Before the war he was a linen-draper by trade. In 1643 he was a captain in the London trained bands. He was Lieutenant of the Tower of London in 1647. He was an extreme republican and independent who signed Charles I's death-warrant. He was appointed as a commissioner to settle government of Scotland in 1651, following the Tender of Union. He sat for London in the Little parliament and in Cromwell's House of Lords. He was knighted in 1655, and made lord mayor of London in 1656. He was one of the conservators of liberty set up by the army, 1659. He was sentenced to death at the restoration of the monarchy, and imprisoned for life. He was author of two religious works. Burke's Peerage, page 1436. Berry, Genealogies of Hants, Page 28. Berry, Genealogies of Kent, page 361. Visitation of London, Vol. 2, page 289.
Robert Tichborne was grandson of John Tichborne 2nd of Cowden, Kent, and son of Robert Tichborne of the ward of Farringdon Within, London, by Joan, daughter of Thomas Bankes (Visitation of London, 1633-4, ii. 289). Early in life he was a linen-draper in London "by the little Conduit in Cheapside". Burke's Perrage, page 1436. Berry, Genealogies of Hants, page 28. Berry, Genealogies of Kent, page 361. Visitation of London, Vol. 2, page 289.
On the outbreak of the English Civil War Tichborne took up arms for Parliament, and was in 1643 a captain in the Yellow Regiment of the London trained bands. In February of that year he was one of a deputation from the city who presented a petition to the House of Commons against the proposed treaty with the king. According to a contemporary critic, he did not distinguish himself as a soldier, and was indeed "fitter for a warm bed than to command a regiment"; but he was a colonel in 1647, and was appointed by Fairfax in August of that year lieutenant of the Tower. Tichborne political views were advanced, as his speeches in the council of the army in 1647 prove; and in religion his printed works show that he was an extreme independent.
On 15 January 1649 Tichborne presented to the House of Commons a petition from London in favour of the execution of the king and the establishment of a republic. Tichborne was appointed one of the king's judges, signed the death-warrant, and attended every meeting of the court excepting two.
On 23 October 1651 parliament selected Tichborne as one of the eight commissioners to settle the government of Scotland and prepare the way for its union with England. On 14 May 1652 he received the thanks of the English Parliament for his services in Scotland. In 1650 he was one of the sheriffs of London.
In 1651 Tichborne was a Sheriff of the City of London and in 1656 was elected Lord Mayor of London. The Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell knighted him on 15 December 1655 and summoned him to his House of Lords in December 1657. On 17 April 1658 Tichborne, who was colonel of the Yellow Regiment and a member of the London Militia Committee, presented an address from the London trained bands to the Lord Protector (Mercurius Politicus, 15–22 April 1658).
An unflattering character of Tichborne was given in "A Second Narrative of the late Parliament", 1658.
After the fall of the house of Cromwell, Tichborne, who was never a member of the Long Parliament, became a person of less importance; but in October 1659, when the army under John Lambert expelled the parliament, he was appointed one of the committee of safety which the army set up, and he was also one of the twenty-one "conservators of liberty" named by them in December following. Edmund Ludlow wrathfully observes that he "had lately moved to set up Richard Cromwell again". The restoration of the Long Parliament at the end of the month put an end to his political career. On 20 April 1660 a warrant was issued for the arrest of Tichborne and Alderman John Ireton, who were regarded as the two pillars of the Good Old Cause in the City of London. They were released four days later on bail.
At the Restoration Tichborne surrendered in obedience to the king's proclamation (16 June), though he showed considerable vacillation, withdrawing himself from the custody of the sergeant-at-arms, and then giving himself up once more, and Royalist pamphlets exulted over his imprisonment.
