Parker, Henry (1604–52), parliamentarian pamphleteer, was born in 1604, the fifth son of Sir Nicholas Parker (d. 1619) and his third wife, Katherine Temple. His family, important Sussex gentry, was based at Ratton. Little is known of his early life until he attended Oxford, where he graduated BA and MA. Admitted to Lincoln's Inn, he was called to the bar in 1638, although he seems never to have practised.
Parker was greatly influenced by a puritan uncle, William Fiennes, Lord Saye and Sele, and as a result published political and religious pamphlets from 1638. In 1640, with The case of shipmoney, he began to produce propaganda for the parliamentarian cause. He stressed populist legal rhetoric that public authority was intended to protect the subject and that the king also had to obey the law. The following year he published three religious pamphlets, but it was his Observations upon some of his majesties late answers and expresses, issued in 1642, that made him famous. This pamphlet dealt with power residing in the people and maintained that the commonwealth was superior to the king (parliamentary sovereignty). Parker was given the nickname ‘the Observator’, and became something of a representative in the pamphlet wars for the parliamentarians.
Ireland was the subject of three of his 1642 pamphlets. The first of these dealt with the Irish rising which had broken out in October 1641: The Irish massacre. A true narrative of the unparallell'd cruelties exercised in Ireland upon the British protestants, etc. He returned to Irish atrocities, but this time in a wider context, in The manifold miseries of civill warre and discord in a kingdome: by the examples of Germany, France, Ireland, and other places. And the same year he argued for England, Scotland and Ireland to constitute a unitary state, concluding with the hope that ‘by some such wholesome constitution Ireland may be better reduced, and the like rebellions for the future prevented, and perhaps other states, by the harmony of our union, invited into an incorporation with us, till we all grow up into a body equall and able to poyse with any state now in Europe’ (The generall junto, or the counsel of union, chosen equally out of England, Scotland and Ireland for the better compacting of three nations into one monarchy (1642), 31).
Parker was employed in an official capacity by the parliamentarian leadership, as secretary both to the earl of Essex and to the committee of safety. In 1645 he began to work with the parliamentary secretaries John Sadler and Thomas May. That same year he published the pamphlet The kings cabinet opened, a summary of the king's papers captured after the battle of Naseby. In 1647 he was appointed secretary to the Merchant Adventurers at Hamburg in Germany; in 1649 he was sending secret intelligence to England on ‘military preparations’ in Sweden and Denmark.
Parker returned to England in 1649 and was appointed secretary to the commissioners of parliament in Ireland. He worked for Oliver Cromwell (qv) and Henry Ireton (qv), travelling frequently between Ireland and England. He published early in 1652 The chief affairs of Ireland truly communicated, which had the stated purpose of being ‘a check and reproof to all such as walk Westminster-Hall, openly to spread false wonders of the toryes, and landing of forrein [sic] forces in Ireland, that they may discourage any that are now willing to go over either to plant, or serve in the wars . . .’, but was in fact a defence of Ireton's conduct in Ireland. While in Ireland Parker became ill with gallstones; following his death he was buried in Kensington, London, on 21 May 1652. He left a wife, Jane Cannon, whom he married in 1634, and two children, Henry and Anne. Parker made his wife sole executor of his will and divided his small estate into three equal portions for her and the two children. In January 1653 she petitioned the committee of parliament for the army ‘to pay her the arrears due to her late husband for service in Ireland’. During his lifetime Parker published at least eighteen pamphlets and books on religious, trading, and governmental matters.