Charles Radcliffe, De Jure, 5th Earl of Derwentwater
Sovereign Grand Commander 1730-1746
Charles Radcliffe Titular 5th Earl of Derwentwater, born in Little Parndon Essex, was the youngest son of Edward Radcliffe 2nd Earl of Derwentwater and Lady Mary Tudor, illegitimate daughter of King Charles II by his mistress the actress and singer Mary “Moll” Davis, a rival of Nell Gwynn, who according to Samuel Pepys`s diary was the illegitimate daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Earl of Berkshire, while Pepys wife called her “the most impertinent slut in the world.”
The Derwentwater title had been created in 1688 for the 3rd Baron who was Baron Tyndale of Tynedale in Northumberland and Viscount Radcliffe and Langley. The Radcliffe family were staunch Jacobites and Charles’s elder brother James, the 3rd Earl although born in London had been raised in the Stuart Court at the Chateau de Saint Germains en-Laye nineteen miles from Paris as companion to Prince Charles Edward Stuart the Old Pretender. Charles was educated by his relative Sir Marmaduke Constable of Everingham about 10 miles from York.
The Radcliffe family had in fact originated in Lancashire (their original family seat for over three hundred years appears to be Ordsall Hall which is still intact and can be visited in Salford, Manchester) and had succeeded to the Manor of Dilston near Hexham in Northumberland by the early part of the 16th century through the marriage of Edward Radcliffe to the Dilston heiress Anne Cartington. Interestingly this manor had previously been owned by the Tyndale family, relations of William Tyndale translator of the Bible into English.
These lands however were soon taken from the Radcliffe`s when the 1st Baronet, Sir Francis, a noted Catholic recusant, was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Another Sir Francis the 3rd Baron retrieved the estate and in 1688 was created Lord Derwentwater by King James II following the marriage of his son Edward to Lady Mary Tudor who were the parents of Charles Radcliffe who became titular 5th Earl of Derwentwater and Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ordre du Lys.
Charles Radcliffe was reputedly a wild headstrong philanderer in his youth with his elder brother James having to pay off his debts on many occasions. He was also said to have fathered a number of illegitimate children and a further legend has it that he was forced into marriage with the pregnant Meg Snowdon of Coquetdale who it is claimed gave him a daughter named Jane or Jenny* a union which was “hushed up in polite society.”
There is a tradition among the descendants of James Radcliffe the 3rd Earl that he only became involved in the 1715 uprising because of his younger brother Charles who was more forceful and intemperate and the main protagonist, however others make claim that it was the Countess who forced the Earl to take up the Jacobite cause** Charles had another elder brother, Francis who died unmarried and took no interest in the politics of the day.
A Roman milestone on the top of Waterfalls hill in Northumberland marks the spot where Radcliffe and his followers met General Thomas Forster and his troops, at the start of the rising in October 1715. Marching through Rothbury they went to Warkworth and in the market place of that town proclaimed James III as king, an incident which is still recorded across a beam in the public house called the Masons Arms in which the Earl and forty of his followers dined. Moving through Hexham they arrived at Newcastle where they fully expected the local gentry to take up arms on behalf of the Jacobites. However, the gates of the city were barricaded against them and Newcastle declared in favour of King George. Some say this how the people of Newcastle became known as Geordies (or originally Geordies men).
Moving on, the Northumbrian Jacobite army eventually met up with the Scottish Jacobites and together they entered into Lancashire where they expected to gather further support. Despite being only 22 years of age and having no previous military experience but thought of as being full of spirit and courage, Charles Radcliffe who commanded one of the companies of the Ordre du Lys was given command of the Jacobite troops. At the Battle of Preston in November 1715 despite Charles’s strong leadership and courage, the Jacobites were defeated by the army of George I (this episode is recounted in the Lancashire Ballard “Lo! The Bird is Flown)” † with both Charles and his brother James being amongst the Jacobites captured by the Government forces together with George Seton, 5th Earl of Winton and after due trial in London all three were sentenced to death for treason, although at that time the Earl of Winton somehow escaped. It is probable that Radcliffe became SGC of the Ordre du Lys because of his command of one of its companies and his association with the Earl of Winton.
It is claimed that at Preston 1,500 Jacobite`s laid down their arms and only seventeen had been killed. Initially Radcliffe was held in the Tower of London together with certain Jacobite aristocracy such as the Earls Nithsdale and Carnworth and Lords Widdington, Kenmure and Nairn. Eventually the three lords mentioned above were reprieved however, the Radcliffe brothers were not, Charles Radcliffe being sent to Newgate prison.
James Radcliffe 3rd Earl of Derwentwater was executed on Tower hill on 24th February 1716 and it is said that night the “aurora borealis” shone with “exceptional brightness” and thereafter these lights were known locally as Lord Derwentwater`s lights. Legend also has it that the stream that flows past his home at Dilston Hall ran red every year on the date of his execution. He is still remembered in the Jacobean folk song “Lord Derwentwaters Farewell or Lament.” which includes such poignant lines as: -
“And when the head that wears a crown
Shall be laid low like mine
Some honest hearts may then lament
For Radcliffe`s fallen line.”
Following the execution of James Radcliffe, the Derwentwater title was abolished and the estates confiscated by the Government who conferred them upon Greenwich hospital.
