Sir John Danvers, 1588-1655

A cutured courtier who fell into debt through his own extravagance. He sided with Parliament in the civil wars and signed the King's death warrant.

Portrait of Sir John DanversJohn Danvers was the third son of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey in Wiltshire. His elder brother Henry was the Earl of Danby and Danvers was knighted by King James I in 1609. He sat as MP for Oxford University in all the Parliaments of the early reign of Charles I and was a member of the King's privy chamber.

Danvers made two marriages to heiresses, then fell into debt through his own extravagance. A cultured man, he associated with intellectuals, poets and divines. Through his travels in France and Italy, he developed sophisticated tastes in gardening and architecture, which he indulged at his house in Chelsea and his estate at Lavington in Wiltshire.

Danvers was elected to the Short Parliament in 1640, where he became involved in opposition to King Charles, reputedly through pressure of debt. Although he was commissioned a colonel in the Parliamentarian army during the First Civil War, his military career was undistinguished. He was elected to the Long Parliament as recruiter MP for Malmesbury in 1645.

Shortly after his third marriage in 1649, Danvers was appointed to the High Court of Justice and signed the King's death warrant. He became a member of the first Council of State elected in 1649 but was not elected to the second in 1650 following a quarrel with Henry Marten in which he argued that the Council should be granted greater powers to act independently of Parliament. Danvers became notorious for using his position to pursue his private interests. He forced lengthy debates in Parliament in connection with his efforts to take over the estate of his widowed sister-in-law Lady Gargreave. He is also said to have helped several Royalists ruined during the wars. Danvers died in 1655.


John Aubrey, Brief Lives, Sir John Danvers, ed. O.L. Dick, (London 1992)

Sean Kelsey, Sir John Danvers, Oxford DNB, 2004


DNB Biography of Sir John Danvers