Sir Thomas Morgan

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Governor 1665-1679
Sir Thomas Morgan


Previously a Parliamentary soldier, knighted by Richard Cromwell, Morgan changed his allegiance and was a supporter of the Restoration in 1660. Five years later he was appointed Governor of Jersey, a post which, despite his unpopularity in the island, he held for 14 years until his death in Jersey

Morgan's 1665 commission from Charles II

Career highlights

Major-General Sir Thomas Morgan, 1st Baronet (1604–1679) was a Parliamentary soldier during the English Civil War, and Commander-in-Chief in Scotland during the Restoration.

Morgan served in the Low Countries, and under Fairfax in the Thirty Years War. From 1651 to 1657 he assisted General George Monck in Scotland and was promoted to major-general.

He was second in command in Flanders in 1657 and knighted on his return in 1668. He rejoined Monck in Scotland, and played a conspicuous part in the Restoration in Edinburgh. He was involved in the Chepstow Battle. He welcomed Charles II back to England in 1662.

He was appointed Governor of Jersey in 1665 repairing the Jersey defences and reorganising the Militia.

Civil War

He went off to be a soldier at the age of sixteen, speaking only Welsh, and fought in German, French and Dutch armies. It was after his return to England in 1642 that he joined the Parliament forces in the Civil War. His ability quickly saw him promoted from captain to major and then, after a brief retirement during which he married his second wife, Delariviere Cholmondeley, to colonel in 1645. Later that year he was appointed governor of Gloucester and successfully led the capture of Berkeley Castle, Chepstow, Monmouth and Hereford. As commander of all parliamentary forces in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Monmouthshire, he laid siege to and negotiated the surrender of Raglan Castle.

After another few years of retirement, he again returned to military duties in 1651, fighting in Scotland, and Flanders. These duties earned him a knighthood from Richard Cromwell, who had succeeded his father Oliver as Lord Protector, in 1658. In 1660, however, he transferred his allegiance to those seeking the restoration of the monarchy and he personally fired off the huge cannon, Mons Meg, in the celebrations of the Restoration in Edinburgh. He was rewarded with a baronetcy in 1661. It was after this that he began to set himself up with landed estates, mainly in Herefordshire (Chanstone Court, near Vowchurch, and Kinnersley Castle), but including Old Court in Llangattock Lingoed.

In Jersey

He was made governor of Jersey in 1665 and, although he was absent from duties for long periods in the 1670s, died at St Helier on 13 April 1679. His body was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

Contemporary reports say that he was small in stature, had a distinctive high-pitched voice and smoked a pipe. He was barely literate and could sign his name only with difficulty. He was always eager for battle and ferocious in action. The fact that he suffered badly from gout throughout his life can have done little to soften his quick temper.

George Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey says that he was recognised as a fine soldier, "but a testy old martinet with no respect whatever for civil officials. He told the Attorney-General that he 'had been like to lay him by the heels', and during a sitting of the Court he threatened the Constable of St Martin with his cane, shouting: 'By God, Sirrah, I shall rub your nose'."

After much friction the States petitioned the King against him and in July 1679 secured an Order in Council granting all that they asked for, and stating that "no Governor shall disturb the inhabitants in the peaceable possession of their privileges".

The Militia

In 1666 Louis XIV declared war on England and Jersey was to be his first target. Sir Thomas Morgan remodelled the Militia into 3 regiments of 400 foot and 200 horse, all well-equipped, but in 1667 peace was proclaimed and the invasion threat to Jersey removed.

In 1545 the foundations of the modern Militia were created with the formation of 12 parochial bands with a captain in charge. In 1678 Sir Thomas Morgan decided to remodel the Militia and scarlet tunics were introduced as a form of uniform and from 1681 the Governor, Sir John Lanier, was given the power to appoint Militia officers.

St Aubin's Harbour

By 19th century historian the Rev Alban E Ragg:

With regard to the harbour works at St Aubin's, these were vigorously taken up by Sir Thomas Morgan, the Lieut-Governor, who even went so far as to enter into an agreement with the States to complete them in four years. His death, however, intervened, and these important works, commenced in 1670, on a grant given by Charles II, were suspended, though this time by a higher authority than Jersey law, it being done by an Order in Council dated 22 April 1681, on the assumption that "there was not so much advantage to be gained from them as had been represented " to His Majesty. The States, however, wisely disagreed with this opinion, and petitioned against the Order being carried into effect; in consequence of which a subsequent Order came allowing the whole of the revenue derived from the impot to be devoted to the purpose, whilst the prison or house of correction was afterwards built, as we shall presently see, not from funds arising from the impot, but from a different and somewhat curious source.

Two years prior to the last-mentioned date (1681) an Order in Council was issued greatly affecting the Royalists, and not by any means to their prejudice, for according to it, the actual date whereof was 27 August 1679, the property then held by the Parliamentarians, and which had been formerly sequestered in their favour, was ordered to be restored to its original owners. This year, too, saw the death of the much-respected Lieut-Governor. Sir Thomas Morgan, to whom the Island owed much, and the Militia of it in particular; the first regular uniform it ever possessed, in the shape of a scarlet tunic, was an idea suggested by Sir Thomas the year before his death, which occurred early in 1679; the veteran Sir George de Carteret having preceded him to the grave by about four months, he dying on 13 January of the same year.

Further article

Predecessor Successor
Henry, Lord Jermyn
1644-1650, 1650-1651, 1660-1666
Sir Thomas Morgan
Sir John Lanier
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