis in this, how many illegal acts makes a treason is not certainly well [known], but wee well know it when we see [it]. (Bruce, 49)
Four days later he argued forthrightly that in equity lord Straford deserves to dye (ibid., 53).
Following Strafford's execution on 12 May 1641 the Commons returned to the issue of the future of the church, and Falkland again emerged as a prominent defender of episcopacy. He argued that we have lived long happily and gloriously under this forme of government, it hath very well agreed with the constitution of our lawes, with the disposition of our people and he believed that the abolition of bishops would be the destruction of many estates, in which many, who may be very innocent persons, are legally vested (Cary, A Draught
, 3, 4). On the whole, however, the supporters of episcopacy failed to co-ordinate their efforts and apply concerted pressure. This prompted Falkland's savage comment that they who hated bishops hated them worse than the devil, and that they who loved them did not love them so well as their dinner (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion
Falkland's hostility towards presbyterianism was associated with a dislike of the Scottish covenanters and a belief that the English parliament should not become involved in Scottish affairs. Thus, when news of the Scottish incident arrived, Falkland (together with Hyde) mooved that wee should leave the busines of Scotland to the Parliament there and not to take upp feares and suspicions without very certaine and undoubted grounds (Journal
, ed. Coates, 15).
By the autumn of 1641 the demands of Charles's more radical critics increasingly convinced Falkland that the king represented the lesser of two evils. Thus, when William Strode demanded on 28 October that parliament should have a negative voice over the appointment of officers of state and privy councillors, Falkland was among those who stood as champions in maynten[a]nce of [the king's] prerogative, and shewed for it unaunswerable reason and undenyable p[r]esedents (The Diary of John Evelyn from 1641 to 17056
, ed. W. Bray, 4 vols., 185052, 4.116, Nicholas to Charles I, 29 Oct 1641). That month Falkland also opposed the second Bishops Exclusion Bill
, and on 22 November he spoke against the grand remonstrance.
The approach of war
Falkland's conduct in the closing months of 1641 helps to explain why, according to Hyde, at the beginning of December the crowds outside the Palace of Westminster read a list of persons disaffected to the kingdom which included Falkland (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion
, 1.464). By the same token the king was increasingly grateful for Falkland's support and on 1 January 1642 he was sworn a privy councillor and then, on 8 January, appointed secretary of state. Falkland's elevation, like that of John Colepeper, who became chancellor of the exchequer at the same time, probably owed much to Hyde's influence, and these appointments greatly strengthened the influence of moderates within the king's counsels: towards the end of January 1642 John Coke the younger reported that Hertford, Seymour, Southampton, Falkeland and Culpeper are the chiefe councelors (BL, Add. MS 64922, fol. 88r
, John Coke the younger to Sir John Coke, 27 Jan 1642). Over the months that followed Falkland, Colepeper, and Hyde emerged as the king's leading propagandists and were, as Hyde later wrote, often of one opinion (Life of … Clarendon
Falkland only accepted appointment as secretary very reluctantly, after lengthy persuasion by Hyde, and his preferment placed him in a difficult position. Like many other moderate royalists he was embarrassed by the king's attempted arrest of the five members, and Hyde recorded the grief and anger which Falkland, Colepeper, and he felt that the violent party had by these late unskilful actions of the Court gotten great advantage and recovered new spirits. Thereafter, they could not avoid being looked upon as the authors of those counsels to which they were so absolute strangers, and which they so perfectly detested (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion
, 1.487). Falkland's official status made him immediately suspect in the eyes of some members of the Commons, and on 11 January he and Colepeper were required to defend themselves against the charge of popery. On 25 January Falkland received 1150 copies of the king's official messages relating to the five members; it is probable that the distribution of this material formed part of the secrett service for which he at this time received £700 a year (TNA: PRO, SO 3/12, signet office docket book, fol. 183r
). But when the Commons discovered that these messages were being distributed it investigated whether Falkland had offended in breach of privilege of parliament (Coates, Young, and Snow, 1.323). By this stage loyalties to the crown and to the houses were becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile.
