- Henry Lawrence, born in 1600, was the eldest son of Sir John Lawrence, (died 1604), of St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, by his marriage, on 7 March 1599, with Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Ralph Waller of Clerkenwell, Middlesex, fourth son of Robert Waller of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. He entered Gray's Inn in 1617, before continuing his education at Queens' College, Cambridge and then Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he became an MA in 1627.
At college he belonged to the puritan party. He was not only lineally allied to Oliver Cromwell, but was at one time his landlord, as he let to him his house and farm at St. Ives from 1631 to 1636. About 1638 he retired to Holland, probably to avoid the severity of the ecclesiastical courts. He returned in 1641, but was abroad again at the outbreak of the English Civil War. In December 1645 he was at Arnheim in Guelderland, and at Altena in January 1646.
On his final return to England he replaced one of the "disabled" members for the constituency of Westmorland on 1 January 1646. In July 1646 he was nominated one of the commissioners for the preservation of peace between England and Scotland, and on 17 March 1648 he became a commissioner of plantations.
Greatly to Cromwell's annoyance, in 1649 Lawrence expressed strong disapproval of the trial and execution of King Charles I. In 1652, being then styled "colonel" he visited Ireland as a commissioner for that kingdom.
On 14 July 1653 he was appointed one of the Council of State, and placed on several committees. In the Barebones Parliament of 1653 Lawrence sat for Hertfordshire, and after its dissolution was placed on Cromwell's new Council of State, his salary being £1,000 a year. In November 1653 the Council of State appointed him Keeper of the Library at St. James's House. At the second meeting of the Council he was made president (chairman) for a month, but by a subsequent order of Cromwell, dated 16 December 1653, he became permanent chairman, with the title of "Lord President of the Council". In the satirical Narrative of the Late Parliament (1658), Lawrence is said to have been made president to win over, or at least keep quiet, "the baptised people, himself being under that ordinance". John Milton, however, in his second Defensio Populi Anglicani (1653–1654), bears eloquent testimony to Lawrence's ability and learning. In 1654 Lawrence strove to assist Lord Craven in recovering his English estates, which had been confiscated in 1650–1651, and he had some correspondence with Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, on the subject.
In the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 Lawrence was again returned for Hertfordshire, and the Second Protectorate Parliament of 1656 he was chosen for both Colchester and Carnarvonshire. He elected to serve for Carnarvonshire, and continued to represent it until his elevation to Cromwell's Other House in December 1657. On the death of Cromwell in September 1658 he declared Richard Cromwell his successor as Protector and ordered his proclamation. He ceased to act as president in July 1659.
After the restoration of the monarchy Lawrence withdrew to Thele, otherwise Goldingtons, a manor in the parish of Stanstead St Margarets, Hertfordshire, which he inherited on the death of his son Edward in 1657. There he died on 8 August 1664, and was buried in the church.