The Rag Man Identified

Constantine Henry Phipps (Wikipedia biography, with portrait) was the 1st Marquess of Normanby. He was born 15 May 1797 to Henry Phipps, the 1st Earl of Mulgrave, and Henry’s wife Martha Sophia. Their son Constantine Henry Phipps died 28 July 1863.

This lineage was discussed at length in a past post, with video links, titled “Mulgrave Castle and Mulgrave Estate.” That post presented a 12-generation lineage in which Constantine Henry Phipps (1797-1863) appears in Generation 8. That post also included a link to a pedigree chart in Wikipedia which places him in a 5-generation lineage.

The past post traced Constantine Henry Phipps back, based on various sources, including the Berkshire visitations, to Francis Phipps of Reading, Berkshire and beyond. We’ve discussed Francis and his family, with direct lines to the Caribbean, Virginia, and the Reeves family, on any number of occasions. Francis appears to have been a son of George of Nottingham, with George apparently having been a son of Robert of Nottingham.

When Constantine Henry Phipps died in 1863, it was said by the press that “he traced his descent from that Col. Phipps who died fighting for Charles the First.”

From The Alexandria Gazette, Alexandria, Virginia, 13 August 1863, p. 1:

The Marquis of Normanby died last month in his 69th year. His heir is his only son, the Earl of Mulgrave, now Governor of Nova Scotia. This nobleman was a diplomatist, a politician, an orator, a party leader, and a novelist. He filled many important posts under the British Government, one of which was that of the Vice Royalty of Ireland. His family name was Phipps, and he traced his descent from that Col. Phipps who died fighting for Charles the First. He was a leading “liberal,” and O’Connell once said of him, in connection with his rule as Viceroy, “he was the best Englishman Ireland had ever seen.”

Charles I (The Royal Family site link) reigned from 1625 to 1649, and was beheaded for treason in 1649. This was a part of the political struggle known as the Civil War, which took place in England between 1642 and 1651.

As already noted in an earlier post, some member or members of the Reeves or Rives family, associated with Francis Phips or Phipps of Reading, Berkshire, England and with the Phips or Phipps family in Virginia and North Carolina, is/are said to have come to Virginia with the Cavalier emigration.

The Civil War was, of course, a struggle between those who supported the monarchy (the Cavaliers, or Royalists) and those who sided with Parliament (the Roundheads, or Parliamentarians). The Cavalier emigration began around the time of the beheading of Charles in 1649.

The Francis Phipps we’ve just mentioned was imprisoned in Windsor Castle in 1643 by the Roundheads. Evidently this was because he supported, or was suspected of supporting, the Cavaliers. (See this past post.)

We’ve discussed Francis Phipps at length in the past. Who, though, was the “Col. Phipps” who “died fighting for Charles the First”? This could not have been Francis, since he was alive and age 54 on 11 March 1664, around 15 years after Charles was beheaded.

We’ve also discussed in another past post a certain John Phipps who had writs against him from the sheriffs of Wiltshire and Berkshire, and a fine imposed on him by the Star Chamber in the regnal year 19 James (1621 or 1622). This would be too early to have been associated with Charles I, however, and he might have been a religious dissenter, which suggests the opposite of Cavalier-type leanings.

Could the “Col. Phipps” who is said to have “died fighting for Charles I” have been the “Capt. Phips the Ragman” who we’ve also discussed in a past post? According to a 1772 book cited in that post, the Ragman and his lieutenant were both taken in 1645 at the town of Thame. As noted earlier, Capt. Phips has been called a “famous Buckinghamshire commander.”

Events of 1645 around Thame Mill are described in Andrew Clark, The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, Antiquary, of Oxford, 1632-1695, Described by Himself, Vol. 1, Oxford: Clarendon Press for the Oxford Historical Society, pp. 117-118. Pretty much the same wording appears in various other books, as noted in a past post.

An. Dom. 1645 . . .

April. – The next great disturbance . . . was this.In the latter end of Apr. 1645 a famous Buckinghamshire commander called capt. [not capitalized] . . . [ellipses in the book] Phips the rag-man was in Thame with 20 horse and dragoons to guard their committee for the excise (the chief of which committee were goodman Heywood, and goodman Hen the butcher his servant) and tarrying there two dayes or more, Sir William Campion governour of Borstall house having received notice of them, sent out his captaine lieutenant called capt. . . . [not capitalized, ellipses in the book] Bunce, with a partie of 20 horse; who instantly marching thither over Crendon bridg [as spelled], as it seems, and so by the vicaridge [i.e. vicarage] house, drove them thro the towne of Thame. Whereupon Phips and his committee flying pretty fast till they came to the bridg below Thame mill (which is eastward and a little by north about a stone’s-cast from the vicar’s house) they faced about, hoping to make good the bridge with their dragoons.; But this valiant captaine Bunce, after he had receiv’d a volley from Phips and his partie (which touched only one commo nsoldier slightlie) charged over the bridg, and with his pistols shot one of them dead, and beat them off the bridg, so as they all ran away, but lost just half their number: for besides him that was killed, there were nine taken, [page break] where two were capt. Phips himself and his lieutenant, ten only escaping, most of which had marks bestowed on them.