As the civil war approached Falkland joined the king's headquarters at York, probably towards the end of May 1642. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the royalist cause was his co-authorship, with Colepeper, of the king's Answer to the Nineteen Propositions
the following month. This was not only a classic work of royalist propaganda, but also an eloquent statement of the moderate constitutional and ecclesiastical attitudes so characteristic of Falkland. The Answer
condemned the houses for seeking to remove a troublesome rub in their way, the law, and defended laws as the birth-right of every subject in this kingdom (Rushworth, 4.725). The houses' terms posed a direct threat to the antient, equal, happy, well-poised, and never enough commended constitution of the government of this kingdom, and to the regulated monarchy which was vital to preserve the laws in their force, and the subjects in their liberties and properties (ibid., 731). The Answer
also picked up Falkland's earlier defences of the established church, and asserted its unique advantages against religious extremes:
No Church could be found upon the earth, that professeth the true religion with more purity of doctrine than the Church of England doth, nor where the government and discipline are jointly more beautified, and free from superstition, than as they are here established by law; which (by the grace of God) we will with constancy maintain (while we live) in their purity and glory, not only against all invasions of popery, but also from the irreverence of those many schismaticks and separatists wherewith of late this kingdom and our City of London abounds. (ibid., 734)
All in all the Answer
portrayed the nineteen propositions as terms which the king could not in honour, or regard to … regal authority … receive without just indignation (ibid., 725). Instead, it defended the crown's rightful powers and the rule of law as the true guardians of the people's liberties and property.
was published on 18 June 1642. Three days earlier Falkland was among those peers and commoners assembled at York who signed an engagement that the king intended to preserve the true Protestant religion, the just privileges of Parliament, the liberty of the subject, the law, peace, and prosperity of this kingdom (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion
, 2.185). On 16 June, Falkland and Colepeper were recorded as absent from the Commons without leave, and they both engaged to provide horse for the king on 22 June.
Civil war, 16421643
Falkland deeply lamented the outbreak of the civil war in August 1642, and hoped that a settlement might be reached as soon as possible. On 5 September the king sent him to Westminster with a declaration insisting that he had never intended to declare the houses traitors or to raise his standard against them. This was the second such royal message sent since the beginning of the war, and the houses reiterated their refusal to negotiate until the offending proclamations were withdrawn and the standard taken down. Despite the failure of this initiative, Falkland nevertheless hoped that the conflict would be over quickly. In a letter written on 27 September, shortly after the skirmish at Powick Bridge, he wrote that the parliamentarian forces were unequal to the royalists, for most of them were men of meane quality, and … raw souldiers … some said, they were taylors, some embroyderers, and the like (Cary, A Letter
, sig. A3v
). In this letter Falkland also reiterated that the king had no other ambition, but the advancement of the Protestant Religion, and establishment of the fundamental lawes of this kingdome (ibid.).
Clarendon later wrote that when there was any overture or hope of peace [Falkland] would be more erect and vigorous, and exceedingly solicitous to press any thing which he thought might promote it (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion
, 3.189). Falkland remained deeply committed to a constitutional royalist ideal of a symbiosis between royal powers and the rule of law. In FebruaryApril 1643 he played an active part in the treaty of Oxford, and his interventions revealed his characteristic attitudes. He defended the king's right to command the armed forces and to appoint senior military officers without needing to seek parliamentary approval:
the nomination and free election is a right belonging to, and inherent in His Majesty, and having been enjoyed by all his royal progenitors, His Majesty will not believe that his well-affected subjects will desire to limit him in that right. (Rushworth, 5.201)
He argued that the king could not devest himself of those trusts which the law of the land hath settled in the Crown alone, to preserve the power and dignity of the Prince, for the better protection of the subject and of the law (ibid., 203). Once again, for Falkland as for many other moderate royalists, the rule of law served to ensure an equilibrium between royal powers and the public interest: as he put it, the laws and statutes of the kingdom … will be always the most impartial judge between [the King] and his people (ibid., 201).
