Willys, Sir Richard
A cavalry officer under Rupert, he had been Governor of Newark in 1644 until dismissed by the King. After a spell in Italy he returned to England in 1652 where he became a member of the royalist underground organisation known as the Sealed Knot. He seems to have played a double game. Though twice imprisoned by the government, he established contact with Cromwell's secret service in 1656 or 1657, possibly for money - he was very poor - or to secure his safety in case the royalist cause failed. In 1659-60 he was denounced to the King by Samuel Morland, Thurloe's assistant and Pepys's old tutor, who accused him of having betrayed Booth's rising in Aug. 1659 [and of being part of a plot to assassinate the King]. Willys's fellow conspirators in the Sealed Knot disbelieved the charges, but Clarendon and the King were convinced by the evidence of the handwriting in the letters which Morland sent over. At the Restoration he was forbidden the court.
(from the Companion entry)
James H. Lister, Jr. • Link
After Sir Richard Willys retired from his political life in England he allegedly departed to the United States to reside.
There happen'd at this time the discovery of a vile Treachery which had done the King's Affairs much harm; and had it been longer concealed, would have done much more. From the death of Oliver, some of those who were in the secretest part of his Affairs, discern'd evidently, that their new Protector would never be able to bear the burthen and so thought how they might do such service to the King, as might merit from him. One who had a part in the Office of Secrecy, Mr. Moreland, sent an Express to the King, to inform him of many particulars of Moment, and to give him some advices, what his Majesty was to do; which was reasonable and prudent to be done. He sent him word what Persons might be induced to serve him, and what way he was to take to induce them to it, and what other Persons would never do it, what professions soever they might make. He made offer of his Service to his Majesty, and constantly to advertise him of whatsoever was necessary for him to know; and, as an instance of his fidelity, and his usefulness, he advertised the King of a Person who was much trusted by his Majesty, and constantly betrayed him; "that he had receiv'd a large Pension from Cromwell, and that he continually gave Thurlow Intelligence of all that he knew..."
The Gentleman accused, was Sr Richard Willis; who had from the beginning to the end of the War, except at Newark, given testimony of his Duty and Allegiance, and was universally thought to be superior to all temptations of infidelity. He was a Gentleman, and was very well bred, and of very good parts, a courage eminently known, and a very good Officer, and in truth of so general a good reputation, that, if the King had professed to have any doubt of his honesty, his Friends would have thought he had receiv'd ill infusions without any ground; and he had given a very late testimony of his sincerity by concealing the Marquis of Ormond, who had Communicated more with him, than with any Man in England, during his being there. On the other side, all the other informations, and advices, that were sent by the Person who accused him, were very important, and could have no end but his Majesty's Service; and the Offices that Gentleman offer'd to perform for the future, were of that consequence, that they could not be overvalued. This Intelligence could not be sent with a hope of getting Money; for the present condition of him who sent it, was so good, that he expected no reward, till the King should be enabled to give it; and he who was sent in the Errand, was likewise a Gentleman, who did not look for the Charges of his Journey.
---The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, v.3 part 2. Edward Hyde Earl of Clarendon, 1707.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.