Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scottish Nation

FAIRFAX of Cameron, Lord, a title in the Scottish peerage, conferred in 1627, on Sir Thomas Fairfax of Denton, belonging to an ancient family of Saxon origin, which about the time of the Conquest was seated at Towcester in Northumberland, but afterwards removed into Yorkshire. The name is Saxon, Fairfax meaning fair hair. The first lord had in 1591 accompanied the earl of Essex, when he was sent with an English army to the assistance of King Henry the Fourth of France against the Spaniards, and was knighted by the earl in the camp before Rouen. He was afterwards employed by Queen Elizabeth in various negociations, and was sent by her on an embassy to James the First of Scotland, by whom he was highly esteemed. Charles the First created him Lord Fairfax of Cameron in the peerage of Scotland, by patent, to him and his heirs male, dated May 4, 1627. He died in May 1640, in the eightieth year of his age. He had four sons killed in battle abroad in one year, 1621, namely, Major William Fairfax, in defence of the city of Frankendale in the Palatinate; Peregrine, at Rochelle in France; John, in the Palatinate; and Thomas, in Turkey. His own brother was the eminent poet Edward Fairfax of Newhall, the translator of Tasso’s heroic poem of ‘Godfrey of Boulogne,’ who died in 1632.

      His eldest son, Ferdinando, second Lord Fairfax, was member for the city of York, and at the beginning of the civil war, was appointed the parliamentary general for Yorkshire. In 1642 he repulsed the earl of Newcastle at Tadcaster, and in January 1643 routed Lord Byron, with his Irish forces, at Nantwich in Cheshire. In April 1644 he defeated Lord Bellasis at Selby, and took him prisoner, with sixteen hundred men. At the battle of Marston Moor in the following July, he commanded the centre, along with the earl of Leven, and contributed much to the defeat of the royal army. Being made governor of the city of York, he, in a short time, took all the garrisons in Yorkshire, which had continued to hold out for the king. He died in 1647. He was the author of a ‘Letter to his Excellency, Robert Earl of Essex, relating to his late prosperous success against the Popish Fr. Army in the North,’ London, 1643, 4to; and a “Letter concerning the great Victory obtained at Selby in Yorkshire,’ 1644, 4to.

      His eldest son, Thomas, third Lord Fairfax, born in 1611, was the famous parliamentary general, Sir Thomas Fairfax, whose actions enter so largely into the history of the civil wars. After Naseby fight, in June 1645, where he gained a complete and decisive victory, he reduced the western counties to obedience, and by the capture of Ragland castle in August 1646, put an end to all opposition to the parliament’s authority throughout England. On the execution of Charles the First, to which he was no party, he was appointed general in chief of the forces in England and Ireland, but in 1650, being ordered to march against the Scots, he resigned the command of the army to Cromwell, and retired, on a pension of five thousand pounds a-year, from public life for a time. In 1659, just previous to the Restoration, he again came forward, and it was chiefly through his influence that the Irish brigade forsook Lambert and joined the army of Monk, after the latter had resolved to bring in the king. He was chosen a member of the healing parliament, and was at the head of the committee appointed to wait upon Charles the Second at the Hague and invite him over to England. His latter years were spent in retirement at his seat in Yorkshire, his leisure hours being devoted to literary occupations. He died November 12th, 1671, in the sixtieth year of his age. He has obtained a place in Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors (Park’s edition, vol. v. p. 110) as the author of ‘Short Memorials of Thomas Lord Fairfax, written by himself,’ London, 1699, 8vo. He also left in manuscript, ‘The Psalms of David, the Song of Solomon, the Canticles, and Songs of Moses, Exodus xv. and Deut. xxii., and other parts of Scripture done into verse;’ a ‘Poem on Solitude;’ ‘Notes of Sermons,’ by his lordship, by his lady, daughter of Horace Lord Vere, and by their daughter, Mary, wife of George, second duke of Buckingham; and a ‘Treatise on the Shortness of Life.’ He also wrote some verses on the horse which Charles the Second rode to his coronation, and which had been bred and presented to the king by his lordship. Several other treatises in M>. Than those above-mentioned, composed by him, are said to be preserved in his own handwriting in the library of Denton in Yorkshire, with others of his grandfather. In Watt’s Bibliotheca Britannica there is a long list, extending to nearly two columns and a half, of the various proclamations, letters and declarations published in his name during the civil wars. His portrait subjoined is from a fine engraving of him in Walpole.

[portrait of Thomas 3rd Lord Fairfax]

His lordship was a great patron and encourager of literature. In the year 1650, he gave to the Bodleian library at Oxford twenty-nine ancient manuscripts and forty-nine modern ones; among the former was the history of Scotland, supposed to have been written by Bishop Elphinston of Aberdeen – to which reference has already been made, (see conclusion of Elphinston’s life ante.]

