Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vere, Horace

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418599Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58 — Vere, Horace1899Thomas Seccombe (1866-1923)

VERE, Sir HORACE, Baron Vere of Tilbury (1565–1635), military commander, fourth son of Geoffrey Vere by his wife Elizabeth, and younger brother of Sir Francis Vere [q. v.], was born in 1565. He left his home at Kirby in 1590 to join his two elder brothers, Robert and Sir Francis, in the Netherlands, commencing his service in the infantry company of the latter during his tenure of office as sergeant-major-general. He was wounded during the intrepid assault by the English and Dutch soldiers upon the fortress of Steenwerk on 5 July 1592, was recommended by his brother for a company at the siege of Groningen in June 1594, and was knighted for his gallantry at the siege of Cadiz in June 1596. He commanded three hundred foot at the battle of Nieuwport under his brother, after whose retirement from the field he helped Ogle and Fairfax to rally the broken English vanguard; and at the siege of Ostend he took a conspicuous part in the repulse of the great Spanish assault on 7 Jan. 1602, being stationed (along with Sir Charles Fairfax) at a most vital point in the defences known as the 'Sandhill,' in command of twelve companies. He was badly hurt in the leg by a splinter. Early in April 1603 he was despatched by his brother with a message to the new king.

Upon the retirement of Sir Francis Vere, Sir Horace took his place in the Netherlands, though not with the same rank and powers, being at first only the senior of the four colonels of the English companies, the others being Sir John Ogle [q. v.], Sir Edward Cecil (afterwards Viscount Wimbledon [q. v.]), and Sir Edward Harwood [q. v.]

The outset of Sir Horace's individual career in the Dutch service was marked by the fall of Ostend on 24 Sept. 1604 before the great Spanish general, Ambrosio Spinola. As a makeweight to Ostend, Prince Maurice meditated the recapture of Sluys. The Spanish general opposed the advance upon the town with a force of two thousand men strongly entrenched at Damme, situated be-tween Sluys and Bruges. This force, under the Spanish general of horse, Velasco, had to be dislodged, and it was in this risky operation‒for the place had to be approached by a narrow causeway environed by swamps and stagnant water‒that Vere first won for his command the special approbation of the States-General. In July 1604 Spinola was foiled in an attempt to relieve the town, and on 20 Aug. it was surrendered (cf. Prinsterer, Archives de la Maison d'Orange-Nassau, 1e série).

The year 1605 was, owing mainly to the superior strategic skill of Spinola, the reverse of fortunate to the cause of the united provinces. At the battle of Mulheim on 9 Oct. 1605 the Dutch cavalry were completely outmanoeuvred, and several of the troops broke and fled in panic. Had it not been, in fact, for a diversion most promptly and skilfully conceived, planned, and executed by Vere, who crossed the river with four companies of infantry and kept the Spaniards at bay for over an hour, while the Dutch forces had time to rally and retreat in some order, there is little doubt that the army of the states would have been destroyed. This was the opinion expressed by Spinola, and entertained no doubt by Prince Maurice; for from this time Sir Horace became one of the most trusted and valued of his officers.

The battle of Mulheim was followed by Vere's return to England, and by his marriage in 1607. Two years later came the twelve years' truce between the united provinces and Spain. In October 1609 Sir Horace succeeded his brother as governor of the Brill (Winwood, Memorials, 1725, iii. 80). In 1609 he was promised the reversion of the mastership of ordnance after Lord Carew [see Carew, George, Baron Carew]. In 1610 he served at the siege of Juliers under Sir Edward Cecil (cf. Herbert of Cherbury, Autobiography, ed. Lee, pp. 113, 117). In 1616 he yielded up the cautionary town of Brill to the Dutch upon the repayment by them of the loans received from England, receiving a life pension of 800l. in compensation for his loss of the governorship. Two years later Sir Horace received from Maurice the governorship of Utrecht, in which city he was joined by his wife towards the close of 1618. He had previously aided the prince in disarming and suppressing the provincial levies, raised at the instance of the ill-fated Barneveldt.

