Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lisle, George

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LISLE, Sir GEORGE (d. 1648), royalist, is described by one royalist writer as ‘the son of an honest bookseller,’ and by another as ‘extracted from a genteel family in Surrey’ (Lloyd, Memoirs of Excellent Personages, 1668, p. 478; Heath, New Book of Loyal English Martyrs, p. 137). His father was Lawrence Lisle, who married a near kinswoman of the first Duke of Buckingham, and obtained the monopoly of viewing and repairing arms in England, a lease of the right to collect the imposts on tobacco and tobacco-pipes, and is said to have lost 12,000l. in the king's cause (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619–23 p. 161, 1629–31 p. 290, 1660–1 p. 396; Laud, Works, vi. 496, vii. 341). Lisle had his military education in the Netherlands, and entered the king's service early in the civil war. At the first battle of Newbury, as lieutenant-colonel, he ‘bravely led up the forlorn hope,’ and was wounded (Mercurius Aulicus, 20 Sept. 1643). He played an important part at the battle of Cheriton (29 March 1644) (Gardiner, Great Civil War, i. 380). During the king's campaign in the west Lisle commanded one of the three divisions of his infantry (Symonds, Diary of the Marches of the Royal Army during the Great Civil War, p. 160). At the second battle of Newbury he commanded the division which bore the brunt of Manchester's attack. ‘We profess,’ says ‘Mercurius Aulicus,’ ‘it troubles us; we want language to express his carriage, for he did all things with so much courage, cheerfulness, and present dispatch, as had special influence on every common soldier, taking particular care of all except himself. He gave the rebels three most gallant charges: in the first his field-word was “For the Crown” … in the second, “For Prince Charles” … in the third, “For the Duke of York” … In which service the colonel had no armour on besides courage, and a good cause, and a good holland shirt; for as he seldom wears defensive arms, so now he put off his buff doublet, perhaps to animate his men, that the meanest soldier might see himself better armed than his colonel, or because it was dark that they might better discern him from whom they were to receive both direction and courage’ (Mercurius Aulicus, 28 Oct. 1644; cf. Military Memoirs of John Gwynne, 1822, pp. 45–56).

In the winter of 1644–5 Lisle became governor of Faringdon, and complains bitterly to Rupert that the place was but one-third fortified, and entirely unprovisioned (Rupert MSS.) In April 1645 he was created honorary D.C.L. by the university of Oxford (Wood, Fasti, ed. 1721, ii. 50). He commanded a division in the king's marching army during the campaign of 1645, took part in the storming of Leicester, and was appointed lieutenant-general of Leicestershire under Lord Loughborough (Symonds, Diary, pp. 166, 180, 184). Lisle was present at Naseby, and the plan of that battle shows his ‘tertia’ stationed on the king's left centre (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, 1854, p. 39). He was knighted by Charles at Oxford on 21 Dec. 1645, and is described as being then master of the king's household (Walkeley, New Cat. of Dukes, Knights, &c., 1658, p. 167). His garrison at Faringdon was besieged by Sir Robert Pye in May 1646, capitulated at the same time as Oxford (20 June), and was allowed the same terms (Sprigge, pp. 258, 267, 276).

In the winter of 1647 Lisle obtained leave to come up to London to compound for his estate, and seems to have busied himself in getting together men for a new rising (Cal. of Co. for Advance of Money, p. 948; Cal. of Compounders, p. 1654). At the beginning of June 1648 he is described as one of the ‘ringleaders’ of the insurrection in Kent, and he played an important part in the defence of Colchester (Rushworth, vii. 1135; Carter, A True Relation of the Expedition of Kent, Essex, and Colchester, pp. 151, 155, 206). The town surrendered on 28 Aug. Lisle and the rest of the leaders were obliged ‘to render themselves to mercy,’ and a council of war called by Fairfax fixed on Lisle, with Sir Charles Lucas and Sir Bernard Gascoigne, to be put to death by martial law. Fairfax explained to the parliament that it was done ‘for some satisfaction to military justice, and in part of avenge for the innocent blood they have caused to be spilt’ (Rushworth, vii. 1243). Lisle being considered a ‘mere soldier of fortune,’ it was thought that a council of war might deal with him, when persons of political importance, such as the peers taken prisoners with him, were reserved for the judgment of parliament (Fairfax, Short Memorial; Maseres, Select Tracts, p. 450). He was accordingly shot on the afternoon of 28 Aug., and met his fate with undaunted courage. ‘I should have thought myself a happy person,’ said he, ‘if I could live to have a larger time of repentance, and to see the king, my master, on his throne again. I was confident my own innocency in this action would have rendered me very clear from any such punishment’ (Clarke MSS. lii. f. 43; Gardiner, Great Civil War, iii. 460).

Lisle was buried with Sir Charles Lucas in the vault of the Lucas family in St. Giles's Church, Colchester [see Lucas, Sir Charles]. At the Restoration his sister, Mary Lisle, petitioned Charles II for a pension, mentioning, besides the execution of Sir George Lisle, the death of another brother, Francis Lisle, at Marston Moor, and the loss of her father, Lawrence Lisle. She was ordered 2,000l. (31 Jan. 1662), but seven years later she had only received 1,100l. out of the sum, and was ‘in great want and misery’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1 p. 396, 1661–2 p. 259; Lister, Life of Clarendon, ii. 390).

[Authorities cited above; a character of Lisle is given by Clarendon, Rebellion, xi. 108; short lives are in the collections of Heath, New Book of Loyal English Martyrs, n.d., and Lloyd's Memoirs of Excellent Personages, 1668; letters of Lisle's are among Prince Rupert's Correspondence.]

C. H. F.