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Algernon Sidney

Birthdate: (60)
Birthplace: Baynard's Castle,, London, Middlesex, England
Death: December 7, 1683 (60)
Tower Hill, London, Middlesex, England (Executed for treason)
Place of Burial: Penshurst, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester and Dorothy Sidney, Countess of Leicester
Brother of Dorothy Sydney, Countess of Sunderland; Philip Sidney, 3rd Earl of Leicester; Mary Sidney; Col Robert Sidney; Lady Lucy Sydney and 6 others

Managed by: Carole (Erickson) Pomeroy,Vol. C...
Last Updated:

About Algernon Sidney

Algernon Sidney

Algernon Sidney or Sydney (14 or 15 January 1623 – 7 December 1683) was an English politician and member of the Long Parliament. A republican political theorist, colonel, and commissioner of the trial of King Charles I of England, he opposed the king's execution. Sidney was later charged with plotting against Charles II, in part based on his work, Discourses Concerning Government, used by the prosecution as a witness at his trial. He was executed for treason.[1] After his death, Sidney was revered as a "Whig patriot–hero and martyr".[1]

Sidney's father was Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, a direct descendant of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland and the great-nephew of Sir Philip Sidney. His mother was Dorothy Percy, daughter of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland. Sidney was born at Baynard's Castle, London, and was raised at Penshurst Place in Kent. His mother wrote to her husband in November 1636 that she had heard their son "much comended by all that comes from you . . . [for] a huge deall of witt and much sweetness of nature".[1] After spending time in Ireland, after his father was appointed Lord Lieutenant of that country, Sidney returned to England in 1643.

Despite having earlier vowed that only "extreame necessity shall make me thinke of bearing arms in England", Sidney served in the Army of the Eastern Association, becoming Lieutenant Colonel of the Earl of Manchester's regiment of horse (cavalry). He fought at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, where an observer wrote: "Colonel Sidney charged with much gallantry in the head of my Lord Manchester's regiment of horses, and came off with many wounds, the true badges of his honour".[2] He was later appointed Colonel of the regiment when it was transferred to the New Model Army, but relinquished the appointment due to ill health.

In 1645 Sidney was elected to the Long Parliament as Member of Parliament for Cardiff where he opposed compromising with the King, Charles I. In 1648 he opposed the purge of moderates who had formed the Rump Parliament. Despite being a commissioner for the trial of Charles, Sidney opposed the decision to execute the king, believing it to be of questionable lawfulness and wisdom.[2] He said in explaining his view:

  • First, the King could be tried by noe court; secondly, that noe man could be tried by that court. This being alleged in vaine, and Cromwell using these formall words (I tell you, wee will cut off his head with the crowne upon it) I ... immediately went out of the room, and never returned.[1]

By 1659 Sidney had changed his opinion, declaring the king's execution as "the justest and bravest act ... that ever was done in England, or anywhere".[1]

In 1653 when Cromwell's army entered Parliament to dissolve it after a Bill was introduced that would have made elections more free, Sidney refused to leave the House until threatened with physical removal. He regarded Cromwell as a tyrant.[3]

In retirement, Sidney was bold enough to outrage the Lord Protector by allegedly putting on a performance of Julius Caesar, and playing the role of Brutus. He was for a time the lover of Lucy Walter, later the mistress of Charles, Prince of Wales. Sidney regarded the Republic as vigorously pursuing England's national interests (in contrast to the Stuarts' record of military failure), writing in his Discourses Concerning Government:

  • ... such was the power and wisdom and integrity in those that sat at the helm, and their diligence in chusing men only for their merit was blessed with such success, that in two years our fleets grew to be as famous as our land armies; the reputation and power of our nation rose to a greater height, than when we possessed the better half of France, and the kings of France and Scotland were our prisoners. All the states, kings and potentates of Europe, most respectfully, not to say submissively, sought our friendship; and Rome was more afraid of Blake and his fleet, than they had been of the great king of Sweden, when he was ready to invade Italy with a hundred thousand men.[4]

