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Fairfax, Sir Thomas

Fairfax, Sir Thomas (1612–71). With the exception of Cromwell, Fairfax was probably the best commander on the parliamentary side in the civil wars. His career started inauspiciously in March 1643 when he was beaten by Goring at Seacroft Moor in Yorkshire, but he turned the tables on Goring in May 1643, capturing him at Wakefield. He then gained an impressive string of victories at Winceby, Nantwich, Selby, and Marston Moor. In the winter of 1644 he was busy training the New Model Army to unprecedented standards of drill and efficiency. In the spring of 1645 he replaced Essex as commander-in-chief and his two great victories at Naseby in June and Langport in July knocked the heart out of royalist resistance. In the second civil war he besieged and took Colchester. Out of sympathy with events during the Commonwealth and Protectorate, Fairfax helped Monck in 1660 to bring about the Restoration. Clarendon paid tribute to his outstanding courage and Aubrey recorded that his first action on taking Oxford in 1646 was to set a guard on the Bodleian library to prevent looting.

J. A. Cannon

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