Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sidney, Philip (1619-1698)

611916Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 52 — Sidney, Philip (1619-1698)1897Charles Harding Firth

SIDNEY, PHILIP, third Earl of Leicester (1619–1698), eldest son of Robert, second earl of Leicester [q. v.], born in January 1619, matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 26 July 1634 (Foster, Alumni Oxonienses, i. 1449). Lord Lisle, as he was styled from 1626 to 1677, accompanied his father on his embassy to Denmark in 1632, and on his embassy to France in 1636. In the second Scottish war he commanded the cuirassiers who formed the bodyguard of his uncle, the Earl of Northumberland (Collins, Memorials, i. ii. 637, 638; Doyle, Official Baronage, ii. 349). In the Short parliament of April 1640, and in the Long parliament, Lisle represented the borough of Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. When the Irish rebellion broke out Lisle was sent to Ireland by his father, the lord-deputy, in command of a regiment of six hundred horse, which landed at Dublin in April 1642. He relieved Geashill Castle in King's County, commanded a plundering expedition into the Irish quarters which advanced as far as Monaghan, and performed other exploits (Coxe, Hibernia Anglicana, ii. 106; Gilbert, Aphorismical Discovery of Treasonable Faction, i. 427; Carte, Ormonde, ed. 1851, ii. 256, 351). Lisle held the rank of lieutenant-general of the horse under Ormonde, and the parliamentary sympathisers in the Irish government would gladly have seen him commander-in-chief in Ormonde's place (ib. ii. 376). His support of the parliamentary commissioners, Reynolds and Goodwin, in their intrigues against Ormonde greatly hindered the public service, and Ormonde wished to exclude him from the Irish council (ib. ii. 409, 421, 427, 432, 454, v. 394). Ormonde's chaplain, Creichton, charges Lisle with misconduct at the battle of Ross (18 March 1643); while Sir John Temple, a client of the Sidney family, asserts that Lisle did very good service in Ireland, and was systematically discouraged and affronted (Gilbert, History of the Confederation and War in Ireland, ii. 53, 257). When Ormonde's negotiations for the cessation began, Lisle resolved to leave Ireland, saying, in an intercepted letter to his father, ‘that no good is to be done in this place,’ and that he feared an oath against the parliament was about to be imposed on the officers serving in Ireland (ib. ii. 60). Though arrested on landing in England, he was speedily released and voted 1,000l. for his services.

In 1646, as soon as the parliament was able to think of sending fresh forces to Ireland, Lisle was appointed lord-lieutenant (21 Jan. 1646). His commission is dated 9 April 1646, but not till 1 Feb. 1647 was he able to start for his charge (Collins, i. 148; Blencowe, Sidney Papers, p. 6; Commons' Journals, iv. 413, 504). He landed in Munster, bringing with him one hundred and twenty horse and five thousand foot, but was able to accomplish nothing, and became involved in a violent quarrel with Lord Inchiquin (Gilbert, Confederation and War in Ireland, iv. 19–26; Carte, iii. 324, 369). Lisle's commission expired on 15 April 1647; he returned at once to England, and was thanked by parliament on 7 May, though his command was not renewed (Blencowe, Sidney Papers, p. 17). Like his brother Algernon [q. v.], he was appointed one of the judges for the trial of Charles I, but declined to act (ib. p. 54). He did not, however, feel any scruples about supporting the republic, and was a member of the first, second, fourth, and fifth councils of state elected during the Commonwealth. A few of his letters on public affairs during this period are printed by Collins (Memorials, ii. 676–9). On 31 Dec. 1652 Lisle was selected to go as ambassador to Sweden, and accepted, but his instructions were not ready till 22 March 1653, and he had not started when Cromwell turned out the Long parliament. He then resigned his mission, pleading ill-health (Whitelocke, Swedish Embassy, i. 2–6, 12, 38, 44, 46).

Lisle was high in Cromwell's favour. Presumably he was a devout puritan, for he was summoned to sit in the ‘Little Parliament,’ and was a member of both the councils of state elected by it. He was also a member of each of the two councils of state of the protectorate, and was summoned to sit in Cromwell's House of Lords. At the ceremony of Cromwell's second installation as Protector (26 June 1656) he took a prominent part, and a letter disapproving of his brother Algernon's ostentatious opposition to the Protector has been preserved (Cromwelliana, p. 166; Blencowe, p. 269). Lisle signed the proclamation declaring Richard Cromwell Protector, and was a member of his council. In spite of the important positions he held, he seems to have exercised very little political influence, and therefore incurred very little danger when the Restoration took place, but provided against possible trouble by obtaining a pardon under the great seal (30 Oct. 1660). He took no further part in public affairs, succeeded his father as Earl of Leicester on 2 Nov. 1677, and died 6 March 1698. According to Collins, he was in his later years a patron of literature, used to entertain the greatest wits of the age at his house at Sheen, and set apart one day in the week for the entertainment of men of letters (Collins, i. 149). A group of himself and his two brothers, as children, painted by Vandyck, is at Penshurst.

Lisle married, on 9 May 1645, Catherine Cecil, daughter of William, second earl of Salisbury; she died 18 Aug. 1652 (Blencowe, p. 136). His son and heir Robert, fourth earl of Leicester, was born in 1649, summoned to the House of Lords as Baron Sidney of Penshurst by William III (11 July 1689), and died 10 Nov. 1702 (Collins, i. 176).

[Collins's Letters and Memorials of State, &c., 1746, 2 vols. fol. (commonly called the Sydney Papers); Doyle's Official Baronage, ii. 349.]

C. H. F.