NEVILLE, Sir Henry II (1573-1641), of Birling, Kent and Drury Lane, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

bap. 8 Mar. 1573,1 1st s. of Edward Neville† of Birling and Rachel, da. of John Lennard of Chevening, Kent; bro. of Christopher*.2 educ. Queens’, Camb. 1586, BA 1589; travelled abroad 1591-4 (Germany and Italy); MA Oxf. 1594.3 m. (1) by 1596, Mary (d.1613), da. of Thomas Sackville†, 1st earl of Dorset, ld. treas. 1599-1608, 2s. d.v.p. 4da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) by 1614, Catherine (bur. 10 July 1649), da. of George Vaux of Irthlingborough, Northants., 2s. 3da.4 kntd. 27 June 1596;5 suc. fa. as 2nd Lord Bergavenny 1 Dec. 1622. d. 16 Dec. 1641.6

Offices Held

Vol. Cadiz expedition 1596.7

J.p. Kent 1602-11;8 commr. sewers, Kent 1603, 1618, 1628, Kent and Suss. 1604-32, Suss. 1630, 1639,9 subsidy, Kent and Suss. 1624,10 Forced Loan, Kent 1627.11

Gent. of the privy chamber 1604.12


Neville was descended from Edward Nevill, the eleventh and youngest son of Ralph, 1st earl of Westmorland, who had by 1424 married Elizabeth Beauchamp, Baroness Bergavenny or Abergavenny. On the death of the 5th baron without sons in 1587, the family’s extensive estates, based around Birling, six miles north-west of Maidstone, passed by entail to his cousin, Neville’s grandfather, but the title was also claimed by the 5th baron’s daughter, the mother of Sir Francis Fane*. Neville’s grandfather died in 1589, before the dispute could be resolved. Neville’s father, who had been returned for New Windsor in 1588, formally claimed the title in 1598.13

In 1591 Neville went abroad with his future brother-in-law Thomas Sackville, son of the 1st Lord Buckhurst, and may have taken his master’s degree at a university on the Continent, since on his return he was incorporated MA at Oxford. He served as a volunteer under the 2nd earl of Essex in the Cadiz expedition of 1596, and the following year received a further licence to travel abroad with Sackville. In 1601, with the support of Robert Sidney†, he was returned for Kent.14

The Bergavenny peerage dispute remained unresolved on the death of Elizabeth, and the expense it incurred required sales of part of the entailed Neville estate, which could only be authorized by Act of Parliament. A private bill to that effect had been passed in 1601, but ambiguities in the wording had hindered its execution and an explanatory Act was needed.15 In January 1604 Neville secured appointment to the privy chamber, probably thanks to the support of his father-in-law, by now lord treasurer and soon to become the 1st earl of Dorset. The following month he was returned for Lewes, presumably thanks to the support of his father, who owned half of the honour or barony of Lewes, of which the borough formed part. However, the Nevilles had not previously exercised significant parliamentary patronage in the borough and, perhaps as a consequence, he was obliged to take second place in the return, after the local lawyer John Shurley.16

During the early stages of the 1604 session a successful compromise was found to the peerage dispute, whereby Lady Fane and her heirs were to enjoy the older barony of Le Despenser, leaving Neville’s father to be summoned to the Lords on 11 May 1604 as Lord Bergavenny.17 The explanatory bill to break the entail was introduced in the Commons and received a second reading and commitment on 14 May. For some reason this process was repeated a month later; possibly the original bill was found to be unsatisfactory and a new one was drafted, although there is no record that a revised bill received a first reading. George Snygge reported the measure on 29 June, and soon thereafter it passed into law.18

