Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whorwood, Jane

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WHORWOOD, JANE (fl. 1648), royalist, was the daughter of one Ryder or Ryther of Kingston, Surrey, sometime surveyor of the stables to James I (Clark, Life of Anthony Wood, i. 227). In September 1634, at the age of nineteen, she married Brome Whorwood, eldest son of Sir Thomas Whorwood of Holton, Oxfordshire (Chester, London Marriage Licenses, p. 1460; Turner, Visitation of Oxfordshire, p. 242). In 1647 and 1648, when the king was in captivity, Mrs. Whorwood signalised herself by her efforts to communicate with him and to arrange his escape. She conveyed money to him from loyalists in London when he was at Hampton Court in the autumn of 1647, and consulted William Lilly the astrologer as to the question in what quarter of the nation Charles could best hide himself after his intended flight. Lilly recommended Essex, but the advice came too late to be acted upon (Lilly, History of his Life and Times, p. 39; cf. Wood, p. 227). Mrs. Whorwood consulted Lilly again in 1648 on the means of effecting the king's escape from Carisbrooke, and obtained from a locksmith whom he recommended files and aquafortis to be used on the window-bars of the king's chamber, but through various accidents the design failed. She also assisted in providing a ship, and on 4 May 1648 Colonel Hammond, the governor of the Isle of Wight, was warned that a ship had sailed from the Thames, and was waiting about Queenborough to carry the king to Holland. ‘Mrs. Whorwood,’ adds the letter, ‘is aboard the ship, a tall, well-fashioned, and well-languaged gentlewoman, with a round visage and pockholes in her face’ (Letters between Colonel Robert Hammond and the Committee at Derby House, 1764, 8vo, pp. 43, 45, 48; Lilly, p. 142; Hillier, Charles I in the Isle of Wight, pp. 147, 155, 159). Wood, who had often seen her, adds to this description that she was red-haired (Life, i. 227). After the frustration of this scheme Mrs. Whorwood continued to convey letters to and from the king during the autumn of 1648, and to hatch fresh schemes. She is often referred to in the king's letters under the cipher ‘N.’ or ‘715’ (Hillier, p. 240; Wagstaffe, Vindication of King Charles the Martyr, 1711, pp. 142, 150, 152–7, 161–3). ‘I cannot be more confident of any,’ says the king in one of his letters, and in another speaks of the ‘long, wise discourse’ she had sent him. Wood identifies Mrs. Whorwood with the unnamed lady to whom the king had entrusted a cabinet of jewels which he sent for shortly before his execution, in order that he might give them to his children (Athenæ Oxonienses, ii. 700, art. ‘Herbert’). But a note in Sir Thomas Herbert's own narrative states that the lady in question was the wife of Sir W. Wheeler (Herbert, Memoirs, ed. 1702, p. 122).

The date of Mrs. Whorwood's death is uncertain. Her eldest son, Brome, baptised on 29 Oct. 1635, was drowned in September 1657, and buried at Holton (Wood, Life, i. 226). Her daughter Diana married in 1677 Edward Masters, LL.D., chancellor of the diocese of Exeter (ib. ii. 331, iii. 403). Her husband represented the city of Oxford in four successive parliaments (1661–81), but, becoming a violent whig, was put out of the commission of the peace in January 1680. He died in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, on 12 April 1684, and was buried at Holton on 24 April (ib. i. 399, ii. 439, 460, 476, 523, iii. 93).

[Turner's Visitations of Oxfordshire (Harl. Soc.), 1871, p. 242; Life of Anthony Wood, ed. Clark; Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss; Lilly's Hist. of his Life and Times, ed. 1822.]

C. H. F.