Norman de Arcy

from Arci or Areci, Normandy. Norman de Areci held thirty-three lordships in the county of Lincoln by the immediate gift of the Conqueror, (Domesday) and chose Nocton, one of them, as the head of his barony. His posterity retained it as their seat for "divers after ages," and his son Robert founded an Augustine priory there. In the fifth year of King John, Thomas D'Arcy "was retained to serve the king with three knights for one whole year, in consideration of which King John remitted to him a debt of 225 marks, which he then owed the Jews:" and his grandson Philip, though he had married the co-heiress of Roger Bertram of Mitford, was so deeply in debt that in 1255 he was obliged to obtain "certain letters hortatory" to all his tenants by military Service, promising them the especial thanks of the Crown if they would "yield Unto him such reasonable aid" as might extricate him from his pecuniary difficulties. There were several successive confiscations of the estates for different rebellions, but in every case they were restored after the lapse of a very few years. Norman D'Arcy, who fought with the defeated barons at Evesham, and obtained pardon and restitution by the memorable Dictum de Kenilworth, was the father of two sons who were both summoned to parliament as barons; Philip, the firstborn, in 1299, and John, the second, in 1322. Philip's line failed with his grandson, the third lord, and his barony fell into abeyance between his two daughters; but the younger brother, John Lord D'Arcy, was the founder of all the existing families that bear his name. He was a man of considerable ability, actively engaged in the service of the three Edwards, who entrusted him with some of the highest offices of the State, and prominent in their French and Scottish wars. He was sheriff of the counties of Nottingham, Derby, Lancaster, and York: for some time governor of Norham Castle: then of York Castle: accredited Ambassador to France and Spain by Edward III.: Constable of the Tower: and governed Ireland as Lord Justice for the greater part of his life. His second wife, Joan de Burgh, was an Irishwoman, and his son by her was the ancestor of the various branches of the D'Arcys still settled in the counties of Meath, Westmeath, and Galway.[1] By his first marriage to a Northumbrian heiress, Emmeline de Heron, he had three other sons, from the second of whom the Darcys of Essex, Barons Darcy of Chiche, are supposed to have derived. The elder, who maintained his father's fame at the battle of Cressy, succeeded him as second Lord D'Arcy, and was followed by four other barons, till this second title again fell into abeyance on the death of Philip, sixth Lord, in 1418. Though he died a minor, he left two daughters behind him, and it was by right of descent from the younger, Marjory, the wife of Sir John Conyers, of Hornby, that the seventh Duke of Leeds took the name of D'Arcy.

This last Lord D'Arcy had, however, a younger brother named John, who, though he did not inherit his barony, of course took his place as the male representative of the house, and was seated in Yorkshire. His great grandson, Sir Thomas D'Arcy, was distinguished both as a soldier and as a politician. He first won his spurs in the French wars against Louis XII.: and during the reign of Henry VII. had at different times the custody of nearly all the strong places in the North of England, and was entrusted with the defence of the Border as Warden of the East and North Marches towards Scotland, and Captain of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Henry VIII., on his accession, summoned him to parliament as Baron D'Arcy of D'Arcy, made him a member of his Privy Council, a Knight of the Garter; and twice sent him with a contingent of English archers, to fight the Moors in aid of Ferdinand of Arragon. But as years went on, and Lord D'Arcy had grown to be an old man, he found his master entering upon courses in which, as a dutiful son of the Church, he found it more and more difficult to follow him. He consented, indeed, to be among the lords who exhibited the articles against Cardinal Wolsey, and signed the famous letter to Clement VII.; but five years later he obtained a license to absent himself from parliament "in regard of his age and debility of body," and thus avoided voting on the impending question of the dissolution of the monasteries. When the measure had passed, and the lesser houses were destroyed, the whole North was aflame for the old religion, and there was "one loud storm of bells and blaze of beacons from the Trent to the Cheviot Hills." The Yorkshiremen trooped in thousands to join the rising under Robert Aske, bearing as their badge the Five Wounds of Our Lord, and for colours, the crosses of the churches carried by the priests. The King at once wrote to D'Arcy who, "from his credit with the crown, his rank and his position, was at this moment the feudal sovereign of the East Riding."—Froude. But he faltered in his allegiance, for his heart was with the cause of the insurgents. Though he would not at first join the movement, yet he did not take the field nor order any muster of men to oppose it; and he ended by shutting himself up in Pomfret Castle, with about a dozen of his servants, but neither stores nor provisions. It was evident that he had no intention of holding the place; and when Aske appeared before the gates, and threatened to take it by storm, Lord D'Arcy, after a brief parley, surrendered on the following day, and was sworn to the common oath: "To enter into the Pilgrimage of Grace, for the love of God, the preservation of the King's Person, and Issue; the purifying of the nobility, expulsing all villain-blood, and evil-counsellors; for no particular profit to themselves, nor to do displeasure to any, nor to slay nor murther any for envy; but to put away all fears, and to take afore them the Cross of Christ, His Faith, the restitution of the Church, and the suppression of Hereticks, and their Opinions."

