Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, John (1616-1644)
SMITH, Sir JOHN (1616–1644), royalist, born in 1616 at Skilts in the parish of Studley, Warwickshire, was fourth son of Sir Francis Smith of Queeniborough, Leicestershire, by his wife Anne, daughter of Thomas Markham of Kirkby Beler and of Allerton, Nottinghamshire. His eldest brother, Sir Charles Smith, was elevated to the peerage in 1643 as Baron Carrington of Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire and Viscount Carrington of Barreford in Connaught (G. E. C[okayne], Complete Peerage, ii. 167).
He was brought up a Roman catholic, his earlier education being entrusted to a kinsman. At a later date he was sent abroad to Germany to complete his studies. He always had a strong disposition for a military life, and ventured to return home without leave, to urge his relatives to permit him to follow his bent. His projects, however, were received with no favour, and he was sent to resume his studies in the Spanish Netherlands. He soon joined the Spanish army which was defending Flanders against the French and Dutch. He distinguished himself by several deeds of daring; but hearing of the Scottish disturbances, he resolved to return to England and offer his services to Charles I. He received a lieutenant's commission, and was victorious in a skirmish with the Scots at Stapleford in the neighbourhood of the Tees. After the conclusion of the treaty of Ripon, on 28 Oct. 1640, he retired to his mother's house at Ashby Folville in Leicestershire. When the English civil war broke out he joined the royalists and was made a captain-lieutenant under Lord John Stewart (d. 1644) [q. v.] On 9 Aug. 1642 he disarmed the people of Kilsby in Northamptonshire, who had declared for parliament, and on 23 Sept. he took part in the fight at Powick Bridge. At Edgehill his troop was in Lord Grandison's regiment, on the left wing. In the battle the royal standard-bearer, Sir Edmund Verney [q. v.], was killed and the standard taken. Smith, with two others, recovered it. For this service he was knighted on the field, being, it is said, the last knight banneret created in England. He also received a troop of his own, and was appointed by Lord Grandison major of his regiment. Being sent into the south, he was taken prisoner on 13 Dec. by Waller in Winchester Castle, and did not obtain his liberty till the September following. On his release he proceeded to Oxford, and was made lieutenant-colonel of Lord Herbert of Raglan's regiment of horse [see Somerset, Edward, second Marquis of Worcester]. In 1644 he was despatched to the western army, as major-general of the horse under Lord John Stewart. On 29 March the royalists under Patrick Ruthven, earl of Forth [q. v.], engaged the parliamentarians under Waller at Cheriton in Hampshire. The rashness of Henry Bard (afterwards Viscount Bellamont) [q. v.] involved the royalist cavalry in a premature engagement. Smith was mortally wounded, and the dismay occasioned by his fall is said to have hastened his companions' retreat. He died the next day, and was buried on the south side of the choir in Christ Church, Oxford. An elegy on him appears in Sir Francis Wortley's ‘Characters and Elegies,’ London, 1646, 4to.[The fullest biography is in Edward Walsingham's Britannicæ Virtutis Imago, 1644, Oxford; but it is too eulogistic to be altogether trustworthy, and it differs in many instances from other contemporary accounts. Other authorities are Ludlow's Memoirs, ed. 1751, Edinburgh, i. 42, 95; Lloyd's Memoires, ed. 1668, p. 658; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, vi. 85, viii. 15, 16; Nugent's Memoirs of Hampden, ii. 298–300; Gardiner's Great Civil War, i. 49–50, 326; Colvile's Worthies of Warwickshire, p. 699; Le Neve's Monumenta Anglicana, i. 213.]