Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Livesey, Michael

LIVESEY, Sir MICHAEL (1611–1663?), regicide, born in 1611, was only son of Gabriel Livesey of Hollingbourne, Kent, by his second wife, Anne, daughter of Sir Michael Sondes, knt., of Throwley in the same county (Berry, County Genealogies, ‘Kent,’ p. 197). In 1627 he was created a baronet, and afterwards fixed his residence at East Church, Isle of Sheppey. At the outbreak of the civil war he took sides with the parliament. The royal proclamation of 8 Nov. 1642 excepted him from the general pardon offered to the county of Kent as being a ‘traitor and stirrer of sedition’ (Rushworth, Hist. Coll. pt. iii. vol. ii. p. 54). He, however, organised Kent for the parliament, for which he was thanked and ordered by an ordinance passed on 21 Nov. to aid the four deputy-lieutenants for Sussex in putting that county into the like posture of defence. One of his acts was to seize and send up to parliament, about December 1642, the loyalist high sheriff of Kent, Sir William Brockham, who intended as soon as Livesey absented himself from the county to raise an army for the king by power of his commission. Livesey, who was colonel of the Kentish horse, subsequently joined the parliamentary forces in taking Chichester (Vicars, Parliamentary Chronicle, pt. i. pp. 224, 235). The weald of Kent was specially placed in his control, and in July 1643 he took Yalding, which was garrisoned for the king (ib. pt. iii. pp. 14–15). During the same year he was present at the siege of Arundel. In more important engagements Livesey showed himself to be lacking in the qualities of a soldier. At the battle of Cheriton Down, on 29 March 1644, he deliberately ran away. His overbearing demeanour, combined with his cowardice and incapacity, made him so generally disliked that his major, Anthony Weldon, preferred several articles of complaint against him. In revenge Livesey tried to have Weldon and his troop transferred to the army of Sir Richard Grenville (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, pp. 171–2). He also quarrelled with his general, Sir William Waller, and did his best to harass him by detaching the Kentish horse from his army. He was consequently summoned to attend the committee of both kingdoms in July 1644 (ib. 1644, pp. 376–7, 384), but his social influence was very great, and the committee, after treating him with great deference, merely requested him to return with his regiment to Abingdon (ib. 1644, p. 423). In April 1645 Livesey was quartered at Sevenoaks, and refused to obey an order to join the army of Sir Thomas Fairfax, and encouraged his men to mutiny (ib. 1644–1645). On 15 Sept. following he was elected M.P. for Queenborough, Kent, in place of William Harrison, declared ‘disabled to sit.’ In December 1647 he quelled disturbances at Canterbury with a force of two thousand men (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, i. 424), and during this and the following year was busily engaged in reorganising the Kentish horse (Carter, Relation, 1650, p. 95). Upon being appointed a commissioner to try the king, he attended every day of the trial and signed the warrant. In May 1659 Livesey declined Lenthall's summons to return to his place in the Long parliament, on the ground of ill-health (letter in Tanner MS. LI. 50); but on 28 Jan. 1659–60 he was nominated a commissioner of the admiralty and navy (Commons' Journals, vii. 825). At the Restoration he escaped to the Low Countries. In a letter from William Smith to John Langley, dated 12 Oct. 1660, Livesey is said to have been cut to pieces by the Dutch boors, upon being denounced as one of the king's murderers by a gentleman whom he had formerly ‘highly abused’ in Kent (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 174). He appears, however, to have been at Arnheim along with John Desborough [q. v.] in September 1663, and in the ensuing October was reported to have landed at Plymouth from Mardike (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1663–4, pp. 266, 309). An act of parliament passed for his attainder and the forfeiture of all his lands, which were granted to James, duke of York. His widow Elizabeth retired to Maidstone, and was dead by 27 Feb. 1666, when her estate was administered by her daughter, Deborah Livesey (Probate Act Book, P. C. C. 1666). Another daughter Anne was married to Sir Robert Sprignall, bart., of Highgate, Middlesex (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658–9, p. 292).

[Burke's Extinct Baronetage, p. 317; Declaration of Colonel Anthony Weldon, 1649; Sussex Archæological Collections, v. 35, 78.]

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