After Cromwell's death in 1658, the army abolished the Protectorate in 1659 and reconvened the Rump Parliament, with Sidney taking up his seat in the Commons. During 1659–1660 he was part of a delegation to help arbitrate peace between Denmark and Sweden, as war would threaten England's naval supplies, as well as those of the Dutch. The delegation was commanded by Edward Montagu, with Sidney and Sir Robert Honeywood. The third planned plenipotentiary, Bulstrode Whitelocke, declined because: "I knew well the overruling temper and height of Colonel Sydney".[1]

Sidney discarded conventional diplomatic norms ("a few shots of our cannon would have made this peace") to impose a peace favourable to England. Due to the Swedish king Charles X being unable to immediately receive them, the delegation negotiated with the Dutch on forming a joint fleet to impose peace terms. Charles X complained that the English "wish to command all, as if they were masters".[citation needed] Sidney in person handed Charles the treaty proposal (already accepted by Denmark), threatening military action. He recorded that Charles "in great choler ... told us, that we made projects upon our fleets, and he, laying his hand upon his sword, had a project by his side".[citation needed] Sidney would not back down and an observer wrote: "Everyone is amazed how Sidney stood up to him".[citation needed] But, Montague planned to go back to England with the fleet, leading Sidney to give "his opinion, [that] for sending away the whole fleet he thought he should deserve to lose his head".[citation needed]

Despite this curtailment of England's influence, Denmark, Sweden, France, England and Holland signed a treaty on 27 May 1660.[1] It was during this period that Sidney signed the visitor's book at the University of Copenhagen with: "PHILIPPUS SIDNEY MANUS HAEC INIMICA TYRANNIS EINSE PETIT PLACIDAM CUM LIBERTATE QUIETEM" ("This hand, enemy to tyrants, by the sword seeks peace with liberty").[1] This expression was incorporated into the Great Seal of Massachusetts in 1780 by act of legislature during the American Revolutionary War.

Sidney was abroad when the monarchy was restored in 1660. His first reaction to the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy was to write:

  • Since the Parliament hath acknowledged a king, I knowe . . . I owe him duty and the service that belongs unto a subject, and will pay it. If things are carried in a legall and moderate way, I had rather be in employment, than without any.[1]

Because in 1659 he had defended the execution of Charles I, Sidney thought it wise to remain in exile in Rome. While he was prepared to submit he would not, he wrote, countenance "acknowledgement of our faults, in having bin against this king, or his father. ... I shall be better contented with my fortune, when I see theare was noe way of avoiding it, that is not worse than ruine".[1] He was saved by a stranger from an assassination attempt. In 1663 during a trip to the Calvinist academy at the University of Geneva, Sidney wrote in the visitor's book: "SIT SANGUINIS ULTOR JUSTORUM" ("Let there be revenge for the blood of the just").[1] In Augsburg in April 1665, he was the target of another assassination attempt.

When in Holland, Gilbert Burnet records, Sidney and other republicans:

  • ... came to De Witt, and pressed him to think of an invasion of England and Scotland, and gave him great assurances of a strong party: and they were bringing many officers to Holland to join in the undertaking. They dealt also with some in Amsterdam, who were particularly sharpened against the king, and were for turning England again into a commonwealth. The matter was for some time in agitation at the Hague: but De Witt was against it, and got it to be laid aside. He said, their going into such a design would provoke France to turn against them: it might engage them in a long war, the consequences of which could not be forseen: and, as there was no reason to think that, while the parliament was so firm to the king, any discontents could be carried so far as to a general rising, which these men undertook for, so, he said, what would the effect be of turning England into a commonwealth, if it could possibly be brought about, but the ruin of Holland? It would naturally draw many of the Dutch to leave their country, that could not be kept and maintained but at a vast charge, and to exchange that with the plenty and security that England afforded. Therefore all that he would engage in was, to weaken the trade of England, and to destroy her fleet; in which he succeeded the following year beyond all expectation.[5]

In mid-1666 Sidney was in Paris, where he negotiated with the king, Louis XIV. Louis subsequently wrote that Sidney "promised me to produce a great uprising ... but the proposition he put to me to advance him 100,000 ecus ... was more than I wished to expose on the word of a fugitive [so] I offered him [initially] only 20,000".[1] He remained in France until 1677, when he returned to England.

