Porter, Endymion (DNB00)
|←Porter, Charles||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46
PORTER, ENDYMION (1587–1649), royalist, descended from William Porter, sergeant-at-arms to Henry VII, was the son of Edmund Porter of Aston-sub-Edge, Gloucestershire, by his cousin Angela, daughter of Giles Porter of Mickleton in the same county. Giles Porter married Juana de Figueroa y Mont Salve, said to have been a relative of the Count of Feria, who was Spanish ambassador in England at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign. On Lord Nottingham's mission to Spain in 1605, Giles Porter was employed as interpreter (Burke, Commoners, iii. 577; Winwood, Memorials, ii. 76). Endymion Porter was brought up in Spain, and was sometime a page in the household of Olivares (Wilson, Life of James I, p. 225; Clarendon, Rebellion, iv. 28). On his return to England he entered the service of Edward Villiers, and passed thence into that of his brother, then Marquis of Buckingham. Through Buckingham's influence he obtained the post of groom of the bedchamber to Prince Charles, which he continued to hold after the accession of Charles to the throne (Gardiner, Hist. of England, iv. 370). On 20 Nov. 1619 the manor of Aston-sub-Edge was conveyed to Porter by his cousin Richard Catesby (note communicated by Mr. S. G. Hamilton). About the same time, or in 1620, he married Olivia, daughter of John Boteler (afterwards Lord Boteler of Bramfield) and of Elizabeth Villiers, sister of Buckingham.
Porter's knowledge of Spain and of the Spanish language opened his way to diplomatic employments. Buckingham used him to conduct his Spanish correspondence, and in October 1622 he was sent to Spain to carry the demand for Spanish aid in the recovery of the Palatinate, and to prepare the way for the intended journey of Prince Charles. In December he returned with the amended marriage articles, and with a secret message accepting the intended visit from the prince (Gardiner, Hist. of England, iv. 370, 374, 383, 398). Porter accompanied Prince Charles and Buckingham to Spain in 1623, and sometimes acted as their interpreter. His letters to his wife contain an interesting account of their reception (Fonblanque, Lives of the Lords Strangford, p. 29; Nichols, Progresses of James I, iv. 808, 818, 912). In 1626, when the Earl of Bristol attacked Buckingham's conduct of the marriage negotiations, he involved Porter in his charges (Gardiner, vi. 96; Hardwicke State Papers, i. 501). Porter was again sent to Spain in 1628 to propose negotiations for peace between that country and England (ib. vi. 333, 373; Report on the MSS. of Mr. Skrine, pp. 156–66; Fonblanque, p. 51). In 1634 he was employed on a mission to the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand of Spain, then governor of the Low Countries, which ended in nothing but a dispute about questions of etiquette (ib. p. 59; Cal. State Papers, 1634–5, p. 461). Charles also commissioned him in October 1639 to warn Cardenas of the danger of the Spanish fleet at Dover and the king's inability to protect it from the Dutch (Gardiner, ix. 66; Fonblanque, p. 67).
Porter's rewards more than kept pace with his services. In May 1625 he was given a pension of 500l. a year as groom of the bedchamber, which was converted three years later into an annuity of the same amount for himself and his wife. On 9 July 1628 he was granted the office of collector of the fines in the Star-chamber, estimated to be worth 750l. a year (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1625–6 p. 23, 1628–9 pp. 199, 219). In addition to this, he purchased the post of surveyor of the petty customs in the port of London, and had an interest in the soap monopoly. He also frequently obtained smaller pecuniary favours, such as leases of land at low rentals, shares in debts due to the king, and he was liberally paid for his diplomatic missions (ib. 1635, p. 65; Fonblanque, p. 65). He was granted one thousand acres of land in Lincolnshire which he undertook to drain (1632), but the speculation was not very successful. More profitable, probably, were his trading speculations. He was one of the association of East Indian traders, founded by Sir William Courten, which so seriously diminished the profits of the old East India Company, and he had shares in other maritime ventures (Bruce, Annals of the East India Company, vol. i.; Strafford Letters, ii. 87; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635, p. 96). The wealth thus acquired was liberally spent.
