John Lisle, 1610-64

Lawyer and regicide who escaped abroad at the Restoration but was murdered by a Royalist in Lausanne.

The eldest surviving son of Sir William Lisle of Wootton on the Isle of Wight, John Lisle was educated at Oxford and the Middle Temple and was called to the bar in 1633. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Lord Chief Justice Hobart, then after her death in 1636 he married another rich heiress, Alice Beconshaw (who as Alice Lisle became a famous martyr for aiding the rebels of Monmouth's Rebellion in 1683).

Lisle was elected MP for Winchester during the Short and Long Parliaments and was active on the Hampshire county committee during the First Civil War. In Parliament, he was chairman of the committee that investigated Cromwell's allegations against the Earl of Manchester in December 1644. He also chaired the committee that framed the ordinance to create the New Model Army early in 1645. Lisle voted against continuing negotiations with the King after the Second Civil War (1648) and was appointed a commissioner of the High Court of Justice for the trial of the King in January 1649. He sat beside Lord-President Bradshaw during the trial to advise him on points of law. He also helped to draw up the sentence, but he was not a signatory of the King's death warrant.

At the establishment of the Commonwealth, Lisle was one of the commissioners who framed the new republican constitution. He sat on the five-man committee appointed to select members of the Council of State, and in February 1649 he was made a commissioner of the Great Seal. Lisle was active as a law reformer, but he also gained a reputation for acquisitiveness and sharp practice.

Lisle continued to hold high office after Cromwell's dissolution of the Rump Parliament in April 1653, and administered the oath of office when Cromwell became Lord Protector. He supported the offer of the Crown to Cromwell and was appointed to the controversial Upper House in December 1657. Lisle acted as President of the High Court of Justice when it was reconvened in May 1658 for the trial of ringleaders of a Royalist conspiracy against the Protectorate, several of whom were executed. When the Rump Parliament was restored in May 1659, he was dismissed from most of his lucrative offices. He escaped abroad at the Restoration and settled at Lausanne in Switzerland with other exiled republicans.

In August 1664, as he was leaving a church service at Lausanne, Lisle was shot dead by an Irish Royalist known as Thomas MacDonnel.


Timothy Venning, John Lisle, Oxford DNB, 2004