Richard Deane, 1610-53

Artillery officer in the New Model Army, he served as a General-at-Sea under the Commonwealth and was killed in action fighting the Dutch.

Portrait of Richard DeaneRichard Deane was the younger son of a merchant family of Temple Guiting in Gloucestershire and a distant relation of Oliver Cromwell. Little is known of his early life, but it seems probable that he followed a mercantile career, trading with northern Europe.

Deane was a devout Puritan and inclined to the mystical teachings of Jacob Boehme. He joined the army of the Earl of Essex at the start of the civil wars and became a distinguished artillery officer. Appointed Comptroller of Ordnance in the New Model Army, Deane commanded the artillery at Naseby and during Fairfax's campaign in the West (1645-6), where his guns played an important part in the victory at Langport and at the siege of Bristol.

In May 1647, Deane married Mary, daughter of John Grymesditch of Knottingley in Yorkshire, at the Temple Church in London. They had two daughters, Mary and Hannah.

As a loyal supporter of Oliver Cromwell, Deane was a stalwart member of the Council of Officers during the political struggles of 1647. When the radical Colonel Rainsborough was nominated to command the fleet, Deane was given command of his regiment, to Rainsborough's great annoyance. He served on Cromwell's Welsh campaign during the Second Civil War and commanded a brigade at the battle of Preston in 1648.

At the time of Pride's Purge in December 1648, Deane was entrusted to supervise the seizure of the treasuries at the Guildhall and Weavers' Hall to pay the arrears owed to the New Model Army. He played an active part in organising the trial of King Charles and did not hesitate to sign the death warrant in January 1649.

In 1649, Deane was appointed a general-at-sea with Robert Blake and Edward Popham. After co-operating with Blake and Popham in driving Prince Rupert's privateers out of the Channel, Deane convoyed Cromwell's expedition from Milford Haven to Ireland in August 1649. He returned to London with the Marquis of Ormond's correspondence captured at the battle of Rathmines and Sir George Ayscue took command of the support fleet for Cromwell's attack on Drogheda. Deane returned to command the twenty ships which carried supplies, artillery and ammunition for the subsequent attack on Wexford.

In 1650, while Blake and Popham pursued Prince Rupert to Portugal and the Mediterranean, Deane commanded the home fleet. He sent a squadron to support Cromwell's Dunbar campaign and came to Scotland himself in March 1651.

Recalled to the Army with the rank of major-general in May 1651, Deane took part in the pursuit of the Scottish army into England and played a prominent role in the battle of Worcester (September 1651). He then returned to Scotland as one of the eight commissioners appointed to settle civil government and to prepare for union with England. By April 1652, Deane was president of the commission as well as military commander in Scotland. He supervised the capture of the last Royalist strongholds in Scotland and initiated the campaign for the subjugation of the Highlands. Deane's march on the Campbell stronghold of Inverary Castle in August 1652 ensured the Marquis of Argyll's acceptance of the authority of the Commonwealth.

After Blake's defeat at the battle of Dungeness in the Anglo-Dutch War, Deane returned to his naval command as a general-at-sea and collaborated in the reorganisation of the Commonwealth navy during the winter of 1652-3. He joined Blake aboard the Triumph and held joint command at the battle of Portland in February 1653. Blake was wounded in the battle and went ashore to recover, leaving Deane and Monck to command the fleet. At the outset of the battle of the Gabbard on 2 June 1653, Deane was struck by a cannon ball, which killed him instantly. Monck was beside him on the quarter-deck of their flagship the Resolution and threw a cloak over Deane's remains to avoid discouraging the sailors.

Deane's death was a major blow to the Commonwealth and greatly lamented by Cromwell. He received a state funeral and was buried in Henry VII's chapel at Westminster Abbey. Like other Cromwellians, however, his remains were disinterred at the Restoration and reburied in a common pit in St Margaret's churchyard.


Maurice Ashley, Cromwell's Generals (London 1954)

J.K. Laughton, revised by Michael Baumber, Richard Deane, Oxford DNB, 2004