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Lord Henry Wilmot

This stipple engraving by an unknown artist was published in 1816 by Thomas Rodd. As a young man, Henry Wilmot (1612-58) spent five years fighting in the Thirty Years War and was badly wounded at the siege of Breda. He fought for Charles I in the so-called Bishops’ Wars with Scotland (1639-40) and was briefly captured and held prisoner by the Scots after a bold charge at the battle of Newburn. In 1640 he was elected Member of Parliament for Tamworth, and became part of a group of officers who found special favour with the Queen. He played an active role in the Army Plot to take control of Parliament for the king, for which he was expelled from the Commons and sent to the Tower. With the outbreak of war, he rose steadily in the Royalist army, although personally disliked by Charles: in 1643 he was appointed Lieutenant General of the King’s Horse and created Baron Adderbury, honours validated by his subsequent triumph at the battle of Roundway Down. In the following year he was given command of the royal cavalry in the South, but tensions were meanwhile growing between him and the King’s close advisors, Digby and Culpeper. He failed to undermine their influence, and when he made unauthorised contact with the Parliamentary General, the Earl of Essex, his actions were painted as treasonous to royal cause. Stripped of command, he retired to France. After his father’s execution, Charles II appointed Wilmot Gentleman of the Bedchamber; Wilmot had shared his dangerous wanderings in England, including his escape from capture following the disastrous Royalist defeat at Worcester. In 1652, Charles created Wilmot Earl of Rochester. By 1656, Wilmot was in command of a regiment of English Foot in Charles’ army at Bruges. Over the winter of 1657-8, he was among those soldiers who fell sick and died from the effects of bad weather and poor quarters. He had married twice: to Frances Morton in 1633, and upon her death Anne Lee some time in 1644. His son by Anne was John Rochester, second Earl, the infamous poet and libertine of the Restoration Court.

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