Edward Darcy, Esq., Lord of Epsom Manor, 1618-1659

Darcy Crest
Darcy Crest

Edward Darcy was baptised at St Anne's, Blackfriars on 21 February 1609/10 as "sonne to Sir Robert" Darcy (Usher of the Bedchamber to Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales and, following the latter's demise in 1612, to the future King Charles) and Grace nee Rediche. Sir Robert, described in the Rev. Thomas Gataker's Discourse Apologetical as "that religious Knight", died of coronary thrombosis on 16 March 1618 at Bermondsey House, Southwark. Most unusually for the time, his body was subjected to a post-mortem examination, witnessed by William Harvey and reported in his book, Circulation of Blood - "... about the middle period of life [aged about 36!] ... the wall of the left ventricle (had) ruptured", before burial at St Botolph's without Aldgate "in our Chauncell on Easter Even in the night amongst his ancestors, which was the fourth day of April Anno Domini 1618".

Since the heir, Edward, was only 8 when his father died, the child would have been placed under royal wardship [In accordance with laws introduced during the reign of Henry VIII, establishing the Court of Wards and Liveries, control of the minor's lands and the right to arrange his marriage passed to the monarch whilst he remained under 21 but customarily these rights would be sold back to the next of kin, if they were not out-bid.]. Epsom Manor would have been one of the properties affected by such arrangements and this explains a reference in A History of the County of Surrey, Ed. H. E. Malden, to Robert's widow [Dame Grace] and son, Edward, levying a fine in the Manor during 1632.

On attaining his majority, Edward came into full possession of extensive real estate - including a number of manors - at Curworth & Minworth, Warwickshire, Dartford, Kent, Newhall, Derbyshire (descended from the Rediche family) with Sutton and Coulsdon, Surrey (in tail male). At the age of 22, he married Elizabeth Evelyn (the 18 year old daughter of Richard Evelyn of Wotton, with her father's consent) at St. Anne's, Blackfriars, on 25 October 1632, to become the brother in law of John Evelyn, "the Diarist". In a memoir of the event, which had taken place when he was aged only 12, Evelyn wrote: "My eldest sister was married to Edward Darcy, Esq., who little deserved such an excellent person, a woman of so rare virtue. I was not present at the nuptials." There is an explanation for the tone of bitterness: a child, also called Elizabeth, arrived on 2 June 1634 but her mother died 15 December 1634 and "was followed to the grave" by the infant. In relation to these events, John Evelyn observed that Darcy "was the worst of men" and wrote a note to John Aubrey, suggesting that "...he ruined both himself and Estate by his dissolute life..."

Edward Darcy of Newhall, Derbyshire, and Dartford Place, Kent, remarried (circa 1640) Elizabeth Stanhope, a daughter of the 1st Earl of Chesterfield, by whom he had four daughters. Little is known about the life of Lady Elizabeth Darcy although she featured among other aristocratic women in a scurrilous and polemic pamphlet, Newes from the New Exchange, or the commonwealth of ladies drawn to the life in their several characters and concernments, attributed to the Republican writer Henry Neville, which was "Printed in the year of women without Grace 1650". She was also the addressee, as a "cousin german", of an epigram containing obscure classical references - penned by Sir Aston Cockayne (1608-1684), a somewhat derided poet. Another by that author, "To my honoured kinsman, Mr Edward Darcy", comments on an extravagant lifestyle:-

"Repair your house at Newhall, and hast down,
And leave the noise of this expenceful Town;
You here deprive your self of many a good
To be enjoy'd by Countrey-solitude.
Pretend not want of Companie; For I
Will waite upon you oft, that live thereby.
You may reply you better would; I grant it:
Keep a good house there, and you need not want it."

On his mother's demise, 1641, Edward was mentioned in the Will with an injunction that a debt of £300, for which Dame Grace stood surety, should be repaid and not accepted as a charge on the deceased's estate. During 1659, this individual [rather than his grandfather, Sir Edward, as suggested by Manning & Bray] conveyed Epsom manor to Anne Mynne (widow of George Mynne of Woodcote who had died in 1648), mother in law of Richard Evelyn (diarist John's younger brother), allegedly because Darcy was "a headstrong and wilful man who as a result of gambling was forced to sell" that property. Before 1663, Edward Darcy seems to have concluded that he would not obtain a male heir in which case both Sutton and Coulsdon manors would revert to the Crown in due course. Anticipating such an eventuality, the holdings were surrendered to Charles II, presumably raising money to meet Darcy's further needs. The King was then in a position to re-grant those estates to Jerome, Earl of Portland for other valuable consideration. After it was reported, at a Court Baron held in Ashtead [where the Darcys retained copyhold land] on 21 September 1669, that Darcy had died it was found that he had not left a Will. Administration of the intestate's estate, which appears to have begun in March 1670, resulted in a quarter of the manor of Curdworth & Minworth being passed to each child. However, determination of the residue evidently became protracted because in Ashtead, for example, "the co-heirs of Ed. Darcy Esq." continued to be listed as copyhold tenants in a rent roll for 1681. At a further Court Baron held 14 September 35 Chas. II (1683) there were surrenders by William Barnes of Curdworth, Sir Erasmus Phillips and Thomas Millward (who, respectively, had married Edward Darcy's daughters Elizabeth, Katherine & Anne) and The Lady Dorothea Rokeby, nee Dorothy Darcy, widow of Sir William Rokeby: thereafter the Darcy copyholds at Ashtead were submerged in Sir Robert Howard's manorial estate.

William Rokeby of Skiers, Yorkshire wed Dorothy Darcy on 23 November 1676 at Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottingham, but he died without issue before being interred 27 April 1678. His relict remarried Thomas Paston, sixth son of the first Earl of Yarmouth, but he [having been one of the "Portsmouth Captains" cashiered in 1688 for opposing the recruitment of Irish Roman Catholic soldiers into the Duke of Berwick's Regiment] rose to the rank of Colonel under William III before being drowned when HMS Coronation was wrecked in 1691 - seemingly as officer in charge of one of the first two Regiments of Marines. His eldest brother, William, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth, receives a mention in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography but it remains to be explained why he was in Epsom when he died at Christmas 1732, "a hopeless bankrupt".

Brian Bouchard © 2008
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society