Isaac Dorislaus, 1595-1649

Dutch-born advocate who drew up the indictment against King Charles. He was murdered by Royalists while on a diplomatic mission to the Netherlands.

Portrait of Isaac DorislausBorn at Alkmaar in Holland, Isaac Dorislaus was the son of a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. He was educated at Leiden and married Elizabeth Pope of Maldon in Essex around 1622. He lived in his father's Leiden household until 1627 when Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, appointed him the first incumbent of his newly founded history lectureship at Cambridge. Dorislaus gave only two lectures before his Calvinist, anti-monarchical views brought him into conflict with the university authorities, who prohibited him from giving any further lectures.

In 1629, Dorislaus was admitted to the College of Advocates. For the next ten years, he practised legal advocacy in London. During the First Civil War, he was involved in the prosecution of Royalist conspirators, and in 1648 he accompanied Walter Strickland on a diplomatic mission to the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The intelligence reports sent back by Dorislaus were highly regarded in London.

In January 1649, Dorislaus was appointed a legal adviser to the High Court of Justice and helped to draw up the charges against King Charles I. After the King's execution, Dorislaus was sent as Commonwealth envoy to The Hague where he attempted to open negotiations for an alliance between the United Provinces and England.

On 2 May 1649, a group of Royalists led by Walter Whitford, son of the Bishop of Brechin, burst into the inn where Dorislaus was lodging and stabbed him to death. His assassins were never brought to justice, which became a point of contention between the English Commonwealth and the United Provinces.

Dorislaus was given a state funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey. After the Restoration, his remains were moved to St Margaret's churchyard.


Margo Todd, Isaac Dorislaus, Oxford DNB, 2004


With thanks to Andreas Pechtl for the portrait of Isaac Dorislaus