Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Goring, George (1608-1657)
GORING, GEORGE, Lord Goring (1608–1657), son of George Goring, earl of Norwich [q. v.], and Mary, second daughter of Edward Nevill, sixth lord Abergavenny, was born on 14 July 1608, and married, on 25 July 1629, Lettice, third daughter of Richard Boyle, earl of Cork (Lismore Papers, 1st ser. ii. 109). Goring early became famous as the most brilliant and prodigal of the younger courtiers. He is celebrated as ‘a jovial lad’ in two poems ‘On the Gallants of the Times’ (Wit Restored, Hotten's reprint, pp. 134, 137). Though he received a dowry of 10,000l. with his wife, his demands on his father-in-law for money were incessant (Lismore Papers, 1st ser. iii. 189, 195, 226). In 1633 Garrard wrote to Wentworth, ‘Young Mr. Goring is gone to travel, having run himself out of 8,000l., which he purposeth to redeem by his frugality abroad’ (Strafford Letters, i. 185). The persuasion of his daughter and the pressure of the lord-deputy induced the Earl of Cork to make further advances in order to purchase for Goring Lord Vere's post in the Dutch service, which gave him the rank of colonel and the command of twenty-two companies of foot and a troop of horse (ib. p. 166; Lismore Papers, 1st ser. iii. 213). Wentworth testified to his ‘frank and sweet, generous disposition,’ and warmly recommended him for the post, in which, Wentworth prophesied, he would ‘be an honour and comfort to himself and friends’ (Strafford Letters, i. 119). At the siege of Breda, in October 1637, Goring received a ‘shot in his leg near the ankle-bone’ (ib. ii. 115, 148). The wound lamed him for the rest of his life, and was one of the chief causes of his repeated complaints of ill-health during the campaign of 1645. At first it was rumoured that he was killed, and Davenant wrote a poem on his supposed death, a dialogue between Endymion Porter and Henry Jermyn, in which the latter observes that Sir Philip Sidney ‘in manners and in fate’ was his ‘undoubted type’ (Davenant, Works, ed. 1673, p. 247). On the death of Lord Wimbledon, Goring, whose wound seems to have necessitated his return to England, was appointed governor of Portsmouth, 8 Jan. 1638–1639 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1638–9, pp. 297, 335). The Earl of Cork seized the opportunity to write his son-in-law a long letter in which he congratulated him on his reconciliation with his wife, and adjured him to give up immoderate gaming (Lismore Papers, 2nd ser. v. 279). In the first Scotch war Goring commanded a regiment, and was with the Earl of Holland in the march to Kelso (ib. iv. 57, 69). Lovelace has a poem entitled ‘Sonnet to General Goring after the pacification of Berwick,’ in which he speaks of Goring's ‘glories’ as if he had already gained reputation as a soldier as well as a good fellow (Poems, ed. Hazlitt, p. 120). In the second war Goring, who had been seeking to re-enter the Dutch service, commanded a brigade as well as a regiment (Peacock, Army Lists, p. 76; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640–1, p. 546). The disputes between king and parliament afforded an opportunity which he resolved to use for his own advancement. ‘His ambition,’ says Clarendon, ‘was unlimited, and he was unrestrained by any respect to justice or good nature from pursuing the satisfaction thereof. Goring would without hesitation have broken any trust or done any act of treachery to have satisfied an ordinary passion or appetite; and, in truth, wanted nothing but industry (for he had wit and courage and understanding and ambition, uncontrolled by any fear of God or man) to have been as eminent and successful in the highest attempt in wickedness of any man in the age he lived in. And of all his qualifications dissimulation was his masterpiece’ (Rebellion, viii. 169). In March 1641 began ‘the first army plot.’ Goring took part in it, and, not content with the original project of petitioning, urged that the army should be brought up to London and the Tower seized. His aim was to obtain the post of lieutenant-general for himself. ‘If he had not a condition worthy of him,’ he would have nothing to do with the affair. An agent of the queen procured a letter from the officers in the north saying that they would ‘heartily embrace’ Goring as their commander (Husband, Collection of Orders, &c. 1643, pp. 219, 222). Finding, however, that his brother-officers in London rejected his plans, he informed the parliamentary leaders of the plot through the Earl of Newport [see Blount, Mountjoy]. The discovery of this treachery led to a quarrel between him and those he had betrayed. Wilmot charged him with perjury for breaking his oath of secrecy, on which the commons voted that Goring had done nothing contrary to justice and honour; that he deserved very well of the Commonwealth (9 June), and prohibited him from fighting either Wilmot or Ashburnham (8 July) (Old Parliamentary Hist. ix. 334, 437). Goring was twice examined concerning the plot, but his real share in it appears more plainly in the letter of Henry Percy to the Earl of Northumberland than in his own accounts (Perfect Diurnal, p. 150; The Examination and Declaration of Col. Goring; Husband, Collection of Orders, &c. 1643, pp. 215–32).