In May 1620 James I was being strongly urged by popular opinion to defend the cause of his son-in-law, the elector palatine, against the catholic combination on the continent. After much hesitation James allowed Count Dohna, the palatine envoy, to levy a body of volunteers at his own cost, and to issue a circular to the whole kingdom, calling upon the gentry to imitate the example of the London citizens (who had given 10,000l. to the cause) by contributing to the expenses of an expedition (Gardiner, Hist. iii. 351; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Addenda, James I, p. 629). Dohna, as paymaster, selected the commander, and Dohna's choice fell upon Sir Horace Vere, although Vere had not even asked for the appointment. Buckingham had destined the post for Sir Edward Cecil, and, in high dudgeon, withdrew his countenance from the expedition. Such, however, was Vere's reputation as the first English soldier of the day that as soon as his appointment was known the flower of the young nobility were pressing forward for the honour of serving as subordinates under so distinguished a commander (ib. 1619–23, p. 159). Yet up to the end of June the contributions for the payment of Vere's troops came in but slowly. The whole sum which had been levied from the counties did not exceed 10,000l., and it was announced by Dohna that, even if this sum were considerably increased, he would be able to provide for a regiment of only two thousand men, instead of the four thousand for which he had hoped. When the news arrived of the treaty of Ulm (23 June) between the union of catholic princes and the league, preparing the way for a catholic invasion of the palatinate, the money came in more rapidly. On 9 July Vere went to Theobalds to take leave of the king, and on 22 July the regiment, 2,200 strong, set sail from Gravesend to Holland, whence they were to be escorted to the seat of war by a body of Dutch cavalry. The service was one of great risk. Sir Dudley Carleton wrote in August: 'We cannot yet conceive with what safety they can make into the palatinate; Spinola being before them with one army, Don Luis de Velasco in the way with another.' Vere's plan was to effect a junction with the protestant force near Mannheim, under the margrave of Anspach. He marched through Wesel into the neighbourhood of Coblenz, and then made a detour by a route through the Taunus, on the other side of which, in the valley of the Main, Spinola made an unsuccessful attempt to cut him off. Vere crossed the Main by a ford, near Frankfort, and then, by way of Darmstadt and Bensheim (there resting his troops), proceeded to Worms, where the junction of forces actually took place. Spinola now adopted Fabian tactics in the hope of wearing the enemy out, until the approach of winter compelled the English and their allies to seek quarters. Vere divided his troops among the three most important strongholds of the palatinate. He himself occupied Mannheim, Sir Gerard Herbert he stationed in Heidelberg Castle, while (Sir) John Burroughs [q. v.] undertook to defend Frankenthal. Early in 1621 the evangelical or protestant union was broken up, and the English garrisons had to relinquish all hope of effective relief. During 1621, owing to the expiration of the twelve years' truce and the withdrawal of troops to the lower Rhine, the English governors were not closely pressed. The garrison under Vere at Mannheim received a visit early in 1622 from the dethroned elector, who had promised them a diversion, and who, in conjunction with Mansfelt, had inflicted a momentary check upon the imperialist army under Tilly at Wiesloch (April). A few weeks later, however, Tilly, having been reinforced by Gonzalez de Cordova, inflicted two crushing defeats upon the protestants, and in June the elector had finally to leave Mannheim. The English garrisons were now surrounded and threatened by an overwhelming force of imperialists and Spaniards under Tilly, Cordova, and Verdugo. Vere resolved to hold out, though he knew that the military position was hopeless. On 16 Sept. the town of Heidelberg was taken by storm, and the castle, after a terrible defence for it was entirely commanded by the enemy's cannon on the Konigstuhl and neighbouring heights surrendered three days later. Sir Gerard Herbert had received a mortal wound during the siege. It was next the turn of Mannheim, where Vere, with a garrison of fourteen hundred men, without money or supplies, had to defend very extensive fortification; reduced to extremities, he retired to the citadel, but no extraneous help being forthcoming, he was forced to capitulate at the close of September, and, having marched out with the honours of war, withdrew to The Hague. Vere's defence is commemorated in George Chapman's 'Pro Vero Autumni Lachrymae . . . inscribed to the Incomparable Souldier, Sir Horatio Vere, Knight, besieged and distrest in Mainhem' (1622), in which the poet urged that aid should be sent to the relief of the distressed garrison. The defence that Burroughs made at Frankenthal, despite the antiquated character of its fortifications, was the most notable of all, for he did not surrender the place to Verdugo until 14 April 1623, and then only in response to direct orders from home. Thus ended the forlorn hope led by Vere in the cause of the 'Queen of Hearts' and the 'Winter King.'