During 1665–66 Sidney wrote Court Maxims, in which he argued for a reversal of the Restoration of the monarchy: " ... as death is the greatest evil that can befall a person, monarchy is the worst evil that can befall a nation". Sidney also claimed that an English republic would have a natural "unity of interest" with the Dutch Republic in "extirpat[ing] the two detested families of Stuart and Orange". This manuscript was not widely known, and Court Maxims was not published until 1996.[1]

Sidney returned to England in early September 1677. After his father's death, Sidney inherited £5,000 but had to gain the remaining £5,000 through chancery courts. He stayed at Leicester House in London. Here he became involved in politics, with the French Ambassador, Paul Barillon writing on 6 October:

  • At the moment my most intimate liaison is with Mr. Algernon Sidney; he is the man in England who seems to me to have the greatest understanding of affairs; he has great relations with the rest of the Republican party; And nobody in my opinion is more capable of rendering service than him.[1]

Due to his helping gain the fall of Danby in December 1678, Sidney received 500 guineas from the French, getting another 500 guineas the next year. Sidney wished for an alliance of English and Dutch republicans against the Stuart-Orange alliance and told Barillon "that it is an old error to believe that it is against the interest of France to suffer England to become a republic".[1] Sidney believed that it was a "fundamental principle that the House of Stuart and that of Orange are inseparably united".[6]

After the dissolution of Charles II's last Parliament in 1681, Sidney, according to Burnet, helped write the answer to the king's declaration, entitled A Just and Modest Vindication of the Proceedings of the Two Last Parliaments: "An answer was writ to the king's declaration with great spirit and true judgment. It was at first penned by Sidney. But a new draught was made by Somers, and corrected by Jones".[7]

Sidney united with Lord Shaftesbury and others in plotting against the perceived royal tyranny, of a 'force without authority.' Sidney was later to be implicated in the Rye House Plot, a scheme to assassinate Charles and his brother James, who later became King James II.

On 25 June 1683 Sidney's arrest warrant was issued. During his arrest his papers were confiscated, including the draft of the Discourses. He was tried on 7 November 1683. William Howard, 3rd Baron Howard of Escrick was the only witness, and since the law stated that two witnesses were necessary, the government used the Discourses as its second witness. Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys (whose conduct of the trial caused much criticism, then and later) ruled: "Scribere est agere" ("to write is to act").[1]

Heneage Finch, the Solicitor General, described the Discourses as "An argument for the people to rise up in arms against the King". In response, Sidney said that it was easy to condemn him by quoting his words out of context: "If you take the scripture to pieces you will make all the penmen of the scripture blasphemous; you may accuse David of saying there is no God and of the Apostles that they were drunk." Sidney was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death on 26 November.

In The Apology of Algernon Sydney, in the Day of his Death, Sidney wrote that his life's work was to:

  • ... uphold the Common rights of mankind, the lawes of this land, and the true Protestant religion, against corrupt principles, arbitrary power and Popery . . . I doe now willingly lay down my life for the same; and having a sure witness within me, that God doth ... uphold me ... am very littell sollicitous, though man doth condemne me.[1]

He petitioned the King for mercy on the grounds of Jeffreys' unprofessional conduct, and friends and relatives added their pleas: but the King was as implacable as he had been in the case of William Russell, Lord Russell.

On the scaffold, Sidney argued that his conviction was unlawful, disputing the quality of the evidence against him and pointing out various deviations from proper legal procedure at his trial. He also reiterated his objections to absolute monarchy from Discourses Concerning Government, arguing that these did not constitute treason. Still, he observed that he was abstaining from tackling truly "great matters" in this last speech of his, because "We live in an age that makes truth pass for treason".[8] He concluded by declaring that he was dying for the Good Old Cause.[8]

He was beheaded on 7 December 1683, and his remains were buried at Penshurst.

