Mordaunt, John (1627-1675) (DNB00)

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MORDAUNT, JOHN, Baron Mordaunt of Reigate in Surrey and Viscount Mordaunt of Avalon in Somerset (1627–1675), cavalier and conspirator, born in 1627, second son of John, first earl of Peterborough [see under Mordaunt, Henry, second Earl], and brother of Henry, second earl [q. v.], was educated in France and Italy. On his return to England he took part with his elder brother Henry in the insurrection of July 1648. During the interregnum he married Elizabeth Carey, second daughter of Thomas Carey, youngest son of Robert Carey, first earl of Monmouth [q. v.] She is described by Clarendon as 'a young, beautiful lady, of a very loyal spirit and notable vivacity of wit and humour, who concurred with him in all honourable dedication of himself' (Rebellion, book xv. § 93); and in the hazardous intrigues which preceded the Restoration she appears on more than one occasion to have rendered material service both to her husband and the royal cause. In these intrigues Mordaunt was the prime mover. Long before Ormonde's adventurous visit to England in January 1657-8 Mordaunt had opened communications with him from London, and placed himself unreservedly at the disposal of the king. A plot was thereupon laid for an insurrection in Sussex, and Mordaunt received commissions from Charles for the levy of troops. One of the commissions, however, came through the treachery of a subordinate into the Protector's hands, and Mordaunt was arrested and committed to the Tower (15 April 1658). He was tried for high treason with Dr. John Hewit [q. v.] and Sir Henry Slingsby in the Painted Chamber, Westminster, on 2 June following. The court, including the president, Lord-commissioner Lisle, consisted of forty members, who combined the functions of judge and jury. Mordaunt at first disputed their jurisdiction, while his wife was busy bribing them. This work accomplished, she contrived to convey to Mordaunt a scrap of paper on which was written, 'For God's sake plead, plead for my sake, and stand disputing it no longer.' He thereupon pleaded not guilty, and succeeded in partially breaking down the evidence against him. One of the judges, the celebrated Colonel Pride, was taken ill and left the court; of the rest nineteen acquitted and nineteen condemned Mordaunt; the president gave his casting vote in his favour.

No sooner was Mordaunt at large than he recommenced his intrigues on behalf of the king, who by commission dated 11 March 1658-9 gave him full powers to treat with his subjects for his restoration. By the end of June 1659 a plot was laid for a general and simultaneous insurrection on 10 July following. On the day appointed Mordaunt, who by patent of the same date was raised to the peerage in anticipation of the event by the title of Baron Mordaunt of Ryegate in Surrey and Viscount Mordaunt of Avalon in Somerset, appeared in the neighbourhood of Guildford, accompanied by Charles Stuart, earl of Lichfield, afterwards third duke of Richmond, and a few others of the more devoted adherents of the king. They failed, however, to raise the country, and were promptly dispersed by the forces of the Commonwealth. Mordaunt escaped to London, where he lay in hiding until the miscarriage of Sir George Booth's rising completed the discomfiture of the royalists. He then withdrew to Calais, whence he closely observed the course of events in England, and kept up a regular correspondence with the king, whom he joined at Brussels in March 1659-60. With Sir John Grenville he acted as Charles's messenger in the following April, bearing his letter and declaration to the mayor and corporation of London (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659-60, p. 430). At the head of 'a troop of Spanish merchants all in black velvet coats' he received the king on Barham Down on his landing at Dover on 25 May. On 30 June following he was appointed constable of Windsor Castle and lord-lieutenant of Surrey. For alleged arbitrary acts done in the former capacity articles of impeachment were exhibited against him in the winter of 1666-7. A timely dissolution, however, put an end to the proceedings, and before they could be renewed he had received a full pardon from the king. Nevertheless, he resigned his office. On the death of his mother, the Dowager Countess of Peterborough (1671), Mordaunt became entangled in litigation with his brother Henry about the manor of Reigate, part of the family estates which she had held under the will of the late earl, and had endeavoured to settle on Mordaunt. The dispute ended in a compromise.

Mordaunt died at his house at Parson's Green, Fulham, on 5 June 1675, and was buried in the south aisle of the neighbouring church of All Saints, where an elaborate marble monument, by Bushnell and Bird, perpetuates his memory.

By Lady Mordaunt, who survived until April 1679, he left issue five sons and four daughters. Of the sons, all but the youngest, who took holy orders, entered the army; the eldest and most distinguished being the celebrated Charles Mordaunt, third earl of Peterborough [q. v.] Mordaunt's youngest daughter, Anne, married James Hamilton of Tollymore, co. Down, father of the first Earl of Clanbrassill of the second creation.

Mordaunt was unquestionably one of the most loyal, active, and enterprising of King Charles's friends in adversity. The very grave charge which led to his dismissal from the command of Windsor Castle and his subsequent neglect are attributed by Clarendon to the malice of his enemies. An excellent engraving of his head and shoulders by Faithorne, probably from a picture by Vandyck, is prefixed to an account of his trial, published in 1661 (fol.)

Lady Mordaunt was an intimate friend of Mrs. Margaret Godolphin [q. v.] and of Evelyn, who calls her 'the most virtuous lady in the world.' Her journal, consisting largely of her prayers, edited for private circulation by Lord Roden in 1856, shows her in the light of a devout high churchwoman. Prefixed is a copy of her portrait, painted in 1665 by Louise, princess Palatine, daughter of the queen of Bohemia.

[Clarendon's Rebellion and Life; Halstead's Succinct Genealogies, p. 405; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, iii. 319 et seq.; Burke's Extinct Peerage; Granger's Biog. Hist. ed. 1775, iii. 24; The Trial of Mr. Mordaunt, second son of John, Earl of Peterborough, at the pretended High Court of Justice in Westminster Hall, the first and second of June 1658, London, 1661, fol.; Thurloe State Papers, vii. 80 et seq.; Mercur. Polit. 27 May to 3 June 1658; Cobbett's State Trials, v. 907, vi. 786; Reilly's Historical Anecdotes of the Families of the Boleynes, Careys, Mordaunts, &c., 1839; Anecdotes, &c., of Elizabeth, Viscountess Mordaunt, commencing 1656, 1810; Russell's Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, 1887; Manning and Bray's Surrey, i. 303-4; Whitelocke's Mem. pp. 683, 700; Baker's Chron. pp. 651 et seq.; Clarendon State Papers, iii. 423 et seq.; Carte's

Ormonde Papers, ii. 173, 184, 214 et seq.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1648-9 p. 178, 1658-9 p. 16, 1659-60, 1660-1 p. 241, 1661-2 p. 196, 1667 pp. 246, 277; Lords' Journ. xii. 60-2, 77-79; Harl. Misc. iii. 373; Hist. MSS.Comm. 5th Rep. App. pp. 145, 150-2, 171, 207, 300, 7th Rep. App.pp. 103,679, 10th Rep. App. pt. vi. pp. 188-216; Pepys's Diary, ed. Lord Braybrooke; Evelyn's Diary, 23 Oct. 1666; Evelyn's Life of Mrs. Godolphin, 1888, p. 137; Hatton Corresp. (Camd. Soc.), i. 73; Lysons's Environs of London, ii. 380; The Priuate Diarie of Elizabeth, Viscountess Mordaunt, ed. Earl of Roden, Duncairn, 1856, 8vo; Fagan's Descr. Cat, Engr. Works of Wm. Faithorne, 1888; Complete Peerage, ed. G.E.C., 1889, ii. 250.]

J. M. R.