Thomas Waite, Regicide

Leicestershire lawyer who fought for Parliament and signed the King's death warrant; he was imprisoned for life at the Restoration.

Thomas Waite was born in Leicestershire and trained as a lawyer at Gray's Inn before siding with Parliament on the outbreak of civil war. He served as a captain under Lord Grey of Groby. After fighting successfully against Royalists in Northamptonshire, Waite was commissioned colonel of horse and governor of Rutland in 1644. Despite a long-running dispute with Lord Grey over his governorship, Waite was elected recruiter MP for Rutland in July 1646.

Waite served under Lord Grey again during the Second Civil War when he was involved in the suppression of Royalist insurgents in the Midlands. In August 1648, he participated in the capture of the Duke of Hamilton at Uttoxeter. He was a witness at Hamilton's trial in February 1649, where Hugh Peter accused him of lying in stating that Hamilton surrendered to Lord Grey rather than to Major-General Lambert.

Although he was not personally excluded, Waite did not approve of Pride's Purge in December 1648 and was one of the MPs who withdrew from the House of Commons in protest. However, he was appointed to the High Court of Justice in January 1649 and was a signatory of the King's death warrant.

Waite rarely attended the Rump Parliament and withdrew from public life after the establishment of the Protectorate in 1653. He purchased lands formerly belonging to the Duke of Buckingham in Rutland. In March 1654, his tenants petitioned the Council of State with complaints about his harsh treatment of them.

Brought to trial as a regicide at the Restoration, Waite pleaded that he had been forced by Cromwell and Ireton to sit on the High Court of Justice and bullied into signing the death warrant. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Waite's wife Jane unsuccessfully petitioned for his release for the sake of their five children. He was last heard of in February 1668 when he was imprisoned on Jersey. The date of his death is not known.


Sources:

Andrew J. Hopper, Thomas Waite, Oxford DNB, 2004

Blair Worden, The Rump Parliament (Cambridge 1974)