The resolute courage displayed by Vere against enormous odds for upwards of two years was recognised in England, whither the general returned early in February 1623. It is true that his salary and expenses were never paid up in full by the treasury (5,000l. being due at the time of his death), but on 16 Feb. 1623 he was appointed master-general of the ordnance for life, and he became a member of the council of war on 20 July 1624. Upon the death of his elder brother, John, in the same year he became his residuary legatee, with the reversion of Tilbury and Kirby Hall upon the death of the widow. This same brother's illegitimate son, (Sir) John Vere, had served under the Veres in the Low Countries, became sergeant-major in Sir Horace Vere's regiment, was knighted in 1607, and died in the Netherlands in 1631.

In 1624 Sir Horace Vere repaired once more to The Hague in order to second Prince Maurice in the defence of Breda, the siege of which important fortress was commenced by Spinola in August, in defiance of the opinion of a council of war that the place was impregnable. Maurice died on 23 April 1625, and the chief action in relief of the garrison devolved upon Vere. Spinola had drawn a double line of circumvallation round the city, with strong forts at intervals; at the same time he drowned the lower lands by cutting the dykes at Terheiden, and made a stockade over the drowned meadows to hinder relief by boats. The only ways to approach the siege works from outside were by the causeways of Gertruydenburg and Sevenburg, neither exceeding about twenty-five feet in width. One of these causeways was palisaded and cut through; the other was also cut and fortified with a redoubt and breastwork. Notwithstanding these obstacles, the new stadtholder, Maurice's brother, Prince Frederic Henry, resolved to attempt the causeways, and Vere was selected to conduct this wellnigh hopeless enterprise. Taking with him some six thousand men, including three hundred pikemen led by his kinsman, the Earl of Oxford, Vere started an hour before the dawn on the morning of 13 May 1625. The English marched along the dyke with dauntless resolution, threw in fireballs, and after a sharp engagement captured the redoubt. Spinola thereupon sent strong reinforcements to the threatened point, and, after a gallant struggle and incurring a very heavy loss, the English were forced to retire, which they did in perfect order (cf. Hexham, Relation of the Famous Siege of Breda, Delft, 1637; cf. Egerton MS. 2596, f. 163). Upon his return to England that summer Vere, who now stood head and shoulders above any living Englishman in military reputation, was created Baron Vere of Tilbury (24 July 1624). The supporters granted to the peerage were dexter, a boar azure with a shield of the arms of Holland round its neck, and sinister, a harpy with a shield of the arms of Zeeland.

His next enterprise in the Netherlands was in connection with the siege of Bois-le-Duc, one of the chief military positions in Brabant, undertaken by Prince Frederic Henry in April 1629. A large number of Englishmen who were afterwards distinguished served under Vere in the trenches at Bois-le-Duc, among them Thomas Fairfax and Philip Skippon, the future organisers of the 'new model,' Jacob Astley, Thomas Glemham, the future royalist generals, Sir John Borlase, and Henry Hexham, the historian of the Dutch wars (see his Relation of the Famous Siege of Busse [Dutch 's Hertogenbosch, shortened sometimes to 's Bosch], Delft, 1630), who had learned the military art while a page to Sir Francis Vere at Ostend. Vere's distant kinsman, Sir Edward Vere, was mortally wounded in the lines on 18 Aug., a few weeks before the place was finally surrendered. Two months previously a false report had reached London that Lord Vere himself was killed. The services of the Veres in the Netherlands were closed by the siege of Maastricht, May-August 1632. Vere commanded a powerful brigade, and posted his headquarters opposite the Brussels Gate. Among those killed during the operations were Vere's kinsman, Robert, nineteenth earl of Oxford, and Sergeant-major Williamson, while among the wounded were his nephew, Sir Simon Harcourt [q. v.], and Sir Thomas Holles.

After the surrender of Maastricht, Vere returned to England. While dining with Sir Harry Vane, The Hague envoy and his diplomatic friend, at Whitehall on 2 May 1635, he was seized with an apoplectic fit and died within two hours (Strafford Letters, i. 423); he was sixty-nine at the time, and had been in good health previously, but 'no doubt,' says Fuller (Worthies, p. 331), 'he was well prepared for death, seeing such was his vigilancy that never any enemy surprised him in his quarters.' He was buried with military pomp on 8 May in Westminster Abbey, where the same tomb serves for him and his brother, Sir Francis. With his death the barony of Vere of Tilbury became extinct (Burke, Ext. Peerage, p. 553).

