Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Savile, Thomas

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SAVILE, THOMAS, first Viscount Savile of Castlebar in the peerage of Ireland, second Baron Savile of Pontefract, and first Earl of Sussex, in the peerage of England (1590?–1658?), third, but eldest surviving son of John Savile, first baron Savile of Pontefract [q. v.], was born about 1590. In November 1610 he was admitted a member of the Inner Temple, and on 6 March 1616–17 he was knighted by James I. Soon afterwards he was appointed steward of the town and lordship of Wakefield, and receiver of the manor of Castle Donington, and on 10 Jan. 1621–2 he was made receiver and surveyor of the honour of Tutbury. On 10 Jan. 1623–4, in conjunction with his father, he defeated Wentworth in a contest for the parliamentary representation of Yorkshire. On 18 Dec. 1626 he was appointed joint steward, forester, and warden of the forest of Gualtres, and on the 29th gentleman of the privy chamber to Charles I; he also received a grant of the reversion of the surveyorship of customs. On 3 March 1627–8 he was returned as member for York city, but was unseated on petition in the following April. He inherited the family hatred of the Wentworths, and zealously seconded his father in his struggle with the future Earl of Strafford. He also attached himself to the Duke of Buckingham, into whose family he subsequently married, and it was probably through the duke's influence that he was created Viscount Savile of Castlebar in the peerage of Ireland on 11 June 1628. Savile succeeded to the English peerage at his father's death on 31 Aug. 1630. On the same day he endeavoured to seize some property his father had left to his sister, Mrs. Anne Leigh, and compelled the tenant to sign a deed with a dagger at his breast (Hist. MSS. Comm., 4th Rep. App. p. 79; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1637, p. 481). He was also accused of tampering with the depositions of the witnesses. These proceedings led to his trial in the Star-chamber and to his imprisonment in the Fleet (ib. 1638–9, p. 228). This, combined with his hostility to Strafford, made Savile a bitter enemy of the government. In the spring of 1640 he visited John Campbell, first earl of Loudoun [q. v.], one of the Scots commissioners who had been imprisoned in the Tower. Through Campbell, Archibald Johnston (afterwards called Lord Warriston) [q. v.] addressed on 23 June to Savile, ‘as the recognised organ of the English malcontents’ (Gardiner, ix. 178), a letter in which he expressed the desire of the Scots for a definite understanding with the English nobility, and asked for a special engagement from some principal persons that they would join the invading army when it entered Northumberland, or send money for its support. On 8 July Savile forwarded a reply signed by Bedford, Essex, Brooke, Warwick, Scrope, Mandeville, and himself, refusing to commit any treasonable act, but promising to stand by the Scots in a legal and honourable way. At the same time Savile sent an answer on his own account, making unqualified offers of aid. The Scots were not satisfied, and a few weeks later Savile forwarded an open declaration and engagement in their favour; appended were the signatures of the six peers, which Savile himself forged with remarkable skill (for a discussion of the genuineness of the letter as printed by Oldmixon, see Gardiner, Hist. of England, ed. 1892, ix. 179 n.). On 3 Oct. following Savile acknowledged the forgery, pleading that he had acted on patriotic motives, and on this ground it was condoned.

On 28 Aug. Savile signed the peers' petition calling for a parliament, and in September he was appointed commissioner to treat with the Scots at Ripon (cf. Notes of the Treaty of Ripon, Camden Soc.). On 19 Feb. 1640–1 he was sworn of the privy council, and in April he was given the custody of New Park and Sheriffhutton Park, formerly held by Strafford. He was also made lord president of the council of the north and lord lieutenant of Yorkshire, in succession to Strafford; but parliament abolished the former office in August, and forced the king to confer the latter on Essex. These promotions and the fall of Strafford won Savile over to the court, and, in ‘recompense of his discovery of the treasons and conspiracies’ (Clarendon) of the popular party, he was promised Vane's office of treasurer. He was one of the witnesses against Strafford at his trial, and persuaded Charles to declare that he had no wish to restore the earl to any place of authority; but when the bill of attainder came before the House of Lords, he objected to it as infringing their privileges. He was appointed a commissioner of regency on 9 Aug. 1641, and treasurer of the household on 26 Nov. On 21 Jan. 1641–2 the king placed him on a commission to inquire into royal revenues and expenses. In May he conveyed to parliament the king's reply to the charges about the army plot, and in June he offered the king a force of fifty horse. Early in the same month he prevented the presentation of an anti-royalist petition by the people of Yorkshire (cf. A copy of Letter from Sir Jno. Bourchier, London, 1642). For his action on this occasion he was on 6 June declared incapable of sitting in parliament and a public enemy (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. App. p. 27).

