Page images

Calais. This Sir John, dying without issue, was succeeded by Sir Richard, who, acquired possessions in Nottinghamshire, by marrying the heiress of Colewick, of Colewick. Another Sir John followed, who fought under Henry the Fifth, and received the honours of knighthood as a reward for his valour. His descendant, Sir John Byron, of Colewick, took part with Henry Earl of Richmond at the battle of Bosworth. In requital of his services, Henry the Seventh bestowed upon him the offices of constable of the castle of Nottingham, and steward and warder of Sherwood forest. He died in 1488. His grandson, Sir John Byron, was made steward of Manchester and Rochdale, and lieutenant of the forest of Sherwood. This Sir John was a great favourite with the queen-killing king, Henry the Eighth, supported him in all his measures, and entered fully into all his views domestic and theological. In return for this, when the lands of the church came to be divided, he was not forgotten. The church and abbey of Newstead, with the manor of Papelham, and the rectory, with the adjoining lands, were given to him in 1540. Newstead Abbey was a foundation for regular canons of the Augustin order; its situation was beautiful, and its riches considerable.

Sir John, son of the preceding, was high in favour with queen Elizabeth ; he left issue three sons and five daughters. Sir Nicholas Byron, the eldest son, who had served with distinction in the wars of the Low Countries, was one of the firmest and boldest supporters of Charles the First upon the breaking out of the civil war. In consideration of his services at the battle of Edgehill, he was appointed governor of Chester in 1642; and he defended that city against the Parliament's


for a long time. The celebrated Lord Clarendon, in speaking of him, says: « He was a soldier of very good command, who being a person of great affability and dexterity, as well as martial knowledge, gave great life to the designs of the well affected there;and, with the encouragementof some gentlemen of North Wales, in a short time raised such a power of horse and foot, as made often skirmishes with the enemy; sometimes with notable advantages, never with any signal loss.»

He had two sons, who both died without issue; and bis younger brother, Sir John, became their male heir: this person had been made a knight of the Bath at the coronation of James the First. He had eleven sons, of whom the major part distinguished themselves for their loyalty and gallantry on the side of the first Charles. Sir Thomas, a younger son, commanded the Prince of Wales's regiment at the battle of Hopton Heath; and - Lord Clarendon calls him, «a gentleman of great courage, and very yood conduct, who charged with good

[ocr errors]


execution. » His elder brother, Sir John Byron, makes a conspicuous figure in the pages of that noble historian, for his activity and the important commands entrusted to him. «In truth,» says he, « there was no gentleman in the kingdom of a better reputation among all sorts of

On his appointment to the lieutenancy of the Tower of London, the opponents of the court remonstrated; and the king answered, that « he did not expect, having preferred a person of known fortune and unquestionable reputation to that trust, he should have been pressed to remove him without any particular charge: , but afterwards, when Sir John himself desired to be « freed from the agony and vexation of that place,» his majesty consented to the alteration. After the battle of Newbury, in which he played a very conspicuous part, he was, on the 24th of October, 1643, created Baron Byron of Rochdale, with a collateral remainder to his brothers, and appointed field-marshal of all the king's troops in Worcestershire, Salop, Cheshire, and North Wales. His various and important services to the cause of royalty caused him to be so hated by the parliament, that they passed a special act exempting him from pardon, and confiscating his property. On the decline of the king's affairs the unfortunate monarch appointed him governor to the Duke of York (afterwards James the Second), with whom he effected his escape to Holland; from thence he passed into Flanders with his royal pupil, and was in the army of the great Turenne. He died at Paris, in 1652, without issue, and his brother, Richard, became second Lord Byron; this latter was knighted by Charles the First, and had a command at the battle of Edgehill. He was governor of Appleby Castle, and also distinguished himself in the government of Newark. He died in 1679, aged seventy-four, and it is recorded on his tomb, in the church of Huncknal Torkard, that, with the rest of his brothers, he faithfully served King Charles the First in the civil wars,» and that they « suffered much from their loyalty, and lost all their fortunes; yet it pleased God so to bless the honest endeavours of the said Richard Lord Byron, that he repurchased part of their ancient inheritance, which he left to his posterity, with a laudable memory for great piety and charity.» His son William, the third lord, died in 1695, leaving a son, also named William, the fourth lord, who was thrice married; he died at Newstead Abbey, in 1736, leaving five sons, of whom the eldest, William, became fifth peer. He served in the navy in his younger years, and possessed considerable influence at court, so much so as to procure the office of master of the stag-hounds, but, being a man of ungovernable passions, he was, in 1765, committed to the Tower, under a charge of having killed his relation, Mr Chaworth, in a duel, which took place under peculiar circumstances, at the Star and Garter tavern in Pall-Mall. The dispute that led to this fatal catastrophe was begun and ended in the same room, and at the same meeting, Lord Byron insisting that they should instantly settle it by the sword, and with such light as one glimmering candle afforded. Being the more expert swordsman of the two, his relation and neighbour received a mortal wound, although he lived long enough to settle his own affairs, and supply such information as led the coroner's jury to return a verdict of wilful murder against his opponent. The trial, which excited an immense degree of public interest at the time, came on before the peers at Westminster Hall. It lasted two days, and ended by an unanimous sentence of manslaughter, pronounced by upwards of two hundred and fifty members of the upper house. Upon being brought up

for judgment, he pleaded his privilege as a peer, and was, in consequence, discharged. Sometime subsequent his son offended him, by marrying contrary to his wishes, and from that period he retired to his seat, where, though he lived in a state of perfect exile from persons of his own rank, his ungovernable temper found abundant exercise in continual war with his neighbours, and sufficient punishment in the batred of his tenants. In this unhappy state be lingered out a long and miserable life, doing every thing in his power to ruin the paternal mansion for that other branch of the family to which he

« PreviousContinue »