William Christian - Illiam Dhone (1608-1663)
The Island's Receiver General. Surrendered the Island to Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. Later accused of trason and executed by the 8th Earl of Derby.
Often regarded as the
greatest of Manx patriots, William
Christian (known in Manx as Illiam Dhone,
or Dark-haired William). was born in 1608 into one
of the Island’s most powerful families. By 1643, he was a member of the House
of Keys; only a few years later he had become a trusted servant of James Stanley, the
7th Earl of Derby, occupying the station of Receiver-General.
In August 1651, when the Earl left the Island
to join the Royalist forces, Christian was left in charge of the Manx militia,
whose task it was to man the garrison and protect the Earl’s family. When the Earl was captured during battle, the
Countess offered to surrender the Island to the Parliamentarians in exchange
for her husband’s life. At a time when the Parliamentarians were committing attrocities in Ireland, Christian saw this as the Countess’ willingness to barter Manx lives for the Earl’s; in response, the militia staged an insurrection, seeking redress for
grievances held by the Manx people and staging a series of raids against the
Island’s major strongholds.
In October 1651,
Parliamentarian forces landed in the Island, and the Countess learned that the
Earl had been executed; she and her family fled to England. Christian was behind the final decision to
surrender to rather than resist the Parliamentarians, and in doing so saved the Island from
Christian continued in his
role as General-Receiver under Thomas Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief of the
Parliamentarian forces and now Lord of Man.
In 1656, Christian was also appointed Governor by Fairfax. He held both positions until 1658, when, in
the wake of a smear campaign, he was replaced by James Chaloner. Shortly afterwards, Christian was accused of
financial misconduct and the misappropriation of funds. He fled to England, where in 1660 he was
arrested and imprisoned in London’s Fleet prison, accused of having accumulated
debts of £20,000; after a year he was released without further charges.
He returned to the Island
in September 1661, confident that the Act of Indemnity passed by Parliament the
previous year would ensure his safety. Charles
Stanley, the 8th Earl of Derby, saw this differently: eager to seek
vengeance in any form for his father’s death and assert his authority in the Isle of Man, the Earl had Christian seized and
imprisoned in Castle Rushen for his part in the events of 1651, which were
interpreted as an act of treason against the Lord of Man. Christian refused to plead, and so was
condemned without trial. He was executed by firing squad at Hango Hill outside
Castletown on 2nd January 1663.
A petition sent by the
Christian family reached Charles II too late to save Christian from
execution. Nevertheless, in the summer
of 1663, the Privy Council ruled in favour of the petition, stating that the Act
of Indemnity should have applied in the case of William Christian. Redress was ordered to be given to all those
Who would put trust in honour or power?