For Sidney absolute monarchy, in the form practised by Louis XIV, was a great political evil. His Discourses Concerning Government (the text for which Sidney lost his life) was written during the Exclusion Crisis, as a response to Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, a defence of divine right monarchy, first published in 1680. Sidney was strongly opposed to the principles espoused by Filmer and believed that the Sovereign's subjects had the right and duty to share in the government of the Realm by giving advice and counsel. It was Filmer's business, he wrote, "to overthrow liberty and truth." Sidnay wrote that patriarchal government was not 'God's will', as Filmer and others contended, because the "Civil powers are purely human ordinances."

In countering the Hobbesian argument that the coercive power of the monarchy was necessary to prevent the return of the Civil Wars, Sidney invoked Tacitus, the Roman historian, saying that the pax Romana, the Imperial peace, was the 'peace of death.' Rebellion may have dangerous consequences but

  • They who are already fallen into all that is odious, and shameful and miserable, cannot justify fear . . . Let the dangers never be so great, there is the possibility of safety while men have life, hands, arms and courage to use them but that people must surely perish who tamely suffer themselves to be oppressed.[citation needed]

After his death, Sidney was revered as the "Whig patriot–hero and martyr".[1] Burnet said of Sidney:

  • ... a man of the most extraordinary courage, a steady man, even to obstinacy, sincere, but of a rough and boisterous temper, that could not bear contradiction, but would give foul language upon it. He seemed to be a Christian, but in a particular form of his own. He thought it was to be like a divine philosophy in the mind, but he was against all public worship, and every thing that looked like church. He was stiff to all republican principles, and such an enemy to every thing that looked like monarchy, that he set himself in a high opposition against Cromwell when he was made protector. He had indeed studied the history of government in all its branches beyond any man I ever knew.[7]

Sidney's influence on political thought in eighteenth-century Britain and Colonial America was probably second only to that of John Locke among seventeenth-century political theorists.[1] In his study of political theory in Britain from 1689 to 1720, J. P. Kenyon said that Sidney's Discourses "were certainly much more influential than Locke's Two Treatises".[9] The poet James Thomson, in his poem The Seasons, praised Sidney as "the British Cassius", the hero "warmed" by "ancient learning to the enlightened love/Of ancient freedom".[10]

Sidney's reputation suffered a blow when Sir John Dalrymple published his Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland in 1771, which exposed him as a pensioner of Louis XIV.[11] Dalrymple, who had greatly admired Sidney, wrote that he would hardly feel more shame if he had seen his own son run away from a battle.

The Whig MP Charles James Fox described Sidney and Lord Russell as "two names that will, it is hoped, be ever dear to every English heart" and predicted that "when their memory shall cease to be an object of respect and veneration ... English liberty will be fast approaching its final consummation".[12]

Sidney had a significant effect on the American conception of liberty. He was a hero of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, "the best-read and most widely regarded pamphleteers of prerevolutionary times." Their "Cato's Letters (after which the modern libertarian think tank the Cato Institute is named)" adopted Sidney's argument that "free men always have the right to resist tyrannical government".[13] Thomas Jefferson believed Sidney and Locke to be the two primary sources for the Founding Fathers' view of liberty.[14]

John Adams wrote to Jefferson in 1823 on the subject of Sidney:

  • I have lately undertaken to read Algernon Sidney on government. ... As often as I have read it, and fumbled it over, it now excites fresh admiration [i.e., wonder] that this work has excited so little interest in the literary world. As splendid an edition of it as the art of printing can produce—as well for the intrinsic merit of the work, as for the proof it brings of the bitter sufferings of the advocates of liberty from that time to this, and to show the slow progress of moral, philosophical, and political illumination in the world—ought to be now published in America.[14]

The Whig historian Thomas Babington Macaulay said of Sidney in 1828:

