Shirley, Robert (1629-1656) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 52
Shirley, Robert (1629-1656)

by Edward Irving Carlyle
1904 Errata appended.

SHIRLEY Sir ROBERT (1629–1656), fourth baronet, royalist, born in 1629, was the second son of Sir Henry Shirley, second baronet, of Eatington in Warwickshire, and of Staunton Harrold in Leicestershire. His grandfather, Sir George Shirley, was created a baronet in 1611 on the institution of the order. His mother Dorothy was the second daughter of Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex [q. v.] Although the Shirley family had remained catholic, Robert was educated by his mother in the protestant faith. On 12 Aug. 1645 he was admitted a fellow commoner of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Register of Admissions).

In the following year, on the death of his brother, Sir Charles Shirley, he succeeded to the baronetcy and estates under the wardship of his uncle, the Earl of Essex. Almost immediately, contrary to the advice of his guardian and family, he married Katherine, daughter of Humphrey Okeover of Okeover, Staffordshire.

On 14 Sept. 1646 his mother's brother, the Earl of Essex, died intestate, and Shirley succeeded to a moiety of his estates, including Chartley in Staffordshire, property at Newcastle-under-Lyne, the tenements in London adjoining Essex House, a rent-charge of 300l. from the Cardigan estates, and half the barony of Farnham in Monaghan. Thereupon he retired to the country and took up arms for the king. In the winter of 1647–8 he was in Oxford and resided in St. John's College. After the execution of Charles I he was involved in plots for a restoration of the monarchy. On 4 May 1650 a warrant was issued for his committal to the Tower, but he was released in October on finding two securities in 5,000l. (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650, passim). He continued, notwithstanding, to engage in conspiracies against the Commonwealth (Nicholas Papers, Camden Soc. ii. 218). Arms were discovered at his dwelling in 1656 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1656–7, p. 140), and in consequence of his conduct he was several times confined in the Tower. There he died on 28 Nov. 1656, and was buried beneath the chancel of the church at Staunton Harrold, which he had rebuilt. By his will he left 1000l. for the relief of persons distressed for their loyalty to Charles I. By his wife Katherine, who died on 18 Oct. 1672, he had five children—three sons: Seymour, the fifth baronet; Sewallis, who died young; and Robert, seventh baronet and first baron Ferrers; and two daughters: Katherine, who married Peter Venables, called baron of Kinderton in Cheshire, and Dorothy, second wife of George Vernon of Sudbury in Derbyshire.

Portraits of Sir Robert and his wife are at Staunton. That of Sir Robert is attributed to Vandyck. Two other portraits of him were discovered in 1842 at the vicarage of Prees in Shropshire. There are also portraits of both husband and wife—half-length—at Lord Vernon's house at Sudbury in Derbyshire.

[Stemmata Shirleiana, p. 142; Colvile's Warwickshire Worthies, p. 686; Nichols's Hist. of Leicestershire, iii. 713; Dugdale's Warwickshire, p. 619; Harl. MS. 4023, f. 79; Thurloe's State Papers, iv. 224, 439, 473, 639; Staveley's Hist. of Churches, 2nd edit. p. 143.]

E. I. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.250
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
138 i 11 Shirley, Sir Robert (1629-1666) : for father read brother
37  for Harold read Harrold