DANVERS, John (1540-94), of Dauntsey, Wilts. and Cirencester, Glos.
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Family and Education
J.p. Wilts. from c.1573, sheriff 1574-5, 1585-6, 1593; j.p. Glos. from c. 1583, sheriff 1593-4; keeper of Devizes park bef. 1593; member, council in the marches of Wales 1594.2
Danvers inherited extensive estates in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire as well as lands in Cornwall which had come into the family through the marriage of his uncle Thomas to a daughter of Sir Thomas Courtenay of Powderham. On his father’s death, Danvers became the ward of Sir John Gates†, a protestant, who was executed for his support of Lady Jane Grey. The wardship was sold to Danvers’ uncle, Sir Anthony Hungerford†, a Catholic. By marriage, Danvers acquired the inheritance of Danby castle and large estates in Yorkshire. The trustees for the settlement included Thomas Cecil and William Cornwallis.3
Thus Danvers was one of the leading figures in Wiltshire, and an obvious choice to take a turn as knight of the shire. But after this, and a single appearance, through his own local standing, for Malmesbury, he showed no further interest in attending Parliament himself, though frequently nominating at his borough of Cirencester. Perhaps this was due to a retiring disposition — his relative Aubrey wrote of his ‘mild and peaceable nature’. But the surviving evidence shows him to have been active in local affairs, and, at the end of his life he made a vigorous application for the receivership of the court of wards, withdrawing eventually on Burghley’s advice and worrying about his credit being damaged if the post went to Thomas Tasburgh which, in the event, it did not. His son Charles was thought to be a Catholic, so it is possible that his own religious views precluded—or made unattractive—his sitting in the later Elizabethan Parliaments. A Star Chamber case, depositions for which were taken at Cirencester on 30 July 1589, shows that he had an undignified feud with the rector of Cirencester, a puritan named Simon Presse, whose sermons were frequently directed against ‘idolatry and whoredom’, and who ‘had caused some idolatrous images, pictures and paintings in the windows of the ... church to be taken down’. Danvers installed a choir of his own retainers in the church, including the clerk of his kitchen and ‘an idle person of very evil life’, who were instructed to act independently of the minister. On 15 Jan. there had been an equally disgraceful incident: ‘After the prayer "lighten our darkness O Lord" had ended then Presse began after his usual manner to say a prayer for [the Queen] and another for peace, rain or fair weather according to the necessity of the time' when he was interrupted by the 'lewd singing' of Danvers' choir. As a result Danvers presented Presse before the bishop of Gloucester, who suspended Presse from performing services. Another episode that hardly squares with Aubrey's testimonial 'a most beautiful and good and even-tempered person' was his successful struggle to prevent citizens of Cirencester, led by one Giles Selwyn, from exemplifying a charter of Henry IV and so establishing a guild. Danvers remains, therefore, enigmatic. He was listed as a knight of 'great possessions' able to support a peerage in 1588, excused himself from serving as sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1593, and died 19 Dec. 1594, as it was thought of a broken heart after the disgrace of his sons Henry and Charles*, the former, afterwards 1st Earl of Danby, having killed a local gentleman in sensational circumstances. Aubrey believed that Danvers' widow married Edmund Carey* to obtain them a pardon. Charles Danvers was subsequesntly executed for his part in the Essex rising.4
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Authors: M.N. / P. W. Hasler
- 1. F. N. Macnamara, Memorials Danvers Fam. 274; C142/94/88.
- 2. VCH Wilts. v. 82, 87; HMC Hatfield, iv. 416; Lansd. 47, f. 41; Harl. 360, f. 65; Egerton 2882, f. 11.
- 3. C142/94/88, 247/100; Macnamara, 278; CPR , 1550-3, p. 322; 1553-4, p. 8; 1560-3, p. 116; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, pp. 58-9; CP , vii. 484.
- 4. J. Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. Clark i. 193, 195; APC, ix. 13, 19; x. 28-9, 424, 442; xi. 282, 299, xiii. 165; Lansd. 48, f. 136; 104, ff. 51; seqq. HMC Hatfield, iv. 416, 534; St. Ch. 5/F15/23; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. ix. 340-1; Add. 1330, f. 51v; C142/247/100.