Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bennet, John (d.1627)

BENNET, Sir JOHN (d, 1627), ecclesiastic and civilian, of Christ Church, London, and Uxbridge, Middlesex, eldest son of Thomas Bennet, of Clapcot, Wallingford, Berkshire, by Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Tesdale of Deanly in the same county, founder of Pembroke College, Oxford, was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and appointed junior proctor of the university 21 April 1585. He took the degrees of bachelor and doctor of laws by accumulation 6 July 1589, and was appointed prebendary of Langtoft in the church of York, 6 March 1590-1. About this time he became vicar-general in spirituals to the Archbishop of York, for whom, if we may judge from the inscription on a small monument which he placed in York Cathedral upon the death of the archbishop (John Piers) in 1594, he felt sincere respect. The monument is still to be seen, though not in its original place, having been removed in 1723 to make way for another tomb. In April 1599 he was made a member of the council of the North, being then chancellor of the diocese, and in the same year was included in a commission to enforce the Act of Uniformity, and other statutes relating to religious questions, within the province of York. In 1597 he had been returned to parliament as member for Ripon. In the next parliament (1601) he represented the city of York, and in 1603 was again returned for Ripon. He does not appear to have played any very active part in the House of Commons, but Townshend briefly reports two speeches by him, both made on the same day (20 Nov. 1601), one being in support of a bill proposing to confer upon justices of the peace throughout the country summary powers to inflict punishment upon persons wilfully absenting themselves from church on Sunday, and the other in favour of a bill against monopolies, a measure intended to preserve freedom of trade, then seriously imperilled by the practice of granting monopolies by royal letters patent. Townshend relates that in the course of this latter speech Bennet made Sir Walter Raleigh blush by an adroit reference to monopolies of cards. In Stow's 'Annals' we read that he made an 'eloquent oration' to King James during his passage through York, 15 April 1602. The following year (23 July) the king knighted him at Whitehall shortly before his coronation. About this date he was appointed judge of the prerogative court of Canterbury. Not long after this he became chancellor to Queen Anne, and is so styled in Sir Thomas Bodley's will, of which he was one of the executors, and which was in all likelihood made some years before Sir Thomas's death (28 Jan. 1612-13). A letter of that munificent patron of learning, addressed to Br. Singleton, vice-chancellor of Oxford university, under date 5 Nov. 1611, shows that Bennet was highly respected by Sir Thomas himself and by the university authorities. Bodley says that he has conferred about new schools with 'Sir John Bennet, who, like a true affected son of his ancient mother, hath opened his mind thus far unto me, that if he thought he should find sufficient contributors to a work of that expense, and the assistance of friends to join tneir helping hands to his, he would not only very willingly undertake the collection of every man's benevolences, but withal take upon him to see the building to be duly performed.' Accordingly, on 30 March 1613, being the day following Sir Thomas Bodley's funeral, the first stone of the new schools was laid by Dr. Singleton and Sir John Bennet, to the accompaniment (as Wood informs us) of 'music and voices;' and Sir John, 'having then offered liberally thereto, the heads of houses, proctors, and others followed.' Next year, and again in 1620, Bonnet was returned to parliament for the university. Early in April 1617 he was sent to Brussels on a special mission to the Archduke Albert to procure the immediate punishment of both author (Henri Dupuy or Van de Putte, a man of considerable learning) and printer of a pamphlet entitled 'Corona Regis,' in which James and his court were satirised. Bennet returned with little satisfaction (14 June 1617), but he was well received by the king. We learn from a letter of Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton that Bennet tmvelled by way of Margate, and that before starting he 'invited Lord Hay, Mr. Comptroller (Sir Thomas Edmondes), and Mr. btHjretary (Sir Ralph Winwood), to a poor pitiful supper' (in the opinion at least of Sir Thomas Edmondes, who probably was a competent judge, and also of one John West, 'who, poor man, was extremely sorry to see him invite such friends to shame himself, and to make show what a hand his wife had over him'). The wife here referred to was Sir John's third and last. His first wife, Anne, daughter of Christopher Weekes of Salisbury, died as early as 9 Feb. 1601, leaving six children, four sons and two daughters. She was buried in York Cathedral, her husband placing there a modest tablet dedicated to her memory. Her successor was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Lowe, alderman of London, who was buried, 14 May 1614, in the parish church of Harlington, Middlesex. His third wife appears to have been of robust physique. 'Sir John Bennet,' writes Chamberlain, 'hath some business to the archduke, whither he will be shortly sent as ambassador, and carries his large wife with him.' Her name was Leonora, and she was the daughter of Adrian Vierendeels, a citizen of Antwerp, and had been twice previously married. By the death of Sir Ralph Winwood in the autumn of this year, the place of secretary of state became vacant, and we learn from a letter of Sir Horace Vere that Sir John Bennet was one of those who aspired to fill it. His name occurs in a commission dated 29 April 1620 to put in force against heretics the provisions of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act of the first year of the reign of Elizabeth throughout the three kingdoms, and also in another commission with the like object, but restricted to the province of York, dated 24 Oct. of the same year. On 15 June of the same year, his eldest son, John, father of Henry, the first Lord Arlington [q. v.] received the honour of knighthood. In April of the following year, while the impeachment of the lord chancellor for bribery and corruption was in progress, preliminary steps were taken in the House of^ Commons for the impeachment of Sir John Bennet as judge of the prerogative court of Canterbury, for administering the estates of intestates, not according to law, but in consonance with the wishes of the highest bidder. A committee of the whole house sat on 18 April to examine witnesses, and reported on the 20th unfavourably to Sir John. On the 23rd the house found a true bill' against him. His seat was therefore vacated, and a committee of members was ordered to secure his person until the sheriffs of London, to whom a warrant at the same time issued under the speaker's hand, should have apprehended him. At the same time it was resolved, according to the practice in such cases, to have a conference with the lords. On 25 April Sir John petitioned the House of Lords that he might be admitted to bail (being then a close prisoner in his own house) upon giving good security. The peers resolved that the delinquent must either give security to the extent of 40,000/., or go to the Tower. Sir John certainly did not find the security, but he remained in his own house in custody of the sheriff's. On 29 May the House of Lords resolved that 'the prisoner be brought to the bar to-morrow morning at nine o'clock.' Then began the formal impeachment of Sir John Bennet. Besides selling administrations, he was accused of misappropriating money entrusted for 'pious uses,' in particular a legacy of 1,000l. given to the university of Oxford by Sir Thomas Bodley's will. The trial was adjourned until the next session. Sir John, who seems to have proved less guilty than was at first supposed, being discharged on rather more than half the amount of bail originally demanded. This year parliament dissolved in June, and reassembled on 20 Nov., but the trial was never resumed, Sir John being excused attendance on the ground of dangerous illness. In the following year, however (June 1622), the attorney-general instituted proceedings against Sir John in the Star chamber, which resulted, in November of that year, in a sentence similar to that which had been passed the preceding year upon the lord chancellor, viz. a fine of 20,000l., imprisonment during the king's pleasure, and permanent disability from holding office. In the Star chamber the delinquent appears to have practically pleaded guilty, urging only by way of appeal ad misericordiam the existence of his wife, and the multitude of his issue, fifty in all — i.e. ten children and forty grandchildren — upon all of whom, besides 'others,' the execution of the sentence would bring shame and distress. On 16 July 1624 the sentence was remitted, with the exception of the fine of 20,000l. This he apparently found means to pay, as about this time he seems to have been discharged from the Fleet, to which he had been committed. Probably he was already in very infirm health, for he did not survive 1627. In 1625 (13 July) Dr. Hodgson had been appointed to fill his place in the council of the North. He died at his house in Christ Church, London, and was buried in the church of that parish. His wife, Leonora, survived him, and resided till her death at his seat at Uxbridge, subsequently known as the 'treaty house,' from the commissioners on either side having there met to arrange the futile treaty which was concluded between the king and the parliament in 1645. She died in 1638, and was buried in the chapel at Uxbridge.