Various books quote this or essentially the same wording. Who was Capt. Phips of Buckinghamshire? The answer seems to be identified in Ian F.W. Beckett, Wanton Troopers: Buckinghamshire in the Civil Wars, 1640-1660, Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2015.

In that source, a certain Edmund Phipps is mentioned as one of four commanders of the militia at Aylesbury around 1643-1645. As we’ve already noted, the Thames Mill event occurred in 1645. Beckett identifies Phipps as a former high constable of Stoke Hundred. He is also referred to as a manufacturer of paper and as a person controversial even before the war.

The Stoke Hundred location would make sense, if this Edmund does connect to the family of Francis Phipps of Reading, Berkshire. Stoke Hundred is a hundred in the south part of Buckinghamshire, where Buckinghamshire adjoins Berkshire. Reading is in the north part of Berkshire near Buckinghamshire.

Edmund Phipps as a paper maker is discussed a couple times in William Page, ed., The Victoria History of the County of Buckingham, Vol. 2, London: Archibald Constable, 1908, p. 111. Edmund Phipps is there said to have had one of the most important of a dozen paper mills in Buckinghamshire in 1636. This was at Horton.

This source appears to also indirectly explain the reference to Phipps as the “rag man” in connection with the 1645 events at Thame. In his county history, Page notes that Edmund Phipps was county chief constable (Beckett had referred to him as high constable), and to have exercised “but little consideration” for his neighbors’ convenience.

What this meant, essentially, was that the paper mills were locally despised, since it entailed the importation of rags. This was viewed as connected with outbreaks of the plague. One could easily imagine, then, why Phipps would have been given the epithet of “the rag man.”

A factor which could not have helped was that, as also noted by Page, Phipps made poor quality paper. Paper mill owners were taking advantage of the great need for paper, coupled with a lack of competition.

In 1635, Edmund Phipps was charged by a church court with having kept his mill operating on  Sundays all year. The plague grew so common that the paper mills were finally shut down. Mill owners then asked the county for economic relief, which only added to the local resentment against the paper mills’ operation.

Page notes that a certain Richard West succeeded Phipps as paper maker by 1649. Page also says that this was at Horton. Horton is a village located in Stoke Hundred, the place referred to by Beckett. Page also refers to paper mills at High Wycombe. This is near Hughenden, which we’ve discussed in the past as associated in earlier times with Phip, Phips, Phyppe, etc. Lollards.

Beckett says that Phipps later was an army captain in Ireland, where he died of wounds in 1656. After his death, his widow Margaret sought back pay for his military service from Oliver Cromwell. This alone makes it clear that Edmund Phipps had been a Roundhead, even without the events of 1645. For more, see Beckett’s account.

Dying of wounds in 1656 doesn’t sound like dying “fighting for Charles I,” exactly, when Charles died in 1649. At the same time, however, it appears that Edmund did die fighting, and  that he was a Parliamentarian, and that he earlier fought for Charles I. Could this be what was meant?

Even if so, however, this Edmund does not appear to have been in Constantine Henry Phipps’s direct line. Is the direct line, as presented, faulty, or was there another Phipps who “died fighting for Charles I”? Or is this simply a matter of garbled oral traditions, or even of a confused newspaper reporter?

The parliamentarian vs. royalist controversy, as well as the clashes between those associated with the official church and those who were non-conformists, directly and profoundly affected the Phipps (however spelled) family. In similar fashion, Tory vs. patriot leanings caused more rifts between family members in America.

As an example of how far these sorts of rifts could go, we could refer to Pownoll Phipps (1780-1858), who played an important role in India in connection with the East India Company. The second wife of his son Ramsay Weston Phipps was Sophia Matilda Arnold.

She was the daughter of Benedict Arnold, the person who has become a legendary character in American tradition, due to his role in the American Revolution, with his name viewed as synonymous with the term “traitor.”

As another example, we’ve discussed the efforts of Constantine Phipps of England to deliver the hated and despised tax stamps associated with the Stamp Act crisis in North Carolina. The Stamp Act was, of course, an issue which helped to precipitate the American Revolution. Ironically, Constantine appears to have had relatives who were American patriots during the Revolution in North Carolina and Virginia.

It’s been said before in this blog, but it bears repeating: These sorts of rifts no doubt caused tremendous upheaval among members of the Phipps, Phips, etc. family. They could explain how some Phipps individuals could pursue relatively lowly occupations in England nearly alongside others of the same surname who were landed gentry.

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One thought on “The Rag Man Identified

  1. Died of wounds years later does not seem impossible. I saw a civil war vet who got a hand wart and tried numerous cures to no avail and died of the infected wart that was huge. Surely a war injury could hang around a long time and get you in the end. No? Sent from my iPhone

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