Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lilburne, Robert
LILBURNE, ROBERT (1613–1665), regicide, eldest son of Richard Lilburne of Thickley Puncherdon, Durham, and brother of John Lilburne, was two years old at the visitation of Durham in 1615 (Foster, Durham Pedigrees p. 215). At the beginning of the war he entered the parliamentary army, in 1644 was a captain in Manchester's army, and in 1647 colonel of a foot-regiment in the new model (Peacock, Army Lists, 2nd edit, p. 106; John Lilburne Innocencey and Truth Justified, 1646, p. 42). Lilburne was one of the leaders in the opposition of the army to the parliament, promoted the petition of the officers, end did his best to prevent his regiment from volunteering for Ireland (Lords' Journals, ix. 115, 153; Rushworth, vii. 471 555; Clarke Papers, i. 13). He was sent for by the House of Commons to answer for his conduct (29 March), but discharged on 25 May (Commons' Journals, v. 130, 184), Fairfax shortly afterwards appointed him governor of Newcastle (Rushworth, vii, 797). In November his regiment, which is described as 'the most mutinous regiment in the whole army,' expelled its officers, and took a leading part in the Ware rendezvous. Cromwell and Fairfax reduced it to obedience, and a few days later Lilburne and his officers presented an address to Fairfax as 'a manifestation of their integrity to his excellency and the weal public' (ib. vii. 875, 913, 922; Old Parliamentary History, xvi. 434; The Discoverer, 4to, 1649, pt. ii. p. 52). Lilburne played a prominent part in the second civil war, defeating Colonel Grey and Sir Richard Tempest with the Northumbrian cavaliers on 1 July 1648 (Rushworth, vii. 1177). He was nominated one of the king's judges in December 1648, attended several meetings, and signed his name to the death-warrant as the twenty-eighth in the list of signatures (Nalson, Trial of Charles I, edit, 1684, p. 110).
Lilburne took part in Cromwell's Scottish campaigns, and was left behind to guard Lancashire when Cromwell marched to Worcester. On 25 Aug. 1651 he utterly routed the Earl of Derby near Wigan, thus removing all danger of a royalist rising in the north (Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, ii 338; Civil War Tracts of Lancashire, Chetham Society, pp. 296–307). Cromwell had before praised Lilburne's services to parliament and they now voted him a grant of lands in Scotland, to the value of 300l. a year (Commons' Journals, vii. 8, 247; Carlyle, Cromwell, Letter clxviii.)
On 12 Dec. 1652, when General Richard Deane was recalled from Scotland to serve against the Dutch, he appointed Lilburne to command in chief till the lord-general took further order (Clarke MSS. Worcester College, Oxford, vol. xxiv. f.71). Lilburne was hardly strong enough for the post, and was therefore superseded by Monck on 23 April 1654. He had not succeeded in suppressing the insurrection headed by the Earl of Glencairn which broke out in August 1653, and caused anxiety by showing too great favour to the anabaptists and extreme sectaries in his army (Gumble, Life of Monck, 1671, pp. 79–81; Military Memoirs of John Gwynne, and An Account of the Earl of Glencairn's Expedition, 1822; Thurloe Papers, ii. 221, 414). In spite of this tendency he welcomed the establishment of Cromwell as Protector (ib. ii. 18).
Lilburne was in command at York during the attempted royalist insurrection of 1656, and manifested great zeal in arresting royalists 'and such kind of cattle.' His chief fear was lest the Protector should be too lenient (Thurloe, iii. 227, 359, 587). When Lambert was appointed major-general of the five northern counties, Lilburne received a commission to act as his deputy, but confined his operations mainly to Yorkshire and Durham, leaving the other three counties to his colleague Charles Howard (ib. iv. 294, 321, 468, 614). Apart from the enforcement of repressive measures and the collection of the decimation tax, he was anxious for the improvement of the magistracy, the ejection of unfit clergymen, and the foundation of a university at Durham (ib. iv. 397, 442, 643).
Lilburne was returned to the parliament of 1656 for the East Riding of Yorkshire. But though he received from the Protector salaries amounting to 1,141l. 3s. 4d. per annum, he opposed the scheme for making Cromwell king (A Narrative of the late Parliament, 1657, Harleian Miscellany, iii. 455; Thurloe, vi. 292). In the spring of 1658 he is described as a malcontent still, but refusing to lay down his commission (ib, vii. 85). Lilburne was returned to Richard Cromwell's parliament for the borough of Malton, but was unseated on a petition (Burton, Cromwellian Diary, iii. 455; Commons' Journals, vii. 611).
During the revolutions of 1659 Lilburne adhered to the army party, and followed the lead of Lambert. When Lambert turned out the parliament, Lilburne said 'that he hoped never a true Englishman would name the parliament again, and that he would have the house pulled down where they sat, for fear it should be infectious' (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659–60, p. 295). In his capacity as governor of York, Lilburne was Lambert's chief support in his brief campaign against Monck; but when Fairfax and the Yorkshire gentlemen were in arms, Lilburne's own regiment deserted him, and he was forced to surrender York (ib. pp. 293–6; Baker, Chronicle, edit. Phillips, 1670, p. 688; Kennett, Register, p, 7). Monck gave the command of the regiment to Major Smithson, to whom its defection was mainly due (Baker, p. 700).
At the Restoration Liburne surrendered himself in obedience to the king's proclamation of 6 June 1660 against the regicides, and was one of the nineteen persons excluded from the act of indemnity, but not to be punished capitally except by a special act of parliament. He was tried before the high count of justice on 16 Oct. 1660, and admitted the fact, pleading that he had acted ignorantly, and would have saved the king's life if he could (Trial of the Regicides, 4to, 1660, p. 253). He petitioned for pardon both before and after his trial (Cal. State Papers,Dom. 1660-1, pp. 8,318). Lilburne was formally sentenced to death, but the sentence was practically commuted to imprisonment for life. On 31 Oct. 1661 he was ordered to be sent prisoner either to Plymouth Castle or to St. Nicholas Island. In 1665 the government suspected him of taking part in a plot (ib. 1664–5, p. 271). He died at St. Nicholas Island about August 1665.
Lilburne married Margaret, daughter of Richard Beke of Hadenham, Buckinghamshire, by whom he left three sons (Biographia Britannica).
[Authorities cited. A life of Lilburne is given in Noble's Lives of the Regicides, 1798, vol. i., and one is appended to the Life of John Lilburne in Biographia Britannica, v. 2961.]