Sir Philip Stapleton, 1603-1647

Yorkshire Parliamentarian cavalry officer who became a stalwart of the Presbyterian party in Parliament.

Portrait of Sir Philip StapletonPhilip Stapleton (also spelt "Stapylton", "Stapilton" ) was the second son of Sir Henry Stapleton of Wighill in Yorkshire and Mary, daughter of Sir John Foster of Alnwick, Northumberland. He attended Queen's College, Cambridge, and the Inner Temple. Stapleton inherited a substantial estate which he extended with the purchase of lands at Warter Priory and Blanch-on-the-Wolds in Yorkshire. In 1629, he married Frances, the widow of John Gee and the eldest daughter of Sir John Hotham. He was knighted in May 1630 and served as a justice of the peace in the East Riding. His first wife died in 1636, leaving him with five children, and in 1638 he married Barbara, the daughter of Henry Lennard, twelfth Lord Dacre of Herstmonceux in Sussex, with whom he had another five children.

Stapleton was elected MP for the Yorkshire constituencies of Hedon in the Short Parliament and Boroughbridge in the Long Parliament. He was active in the campaign against the Earl of Strafford, and supported the abolition of the Council of the North. In May 1642, Stapleton was one of five parliamentary commissioners sent to report on the King's activities at York. In July, he was appointed to the Committee of Safety and accompanied the Earl of Holland when he presented Parliament's petition for peace to the King at Beverley. Upon his return to London, Stapleton was commissioned captain of the Earl of Essex's cuirassier lifeguard and colonel of the Lord-General's regiment of horse.

Stapleton's cavalry played a significant role at the battle of Edgehill in October 1642, where he fought in the Parliamentarian reserve under Sir William Balfour. Stapleton was present at Chalgrove Field, where John Hampden was mortally wounded, and he marched with Essex to the relief of Gloucester. He commanded the right wing of horse at the first battle of Newbury in September 1643 and is reported to have fired point-blank in Prince Rupert's face. Fortunately for Rupert, Stapleton's pistol misfired.

In February 1644, Stapleton was appointed to the Committee for Both Kingdoms. He was a friend and political ally of the Earl of Essex and became associated with the "peace party" in Parliament, which sought a negotiated settlement with the King. Stapleton was involved in the plot between Presbyterians and the Scottish commissioners to have Oliver Cromwell impeached in December 1644 but he was obliged to resign his military commissions under the Self-Denying Ordinance of April 1645.

As a close associate of Denzil Holles, Stapleton became involved in the Presbyterian political opposition to the Independents and the New Model Army during 1647. He was denounced by the Army for assaulting Major Tulidah, who tried to present an Army petition to Parliament. In June 1647, Stapleton was one of the Eleven Members impeached by the Army for attempting to provoke another civil war. The Eleven Members withdrew from Parliament rather than face the charges against them. Although passes were issued to allow them to go overseas, the Eleven returned to Parliament when anti-Army riots broke out in London. However, Presbyterian support collapsed when General Fairfax and the New Model Army occupied London in August.

Stapleton and five of the other impeached MPs took ship for France. Although intercepted by Parliamentarian warships, the Presbyterian sympathiser Vice-Admiral William Batten allowed them to continue on their way. Stapleton became feverish during the voyage. He died at an inn in Calais on 18 August 1647. His illness was thought to be the plague, so he was buried immediately at the Protestant cemetery in Calais.


Andrew J. Hopper, Sir Philip Stapleton, Oxford DNB, 2004

G. Ridsdill Smith & M. Toynbee, Leaders of the Civil Wars 1642-48 (Kineton 1977)