MARTEN, HENRY (1602-1680), English regicide, was the elder son of Sir Henry Marten, and was educated at University College, Oxford. As a public man he first became prominent in 1639 when he refused to contribute to a general loan, and in 1640 he entered parliament as one of the members for Berkshire. In the House of Commons he joined the popular party, spoke in favour of the proposed bill of attainder against Strafford, and in 1642 was a member of the committee of safety. Some of his language about the king was so frank that Charles demanded his arrest and his trial for high treason. When the Great Rebellion broke out Marten did not take the field, although he was appointed governor of Reading, but in parliament he was very active. On one occasion his zeal in the parliamentary cause led him to open a letter from the earl of Northumberland to his countess, an impertinence for which, says Clarendon, he was "cudgelled" by the earl; and in 1643, on account of some remark about extirpating the royal family, he was expelled from parliament and was imprisoned for a few days. In the following year, however, he was made governor of Aylesbury, and about this time took some small part in the war. Allowed to return to parliament in January 1646, Marten again advocated extreme views. He spoke of his desire to prepare the king for heaven; he attacked the Presbyterians, and, supporting the army against the parliament, he signed the agreement of August 1647. He was closely associated with John Lilburne and the Levellers, and was one of those who suspected the sincerity of Cromwell, whose murder he is said personally to have contemplated. However, he acted with Cromwell in bringing Charles I. to trial; he was one of the most prominent of the king's judges and signed the death warrant. He was then energetic in establishing the republic and in destroying the remaining vestiges of the monarchical system. He was chosen a member of the council of state in 1649, and as compensation for his losses and reward for his services during the war, lands valued at ioco a year were settled upon him. In parliament he spoke often and with effect, but he took no part in public life during the Protectorate, passing part of this time in prison, where he was placed on account of his debts. Having sat among the restored members of the Long Parliament in 1659, Marten surrendered himself to the authorities as a regicide in June 1660, and with some others he was excepted from the act of indemnity, but with a saving clause. He behaved courageously at his trial, which took place in October 1660, but he was found guilty of taking part in the king's death. Through the action, or rather the inaction of the House of Lords, he was spared the death penalty, but he remained a captive, and was in prison at Chepstow Castle when he died on the gth of September 1680. Although a leading Puritan, Marten was a man of loose morals. He wrote and published several pamphlets, and in 1662 there appeared Henry Marten's Familiar Letters to his Lady of Delight, which contained letters to his mistress, Mary Ward.
Marten's father, Sir Henry Marten (c. 1562-1641), was born in London and was educated at Winchester school and at New College, Oxford, becoming a fellow of the college in 1582. Having become a barrister, he secured a large practice and soon came to the front in public life. He was sent abroad on some royal business, was made chancellor of the diocese of London, was knighted, and in 1617 became a judge of the admiralty court. Later he was appointed a member of the court of high commission and. dean of the arches. He became a member of parliament in 1625, and in 1628 represented the university of Oxford, taking part in the debates on the petition of right.
See J. Forster, Statesmen of the Commonwealth (1840); M. Noble, Lives of the English Regicides (1798); the article by C. H. Firth in Diet. Nat. Biog. (1893); and S. R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War and History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)