Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, 1610-43

Royalist nobleman who strove for peace and is said to have gone deliberately to his death in despair at the horror of civil war

Portrait of Lucius Carey, Viscount FalklandThe son and heir of Henry Cary, first Viscount Falkland, Lucius Cary was born at Burford in Oxfordshire. He attended St John's College, Cambridge, in 1621 then transferred to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1622 when his father was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. Seven years later, Henry Cary left Ireland after quarrelling with other government officials over command of the militia. When Sir Francis Willoughby was granted the commission, Lucius challenged him to a duel, for which he was briefly imprisoned.

In 1630, Lucius married Lettice Morison against the wishes of his father, who opposed the match because she came from a poor family. Upset by the quarrel, Lucius sought military service in the army of the Dutch republic, but he disliked the military life. He returned to England and took up residence at the mansion of Great Tew in Oxfordshire, which was bequeathed to him by his grandfather. He succeeded as the second Viscount Falkland when his father died in September 1633.

During the 1630s, Falkland presided over a celebrated philosophical and literary circle at Great Tew where poets, theologians and philosophers met to discuss and exchange ideas. Members of the Great Tew circle included William Chillingworth, Ben Jonson, Thomas Hobbes and Falkland's close friend Edward Hyde.

Falkland was elected MP for Newport in the Isle of Wight in the Short and Long Parliaments (1640), where he spoke against the King's imposition of ship-money and denounced the servile attitude of Lord-Keeper Finch and the judges who had upheld it. Like Hyde, Falkland was deeply committed to the rule of law and the preservation of traditional legal and constitutional institutions. He supported the act of attainder against the Earl of Strafford, arguing that many of Strafford's policies were illegal and that cumulatively his actions were tantamount to treason. However, Falkland opposed Parliament's attacks on Episcopacy, believing the Presbyterian system to be even more repressive than the rule of the bishops. He denounced the Root and Branch bill in February 1641, arguing that Episcopacy should be reformed but not abolished. Recoiling from Parliament's increasingly hostile attacks on King Charles, Falkland came over to the King's side completely with his opposition to the Grand Remonstrance of December 1641.

In January 1641, King Charles offered Falkland the post of secretary of state, which Hyde persuaded him to accept. He co-authored the King's answer to Parliament's Nineteen Propositions in June 1642. In the same month, he was among the peers and commoners who signed a declaration against war and testified to the King's peaceful intentions. Falkland was distressed by the outbreak of civil war. He worked actively to facilitate peace negotiations with Parliament in September 1642 and February 1643 but fell into deep depression when the negotiations failed.

Falkland took part in the fighting at the siege of Gloucester in August 1643, where he behaved with manic, reckless courage. At the first battle of Newbury in September 1643, he volunteered to ride with Sir John Byron's cavalry, despite the protestations of his friends who feared for his state of mind. During the battle, Falkland was killed charging alone through a gap in a hedge lined with Parliamentarian musketeers. This was regarded as an act of suicide brought about by despair at the horror of civil war.


David L. Smith, Lucius Cary, second Viscount Falkland, Oxford DNB, 2004

C.V. Wedgwood, The King's War, 1958