Lucius Carey, second Viscount Falkland lost his life during the first battle of Newbury, which was fought on 20th. September 1643. He was one of those royalist M.P.’s who eventually supported the King, even though as a member of the Long Parliament, which met in 1640, he had initially taken an active part in opposing policies that King Charles I had pursued between 1629 and 1640. Indeed, Falkland showed himself to be an opponent of radical change, particularly in the Church and State, and for that reason he was prepared to side with the King, and accepted office in January 1642 as Secretary of State. He hoped thereby to close the gap between the King and his critics in Parliament. Moreover, his peace-loving and tolerant nature was revolted by the prospect of Civil War.
Civil War officially began on August 22nd. 1642 and from the start Falkland urged compromise and sought a negotiated peace, but his advice was opposed by those like the Queen, Henrietta Maria, and Lord George Digby who pressed for an all out war strategy, aimed at an unconditional military victory. By the summer of 1643 Falkland was aware that he was losing the battle aimed at securing the King’s support for a moderate approach.
It was at this time that his friend Edward Hyde claimed that Falkland began to exhibit the following modes of behaviour: deep melancholy, social withdrawal, unaccustomed irritability, insomnia and creeping despair. This suggests that by the autumn of 1643, Falkland had fallen into a deeply depressed state. Moreover, he began to take unnecessary risks, as he did at the siege of Gloucester, where he emerged unscathed, and at the first battle of Newbury, which he did not.
Certainly, another of Falkland’s contemporaries, Bulstrode Whitelock, believed that he was actively seeking a battlefield death, while the Wiltshire antiquary, John Aubrey, put forward a less idealistic explanation to account for Falkland’s state of mind. Aubrey claimed that Falkland was deeply distressed by the ‘death of Mrs Moray, who was his mistress and whom he loved above all creation’. Hyde went out of his way to refute Aubrey’s theory on the grounds that even if this is the case, this lady died on the same day in London as Falkland at Newbury there is no evidence that she ever was his mistress, nor given the state of communication in those days, that he would have been aware of her demise.
So, even if one accepts any of the three theories put forward to account for Falkland’s state of mind during the battle of Newbury it is undoubtedly the case that at time he deliberately exposed himself to parliamentary musket fire and therefore committed suicide.
Falkland is a tragic figure whose death highlights the futility and pointlessness of war.