Porter's memory owes its celebrity chiefly to his taste for literature and art. He wrote verses himself, and was the friend and patron of poets. Some lines, prefixed to Davenant's ‘Madagascar,’ and an elegy on Dr. Donne's death, afford specimens of his poetic skill which scarcely justify Randolph's unstinted praise (‘A Pareneticon to the truly noble gentleman Master Endymion Porter,’ Works, ed. Hazlitt, p. 639). Dekker dedicated his ‘Dream’ to Porter, Gervase Warmstrey his ‘England's Wound and Cure’ (1628), and May his ‘Antigone’ (1631); Edmund Bolton addressed to him his ‘Historical Parallel’ (1627), and he was one of the eighty-four ‘Essentials’ in Bolton's intended ‘Academy Royal.’ Porter's influence with Charles I saved Davenant's play of ‘The Wits’ from the excessive expurgations of the master of the revels. ‘Your goodness,’ said Davenant's dedication, ‘first preserved life in the author, then rescued his work from a cruel faction’ (Collier, English Dramatic Poetry, i. 484; Davenant, Works, ed. 1673, ii. 165). Davenant, who addresses Porter as ‘lord of my muse and heart,’ and frequently refers to gifts of wine received from him, was poet in ordinary to the Porter family. Among his works there are poems to Olivia Porter, to her son George, copies of verse on Endymion's illnesses, an ‘address to all poets’ upon his recovery, and dialogues in verse between Olivia and Endymion and Endymion and Arrigo. Herrick also was among Porter's friends, and appeals to him not to leave the delights of the country for the ambition and state of the court (‘The Country Life: an Eclogue or Pastoral between Endymion Porter and Lycidas,’ Herrick, Poems, ed. Hazlitt, i. 196, 246). Elsewhere he declares that poets will never be wanting so long as there are patrons like Porter
who dost give
Not only subject-matter for our wit,
But also oil of maintenance to it.
(ib. p. 40). Porter's generosity also extended to Robert Dover [q. v.], whose Olympic games upon the Cotswold Hills he encouraged by ‘giving him some of the king's old clothes, with a hat and feather and ruff, purposely to grace him, and consequently the solemnity’ (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. iv. 222).
Porter had also a taste for art; he bought pictures himself, and was one of the agents employed by Charles I in forming his great collection. He procured for Daniel Mytens [q. v.] the office of ‘one of his Majesty's picture-drawers in ordinary’ (Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, ed. Wornum 1849, i. 216, 274). Much of the correspondence with the foreign agents who bought pictures and statues for the king in Italy and the Levant passed through his hands, and he was on friendly terms with Rubens, Gentileschi, and other painters employed by the king. He also helped to procure the Earl of Arundel pictures from Spain (Sainsbury, Original Papers relating to Rubens, 1859, pp. 146, 203, 293, 324, 353).
During the two Scottish wars Porter was in constant attendance on the king. In the Long parliament he represented Droitwich, and was one of the fifty-nine members who voted against Strafford's attainder, and were posted up as ‘Straffordians’ and ‘traitors’ (Rushworth, iv. 248). In August 1641 he accompanied the king on his visit to Scotland. What he witnessed there filled him with the gloomiest anticipations, and he told Nicholas that he feared this island would before long be a theatre of distractions (Nicholas Papers, i. 40, 45). When Charles left Whitehall, Porter still followed his master. ‘Whither we go and what we are to do I know not, for I am none of the council; my duty and loyalty have taught me to follow my king, and, by the grace of God, nothing shall divert me from it’ (Fonblanque, p. 75). On 15 Feb. 1642, however, the House of Commons voted him ‘one that is conceived to give dangerous counsel,’ and on 4 Oct. following included him among the eleven great delinquents who were to be excepted from pardon. In the subsequent treaties of peace he was consistently named among the exceptions, and on 10 March 1643 he was disabled from sitting in parliament (Commons' Journals, ii. 433, 997; Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 98). The reasons for this animosity against a man who was not a minister of state or a public official were partly the great confidence which Charles reposed in Porter, and partly the supposition that he was one of the chief instruments in the ‘popish plot’ against the liberties and religion of England. He had been the favourite and the agent of Buckingham. His wife Olivia was a declared catholic, and has been described as ‘the soul of the proselytising movement’ in the queen's court. She had converted her father, Lord Boteler, and attempted to convert her kinswoman, the Marchioness of Hamilton (Gardiner, viii. 238). A denunciation of the supposed plotters, sent to Laud by Sir William Boswell, the English ambassador in the Netherlands, made the following assertions: ‘Master Porter of the King's Bedchamber, most addicted to the Popish religion, is a bitter enemy of the King. He reveals all his greatest secrets to the Pope's legate; although he very rarely meets with him, yet his wife meets him so much the oftener, who, being informed by her husband, conveys secrets to the legate. In all his actions he is nothing inferior to Toby Matthew; it cannot be uttered how diligently he watcheth on the business. His sons are secretly instructed in the popish religion; openly they profess the reformed. The eldest is now to receive his father's office under the king which shall be. A cardinal's hat is provided for the other if the design succeed well’ (Prynne, Rome's Master-Piece, 1644, p. 23). Wild though these accusations were, they gained some credence. What helped to make them believed was that Porter was undoubtedly implicated in the army plot, and was suspected of a share in instigating the Irish rebellion. On 1 Oct. 1641 the great seal of Scotland had been in his custody, and it was asserted that he had used it to seal the commission produced by Sir Phelim O'Neill [q. v.] (The Mystery of Iniquity yet Working, 1643, p. 37; Rome's Master-Piece, p. 33; Brodie, Hist. of the British Empire, ii. 378). The charge was probably untrue, but it is noteworthy that Porter subsequently assisted Glamorgan in the illegitimate affixing of the great seal to his commission to treat with the Irish (1 April 1644). He was not a man to stick at legal formalities in anything which would serve his master (English Historical Review, ii. 531, 692).
