LAMBERT, Sir Oliver (d.1618), of Southampton; later of Co. Cavan, Ireland.
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Family and Education
o.s. of Walter Lambert of Southampton by his 1st w. Rose, da. of Sir Oliver Wallop of Farleigh Wallop, Hants. educ. Furnival’s Inn; L. Inn 1578. m. bef. 1599, Hester, da. of William Fleetwood III, 2s. 3da. Kntd. 1596; cr. Lord Lambert, Baron of Cavan [I] 17 Feb. 1618.2
MP [I] 1613.
Served under Sir John Norris in Ireland 1580-5, in the Low Countries 1585-95; col. of foot and quartermaster gen. for the Cadiz voyage 1596; j.p. Hants 1597; serjeant-major gen. of the Earl of Essex’s army in Ireland Apr. 1599; commander of forces in Leinster, and camp-master during the Earl’s absence, Aug. 1599; gov. Connaught 1601; PC [I] 1603; member, council for Munster 1615.3
In 1584, during his service in Ireland, Lambert was wounded and taken prisoner, allegedly ‘through his own folly’. After his release, several friends, including Sir Henry Wallop, his uncle, and Sir John Norris, wrote to Burghley and Walsingham on his behalf, speaking of his ‘good service for five years without any charge to the Queen’, his ‘bold and valiant carriage’, and stating that through his wounds he was ‘utterly disabled from helping himself’. In June 1585 he was granted a pension of £50, which he continued to draw for many years. In the following August he went to the Low Countries, was present at the capture of Doesburg in September 1586, and became governor of the town. In June 1591 he took part in the attack on Deventer and, a year later, was wounded in the siege of Steenwyck. He was forced to return to England and to petition the Privy Council for a continuance of his pay. Back again in the Low Countries, he was sent by Sir Francis Vere to the Earl of Essex early in 1596 with a warning of a plot against the Queen’s life, and a recommendation to Essex to employ him ‘according to his worth and experience’. He was appointed colonel of 100 men and quarter master in the Cadiz expedition, and was knighted by Essex for his gallantry. Like many other Cadiz fighters he was suspected of having obtained rich booty: his house in Southampton was searched, nothing of value being found except two chests of silk which he had declared.
In 1597 he was chosen by the Privy Council to organise defence forces in Hampshire, being specially recommended to the leading magnates Charles Blount, 8th Lord Mountjoy and Sir William Paulet, 3rd Marquess of Winchester, by the Queen herself, because he was ‘that countryman born, and doth mean to make his abode there, being one that hath followed the wars many years and attained to good knowledge and experience’. At the beginning of November he was temporarily diverted from this work, being ordered to conduct a party of reinforcements to the besieged garrison of Ostend.4
Soon afterwards he was returned to Parliament for Southampton at a by-election after the town’s original choice, Francis Bacon, had chosen to represent Ipswich. Lambert was ‘well known’ to the burgesses of Southampton and had ‘his dwelling’ amongst them. He served on the committee of the bills concerning tellers and receivers (5 Dec.), the explanation of statutes (14 Jan. 1598), excess of apparel (19 Jan.) and the relief of soldiers and mariners (26 Jan.). He was also appointed to the committee to deal with alleged discourtesy from the House of Lords (14 Jan.). In April 1599 he went to Ireland and was appointed sergeant-major general of the army there. According to Essex, Lambert and Sir Henry Docwra were the only officers ‘that hath formerly had any extraordinary commands’. When the Earl left the country in December, Lambert became acting marshal of the army; his father-in-law, William Fleetwood, tried to persuade Cecil to make his appointment permanent. He was an energetic commander and fought bravely in several actions. Unlike many soldiers in Ireland, Lambert retained the confidence of the Council and the Queen, who instructed Lord Mountjoy to ‘give thanks for his services, which are acceptable unto her ... because it discovereth in him an active spirit, of which most of the rest of the commanders make small demonstration’. Finding himself out of favour on Essex’s fall, he wrote to Cecil on 20 Oct. 1600 saying that, while Essex had been in command, he had had to act through him, and that after the Earl’s fall he was ‘retained in the remotest parts with the Earl of Ormond’. His actions ‘had been depraved’, but he would remain patiently ‘in this giddy and turbulent time, to undergo any burden my lord deputy will lay on me, to refrain from no adventure with the hazard of my life and to do myself right’. He continued to seek Cecil’s favour through the good offices of his father-in-law. In February 1601 he replied to Cecil that his letter ‘gave life to [his] soul that long groaned under the burden of disgrace’. He sought office as ‘a place to rest his decayed limbs’, successfully offering Cecil £500 for the governorship of Connaught. In Connaught he fought the rebels with some success, but his conduct and administration provoked criticism, one Captain Guest reporting to Cecil that no officer ‘with more virulence in his tongue, hath uttered towards you the venom of his heart than Sir Oliver Lambert, now governor of Connaught’. According to Guest, Lambert had supported Essex in the ‘flood’ of the Earl’s fortunes, but on Essex’s downfall turned to Cecil—not through ‘alteration of his mind, but of his hopes’. ‘Since he hath the command of Connaught he is become altogether intolerable’, oppressing the country, injuring the soldiers and selling protections. ‘The preys taken from the enemy he divideth like Aesop’s lion’, and ‘he sticketh not to say that he hath bought the place of your honour and that he hath tied you to him with a golden hook’.5
From his Southampton property—its annual value was £292 in the year 1602-3, rising to £385 in 1606-7—Lambert provided generous annuities for his mother, sisters and nephew, but as servants’ wages and taxes swallowed almost all the remainder, and as he did not live in Southampton ‘longer than three months in three years’, he decided to sell out in 1607. His extensive correspondence with his steward, Thomas Stockwell, and other servants, reveals a close attention to detail and a bluff soldierly humour. When Stockwell’s wife died, he wrote to him, ‘the way to be rich [is] to have many wives. Look well before you leap and catch a rich one or none’.6
In James’s reign Lambert thoroughly established himself