Fairfax, Ferdinando, second Baron Fairfax of Cameron in the peerage of Scotland 1584-1648, son of Thomas Fairfax, first baron [qv.], of Denton in Yorkshire, and Ellen Aske, was born 29 March 1584 (Markham, Great Lord Fairfax, p. 6). Fairfax married in 1607 Mary, daughter of the third Lord Sheffield (ib. p. 7). His father seems to have wished to make him a soldier, for he is reported to have said: I sent him into the Netherlands to train him up a soldier, and he makes a tolerable country justice, but is a mere coward at fighting (ib. p. 12).
In the last three parliaments of James I and the first four parliaments of Charles I Fairfax represented Boroughbridge (Return of Names of Members returned to serve in Parliament, 1878). His father became Baron Fairfax of Cameron in 1627, to which title Sir Ferdinando succeeded 1 May 1640. In the first Scotch war he had commanded a regiment of the Yorkshire trained bands, but he does not seem to have taken any part in the second war (Markham, pp. 27, 34). In the Long parliament he represented the county of York, sided with the popular party, and was one of the committee charged to present the Grand Remonstrance (Rushworth, iv. 436). In religious matters he appears to have desired the limitation of the powers of the bishops, but he expressed himself opposed to the alteration of the liturgy (Fairfax Correspondence, ii. 180). When the king left the parliament and established himself at York, Fairfax was one of the committee of five sent thither by parliament to represent it and watch the king's actions (his instructions, dated 5 May 1642, and his letters to parliament are printed in the Old Parliamentary History, x. 493, 511, 518-29). He signed the protest against the presentment of the royalist grand jury of Yorkshire (29 Aug. 1642), and received the thanks of the House of Commons for so doing (Rushworth, iv. 648). Shortly after, at a meeting of the partisans of the parliament at Leeds, he was chosen to command the parliamentary forces in Yorkshire; the selection was approved by parliament (27 Sept.), and he received a commission from the Earl of Essex in December (Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 21; Rushworth, v. 91). A treaty of neutrality between the leaders of the two parties in the county was signed at Rodwellhaugh on 29 Sept. 1642, to which Fairfax agreed, stipulating that it should be void unless approved by parliament, which body at once annulled the agreement (Fairfax Correspondence, ii. 415; Rushworth, iv. 686; Old Parliamentary History, xi. 443). Clarendon unfairly charges Fairfax with perfidy in acquiescing in this decision (Rebellion, vi. 260). Fairfax established his headquarters in the West Riding, and succeeded at first in blockading the royalists in York. The arrival of a fresh royalist army from the north under the Earl of Newcastle threw him on the defensive, and he was obliged to retreat behind the Ouse and establish his headquarters at Selby (7 Dec. 1642). Fairfax now became involved in a controversy with Newcastle arising from the proclamations published by the two parties. Parliament published a vindication of Fairfax in a declaration of 3 Feb. 1643, and he himself replied to the charges of his opponent in The Answer of Ferdinando Lord Fairfax to a Declaration of William Earl of Newcastle (Rushworth, v. 131, 139). In March the desertion of Sir Hugh Cholmley [qv.] and Sir John Hotham [qv.] obliged Fairfax to retreat from Selby to Leeds. In Leeds he was unsuccessfully attacked by Newcastle in April (Green, Letters of Queen Henrietta Maria, p. 189; Merc. Aulicus, 25 April), and finally defeated by him with great loss on Adwalton Moor, near Bradford, on 30 June 1643 (Rushworth, v. 279; Markham, p. 107). Fairfax with a few followers made his way to Hull, of which he was appointed governor on 22 July (Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 49-52). There he was besieged by Newcastle from 2 Sept. to 11 Oct. 1643. Fairfax's account of the sally which led to the raising of the siege was published in a pamphlet entitled A Letter from Ferdinando Lord Fairfax to his Excellency Robert Earl of Essex, 4to, 1643. His next exploit was the defeat of Colonel John Bellasis at Selby on 11 April 1644, when Fairfax himself led one of the divisions which stormed the town (Rushworth, v. 618). He then joined his forces to the Scots (19 April), and commenced the siege of York. At Marston Moor Fairfax's army was stationed on the right of the parliamentary line, and he commanded its infantry in person. Carried away in the rout of his troops, he is said by Lilly to have fled as far as Cawood (Life and Times of William Lilly, ed. 1822, p. 176), but he appears by his letter to the mayor of Hull to have been present at the close of the battle (Sanford, Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, p. 612; Rushworth, v. 634, 636).
On the surrender of York (16 July 1644) Fairfax was appointed governor, and charged with the reduction of the remaining royalist garrisons in Yorkshire (Rushworth, v. 641). In December he captured the town of Pontefract, but was unable to take the castle or to prevent its relief by Sir Marmaduke Langdale in March (Surtees Society Miscellanea, 1861; Siege of Pontefract, pp. 3, 8, 16). The passing of the self-denying ordinance obliged him to resign his command, but he continued one of the chief members of the committee established at York for the government of the northern counties. On 24 July 1645 parliament also appointed him steward of the manor of Pontefract (Old Parliamentary History, xiv. 27). Fairfax died on 14 March 1648, in consequence of an accident, and was buried at Bolton Percy (Markham, p. 303). By his first wife, Mary, daughter of Lord Sheffield, he had issue Thomas, afterwards third lord Fairfax [qv.], Charles, who became colonel of horse in the parliamentary army, and was killed at Marston Moor, and six daughters. In 1646 he married Rhoda, daughter of Thomas Chapman of Hertfordshire, and widow of Thomas Hussey of Lincolnshire, by whom he had one daughter (Fairfax Correspondence, i. preface p. lxxv, iii. 320).
The will of Fairfax, together with a poem on his death, is printed in the Fairfax Correspondence (i. preface p. lxxxiv). A list of pictures, engravings, and medals representing him is given by Markham (Life of the Great Lord Fairfax, p. 428). Portraits are also given by Vicars (England's Worthies, 1647, p. 35), and Ricraft (Champions of England, 1647, p. 28).
Fairfax Correspondence, vols. i. ii. 1848, ed. Johnson, iii. iv. 1849, ed. Bell
Markham's Life of the Great Lord Fairfax, 1870
Parl. Hist. of England, 1751-62, 8vo
Rushworth's Historical Collections.
Contributor: C. H. F. [Charles Harding Firth]