Bulstrode Whitelocke

(1605—1675) lawyer and politician

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(1605–75). Whitelocke's father was a judge and he was called to the bar after graduating from St John's College, Oxford. Returned to the Long Parliament for Marlow in 1640, he took the parliamentary side, but was moderate in tone and prominent in peace discussions. In 1648 he was made one of four commissioners for the great seal, a position he held several times subsequently. He took no part in the trial of the king. From 1653–4 he was ambassador to Sweden, leaving an account of his negotiations. Close to Cromwell, he urged him to accept the crown, served in 1657 as a member of the House of Lords, and was on the Council of State under Richard Cromwell. At the Restoration he profited from his moderate stance, Clarendon writing charitably that he had been ‘carried away with the torrent’. He was allowed to live in retirement without harassment. Given his position, it is not surprising that Whitelocke has been regarded by many commentators as a trimmer and time-server, but he is a reminder that many men did not wish to take sides or place themselves in peril. His Memorials of the English Affairs, first published in 1682, is useful, but of even greater value is his diary, covering the whole of his life, first printed in 1990.

From The Oxford Companion to British History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.

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