Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hotham, John Jr. (d.1645)

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HOTHAM, JOHN (d. 1645), parliamentarian, son of Sir John Hotham [q. v.], by his first wife, Katherine Rodes, served in early life in the wars in the Netherlands, and is probably the Captain Hotham mentioned as present at the siege of Bois-le-Duc in 1629 (Markham, The Fighting Veres, p. 436). Hotham was member for Scarborough in the two parliaments summoned in 1640. In January 1642, when King Charles endeavoured by means of the Earl of Newcastle to obtain possession of Hull, young Hotham was despatched to secure it. The mayor refused to admit his troops, and he wrote back to the parliament that if he was ordered to proceed, ‘fall back, fall edge, he would put it to the hazard’ (Sanford, Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, p. 475). A week later he succeeded in garrisoning Hull with a portion of the Yorkshire trained-bands (Rushworth, iv. 496, 564). When actual war began Hotham was again first in the field. In September 1642 he marched out of Hull with three companies of foot and a troop of horse and occupied Doncaster. Refusing to be bound by the treaty of neutrality agreed on by a part of the Yorkshire parliamentarians (29 Sept.), he captured Cawood Castle and published a declaration explaining his reasons for disregarding the treaty (‘The Declaration of Captain Hotham, wherein he showeth the reasons of his Marching into the County of York,’ 1642, reprinted in Dalton, Wrays of Glentworth, ii. 35). He then co-operated with Lord Fairfax in the occupation of Leeds and in the blockade of York (ib. i. 234, 236; Fairfax Corresp. ii. 414–17). Despatched by Fairfax to oppose the march of the Earl of Newcastle from Durham into Yorkshire, he was obliged, after a skirmish at Pierce Bridge, to retreat again to the West Riding (Rushworth, v. 77). He took part in the fights at Tadcaster and Sherburn, and the safe retreat of the parliamentarians at the former is traditionally attributed to a stratagem of Hotham's (Drake, Eboracum, p. 161). By this time serious discord had arisen between the Hothams and the Fairfaxes. Sir Thomas Fairfax complained to his father of Captain Hotham's ‘peevish humour’ (27 Jan. 1643). He had been placed under the command of Lord Fairfax by parliament (21 Oct. 1642), but, though appointed lieutenant-general of his forces, was eager for an independent command, and gladly accepted the post of general of the parliamentary forces in Lincolnshire, which the influence of his connections, the Wrays, obtained him (Fairfax Corresp. iii. 23, 27, 39; Clarendon State Papers, ii. 183). In Lincolnshire he was completely routed by Charles Cavendish on 11 April 1643 at Ancaster Heath (Mercurius Aulicus, 16 April 1643). At the end of May Hotham was at Nottingham, under orders to unite with Cromwell and Lord Gray and reinforce Fairfax in Yorkshire, orders which he was very reluctant to obey (Fairfax Corresp. iii. 46). In Nottinghamshire he allowed his troops to plunder friend and foe, and laughed at all complaints of their conduct. ‘He had a great deal of wicked wit,’ says Mrs. Hutchinson, ‘and would make sport with the miseries of the poor country.’ When Colonel Hutchinson urged him to restrain his soldiers, he replied that ‘he fought for liberty and expected it in all things.’ While Hutchinson complained to parliament of these outrages, Cromwell charged Hotham with misconduct and desertion in battle. His communications with the queen's forces at Newark also roused suspicion of treachery (Life of Colonel Hutchinson, ed. 1885, i. 219–222, 363; Rushworth, v. 799). The result of these charges was the arrest of Hotham by Sir John Meldrum and his committal to Nottingham Castle (June 1643; Rushworth, v. 275). Hotham at once wrote an indignant letter to parliament detailing his services and protesting his fidelity (Sanford, p. 555). At the same time he sent to the queen at Newark by his servant, John Keyes, desiring her to rescue him and promising the surrender of Hull and Beverley and other services. ‘This unhappy accident,’ said the queen when she heard of his arrest, ‘had not fallen out had Captain Hotham come away when he first resolved of it.’ ‘Your majesty knows,’ rejoined Lord Digby, ‘that both he and his father had come in long since but for doing your majesty better service by forbearing it for a time’ (ib. p. 800). Escaping by the carelessness of his guards, Hotham went to Lincoln, where he endeavoured to persuade Colonel Rossiter to betray his trust, telling him: ‘You shall see in a short time there will be never a gentleman but will be gone to the king.’ He then proceeded to Hull, where he was arrested on the same day as his father, 28 June 1643. A compromising letter to the Earl of Newcastle, written ten days earlier, was found in his chamber (ib. p. 801; Dalton, ii. 57). Other letters from Hotham to Newcastle were captured among Newcastle's papers at Marston Moor and Pontefract, proving that he had been in treaty with Newcastle as early as April 1643 (Rushworth, v. 635; A New Discovery of Hidden Secrets, 1645; four letters are printed by Sanford, pp. 553–5). According to Sir Hugh Cholmley, Hotham had commenced a negotiation with Newcastle at Bridlington in February or March 1643, under pretext of exchanging prisoners. He demanded 20,000l. in money, the rank of viscount for his father and that of baron for himself. The intrigue was mainly conducted by him, and, being ‘a very politic and cunning man,’ he ‘looked chiefly at that which stood with his own particular interest,’ and governed his father's course accordingly (Clarendon State Papers, ii. 183, 186). Hotham was tried by court-martial, 9–24 Dec. 1644, and sentenced to be beheaded, which sentence was carried out on 1 Jan. 1645. His petitions to the two houses of parliament and his dying speech are reprinted by Rushworth (v. 802, 803). He was buried at All Hallows Barking (Wray, ii. 60).

Hotham married three times: first, Frances, daughter of Sir John Wray of Glentworth, Lincolnshire, by whom he left a son, John, who succeeded his grandfather as second baronet; she died December 1635; secondly, Margaret, daughter of Thomas, viscount Fairfax of Emley; thirdly, Isabel, daughter of Sir Henry Anderson of Long Cowton, Yorkshire.

[Authorities above mentioned; a Life of Hotham is given in Dalton's History of the Wrays of Glentworth, 1880, ii. 24–62; Life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle, ed. 1886; the originals of some of Hotham's letters are among the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library.]

C. H. F.