[Le Neve's Fasti, iii. 199, 490; Willis's Not. Parl. iii. 139, 148, 169, 172, 181; Drake's Hist. York, 357. 369, 370, 456, 457, 511; Stow's Annals, 820; Townshend's Hist. Coll. 228, 232; Nichols's Progresses (James I), i. 206; Rymer, xvi. 386–94, xvii. 202, 258; Wood's Hist. Ant. Oxford, iii. 788–90. 934, iv. 616-20, Appendix. 110. 189; Wood's Fasti, i. 249; Parl. Hist. i. 1172; Lodge's Illustrations, iii. 70, 71; Winwood's Mem. iii. 429; Court and Times of James I, i. 464, ii. 5, 350; Motley's Life of Barneveld, ii. 76; State Papers, Dom. 1598–1601, 1611–1618, 1619–1623, 1623–1625; Journals of House of Commons, i. 580–91; Journals of House of Lords, iii. 87–197; Lysons's Environs of London, vi. 133, 181, 182; Collins's Peerage (Brydges), Tankerville Title; State Trials, ii. 1146; Yonge's Diary, 37; Petyt's Misc. Parl. 92, 93; Cat. MSS. Harl. ii. 134.]

J. M. R.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.22
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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234 ii 15 Bennet, Sir John: for this year read 1617
27 for of the same year read 1616