[From Manx Soc, vol. 26]
The LAST SPEECH Of WILLIAM CHRISTIAN, Esq., who was Executed 2d January 1662-3.
GENTLEMEN, and the rest of you who have accompanied me this day to the gate of death.-I know you expect I should say something at my departure; and indeed I am in some measure willing to satisfy you, having not had the least liberty, since my imprisonment, to acquaint any with the sadness of my sufferings, which flesh and blood could not have endured, without the power and assistance of my most gracious and good God, into whose hands I do now commit my poor soul, not doubting but that I shall very quickly be in the arms of His mercy.
I am, as you now see, hurried hither by the power of a pretended court of justice, the members whereof, or at least the greatest part of them, are by no means qualified, but very ill befitting their new places. The reasons you may give yourselves.
The cause for which I am brought hither, as the prompted and threatened jury has delivered, is high treason against the Countess Dowager of Derby, for that I did, as they say, in the year fifty-one, raise a force against her for the suppressing and rooting out that family. How unjust the accusation is, very few of you that hear me this day but can witness; and that the then rising of the people, in which afterwards I came to be engaged, did not at all, or in the least degree, intend the prejudice or ruin of that family; the chief whereof being, as you well remember, dead eight days or thereabout, before that action happened. But the true cause of that rising, as the jury did twice bring in, was to present grievances to our Honourable Lady; which was done by me, and afterwards approved by her Ladyship, under the hand of her then secretary, M. Trevach, who is yet living, which agreement hath since, to my own ruin, and my poor family's endless sorrow, been forced from me. The Lord God forgive them the injustice of their dealings with me, and I wish from my heart it may not be laid to their charge another day.
You now see me here a sacrifice ready to be offered up for that which was the preservation of your lives and fortunes, which were then in hazard, but that I stood between you and your (then in all appearance) utter ruin. I wish you still may, as hitherto, enjoy the sweet benefit and blessing of peace, though from that minute until now I have still been prosecuted and persecuted, nor have I ever since found a place to rest myself in. But my God be for ever blessed and praised, who hath given me so large a measure of patience
What services I have done for that noble family by whose power I am now to take my latest breath, I dare appeal to themselves, whether I have not deserved better things from some of them than the sentence of my bodily destruction, and seizure of the poor estate my son ought to enjoy, being purchased and left him by his grandfather. It might have been much better had I not spent it in the ser-vice of my Honourable Lord of Derby and his family, these things I need not mention to you, for that most of you are witnesses to it. I shall now beg your patience while I tell you here in the presence of God, that I never in all my life acted anything with intention to prejudice my sovereign lord the king, nor the late Earl of Derby, nor the now Earl; yet notwithstanding, being in England at the time of his sacred Majesty's happy restoration, I went to London with many others, to have a sight of my gracious king, whom God preserve, and whom until then I never had seen. But I was not long there when I was arrested upon an action of twenty thousand pounds, and clapped up in the Fleet; unto which action, I being a stranger, could give no bail, but was there kept nearly a whole year. How I suffered God he knows; but at last having gained my liberty, I thought good to advice with several gentlemen concerning his Majesty's gracious Act of Indemnity, that was then set forth, in which I thought myself concerned; unto which they told me, there was no doubt to be made that all actions committed in the Isle of Man, relating in any kind to the war, were pardoned by the Act of Indemnity, and all other places within his Majesty's dominions and countries. Whereupon, and having been forced to absent myself from my poor wife and children near three years, being all that time under persecution, I did with great content and satisfaction return into this Island, hoping then to receive the comfort and sweet enjoyment of my friends and poor family. But alas! I have fallen into the snare of the fowler, but my God shall ever be praised, though he kill me, yet will I trust in him.
I may justly say no man in this Island knows better than myself the power the Lord Derby hath in this Island, subordinate to his sacred Majesty, of which I have given a full account in my declaration presented to my judges, which I much fear will never see light, which is no small trouble to me.
