Rudyerd, Benjamin (DNB00)

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RUDYERD, Sir BENJAMIN (1572–1658), politician and poet, son of James Rudyerd of Hartley, Hampshire, by Margaret, daughter and heiress of Lawrence Kidwelly of Winchfield in the same county, was born on 26 Dec. 1572. He was educated at Winchester school, and matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford, on 15 Jan. 1587–8, but does not appear to have graduated (Foster, Alumni Oxon. i. 1288; Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 455, gives the date of his matriculation as 4 Aug. 1587). On 18 April he was admitted to the Inner Temple, and on 24 Oct. 1600 was called to the bar (Manning, Memoirs of Sir Benjamin Rudyerd, p. 5).

Rudyerd's career falls naturally into three parts. ‘His youthful years,’ says Wood, ‘were adorned with all kinds of polite learning, his middle years with matters of judgment, and his latter with state affairs and politics.’ His poems, though not printed till after his death, gained Rudyerd considerable reputation as a poet, and he was also accepted as a critic of poetry. He associated with Ben Jonson, John Hoskins (1566–1638) [q. v.], John Owen (1560?–1622) [q. v.] the epigrammatist, and other men of letters, and was on intimate terms with William Herbert, earl of Pembroke. Jonson printed in 1616 three epigrams addressed to Rudyerd, praising his virtues, his friendship, and his ‘learned muse’ (Epigrams, 121–3). Another poem written on seeing Rudyerd's portrait is indifferently attributed to John Owen or Sir Henry Wotton (Manning, p. 254).

Rudyerd's friendship with John Hoskins was interrupted by a duel, in which the former is said to have been wounded in the knee (Wood, Athenæ, ii. 626). His intimacy with Pembroke, testified by his answers to Pembroke's poems, was further cemented by his marriage with Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Henry Harington, who was a kinswoman of Pembroke (Manning, p. 28).

In 1610 Rudyerd obtained a license to travel for three years, and Lord Herbert of Cherbury mentions meeting him at Florence in 1614 (Life, ed. Lee, p. 153; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–10, p. 581). After his return he was knighted (30 March 1618) and granted, on 17 April 1618, the post of surveyor of the court of wards for life (ib. 1611–18, pp. 525, 535; Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 173). Rudyerd held this lucrative office until its abolition by the Long parliament in 1647, when he was voted 6,000l. as a compensation for its loss (Manning, p. 240; Commons' Journals, v. 46).

Rudyerd's political career began in 1620, in which year he was returned to parliament for the borough of Portsmouth. In later parliaments he represented Portsmouth (1624, 1625), Old Sarum (1626), Downton (1628), and Wilton in the two parliaments of 1640 (Names of Members returned to serve in Parliament, 1878). His earliest speeches combine zeal for the cause of the elector palatine with a desire to propitiate the king, and he maintained this moderate attitude throughout the disputes of the next eight years (Manning, pp. 58, 62; Gardiner, History of England, iv. 235).

In the parliament of 1623 Rudyerd came forward as the chosen spokesman of the government. ‘His official position as surveyor of the court of wards, together with his close connection with Pembroke, made him a fit exponent of the coalition which had sprung up between Buckingham and the popular lords’ (Gardiner, History of England, v. 189, 194). He advocated war with Spain, a confederation with foreign protestant princes, and a liberal contribution to the king's necessities (Manning, pp. 74, 79, 83). In the first parliament of Charles I Rudyerd, still following the lead of his patron Pembroke, played a similar part. He commenced with a panegyric on the virtues of the new sovereign, prophesying that the distaste between parliament and sovereign would now be removed, for the king ‘hath been bred in parliaments, which hath made him not only to know, but to favour the ways of his subjects’ (Commons' Debates in 1625, pp. 10, 30, Camd. Soc. 1873). Holding these views, he took no part in the attack on Buckingham during the Oxford session, and approved the device of making the opposition leaders sheriffs in order to prevent them renewing the attack in the next parliament. ‘The rank weeds of parliament,’ he wrote to a friend, ‘are rooted up, so that we may expect a plentiful harvest the next’ (Gardiner, History of England, vi. 33). In spite of his disinclination to act against the government, he was one of the sixteen members appointed to assist the managers of Buckingham's impeachment (3 May 1626), but took no public part in the trial, while showing characteristic zeal for questions of church reform (Manning, pp. 103, 135). In 1628, while still endeavouring to mediate, he took a stronger line for redress of grievances. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is the crisis of parliaments. … If we persevere, the king to draw one way, the parliament another, the Commonwealth must sink in the midst.’ Against the king's claim to arrest without showing cause he emphatically declared himself, holding that a new law rather than a mere re-enactment of Magna Charta was necessary, though professing that he would be glad to see that ‘good old decrepit law Magna Charta walk abroad again with new vigour and lustre’ (ib. pp. 114, 120, 126; Gardiner, vi. 264). His speech on the liberty of the subject was criticised by Laud as seditious (Laud, Works, vii. 631), and this criticism was adduced as evidence against the archbishop at his trial (ib. iv. 358).