Meanwhile, Charles the younger brother, together with other Jacobites (reputedly through the assistance of his cousin Lord Lichfield) †† made his escape from Newgate Prison into exile in France where he was taken into the Jacobite court at Bar -le –Duc then under the protection of the Duke of Lorraine. This escape was organised during a party at Newgate Gaol which Radcliffe was allowed to attend and where he and thirteen accomplices made their escape through a small door in a room called the Castle which had been accidentally or fortuitously left open and which led to the debtor’s side of the prison. The turnkey on the debtor’s side, not knowing them and supposedly assuming they were persons come to visit friends, let them out of the prison. Charles was spirited out of England on a smuggler’s vessel bound for Boulogne in France.
In June 1724 after the death of his “secret wife” back in Northumberland, Charles married Charlotte Maria Livingstone, the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Newburgh and widow of Thomas Clifford, son of 2nd Baron Clifford of Chudleigh in Brussels and this union was blessed with three children. There is a tradition in the family of Lord Petrie the lineal descendant of James Earl of Derwentwater that Charles who had been living in poverty in France decided to marry Charlotte because he wished to improve his financial situation and proposed to her twelve times before she finally accepted. It was no surprise that she resisted his advances for so long as he was an outlawed man with a sentence of death passed on him and with no hope of ever regaining the family honours and estates, what was a surprise however was that eventually she did agree to the marriage.
Freemasonry became officially established in France in 1726 by Charles Radcliffe who founded the first Masonic lodge on the continent and in December 1736 he became Grand Master of France. John Radcliffe 4th Earl, son of the 3rd Earl, died in 1731 aged 19 and so the title passed to his uncle Charles who became the titular 5th Earl. In 1733 Charles returned to England, living in Pall Mall for several months and moving freely about London, even visiting several friends in Essex and although well known, no-one bothered to approach him or arrest him. He returned to England once again in 1735, ostensibly to solicit a pardon for himself and while he was unsuccessful, still no further action was taken against him by the authorities.
In 1738 he moved to Italy with his family and became an influential and popular figure around James III`s court at the Palazzo Balestra in Rome, becoming secretary to Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was his cousin. In 1745 he accepted the French King’s commission to act as a captain in Dillon’s Irish Regiment (Irish mercenaries) and together with his son, twenty French and sixty Scottish and Irish Officers set sail from Dunkirk in the privateer “Esperance.” Whilst sailing to Scotland to join Charles Edward Stuart his ship was captured by the Sheerness Man O War near the Dogger bank and both he and his son were taken to the Tower of London.
After a further trial at Westminster Charles Radcliffe was once again condemned to death under his former sentence and so in December 1746 was taken to Tower Hill, and wearing the regimental uniform of an officer of the French army was beheaded on the exact same spot as his brother James all those years earlier. He was one of the few Englishmen to take part in both the 15 and 45 uprisings and was remembered as one of the bravest and most loyal supporters of the House of Stuart whilst others have claimed that his death was one of the most unjustifiable acts inflicted on those who suffered for their adherence to the Stuart cause. Charles’s decapitated body was wrapped in a blanket and put into a coffin together with his severed head (which was later sown back on to his body by a dependent of Lord Petres family) and taken to the Nag`s Head tavern in Gray`s Inn Lane from where it was interred in the church yard of St Giles in the Fields and where a neglected stone marks his burial place.
Charles’s eldest son James Bartholomew claimed the title of 6th Earl of Derwentwater and on his mother’s death in 1755 became 3rd Earl of Newburgh. James’s son Anthony James Radcliffe, Charles’s grandson, who resided at Slidon House in Sussex, died without heir in 1814 and so the title became extinct as well as de jure (by law). The present representative of the Radcliffe family is Lord Petre and in 1874 the bodies of the first three Earl’s of Derwentwater were reburied in the Petries` family vault at Thornden Essex. The clothes worn by the Earl of Derwentwater are on display at the Petre`s home, Ingatestone Hall near Chelmsford, Essex. After his execution it is claimed that although Charles was buried in St. Giles in the Field London his heart was secretly returned to Dilston where it was interred in the chapel alongside the decapitated body of his brother James.
Dilston Hall the grand seat of the Earls of Derwentwater is now merely a ruin and Dilston Chapel and the Lords Bridge which are in close proximity are said to have been built with money originally raised for financing the Gunpowder Plot.
Langley Castle near Hexham in Northumberland has a Celtic cross carved in mock Gothic fashion and has the following inscription:
“To the memory of James and Charles Radcliffe Earls of Derwentwater, Viscount Langley, beheaded on Tower Hill 24 February 1716 and 8 December 1746 for loyalty to their lawful sovereign.”
It is as far as is known the only monument to the Jacobite cause in England.
* Jenny`s story was popularised in the novel “Devil Water” by Anya Seton.
** According to legend the Countess of Derwentwater is blamed for the death of her husband the Earl. It is claimed the Earl had been greatly troubled about the impending rising and had been reluctant to take up arms and the Countess, upset by his lack of spirit, reproached him for hiding his head in hovels and in an emotional outburst threw down her fan and challenged him to give her his sword in return. The story is based on the fact that shortly before the rising, the Earl who was recognised as a leading Jacobite figure was forced into hiding when the government issued a warrant for his arrest.
† During the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite uprisings, Lancashire was split between the Blacks (the Liberal Whigs) and the Jacks (the white emblem Tories who were allied with the Scots). Following the Battle of Preston in 1715 the Lancashire lads who had sided with the Jacobites were given an especially hard time in terms of executions and transportation to the West Indies.
†† The line of this Earl of Lichfield became extinct in 1776. It was created for the third time for the Anson family in 1831 (one of the ancestors of whom was Admiral George Anson the first man to circumnavigate the globe) who are the present Earls of Lichfield and reside in Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire and who are related to our present Queen.