Lord Robartes was a member of the Committee Of Both Kingdoms from its inception on
16th February 1644 and it was to this committee he complained that his "ill paid"
troops "are low on courage, but loud in complaint."
In March 1644 Parliament ordered Essex to find a post for Robartes on his staff and
he was duly made Field - Marshal. On 9th May a petition was presented to Parliament
praying that Robartes might be made Commander - in - Chief in Devon and Cornwall.
May 23rd saw the army back at Reading as the royalists had abandoned it and Essex
and Waller were to plan the reduction of the King's war capital of Oxford. The King
escaped from the city and headed to Worcester, prompting the armies of both parliamentary
commanders to follow. Essex and Wailer parted company at Stow - on -the - Wold, Wailer
to pursue the King and Essex to go to the relief of Lyme Regis which was under attack
by Prince Maurice's army. On hearing news of the relief force the siege was lifted
and the royalists retreated to Exeter. Essex's men continued westward taking Taunton,
Tiverton and Barnstaple, who had expelled their royalist governor, Lord Robartes
personally leading three foot and two cavalry regiments to secure the town.
Next was to follow a great misjudgment by Essex and it was due in no small measure
to Lord Robartes and his Cornish officers; Robartes' estates had been sequestrated
by the King and handed over to Sir Richard Grenville, in fact for a while the Royalist
army had camped on his estate and he was anxious that he might get his land and property
back. The Crown Sequestration Committee noted Robartes had an worth £1,000 a year,
"exclusive of his home and lands at Lanhydrock."
It has also been suggested that Robartes, who was a friend of Sir Henry Vane, one
of Essex's severest critics, might lead the Earl on a "fools errand" to discredit
him, but this seems unlikely. It is certain though that Robartes persuaded Essex
to move into royalist held Cornwall promising recruits for the army once the royalists
were ousted. The idea may have appealed to Essex as this area of the country had
long been considered the domain of his rival, Sir William Waller.
On 26th July 1644 the army crossed the Tamar into Cornwall, however, disastrously
for them the King's army had rendezvoused with Prince Maurice's army and the combined
Royalist force pushed Essex back to Lostwithiel and defeated them at Restormel Castle
and Castle Dore. Robartes had been sent on to secure the tiny fishing village of
Fowey to keep communications open with Parliament's navy and it was from here that
Robartes with Essex and his staff escaped by boat to Plymouth. The cavalry broke
out, but the infantry had no choice but surrender. Given parole not to fight for
Parliament until they reached Hampshire and stripped of weaponry and any decent clothing
they were marched to Dorset under guard with great losses. By 7th September only
800 or 900 had made it as far as Portsmouth where the army refit was to take place,
Lord Robartes wrote disconsolately on 4th October "of the Plymouth foot which went
from hence, 1,000, there come to Lt.Col. Martin only 200." In fact muster roles in
1644 record Lord Robartes' Regiment as having 700 soldiers on 24th June and only
333 on 27th December.
Robartes' Regiment would next be involved in the second Battle of Newbury, in which
Parliament's Army, minus Essex who was ill, again let the King escape despite some
spirited fighting. Their final action would be to repulse a royalist attack on Abingdon
on 11th January 1645. Second Newbury was the final straw which prompted the formation
of Parliament's New Model Army and Robartes' Regiment was absorbed into it.
Meanwhile, on his escape to Plymouth, Robartes was again put in command of the town
and despite some offers made to him to yield up the town by Lord Digby, he and Plymouth
held firm. In fact, petitions were made in Plymouth that he may continue as governor,
thus showing his popularity there.
The passing of the Self - Denying Ordinance of 23rd November 1644 was to cool the
zeal of Lord Robartes and he moved towards the party seeking peace with the King.
In the Uxbridge Propositions of January 1645 Parliament requested that the King make
Robartes an Earl.
Robartes was a strong Presbyterian and on 13th March 1646 he protested against the
ordinance which made the new church courts subordinate to parliamentary commissioners.
On January 15th 1647, Robartes along with North and Stamford were the three main
voices in opposition to the Vote Of No Addresses, which effectively was to stop negotiations
with the King. The three Lords thought it prudent, however, to absent themselves
from the chamber when the Commons asked Fairfax to send 2,000 men to occupy Whitehall
for the "protection of Parliament " and the bill was passed.