For this he was arraigned for high treason, and executed on Tower Hill in June 1537. He must then have been nearly eighty years of age, but his spirit and energy remained unbroken. While he was under examination of the Privy Council, and pressed with questions, "he turned, with the prophetic insight of dying men, to the Lord Privy Seal:—'Cromwell,' he said, 'it is thou that art the very special and chief causer of all this rebellion and mischief, and dost daily earnestly travel to bring us to our ends, and to strike off our heads. I trust that ere thou die, though thou wouldest procure all the noblemen's heads within the realm to be stricken off, yet shall there one head remain that shall strike off thy head.'"—Fronde.

His son George was restored in blood, with the dignity of Baron D'Arcy of Aston, soon after the accession of Edward VI.; but this fresh title was borne only by his son and great-grandson. The latter, though four times married, had only one son who died young: and again a junior branch (derived from the second son of the attainted Lord D'Arcy) became the head of the family. One of these D'Arcys, named Thomas, who died in 1605, was the husband of Elizabeth Conyers, the heiress of Hornby; and their son, Sir Conyers D'Arcy, set forth in a petition to Charles I., dated 1640, "that being the principal male branch then remaining of this ancient and noble family, and likewise son and heir of Elizabeth, da. and coheir of John Lord Conyers, lineal heir to Margery da. and coheir to Philip Lord D'Arcy, one of the barons of this realm in the time of King Henry IV., he prayed that His Majesty should be pleased to declare, restore, and confirm the dignity of Lord D'Arcy to him and his heirs male." The King granted him accordingly a patent of peerage in 1641. His son was further advanced to an earldom in 1682, and took the title of Earl of Holderness. There were four earls of this creation; of whom the last died in 1778, leaving his daughter Lady Amelia D'Arcy his sole heir. She thus became, in her own right, Baroness Conyers (the only one of his titles that, passing through females, did not become extinct), and married first Francis Godolphin Marquess of Carmarthen, afterwards the fifth Duke of Leeds, by whom she had a son, George, sixth duke, who inherited her barony. (See Conyers.) She was divorced from Lord Carmarthen in 1779, and had for her second husband John Byron, the father of the poet.

The descent of the Darcys of Chiche in Essex has never been clearly traced, for we hear nothing of them till the time of the wars of York and Lancaster, when Robert Darcy, a lawyer's clerk, achieved his fortune by marrying a rich widow. His grandson was esquire of the body to Henry VI. and Edward IV.:—impartially serving both the Red and White Rose; his great grandson filled the same office to Henry VII., and in the next generation we find Sir Thomas Darcy vice-chamberlain of the household, Captain of the Guard, one of the principal knights of the Privy Chamber, and at last Baron Darcy of Chiche by letters patent in 1551. Edward VI. also gave him the Garter. His grandson, Thomas was created Viscount Colchester in 1621, and Earl of Rivers five years later, with remainder in both cases to Sir Thomas Savage of Rocksavage, who had married his eldest daughter Elizabeth. There were three other daughters, and there had been a son, but he died without issue during his father's lifetime. Lord Rivers himself survived till 1639.

A younger line of these Essex Darcys, seated at Tolleshunt and Tiptree, in that county, obtained a baronetcy in 1660, and considerably outlasted the elder one, for it only became extinct with the fourth baronet, Sir George Darcy, who died a minor, leaving three sisters to divide the property.

  1. O'Hart, in his Irish Pedigrees, deduces the latter from "O'Dorchaidhe, anglicized Dorcey, Dorsey, Darey, Darkey, and D'Arcy (of the co. Galway)." O'Dorchaidhe's father was no less a personage than "Fiachra, the elder brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the 126th monarch of Ireland," even though, according to his pedigree, he was only 87th in direct descent from Adam! Seriously speaking, it is not easy to determine the lineage of Irish families, as so many Norman and English names were adopted by the Celts. They did it on severe compulsion. By the statute of 5 Ed. IV. (1456) it was enacted that every Irishman dwelling within the Pale (then comprising the counties of Dublin, Meath, Louth and Kildare) "shall take an English surname, and that he and his issue shall use the same, under pain of forfeiting his goods." In this wise O'Connor became Conyers; O'Cribbain, Corbet; O'Liathain, Lyons; O'Fuala, Foley; Murtagh, Mortimer; MacSpallane, Spenser, and so on.

    -- Cleveland
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