Sir William Lockhart, c.1621-75

After fighting for the Covenanters and Engagers, he became Cromwell's ambassador to France, commander of the English army in Flanders and governor of Dunkirk.

Portrait of Sir William LockhartThe eldest son of Sir James Lockhart of Lanarkshire and his second wife Martha Douglas, William Lockhart ran away from school at the age of 13 and joined the Dutch army. After an adventurous few years which included travelling across Europe and serving as a captain of horse in the French army, Lockhart returned to Scotland in 1644, where he married Margaret Hamilton (d.1654) and was appointed lieutenant-colonel of a cavalry regiment raised by the Earl of Lanark. Lockhart fought in the Covenanter campaign against Montrose, then joined David Leslie in England during the final stages of the First Civil War. When King Charles surrendered to the Scottish army at Newark in May 1646, Lockhart acted as an emissary between the King and the Duke of Hamilton, for which he was knighted.

Lockhart supported the Engagement and commanded a regiment in Hamilton's army of invasion in 1648. He fought at the battle of Preston and was one of the commissioners who negotiated Hamilton's surrender at Uttoxeter after which he was held prisoner at Hull. Lockhart was released upon payment of a fine of £1,000 and returned to Scotland, where the Kirk obliged him to do penance for his support of the Engagement. Mistrusted by the Marquis of Argyll, Lockhart was rejected when he offered to serve in Charles II's Scots-Royalist army which invaded England in 1651.

In 1652, Lockhart travelled to London to offer his services to the English Commonwealth. He was appointed a commissioner to the Court of Judicature at Edinburgh in May 1652 and became involved in the negotiations for the proposed union of England and Scotland. He was one of five representatives for Scotland at the Nominated Assembly of 1653. After the death of his first wife, Lockhart married Cromwell's widowed niece Robina Sewster in July 1654, naming his firstborn son "Cromwell" in honour of the Protector. He became a leading administrator of the Protectorate régime in Scotland and was MP for Lanarkshire in the parliaments of 1654 and 1656.

In February 1656, Cromwell appointed Lockhart special ambassador to France, with instructions to negotiate with Cardinal Mazarin for a military alliance against Spain. The negotiations were delicate because the proposed alliance was unpopular in France, but Lockhart reached agreement with Mazarin in November 1656. He was knighted by Cromwell on his return to England the following month (his first knighthood, conferred by Charles I, was not recognised under the Protectorate).

The Anglo-French alliance was signed in March 1657 and the joint military campaign in Flanders began in May. After Sir John Reynolds was drowned in December 1657, Lockhart took over command of English forces in Flanders and led the English contingent in Marshall Turenne's victory over the Spanish at the battle of the Dunes in June 1658. Lockhart was appointed governor of Dunkirk when the town was handed over to England under the terms of the Anglo-French treaty. He proved to be an able governor and maintained good relations with Mazarin. Lockhart promoted Cromwell's policy of spreading Protestantism on the Continent and invited the radical preacher Hugh Peter to Dunkirk. He also honoured the terms of the Anglo-French treaty by allowing freedom of worship to the Dunkirk Catholics and by preventing English troops from harassing them.

Lockhart continued to serve as governor of Dunkirk and ambassador to France after the fall of the Protectorate. During the brief re-establishment of the Commonwealth (1659-60), he refused Royalist bribes to hand Dunkirk over to Charles II and was dismissed from office at the Restoration in May 1660. Lockhart retired to his estates in Scotland but was so unpopular with his neighbours because of his Cromwellian connections that he went to live with his wife's relatives in East Anglia. The Earl of Lauderdale secured royal employment for him in 1670 and he was re-appointed ambassador to France in 1673. Lockhart died in France in June 1675.


C.H. Firth, The Last Years of the Protectorate 1656-8, vol ii (London 1909)

Timothy Venning, William Lockhart, Oxford DNB, 2004