William Lockhart of Lee

Sir William Lockhart of Lee (1621–1675), after fighting on the side of Charles I in the English Civil War, attached himself to Oliver Cromwell, whose niece he married, and who later appointed Lockhart commissioner for the administration of justice in Scotland in 1652. He was also the English ambassador at the French court in 1656, where he greatly distinguished himself by his successful diplomacy. He also served at the Battle of the Dunes.

Sir William Lockhart of Lee

Early life

He was the eldest son of Sir James Lockhart of Lee (d. 1674), by his second wife, Martha, daughter of Sir George Douglas of Mordington, Berwickshire, and maid of honour to Queen Henrietta Maria. Sir George Lockhart (Lord Advocate) (c. 1630-1689) who was lord-advocate in Cromwell's time, was the second son of Sir James. See Lockharts of Lee for more details about his family.[1]

Dissatisfied with the school at Lanark he left home, journeyed to Leith, and sailed for Holland. Though only 13 years of age he was permitted, being tall and strong, to enter the service of the States. He made his way to Danzig, where his relative Sir George Douglas took him under his protection. Sir George died at Demmin in Pomerania in 1636, and Lockhart accompanied the body to England. Finding himself still uncomfortable at home, he again crossed to the continent, where money sent by his mother enabled him to support himself and improve his education.[1]

Lockhart entered the French army as a volunteer, and attracted the attention of the queen-mother. He rose to be a captain of horse.[1]

Wars of the Three Kingdoms

During the First English Civil War Lockhart, asked by William Hamilton, Earl of Lanark, returned to Scotland, and became lieutenant-colonel of Lanark's regiment. On the surrender of Charles I to the Scottish army before Newark in May 1646, he was introduced to the king, who knighted him. Charles sent him, after the defeat of the Marquis of Montrose at the battle of Philiphaugh in September, to the Duke of Hamilton to obtain his influence in getting good terms for Montrose; but the latter had meanwhile escaped. Lockhart served in the army of the "engagement" in the following year, and, as colonel of Lanark's regiment, was sent forward in advance to protect the western borders and Carlisle.[1]

At the battle of Preston he was unhorsed and in danger, but helped protecting the rear during the retreat to Wigan, where his regiment joined the main army. Subsequently he was compelled to surrender to General John Lambert, and was sent a prisoner to Newcastle. He bought his freedom a year later.[1]

At the time of the recall of Charles II in 1650, Lockhart was appointed general of horse, but when the Duke of Argyll managed it that William Baillie and Alexander Montgomery, 6th Earl of Eglinton should be joint commanders with, he resigned his commission. He later returned to the camp as a volunteer, but Charles ignored his offer.[1]


While on a visit to London Lockhart had an interview with Oliver Cromwell, and on 18 May 1652 he was appointed one of Cromwell's commissioners for the administration of justice in Scotland. He was also nominated a trustee for the disposing of forfeited estates, and was sworn a member of the Scottish privy council. In 1653, 1654–5, and 1656–8 he represented Lanarkshire in the Protectorate parliaments in Westminster and from 1672-74 represented the county in the Parliament of Scotland at Edinburgh.[1]

Lockhart was appointed in December 1655 English ambassador in Paris, but did not set out till April 1656. He filled this office till the death of Cromwell. His correspondence was printed in the Thurloe State Papers. The main purpose of his mission was to confirm the alliance with France against Spain, and to prevent aid to the Stuart family. An alliance with England was distasteful to France, both on political and religious grounds; and Lockhart had a difficult task in maintaining it. Much of his success was due to his handling of Cardinal Mazarin. On 23 March 1656–7 a new offensive and defensive treaty was signed, by which France was to contribute twenty thousand men, and England, in addition to her fleet, six thousand, to carry on the war against Spanish Flanders. It was further agreed to attack the three coast towns of Gravelines, Mardyke, and Dunkirk, the first of which was to fall to France and the two others to England.[1]

Governor of Dunkirk

With the signing of the treaty Lockhart's difficulties had only begun. The French laid siege in September to Mardyke, which was taken and handed over to the English before the end of the month. Lockhart urged on Turenne the necessity of proceeding immediately to the siege of Dunkirk, but this was delayed till June 1658, by which time the Spaniards had strongly entrenched their position. On the death of Sir John Reynolds, the English general, Lockhart undertook the command of the English forces, and in the pitched battle before Dunkirk he charged the Spanish foot. The town was surrendered on 15 June, and on the 24th handed over to Lockhart, who was made governor by Cromwell, and proceeded to put it in a state of defence. He received no assistance from the French.[1]

Shortly after the capture of Dunkirk, Lockhart intervened successfully for the protection of the Huguenots in Nîmes.[1]

After the resignation of Richard Cromwell Lockhart was continued by the Commonwealth ambassador in France. He took part as the English plenipotentiary in the negotiations which resulted in the treaty of the Pyrenees, and immediately on its conclusion went to England, where he had an interview with George Monck. Monck assured him that he intended to support the Commonwealth, and Lockhart accordingly refused to permit Charles II to come to Dunkirk. He also, according to Clarendon, turned down French inducements to hand over Dunkirk.[1]

Under Charles II

After the Restoration Lockhart was deprived of the government of Dunkirk, but through the intercession of Middleton he was not further molested. In 1662 Dunkirk was sold to the French. He lived for some years in retirement on his Scottish estate, but finding that his former relations with Cromwell rendered him an object of suspicion to his neighbours, he took up his residence with his wife's relations in Huntingdonshire.[1]

In 1671 Lockhart was brought to court by the Earl of Lauderdale, and through his influence was sent to the courts of Brandenburg and Lunenburg to secure their neutrality or co-operation on the formation of the alliance of France against Holland. Lockhart, according to Gilbert Burnet, became very uneasy when he fathomed the negotiations in which he was engaged. He then was reappointed to the embassy in France. He died on 20 March 1676.[1]


By his first wife, Margaret, daughter of John Hamilton of Ormiston, senator of the College of Justice, Lockhart had a son, James, who died unmarried. On 2 July 1654 he married, as his second wife, Robina, daughter of John Sewster of Weston, Huntingdonshire, and a niece by her mother of Cromwell. By her, he had five sons—Cromwell, who succeeded his father, but died without issue; Julius, killed at Tangier; Richard and John, who were successively inheritors of Lee, Richard died without issue, John had a daughter also named Robina[2]; and James, who ultimately succeeded, and carried on the line of the family—and two daughters, Martha, maid of honour to Princess Mary, and Robina, married to Archibald Douglas, 1st Earl of Forfar.[1]



  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHenderson, Thomas Finlayson (1893). "Lockhart, William (1621-1676)". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 34. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 50–52.

Further reading

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