  • Never was there less of national feeling among the higher orders than during the reign of Charles the Second. That Prince, on the one side, thought it better to be the deputy of an absolute king than the King of a free people. Algernon Sydney, on the other hand, would gladly have aided France in all her ambitious schemes, and have seen England reduced to the condition of a province, in the wild hope that a foreign despot would assist him to establish his darling republic.[15]

But in 1848, Macaulay wrote of the Whig opposition to Charles II:

  • It would be unjust to impute to them the extreme wickedness of taking bribes to injure their country. On the contrary, they meant to serve her: but it is impossible to deny that they were mean and indelicate enough to let a foreign prince pay them for serving her. Among those who cannot be acquitted of this degrading charge was one man who is popularly considered as the personification of public spirit, and who, in spite of some great moral and intellectual faults, has a just claim to be called a hero, a philosopher, and a patriot. It is impossible to see without pain such a name in the list of the pensioners of France. Yet it is some consolation to reflect that, in our time, a public man would be thought lost to all sense of duty and of shame, who should not spurn from him a temptation which conquered the virtue and the pride of Algernon Sidney.[16]

The libertarian philosopher Friedrich Hayek quoted Sidney's Discourses on the title page of his The Constitution of Liberty: "Our inquiry is not after that which is perfect, well knowing that no such thing is found among men; but we seek that human Constitution which is attended with the least, or the most pardonable inconveniences".

Algernon Sidney is one of the namesakes for Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. The College formerly used the original spelling of Sydney. He was chosen because of the role his ideas played in moulding the beliefs of the American Revolutionary thinkers.

Sidney became widely used as a given name in the United States after the American Revolution due to admiration for Algernon Sidney as a martyr to royal tyranny.[17]


  • Sidney, Algernon: Discourses Concerning Government (London, 1698, and later editions);
  • Sidney, Algernon: Apology in the Day of His Death;
  • Sidney, Algernon: The Administration and the Opposition. Addressed to the Citizens of New-Hampshire (Concord, Jacob B. Moore, 1826, ASIN B000IUQ14Q)
  • Sidney, Algernon: Algernon Sidneys Betrachtungen über Regierungsformen (Leipzig, Weygand, 1793: German translation of Discourses Concerning Government)
  • Sidney, Algernon: Discourses Concerning Government, ed. Thomas G. West (Indianapolis, 1996, ISBN 0-86597-142-0)
  • Sidney, Algernon: Court Maxims, Cambridge University Press, in series Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, 1996, ISBN 978-0-521-46175-7)
  • Sidney, Algernon: Discourses on Government. To Which is Added, An Account of the Author's Life (The Lawbook Exchange, New York, 2002 reprint, ISBN 1-58477-209-3)

See also: Published literature from and about Algernon Sidney.



  • Algernon Sydney1
  • M, #25656, b. 1622, d. 7 December 1683
  • Last Edited=3 Mar 2011
  • Consanguinity Index=0.04%
  • Algernon Sydney was born in 1622.1 He was the son of Robert Sydney, 2nd Earl of Leicester and Lady Dorothy Percy.1 He died on 7 December 1683, beheaded.1
  • He held the office of Governor of Chichester in 1645.1 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Cardiff in 1646.1 He held the office of Governor and Lieutenant of Dover in 1648.1 He held the office of Member of the Council of State in 1653.1 He held the office of Member of the Council of State in 1659.1 On 26 June 1683 he was arrested on suspicion on involvement in the Rye House Plot.1 He wrote the book Discourses Concerning Government, published 1698.1
  • Citations
  • [S37] BP2003 volume 1, page 1078. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • [S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."
  • From:


