Could Palmes Fairborne make his mark in English Tangier?











The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment Monument Putney Heath


14th October 1661, Putney Heath, Margaret Fairborne, (Narrative History)

Margaret leapt to her feet, cracking her head on the roof of the Hackney carriage. The unexpected explosion had frightened the life out of her, rocking them side to side and throwing her bag to the floor. Palmes, her husband of a few days, had been unperturbed, of course. Slightly amused by her discomfort he put his arm around her, removed her bonnet and kissed the top of her head. Margaret's new life promised to be as exciting as her previous one was dull.


Despite widespread celebrations enjoying the Restoration of Charles II to the throne of England, Mansell had managed to create a boring life for her. They rarely visited friends, never went to dances or the theatre, their kitchen rarely saw sugar or spices, they didn't drink tea or coffee, they did not, in short participate in modern life at all. In fact Mansell was elderly in middle age, Palmes Fairborne was seventeen; Mansell a pen-pusher, Fairborne a soldier of fortune. She was young and wanted children, Mansell was not keen and neglected his responsibilities in that department, Fairborne was new to bedroom sport and had taken to it with great alacrity.


Now fortune had removed Mansell from this earth and Fairborne had arrived things had perked up. Recently widowed, she had considered herself lucky to receive a lightning courtship and a proposal of marriage from a man of such prospects as Palmes. By all accounts he was destined for great things; from a good family – his father was a colonel in the Royalist Army - he might expect preferment from King Charles. Palmes was well educated and intelligent, capable as a commander, fearless on the field of battle and able to hold his own in an argument. More than that he was ambitious. After a suitable delay to keep him keen she had accepted his proposal and the arrangements were quickly made.


The week following their hastily arranged marriage had been hectic and unreal, already they had been to the theatre, he had taken her riding in the fashionable James Park and, most exciting of all, had been the visit to Whitehall Palace.


It was true the theatre trip had nearly ended in disaster when some Lord had made eyes at her and followed up with loudly voiced lewd comments. Fairborne had considered her honour brought into question and immediately challenged the man to a duel. For a moment she had thought she might be widowed twice in one year, but luckily the dandy had recognised Palmes as an experienced soldier and had made excuses to avoid accepting the challenge. Palmes had told her afterwards he could see from the look in the man's eyes he was a coward and would not stand up to scrutiny.


Riding in the park a few days ago her husband proved to be knowledgeable about horse breeds as well as a very competent rider, selecting a lively but obedient mare for her and a headstrong stallion as a challenge for himself. He had worn his sword and pistols and looked a handsome spectacle as he showed her how he could load a pistol whilst riding at the gallop.


They had gone to Whitehall to try to make an appointment with Sir Edward Nicholas in the hopes of making personal contact with the Secretary of State South, the man responsible for Tangier who would have great influence over the future of the city. At the same time she was hoping to catch a glimpse of King Charles, who was said to frequently walk stroll about the grounds of Whitehall Palace greeting his subjects, and possibly selecting a new mistress, but they had not seen either men as it happened. Nicholas was too busy to be disturbed and rumour had it the King was in Windsor visiting one of his ‘amours' installed there.


But today was the real beginning of her adventure. Palmes Fairborne had been attentive and considerate, as a new husband should be, but he had been somewhat distracted as he waited for news of his commission. Fresh returned from Candia, where he had distinguished himself fighting the Turk he had been promised a Company in Peterborough's Tangier Regiment. Palmes Fairborne, shortly to be Captain Fairborne, was a good catch and now, at the crack of dawn they were arriving at Putney Heath the designated assembly place for Peterborough's Regiment.


That cannon must have been within a few yards when it was set off to announce the beginning of the muster. Luckily the cab's horses had not bolted, what was cannon-fire compared to the bustle of London streets? And what a filthy place London was, luckily they would soon be headed for the coast to embark for Tangier. As an officer's wife she expected to be on a man-of-war rather than a transport ship, not that she had ever set foot on either, but it was surely safer to be on a ship that could defend itself against pirates than on a merchantman commandeered to transport common soldiers.


Palmes had insisted on arriving here at Putney Heath before sunrise in the hopes of getting first choice of lesser officers, and maybe even some say in the men he would captain. She had suggested her husband wear his uniform from Candia - it was worn and patched, proving his experience - men would no doubt rather serve under a man of military experience, even one who had not started shaving, than someone plucked from a country estate to be paid for strutting around doing nothing.


They stepped out of the coach and were greeted by Major Johnson who directed them to the officers' muster sergeant. Once Palmes had officially signed up they walked over to join the small group of smartly dressed men stood chatting and drinking in Lord Peterborough's tent.


Yes, Palmes Fairborne had been a good choice, she was going to enjoy being the wife of an army captain, and before too long she was confident he would be major, and maybe eventually a colonel. How grand would that be – the colonel's wife? She liked the sound of that.


Fact Check:

Margaret Devereux had married Mansell and been widowed.

Palmes Fairborne was born in 1644, son of Royalist Colonel Stafford Fairborne. He fought for Venice in defence of Candia (Heraklion, Crete) which was under siege by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. In 1661 he married Margaret Devereux, recently widowed, and volunteered for the Regiment Peterborough was recruiting for Tangier[1]. Fairborne received praise from his commanders in Candia and was made Captain of one of ten Companies of 100 men.

Peterborough's Regiment was mustered at Putney Heath on 14th October 1661

Roger Johnson[2] was the Major in Peterborough's Regiment.

Once in Tangier Fairborne wrote numerous letters to the Secretary of State (South) who was responsible for Tangier and even sent back a gift of an Arabian colt for Henry Bennett, Earl of Arlington, Secretary of State South Department[3].

The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment was first mustered as the First Tangier Regiment of Lord Peterborough [4]

[1] Dictionary of National Biography - either the DNB has his d.o.b. wrong or his memorial in Westminster Abbey states his age incorrectly (which seems unlikely)

[2] English Army Lists and Commissions Registers 1661-1714 (Dalton 1892-1904)

[3] Letters in Nat Arch, Bodleian, etc

[4] The regiment's website.