Tichborne was tried at the sessions house in the Old Bailey on 10 Oct. 1660, and pleaded not guilty, but admitted the fact for which he was indicted, only asserting his ignorance and repentance. "It was my unhappiness to be called to so sad a work when I had so few years over my head; a person neither bred up in the laws, nor in parliaments where laws are made. ... Had I known that then which I do now, I would have chosen a red hot oven to have gone into as soon as that meeting". He was found guilty of high treason, the considerable property he had acquired during the civil war and the confiscation of the crown lands that he had purchased were sequestrated, and he was sentenced to death.
The sentence of death was not carried out immediately because under terms of the act of Indemnity Tichborne was one of the nineteen regicides who, having surrendered themselves, were, if condemned, not to be executed save by a special act of parliament. It was also alleged in his favour that he had saved the lives of various royalists during the late government. A bill for the trial of Tichborne and his companions passed the House of Commons in January 1662, but was dropped in the Lords after Tichborne had been brought to the bar of the upper house and heard in his defence
In July 1662 Tichborne was removed to Holy Island, where he fell very ill, and was on his wife's petition transferred to Dover Castle. His wife and children were allowed to live with him during his imprisonment at Dover. He remained a prisoner for the rest of his life, and died in the Tower of London in July 1682.
Tichborne was the author of two religious works:
- A Cluster of Canaan's Grapes: being several experimented truths, 1649, 4to.
- The Rest of Faith, 1649, 4to.; this is dedicated to Cromwell.
- His name was spelt Robert Titchbourn in the Proclamation for apprehending the late King's Judges (4 June 1660) and as Robert Titchborne in House of Lords Journal Volume 11 (7 February 1662)
- David Plant, Robert Tichborne, Regicide, c.1610-82, the British Civil Wars and Commonwealth website
- Lee, Sidney (1903), Dictionary of National Biography Index and Epitome, p. 1300 (also main entry lvi 377)
- Firth 1903, p. 377 gives the quotation, but does not cite his source
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Dillon, List of the Officers of the London Trained Bands, 1890, p. 8.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 95.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Rushworth, vii. 761; Clarke Papers, i. 396.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Rushworth, i. 396, 404, ii. 256, 258, 262.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Ludlow, Memoirs, i. 212; The humble petition of the Commons of the City of London ... together with Col. Tichborne's Speech, 1648, 4to.
- Firth 1903, p. 377.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Commons' Journals, vii. 30.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Commons' Journals. vii. 132.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Commons' Journals.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: London's Triumph, or the solemn reception of Robert Tichborne, Lord Mayor, Oct. 29, 1656, 4to.
- Firth 1903, p. 378 Cites: Harl. Miscell. iii. 484.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Ludlow Memoirs, ii. 131, 149, 173, ed. 1894.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659-60, p. 574.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: Ludlow, ii. 294; and Kennet, Register, p. 181.
- Firth 1903, p. 377 Cites: (The two City Jugglers, Tichborn and Ireton: a dialogue, 1660, 4to; The pretended saint and the profane libertine well met in prison: or a dialogue between Robert Tichborne and Henry Marten, 1660.
- Firth 1903, p. 378 gives the quotation, but does not cite his source
- Firth 1903, p. 378 Cites: (Commons' Journals. viii. 73; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1,78, 344, 558.
- Firth 1903, p. 378.
- Firth 1903, p. 378 Cites: Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 169; cf. Thurloe, iii. 381.
- Firth 1903, p. 378 Cites: Lords' Journals, xi. 372, 380.
- Firth 1903, p. 378 Cites: Papers of the Duke of Leeds, p. 4; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1663-4, pp. 289, 505, 510, 592.
- Firth 1903, p. 378 Cites: Luttrell, Diary, i. 204.
- Firth, Charles Harding (1898). "Tichborne, Robert". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 377, 378. Endnotes:
- Noble, Mark, Lives of the Regicides, ii, p. 272
- Noble, Mark, House of Cromwell, i, p. 416
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Lee, Sidney, ed. (1903). "Tichborne, Robert". Dictionary of National Biography. Index and Epitome. Cambridge University Press. p. 1300.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Firth, Charles Harding (1898). "Tichborne, Robert". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 377,378.