  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 52
  • Sidney, Algernon by Charles Harding Firth
  • SIDNEY or SYDNEY, ALGERNON (1622–1683), republican, second surviving son of Robert Sidney, second earl of Leicester [q. v.], by Dorothy, daughter of Henry Percy, ninth earl of Northumberland, was born in 1622 (Collins, Sidney Papers, i. 149; Ewald, Life of Algernon Sydney, i. 28). Philip Sidney, third earl of Leicester [q. v.], was his eldest brother, and Dorothy Spencer, countess of Sunderland [q. v.], Waller's ‘Saccharissa,’ was his sister. Algernon was educated at home, and accompanied his father on his embassy to Denmark in 1632, and also to Paris in 1636. His intelligence early attracted the notice of his father's friends. ‘All who come from Paris,’ wrote the Countess of Leicester on 10 Nov. 1636, ‘commend Algernon for a huge deal of wit and much sweetness of nature’ (ib. ii. 445). In 1642 the Earl of Leicester, being then lord deputy of Ireland, raised and equipped a regiment of horse, under the command of his son, Lord Lisle [see Sidney, Philip, third Earl of Leicester], for the suppression of the Irish rebellion. Algernon was captain of a troop of horse in the regiment, and probably landed in Ireland with his brother in April 1642 (Carte, Ormonde, ii. 255; Coxe, Hibernia Anglicana, ii. 87). Nothing is known of his services except a general statement that Lord Lisle and his brother Algernon behaved with great spirit and resolution (Ewald, i. 76). On 18 June 1643, when Ormonde was negotiating with the Irish leaders for a cessation of arms, Sidney wrote to his mother for leave to return to England. Fighting was over, and if he remained he would run into debt. ‘If I had well known how to dispose of myself, I must confess I should not have been patient here so long. I am not likely to seek after those employments many others receive with greediness. Nothing but extreme necessity shall make me bear arms in England, and yet it is the only way of living well for those that have not estates. And, besides, there is so few abstain from war for the same reason that I do, that I do not know whether in many men's eyes it may not prove dishonourable to me. If I could procure any employment abroad, I should think myself extremely happy’ (Gilbert, History of Confederation and War in Ireland, vol. ii. p. xlix). The Earl of Leicester, by license dated 22 June 1643, gave Sidney leave to return to England (Collins, i. 150). ..... etc.
  • Sidney was sentenced on 26 Nov. 1683, and executed on 7 Dec. He drew up a petition to Charles II, setting forth the illegality of his trial, and praying to be admitted to the king's presence to prove that it was for his majesty's honour and interest to grant him redress. He also petitioned, by the advice of his friends, who made great efforts to save his life, that his sentence might be commuted into perpetual banishment (Ewald, ii. 300, 312). Both petitions were unavailing. ‘Algernon Sidney,’ the Duke of York joyfully announced to the Prince of Orange, ‘is to be beheaded on Friday next on Tower Hill, which, besides the doing justice on so ill a man, will give the lie to the whigs, who reported he was not to suffer’ (Dalrymple, ii. 115). Evelyn praises Sidney's behaviour in his last moments. ‘When he came on the scaffold, instead of a speech, he told them only that he had made his peace with God, that he came not thither to talk, but to die; put a paper into the sheriffs' hand, and another into a friend's, said one prayer as short as a grace, laid down his neck, and bid the executioner do his office’ (Diary, ed. Wheatley, ii. 424). A bishop, however, asserted that he ‘died with the same surliness wherewith he lived;’ ‘very resolutely, and like a true rebel and republican,’ was the Duke of York's description (Dalrymple, ii. 116; Hatton Correspondence, ii. 41; cf. Burnet, ii. 410, ed. 1833).
  • Sidney's body, as to the disposal of which he had scornfully refused to make any requests of the king, was given to his family, and buried at Penshurst (Ewald, ii. 319; North, Examen, p. 411). The paper which he gave to the sheriffs consisted of a denunciation of the injustice of his trial and a vindication of his political principles. It concluded by thanking God that he was suffered to die for the old cause in which he was from his youth engaged. The government, which had been at first inclined to suppress it as treasonable, allowed it to be printed, in the hope that it would show the world that he and his friends were confessedly seeking to restore a republic (Dalrymple, il. 17). It called forth numerous answers (Animadversions and Remarks upon Colonel Sidney's Paper; Reflections upon Colonel Sidney's Arcadia and the Good Old Cause, &c.). Several pieces of verse on his death also appeared: ‘Colonel Sidney's Overthrow’ (Roxburghe Ballads, iv. 12); ‘Algernon Sidney's Farewell;’ ‘An Elegy upon the Death of Algernon Sidney.’ The last two are reprinted in T. B. Hollis's ‘Life of Thomas Hollis,’ pp. 780, 782. An admiring epitaph is printed in ‘Poems upon State Affairs’ (i. 175).
  • Burnet's account of Sidney's character is substantially just: ‘a man of most extraordinary courage, a steady man even to obstinacy, sincere, but of a rough and boisterous temper, that could not bear contradiction.’ Whitelocke also speaks of the ‘overruling temper and height of Colonel Sidney’ (Memorials, iv. 351). Burnet goes on to describe him as seeming to be a Christian, ‘but in a particular form of his own; he thought it was to be like a divine philosophy in the mind; but he was against all public worship, and everything that looked like a church’ (Own Time, ii. 351). His writings show that he hated popery and intolerance, but give no positive information about his religious views (but see Life of Thomas Hollis, pp. 188, 537).
  • Sidney was painted as a child by Vandyck in a group with his brothers Philip and Robert. This picture is at Penshurst, together with a portrait of Sidney, by Van Egmont, painted in 1663. Another, by the latter artist, is in the National Portrait Gallery. An engraving is given in Lodge's ‘Portraits.’ A portrait by Lely belongs to Earl Spencer. A fancy portrait by Cipriani, said to be from a seal by Thomas Simon, is the frontispiece to the edition of Sidney's ‘Works’ published in 1763 and 1772 (Hollis, pp. 168, 182, 533).
  • Sidney's chief work, the ‘Discourses concerning Government,’ was first printed by Toland or Littlebury in 1698. This is an answer to Filmer's ‘Patriarcha,’ which was first published in 1680; and the few allusions to contemporary politics in Sidney's book show that a great part of it was written about that year. Though tedious from its extreme length and from following too closely in Filmer's footsteps, it contains much vigorous writing, and shows wide reading. Criticisms of it are to be found in Ranke's ‘History of England’ (iv. 123) and Hallam's ‘Literature of Europe’ (iv. 201, ed. 1869); an analysis is in the last chapter of Ewald's ‘Life of Sidney.’ It was reprinted in folio in 1740 and 1751. An edition, in 2 vols. 8vo, was printed at Edinburgh in 1750, and four French translations in 1702 and 1794. An edition, containing also his letters (including those addressed to Henry Savile, and published separately in 1742), report of his trial, and his apology ‘in the day of his death,’ was published in 1763, edited by Thomas Hollis, and was reprinted in 1772, with additions and corrections by J. Robertson (Life of Hollis, pp. 158, 167, 190, 446). Hollis inserted ‘A General View of Government in Europe’ (first published in 1744 in the ‘Use and Abuse of Parliaments’ by James Ralph), but doubts the justice of attributing it to Sidney. ‘The very Copy of a Paper delivered to the Sheriffs’ by Sidney appeared in 1683, fol. An essay entitled ‘Of Love’ was printed from the manuscript at Penshurst in the first series of the ‘Somers Tracts’ in 1748 (ed. Scott, viii. 612). It was reprinted in the ‘Nineteenth Century,’ January 1884. Some letters by Sidney figure in Thurloe's ‘State Papers,’ and in Arthur Collins's ‘Sydney Papers,’ 1746, Blencowe's ‘Sydney Papers,’ 1825, and in T. Forster's ‘Original Letters of John Locke, Algernon Sidney,’ &c., privately printed, 1830 and 1847. [A biography of Sidney is given in the Memoirs of the Sidney family prefixed to the Collection of Sydney Papers edited by Arthur Collins in 1746. Lives are contained in the edition of his Discourses concerning Government published by Toland in 1698, and in the collection of his works published by Hollis in 1772. Other biographies are: Life of Algernon Sidney, 1794, the first volume of a series of Political Classics; Memoirs of Algernon Sidney, by G. W. Meadley, 1813, 8vo; Brief Memoirs of Algernon Sidney, by R. Chase Sidney, 1835; Life of Algernon Sidney, with Sketches of some of his Contemporaries, by G. V. Santvoord, New York, 1851, 12mo; Life and Times of Algernon Sidney, by A. C. Ewald, 2 vols., 1873; Algernon Sidney: a Review by G. M. Blackburne, 1885. The edition of Sidney's Works and Letters to Savile referred to in this article is that of 1772.]
  • From:,_Algernon_(DNB00)