      When Oxford was garrisoned by the parliament forces, Lord Fairfax exerted his utmost diligence in preserving the libraries from pillage. He also allowed a considerable pension to Roger Dodsworth the antiquary, whose collections were among the manuscripts left to the Bodleian library.

      Having no male issue, but only two daughters, he was succeeded by his cousin, Henry Fairfax of Oglethorpe, grandson of the first Lord Fairfax, through his second son the Hon. and Rev. Henry Fairfax. The fourth lord dying in 1680, his eldest son, Thomas, became fifth lord. The latter concurred heartily in the Revolution of 1688, and in December that year was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the third regiment of horseguards. In January 1693 he was promoted to the King’s own regiment of horse, and in 1701 he was made a brigadier-general. He represented the county of York in several of the English parliaments till the union of the two kingdoms, and died in 1709.

      His eldest son, Thomas, sixth Lord Fairfax, inherited from his mother, Catherine, only child of Thomas, Lord Colepepper, Leeds castle and several manors in Kent, with estates in the Isle of Wight, and about five million seven hundred thousand acres of land in Virginia, North America, called the Northern Neck, comprised within the boundaries of the rivers Potomack and Rappahannock. He studied at the university of Oxford, and is said to have been one of the writers in the Spectator. He had a commission in the horseguards blue. IN 1739 he visited his American property, and was so much captivated by the soil, climate, and beautiful scenery of Virginia, that he resolved to settle there. He returned to England to arrange his affairs, and after generously bestowing his English estates on his brother Robert, in 1747 he sailed for America, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was lieutenant and custos rotulorum of Frederick county, and presided at the provincial courts of Winchester, where, during the session, he always kept open table. He also acted as surveyor or overseer of the public roads. He died, unmarried, in February 1782, aged ninety-one.

      His brother, Robert, seventh lord, major of the first troop of lifeguards, resigned his commission in 1746, and in 1759 became lieutenant-colonel of the West Kent militia. He was also a member of parliament for several years, at first for Maidstone and afterwards for the county of Kent. At his residence at Leeds castle, in Kent, he had the honour of entertaining King George the Third and his queen three days ion November 1779. He died 15th July 1793, in his 87th year, and although he had been twice married, he left no issue. His estates devolved on his nephew (the son of his eldest sister, Francis) the Rev. Denny Martin, who assumed the name of Fairfax, and the title on his male heir, Bryan Fairfax, third and only surviving son of William, fourth son of the fourth lord’s second son Henry. This William Fairfax had been settled in New England, but at the request of his cousin the sixth lord, he removed to Virginia, to undertake the management of his property there, and died in 1757.

       Bryan, his third son, on the death of the seventh lord, was in holy orders in America, but proceeding to England, he preferred his claim to the peerage of Fairfax of Cameron, which the House of Lords determined in his favour, when he returned to America. He married Miss Elizabeth Cary, by whom he had several children. He died about 1812.

      His son, Thomas, ninth lord, born in 1762, resided in Fairfax county in Virginia, and died there April 21, 1846, when he was succeeded by his grandson, Charles-Snowdon, tenth lord, whose seat is Woodburne, Maryland, United States of America.


            A baronetcy was conferred, 21st February, 1836, on Sir Henry Fairfax of Holmes, Roxburghshire, descended from the same stock as the lords Fairfax. His father, Vice admiral Sir William George Fairfax, born in 1738, entered the navy at an early age, and continued in it for the long period of sixty-three years. IN 1759 he was present at the taking of Quebec under General Wolfe, and in 1778 when in command of the ‘Alert,’ he captured ‘Le Coureur,’ the first ship taken in the French war, a service greatly enhanced from the ‘Arethusa’ being engaged at the same time in her celebrated action with the ‘Belle Poule,’ In the memorable battle of Camperdown, on the 11th October 1797, he acted as flat-captain to Lord Duncan on board the ‘Venerable,’ and in consideration of his gallant conduct on that occasion, he received the honour of knighthood, and was soon after appointed colonel of marines. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of vice-admiral of the red. By his wife, Margaret, daughter of Samuel Charteris, Esq., solicitor of the customs for Scotland, he had a son, Sir Henry, and a daughter, Mary, married, first, to Samuel Greig, Esq., captain and commissioner in the Russian navy; and, secondly, to William Somerville, Esq. This lady is the celebrated Mrs. Somerville, authoress of the ‘Mechanism of the Heavens,’ and other scientific works. The son, Sir Henry, first baronet, who got the title in consideration of his father’s distinguished naval services, was born in 1790, and attained the rank of colonel in the army in November 1841. He married, first, in 1830, 3d daughter of Thomas Williamson, Esq. of Lixmount, county of Edinburgh (afterwards Williamson Ramsay), by whom he had a son, William George Herbert Taylor, born in 1831, an officer in the army, served in the Crimea, 1855-56, and at Sebastopol; 2dly, in 1851, eldest daughter of William Astell, Esq. M.P., many years a director of the East India Company.

Return to The Scottish Nation Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus