STANHOPE, Sir John I (c.1540-1621), of Harrington, Northants. and 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



1604 - 4 May 1605

Family and Education

b. c.1540, 3rd s. of Sir Michael Stanhope† (d.1552) of Shelford, Notts. and Anne, da. of Nicholas Rawson of Aveley, Essex; bro. of Edward sen.†, Edward jun.†, Sir Michael* and Sir Thomas†.1 educ. Trin. Camb. 1556; G. Inn 1556.2 m. (1) c.1558, Mary (d.1567), da. and coh. of Sir William Knowles of Bilton-in-Holderness, Yorks., s.p.; (2) 6 May 1589, Margaret, da. of Henry Macwilliam† of Stambourne, Essex, and coh. to her bro. Henry, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.3 kntd. 1596;4 cr. Bar. Stanhope of Harrington 4 May 1605.5 d. 9 Mar. 1621.6 sig. J[ohn]/Jhon Stanhope.

Offices Held

Gent. of the privy chamber (extraordinary) by 1571-?96;7 master of posts 1590-d.;8 treas. of the chamber by 1596-1618;9 commr. Guinea trade 1598;10 treas. at war 1599;11 v.-chamberlain 1601-16; PC 1601-d.;12 commr. to send convicts to galleys 1602, expel Jesuits and seminary priests 1603-4, 1618, 13 regulate the king’s Household 1603,14 Union with Scotland 1604,15 inventory royal apparel 1604,16 compound for concealed lands 1605,17 levy aid 1609,18 adjourn Parliament 1610;19 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1611-d.;20 commr. to enfranchise copyholders 1612, 21 surrender of Flushing and Brill 1616, exile William Danvers etc. 1617.22

V.-adm. Yorks. 1585-1604;23 j.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) by 1591-at least 1614, Kent and Mdx. 1596-at least 1614, Northants. by 1601-at least 1614, liberty of Southwell and Scroby, Notts. by 1601-d.; Westminster 1618-d.; custos rot. N. Riding 1591-at least 1608;24 high steward, Peterborough cathedral 1600-d.;25 steward, duchy of Lancaster manors, Northants. 1600-13 (sole), 1613-d. (jt.), honour of Clare, Suff. 1602-16, manor of Eltham, Kent by 1604-d.; feodary, duchy of Lancaster, Northants. 1602-13 (sole), 1613-d. (jt.);26 commr. oyer and terminer, London 1601-19, the Verge 1604-15, Midlands rising Northants 1607, Mdx. 1620;27 kpr. (jt.), Colchester Castle, Essex 1603;28 commr. to make the river Welland navigable, Lincs. 1605;29 subsidy, Kent, London, Mdx. and the Household 1608,30 annoyances, Surr. 1611, Mdx. 1613,31 new buildings, Westminster 1611,32 gaol delivery, London 1612-19, sewers, Essex 1618.33

Member Virg. Co. by 1609, cttee. 1609.34


Stanhope’s father rose to prominence in the reign of Edward VI on the coat-tails of his half sister’s husband, Protector Somerset, but was attainted after the fall of his patron and executed in 1552. Stanhope and his brothers, who included Sir Michael*, were restored in blood by Queen Mary’s first Parliament, but the bulk of their father’s estate passed to his eldest brother, Sir Thomas†, the grandfather of Sir John Stanhope II* and great-grandfather of Henry Stanhope*.35 Stanhope was consequently obliged to seek his fortune at Court, where he became an adherent of his mother’s kinsman, Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†). After many years’ unpaid attendance on Elizabeth I he secured the lucrative office of postmaster in 1590. In the same year he acquired the manor and park of Harrington in Northamptonshire, which became his principal country residence. Thanks to the patronage of Burghley and Sir Robert Cecil†, Stanhope subsequently became treasurer of the chamber, vice-chamberlain of the Household and a privy councillor.36 In January 1603 his servant Ralph Ewens† was appointed clerk of the House of Commons.37

Stanhope retained all his offices under the new king, and was probably one of the ‘two good friends’ recommended by Henry, 3rd earl of Southampton for Newtown in 1604, despite the latter’s previous support of the 2nd earl of Essex, the Cecils’ great rival in late Elizabethan politics.38 Apart from secretary of state Sir John Herbert, Stanhope was the only privy councillor returned in 1604. He consequently played a prominent part in the opening of the session.39 On 19 Mar. he was one of the Members commissioned by the 1st earl of Nottingham (Charles Howard†) to administer the oath of supremacy to the other Members.40 According to one diarist it was Stanhope and Herbert who brought the newly elected Speaker, Sir Edward Phelips, to the chair, although the Journal states that Herbert’s partner was Sir Edward Stafford.41 Three days later Stanhope and Herbert presented Phelips to the king.42

Stanhope continued to feature prominently as a messenger to the Lords and the king. He made no recorded speeches and was only specifically appointed to consider three bills, although as a privy councillor he could have attended all the important committees in the opening session. On 12 May he was named to the commission for the Union with Scotland.43 Two days later the Commons ordered the warden of the Fleet to deliver Sir Thomas Shirley I*, but they seem to have doubted his compliance:

It was observed that Mr. Vice-chamberlain to the king was privately instructed to go to the king, and humbly desire that he would be pleased to command the warden, on his allegiance, to deliver Sir Thomas, not as petitioned by the House, but as himself found it fit in his own gracious judgment.44

Stanhope showed considerable interest in bills relating to the Scottish courtier and chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir George Home, with whom Cecil had struck up a strong working relationship. On 18 May Stanhope was ordered to consider the bill to naturalize Home, which he carried up to the Lords on 24 May. Six days later he was appointed to the committee to confirm Home’s letters patent granting Home property at Berwick. It may have been to this last measure to which Stanhope was referring in an undated letter to Cecil. In this he mentioned ‘your honourable friend’s bill’ and the ‘objection of the tenure’. This last phrase would appear to anticipate Henry Yelverton’s protest made on 4 June, when Home’s bill was reported, that property in Berwick was ‘holden by socage in capite’. In this same letter to Cecil, Stanhope stated that he had ‘dealt with divers’ of his fellow Members, ‘giving them such reasons as I thought might best prepare their voices and strengthen them to persuade others’. Stanhope assured Cecil that his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Ridgeway* and Sir John Holles*, who had married his niece, ‘will use their best endeavours, and Ridgeway, who is strong with his Devonshire crew, assures me of a good party’. Both Ridgeway and Holles were subsequently appointed to the committee for the bill, but Holles seems to have opposed the measure at the report stage. Nevertheless the bill passed, suggesting that Stanhope could be influential behind the scenes when he chose.45

On 28 June Stanhope was sent to visit the king, who had been kicked by a horse, and on his return he reported that James’s condition was not serious. On the next day he was named to the committee for the bill to enable Sir Christopher Hatton* to secure some part of lands of his cousin Sir William Hatton alias Newport†. This measure was probably of interest to Stanhope as the property concerned was currently in the possession of his kinsman, the attorney general Sir Edward Coke*. Shortly before the session ended, Stanhope attended the Commons’ farewell feast.46 James was presumably referring to Stanhope’s service in the Commons when he wrote to Cecil after the prorogation. In this letter the king stated that ‘honest Stanhope’ had ‘for our sins hunted all this year in [the] inferno, that is the lower regions’.47

On 6 Apr. 1605 Samuel Calvert reported that Stanhope, angry at the king’s professed intention to give the vice-chamberlainship to his Scottish counterpart, absented himself from Court, but he soon returned and retained office. The following month he was raised to the peerage, being one of those nominated for honours by Anne of Denmark to commemorate the christening of Princess Mary.48 Despite declining health he remained an assiduous member of the Privy Council, attending more than half of all meetings between May 1613 and June 1614. Nevertheless, from 1613 onwards he made repeated attempts to rid himself of his two main offices.49 These were unavailing until 1616, when Sir John Digby* replaced him as vice-chamberlain. Two years later Sir William Uvedale* succeeded Stanhope as treasurer of the chamber. He drew up his will on 5 Oct. 1620, died the following March and was buried at night five days later in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, in which parish he had lived for 30 years. The peerage became extinct on the death of his son Charles in 1675.50 None of his descendants are known to have sat in the Commons.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Ben Coates


