(1st E. Danby)

Born: 28 Jun 1573, Dauntsey, Wiltshire, England

Died: 20 Jan 1643/4

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: John DANVERS of Dauntsey (Sir Knight) (See his Biography)

Mother: Elizabeth NEVILLE

Henry Danvers, first Earl of Danby

by 'Anthony van Dyck' c. 1635

Second son of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey, Wiltshire, by his wife Elizabeth Neville, dau. and coheiress of John Neville, last baron Latimer. Fought as a soldier in Europe and in Ireland; Lord President of Munster, 1607-15; member of the Privy Council from 1628. Created Baron Danvers of Dantsey, Wiltshire, 1603, Earl of Danby, Yorkshire, 1625/26; Knight of the Garter 1633.

Henry was born at Dauntsey on the 28 Jun 1573, and at an early age became a page to Sir Phillip Sidney, whom he accompanied to the Low Countries, and was probably present at the battle of Zutphen in 1586.

After his master’s death he served as a volunteer under Maurice, count of Nassau, afterwards Prince of Orange, who appointed him at the age of eighteen to the command of a company of infantry.  Danvers took part in the siege of Rouen in 1591, and was there knighted for his services in the field by Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, the ‘lord-general’ of the exhibition. His father died on 19 Dec 1593, and on 4 Oct 1594 the remarkable murder of Henry Long was committed. A feud had existed between these two county families for some time past, and apparently a fresh quarrel had taken place between them (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1589, p. 570, 1595-1597, p. 34).  According to the account given in Lansdowne MSS. (No. 827), Henry Long was dining in the middle of the day with a party of friends at ‘one Chamberlaine’s house in Corsham’, when Danvers, followed by his brother Charles and a number of retainers, burst into the room, and shot Long dead on the spot. The brothers then fled on horseback to Whitley Lodge, near Titchfield, the seat of Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, with whose assistance they succeeded after some days in making their way out of the country. A coroner’s inquisition was held, and the brothers were outlawed, but no indictment seems to have been preferred against them either by the family or the government. A mutilated document, gives quite another version of the story, asserting that the unfortunate man was ‘slain by Sir Henry Danvers in defending his brother Sir Charles against Long and his company’ (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1595-97, p. 34).

Reaching France in safety, the brothers joined the French army, and became favourably known to Henri IV for their conspicuous bravery. The Earl of Shewsbury, writing from ‘Rouen this 3 of October 1596’ to Sir Robert Cecil, says: ‘Heare is daily with me Sir Charles and Sir H. Davers, two discreet fine gentlemen, who cary themselves heare with great discretion, reputacion and respect: God turne the eyes of her Majestie to incline unto them, agreable to her own naturall disposition, and I doubt not but thei shall soon tast of her pittie and mercie’ (LODGE, Illustrations, &c. iii 78-79). In 1597, Henry Danvers appears to have acted as captain of a man-of-war in the expedition of that year to the coast of Spain, under the Earl of Nottingham, who is said to have deemed him ‘one of the best captains of the fleet’.

Owing to the French King’s intercession with Elizabeth, and to the good offices of Secretary Cecil, the brothers were pardoned on 30 Jun 1598, and they returned to England in the following Aug; but it was until 1604 that the coroner’s indictment was found bad on a technical ground and the outlawry reversed (Coke’s Reports, 1826, iii 245-51). Henry was, soon after his return, employed in Ireland under the Earl of Essex, and Charles Blount, eighth baron Mountjoy, successive lords-lieutenant of Ireland.  In Sep 1599 he was appointed lieutenant-general of the horse, in Jul 1601 governor of Armagh, and in Jul 1602 sergeant-major-general of the army in Ireland.

By James I he was created Baron Danvers of Dauntsey, Wiltshire, on 21 Jul 1603, and two years afterwards, was by special act of parliament (3 James I, c. viii), restored in blood as heir to his father, not withstanding the attainder of his elder brother Charles, who had been beheaded in 1601 for his share in Essex’s insurrection.

On 14 Nov 1607, Danvers was appointed lord president of Munster, a post which he retained until 1615, when he sold it to the Earl of Thomond for 3,200l. On 15 Jun 1613 he obtained the grant, in reversion, of the office of Keeper of St James Palace (ib. 1611-18, p. 187), and on 23 Mar 1621 he was made governor of the isle of Guernsey for life (ib. 1580-1625, p. 633).

By Charles I he was created Earl of Danby on 5 Feb 1626, and on 20 Jul 1628 was sworn a member of the privy council. In 1630, Danby succeeded to the estates of his mother, who after her first husband’s death had married Sir Edmund Carey. He was made a councillor of Wales on 12 May 1633, and was installed a Knight of the Garter on 7 Nov in the same year.

Frequent references are made in the ‘Calendar of State Papers (Domestic)’ to Danby, especially in connection with the defence of the Channel Islands. In a letter to Secretary Coke, in Aug 1627, Danby ‘thinks it not for the King’s honour, nor suitable to his own reputation, that he, who was appointed general against anticipated foreign invaders in Ireland, should go to Guernsey to be shut up in a castle; but, if it be the King’s pleasure, he will be at Portsmouth before Sir Henry Mervyn can bring round a ship for his transport’ (ib. 1627-28, pp. 321-22).

Engraving of a prtrait of

 Henry Danvers

Woburn Abbey

On 12 Mar 1622 he conveyed to the university of Oxford five acres of land, opposite Magdalen College, which had formerly served as a burying-place for the Jews, for the encouragement of the study of physic and botany. The gateway of the Botanic Gardens, designed by Inigo Jones, bears the following inscription, ‘Gloriae Dei Opt. Max. Honori Caroli Regis, in usum Acad. et Reipub. Henricus comes Danby DD. MDCXXXII’.  By his will he left the impropriate rectory of Kirkdale in Yorkshire towards the maintenance of the gardens.

He was included in a number of commissions by Charles I, formed one of the council of war appointed on 17 Jun 1637, and acted as commissioner of the regency from 9 Aug to 25 Nov 1641. Towards the close of his life he suffered much from bad health and lived principally in the country. He died at his house in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, on 20 Jan 1644, in the seventieth year of his age, ‘full of honours, wounds, and dayes’, and was buried in the chancel of Dauntsey Church, where there is handsome monument of white marble to his memory. On the east side of the monument are engraved some curious lines written by his kinsman, George Herbert, who paid a long visit at Dauntsey in 1629, when threatened with consumption. Herbet was married with Danby's niece, Jane, and his mother was married as second husband to John Danvers, Danby's youngest brother. As Herbert died in 1633, the epitaph must have been written many years before Danby’s death. He never married, and upon his death the barony of Danvers and the earldom of Danby became extinct.
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