Though he did not altogether escape suspicion, the parliament now regarded him as irremediably attached to their cause, and sent him back to his command at Portsmouth with complete confidence. Before the end of the year, however, he ‘wrought upon the king and queen to believe that he so much repented that fault that he would redeem it by any service,’ and in January 1642, when the king first meditated a recourse to arms, Portsmouth played a large part in his calculations (Gardiner, Hist. of England, x. 154). In November 1641 he was accused of corresponding with the queen and other suspicious acts, but cleared himself by a plausible speech in the House of Commons (ib. x. 73; Clarendon, v. 440). He obtained 3,000l. from the queen to reinforce the garrison, and a supply of money and his arrears of pay from the parliament. It was even intended to appoint him lieutenant-general of the horse under Essex. Finally, on 2 Aug., earlier than he had originally intended, he openly declared for the king (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, p. 179; Clarendon, v. 441). But in spite of the money Goring had received Portsmouth was weakly garrisoned and badly fortified; and it was immediately blockaded both by land and sea. The surrender took place early in September 1642; the reasons are stated in a paper drawn up by Goring and his officers (Lismore Papers, 2nd ser. v. 107; Clarendon, Rebellion, vi. 2, 32). Goring now went to Holland, where he busied himself in recruiting for the king among the English regiments serving there. He returned to England in December and landed at Newcastle with a number of officers and veteran soldiers (Husband, Collection of Orders, &c., 1643, pp. 797, 813). The Earl of Newcastle made him general of his horse, and he at once distinguished himself by routing Sir Thomas Fairfax at Seacroft Moor, near Leeds, on 30 March 1643 (Mercurius Aulicus, 4 April 1643). On 21 May, however, Wakefield was stormed by Sir Thomas Fairfax, and Goring, who was in command, taken prisoner. When the parliamentarians entered the town, he was in bed ill of a fever, but mounted his horse, headed a charge, and showed both courage and presence of mind (ib. 28 May; Rushworth, v. 268). Most of the next nine months Goring spent in the Tower, but was finally exchanged for the Earl of Lowthian in April 1644 (Dugdale, Diary, 2 April 1644). On 10 May he was despatched from Oxford with a regiment of horse, and, joining the cavalry of Lord Newcastle's army, made an unsuccessful attempt to raise the siege of Lincoln. He next made his way into Lancashire and united with Prince Rupert at Preston (Robinson, Discourse of the War in Lancashire, p. 54; Rushworth, v. 620). At the battle of Marston Moor Goring commanded the left wing of the royalists, routed the cavalry opposed to him, and was himself routed by Cromwell as he returned to the field with his victorious troops. ‘If his men had but kept together as did Cromwell's, and not dispersed themselves in pursuit, in all probability it had come to a drawn battle at worst, and no great victory to be boasted on either side’ (Cholmley, Memorials touching the Battle at York). Goring and his beaten troops fled into Lancashire, where they distinguished themselves by their plunderings (Robinson, p. 56). His career up to this time had been unfortunate, but he had shown considerable ability as a leader, and was now called south to take a more important command. On 8 Aug. 1644, at Liskeard, Goring was declared lieutenant-general of the horse in the king's main army in place of his old enemy Wilmot (Walker, Historical Discourses, p. 57). Clarendon seizes the opportunity to contrast the characters of the two, after the manner of Plutarch, and attributes to Goring the sharper wit and the keener courage, but less self-control and a greater love of debauchery (Rebellion, x. 169). He imputes entirely to Goring's negligence the escape of Essex's cavalry when the foot were obliged to surrender. The notice of their escape and the order to pursue ‘came to Goring,’ according to Clarendon, ‘when he was in one of his jovial exercises … and he continued his delights till all the enemy's horse were passed through his quarters, nor did he then pursue them in any time’ (viii. 116). Though the charge has been generally accepted, it hardly deserves the credit it has obtained. No contemporary authority mentions Goring's drunkenness on this occasion, it is not proved that Goring was negligent in the pursuit of the parliamentary horse, and it is certain that they did not pass through his quarters. Goring gives a brief account of the pursuit in a letter to Prince Rupert (Sussex Archæological Collections, xxiii. 