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Sir Palmes and Stafford Fairborne

Palmes Fairborne

In the south aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey is a white marble monument to Sir Palmes Fairborne. The sculptor was John Bushnell and the lines of verse are by John Dryden. The long inscription reads:

Sacred to ye immortal memory of Sir PALMES FAIRBORNE Kt. [Knight], Governour of TANGER [Tangier] in execution of which command he was mortally wounded by a shott from the Moores then besieging the Town in ye 46 yeare of his age Octob. 24th 1680.
Yee sacred reliques which your marble keepe,
Heere undisturb'd by warrs, in quiet sleepe;
Discharge the trust which when it was below
Fairborne's disdaunted [originally undaunted] soul did undergoe:
And be the towns Palladium from the foe.
Alive and dead these walls he will defend:
Great actions great examples must attend.
The Candian siege his early valour knew;
Where Turkish blood did his young hands imbrew:
From thence returning with deserv'd applause,
Against ye Moores his well-fleshed sword he draws
The fame, the courage, and the fame ye cause.
His youth and age, his life and death combine:
As in some great and regular design,
All of a piece, throughout, and all divine.
Still neerer heaven his vertue shone more bright
Like rising flames expanding in their height;
The Martyrs glory crown'd ye souldiers fight.
More bravely British Generall never fell:
Nor Generall's death was e're revenged so well.
Which his pleas'd eyes beheld before their close,
Follow'd by thousand victims of his foes.
To his lamented losse for times to come, his pious widowe consecrates this tomb.

Originally there were also two black marble obelisks either side of the tablet, with a relief medallion of a Moor's head on each and circular reliefs showing the Upper Castle at Tangiers with Sir Palmes being shot, and York Castle in the same town with carts bringing stones to build a mole at the harbour. His coat of arms, crest and motto are shown above the inscription tablet.

Sir Palmes was a son of a Royalist colonel Stafford Fairborne and was born in 1644 (the age given on the monument is therefore incorrect). He fought abroad as a mercenary and in 1661 became a captain in the Tangier regiment of foot. His wife was Margery (or Margaret) Devereux and they had seven children. Two of these, John (d.1679) and Elizabeth (d.1680), died young and are buried in the Abbey cloisters. In 1675 he was knighted and served as governor of the English garrison at Tangiers. The Moors attempted to regain the colony and Palmes was shot and is buried at Tangier. His widow married Jasper Paston and she was buried in the Abbey on 9th June 1694.

Stafford Fairborne

Their son Sir Stafford Fairborne was born about 1666 and rose to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet, after serving in many actions. From 1705-1710 he was Member of Parliament for Rochester in Kent. His first wife was Dorothy Fane and several children were baptised at St Anne's church in Westminster. He married secondly Rebecca Paston. He was buried in the nave near his father's monument on 18th November 1742 but has no monument or gravestone. His daughter Armine, wife of John Treadway, administered to his estate.

Further reading for Palmes and his son Stafford

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - Sir Stafford Fairborne

History of Parliament online


24th October 1680





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Sir Palmes and Stafford Fairborne
Sir Palmes Fairborne

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Sir Palmes and Stafford Fairborne
Sir Palmes Fairborne memorial original form

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

It’s a privilege to live and work here – the Abbey really is the heart of the country and its history.


Martin - The Dean’s Verger

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