Robert Blake was baptised on 27th September 1598 at St Mary's Church, Bridgwater. He was the eldest surviving child of Humphrey Blake, merchant, (d.1625) and his wife Sarah (Williams) (d.1638). After studying at the local grammar school Robert attended Oxford University.

He supported the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, served in the army, was Governor of Taunton and general-at-sea (1649). In the first Dutch war he defeated Admirals Marten Tromp, De Witt and De Ruyter and went on to destroy the Tunisian corsair squadron at Porto Farina and the Spanish plate fleet at Santa Cruz in the Canary Islands.

He died of fever on 17th August 1657 just as his ship George sailed into Plymouth. The body was embalmed (the bowels being buried at St Andrew's church in the town) and taken by sea to Greenwich to lay in state in the Great Hall of the Queen's House. Cromwell ordered a magnificent funeral for him, with a barge procession along the Thames.

He was buried in Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey on 4 September. However, by order of King Charles II, his remains were removed in 1661, together with other Cromwellians, and buried in a pit in St Margaret's churchyard, adjoining the Abbey. A modern plaque on the exterior wall of the church records the names of those who were disinterred.

Robert Blake never married and left his estate to his brothers Humphrey and Benjamin. Benjamin emigrated to America and his son Joseph became Governor of the Province of Carolina.