Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke, 1608-43

Powerful Puritan nobleman regarded as a potential leader of the Parliamentarian cause until he was killed by a sniper at the siege of Lichfield.

Portrait of Robert Greville, Lord BrookeRobert Greville was adopted by his unmarried uncle Fulke Greville, first Baron Brooke, and named as his successor. Under his uncle's supervision, he received a wide-ranging and rigorous education, attending the universities of Leiden and Paris and travelling extensively. When Fulke Greville was murdered by one of his servants in 1628, Robert inherited his title. In 1631, he married Katherine Russell, daughter of the Earl of Bedford. Through his father-in-law, Brooke came into contact with the network of Puritan critics of King Charles headed by Lord Saye-and-Sele at Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire. He invested heavily in the Puritan colonial ventures promoted by the Broughton Castle circle on Providence Island in the West Indies and at Sayebrook in New England.

Brooke and Lord Saye sympathised with the Scottish Covenanters' resistance to Archbishop Laud's religious reforms and refused to support the King during the Bishops' Wars (1639-40), for which both peers were briefly imprisoned. Brooke was an active patron and supporter of godly ministers. His own radical religious views were set out in his philosophical work, The Nature of Truth, published in 1640. The following year, he wrote A Discourse on Episcopacy in which he attacked the political power of the bishops and the established church. When the Long Parliament met in 1640, Brooke was prominent in demands for the exclusion of bishops from the House of Lords.

After the "first Army Plot" of April 1641, Brooke began to stockpile weapons and ammunition in case of a Royalist coup against Parliament. In March 1642, he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Warwickshire under Parliament's Militia Ordinance. He secured the county magazine at Coventry and fortified Warwick Castle but came into conflict with the Earl of Northampton, the King's commissioner of array. Northampton captured a convoy of artillery that Brooke was bringing up from London and used it to besiege Warwick Castle in August 1642. Brooke led a relieving force with John Hampden and Nathaniel Fiennes, that succeeded in driving back Lord Northampton and securing control of Warwickshire for Parliament.

Lord Brooke was among the most militant supporters of the war. He opposed moves for an early peace settlement and used his contacts among City merchants to raise funds. In December 1642, he was appointed commander of Parliament's Midlands Association and proved to be a popular leader, inspiring his troops with devotion to Parliament's cause. He drove the Royalists out of Stratford-upon-Avon in February 1643 and advanced on the city of Lichfield. During the siege, Brooke was shot dead by a Royalist sniper stationed on the central tower of Lichfield Cathedral. Having been regarded by some as a potential replacement for the Earl of Essex, Lord Brooke's death was a serious blow to Parliament.


Ann Hughes, Robert Greville, second Baron Brooke, Oxford DNB, 2004