Neville is easily confused with his cousin, Sir Henry Neville I of Billingbear, Berkshire. It is likely that most of the references in the surviving parliamentary records are to this man, who was the more prominent of the two. It was not until the third session that any attempt was made to distinguish between the two men in the Journal. ‘Sir Henry Neville of Berkshire’ and ‘Sir Henry Neville of Kent’ were instructed to attend the conference with the Lords of 24 Nov. 1606 on the Union,19 while ‘Sir Henry Neville of Kent’ was appointed to the committee to consider the bill concerning the reputed parents of bastards. Both Members were named to consider the bill concerning ecclesiastical courts on 16 May 1607 and, two days later, to draft the address for the better execution of the recusancy laws and the freer preaching of the gospel.20 On 30 June Sir Henry Poole, who was married to Neville’s aunt, successfully claimed privilege for Neville’s waterman.21

In the fourth session both Nevilles were appointed to the committees for the bills to confirm Magna Carta (3 Mar. 1610) and to regulate the assignment of debts to the Exchequer (15 Mar.), and ‘Sir Henry Neville of Kent’ was among those instructed to consider the bill promoted on behalf of Rochester.22 Further land sales had become necessary to provide for the younger members of the family. On 14 Apr. Neville’s wife applied to the 1st earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) for assistance, and the necessary private bill was introduced in the Commons and committed on 7 July. It was successfully reported by Sir Henry Poole five days later and was subsequently enacted.23

Neville was removed from the Kent bench in 1611, possibly for his suspected Catholicism, and almost certainly never sought election again.24 His continued appointments to commissions of sewers led to his inclusion in the Commons’ presentment of Catholic officeholders in 1626, when he was described as ‘justly suspected for popery’.25 By that time he had succeeded to his father’s peerage and estates, which included £30,000 of debts. A further estate bill to enable him to sell lands passed both Houses in 1626, but was not enacted because of the sudden dissolution. In January 1628 he successfully petitioned the Crown for protection from his creditors, whom he claimed were ‘very unreasonable’. The estate bill was again introduced in 1628 and this time had a successful passage, but Neville remained heavily in debt and reliant on royal protection from his creditors. He died intestate, and was buried at Birling on 24 Dec. 1641. None of his descendants are known to have sat in the Commons.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. Chevening par. reg. (Soc. Gen. transcript).
  • 2. D. Rowland, Historical and Genealogical Account of Noble Fam. of Nevill, 168.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; SO3/1, unfol. (5 Apr. 1591); HMC Hatfield, xvi. 299.
  • 4. Rowland, 168; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 429.
  • 5. Counter-Armada, S. and E. Underwood, 147.
  • 6. CP, i. 37.
  • 7. Counter-Armada, 147.
  • 8. C231/1, f. 129v; Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 98.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 57, 90; 181/2, f. 320; 181/3, f. 252; 181/4, ff. 37v, 106v; 181/5, f. 144.
  • 10. C212/22/23.
  • 11. C193/12/2, f. 26
  • 12. Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 58.
  • 13. CP, i. 27-5; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 122.
  • 14. Ibid. 125.
  • 15. HLRO, HL/PO/PB/1/1601/43Eliz1n.23; HL/PO/PB/1/1603/1J1n.68.
  • 16. VCH, Suss. vii. 3-5
  • 17. CP, i. 36.
  • 18. CJ, i. 170a, 210a, 238b, 249a. The first second reading is not recorded in the alternative version of the Journal and it is possible that the confusion arose from a clerical error.
  • 19. CJ, i. 324b.
  • 20. Ibid. 328b, 374b, 375a.
  • 21. Ibid. 1055b.
  • 22. Ibid. 404b, 411b, 442b.
  • 23. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 214; CJ, i. 449a; HLRO, HL/PO/PB/1/1609/7J1n.41.
  • 24. The ‘Sir Henry Neville’ whose speech was recorded by Sir Thomas Barrington* in Apr. 1621 (CD 1621, iii. 88) was probably his brother Christopher, who was sitting for Sussex, while the ‘Sir Henry Neville’ returned for Wilton the following November was more likely to have been the son of Sir Henry Neville I of Billingbear, see SIR HENRY NEVILLE III.
  • 25. Procs. 1626, iv. 211.
  • 26. APC, 1627-8, pp. 244-5; HLRO, HL/PO/PB/1/1627/3C1n.11; CSP Dom. 1638-9, pp. 435, 442; 1639-40, p. 215.