He was attainted, and condemned to death. The greatest efforts were made to procure his pardon. Petitions were brought before both houses, and an address was carried from the upper house to the throne on 22 Feb., praying that his majesty would reprieve ‘such of the condemned lords as might appear to him deserving of clemency.’ Upon Widdrington, Carnwath, and Nairn being reprieved, the efforts of Derwentwater's friends were redoubled. The countess, accompanied by her sister, their maternal aunt, the Duchess of Richmond, the Duchess of Cleveland, and other ladies, was introduced by the Duke of Richmond into the king's bedchamber, where the countess, in French, invoked his majesty's mercy. The king, however, prompted by Walpole (who declared that he had been offered 60,000l. to save Derwentwater, but that he was determined to make an example), was obdurate. Derwentwater was beheaded on Tower Hill on 24 Feb. 1716. Upon the scaffold he expressed regret at having pleaded guilty, and declared his devotion to the Roman catholic religion and to James III. Lord Kenmure suffered at the same time. The Earl of Nithsdale escaped from the Tower the day before [see under Maxwell, William, fifth Earl of Nithsdale].
Derwentwater's body was buried by his servants in St. Giles-in-the-Fields, and was subsequently conveyed to Dilston and buried in the Derwentwater vault. The earl left a son, John Radclyffe, who, but for the attainder, would have been Earl of Derwentwater, and who so designated himself (he died, at the age of nineteen, at Sir John Webb's house in Great Marlborough Street, London, on 31 Dec. 1731), and a daughter Mary, who, with a fortune of 30,000l., married, on 2 May 1732, Robert James Petre, eighth baron Petre [see under Petre, William, fourth Baron Petre]. The bodies of the first three earls were, on 9 Oct. 1874, reinterred at Thorndon in Essex, in the family vault of Lord Petre as the representative of the Derwentwater family. The Countess of Derwentwater died in a convent at Brussels in 1723, aged 30, and was buried in the church of the English canonesses at Louvain. The extensive Derwentwater estates in Northumberland and Cumberland were in part settled upon Greenwich Hospital; the sale of the remainder gave the trustees an opportunity to perpetrate a typical ‘job,’ at which Walpole connived (cf. Hervey, Memoirs, ii. 66).
The compassion excited by Derwentwater's fate was mainly due to his youthful bearing and the simplicity of his motives. Locally he was extremely popular. Patten, the renegade historian of the rebellion, says that he was ‘a man formed to be generally beloved. He spent his estate among his own people, and continually did offices of kindness and good neighbourhood to everybody, as opportunity offered.’ The earl's gallantry to the fair sex is celebrated in ‘O Derwentwater's a bonny lord!’ while his fate forms the subject of the plaintive Jacobite melody, ‘Lord Derwentwater's Good Night,’ and of other songs still current in the north of England (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xii. 492; cf. Gent. Mag. 1825, i. 489). The aurora borealis (which appeared specially bright on the night of the earl's execution) is still known locally as ‘Lord Derwentwater's Lights.’ A portrait by Kneller was engraved by Cook for Mrs. Thomson's ‘Memoirs of the Jacobites’ (1845). Another engraving of the same portrait is prefixed to Gibson's ‘Dilston Hall’ (1850). Four other portraits are preserved at Thorndon Hall in Essex.
The third earl's brother, Charles Radcliffe or Radclyffe (1693–1746), third and youngest son of Edward, the second earl, was born at Little Parndon, Essex, on 3 Sept. 1693, and on the death of his nephew, John Radclyffe (see above), in 1731, assumed the title of Earl of Derwentwater. He joined the Jacobite rising, and, in company with his brother, surrendered himself prisoner at Preston on 13 Nov. 1715. He was found guilty of high treason, but his extreme youth would probably have procured his pardon (he was only twenty-two) had he not broken out of Newgate with thirteen fellow-prisoners on 11 Dec. 1716. The accounts of his escape, which conflict in other respects, agree that he escaped through the debtors' prison (cf. Griffiths, Chronicles of Newgate, pp. 196–197). He joined the Stuart family on the continent, and was for a time secretary to Prince Charles Edward. He is stated, in the ‘Memoirs’ of 1746, to have paid several clandestine visits to London during the period of his exile. On 24 June 1724 he married, at St. Mary's, Brussels, Charlotte Maria (granddaughter of Sir James Livingstone of Kinnaird, first earl of Newburgh [q. v.]), who in 1694 had succeeded her father Charles, second earl of Newburgh, as countess suo jure; she was widow of Thomas Clifford (d. 1718). Derwentwater is said to have urged his suit fifteen times without success, and then to have adopted the expedient of entering the lady's apartment by way of the chimney (the incident is represented in a curious picture at Thorndon). Radcliffe subsequently went to Rome, where several of his children were born, and where he made many friends. In November 1745 he was captured off the Dogger Bank by the