The 17th Century House of Keys

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Civil War and the Manx Rebellion

The 7th Earl of Derby - James StanleyThe 7th Earl of Derby, James Stanley, was a loyal supporter of King Charles I during the English Civil War and in 1651 he left the Island with most of the Manx militia, to fight for the English King, against the Parliamentary revolutionary forces.

William Christian, known in Manx as Illiam Dhone (Brown William), was considered a traitor by the Stanleys but a patriot by many of the Manx for his actions in surrendering the Island to the Parliamentary troops during the Civil War. At his trial many members of the House of Keys were unwilling to condemn him and as a result were removed and replaced by others who would find William Christian guilty.

By October 1651 the Island was besieged by Parliamentary forces who demanded that the Manx surrender. Stanley had been captured in England. His wife, Countess Charlotte de la Tremouille, tried to negotiate for her husband’s release but when she learnt of her husband’s execution and that the Island’s garrisons were to be surrendered by William Christian (the Island’s Receiver General), she finally admitted defeat.

The Manx Rebellion, as it was known, was a bloodless coup with English Parliamentary forces taking over administration of the Island. The Keys, which after 1600 had been a permanent representative body, continued to meet periodically during this time.

When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 and the 8th Earl of Stanley returned to the Island, the Earl accused William Christian of treason for the surrendering the Island in 1651 and had him executed by firing squad at Hango Hill, outside Castletown, on January 2nd 1663, despite the issue of a general pardon granted by Charles II.

A19th Century copy of a drawing of Derby Fort, near Castletown, published in 1656.

Built by Henry VIII, the fort was later refurbished by the 7th Earl as part of the Island’s defences against parliamentary troops.