Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Feilding, Basil
FEILDING, BASIL, second Earl of Denbigh (d. 1674), eldest son of William Feilding, first earl of Denbigh [q. v.], was born before 1608, educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, created a knight of the Bath, 1 Feb. 1626, and summoned to the House of Lords as Baron Feilding of Newnham Paddox, Warwickshire, 21 March 1628 (Doyle, Official Baronage, i. 539). At first he attached himself to the fortunes of his uncle the Duke of Buckingham. Wotton relates that when Buckingham was in danger of assassination after his return from the Isle of Ré, Feilding offered to adopt his uncle's dress in order to preserve him at the risk of his own life (Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, ed. 1685, p. 229). Through Buckingham's influence Feilding was promised the mastership of the rolls, and though the duke's death prevented him from obtaining that office, he was granted a pension of a thousand marks (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 459). He served a campaign in the Low Countries as a volunteer under Lord Wimbledon, and was present at the siege of Bois-le-Duc in 1629 (Dalton, Life of Sir E. Cecil, ii. 293). He then travelled in Germany, studied at Strasburg, and was offered by the Emperor Ferdinand II the post of gentleman of his bedchamber (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 262). On his return he married Anne, daughter of Sir Richard Weston, earl of Portland, and in defence of the honour of his father-in-law challenged George Goring for words spoken against Portland's courage. For this offence he was obliged to make his submission before the council board on 13 April 1633 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1633–4, p. 15). On 14 Sept. 1634 he was appointed ambassador extraordinary to the republic of Venice, and spent the next five years partly at Venice, partly at Turin. He appears from his correspondence to have been occupied quite as much in the collection of works of art for the king and others as in diplomacy, and with more success (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. pp. 257, 258).
When he returned to England in 1639 he seems to have been out of favour at court. The queen's favour he lost as supporting a Spanish rather than a French alliance, and though the king promised that he should be sent back to Venice, a successor was appointed early in 1642.
While his family adhered to the king, Feilding took up arms for the parliament. He was appointed lord-lieutenant of the counties of Denbigh and Flint (Commons' Journals, 28 Feb. 1642). He raised a troop and commanded a regiment of horse in the parliamentary army, and fought at its head on the right wing at Edgehill (Peacock, Army Lists, pp. 47, 49; Rushworth, v. 36). The exact nature of the motives which led him to adopt the cause of the parliament it is difficult to discover. His mother, in the touching letters of remonstrance which she wrote to him, seems to hint that personal ambition was the cause (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. pp. 259, 260). After the Earl of Denbigh's death she redoubled her appeals to her son ‘to leave that merciless company which was the death of his father. Now is the time that God and nature claim it from you. Before you were carried away by error, but now it is hideous and monstrous’ (ib. p. 260). His succession to his father's title increased Denbigh's importance to the parliament, and he was given the post left vacant by the death of Lord Brooke [see Greville, Robert]. On 12 June 1643 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the parliamentary forces in the associated counties of Warwick, Worcester, Stafford, and Salop, and the cities of Coventry and Lichfield, and lord-lieutenant of Warwickshire. Two days later he received his commission from Essex, and was ordered 6,000l. for the equipment of his troops (Commons' Journals, iii. 123; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 262; Husband, Ordinances, folio, p. 221). His command began with a dispute with the committee of safety, ending by a declaration of that body on 2 Sept. 1643 that ‘nothing appears to them that doth in any way diminish their opinion of his innocency and faithfulness’ (Husband, Ordinances, folio, p. 305). Nevertheless, Denbigh did not commence active operations till the spring of 1644. He then captured Rushall Hall in Staffordshire (29 May), defeated the royalists near Dudley (10 June), and took Oswestry (22 June 1644). A few days later he personally led the assault of Cholmondeley House in Cheshire (Vicars, God's Ark, pp. 239, 252, 260; Phillips, Civil War in Wales, ii. 171–186). For these exploits he received the thanks of parliament. During this period, and throughout the whole of Denbigh's command, he was engaged in a bitter quarrel with the committees of Warwickshire and Shropshire. He was accused of allowing his soldiers to plunder, protecting royalists, discouraging the well-affected, and carrying on suspicious communications with the enemy (Commons' Journals, iii. 604; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. pp. 19, 27, 34, 41). Denbigh answered their complaints in a vindication of his conduct which is printed in the ‘Journals of the House of Lords,’ and on 8 Nov. 1644 a committee of that body reported that he was clear of any