  • Algernon Sidney
  • Birth: Jan., 1623 London, Greater London, England
  • Death: Dec. 7, 1683 Tower Hamlets, Greater London, England
  • As a soldier he served with distinction in Cromwell's army during the Civil War but refused to take part in Cromwell's government of the country, although he acted as a Council of State member. After the restoration of Charles II he went into exile abroad for 17 years but returned to England on receiving permission to live at Penshurst.
  • Family links:
  • Parents:
  • Robert Sidney (1595 - 1677)
  • Dorothy Percy Sidney (1598 - 1659)
  • Siblings:
  • Isabella Sidney Smythe (____ - 1663)*
  • Diana Sidney (____ - 1670)*
  • Elizabeth Sidney (____ - 1650)*
  • Dorothy Sidney Spencer (1617 - 1675)*
  • Philip Sidney (1619 - 1698)*
  • Algernon Sidney (1623 - 1683)
  • Lucy Sidney (1623 - 1624)*
  • Lucy Sidney Pelham (1627 - 1685)*
  • Mary Sidney (1629 - 1648)*
  • Frances Sidney (1630 - 1651)*
  • Henry Sidney (1641 - 1704)*
  • Burial: St John the Baptist Churchyard, Penshurst, Sevenoaks District, Kent, England
  • Plot: Sidney Chapel
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 45759627
  • From:


