Sir Richard Willis, 1st Baronet

Sir Richard Willis, 1st Baronet

Sir Richard Willis, 1st Baronet

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Sir Richard Willis, 1st Baronet (sometimes spelt 'Willys') (13 January 1614 – December 1690) was a Royalist officer during the English Civil War,Dates used in this article use the Julian calendar with the start of year adjusted to 1 January (see Old Style and New Style dates) and a double agent working for the Parliamentarians during the Interregnum.


Willis went up to Christ's College, Cambridge in 1631, and was admitted to Gray's Inn in the same year. He joined the Royalist cause as an officer in the Kings army, being eventually Colonel of a Regiment of Calvary and Colonel General of the counties of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Rutland. He was also Governor of Newark for the King, bywhom he was knighted 1 October 1642, at Shrewsbury, and was created a Baronet of Fen Ditton in Cambridgeshire on 11 June 1646.

Sir Richard spent some time in Italy, returning to England in 1652 to join the Royalist underground organisation, the Sealed Knot (his successor as Governor of Newark, John Belasyse, 1st Baron Belasyse, was also one of the members).

However, it seems Sir Richard became a double agent. Although twice imprisoned by the Commonwealth, he established contact with Cromwell’s secret service, led by John Thurloe, in 1656 or 1657, possibly for money (in A Child's History of England, Ch.XXXIV, Charles Dickens wrote that Willis “reported to Oliver everything that passed among them, and had two hundred a year for it”). Alternatively,...
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