disaffection (Lords' Journals, vi. 652, vii. 51). The commons, however, were less favourable, and voted on 9 Nov. that Denbigh should not be sent back to his command in the associated counties (Old Parliamentary Hist. xiii. 331). At the same time they passed a resolution that he should be sent to offer the peace propositions to the king, and he accordingly was the head of the body of commissioners sent to the king in November 1644 (Whitelocke, Memorials, ff. 111, 114). His report on his return is printed in the ‘Lords' Journals’ (vii. 82) and in the ‘Old Parliamentary History’ (xiii. 337). He was naturally also employed as one of the commissioners for the treaty of Uxbridge in January 1645. On that occasion he had a private interview with Hyde, in which he protested his regret for the part he had played and his willingness to redeem his transgressions. He detested, he said, the designs of the party then in power, and had a full prospect of the vile condition himself and all the nobility would be reduced to if they succeeded; but the pride of his nature, the consciousness of his ingratitude to the king, and the instinct of self-preservation, bound him to the cause of the parliament. Nevertheless, he concluded, ‘if any conjuncture fell out in which by losing his life he might preserve the king, he would embrace the occasion; otherwise he would shift the best he could for himself’ (Clarendon, Rebellion, viii. 246). Nothing followed these overtures, and they remained secret. Denbigh was again employed by the parliament to present propositions to the king at Hampton Court in September 1647, and at Carisbrooke in December 1647 (Old Parliamentary Hist. xvi. 287, 404). In the quarrel between the army and the parliament he sided with the former, signed the protests of 4 March and 11 June 1647, and the engagement of 4 Aug. 1647 to adhere to Fairfax and the army (Rogers, Protests of the Lords, i. 16, 17; Rushworth, vii. 754). To the very end he continued to sit in the House of Lords. The commons inserted his name in the list of commissioners appointed to try the king, but he is reported to have declared ‘that whereas the commons were pleased to put his name into the ordinance, he would choose to be torn in pieces rather than have any share in so infamous a business’ (Old Parl. Hist. xviii. 492).
Denbigh was elected a member of the council of state of the Commonwealth, but refused, like the other peers who were chosen at the same time, to take the engagement tendered until it was modified. They declared that they had served parliament faithfully, and were willing to do so still, there being now no power but that of the House of Commons in existence. They could not, however, subscribe the engagement tendered, as being retrospective and contrary to what they had decided as peers in the House of Lords (19 Feb. 1649, Cal. State Papers, Dom. p. 9). Denbigh sat in the first two councils of state of the Commonwealth, until February 1651. Why he was not elected a member of the third is uncertain. In December 1649 the charges raised in the old quarrel between Denbigh and Colonel Purefoy and the Shropshire committee were again brought forward. He was accused of discouraging the most active adherents of the parliament, and protecting its opponents, corresponding with the enemy, and designing to raise a third party in the kingdom (ib. Dom. 1649–50, p. 445). Mrs. Green suggests that Denbigh's omission from the council was due to these revelations; but these charges had been brought forward as early as 1643, and were well known. Moreover, Denbigh's second election to the council of state took place after their revival. From 1651, however, he seems to have cautiously and gradually gone over to the royalist party. In the petition which he presented to the king at the Restoration he asserts that he offered to risk his fortunes in the king's cause when Charles came to Worcester, but this statement lacks confirmation. In 1658 the royalist agents counted on his support. All he demanded was security for life and estate, and he was expected to seize Coventry for the king (Clarendon, State Papers, iii. 392, 394, 476). At the Restoration he claimed the benefit of the Act of Indemnity, and presented a petition enumerating his services to the king's cause, and asking to be considered in the disposal of the mastership of the great wardrobe (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 479). More to Denbigh's credit is the story told by Ludlow of his refusal to nominate a victim to be executed in satisfaction for the death of his brother-in-law, the Duke of Hamilton. Ludlow terms him ‘a generous man and a lover of his country’ (Memoirs, ed. 1751, p. 353). On 2 Feb. 1663–4 Denbigh was created Baron St. Liz, choosing that title by reason of his descent from the family of St. Liz, Earls of Northampton (Collins, iii. 274). He died in April 1674, leaving no issue, and was succeeded by his nephew, son of his brother George. Denbigh was four times married: first, to Anne, daughter of Richard Weston, earl of Portland, d 10 March 1635; secondly, 12 Aug. 1639, to Barbara, daughter of Sir John Lamb, d. 2 April 1641; thirdly, about 1642, to Elizabeth Bourchier, daughter of Edward, fourth earl of Bath, d. 1670; fourthly, to Dorothy, daughter of Francis Lane.[Authorities quoted above, and in the list appended to William Feilding, first Earl of Denbigh.]