Holmes, Abraham (DNB00)

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HOLMES, ABRAHAM (d. 1685), rebel, served in Scotland under Monck, holding a major's commission in 1654, but, falling under suspicion of disaffection, was sent to London to be under the Protector's eye (16 Dec.) He was a fanatical anabaptist, and apparently opposed to all settled government. He was again in Scotland with Monck in 1659, and signed (17 May) a petition to parliament praying that energetic steps might be taken to countenance godliness, and vindicate the rights and liberties of the nation. Soon after this his commission was cancelled by Monck. Upon the Restoration he became the ringleader in a conspiracy to assassinate the king, was arrested, and was committed to prison (10 May 1660), but soon regained his liberty, and resumed his old devices. On 13 Sept. 1662 a warrant was issued to apprehend him and bring him before Secretary Nicholas. In April 1664 he was committed to Windsor Castle, where he was still in confinement in September 1667. He was at large in 1681, and on Argyll's escape from prison in December of that year Holmes harboured him at his lodgings in London, disclosing himself as the officer who had arrested him when Lord Lorne, but adding ‘but now we are upon one side, and I will venture all that is dear to me to serve you’ (see Campbell, Archibald, ninth Earl of Argyll; Wodrow, Hist. of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, ed. Burns, iii. 338). On Argyll's going to Holland, Holmes acted as his agent in London, and fell under suspicion of complicity in the Rye House Plot. On 28 June 1683 he was arrested and committed to the Gatehouse. Next day he was examined as to the contents of certain cipher letters found in his possession, and confessed that they related to a plot to raise an insurrection in Scotland, to which Argyll, Monmouth, Russell, and Grey were parties. He was charged with high treason, but was not brought to trial. It is not clear whether he was released or made his escape, but he was in Holland with Monmouth in 1685, accompanied him to England, and, though apparently holding only a colonel's commission, commanded a battalion of foot at Sedgemoor (6 July). After the battle he was taken prisoner, stripped naked, and carried to the house of a justice of the peace, who clothed and committed him for trial. One of his arms had been shattered in the skirmish at Philip's Norton on 27 June, and he cut it off himself in the justice's kitchen with a carving knife. He was tried by Jeffreys for high treason at Dorchester, pleaded guilty, and was executed at Lyme on 12 Sept. The bystanders observed with superstitious awe that the horses that were first put to the sledge to carry him to the gallows could not be made to stir, and those with which they were replaced broke it in pieces. At the foot of the ladder he sat down, and asserted in a speech to the people that he and others had risked their lives for the maintenance of the protestant religion (Western Martyrology, ed. 1873, reprinted from the edition of 1705, pp. 207 et seq.)

[Thurloe State Papers, iii. 46; Whitelocke's Mem. p. 679; Baillie's Letters (Bann. Club), iii. 438–9; Nicoll's Diary (Bann. Club), p. 285; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1 p. 269, 1661–2 p. 487, 1663–4 p. 542, 1667 p. 459; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. 633, 7th Rep. App. 364, 9th Rep. pt. iii. App. 5 a; Dalrymple's Memoirs, 2nd ed. i. 142; Sprat's Horrid Conspiracy, 3rd ed. 1686, pp. 110–11, App. 30; Fountainhall's Hist. Notices (Bann. Club), ii. 471, 546, 553; Hist. Observes (Bann. Club), pp. 188, 206; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs, i. 352; Fox's Hist. of the Reign of James II, ed. Bohn, p. 428; Lord Lonsdale's Mem. of the Reign of James II, p. 456; Toulmin's Hist. of Taunton, ed. Savage, pp. 448, 536; Inderwick's Side-Lights on the Stuarts, p. 400; Macaulay's Hist. of England, i. 647.]

J. M. R.