Thomas Harrison

(1606—1660) parliamentarian army officer and regicide

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(1606–60). Soldier and regicide. A butcher's son, born at Newcastle under Lyme, and trained as a lawyer, Harrison enlisted in Essex's bodyguard in 1642, fighting at Marston Moor as a major in Fleetwood's horse and subsequently at Naseby, Langport, and the sieges of Winchester and Basing. Thereafter his political and military lives were interwoven. Elected MP for Wendover (1646), he served in Ireland (1647), and escorted Charles I from Hurst castle to London, later signing his death-warrant. Intimate with Cromwell, he held the chief command in England during Cromwell's absence (1650–1). He helped expel the Rump in 1653 and was prominent in Barebone's Parliament. Then his influence waned and his health failed. He had developed Fifth Monarchist views, lost his commission under the Instrument of Government, and was imprisoned in 1655–6 and again in 1658–9. One of the first to be arrested at the Restoration, Harrison was tried in October 1660 and defended himself stoutly: ‘this thing [the king's execution] was not done in a corner.’ He was hanged at Charing Cross looking, according to Pepys, ‘as cheerfully as any man could do in that condition … the first blood shed in revenge for the blood of the king.’

From The Oxford Companion to British History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.

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