  • 1. CP, xii. pt. 2, pp. 239-40.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. G. Poulson, Hist. and Antiqs. of Seigniory of Holderness, ii. 250; Feet of Fines ed. J. Parker (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. ii), 222; CP, xii. pt. 2, p. 241; Oxford DNB; St. Martin-in-the-Fields (Harl. Soc. reg. xxv), 28.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 94.
  • 5. C66/1674, m. 17.
  • 6. G.R. Corner, ‘Notices of John, Lord Stanhope of Harrington’, Archaeologia, xxxviii. pt. 2, p. 398.
  • 7. Thoroton, Notts. (1790), i. 289; CPR, 1559-72, p. 174; HMC 11th Rep. VII, 157.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 672; 1603-10, p. 366; PROB 11/137, f. 248v.
  • 9. APC, 1596-7, p. 22; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 125.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 16.
  • 11. HMC Foljambe, 101-2.
  • 12. HMC Cowper, i. 30; Chamberlain Letters, i. 619; APC, 1600-1, p. 467; PROB 11/137, f. 248v.
  • 13. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 2, pp. 36, 62, 122; pt. 3, p. 93.
  • 14. APC, 1601-4, p. 497.
  • 15. SR, iv. 1019.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 74.
  • 17. LR2/88, unfol.
  • 18. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, p. 678.
  • 19. HMC Hastings, iv. 229.
  • 20. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 358; Rymer, vii. pt. 3, p. 134.
  • 21. C181/2, f. 171v.
  • 22. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, p. 210; pt. 3, p. 3.
  • 23. HCA 25/1/2 f. 151; 30/820/1.
  • 24. Hatfield House ms 278; C231/1, f. 19v; C66/1549, 66/1988; C181/1, f. 7; 181/2, f. 331v; 181/3, ff. 15v. 33v; SP14/33, f. 22.
  • 25. Elizabethan Peterborough ed. W.T. Mellows and D.H. Gifford (Northants Rec. Soc. xviii), 41-2.
  • 26. R. Somerville, Hist. Duchy of Lancaster, i. 588, 591; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 191, 195-6, 205; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 160; PROB 11/137, f. 248v.
  • 27. C181/1, ff. 10v, 93v; 181/2, ff. 34v, 235, 351v, 352.
  • 28. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 15.
  • 29. C181/1, f. 118v.
  • 30. SP14/31/1.
  • 31. C181/2, ff. 142, 199.
  • 32. C66/1907.
  • 33. C181/2, ff. 171v, 308, 351.
  • 34. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 209, 231.
  • 35. HP Commons, 1509-58, iii. 368-9.
  • 36. P. Wright, ‘A change in direction: the ramifications of a female household, 1558-1603’, Eng. Ct. ed. D. Starkey et al. 154, 163-4; Corner, 398.
  • 37. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 95.
  • 38. Add. 46501, f. 202.
  • 39. CD 1604-7, p. 53.
  • 40. CJ, i. 140b.
  • 41. CD 1604-7, p. 41; CJ, i. 141b.
  • 42. LJ, ii. 265b.
  • 43. CJ, i. 208a.
  • 44. Ibid. 210a.
  • 45. Ibid. 213b, 224b, 228b, 982a, 985a; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 264; Oxford DNB sub Home, George.
  • 46. CJ, i. 248a, 249a, 251b; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 315; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 439.
  • 47. Letters of Jas. VI and I ed. G.P.V. Akrigg, 233.
  • 48. Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 57; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 202; Illustrations of British History ed. E. Lodge, iii. 149.
  • 49. HMC Hatfield, xix. 477; xx. 137; APC, 1615-16, p. 41; L.L. Peck, Northampton, 8; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 277-8, 338; Chamberlain Letters, i. 604.
  • 50. PROB 11/137, f. 248v; St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 164.