Danvers, Henry (1573-1644) (DNB00)

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DANVERS, HENRY, Earl of Danby (1573–1644), was the second son of Sir John Danvers, knight, of Dauntsey, Wiltshire, by his wife the Hon. Elizabeth Nevill, the youngest daughter and coheiress of John Nevill, last baron Latimer. He was born at Dauntsey on 28 June 1573, and at an early age became a page to Sir Philip Sidney, whom he accompanied to the Low Countries, and was probably present at the battle of Zutphen in 1586. After his master’s death he served as a volunteer under Maurice, count of Nassau, afterwards Prince of Orange, who appointed him at the age of eighteen to the command of a company of infantry. Danvers took part in the siege of Rouen in 1591, and was there knighted for his services in the field by Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, the 'lord-general' of the expedition. His father died on 19 Dec. 1593, and on 4 Oct. 1594 the remarkable murder of Henry Long was committed. A feud had existed between these two county families for some time past, and apparently a fresh quarrel had taken place between them (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1589, p. 570, 1595–1597, p. 34). According to the account given in the Lansdowne MSS. (No. 827), Henry Long was dining in the middle of the day with a party of friends at 'one Chamberlaine's house in Corsham,' when Danvers, followed by his brother Charles and a number of retainers, burst into the room, and shot Long dead on the spot. The brothers then fled on horseback to Whitley Lodge, near Titchfield, the seat of Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton, with whose assistance they succeeded after some days in making their way out of the country. A coroner's inquisition was held, and the brothers were outlawed, but no indictment seems to have been preferred against them either by the family or the government. A mutilated document, preserved among the 'State Papers,' however, gives quite another version of the story, asserting that the unfortunate man was 'slain by Sir Henry Danvers in defending his brother Sir Charles against Long and his company' (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1595–7, p. 34). Reaching France in safety, the brothers joined the French army, and became favourably known to Henry IV for their conspicuous bravery. The Earl of Shrewsbury, writing from 'Rouen this 3 of October 1596 ' to Sir Robert Cecil, says: 'Heare is daily with me Sir Charles and Sir H. Davers, two discreet fine gentlemen, who cary themselves heare with great discretion, reputacion and respect: God turne the eyes of her Majestic to incline unto them, agreable to her own naturall disposition, and I doubt not but thei shall soon tast of her pittie and mercie ' (Lodge, Illustrations, &c. iii. 78–9). In 1597, Henry Danvers appears to have acted as a captain of a man-of-war in the expedition of that year to the coast of Spain, under the Earl of Nottingham, who is said to have deemed him ' one of the best captains of the fleet.' Owing to the French king's intercession with Elizabeth, and to the good offices of Secretary Cecil, the brothers were pardoned on 30 June 1598, and they returned to England in the following August; but it was not until 1604 that the coroner's indictment was found bad on a technical ground and the outlawry reversed (Coke's Reports, 1826, iii. 245–51). Henry was, soon after his return, employed in Ireland under the Earl of Essex, and Charles, eighth baron Mountjoy, successive lords-lieutenant of Ireland. In September 1599 he was appointed lieutenant-general of the horse, in July 1601 governor of Armagh, and in July 1602 sergeant-major-general of the army in Ireland. By James I he was created Baron Danvers of Dauntsey, Wiltshire, on 21 July 1603, 'for his valiant service at Kinsale in Ireland' (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1603-1610, p. 23), and two years afterwards was by special act of parliament (3 James I, c. viii.) restored in blood as heir to his father, notwithstanding the attainder of his elder brother Charles, who had been beheaded in 1601 for his share in Essex's insurrection. On 14 Nov. 1607, Danvers was appointed lord president of Munster, a post which he retained until 1615, when he sold it to the Earl of Thomond for 3,2001. On 15 June 1613 he obtained the grant, in reversion, of the office of keeper of St. James's Palace (ib. 1611–18, p. 187), and on 23 March 1621 he was made governor of the isle of Guernsey for life (ib. 1580–1625, p. 633). By Charles I he was created Earl of Danby on 5 Feb. 1626, and on 20 July 1628 was sworn a member of the privy council. In 1630, Danby succeeded to the estates of his mother, who after her first husband's death had married Sir Edmund Cary. He was made a councillor of Wales on 12 May 1633, and was installed a knight of the Garter on 7 Nov. in the same year. Frequent references are made in the 'Calendar of State Papers (Domestic)' to Danby, especially in connection with the defence of the Channel Islands. In a letter to Secretary Coke, in August 1627, Danby 'thinks it not for the king's honour, nor suitable to his own reputation, that he, who was appointed general against anticipated foreign invaders in Ireland, should go to Guernsey to be shut up in a castle; but, if it be the king's pleasure, he will be at Portsmouth before Sir Henry Mervyn can bring round a ship for his transport' (ib. 1627–8, pp. 321–2). He was included in a number of commissions by Charles I, formed one of the council of war appointed on 17 June 1637, and acted as commissioner of the regency from 9 Aug. to 25 Nov. 1641. Towards the close of his life he suffered much from bad health and lived principally in the country. He died at his house in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, on 20 Jan. 1644, in the seventieth year of his age, 'full of honours, wounds, and daies,' and was buried in the chancel of Dauntsey Church, where there is a handsome monument of white marble to his memory. On the east side of the monument are engraved some curious lines written by his kinsman, George Herbert, who paid a long visit at Dauntsey in 1629, when threatened with consumption. As Herbert died in 1633, the epitaph must have been written many years before Danby's death. He never married, and upon his death the barony of Danvers and the earldom of Danby became extinct. On 12 March 1622 he conveyed to the university of Oxford five acres of land, opposite Magdalen College, which had formerly served as a burying-place for the Jews, for the encouragement of the study of physic and botany. At a cost of some 5,000l. he had the ground raised and enclosed within a high wall. The gateway of the Botanic Gardens, designed by Inigo Jones, still bears the following inscription, 'Gloriae Dei Opt. Max. Honori Caroli Regis, in usum Acad. et Reipub. Henricus comes Danby DD. mdcxxxii.' By his will he left the impropriate rectory of Kirkdale in Yorkshire towards the maintenance of the gardens. His portrait by Vandyck was exhibited at the first exhibition of National Portraits in 1866 (Catalogue, No. 633). There is also a portrait of him at Dauntsey rectory, and another in the possession of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn, which is engraved in Lodge's ' Portraits.'

[Dugdale's Baronage of England (1676), ii. 416-17; Burke's Extinct Peerage (1883), pp. 154-5; Sir Thomas Coningsby's Journal of the Siege of Rouen (Camden Miscellany, i. 30, 71, 74); David Lloyd's State Worthies (1766), ii. 265-6; Biographia Britannica (1789), iv. 628-9; Chalmers's Biog. Dict. (1813), xi. 277-9; Lodge's Illustrations of Brit. Hist. &c. (1791), ii. 322, iii. 78-9, 138, 329; Lodge's Portraits of Illustrious Personages (1850), iv. 149-53 ; Aubrey's Wiltshire Collections (1821), pt, i. pp. 53-4; Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, i. 305-21; Doyle's Official Baronage (1886), i. 508-9; Sir N. H. Nicolas's History of the Orders of Knighthood (1842), ii. G. lxvi.]

G. F. R. B.