Thomas Fairfax

The Right Honourable
The Lord Fairfax of Cameron
General Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671) by Robert Walker and studio.jpg
Thomas Fairfax by Robert Walker
Nickname(s)Black Tom
Rider of the White Horse
Born(1612-01-17)17 January 1612
Denton Hall, Denton, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died12 November 1671(1671-11-12) (aged 59)
Nun Appleton, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
BuriedBilbrough, Yorkshire
Allegiance New Model Army
RankLord General
Battles/warsBattle of Marston Moor
Battle of Naseby
Siege of Oxford
Siege of Colchester
Suppression of Leveller mutiny

Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (17 January 1612 – 12 November 1671), also known as Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax,[1] was an English nobleman, peer, politician, general, and Parliamentary commander-in-chief during the English Civil War. An adept and talented commander, Fairfax led Parliament to many victories, notably the crucial Battle of Naseby, becoming effectively military ruler of the new republic, but was eventually overshadowed by his subordinate Oliver Cromwell, who was more politically adept and radical in action against Charles I. Fairfax became unhappy with Cromwell's policy and publicly refused to take part in Charles's show trial. Eventually he resigned, leaving Cromwell to control the republic. Because of this, and also his honourable battlefield conduct and his active role in the Restoration of the monarchy after Cromwell's death, he was exempted from the retribution exacted on many other leaders of the revolution. His dark hair and eyes and a swarthy complexion earned him the nickname "Black Tom".[2]

Early life

Thomas Fairfax was born at Denton Hall, halfway between Ilkley and Otley in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on 17 January 1612, the eldest son of Ferdinando Fairfax, 2nd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (his family title of Lord Fairfax of Cameron was in the peerage of Scotland, then still independent from England, which was why he was able to sit in the English House of Commons after he inherited it). He studied at St John's College, Cambridge,[3] and Gray's Inn (1626–1628), then volunteered to join Sir Horace Vere's expedition to fight for the Protestant cause in the Netherlands.[4]

In 1639 he commanded a troop of Yorkshire dragoons which marched with King Charles I against the Scots in the First Bishops' War, which ended with the Pacification of Berwick before any fighting took place. In the Second Bishops' War the following year, the English army was routed at the Battle of Newburn. Fairfax fled with the rest of the defeated army but was nevertheless knighted in January 1641 for his services.[1]