  • Robert SIDNEY (2° E. Leicester)
  • Born: 1595, Baynard's Castle, London, Middlesex, England
  • Died: 2 Nov 1677, Penshurst, Kent, England
  • Notes: built huge Leicester House, London, 1630s (demolished early 1700s, no trace remains except for the address Leicester Square - the original Leicester Square is in Penshurst village). Member of Parliament for Wilton in 1614. Succeeded to the earldom, 1626.
  • Father: Robert SIDNEY (1° E. Leicester)
  • Mother: Barbara GAMAGE
  • Married: Dorothy PERCY (C. Leicester) Jan 1615
  • Children:
    • 1. Dorothy "Sacharissa" SIDNEY (b. 1617) (mar. 1639 to Henry Spencer, 1° E. Sunderland)
    • 2. Phillip SIDNEY (3° E. Leicester) (b. 1619)
    • 3. Algernon SIDNEY (Republican martyr, b. Penshurst 1621- executed 1683 along with William Russell)
    • 4. Henry SIDNEY (1° E. Romney)
    • 5. Lucy SIDNEY (mar. Sir John Pelham)
    • 6. Robert SIDNEY
  • From: SIDNEY (2° E. Leicester)


  • SIDNEY (SYDNEY), Hon. Henry (1641-1704), of Jermyn Street, Westminster and Elverton, Stone, Kent.
  • b. c. Mar. 1641, 4th s. of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester (d.1677) by Lady Dorothy Percy, da. of Henry, 3rd Earl of Northumberland; bro. of Hon. Algernon Sidney and Philip Sidney Visct. Lisle. educ. travelled abroad 1658-64 (Spain, Italy). unm.; 1s. by Grace Worthley. cr. Visct. Sidney of Sheppey 9 Apr. 1689, Earl of Romney 14 May 1694.1
  • .... etc.
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Algernon Sidney's Timeline

January 14, 1623
London, Middlesex, England
December 7, 1683
Age 60
London, Middlesex, England
Penshurst, Kent, England, United Kingdom