Francis, Lord Willoughby of Parham, c.1613-66

Presbyterian nobleman of East Anglia who fought for Parliament during the English Civil War then declared for the King and became Royalist governor of Barbados.

Portrait of Lord Willoughby of ParhamThe son of William, third Baron Willoughby of Parham, Francis succeeded as the fifth Lord Willoughby on the death of his brother Henry in 1618. He opposed King Charles over the levying of ship-money in Lincolnshire in 1636 and was reluctant to serve the King during the Bishops' Wars (1639-40). In 1642, he defied the King's Commission of Array and mobilised the Lincoln Trained Bands to seize the county magazine for Parliament.

In January 1643, Parliament appointed Willoughby lord-lieutenant and commander-in-chief in Lincolnshire. The following July, he surprised the Royalist garrison at Gainsborough and captured the town. Despite the efforts of Colonel Cromwell and Sir John Meldrum, however, the Parliamentarians were driven out of Gainsborough and Willoughby withdrew to Boston.

In September 1643, Lincolnshire was added to the Eastern Association, under the command of Edward Montagu, Earl of Manchester. Willoughby joined Manchester just before the battle of Winceby during the Eastern Association's campaign to recapture Lincolnshire for Parliament. On 14 November, Bolingbroke Castle surrendered to him. In March 1644, Willoughby joined forces with Sir John Meldrum in an attempt to capture the Royalist stronghold of Newark. The failure of the siege was partly attributed to the refusal of Willoughby's troops to accept orders from Meldrum. Oliver Cromwell also complained to the House of Commons about the conduct of Willoughby's men. Willoughby himself resented the Earl of Manchester's authority over him. During a quarrel, he challenged Manchester to a duel, for which he was rebuked by the House of Lords and ordered to apologise.

Presbyterian Leader

By 1647, Willoughby had emerged as a leader of the Presbyterian faction in the House of Lords. He was elected Speaker of the Lords in July 1647 after Independent MPs and peers fled from Westminster as the Presbyterians prepared to defy the New Model Army. When the Army occupied London, Willoughby was one of seven peers impeached in September 1647. The seven lords were imprisoned until January 1648, then released on bail because no charges had been brought against them. When the House of Commons presented its charges in February, Willoughby fled to the Netherlands and openly declared for the King.

Despite the fact that he had never been to sea, Willoughby was appointed vice-admiral to the Prince of Wales in the fleet that defected to the Royalists during the naval revolt of 1648. The appointment was politically expedient, however, and was welcomed by the Scots and Presbyterians. The Prince commissioned Willoughby to command East Anglia in his projected invasion of England during the Second Civil War, but in November 1648, after the failure of the plan, Willoughby resigned his naval commission to Prince Rupert.

When his estates in England were confiscated by Parliament, Willoughby left Europe for the West Indies, where he had investments and, through his association with the Earl of Carlisle, a claim to proprietary rights of the Caribbean colonies. Charles II upheld his claim and in 1650 appointed him governor of Barbados.

Governor of Barbados

Willoughby arrived on Barbados in May 1650. He proclaimed Charles II and attempted to reconcile the interests of the King with those of the Barbadian planters and merchants. Although his governorship was eventually accepted by the Assembly of Barbados, Willoughby's negotiations with London failed. In October 1651, a Commonwealth squadron commanded by Sir George Ayscue arrived to subjugate the island. After a blockade of nearly three months duration, Ayscue persuaded moderate Barbadian leaders to defect to the Commonwealth; Willoughby was forced to come to terms in January 1652. The treaty was generous: in exchange for surrendering Barbados and acknowledging the sovereignty of the Commonwealth, Willoughby's estates in England were restored to him. He returned to England in August 1652.

Willoughby was imprisoned twice during the Protectorate for involvement in Royalist conspiracies. After the Restoration, he was restored to the governorship of Barbados (August 1663) — despite opposition from many colonists, one of whom tried to assassinate him in 1665. Willoughby attempted to establish new English colonies at Surinam and on the island of St Lucia, though neither were successful. He defended the West Indian colonies against England's enemies, repulsing an attack on Barbados by the Dutch in April 1665. Lord Willoughby was lost at sea leading an expedition against the French on St Kitts in July 1666.

Lord Willoughby married Elizabeth Cecil (d. 1661), daughter of Edward Cecil, first Viscount Wimbledon, in 1628 or '29. They had four daughters and one son who died in 1661. He was succeeded as sixth Baron Willoughby of Parham by his brother William (1615-73), who also took over the governorship of Barbados for the remainder of his brother's term.


C.H. Firth, Francis, fifth baron Willoughby of Parham, DNB, 1900

Michael A. LaCombe, Francis, fifth baron Willoughby of Parham, Oxford DNB, 2004