1663, William Christian, a gentleman, pleads for a pardon from the King for alleged treason whilst imprisoned by the Earl of Derby on the Isle of Man

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, William Christian, gentleman. SP 29/67 f. 75 (1663)

To the King’s most excellent majestie and the lords of his majesties most honourable privy councell

The humble petition of William Christian gentleman.


That your peticioner haveing some part of his estate in Lancashire and other part in the Isle of Mann, about Michaelmas last went into the said island and was soone after there imprisoned by order of the Earle of Darby where he soe still continues, and hath been lately called to a tryall there for his life for treason upon pretence that in 1651 he assembled the inhabitants of the said island in opposition to the now Countesse Dowager of Darby (which if true) as the same is not, yet the same being in relation to the warrs, your peticioner is advised by councell that the same is pardoned by your majestys gratious Act of Indempnity wherein your peticioner is not a person excepted from pardon, nor hath at any time since the 24th of June 1660 or before acted any thing against your majestie or government.

That your peticioner hath appealed to be tryed by your majesties lawes of England where he many yeares lived and hath an estate, but it was refused. And for as much as the said proceedings are without president, and contrary to the lawes within the said island.

He most humbly prayeth the benefitt of the lawes of England, and in order thereunto that yourmajestie wilbe gratiously pleased to command his being brought before your majestie and honourable councell and that if any thing can be objected against him which is not pardoned, that he may have a tryall according to the knowne lawes of this kingdome.

And your petitioner shall ever pray etc

[paratext:] Att the court at Whitehall January the 12th 1662/3. His majesty is graciously pleased to referre the consideracion of this peticion to Master Atturney and Master Solicitour, or either of them, who are to examine what is therein alleadged, and then to report to his majesty what they conceive just and fitt for his majesty to doe in it for the peticioners satisfaction, upon which his majestywill declare his further pleasure.

Henry [..nne?]

Peticion of William Christian. Received 9th January 1662

Report by David Moffatt

The petitioner, William Christian, was imprisoned by the Earl of Derby for treason because in 1651 he allegedly assembled the inhabitants of the Isle of Man against the Countess of Derby. In the petition, Christian claimed that any action was pardoned by the Act of Indemnity. He also asked to be tried in England rather than on the Island. The King referred the petition to the Attorney and Solicitor.

William Christian (1608-63), known as Illiam Dhone

Also known as ‘Illiam Dhone’, (Brown William), he was the younger son of Deemster (judge) Ewan Christian, of Milntown on the Isle of Man.[1] He was steward of the Abbey Lands and a member of the House of Keys.

He held a lease on Ronaldsway from the 7th Earl of Derby, gained the Earl’s confidence and was appointed ‘receiver’. In 1651, he was appointed head of the insular militia, as well as providing care of the Earl’s wife Charlotte de la Trémoille.

The Earl was captured by Royalist forces and his wife offered the Island to the Royalists, as a possible way to purchase his release. Christian and many locals rebelled against this and attempted to seize the forts, only succeeding in gaining the smaller ones. Parliament sent troops to quell the revolt and restore peace. They were unopposed. Christian and his brother John were summoned to London to explain his position. He was subsequently appointed Governor of the Island.[2]

In 1658 the new Governor ordered Christian’s arrest for misappropriating £1,000 of rent arrears of the church, which should have been used for education and supporting the clergy. He was able to prove the charges were unfounded, but he fled to London. However, he was arrested for a debt of £20,000 and spent a year in the Fleet prison whilst he raised bail.[3]

Trial and Death

Being assured that there were no longer charges against him he returned to the Isle of Man. However, in 1662 he was arrested by order of the 8th Earl of Derby because his offences were regarded as being against the Island and not the King. He refused to plead at his trial because he believed that the Act of Indemnity applied to his actions on the Island. This was treated as a guilty plea with no evidence given in his favour. Realising he would be found guilty he then applied to be tried by the Hight Court. This was likely to gain favour from the Keys, but the 8th Earl of Derby substituted his own supporters in order to gain a quick guilty verdict. He was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered.

Christian’s wife appealed against the sentence which was changed by the Deputy Governor who decided he should be shot. This was carried out on the 2 January 1663 and an entry in the Parish Register of Malew states that ‘he died most penitently and most curragiously, made a good end, prayed earnestly, made an excellent speech, and next day was buried in the chancel of Kirk Malew’.[4]

The Petition

Whilst imprisoned in Castle Rushen, Christian ‘addressed a petition to the King and Council, pleading that the proceedings taken against him by the Earl of Derby were a violation of the Act of Indemnity, and praying that his case might be heard before them’.[5] Unfortunately for Christian, it did not reach London until a week after his execution. Petitions for redress were presented by his sons George and Ewan and, after some delay, the Earl, the deemsters, and three other members of the court, were brought before the King, who decreed that ‘the Act of General Pardon and Indemnity did extend to the Isle of Man’. Furthermore, the Privy Council ordered that ‘intire restitution’ be made of William Christian’s estate, ‘to the end the guilt of that blood, which hath been unjustly spilt, may in some sort be expiated’.[6]

Charlotte de La Trémoille

Charlotte was born in France, the daughter of the French nobleman Claude de La Trémoille, 2nd Duke of Thouars, and his wife, Countess Charlotte Brabantina of Nassau.

On 26 June 1626, Charlotte married James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, who was later taken prisoner at Nantwich in 1651 and beheaded at Bolton.

Lady Derby was famous for her defence of the Earl’s properties against the Parliamentarians. She successfully held off the Parliamentarian attacks on Latham House until Prince Rupert arrived in May 1644. She then evacuated to the Isle of Man.[7]


[1] ‘Illiam Dhone’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illiam_Dhone. For his Family Tree see: https://www.genealogieonline.nl/en/genealogie-richard-remme/I538082.php

[2] ‘WILLIAM CHRISTIAN (b. 1608, d. 1663)’: http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/worthies/p064.htm

[3] Dickinson, J. R. “Christian, William [called Illiam Dhône] (1608–1663), political leader in the Isle of Man.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep 2004. 2004: https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-5359.

[4] ‘WILLIAM CHRISTIAN (b. 1608, d. 1663)’: http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/worthies/p064.htm

[5] ‘WILLIAM CHRISTIAN (b. 1608, d. 1663)’: http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/worthies/p064.htm

[6] ‘WILLIAM CHRISTIAN (b. 1608, d. 1663)’: http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/worthies/p064.htm

[7] ‘Charlotte Stanley, Countess of Derby’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Stanley,_Countess_of_Derby

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.