Boys, John (1607-1664) (DNB00)

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BOYS, Sir JOHN (1607–1664), royalist military commander, was the eldest son and heir of Edward Boys of Bonnington, Kent, by Jane, daughter of Edward Sanders of Northborne. He was baptised at Chillendon, Kent, on 5 April 1607. In the civil war he became a captain in the royal army and governor of Donnington Castle in Berkshire. This castle, which is within a mile of Newbury, was garrisoned in 1643 for King Charles I, and commanded the road from Oxford to Newbury and the great road from London to Bath and the west. Boys, by the bravery with which he defended the castle during a long siege, showed himself well worthy of the trust reposed in him. It was first attacked by the parliamentary army, consisting of 3,000 horse and foot, under the command of Major-general Middleton, who attempted to take the castle by assault, but was repulsed with considerable loss. Middleton lost at least 300 officers and men in this fruitless attempt. Not long afterwards, on 29 Sept. 1644, Colonel Horton began a blockade, having raised a battery at the foot of the hill near Newbury, from which he plied the castle so incessantly during a period of twelve days that he reduced it to a heap of ruins, having beaten down three of the towers and a part of the wall. Nearly 1,000 great shot are said to have been expended during this time. Horton having received reinforcements sent a summons to the governor, who refused to listen to any terms. Soon afterwards the Earl of Manchester came to the siege with his army, but their united attempts proved unavailing; and after two or three days more of ineffectual battering the whole army rose up from before the walls and marched in different directions. When the king came to Newbury (21 Oct. 1644) he knighted the governor for his good services, made him colonel of the regiment which he had before commanded as lieutenant-colonel to Earl Rivers, the nominal governor of Donnington, and to his coat armour gave the augmentation of a crown imperial or, on a canton azure. During the second battle of Newbury Boys secured the king's artillery under the castle walls. After the battle, when the king had gone with his army to Oxford, the Earl of Essex with his whole force besieged Donnington Castle with no better success than the others had done. He abandoned the attempt before the king returned from Oxford for the purpose of relieving Donnington on 4 Nov. 1644. The place was then revictualled, and his majesty slept in the castle that night with his army around him. In August 1648 Boys made a fruitless attempt to raise the siege of Deal Castle. A resolution put in the House of Commons at the same time to banish him as one of the seven royalists who had been in arms against the parliament since 1 Jan. 1647-8 was negatived. In 1659 he was a prisoner in Dover Castle for petitioning for a free parliament, but was released on 23 Feb. 1659-60. He apparently received the office of receiver of customs at Dover from Charles II.

Sir John Boys died at his house at Bonnington on 8 Oct. 1664, and was buried in the parish church of Goodnestone-next-Wingham, Kent. The inscription describes his achievements in the wars. By his first wife, Lucy, he had five daughters. He had no children by his second marriage with Lady Elizabeth Finch, widow of Sir Nathaniel Finch, serjeant-at-law, and daughter of Sir John Fotherby of Barham, Kent.

There is a portrait of Boys engraved by Stow, and reproduced by Mr. Walter Money in his 'Battles of Newbury' (1884).

[Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion (1843), 429, 499; Heath's Chronicle of the Civil Wars, 62; Walter Money's Battles of Newbury (1884); Hasted's Kent, iii. 705; Lysons's Berkshire, 356, 357; Berry's Pedigrees of Families in Kent, 441; Granger's Biog. Hist, of England (1824), iii. 51, 52.]

T. C.