Thomas Kelsey, d.c.1680

Parliamentarian army officer and administrator who governed Surrey and Kent during the Rule of the Major-Generals.

Thomas Kelsey was a London tradesman who fought for Parliament in the civil wars. By 1645, he was a major in Colonel Montagu's regiment in the New Model Army; in 1646, he was promoted lieutenant-colonel in Colonel Ingoldsby's regiment. After the ending of the First Civil War, Kelsey was appointed deputy-governor of Oxford, where he received an honorary MA. As a member of the Council of Officers, he participated in the discussions with the Leveller leaders over the adoption of the Agreement of the People and in the Whitehall debates of January 1649. He played no direct part in the trial and execution of King Charles.

In 1651, Kelsey was commissioned colonel of a regiment of dragoons and appointed lieutenant of Dover Castle, one of the fortresses which commanded the Downs anchorage and of vital importance during the First Anglo-Dutch War. He was appointed a commissioner of the navy following Cromwell's dissolution of the Rump Parliament in April 1653.

Kelsey was associated with John Simpson's Fifth Monarchist congregation in London during the early 1650s, but when the congregation split over the establishment of the Protectorate, Kelsey firmly supported Cromwell. He was elected MP for Sandwich in the First Protectorate Parliament and was appointed Major-General for Surrey and Kent during the Rule of the Major-Generals. Kelsey became a severe persecutor of Royalists in his region and attempted to purge them from office wherever possible. He supported the establishment of a national church and, although he was sympathetic to dissenting ministers, he was intolerant of religious radicals who disturbed the peace in his region, imprisoning Richard Coppin, a notorious Ranter, in December 1655.

Kelsey represented Dover in the Second Protectorate Parliament. In the debates over the punishment of the Quaker James Nayler, Kelsey opposed the death penalty and argued that Nayler should be given a fair hearing and an opportunity to recant; he was among those who questioned the legality of Parliament's prosecution of Nayler in the first place. Kelsey supported John Disbrowe in his attempt to establish the Major-Generals as a permanent form of government and became disaffected from the Protectorate régime after the system was abandoned early in 1657. He opposed the offer of the Crown to Oliver Cromwell and the establishment of the Upper House under the Humble Petition and Advice, which he regarded as a revival of the old House of Lords.

After the collapse of the Protectorate in 1659, Kelsey supported John Lambert's attempts to resist the Restoration. The recalled Rump Parliament deprived him of his commands and ordered him to leave London in January 1660. With the return of King Charles imminent, Kelsey fled to the Netherlands. Like Disbrowe, he was ordered to return to England in 1666 but he remained abroad until 1672 when he was granted a full pardon. Thereafter he lived quietly, earning a living as a brewer according to one account.


Christopher Durston, Cromwell's Major-Generals (Manchester 2001)

J.T. Peacey, Thomas Kelsey, Oxford DNB, 2004