Leicester, Robert Sidney, Earl Of
LEICESTER, ROBERT SIDNEY, EARL OF (1563-1626), second son of Sir Henry Sidney (<?..), was born on the 19th of November 1563, and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, afterwards travelling on the Continent for some years between 11578 and 1583. In 1585 he was elected member of parliament if or Glamorganshire; and in the same year he went with his jelder brother Sir Philip Sidney (q.v.) to the Netherlands, where he , served in the war against Spain under his uncle Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. He was present at the engagement where Sir Philip Sidney was mortally wounded, and remained with his brother till the latter's death in October 1586. After visiting Scotland on a diplomatic mission in 1588, and France on a similar errand in 1593, he returned to the Netherlands in 1596, where he rendered distinguished service in the war for the pext two years. He had been appointed governor of Flushing in 1588, and he spent much time there till 1603, when, on the (accession of James I., he returned to England. James raised him at once to the peerage as Baron Sidney of Penshurst, and he was appointed chamberlain to the queen consort. In 1605 he was created Viscount Lisle, and in 1618 earl of Leicester, the latter title having become extinct in 1 588 on the death of his uncle, whose property he had inherited (see LEICESTER, EARLS of). Leicester was a man of taste and a patron of literature, whose cultured mode of life at his country seat, Penshurst, was celebrated in verse by Ben Jonson. The earl died at Penshurst on the 13th of July 1626. He was twice married; first to Barbara, daughter of John Gamage, a Glamorganshire gentleman; and secondly to Sarah, daughter of William Blount, and widow of Sir Thomas Smythe. By his first wife he had a large family. His eldest son having died unmarried in 1613, Robert, the second son (see below), succeeded to the earldom; one of hjs daughters married Sir John Hobart, ancestor of the earls qf Buckinghamshire.
.ROBERT SIDNEY, and earl of Leicester of the 1618 creation (1595-1677), was born on the 1st of December 1595, and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford; he was called to the bar in 1618, having already served in the army in the Netherlands during his father's governorship of Flushing, and having entered parh'ament as member for Wilton in 1614. In 1616 he was given command of an English regiment in the Dutch service; and having succeeded his father as earl of Leicester in 1626, he was employed on diplomatic business in Denmark in 1632, and in France from 1636 to 1641. He was then appointed lord- lieutenant of Ireland in place of the earl of Strafford, but he waited in vain for instructions from the king, and in 1643 he was compelled to resign the office without having set foot in Ireland. He shared the literary and cultivated tastes of his family, without possessing the statesmanship of his uncle Sir Philip Sidney; his character was lacking in decision, and, as commonly befalls men of moderate views in times of acute party strife, he failed to win the confidence of either of the opposing parties. His sincere protestantism offended Laud, without being sufficiently extreme to please the puritans of the parliamentary faction; his fidelity to the king restrained him from any act tainted with rebellion, while his dislike for arbitrary government prevented him giving whole-hearted support to Charles I. When, therefore, the king summoned him to Oxford in November 1642, Leicester's conduct bore the appearance of vacillation, and his loyalty of uncertainty. Accordingly, after his resignation of the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland at the end of 1643, he retired into private life. In 1649 the younger children of the king were for a time committed tc his care at Penshurst. He took no part in public affairs during the Commonwealth; and although at the Restoration he took his seat in the House of Lords and was sworn of the privy council, he continued to live for the most part in retirement at Penshurst, where he died on the 2nd of November 1677. Leicester married, in 1616, Dorothy, daughter of Henry Percy, gth earl of Northumberland, by whom he had fifteen children. Of his nine daughters, the eldest, Dorothy, the " Sacharissa " of the poet Waller, married Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland; and Lucy married John Pelham, by whom she was the ancestress of the iSth-century statesmen, Henry Pelham, and Thomas Pelham, duke of Newcastle. Algernon Sidney (q.v.), and Henry Sidney, earl of Romney (q.v.), were younger sons of the earl.
Leicester's eldest son, Philip, 3rd earl (1610-1698), known for most of his life as Lord Lisle, took a somewhat prominent part during the civil war. Being sent to Ireland in 1642 in command of a regiment of horse, he became lieutenant-general under Ormonde; he strongly favoured the parliamentary cause, and in 1647 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland by the parliament. Named one of Charles I.'s judges, he refused to take part in the trial; but he afterwards served in Cromwell's Council of State, and sat in the Protector's House of Lords. Lisle stood high in Cromwell's favour, but nevertheless obtained a pardon at the Restoration. He carried on the Sidney family tradition by his patronage of men of letters; and, having succeeded to the earldom on his father's death in 1677, he died in 1698, and was succeeded in the peerage by his son Robert, 4th earl of Leicester (1640-1702), whose mother was Catherine, daughter of William Cecil, 2nd earl of Salisbury.
See Sydney Papers, edited by A. Collins (2 vols., London, 1746); Sydney Papers, edited by R. W. Blencowe (London, 1825). containing the 2nd earl of Leicester's journal; Lord Clarendon History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (8 vols, Oxford, 1826); S. R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War (3 vols., London, 1886-1891). (R. J. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)