In the list of the king's army in 1642, Porter appears as colonel of a regiment of foot, but his command was purely nominal, and when he made his composition with the parliament he could assert that he had never borne arms against it (Peacock, Army Lists, p. 14). Porter followed the king to Oxford and sat in the anti-parliament summoned there in December 1643 (Old Parliamentary History, xiii. 75). He left England about the close of 1645, stayed some time in France, and then proceeded to Brussels. ‘I am in so much necessity,’ he wrote to Nicholas in January 1647, ‘that were it not for an Irish barber, that was once my servant, I might have starved for want of bread. He hath lent me some monies, which will last me a fortnight longer, and then I shall be as much subject to misery as I was before. Here, in our court, no man looks on me, and the Queen thinks I lost my estate rather for want of wit than for my loyalty to my master; but, God be thanked, I know my own heart and am satisfied in my own conscience, and were it to do again I would as freely sacrifice all without hopes of reward as I have done this’ (Nicholas Papers, i. 70). In the Netherlands, thanks doubtless to his Spanish friends, Porter found it easier to live, and his letters from Brussels are more cheerful (Fonblanque, p. 80; Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 30). On 23 Nov. 1648 he was given leave to come over to England to compound for his estate, and did so in the following spring. His fine was fixed, on 21 June 1649, at 222l. 10s., the smallness of the sum being probably due to the fact that his landed property was encumbered, while all his movables had long since been confiscated (Cal. of Committee for Compounding, p. 1804; cf. Dring, Catalogue of Compounders, p. 87, ed. 1733). He died a few weeks later, and was buried at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 20 Aug. 1649.
In his will, dated 26 March 1639, Porter inserted a tribute to the patron to whom he owed his rise to fortune. ‘I charge all my sons, upon my blessing, that they, leaving the like charges to their posterity, do all of them observe and respect the children and family of my Lord Duke of Buckingham, deceased, to whom I owe all the happiness I had in the world’ (Fonblanque p. 82; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. ix. 353).
Olivia Porter survived her husband fourteen years; she died in 1663, and was buried at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 13 Dec.
Porter's eldest son, George (1622?–1683) [q. v.], and his fourth son, Thomas [q. v.], are separately noticed. His second son, Charles (b. 1623), was killed at the battle of Newburn in 1640 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640, p. 231; Rushworth, iii. 1238). Philip, the third (b. 1628), was imprisoned in 1654 for complicity in a plot against the Protector (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1654, p. 274). Otherwise he is only heard of as a swashbuckler of the worst type (Middlesex Records, iii. 210).
James Porter, the fifth son (b. 1638), entered the army after the Restoration, and was probably the captain of that name who held commissions in Lord Falkland's regiment in 1661, and in the Duke of Buckingham's in 1672. He was also captain of a volunteer troop of horse, raised at the time of Monmouth's rebellion, and was then described as Colonel Porter (Charles Dalton, Army Lists, i. 20, 120, ii. 16). During the reign of Charles II he was occasionally employed on complimentary missions to France and the Netherlands (Saville Correspondence, p. 116; Secret-service Money of Charles II and James II, p. 130). On 8 March 1686–7 he was appointed vice-chamberlain of the household to James II, having previously held the post of groom of the bedchamber (Luttrell, Diary, i. 395; Saville Correspondence, p. 167). He has been identified with the Porter who held the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the regiment of Colonel Henry FitzJames in the Irish army of James II (James D'Alton, King James's Irish Army List, ii. 85). In February 1689 James sent Porter as envoy to Innocent XI (Macpherson, Original Papers, i. 302). On his return he continued to occupy the post of chamberlain in the court at St. Germains, and furnished materials for a funeral panegyric on his master (‘A Funeral Oration on the late King James, composed from Memoirs furnished by Mr. Porter, his Great Chamberlain; dedicated to the French King,’ translated into English, 1702).
A picture, representing Endymion Porter and his family, by Vandyck, was in the possession of Lord Strangford. Two other portraits of Porter, by the same artist, are in the possession of the Earl of Hardwicke and the Earl of Mexborough. The latter was No. 31 in the Vandyck exhibition of 1886. Another is in Mr. Fenwick's collection at Middlehill. There is in the National Gallery a likeness of Porter, by Dobson, which was engraved by Faithorne (Fagan, Catalogue of Faithorne's Works, 1888, p. 54). Another portrait by Dobson is in the National Portrait Gallery. A medal, representing Porter, was executed by Warin in 1635, the inscription on which states that he was then ‘æt. 48.’[The best life of Porter is that contained in E. B. de Fonblanque's Lives of the Lords Strangford, 1877. A pedigree of the Porter family is given by Waters in The Chesters of Chichele, i. 144–9. The Domestic State Papers contain a large number of letters from Porter to his wife, many of which are printed in full by Fonblanque; notes and copies of other letters kindly supplied by Mrs. R. B. Townshend.]