During the intermission of parliaments Rudyerd turned his attention to colonial enterprises. He was one of the original incorporators of the Providence Company (4 Dec. 1630), and, like other members of the company, sometimes repaired his losses as a coloniser by his gains in privateering (Cal. State Papers, Col. 1574–1660, p. 123; Strafford Papers, ii. 141). It was probably to his connection with the Providence Company that Rudyerd owed his place in the council appointed by the Long parliament for the government of the English colonies (2 Nov. 1643).

In the Short parliament of April 1640 Rudyerd resumed the part of mediator. ‘If temper and moderation be not used by us, beware of having the race of parliaments rooted out’ (Manning, p. 151). In the Long parliament he created a great impression by the vigorous attack on the king's evil counsellors which he made on the first day of its debates. ‘Under the name of puritans,’ he complained, ‘all our religion is branded. Whosoever squares his actions by any rule, either divine or human, he is a puritan. Whoever could be governed by the king's laws, he is a puritan. He that will not do whatsoever other men would have him do, he is a puritan’ (ib. p. 160). He followed up this speech by an attack on the new canons imposed by the synod of 1640, but drew back when the abolition of bishops was proposed, and advocated a limited episcopacy (ib. pp. 174, 185, 188). Rudyerd spoke several times against Strafford, and did not vote against the bill for his attainder (ib. pp. 194–205). He was a zealous advocate of a vigorous and protestant foreign policy, and opposed any suggestion to tolerate catholicism in Ireland (ib. pp. 208–18). In the debate on the ‘Grand Remonstrance,’ while agreeing with the historical portion of that manifesto, he objected to what he termed the prophetical part (ib. p. 222). On 9 July 1642, when civil war was imminent, he made a pathetic appeal for peace, which was immediately republished and circulated by the royalists (ib. p. 231). Yet, in spite of his repugnance to war, Rudyerd did not leave the Long parliament, though the fact that his attendance was twice specially ordered seems to show that he sometimes thought of retiring from Westminster (Commons' Journals, ii. 925). He took the two covenants, acted as a commissioner for the government of the colonies, and was appointed a member of the assembly of divines (12 June 1643). In 1648 he supported the presbyterians in urging an accommodation with the king, was arrested by the army on 6 Dec., and was for a few hours imprisoned (Manning, pp. 244, 248). Rudyerd took no further part in public affairs, and died at his house at West Woodhay in Berkshire on 31 May 1658. His epitaph, written by himself, is printed by Wood and by Le Neve (Monumenta Anglicana, ii. 60). Rudyerd left one son, William, some verses by whom are prefixed to Lovelace's ‘Lucasta.’

A portrait of Rudyerd by Mytens, in the possession of Lord Braybrooke, was engraved both by W. Hollar and T. Payne; it is given in Manning's ‘Memoirs of Sir Benjamin Rudyerd.’

Rudyerd was the author of: 1. ‘Le Prince d'Amour, an Account of the Revels of the Society of the Middle Temple in 1599,’ published in 1660 (cf. Manning, p. 8). 2. ‘Poems written by William, Earl of Pembroke, whereof many are answered by way of repartee by Sir Benjamin Rudyerd, knight: with several distinct Poems written by them occasionally and apart,’ 1660, 8vo. 3. ‘Speeches.’ According to Wood about forty of Rudyerd's speeches were published during his life. Many of these are reprinted in Rushworth's ‘Collections,’ and others are added from manuscript in Manning's ‘Memoirs.’ They show great rhetorical and literary gifts, but little statesmanship. Sir Edward Dering in the Long parliament styled him ‘that silver trumpet,’ but his oratory was rather pleasing than convincing. According to Sir John Eliot, his speeches were ‘never but premeditated, which had more show of memory than affection, and made his words less powerful than observed’ (Forster, Life of Eliot, i. 288).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iii. 455; Manning's Memoirs of Sir Benjamin Rudyerd, 1841.]

C. H. F.