It was his Majesty's most gracious Act of Indemnity gave me the confidence and assurance of my safety; on which, and an appeal I made to his sacred Majesty and Privy Council, from the unjustness of the proceedings had against me, I did much rely, being his Majesty's subject here, and a denizen of England both by birth and fortune. And in regard I have disobeyed the power of my Lord of Derby's Act of Indemnity, which you now look upon, and his Majesty's Act cast out as being of no force, I have with greater violence been persecuted; yet, nevertheless, I do declare that no subject whatever can or ought to take upon them acts of indemnity but his sacred Majesty only, with the confirmation of Parliament.
It is very fit I should say something as to my education and religion. I think I need not inform you, for you all know, I was brought up a son of the Church of England, which was at that time in her splendour and glory; and to my endless comfort I have ever since continued a faithful member,-witness several of my actions in the late times of liberty. And as for government, I never was against monarchy, which now, to my soul's great satisfaction, I have lived to see is settled and established. I am well assured that men of upright life and conversation may have the favourable countenance of our gracious king, under whose happy government God of his infinite mercy long continue these his kingdoms and dominions. And now I do most heartily thank my good God that I have had so much liberty and time to disburden myself of several things that have laid heavy upon me all the time of my imprisonment, in which I have not had time or liberty to speak or write any of my thoughts; and from my soul I wish all animosity may after my death be quite laid aside, and my death by none be called in question, for I do freely forgive all that have had any hand in my persecution; and may our good God preserve you all in peace and quiet the remainder of your days.
Be ye all of you his Majesty's liege people, loyal and faithful to his sacred Majesty; and according to your oath of faith and fealty to my Honourable Lord of Derby, do you likewise, in all just and lawful ways, observe his commands; and know that you must one day give an account of all your deeds. And now the blessing of Almighty God be with you all, and preserve you from violent death, and keep you in peace of conscience all your days.
I will now hasten, for my flesh is willing to be dissolved and my spirit to be with God, who hath given me full assurance of his mercy and pardon for all my sins, of which his unspeakable goodness and loving kindness my poor soul is exceedingly satisfied.
Note.-Here he fell upon his knees, and passed some time in prayer; then rising exceedingly cheerful, he addressed the soldiers appointed for his execution, saying, Now for you, who are appointed by lot my executioners, I do freely forgive you. He requested them and all present to pray for him, adding, There is but a thin veil betwixt me and death; once more I request your prayers, for now I take my last farewell.
The soldiers wished to bind him to the spot on which he stood. He said., Trouble not yourselves or me, for I that dare face death in whatever form he comes, will not start at your fire and bullets, nor can the power you have deprive me of my courage. At his desire a piece of white paper was given him, which, with the utmost composure, he pinned to his breast, to direct them where to aim ; and after a short prayer addressed the soldiers thus, Hit this, and you do your own and my work ; and presently after, stretching forth his arms, which was the signal he gave them, he was shot through the heart and fell.
VA-The above note is annexed to the copies of the printed speech which appeared in a broadside in the year 1776, one hundred and thirteen years after Christian's death.
The following entry is in the parish register of Malew :-"Mr. William Christian of Ronaldsway, late Receiver, was shott to death att Haugoe Hill, the 2nd of January (1662). He died most penitently and most curragiously, made a good end, prayed earnestly, made an excellent speech, and the next day was buried in the chancle of Malew."
It has been said that blankets were spread on the green under his feet, that not a drop of blood should be spilt when he fell ; others, again, assert that not a drop of Christian's blood issued from his wounds when he fell, but that he bled inwardly. Of the file of soldiers who were drawn out for the duty, one only took effect, that of William M'Cowle, and who is reported to have been rewarded with a grant of land in the north of the Island for doing his duty; this has been recorded in the following Manx distich :-
" Lhigg fer ayns y Thalloo ferelley 'syn an,
Agh Illiam M'Cowle lhigg'sy voayl chair.
Illiam M`Cowle sliught ny va büee
She dty vaase, Illiam Dhone ren brishey nyn gree."
It has been surmised by some that Christian's speech has been the composition of some friend at a much later date than that at which it was said to have been delivered, at least the major part of it. Be that as it may, it is here given from the printed broadside of 1776, and that is said to have been taken from a copy preserved in the family of a clergyman, but no such copy is now known to be in existence.
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