323). During the remainder of the campaign of 1644 his chief exploits were the beating up of Waller's quarters at Andover on 18 Oct., and a very gallant and successful charge at the second battle of Newbury (Walker, Historical Discourses, pp. 106, 112; Diary of Richard Symonds, p. 141). On 6 Nov. 1644 Prince Rupert was appointed commander-in-chief, and though Goring professed the greatest affection for Rupert (Warburton, Prince Rupert, iii. 16), he began from that moment to intrigue for an independent command. He owed his present post mainly to Digby, with whom he had now contracted a fast friendship, ‘either of them believing he could deceive the other and so with equal passion embracing that engagement’ (Clarendon, Rebellion, viii. 95, 180). The results of these intrigues were in the highest degree disastrous to the king's cause. In December 1644 Goring was sent into Hampshire ‘upon a design of his own of making an incursion into Sussex, where he pretended he had correspondence, and that very many well-affected persons promised to rise and declare for the king, and that Kent would do the same’ (ib. ix. 7). A commission was at the same time granted to him as lieutenant-general of Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey, and Kent (21 Dec. 1644, Black, Oxford Docquets, p. 244). In pursuance of this design he advanced as far as Farnham, attacked Christchurch, and was repulsed, and then took up his winter quarters at Salisbury. He laid the blame of his ill-success on the defects of his army and the disobedience of his officers, and used these pretexts to obtain greater independence and larger powers (Warburton, iii. 46, 52). In February he was ordered into Dorsetshire to assist in the capture of Weymouth, but negligently allowed it to be recaptured by the parliamentarians. In the same way he failed to prevent the relief of Taunton, though he succeeded in inflicting a number of trifling defeats on Waller. Some attributed these miscarriages to a fixed plan to make the presence of his forces in the west indispensable (Clarendon, ix. 21). In March Prince Charles arrived at Bristol to take command of the west, and disputes at once began between Goring and his councillors. It was speedily discovered that Goring aimed at ousting Hopton from his command, and becoming himself lieutenant-general of the western army (ib. ix. 20). The history of the disputes between Goring and the prince's council, disputes which paralysed the western army throughout 1645, is told in detail by Clarendon in the ninth book of his ‘History of the Rebellion.’ This portion of his narrative was written in 1646, and is founded throughout on authentic documents. At the end of April Goring was summoned to Oxford with all his cavalry in order to cover the junction of Rupert and the king. Some of the king's advisers wished to strengthen the field army by retaining Goring's division, a course which might possibly have altered the fate of the campaign. Rupert, however, ‘was jealous of having a rival in the command, and feared Goring, who had the master wit, and had by his late actions gotten much reputation’ (Walker, p. 126). Accordingly he was sent back to the west with authority which, thanks to Lord Digby, was greatly increased. Commissions were to run in his name, he was to have a seat in the prince's council, and the council was to have the power of advising, but not of ordering him (Clarendon, Rebellion, ix. 31). On 14 May he was further authorised to command in chief