Robert Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsey , c.1582-1642

First commander of the King's army in the English Civil War, he resigned his commission and was killed at the battle of Edgehill.

Portrait of the Earl of LindseyRobert Bertie was the eldest son of Peregrine Bertie, 13th Baron Willoughby, and Mary, daughter of John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. He succeeded to his father's title in 1601 and married Elizabeth Montagu in 1604. He gained military experience in the army of Christian IV of Denmark in 1612 and under Prince Maurice of Nassau in 1624.

Created Earl of Lindsey in 1626, he served as vice-admiral to the Duke of Buckingham on the expedition to liberate La Rochelle in 1627. Upon his return to England after the failure of the Rochelle expedition, Lindsey was appointed to the King's privy council. He was present at Portsmouth when Buckingham was assassinated in August 1628 and interrogated his assassin John Felton. Appointed lord-lieutenant of Lincolnshire in 1629, he became a knight of the garter in 1630. Lindsey returned to naval command in 1635 when he was appointed admiral of the first of King Charles' ship-money fleets, but he was later rejected for the office of lord high admiral in favour of Algernon Percy, the Earl of Northumberland.

Lindsey profited from the drainage of the fens in Lincolnshire during the 1630s but the commoners opposed his appropriation of their traditional grazing lands. Although he petitioned parliament to ratify his claims in 1640, Lindsey's claims came to nothing when Theophilus Clinton, fourth earl of Lincoln, joined the opposition against him.

Lindsey was appointed governor of Berwick during the prelude to the First Bishops War of 1639. He nominally commanded a cavalry regiment comprised of gentlemen of the court and their retainers. The regiment disbanded with the Pacification of Berwick, and Lindsey resigned his governorship in May 1640.

As a member of the House of Lords, Lindsey remained a loyal supporter of the King. The Long Parliament withdrew his commission as lord-lieutenant of Lincolnshire in February 1642, after which he joined the King at York. He was appointed commissioner of array for Lincolnshire in July and lord-general of the King's army in August.

When Prince Rupert was appointed commander of the Royalist cavalry, he was exempted from taking orders from anyone but the King himself. This placed Lindsey in a difficult position and led to bitter acrimony. At the council of war before the battle of Edgehill in October 1642, Lindsey quarrelled with Rupert and the King's field marshall Lord Forth over the deployment of troops. When the King followed Forth's advice, Lindsey angrily resigned his commission and Forth replaced him as general-in-chief. During the ensuing battle, Lindsey fought on foot as a colonel at the head of his regiment. He was wounded by a shot in the thigh and taken prisoner by the Roundheads. Carried to a nearby barn, he died from his wounds the following day.


Andrew Thrush, Robert Bertie, first earl of Lindsey, Oxford DNB, 2004

Stuart Reid, All the King's Armies (Staplehurst 1998)