James Temple, 1606-c.1674

Sussex Independent and regicide imprisoned for life at the Restoration.

James Temple was the only surviving son of Sir Alexander Temple of Etchingham in Sussex. In 1627, he participated in the Duke of Buckingham's ill-fated expedition to the Isle of Rhé, during which his elder brother was killed. Around 1629, he married his stepsister Mary, with whom he had five sons and a daughter.

When the First Civil War broke out in 1642, Temple served as captain of a troop of horse under his uncle Viscount Saye-and-Sele in the Midlands. By December 1643, he had returned to Sussex as governor of Bramber Castle. Temple's defence of Bramber halted Lord Hopton's advance through Sussex and forced the Royalists to retreat to Arundel. He was subsequently appointed governor of Tilbury Fort in Essex.

Elected recruiter MP for Bramber in September 1645, Temple emerged as a strong Independent. During the Second CIvil War, he secured Tilbury Fort, which was of vital strategic importance against the Royalist uprisings in Kent and Essex. In January 1649, Temple was appointed to the High Court of Justice that brought King Charles to trial, and was one of the 59 signatories of the King's death warrant. With the establishment of the Commonwealth, he served on various parliamentary committees, but came under suspicion of corruption, which led to his dismissal from the governorship of Tilbury in September 1650.

Temple attempted to escape to Ireland at the Restoration in 1660, but was arrested in Warwickshire and brought to trial as a regicide. He claimed that he had sat on the High Court of Justice in order to pass information to the King's friends and that he had begged Cromwell not to execute the King. However, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Jersey, where he died around 1674.


J. T. Peacey, James Temple, Oxford DNB, 2004