RODNEY, Sir John (c.1551-1612), of Pilton and Stoke Rodney, Som.
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Family and Education
b. c.1551, o.s. of George Rodney of Over Badgworth and Congresbury, Som., and Elizabeth, da. of one Kirton of Cheddar, Som.1 educ. Corpus, Oxf. 1568; M. Temple 1571.2 m. (with £1,000), Jane, da. of Sir Henry Seymour† of Marwell, Hants, 4s. incl. Sir Edward*, 3da. nine other ch.3 suc. fa. 1580, cos. Sir George Rodney 1601;4 kntd. 11 May 1603.5 d. 6 Aug. 1612.6
Servant of Edward Seymour, 1st earl of Hertford by 1578.7
The Rodneys believed that they had come to England with the Empress Matilda, but could trace their ancestry no further back than the thirteenth century. This Member’s ancestors, described in the history of the family written by his son, Sir Edward*, as ‘of the middle rank of subjects, which is the most safe place’, included one returned as knight of the shire for Somerset in 1336.14 Rodney’s father, a younger son, inherited two manors, and, ‘being a good husband, improved his estate to a good competency’; he was lessee of the family manor of Stoke at the time of Rodney’s birth.15 Rodney himself leased and purchased other land, including Pilton, and in 1601 claimed the estate of his cousin Sir George Rodney, under the latter’s will.16 Sir George’s sisters contended that this was ‘insufficient, and made by a man that was not compos mentis’, since he had killed himself on the rejection of his hand by Frances Howard in favour of the earl of Hertford. After ‘suits in most of the courts at Westminster and much money spent’, the matter was referred for arbitration to lord chief justice Sir John Popham†, who provided for the sale of Stoke and other land to pay off debts, and the equal division of what remained between Rodney and the two heirs general, ‘and procured an Act of Parliament to confirm it’.17
Rodney entered Parliament to promote his own bill, sitting for Great Bedwyn with the help of his patron Hertford, who was also his wife’s cousin. After the first reading on 23 Apr. 1604 it was entrusted to Rodney’s care, probably steered through committee by Sir Francis Hastings, and passed on 7 May.18 Rodney took little further part in the Commons’ proceedings, but was named to two bill committees, on recusancy (26 Apr.) and outlawry (17 May), in the first session.19 In April 1605 he accompanied Hertford on his mission to the archdukes at Brussels to confirm the recently signed peace treaty.20 He acted as surety for the earl’s debts, and himself fell ‘very much in debt’ through his unwillingnes to lose Stoke, ‘the ancient seat of the Rodneys’, the need to provide portions of £1,200 for two of his daughters, ‘and the great extreme he was at in law’.21 Although he left no trace on the records of the second and third sessions of the Parliament, he wrote to his kinsman James Kirton I*, Hertford’s servant, to inform him of a call of the House on 9 Apr. 1606.22 In the fourth session he was appointed to a committee to oblige the 3rd earl of Bath to allow timber for the Barnstaple shipyards to be transported across his property (25 June 1610).23
In September 1611 Hertford and the 1st earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) asked Rodney to seek out William Seymour*, Hertford’s grandson, who had fled into exile after his illicit marriage to Arbella Stuart, together with Rodney’s son; but he declined, and perhaps in response was pricked as sheriff of Somerset.24 He died intestate at the Chard assizes, on 6 Aug. 1612, aged 61.25 His heir Sir Edward, to whom administration of the estate was granted, reckoned that the shrievalty had cost at least £500, and his father’s funeral at Stoke £500 more.26 In his history of the family, Sir Edward commended Rodney for being ‘very temperate in his diet, just in all his dealings, chaste in wedlock, a good master to his servants, very hospitable in his port and manner of living, and generally an honest man and a good Christian’.27
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. The Gen. n.s. xvii. 101.
- 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
- 3. The Gen. n.s. xvii. 101.
- 4. Ibid. 100-2.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 105.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 144.
- 7. Cal. of Antrobus Deeds ed. R.B. Pugh (Wilts. Rec. Soc. iii), 58.
- 8. HMC Bath, iv. 199.
- 9. Hatfield House, ms 278; C66/1620.
- 10. C181/1, f. 70; 181/2, f. 129v.
- 11. SP14/31/1.
- 12. SP14/43/107.
- 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 125.
- 14. The Gen. n.s. xvi. 212-14.
- 15. Ibid. xvi. 210-14; n.s. xvii. 100-6.
- 16. E134/44Eliz.I/Hil./9.
- 17. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 79; Sales of Wards ed. M.J. Hawkins (Som. Rec. Soc. lxvii), 52-3.
- 18. CJ, i. 182b, 185a, 202b, 206b, 959b, 960b.
- 19. Ibid. 185a, 213a.
- 20. HMC Bath, iv. 200.
- 21. Ibid. iv. 202; The Gen. n.s. xvii. 102.
- 22. HMC Bath, iv. 167.
- 23. CJ, i. 443b.
- 24. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 74.
- 25. Ibid. 144.
- 26. PROB 6/8, f. 80v.
- 27. The Gen. n.s. xvii. 101, 103, 106.