LENTHALL, John (c.1625-81), of Burford Priory, Oxon. and Besselsleigh, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. c.1625, o. surv. s. of William Lenthall† of Burford Priory, Speaker of the House of Commons, by Elizabeth, da. of Ambrose Evans of Loddington, Northants. educ. Corpus, Oxf. matric. 12 Sept. 1640, aged 15; L. Inn 1640, called 1647, assoc. bencher 1651. m. (1) Mary, da. and coh. of Sir William Ashcombe of Alvescot Oxon., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) Mary, da. of John Blewett of Holcombe Rogus, Devon, wid. of Sir James Stonhouse, 2nd Bt., of Amerden Hall, Debden, Essex, 1s. 1da., (3) Katherine (d.1692), da. of Eusebius Andrews of Edmonton, Mdx., s.p. suc. fa. 1662; kntd. 13 Mar. 1678.1
Six clerk in Chancery 1643-54; member, high court of justice 1649, commr. for the army 1652-3, Admiralty Feb.-July 1660.2
Commr. for appeals, Oxf. Univ. 1647, assessment, Berks., Glos., Gloucester and Oxon. 1647-52, Berks. 1657, Oxon. Jan. 1660, 1677-80, militia, Glos., Berks., Gloucester and Oxon. 1648, Oxon. 1659, Berks. and Oxon. Mar. 1660; j.p. Berks. and Oxon. 1650-3, Mdx. and Westminster 1653-9; freeman, Abingdon 1659; sheriff, Oxon. 1672-3.3
Gov. Windsor Castle 1659-June 1660; col. of ft. Feb.-June 1660.4
Lenthall’s father came from a cadet branch of the family, but, as a successful lawyer earning £2,500 p.a. at the bar, he was able to purchase Besselsleigh, four miles from Abingdon, in 1634, and became the first of the family to sit; his career as the compliant Speaker of the Long Parliament is well known. Lenthall, described by Anthony à Wood as ‘the grand braggadocio and liar of the age’ and by Edmund Ludlow as ‘a better orator than his father’, entered his father’s profession and followed his dexterous political course to the best of his abilities. He refused to take part in the trial of Charles I, but sat in the Rump, and was ‘knighted’ by the Protector.5
Lenthall stood for Abingdon at the general election of 1660 on the corporation interest against the Royalist, Sir George Stonhouse. He was warned not to ‘act against the interest and settlement of the nation, according to the known laws of the land’, and to ‘comport himself to that rule or be no Member for that place’. There was a double return, but Lenthall’s indentures were signed by the mayor, and he was allowed to sit, having already been appointed to the committee of elections and privileges. In the debate on the bill of indemnity on 12 May, he made the only serious attempt to exculpate the regicides, saying that ‘he that first drew his sword against the King committed as high an offence as he that cut off the King’s head’. ‘Herein he behaved himself’, wrote the wife of John Hutchinson, ‘with so much courage and honour as ever was matched at that time in England.’ But this was not the view of the Presbyterians. He was called to the bar of the House, where the Speaker told him that ‘there is much of poison in the words, and that they were spoken out of design to set this House on fire’. He took no further part in the Commons, and was unseated on the merits of the election on 23 May. He was deprived of office after the Restoration, and in November ‘apprehended for hiring a man that was used to work in tobacco-pipe clay privately to take an impression of the great seal of England’. He was released on £3,000 bail, though it was later alleged that he had to make over some of his property to Lord Chancellor Clarendon. But when the matter was raised in Parliament after Clarendon’s fall the House decided that in fact Lenthall was endeavouring to cheat his step-children out of their portions, and a bill was introduced to right them. He was probably reconciled to the monarchy by his third wife, the daughter of a Cavalier martyr. He was knighted in 1678, and Charles II took ‘a little repast’ at Burford Priory before the meeting of the Oxford Parliament. Lenthall died later in the same year on 9 Nov. 1681 and was buried at Besselsleigh, the last of his line to sit in Parliament.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 169-70; Burke, Gentry (1952), 150a.
- 2. T. D. Hardy, Principal Officers of Chancery, 109.
- 3. Abingdon bor. mins. 1, p. 165.
- 4. CJ, vii. 814.
- 5. Wood, Athenae, iii. 604, 609; VCH Berks, iv. 396; N. and Q. xii. 359; D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 230.
- 6. Voyce from the Watch Tower, 171-2; Nicholas Pprs. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3 xxxi), 202; Hutchinson Mems. 322; CJ, viii. 3, 24, 42; ix. 74; Parl. Intell. 28 Nov. 1660; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 468; 1661-2, pp. 170, 265, 379; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi), 530, 559; Milward, 152; VCH Berks. iv. 396.