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ROBERT SIDNEY

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 392 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROBERT SIDNEY, 2nd earl of Leicester of the 1618 creation (1595-1677), was born on the 1st of December 1595, and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford; he was called to the bar in 1618, having already served in the army in the Netherlands during his father's governorship of Flushing, and having entered parliament as member for Wilton in 1614. In 1616 he was given command of an English regiment in the Dutch service; and having succeeded his father as earl of Leicester in 1626, he was employed on diplomatic business in Denmark in 1632, and in France from 1636 to 1641. He was then appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland in place of the earl of Strafford, but he waited in vain for instructions from the king, and in 1643 he was compelled to resign the office without having set foot in Ireland. He shared the literary and cultivated tastes of his family, without possessing the statesmanship of his uncle Sir Philip Sidney; his character was lacking in decision, and, as commonly befalls men of moderate views in times of acute party strife, he failedto win the confidence of either of the opposing parties. His sincere protestantism offended Laud, without being sufficiently extreme to please the puritans of the parliamentary faction; his fidelity to the king restrained him from any act tainted with rebellion, while his dislike for arbitrary government pre-vented him giving whole-hearted support to Charles I. When, therefore, the king summoned him to Oxford in November 1642, Leicester's conduct bore the appearance of vacillation, and his loyalty of uncertainty. Accordingly, after his resignation of the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland at the end of 1643, he retired into private life. In 1649 the younger children of the king were for a time committed tc his care at Penshurst. He took no part in public affairs during the Commonwealth; and although at the Restoration he took his seat in the House of Lords and was sworn of the privy council, he continued to live for the most part in retirement at Penshurst, where he died on the 2nd of November 1677. Leicester married, in 1616, Dorothy, daughter of Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland, by whom he had fifteen children. Of his nine daughters, the eldest, Dorothy, the " Sacharissa " of the poet Waller, married Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland; and Lucy married John Pelham, by whom she was the ancestress of the 18th-century statesmen, Henry Pelham, and Thomas Pelham, duke of Newcastle. Alger-non Sidney (q.v.), and Henry Sidney, earl of Romney (q.v.), were younger sons of the earl. Leicester's eldest son, Philip, 3rd earl (1619-1698), known for most of his life as Lord Lisle, took a somewhat prominent part during the civil war. Being sent to Ireland in 1642 in command of a regiment of horse, he became lieutenant-general under Ormonde; he strongly favoured the parliamentary cause, and in 1647 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland by the parliament. Named one of Charles I.'s judges, he refused to take part in the trial; but he afterwards served in Cromwell's Council of State, and sat in the Protector's House of Lords. Lisle stood high in Cromwell's favour, but nevertheless obtained a pardon at the Restoration. He carried on the Sidney family tradition by his patronage of men of letters; and, having succeeded to the earldom on his father's death in 1677, he died in 1698, and was succeeded in the peerage by his son Robert, 4th earl of Leicester (1649-1702), whose mother was Catherine, daughter of William Cecil, 2nd earl of Salisbury. See Sydney Papers, edited by A. Collins (2 vols., London, 1746) ; Sydney Papers, edited by R. W. Blencowe (London, 1825) containing the 2nd earl of Leicester's journal; Lord Clarendon History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (8 vols, Oxford, 1826) ; S. R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War (3 vols., London, 1886-1891). (R. J. M.)
End of Article: ROBERT SIDNEY
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