Falkland expressed similar views in a tract entitled An Answer to a Printed Book
, on which he collaborated with Dudley Digges and his old friend William Chillingworth. This presented a sustained rebuttal of Henry Parker's arguments. It argued that England was a legally limited monarchy in which the king was bound to maintaine the rights and liberty of the subject; but it was emphatically not a contractual monarchy, for the king's authority was not capable of forfeiture upon a not exact performance of covenant ([D. Digges, W. Chillingworth, and L. Cary, second Viscount Falkland], An Answer to a Printed Book, Intituled Observations upon some of His Majesties Late Answers and Expresses
, 1642, 11). The king was a part of the State, and therefore the other part hath not any power warranted by law to doe what they thinke fit to his prejudice, upon pretence of publique extremity (ibid., 43). Likewise, the two houses alone were not the Parliament, and the subject of such power is the entire body, which consists of three estates of king, Lords, and Commons (ibid., 51).
Such moderate views were sometimes at odds with those of more hard-line royalists. For example, Falkland urged Charles to suppress Griffith Williams's Discoverie of Mysteries
(1643), a tract which bitterly condemned the plots and practices of a prevalent faction in this present Parliament, and warned that we must not idolize the Parliament as if it were a kinde of omnipotent creature (title-page, p. 107). Falkland feared that such strong language would only impede the search for a settlement; however, it seems that Charles liked this work and ignored Falkland's advice.
In April 1643 Falkland was appointed lord privy seal, while also continuing to serve as secretary. That summer he began to suffer materially for his royalist allegiance when, on 10 July, the committee for the advance of money assessed him at £300. Far more dangerous, however, was the marked deterioration in Falkland's state of mind as a result of the miseries of war. According to Hyde, by the summer of 1643, Falkland would sit with his friends and:
often, after a deep silence and frequent sighs, would, with a shrill and sad accent, ingeminate the word Peace, Peace, and would passionately profess that the very agony of the war, and the view of the calamities and desolation the kingdom did and must endure, took his sleep from him, and would shortly break his heart. (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion, 3.189)
He fell into a deep depression, and Hyde described how his natural cheerfulness and vivacity grew clouded, and a kind of sadness and dejection of spirit stole upon him which he had never been used to (ibid., 187).
By the autumn of 1643 Falkland could see no prospect of peace, and wished no longer to witness his country's agonized conflict. At the siege of Gloucester, although he deliberately exposed himself to danger, he emerged unscathed. But at the first battle of Newbury on 20 September he found his opportunity. Telling his friends that he was weary of the times, and foresaw much misery to his own country, and did believe he should be out of it ere night (B. Whitelocke, Memorials of the English Affairs
, 1732, 734), he placed himself as a volunteer in the first rank of Lord Byron's regiment. He identified a gap in a hedge which was lined on both sides with parliamentarian musketeers, and through which their bullets were pouring. He deliberately rode straight at the gap and in an instant suffered a fatal bullet wound to the lower abdomen. His death was tantamount to suicide, and he was buried at Great Tew.
The most celebrated assessment of Falkland's life and character is that left by his close friend Hyde. In this moving eulogy, Hyde describes Falkland as:
a person of such prodigious parts of learning and knowledge, of that inimitable sweetness and delight in conversation, of so flowing and obliging a humanity and goodness to mankind, and of that primitive simplicity and integrity of life, that if there were no other brand upon this odious and accursed civil war than that single loss, it must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity … He was superior to all those passions and affections which attend vulgar minds, and was guilty of no other ambition than of knowledge, and to be reputed a lover of all good men. (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion, 3.1789, 181)
Leaving aside the particular loyalty that Hyde felt to a close friend, the essential moderation of Falkland's character and attitudes is evident from his surviving speeches and other writings. Throughout, his temperate views on religious and constitutional issues, and his innate dislike of dogma or tyranny on whichever side they were found, were expressed in language of unusual elegance and beauty. In his later years, when he found himself somewhat reluctantly elevated onto the national political stage, it became apparent that he was not a natural man of affairs or administrator. This owed less to a lack of ability or energy than to the fact that his personality was essentially too gentle and contemplative for him to be very effective politically. It was his tragedy to have lived in a period when England descended into the kind of violence, conflict, and partisanship that he abhorred. He displayed both wisdom and innocence, while his speeches and other writings reveal a kind of precocious maturity. The last word can fittingly be left to Hyde, who wrote that Falkland:
so much despatched the business of life that the oldest rarely attain to that immense knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more innocence; and whoever leads such a life need not care upon how short warning it be taken from him. (Clarendon, Hist. rebellion, 3.190)
David L. Smith