Vere married, in October 1607, Mary, daughter of Sir William Tracy, kt., of Toddington, Gloucestershire, and widow of William Hoby. He left issue five daughters, who were his coheirs: (1) Elizabeth, who married John Holles, second earl of Clare [q. v.], grandfather of the first Duke of Newcastle; (2) Mary, who married, first, Sir Roger Townshend, bart., of Raynham in Norfolk, whence are descended the Marquises of Townshend, and secondly, Mildmay Fane, second earl of Westmorland [q. v.]; (3) Catherine, who married, first, Oliver St. John of Lydiard Tregoze (Bolingbroke was thus her great-grandson), and, secondly, John, lord Paulet; (4) Anne, who married Sir Thomas (afterwards Lord) Fairfax [q. v.]; and (5) Dorothy, who married John Wolstenholme, eldest son of Sir John Wolstenholme, bart., of Nostell, Yorkshire (see Burke, Ext. Baronetage, 1844, pp. 578–9). Lady Vere continued to live at Clapton until the death of the widow of Lord Vere's eldest brother, John, when she succeeded to Kirby Hall, where she died on Christmas eve 1670, aged 90. For a short while in the spring of 1645, after the death of the Countess of Dorset, the king's children, Elizabeth and Henry, duke of Gloucester, were entrusted to her care. The old lady, whose religious views, according to Clarendon, were of a Dutch complexion, was much in the parliament's favour; but she was by no means ambitious of the charge, despite the handsome allowance, and managed to transfer it to the Earl and Countess of Northumberland (Green, Princesses, vi. 335 sq.)

Vere, according to Fuller, had 'more meekness and as much valour as his brother; as for his temper, it was true of him what is said of the Caspian Sea, that it doth never ebb nor flow, observing a constant tenor neither elated or depressed.' While Sir Francis was held in awe, Sir Horace is said to have been loved by his men (Biogr. Brit.), and his manner was characterised by a courtierlike deference which was lacking in his brother. Prince Maurice extended to him a cordial friendship in place of the profound though cold respect he had entertained for Sir Francis. Sir Horace was a professional soldier pure and simple; in tactical skill he was in all probability Sir Francis's superior. No other individual exploit of the 'Fighting Veres' is perhaps quite on a par with the soldierlike promptitude and self-effacement of Sir Horace's action at Mulheim. Even more than was the case with the elder brother, the fame of Sir Horace attracted pupils in the military art from all quarters. The Earl of Essex was one of his lieutenants, and the Earls of Warwick, Peterborough, and Bedford served under him, as did the valiant royalist soldiers Lords Grandison, Byron, and Goring. Fairfax, Skippon, and George Monck were also in an especial degree his pupils in the art of war.

A half-length portrait of Lord Vere by Cornelius Janssen (engraved by Vertue for Collins's 'House of Vere') is in the possession of the Marquis of Townshend, and there is a copy at Wentworth. A full-length, also attributed to Janssen, belongs to Sir H. St. John Mildmay. Two anonymous portraits (busts) are at Welbeck (Cat. Nos. 315, 513).

[The exploits of Sir Horace occupy a third portion of Sir Clements R. Markham's monograph on the 'Fighting Veres,' two-thirds of which is devoted to Sir Francis. A reproduction of the half-length portrait is given on p. 364. To the authorities given at the end of this work, and under Vere, Sir Francis, add Harl. Misc. 1813, iii. 3 sq., v. 93; Nichols's Progresses of James I, 1828, iii. 170, 516, 611, 966; Brown's Genesis of the United States, 1890, ii. 1037-8; Majendie's Castle Hedingham and the Veres; Watson's Philip III; Motley's Life of Barneveld. 1874, ii. 71; Carleton Letters, 1780, pp. 32, 44, 54, 272, 310, 487 sq.; Gindely's Thirty Years' War, 1885, chap. Vii.; Pauli's Allgemeine preussische Staats-Geschichten, Halle, 1762, iii. 502 sq.; Hennequin de Villermont's Tilly, 1859, i. 209 sq., and Ernest de Mansfeldt, 1865, chap. xvii. Some of Vere's letters to Lord Doncaster are in Egerton MSS. 2593-4.]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.270
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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238 i 16 Vere, Sir Horace, Baron Vere: for 1624) read 1625)