John Dalbier

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John Dalbier (died 1648),[1] was a professional army officer who served various English commanders before and during the English Civil War in which he served in both the Parliamentary and Royalist armies.[2]

In service of Count Ernst von Mansfeld (1622–1626)[edit]

Dalbier origins are unknown but he may have been a German from Strasbourg who had fought for the Dutch in the Netherlands. In 1622 he was serving as paymaster to Count Ernst von Mansfeld and served him in various other capacities until the Counts death in 1626. During this time in the Count's service he visited England and may have been in the Balkans when the von Mansfeld was killed because he helped to arrange the count's funeral in Venice.[2]

In the service of the Duke of Buckingham (1627)[edit]

After failing to secure employment in Venice, Dalbier went to England and in May 1627 he found employment with George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham. He was sent by Buckingham to the Netherlands in connection with the Christian IV King of Denmark's campaign there. Initially he was an advisor to the Duke in the ill-fated expedition to Saint-Martin-de-Ré and, possibly because of professional jealousy he was sent back to England to organise reinforcements and supplies.

In the service of King Charles I (1627–1629)[edit]

In 1628 to relieve Sir Charles Morgan's garrison that was defending Stade, Dalbier and Sir William Balfour were commissioned by King Charles I to raise a force of 1000 cavalry in Germany. However, as Morgan's garrison capitulated, the force was not decommissioned. This led to fears that the force would be used to suppress dissent in England; and in June 1628 questions regarding Dalbier character, religious inclinations and military expertise were raised in the House of Commons. He was defended by Sir Thomas Jermyn, who pointed out that on his journey through Germany, it was his quick thinking and persuasive manner that had saved his companions from a detachment of imperial troops because if he had chosen to, he would have been well-rewarded for betraying them.[2]

In 1629 the Duke of Savoy impressed by Dalbier reputation suggested him as a possible negotiator with the Swiss cantons.

In the service of Gustavus Adolphus (c. 1630–1632)[edit]

Around 1630 Dalbier served under Gustavus Adolphus and was taken prisoner by the Count of Tilly at the fall of Neu-Brandenburg in 1631. Although Charles I petitioned for his release, he was not set free until December 1632 after the death of Gustavus Adolphus.[2]

First Civil War (1642–1647)[edit]

After Dalbier's release, he settled in England and in 1635 was living in the London parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, where he was described as a German and a servant to the king. However by 1642 he had fallen on hard times and was detained in the king's bench prison for debt.[2]

Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex secured Dalbier's release on condition that he fought for the Parliamentary cause. As colonel in command of a regiment of dozen or more troops of horse, he had an active war fighting for the Earl in many engagements including the battle of Cheriton where he received a wound. However, his military record was not unblemished, and he did not secure a commission in the New Model Army; instead, he was sent to server under General Edward Massey. In 1645 he was involved in the skirmish at Basing House in Hampshire and took part in the final capture of the place, followed by the capture of Donnington Castle in Berkshire on 1 April 1646 and Wallingford Castle in July.[2]

Second Civil War (1647–1648)[edit]

With the deterioration of relations between the Presbyterians in Parliament and the Independents in the New Model Army, Dalbier chose to side with the Presbyterians and, by July 1647, was active in trying to organise a defence of London against the advance of the New Model Army.[2]

He was implicated in a coup in late July 1647 and, before he could be arrested in April 1648, left London. Within a month, he joined the Royalist troops raised in Surrey by the earls of Holland and Buckingham and moved north with a detachment that, on 10 July, was attacked by a contingent of the New Model Army close to St Neots (now in Cambridgeshire, then in Huntingdonshire). Dalbier was killed, according to Edmund Ludlow's largely elaborated memoirs, they "hewed him in pieces" because they resented his treachery, though according to John Rushworth he died of his wounds on the following day.[3]


  1. ^ also Beere, Dalbiere, Dalbyer, Dulbeer, Dalbie, Dolbery, and Dulbier
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Porter ODNB
  3. ^ Porter ODNB cites: E. Ludlow, The Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow, ed. C. H. Firth, 2 vols., 1894, 1.198.