Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Phayre, Robert
PHAYRE or PHAIRE, ROBERT (1619?–1682), regicide, possibly a son of Emmanuel Phaire, who in 1612 became rector of Kilshannig, co. Cork, was born about 1619, for on 24 March 1654 his age is reported as thirty-five. He came into prominence in connection with the outbreak of the second civil war. In February 1648 he held a command as lieutenant-colonel in the south of Ireland, when he was arrested, with three other officers, for refusing to join the royalist rising under Murrough O'Brien, first earl of Inchiquin [q. v.] (Carte, Life of Ormonde, iii. 356). On 4 Oct. these four were exchanged for Inchiquin's son, and brought to Bristol in December by Admiral Penn, whence Phayre made his way to London. The warrant for the execution of Charles was addressed, on 29 Jan. 1649, to Colonel Francis Hacker [q. v.], Colonel Hercules Huncks, and Lieutenant-colonel Phayre. He was present on the 30th at Whitehall when the orders were drawn up for the executioner. In April he was given command of a Kentish regiment to join Cromwell's expedition to Ireland. In November the town of Youghal capitulated to him, and he was made one of the commissioners for settling Munster. On 10 April 1650 he took part, under Broghill, in the victory at Macroom over the royalist forces under Boethius MacEgan, the Roman catholic bishop of Ross. Next year (1651) he was appointed governor of Cork county, and held this office till 1654. He was a parliamentary republican, dissatisfied with the rule of the army officers, and unfriendly to the protectorate. He seems to have retired to Rostellan Castle, co. Cork.
In 1656 Henry Cromwell reported that Phayre was attending quaker meetings. He does not appear to have become a member of the Society of Friends, though one of his daughters (by his first wife) married a Friend. It is somewhat remarkable that Phayre himself married, as his second wife, Elizabeth, second daughter of Sir Thomas Herbert (1606–1682) [q. v.], the faithful attendant on Charles I in his last hours. The marriage took place on 16 Aug. 1658 at St. Werburgh's, Dublin. On 8 July 1659 the committee of safety gave Phayre a commission as colonel of foot to serve under Ludlow in Ireland. At the Restoration he was arrested in Cork (18 May 1660), and sent prisoner to Dublin. Thence he was removed to London, and sent to the Tower in June. He doubtless owed his life, and the easy treatment he experienced, to his connection with Herbert; Clancarty, whose life he had spared, also pleaded for him. On 2 Nov. (Hacker had been hanged on 19 Oct.; Huncks had saved himself by giving evidence) he petitioned the privy council to release his estate from sequestration, and permit him to return to Ireland. This was not granted, but in December the sequestration was taken off his Irish estates, and he was given the liberty of the Tower on parole. On 3 July 1661 he was released for one month, on a bond of 2,000l.; he was not to go beyond the house and gardens of Herbert, his father-in-law, in Petty France, Westminster. On 19 July another month's absence was permitted him, with leave to go to the country for his health. On 28 Feb. 1662 he was allowed to remove to Herbert's house for three months. After this he seems to have gained his liberty. It was at this period that he made the acquaintance of Lodowicke Muggleton [q. v.], whose tenets he adopted. Some time in 1662 he brought Muggleton to Herbert's house and introduced him to his wife, who also became a convert. Their example was followed by their daughters Elizabeth and Mary, and their son-in-law, George Gamble, a merchant in Cork, and formerly a quaker.
On 6 April 1665 Phayre was living at Cahermore, co. Cork, when he was visited by Valentine Greatrakes [q. v.], the stroker, who had served in his regiment in 1649. Greatrakes cured him in a few minutes of an acute ague. In 1666 Phayre was implicated in the abortive plot for seizing Dublin Castle. Both Phayre and his family corresponded with Muggleton. Phayre's first letter to Muggleton was dated 20 March 1670; his second letter (Dublin, 27 May 1675) was sent by Greatrakes, who was on a visit to London and Devonshire.
Phayre died at the Grange, near Cork, in 1682, probably in September; he was buried in the baptist graveyard at Cork. His will, dated 13 Sept. 1682, was proved in November. By his first wife, whose name is not known (but is traditionally said to have been Gamble), he had a son, Onesiphorus, whose wife, Elizabeth Phayre, died in 1702; a daughter Elizabeth, married to Richard Farmer, and a daughter Mary, married to George Gamble. By his second wife, who was living on 25 May 1686 (the date of her last letter to Muggleton), he had three sons: Thomas (d. 1716), Alexander Herbert (d. 1752), and John, and three daughters.[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–61; Smith's Cork, 1774, i. 205, ii. 175, 178; Reeve and Muggleton's Spiritual Epistles, 1755; Supplement to the Book of Letters, 1831; Webb's Fells of Swarthmoor, 1867, pp. 95 sq.; Council Book of the Corporation of Cork (Caulfield), 1876, p. 1164; O'Hart's Irish and Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry, 1884, p. 15; Cork Historical and Archæological Journal, June 1893, pp. 449 sq.; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xii. 47, 311, 6th ser. ii. 150, iv. 235, 371; Ludlow's Memoirs, ed. Firth; extracts from family papers furnished (1871) by W. J. O'Donnovan, esq., a descendant of Onesiphorus Phayre.]