Alarmed by this proceeding, Savile once more sought to make his peace with parliament. He wrote in November 1642 a long vindication of his conduct (Cal. State Papers, 1642, pp. 411 et seq.; Papers relating to the Delinquency of Lord Savile, Camden Soc. pp. 1–4), stating that he was compelled to attend the king by his duties as treasurer; that he had urged moderation on him, and drawn up the royal message investing parliament with the control of the militia; that he had refused to join the king when he raised his standard at Nottingham, or to take any command in the royalist army, but retired to his own house and occupied himself with protecting ministers and others from violence. In the same month Captain John Hotham [q. v.] appeared before Howley Hall, and Savile entered into negotiations with him; in return for the payment of 1,000l. Hotham promised Savile the protection of parliament. Soon afterwards the parliamentarians retreated before Newcastle, the royalist general. The latter got wind of Savile's composition, and was also informed that he was privy to a plot to seize Henrietta Maria on her way from the coast to York. He accordingly sent two hundred horsemen, who seized him one night and shut him up in Newark Castle. There Savile remained for six months. Meanwhile Newcastle pillaged Howley Hall and forwarded the charges against Savile to the king (Life of Newcastle, ed. Firth, p. 46). On 13 May 1643 Charles ordered Savile's transference to Oxford, that he might in person examine the accusations against him. Savile's defence (printed in Papers relating to the Delinquency of Lord Savile) was drawn up with such skill that on 5 June Nicholas told Newcastle they had nothing to answer to it; Savile received a sealed pardon from the king, and Newcastle publicly apologised for having arrested him.

Savile remained at Oxford, and resumed his place at the council and duties as treasurer. In August he advised Charles to give a cordial reception to Bedford and Holland, who came over from the parliament [see {{sc|Russell William, first Duke of Bedford], and throughout he seems to have urged the necessity of making peace. On 25 May 1644 he was created Earl of Sussex. Nevertheless he seems to have carried on a correspondence with his relatives, Sir Peter and Lady Temple, who were active parliamentarians in London. His eagerness for peace, and advocacy of the acceptance of terms which Charles thought disgraceful, brought him into disfavour (cf. Charles I to Nicholas in Evelyn, Diary and Corr. iv. 157). He was also accused of speaking disrespectfully of the king and the Oxford parliament, and the old charge of supplying Hotham with money was revived against him. On 11 Jan. 1644–5 he was once more imprisoned, and Digby, on the king's behalf, impeached him of high treason. His guilt was established by the discovery of his letter to Hotham about the terms of his composition, and it was proposed to try him by court-martial; but the House of Lords urged Savile's privilege as a peer, and no further steps were taken. About the middle of March he was released on condition that he removed to France. Savile, however, obtained a pass from Essex, the parliamentary commander, and arrived in London on the 18th (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. pp. 450, 451). A contemporary letter (Carte, Original Letters, i. 80), which speaks of his being in London ‘by the king's leave,’ is some confirmation of the view maintained by the Scots commissioners that Savile was really come on the king's business (Baillie, ii. 284 et seq.). On his arrival the House of Lords committed him to the custody of black rod, but subsequently gave him leave to reside at Ashley House, Surrey, for the benefit of his health; his title as Earl of Sussex was not recognised, so he resumed his style as Lord Savile. He first entered into secret communication with Warriston and the Scots, stating that he had come from Oxford with as much trust and favour as ever he had had before, and that his only object was to make peace. Publicly, however, he maintained that he had always been in favour of the parliament, and the charge of having furnished Hotham with money which he had so skilfully refuted before the king, he now established by producing independent witnesses, as a claim to the clemency of parliament. His imprisonment at Oxford he represented as being due to his refusal to satisfy Charles of his loyalty.

