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Vere, Sir Francis

VERE, SIR FRANCIS (1560-1609), English soldier, was the son of Geoffrey Vere of Crepping Hall, Essex, and nephew of the 16th earl of Oxford. He first went on active service under Leicester in 1585, and was soon in the thick of the war raging in the Low Countries. At the siege of Sluys young Vere greatly distinguished himself under Sir Roger Williams and Sir Thomas Baskerville. In 1588 he was in the garrison of Bergen-op-Zoom, which delivered itself from the besiegers by its own good fighting, and was knighted by Willoughby on the field of battle. In the next year Sir Francis became sergeantmajor-general of the English troops in the Low Countries, and soon afterwards the chief command devolved upon him. This position he retained during fifteen campaigns, with almost unbroken success. Working in close co-operation with the Dutch forces under Maurice, he step by step secured the country for the cause of independence. Vere won the reputation of being the first soldier of the day, his English troops acquired a cohesion and training fitting them to face the best Spanish troops, and his camp became the fashionable training-ground of all aspiring soldiers, amongst others not only his brother Horace, but men of such note as Ferdinando (Lord) Fairfax, Gervase Markham and Miles Standish. Sir Francis served in the Cadiz expedition of 1596, and in 1598 was entrusted with the negotiation of the treaty whereby the Dutch agreed to take a greater share of the burden of the war than they had hitherto done. His success in this task obtained him the governorship of Brill and the rank of general. The culminating point of his career came when, in 1600, on the advice of Barneveld, the states general decided to carry the war into the enemy's country. In the battle of Nieuwport (2nd July 1600), one of the most desperately contested battles of the age, Vere and Maurice completely defeated the veteran Spanish troops of the archduke Albert. This was followed by the celebrated defence of Ostend from July 1601 to March 1602. When James I. made peace with Spain, Vere retired from active service and spent the remainder of his days in country life in England, occupying himself with the compilation of his Commentaries of the Divers Pieces of Service wherein he had Command (1657; reprinted in Arber's English Garner, 1883). He died in 1609, soon after the truce recognized the independence of the United Provinces, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

His younger brother SIR HORACE VERE, BARON VERE OF TILBURY (1565-1635), began his military career as the lieutenant of Sir Francis's Company in 1590. Thenceforward he was continually on active service in the Low Countries, and, like his brother, took part in the Cadiz expedition of 1596; at Nieuwport and Ostend Sir Horace (who had been knighted at Cadiz) held command of some importance. On his brother's retirement Sir Horace, as senior colonel, assumed command of the whole English force, which he held until 1607, being opposed to Ambrosio Spinola, the most famous of the continental generals of the time, against whom he manoeuvred and fought in a manner equal to the best of his brother's, or even of Parma's, work. From 1607 to 1620 he saw but little active service except the siege of Jiilich (1610). In 1620 he accepted the command of the volunteers who were going to the assistance of the Elector Palatine. This famous expedition to the Rhine and the Main was from the first a forlorn hope. Opposed by his old adversary Spinola, Vere manoeuvred with success for two campaigns, but he was helpless against the armies of Tilly and Cordova, and in the end he could only furnish scanty garrisons for Frankenthal, Heidelberg and Mannheim. Each of these places fell after a desperate resistance, and their garrisons returned to England. In 1624 Vere was once more on service in the United Provinces. The attempted relief of Breda in the following year was considered one of the most brilliant feats of the time, and the general was made Baron Vere of Tilbury. In 1629 the sieges of Bois-le-duc (s'Hertogenbosch) and of Maestricht closed his military career. Lord Vere died suddenly in 1635 and was buried by the side of his brother in Westminster Abbey.

See Clements C. Markham, The Fighting Veres (London, 1888).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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