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PACKER, WILLIAM (fl. 1644–1660), soldier, entered the parliamentary army early in the civil war, and was a lieutenant in Cromwell's ‘ironsides’ in 1644. In the spring of that year he was put under arrest by Major-general Crawford for disobedience to orders, but obtained his release by the intervention of Cromwell. Cromwell explained to Crawford that he ‘did exceeding ill in checking such a man, which was not well taken, he being a godly man’ (Manchester's Quarrel with Cromwell, Camd. Soc. 1875, p. 59). Carlyle supposes Packer to be the officer referred to in Cromwell's letter of 10 March 1643–4, but that officer was a lieutenant-colonel (Carlyle, Cromwell, letter 20). In 1646 Packer was a captain in Fairfax's regiment of horse (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, ed. 1854, p. 331). He sided with the army in its quarrel with the parliament, and was present at the siege of Colchester in 1648 (Rushworth, vi. 471; Clarke Papers, ii. 33). At the battle of Dunbar he seems to have commanded Cromwell's own regiment of horse in the absence of its major, and took part in that flank attack on the Scottish army which decided the issue of the battle (Gardiner, Hist. of the Commonwealth, i. 325; Memoirs of Capt. John Hodgson, p. 147, ed. 1806). In 1652 Packer became major of the regiment, and, as such, was colonel in all but name, receiving the salary and exercising all the functions of the office on behalf of Cromwell. He was still noted for his godliness, and on 17 July 1653 received a license from the council of state authorising him to preach in any pulpit in England, if it was not required at the time by its legal possessor (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1653–4, p. 13). In 1656 Packer acted as deputy major-general for Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Hertfordshire, and had the honour of proceeding against Edmund Waller until the Protector interfered in behalf of the poet (ib. 1665–6 p. 305, 1656–7 p. 153). Several of his letters concerning his proceedings in this office are printed among Thurloe's ‘Papers’ (v. 187, 222, 409). By this time he had become a man of property, and bought, in conjunction with some brother officers, the royal manor of Theobalds, Hertfordshire. George Fox mentions him as a great enemy to the quakers, and describes an interview between himself and Packer (Fox, Journal, p. 139). In Cromwell's second parliament he represented Woodstock; but he had become discontented with the policy of the Protector, and joined the opposition in the parliament and the army. Cromwell, after failing to convince him of the error of his ways by argument, deprived him of his command. According to Packer's own account, his opposition to the revival of the House of Lords was the cause of his dismissal. ‘I thought it was not “a lord's house,” but another house. But for my undertaking to judge this, I was sent for, accused of perjury, and outed of a place of 600l. per annum. I would not give it up. He told me I was not apt; I that had served him 14 years, ever since he was a captain of a troop of horse till he came to this power; and had commanded a regiment seven years: without any trial or appeal, with the breath of his nostrils I was outed, and lost not only my place, but a dear friend to boot’ (Burton, Parliamentary Diary, iii. 165). Packer was returned to Richard Cromwell's parliament as member for Hertford, but on a petition he was unseated (ib. iv. 249, 299). On the restoration of the Long parliament that assembly restored Packer to the command of his old regiment, regarding him as a sufferer for republican principles; but having taken part in the promotion of a petition which the house considered dangerous, he was cashiered by vote of 12 Oct. 1659 (Commons' Journals, vii. 698, 796). He consequently assisted Lambert to expel the parliament, and was one of the leaders of the army during the two months of military rule which followed. But the restoration of the parliament at the end of December put an end to his power; the command of his regiment was given to Sir Arthur Haselrig, and Packer was ordered to leave London on pain of imprisonment (ib. vii. 806, 812). When Lambert escaped from the Tower, Packer was immediately seized and committed to prison (15 April 1660). The Restoration entailed upon him the loss of the lands he had purchased, and, though he escaped punishment, the government of Charles II considered him dangerous, and more than once arrested him on suspicion of plots. His wife Elizabeth petitioned for her husband's release in August 1661, stating that he had been for three months closely confined in the Gate House without being brought to trial (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661–2, pp. 128, 457). His subsequent history and the date of his death are unknown.

[Authorities cited in the article.]

C. H. F.