His negotiations with the Scots, however, were not successful; Warriston declared that the terms proposed at Uxbridge were the minimum, and refused to treat with Savile because he suspected him of being in the king's interest. Savile accordingly turned to the independents; he told them that if an assurance could be given that the monarchy would be preserved, there would be no difficulty in bringing about such a military defection in the king's ranks as would speedily end the war. Goring would transfer his services, and Legge would open the gates of Oxford. Lord Saye consequently obtained a sub-committee to receive propositions for the surrender of the king's fortresses, and in May Fairfax was sent to besiege Oxford. Meanwhile the Scots eagerly sought to implicate Savile in a charge of corresponding with the royalists at Oxford, and procured a committee to examine him. Savile retorted by charging Holles and Whitelocke with betraying their trust when sent to convey the parliament's proposal to the king and entering into correspondence with Digby (Memoirs of Holles, 1699, pp. 38–9; Whitelocke, Memorials, pp. 155, 161; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. pp. 67–8). The committee demanded the name of his informant, who was the Duchess of Buckingham; Savile refused to give it, and on 20 June he was committed to the Tower for contempt of the house. He was released on bail, by order of the House of Lords, on 26 Aug.; but on 1 Oct., on remonstrance from the commons, he was again remanded to the Tower. On 26 April 1646 he made a protestation of allegiance to parliament and took the covenant. On 5 May following he consented to give the name of his informant, and was finally released (Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 21–5). His composition fine was fixed at 8,000l., which was subsequently reduced to 4,000l. of which the 1,000l. he had paid to Hotham was reckoned as part. He passed the rest of his life in retirement at Howley, dying about 1658. His will, dated 8 Nov. 1657, was proved 8 Oct. 1659 (G. E. C.'s Complete Peerage; Cal. Committee for Compounding, pp. 1151, 1153; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655–6, p. 314).

Savile's career justifies Clarendon's description of him as a man ‘of an ambitious and restless nature, of parts and wit enough, but in his disposition and inclination so false that he could never be believed or depended upon.’ He was ‘a bold talker, and applicable to any undertaking, good, bad, or indifferent’ (ib.) Malice against Strafford was the motive of his forged invitation to the Scots; during the civil war he was sincerely desirous of peace, but he sought it by underhand means, and only that he might enjoy in security the rewards of his successive betrayal of both parties. Throughout his shifty intrigues his one fixed purpose was to establish his own fortunes whichever party triumphed. A portrait of Savile, engraved from a drawing in the Sutherland Collection in the Bodleian Library, is given in Doyle's ‘Peerage.’

Savile married, first, Frances, daughter of Sir Michael Sondes of Throwley, Kent, and widow of Sir John Leveson, by whom he had no issue; secondly, in 1640 or 1641, Lady Anne, daughter of Christopher Villiers, earl of Anglesey [q. v.] By her he had a son James and a daughter Frances (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1669, p. 537). The son (b. 1647) succeeded him as second Earl of Sussex, and died without issue in 1671, when the honour became extinct; the daughter married Lord Francis Brudenell, younger son of Thomas, first earl of Cardigan, and was mother of George, third earl of Cardigan, and grandmother of George Brudenell Montagu, duke of Montagu [q. v.]

[Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 32093, ff. 211–12; Egerton MS. 2537; Journals of the Lords and Commons, passim; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 11th Reps. passim; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1620–60; Cal. Committee for Compounding; Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ed. Macray; Strafford Papers; Thurloe's, Rushworth's, and Nalson's Collections, passim; Official Return Members of Parl.; Courthope, Doyle, and Burke's Peerages; Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees; Whitaker's Loidis et Elmete; Papers relating to the Delinquency of Lord Savile, Papers relating to Wentworth, Fortescue Papers, and Notes of the Treaty at Ripon (all in Camden Soc.); Baillie's Journals (Bannatyne Club), passim; Whitelocke's Memorials; Mandeville's Memoirs (Add. MS. 15567); Holles's Memoirs, 1699; Laud's Works, vols. iii. vii.; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion; Sanford's Studies in the Great Rebellion, p. 170; Masson's Milton, passim; Browning's Life of Strafford; Cartwright's Chapters of Yorkshire Hist.; Ranke's Hist. of England; Gardiner's Hist. of England and Civil War.]

A. F. P.