Villiers, John (1591?-1657) (DNB00)

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VILLIERS, JOHN, Viscount Purbeck (1591?–1657), born about 1591, was the eldest son of Sir George Villiers of Brooksby, Leicestershire, by his second wife, Mary, afterwards Countess of Buckingham [see under Villiers, Sir Edward]. George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham [q. v.], and Christopher Villiers, earl of Anglesey [q. v.], were his younger brothers. John was knighted on 30 June 1616, and in the same year became groom of the bedchamber and master of the robes to Charles, prince of Wales. Negotiations at the same time were begun by his mother for his marriage with a rich heiress; the lady selected was Frances, daughter of Sir Edward Coke and his wife, Lady Hatton, and Coke was required to give not only his consent, but a marriage portion of 10,000l. He refused to pay more than two-thirds of that sum, and was consequently called upon to resign his seat on the bench. Lady Hatton remained obdurately opposed to the marriage, but Coke gave way, and on 29 Sept. Frances and Villiers were married at Hampton Court, James I giving away the bride (Beaumont Papers, pp. 34–5; Chester, London Marriage Licences; Gardiner, Hist. iii. 87, 98). Lady Hatton still refused to make over her Dorset property to Villiers, and as compensation he was on 19 July 1619 created Baron Villiers of Stoke, Buckinghamshire, and Viscount Purbeck of Dorset. The marriage proved a tragedy; Weldon reports Buckingham as having said that ‘his brother Purbeck had more wit and honesty than all the kindred beside’ (Court of James I, p. 44), but according to Dr. Gardiner, he was ‘weak in mind and body,’ and soon after 1620 completely lost his reason (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619–23, p. 405). In 1621 his wife deserted him and went to live with Sir Robert Howard. In 1624 she gave birth to a son [see Danvers, Robert, called Viscount Purbeck], and in October she was convicted of adultery. Eventually she died at Oxford, and was buried in St. Mary's on 4 June 1645. Purbeck, whose insanity was intermittent, married, as his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Slingsby of Kippax, Yorkshire, and died without legitimate issue on 18 Feb. 1656–7 at Charlton, near Greenwich. The peerage became extinct, though the claim to it put forward by Robert Danvers was for many years a cause célèbre.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611–30 passim; Weldon's Court of James I; Court and Times of Charles I; Gardiner's History, iii. 87, 98, 297, viii. 144–6; Burke's Extinct and G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerages.]

A. F. P.