Savile, Henry (1642-1687) (DNB00)

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SAVILE, HENRY (1642–1687), diplomatist, youngest surviving child of Sir William Savile and Lady Anne (Coventry), and brother of George Savile, marquis of Halifax [q. v.], was born at Rufford Abbey in Sherwood Forest in 1642. He was probably educated abroad, and acquired as a young man a thorough knowledge of French. In 1661 he made a tour by way of Paris, Lyons, and Bordeaux to Madrid, in company with the Earl of Sunderland and Henry Sidney. He had already, he says, spent so much of his life abroad that he would ‘hardly be an absolute stranger to any place his majesty might be pleased to send him.’ On the king's refusal in 1665 to ennoble his brother ‘to please Sir William Coventry,’ the Duke of York, though a stranger to Savile, appointed him a gentleman of his bedchamber ‘to show how willing he was to oblige the family.’ He was a dashing young fellow, and the Duchess of York found his person highly agreeable (Pepys). A boon companion of Killigrew, Dorset, Baptist May, and Sir Fleetwood Sheppard, Savile declared that ‘no man should keep company with him without drinking except Ned Waller;’ and his drunken pleasantries, though they might be condoned by the king, were highly offensive to his patron, the Duke of York (cf. Hatton Corresp. i. 129). Clarendon admitted him to be witty, but condemned his ‘incredible confidence and presumption.’

In August 1666, having a predilection for the sea, Savile sailed in the duke's flagship, the Royal Charles, and took part in the second fight with the Dutch off the North Foreland, when De Ruyter's line was broken, and the English, he wrote, ‘lost nobody worth hanging.’ In the June of next year he accompanied the duke to Chatham after the disaster at the hands of the Dutch, and shortly afterwards, with a view to promotion at court, he proposed to stand as parliamentary candidate for Nottingham. The expected vacancy did not, however, occur, and he reverted to his courtier's life until March 1669, when for carrying a challenge from his uncle, Sir William Coventry, to the Duke of Buckingham, he was sent, not to the Tower with his principal, but to the Gatehouse. The Duke of York was ‘mightily incensed,’ regarding the indignity as due ‘only to contempt of him’ (Pepys, v. 126–7). At the duke's request he was eventually removed to the Tower, and discharged in a fortnight's time; but the king refused to see him, and ordered James not to receive him into waiting. He accordingly went to Paris, where he met Evelyn, and in July renewed his efforts to enter parliament. Shortly afterwards, however, while staying with Sunderland at Althorpe, he grossly affronted Elizabeth, widow of Jocelyn Percy, eleventh earl of Northumberland, and was pursued to London by his outraged host and William, lord Russell, who demanded satisfaction; but the king intervened, and Savile again went abroad. In the summer of 1672 he was with the Duke of York on board the Prince in Burlington Bay, and wrote an able ‘Relation of the Engagement with the Dutch Fleet on 28 May 1672, in a Letter to the Earl of Arlington’ (London, fol.) The performance suggested his capacity for diplomatic work, and in September he was sent as envoy extraordinary to Louis XIV, with the object of promoting more cordiality and a closer union of the two fleets against the Dutch. Failing to get a permanent appointment as he desired, he returned to the court, where he was gratified by his appointment as groom of the chamber to the king, and still more by his return to parliament for Newark; but the House of Commons disputed the writ, and a new one was not issued until April 1677. On this occasion he spared no effort to win the contest. Much depended upon the capacity of the candidates for treating and drinking with their constituents. In the graphic account given in his letters to Halifax, Savile laments that he was continually drunk for days previous to the election, and ‘sick to agony of swallowing.’ He won the seat and with it the notice of Danby (cf. Macaulay, iv. 588), the coveted permission for his friend's brother, Algernon Sidney, to return to England, and a renewal of Sunderland's interest. When the latter returned from his embassy in Paris in 1679, Savile realised his ambition, and was sent in his place, though with the title of envoy only. In this capacity he seems to have exercised unwonted discretion. He sent home some valuable reports of the French government's treatment of the protestants during the important years preceding the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and pressed upon the English council with some success the adoption of measures to facilitate the reception of protestant immigrants into England. During a flying visit to London in July 1680 he kissed hands as vice-chamberlain, and in March 1682, upon his retiring from his post at Paris, was appointed a commissioner of the admiralty. He relinquished his commissionership in May 1684, but was reappointed vice-chamberlain by James II, and held that office till March 1687. After this date his health gave way. In September he went to Paris for a surgical operation, from the effects of which he died on 6 Oct. 1687 (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 28569, fol. 66; the last letters in the Savile Correspondence are thus two years post-dated). He left what he possessed (mostly debts) at the disposal of his brother, Halifax. Henry Savile's ‘Correspondence,’ mainly with Halifax, was edited for the Camden Society, with a valuable memoir, by William Durrant Cooper, F.S.A., in 1858. His credentials as envoy are in the Bodleian Library. Rochester addressed to Savile a number of ‘familiar letters,’ twenty of which are given in Rochester's ‘Works’ (1714, pp. 118–51).

[Foster's Yorkshire Pedigree; Savile Correspondence; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Narration, i. 7, 54, 530; Hatton Correspondence, passim; Pepys's Diary and Correspondence, ed. Braybrooke, iii. 123, v. 126, 130, 149, 151, and 288–9 (a letter from Savile to Pepys); Brown's Nottinghamshire Worthies, p. 236; Letters of Algernon Sidney (the majority addressed to Savile), 1742, passim; Ewald's Algernon Sydney, ii. 35; note kindly supplied by Miss H. C. Foxcroft.]

T. S.