Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rainborow, Thomas
RAINBOROW, RAINBOROWE, or RAINSBOROUGH, THOMAS (d. 1648), soldier, was the son of Captain William Rainborow [q. v.] One sister, Martha, married Governor John Winthrop [q. v.], and Judith, another sister, married Governor Winthrop's fourth son, Col. Stephen Winthrop. A brother William was major in the parliamentary army. Thomas was brought up to the sea. At the outbreak of the civil war he served in the parliamentary fleet, is mentioned as commander of the Swallow, a ship of 34 guns, in 1643, and captured a ship conveying reinforcements to the king (Penn, Memorials of Sir William Penn, i. 66; Commons' Journals, iii. 137). Rainborowe next assisted Lord Fairfax in the defence of Hull, and was taken prisoner in the sally which forced the Marquis of Newcastle to raise the siege. On this occasion he is described as colonel, and he now definitely entered the land service (ib. iii. 302; Report on the Portland MSS. i. 138). In December 1644 he recaptured Crowland (Vicars, Burning Bush, p. 76). The regiment which he raised in the Earl of Manchester's army was largely officered by returned emigrants from New England (Winthrop, History of New England, ii. 300). At the formation of the new model army Rainborowe was given the command of a regiment. On 1 June 1645 he captured Gaunt House, near Oxford. He fought at Naseby and at the sieges of Bridgwater, Sherborne, and Bristol; took Nunney Castle on 20 Aug. and Berkeley Castle on 25 Sept. In December 1645 Rainborowe's regiment was sent to blockade Oxford, and on 26 April 1646 Woodstock surrendered to him (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, ed. 1854, pp. 25, 41, 77, 100, 116, 130, 174, 253). Charles attempted to utilise the negotiations for the surrender of Woodstock to treat for his own reception by the army, but Rainborowe refused to meddle, and simply reported the king's proposals to the speaker (Archæologia, xlvi. 18). After the capitulation of Oxford, Rainborowe was charged to besiege Worcester, and was recommended by Fairfax to parliament to be made governor of that city (Sprigge, p. 291; Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 137).
In 1646 Rainborowe entered the House of Commons as member for Droitwich. In May 1647 parliament appointed him to command the forces designed for the recovery of Jersey, but at the end of the month his regiment mutinied and joined the rest of the army in the opposition to disbandment (ib. i. 221; Commons' Journals, v. 159, 184, 193; Clarke Papers, i. 105). When the army marched on London, Rainborowe commanded the forces which occupied Southwark (Rushworth, vii. 750, 752). In the political discussions held in the council of the army he was the leader of the republican section among the officers, opposed any further negotiations with the king, and advocated manhood suffrage. The ‘honest men of England,’ he argued, had fought for their liberties, and at any risk it was the army's duty to secure them those liberties. ‘It is a poor service,’ he said, ‘to God and the kingdom to take their pay and decline their work’ (ib. vol. i. pp. lxxiv, 246, 320). At the rendezvous at Ware (15 Nov. 1647) Rainborowe was active in promoting the agreement of the people, and on the complaint of Fairfax was summoned by the commons to answer for his conduct. Two months earlier (27 Sept. 1647) he had been appointed vice-admiral, and ordered to take command at once of the ships appointed for the winter guard; but his political escapades hindered his employment. On 10 Dec. the House of Commons, by 61 to 58 votes, negatived a proposal for his despatch to sea. At the end of the month a general reconciliation took place among the opposing factions in the army. Rainborowe expressed penitence, and promised, according to report, to be henceforth guided by Cromwell and Ireton. At the desire of the council of the army Fairfax urged the commons to send him to sea, and on 24 Dec. the House, by 88 to 66 votes, reversed its former order. The lords still resisted, but the commons overrode their opposition, and on 1 Jan. 1648 Rainborowe proceeded to his command (Commons' Journals, v. 378, 403; Rushworth, vii. 943; Thurloe Papers, i. 96).
Rainborowe's vice-admiralship lasted only five months. He was accused of being rough and imperious, and he was unpopular as having deserted the sea for the land service. Of his officers many were hostile to him as a nominee of the independents and a reputed adherent of the levellers. On 27 May the squadron lying in the Downs declared for the king, and refused to allow Rainborowe to come on board (Memorials of Sir William Penn, i. 256; Gardiner, Great Civil War, iv. 135). Parliament appointed the Earl of Warwick lord high admiral, thus practically superseding Rainborowe, and the latter returned again to his employment in the army. He took part in the siege of Colchester under Lord Fairfax: the contemporary map of the siege works shows a fort on the north side of the Colne called ‘Fort Rainsborough’ (ib. iv. 152). He was one of the commissioners who negotiated the capitulation on behalf of Fairfax (Rushworth, vii. 1244). In October 1648 Fairfax despatched Rainborowe to Yorkshire to take command of the siege of Pontefract Castle. The officer whom he superseded, Sir Henry Cholmley, complained bitterly of his supersession, and refused obedience to Rainborowe, who, retiring to Doncaster, left Cholmley to carry on the siege till parliament should determine the dispute. A party of cavaliers from Pontefract made their way through the besiegers and surprised Rainborowe in his quarters at Doncaster. Their object was to carry him off in order to exchange him for Sir Marmaduke Langdale, then a prisoner to the parliament; but he was not the man to surrender without a struggle, and was mortally wounded by his would-be kidnappers on 29 Oct. 1648. Captain Thomas Paulden [q. v.], one of the party, published many years later an account of the exploit (Somers Tracts, ed. Scott, vii. 7); contemporary accounts are collected in Mr. Peacock's ‘Life of Rainborowe’ (Archæologia, xlvi. 48).
Rainborowe's body was buried at Wapping, and his funeral was marked by a great public demonstration on the part of the levellers. Many elegies were printed demanding vengeance on the royalists for his death (The Moderate, 7–14 Nov. 1648; A New Elegy in Memory of Col. Rainsborough.) There is also a ballad entitled ‘Col. Rainsborowe's Ghost’ (Cat. of Prints in Brit. Mus., ‘Satires,’ i. 398).
Rainborowe's widow, Margaret, was granted an annuity of 200l. a year until lands should be settled by parliament on herself and her son (Commons' Journals, vi. 429; Report on the Portland MSS. i. 138). A portrait of Rainborowe is in the Sutherland collection of portraits illustrating Clarendon's ‘History’ in the Bodleian Library.[A careful memoir of Rainborowe, containing many of his letters, was contributed to Archæologia in 1881 by Mr. Edward Peacock (xlvi. 9–64). His speeches are printed in the Clarke Papers (vol. i.), Camden Society, 1891; cf. Journal of First and Second Sieges of Pontefract Castle, 1844–5 (Surtees Society, pp. 93, 108, 111, 116); Notes and Queries, 6th ser. v. 180. A pedigree of the Rainborowe family is printed in Archæologia (xlvi. 64). Both Thomas Rainborowe and his brother, Major William Rainborowe, are frequently mentioned in the Winthrop Correspondence.]