Colonel Robert Phayre, or Phaire, (1619?–1682), was an officer in the Irish Protestant and then the New Model armies and a Regicide. He was one of the three officers to whom the warrant for the execution of Charles I was addressed, but he escaped severe punishment at the Restoration through having married the daughter of Sir Thomas Herbert (1606-1682). He became a Muggletonian in 1662.
Phayre was born about 1619, for on 24 March 1654 his age is reported as thirty-five), the son of the Revd Emmanuel Phayre from Devonshire, who had migrated, to Ireland and in 1612 became rector of Kilshannig, county Cork.
Both father and son were living Duhallow in county Cork in 1641 when the Irish Uprising started. They both sustained losses. Robert assessed his financial losses during this period amounted to £51 10s. Like many Protestants he joined Murrough O'Brien, 1st Earl of Inchiquin to fight the Confederates and by September 1646 he had risen to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the regiment of Richard Townshend. In February 1648 he was arrested, with three other officers, for refusing to join the royalist rising under Inchiquin. On 4 October these four were exchanged for Inchiquin's son, and brought to Bristol in December by the Roundhead admiral William Penn. Phayre joined the New Model Army.
He was an officer in London in January 1649 and the warrant for the execution of Charles was addressed, on 29 January 1649, to Colonel Francis Hacker, Colonel Hercules Huncks, and Lieutenant-colonel Phayre. He was present on the 30th at Whitehall when the orders were drawn up for the executioner. However like Colonel Huncks, Phayre did not sign the order to the executioner.
Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
In April 1649 he was given command of a Kentish regiment to join Cromwell's expedition to Ireland. In November the town of Youghal capitulated to him, and he was made one of the commissioners for settling Munster. On 10 April 1650 he took part, under Lord Broghill, in the victory at Macroom over the royalist forces under Boetius MacEgan, the Roman Catholic bishop of Ross. Next year (1651) he was appointed governor of County Cork, and held this office until 1654.
He was a parliamentary republican, dissatisfied with the rule of the army officers, and unfriendly to the Protectorate. He seems to have retired to Rostellan Castle, County Cork. In 1656 Henry Cromwell reported that Phayre was attending Quaker meetings. He does not appear to have become a member of the Society of Friends, though one of his daughters (by his first wife) married a Quaker.
It is somewhat remarkable that Phayre himself married, as his second wife, Elizabeth, second daughter of Sir Thomas Herbert (1606–1682), the faithful attendant on Charles I in his last hours. The marriage took place on 16 August 1658 at St Werburgh's, Dublin.
On 8 July 1659, shortly after the fall of the protectorate, the London based Committee of Safety gave Phayre a commission as colonel of foot to serve under Ludlow in Ireland. At the Restoration he was arrested in Cork (18 May 1660), and sent prisoner to Dublin. Thence he was removed to London, and sent to the Tower of London in June. He doubtless owed his life, and the easy treatment he experienced, to his connection with Sir Thomas Herbert; Bishop Clancarty, whose life he had spared, also pleaded for him. On 2 November (Hacker had been hanged on 19 October; Huncks had saved himself by giving evidence) he petitioned the privy council to release his estate from sequestration, and permit him to return to Ireland. This was not granted, but in December the sequestration was taken off his Irish estates, and he was given the liberty of the Tower on parole. On 3 July 1661 he was released for one month, on a bond of £2,000. He was not to go beyond the house and gardens of Sir Thomas Herbert, his father-in-law, in Petty France, Westminster. On 19 July another month's absence was permitted him, with leave to go to the country for his health. On 28 February 1662 he was allowed to remove to Sir Thomas Herbert's house for three months. After this he seems to have gained his liberty.
It was during this period that he made the acquaintance of Lodowicke Muggleton, whose tenets he adopted. Some time in 1662 he brought Muggleton to Sir Thomas Herbert's house and introduced him to his wife, who also became a convert. Their example was followed by their daughters Elizabeth and Mary, and their son-in-law, George Gamble, a merchant in Cork, and formerly a Quaker.
On 6 April 1665 Phayre was living at Cahermore, County Cork, when he was visited by Valentine Greatrakes, the stroker, who had served in his regiment in 1649. Greatrakes cured him in a few minutes of an acute ague. In 1666 Phayre was implicated in the abortive plot for seizing Dublin Castle. Both Phayre and his family corresponded with Muggleton. Phayre's first letter to Muggleton was dated 20 March 1670; his second letter (Dublin, 27 May 1675) was sent by Greatrakes, who was on a visit to London and Devonshire.
Phayre died at the Grange, near Cork, in 1682, probably in September. He was buried in the baptist graveyard at Cork. His will, dated 13 Sept. 1682, was proved in November.
Phayre first wife, whose name is not known (but is traditionally said to have been Gamble). They had several children:
- Onesiphorus (died 1702), who married Elizabeth Phayre
- Elizabeth, who married Richard Farmer.
- Mary, who married to George Gamble (a Muggletonianist).
With his second wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Herbert, 1st Baronet, who was living on 25 May 1686 (the date of her last letter to Muggleton), Phayre had three sons and three daughters. The sons were:
- Thomas (died 1716).
- Alexander Herbert (died 1752).
- Greaves, Richard L. (1998). Dublin's Merchant-Quaker: Anthony Sharp and the Community of Friends, 1643-1707. Stanford University Press. p. 246. ISBN 9780804734523.
- Hargrave, Francis (1795). "Trial of Colonel Hacker". Complete Collection of State Trials 2. p. 422..
- Barnard, Toby (October 2008) . "Phayre, Robert (1618/19–1682)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22087. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Lee, Sidney, ed. (1903). "Phayre, Robert". Dictionary of National Biography Index and Epitome. Cambridge University Press. p. 1034.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gordon, Alexander (1896). "Phayre, Robert". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 45. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 142–143. Endnotes
- Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–61;
- Smith's Cork, 1774, i. 205, ii. 175, 178;
- Reeve and Muggleton's Spiritual Epistles, 1755;
- Supplement to the Book of Letters, 1831;
- Webb's Fells of Swarthmoor, 1867, pp. 95 sq.;
- Council Book of the Corporation of Cork (Caulfield), 1876, p. 1164;
- O'Hart's Irish and Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry, 1884, p. 15;
- Cork Historical and Archæological Journal, June 1893, pp. 449 sq.;
- Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xii. 47, 311, 6th ser. ii. 150, iv. 235, 371;
- Ludlow's Memoirs, ed. Firth;
- extracts from family papers furnished (1871) by W. J. O'Donnovan, esq., a descendant of Onesiphorus Phayre.