George Digby MP PC KG

George Digby MP PC KG (bef. 1612 - 1677)

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Sir George "2nd Earl of Bristol" Digby MP PC KG
Born before in Madrid, Spainmap
Ancestors ancestors
Brother of [half], [half] and
Husband of — married about 1636 (to 20 Mar 1677) [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in Chelsea, Middlesex, Englandmap
Profile last modified 24 Jul 2019 | Created 27 Feb 2014
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George Digby MP PC KG was born in Madrid, Spain to parents of English citizenship.

George Digby was baptised on 5 November 1612 in Madrid where his father was serving on his first mission as English Ambassador to Spain. His parents were John Digby and his wife, Beatrix Walcot. [1][2] His father was created Baron Digby of Sherborne in 1618 and Earl of Bristol in 1622. [3] The Earl took the blame for the failure of the "Spanish Match" between Charles, Prince of Wales and the Infanta Maria Anna of Spain, was summoned home in disgrace, was impeached and committed to the Tower. George still only 12 years old appeared before the bar of the House of Commons with a petition for his father's release which was soon granted. [4] He was educated at Magdalen College Oxford, matriculating in 1626 and graduating MA ten years later[5]


It was around this time that George took a wife. His bride was Lady Anne Russell, daughter of Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford and his wife, Catherine Brydges. They had two sons and two daughters together. [6]

George Digby.
In 1637 he was painted by Anthony van Dyck beside his brother-in-law, William Russell. He sat again for a less formal portrait a couple of years later. His interests were mainly astrology and theology and in 1638/9 he was engaged in correspondence with Sir Kenelm Digby about religion. Kenelm was a Catholic while George was Church of England. On 2 November 1638 he wrote asking advice about infallibility. [7]

He was returned to Parliament in 1640 as Member for Dorset, to both the Long and the Short Parliament and in conjunction with John Pym and John Hampden took the lead in parliamentary opposition to Charles I whose escapade as Prince of Wales had caused George's father so much trouble. He was included in the committee for the impeachment of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Then on 12 April he announced himself an opponent of Strafford's impeachment after all, positioning himself with the court rather than the Commons. A grateful King created him Baron Digby of Sherborne with a seat in the Lords. [8] It made no difference to Strafford who went to the block on 12 May 1641. [9]George now became adviser to the King, encouraging him in his attempt to arrest the "five members" in January 1642 which debacle led to the final breach with Parliament. Threatened with impeachment he fled to the Netherlands. Many stories are told about his adventures in 1642 but all that is certain is that he raised a regiment for the King and fought at the inconclusive Battle of Edgehill on the 23rd of October. Over the course of the next few years George managed to fall out with almost everyone around the King including finally Prince Rupert who had counseled the King to look for peace while George had urged him to continue the fight which led to the disaster of the Battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645. In October he persuaded the King to give him the remainder of his cavalry so that he could take them north and break through to Scotland. They were defeated at Sherburn in Yorkshire and George fled to Ireland.[10] From there on 17 January 1646 he wrote to Anne telling her to obtain a pass for their son to go to France. He also said that it would not be good, at that time for him to rejoin the King. [11]

The hapless King put himself in the hands of the Scots army in April 1646 and George formulated a plan to encourage the young Prince of Wales to become the figurehead of a new campaign to be launched from Ireland. He followed the youth to Jersey where he was rebuffed by the Prince's adviser, Sir Edward Hyde, (with whom he had already fallen out) and, disappointed, moved on to join the Queen in Paris. Among those with whom he was already at odds were Prince Rupert, who was persuaded by the Queen not to fight a duel, and Henry Wilmot who did fight and lost with a wound to the hand. By 1648 he had lost the confidence of the Queen and took service with the French as a volunteer where he served so well that by 1651 he had become commander of French forces in Normandy. [12]

George's father died in Paris on 21 Jan 1653 and George succeeded as Earl of Bristol and was made a Knight of the Garter.[13][14] Then he fell out with Cardinal Mazarin so he moved on to join Prince Charles, acknowledged by the French and the English exiles as Charles II, in Brussels. In favour for a time he severely damaged his chances by converting to Roman Catholicism in 1659, just at the time when the Prince was distancing himself from that faith as his hopes had risen following the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658. George was dismissed from all his offices. [15]

George followed his King back to London but was denied office due to his faith and took to gambling and extravagant entertaining and indulging his enmity to Hyde, created Earl of Clarendon at the restoration. In 1663 he accused Clarendon of treason before the House of Lords, a charge so baseless that a furious King ordered his arrest. Samuel Pepys was a bit baffled by it all but recorded in his diary on 1 July 1663 that Lord Digby had gone to the Commons House to answer questions and made a long speech "that was not becoming to his Lordship." He then went on to add more gossip. Lord Sunderland, so close to marrying Digby's daughter that everything was agreed and the wedding clothes all made, had called the wedding off, declining to give a reason to his friends. [16]George went into hiding where he was to remain for three years until the King himself lost patience with Clarendon who was impeached and exiled in 1667.

His younger son, Francis, was killed in a fight with the Dutch at the Battle of Solebay on 28 May 1672 [17] while serving aboard the Henry. [18] The following year, despite remaining a Catholic, he supported the Test Act.

George died at his home in Chelsea on 20 March 1677 aged 65 and was buried in the Russell family chapel at Chenies in Buckinghamshire [19] on the 24th. His will was proven by probate on 10 April 1677[20]He was succeeded by his only surviving son, John, as 3rd Earl of Bristol. [21]


  1. Wikipedia George Digby 2nd Earl of Bristol
  2. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677)
  3. Wikipedia: John Digby, 1st Earl of Bristol
  4. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677)
  5. British History online: Alumni Oxonienses 1500-1714. Originally published by University of Oxford, Oxford, 1891: George Digby
  6. A general and heraldic dictionary of the peerages of England, Ireland, and ... By John Burke :Digby
  7. Early Modern Letters: George Digby
  8. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677)
  9. Wikipedia: Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford
  10. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677)
  11. Early Modern Letters online
  12. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677)
  13. Wikipedia: List of Knights and Ladies of the Garter
  14. Knights of England Page 69
  15. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677)
  16. Samuel Pepys Diary 1 July 1663.
  17. A general and heraldic dictionary of the peerages of England, Ireland, and ... By John Burke :Digby
  18. Wikipedia: Battle of Solebay
  19. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Digby, George, second earl of Bristol (1612–1677)
  20. George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol Cites: Cokayne, G.E.; Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed.. 13 volumes in 14. 1910-1959. Reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000
  21. A general and heraldic dictionary of the peerages of England, Ireland, and ... By John Burke :Digby

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