all the forces in the west (ib. 43). Hardly, however, had Goring returned to the blockade of Taunton when he was summoned either to join the king or to raise the siege of Oxford (Cal. Clarendon Papers, i. 266). Goring promised to come as soon as he had reduced Taunton, and begged the king to avoid an engagement till he was able to join him, but his letter was intercepted by Fairfax (Bulstrode, Memoirs, p. 125; Rushworth, vi. 49). After Naseby Fairfax marched west, and Goring was obliged to raise the siege of Taunton, and give battle at Langport in Somersetshire, where he was defeated with the loss of a large part of his infantry (10 July 1645). He then retired into North Devonshire, where he remained completely idle, making no attempt to reorganise his troops, and permitting Fairfax to capture fortress after fortress without opposition. His time was spent partly in ‘jollity’ and debauchery, partly in disputes with his subordinates and the prince's council. He demanded full power to command all forces in the west, and though the demand was not unreasonable, his conduct made it impossible to trust him so far. The remonstrances of the prince and his councillors were entirely unheeded, nor would he obey the king's orders to break through and join him at Oxford. At length, on 20 Nov., he wrote to the prince begging leave to go to France for two months for the recovery of his health. Without waiting for a reply he set sail for Dartmouth. He was really suffering in health, both from his old wound and from the effects of his debauches, but he also hoped to return in command of the foreign forces which the queen was endeavouring to raise (Gardiner, Great Civil War, ii. 427). While he lingered in France the king's army in the west surrendered to Fairfax (March 1646). Goring now went to the Netherlands, and obtained the command of the English regiments in Spanish service, with the title of colonel-general, and a pension of six hundred crowns a month. This post was given to him on account of the services of Lord Norwich in promoting the treaty of 1648 between France and Spain (Carte, Original Letters, i. 387; The Declaration of Col. Anthony Weldon, 1649, p. 28). He seems, however, to have found his command merely an empty title, and in March 1650 went to Spain in hope of obtaining some assistance for Charles II and his own arrears of pay (Carte, Original Letters, i. 359). In 1652 he was at the siege of Barcelona (Sussex Arch. Coll. xix. 98). According to Dugdale, Goring while in Spain was ‘lieutenant-general under John de Silva, and finding him corrupted by Cardinal Mazarin he took him prisoner at the head of his army, whereupon that great don had judgment of death passed upon him’ (Baronage, p. 461). In 1655 he wrote to Charles II from Madrid apologising for four years' silence and offering his services (Thurloe, i. 694). Sir Henry Bennet found him at Madrid in July 1657, very ill and very destitute, and the news of his death reached Hyde a month later (Cal. Clarendon Papers, iii. 317, 352). Dugdale, from whom many others have copied the story, represents him as assuming in his last days the habit of a Dominican friar (Baronage, p. 461).
Goring had undoubtedly considerable ability as a general; he possessed courage and fertility of resource, and he had a keen eye for the opportunities of a battle-field. ‘He was, without dispute,’ says Sir Richard Bulstrode, ‘as good an officer as any served the king, and the most dexterous in any sudden emergency that I have ever seen’ (Memoirs, p. 134). There was ‘a great difference,’ adds Clarendon, ‘between the presentness of his mind and vivacity in a sudden attempt, though never so full of danger, and an enterprise that required more deliberation and must be attended with patience and a steady circumspection, as if his mind could not be long bent’ (Rebellion, ix. 102).[Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion, ed. Macray; Clarendon State Papers; Warburton's Prince Rupert, 1849; State Papers, Dom.; Memoirs of Sir Richard Bulstrode, 1721; Sir Edward Walker's Historical Discourses, 1705.]