Hotham, John Sr. (d.1645) (DNB00)

HOTHAM, Sir JOHN (d. 1645), parliamentarian, was son of John Hotham of Scorborough, sheriff of Yorkshire in 1584, by his third wife, Jane Legard (Foster, Yorkshire Pedigrees, ‘North and East Riding,’ Hotham of South Dalton, Garth). Hotham served some time as a soldier on the continent, was present at the battle of Prague in 1619, and for two years fought under Mansfeld. The story runs that ‘at his first going out as a soldier’ his father sought to dissuade him. ‘Son,’ said he prophetically, ‘when the crown of England lies at stake you will have fighting enough’ (Strafford Letters, ii. 288; Rushworth, v. 804).

Hotham was knighted 11 April 1617, and created a baronet 14 Jan. 1621–2 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 170; Forty-seventh Report of the Deputy-Keeper of Public Records, p. 129). He represented Beverley in all the five parliaments of Charles I. During the contests between Wentworth and Savile for the representation of Yorkshire, Hotham supported the former, and Wentworth in return obtained the withdrawal of a bill brought against Hotham in the Star-chamber (Strafford Letters, i. 476, 495). In 1635 Hotham was sheriff of Yorkshire, and showed great zeal in levying ship-money (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1635, pp. 479, 507). When the Scotch troubles began he was esteemed well affected to the king's service, though quarrelsome and difficult to manage. Strafford strove to compose his differences with the vice-president of the council of the north and others, and though obliged to own that there was ‘somewhat more will and party’ in Hotham than he wished, added, ‘he is very honest, faithful, and hearty, and to be framed as you please with good usage’ (Strafford Letters, ii. 94, 193, 288). In 1639 it was proposed to take from Hotham the government of Hull, which he held by deputation from Strafford, and to give it to Captain Legge. Strafford was loud in his support of Hotham. ‘I know his faithfulness to be such as I durst answer for him with my life; nor am I ignorant that in party he is very eager, and in truth over-earnest, yet it were very easy to have him as forward on the king's party, and more than in any other private animosity. Believe me, he is as considerable a person as any other gentleman in the north of England, and therefore it were well in my opinion not utterly to cast him off, as by taking the government of that town you shall infallibly do’ (27 March 1639, ib. ii. 307, 310). Strafford's advice was unheeded, and the slight had the effects which he predicted. Hotham went into opposition, refused to pay ship-money, and was put out of all commissions which he held (Memoirs of Sir Hugh Cholmley, p. 61). After the Short parliament, in which he represented Beverley, he and Henry Bellasis were summoned before the privy council, and making very undutiful answers to the questions put to them were committed to the Fleet (8 May 1640, Rushworth, iii. 1167). In the summer Hotham signed the two petitions of the Yorkshire gentry to the king, of which he and his cousin, Sir Hugh Cholmley, were the chief contrivers. Charles told them that if ever they meddled or had a hand in any more he would hang them. Hotham was one of the witnesses against Strafford on the article relating to the Yorkshire petition (ib. iii. 1214, 1231, 1265; Trial of Strafford, p. 604; Cholmley, Memoirs, pp. 61–64).

In January 1642 the king attempted to possess himself of Hull, the arsenal in which the arms and munitions collected for the Scottish war had been deposited, and the port where Charles intended to land Dutch or Danish troops. Parliament at once gave orders to Hotham to secure Hull by means of the Yorkshire trained bands, and not to deliver it up till he was ordered to do so by ‘the king's authority signified unto him by the lords and commons now assembled in parliament’ (Gardiner, History of England, x. 153, 184; Commons' Journals, ii. 371). His son, Captain John Hotham [q. v.], successfully secured Hull, and Sir John himself shortly afterwards assumed his command. On 23 April 1642 the king in person appeared before the town and demanded admittance. Hotham caused the gates to be shut and the bridges drawn up, and speaking from the walls asserted that he could not admit the king without breach of the trust reposed in him by parliament (Old Parliamentary History, x. 472). The king then demanded Hotham's exemplary punishment, and declared him a traitor, and the parliament answered that Hotham had done nothing but in obedience to their commands, and that the declaring him a traitor was ‘a high breach of privilege of parliament’ (Clarendon, Rebellion, v. 88–95; Declaration of Parliament, 28 April 1642; Rushworth, iv. 565–71). While the constitutional controversy was being vigorously discussed, intrigue seemed likely to succeed where force had failed. In May Hotham detected a conspiracy to corrupt his officers to open the gates to the king (ib. pp. 599–601). In June Lord Digby, who had been accidentally made prisoner and brought into Hull, endeavoured to seduce Hotham himself. He persuaded him that by delivering up Hull to the king he might at once prevent a civil war and gain riches and honour for himself, and Hotham was so far won over that he released Digby and promised that ‘if the king would come before the town though but with one regiment, and plant his cannon against it and make but one shot, he should think he had discharged his trust to the parliament as far as he ought to do, and that he would then immediately deliver up the town’ (Clarendon, Rebellion, v. 432–7; Rushworth, v. 799). Relying on this promise the king, with an army of two thousand or three thousand men, came to Beverley on 7 July and beleaguered Hull. Hotham, however, who had now repented of his promise, flooded the country round, made two successful sallies, and forced the king to raise the siege (July, Rushworth, iv. 610).

There is little doubt that Hotham was really anxious for an accommodation between king and parliament. With the religious aims of the puritans he had no sympathy, though eager to avail himself of the opportunity of enriching his family with sequestrated livings (Mercurius Aulicus, 16 April 1643). According to his kinsman, Sir Hugh Cholmley, Hotham ‘was a man that loved liberty, which was an occasion to make him join at first with the puritan party, to whom after he became nearer linked, merely for his own interest and security, for in more than concerned the civil liberty he did not approve of their ways’ (Clarendon State Papers, ii. 185). Shortly before the battle of Edgehill, Hotham wrote to Lenthall and other parliamentary leaders urging them to use their interest to bring about an agreement at once, ‘for if the sword were once drawn it would be with us as it was with the Romans in the time of Cæsar and Pompey, when 'twas said whoever had the better the Roman liberty was sure to have the worst’ (Rushworth, v. 275; cf. Mercurius Aulicus, 14 Jan. 1643). His dissensions with Fairfax, his constant appeals for money, and other signs of discontent, are frequently mentioned in the royalist papers during the spring of 1643 (ib. 7, 8, 24 Feb. 1643). Nevertheless, when Cholmley deserted the cause of the parliament for that of the king, Hotham remained staunch, and recovered Scarborough 31 March (A True and Exact Relation of the Proceedings of Sir Hugh Cholmley's Revolt, with the Regaining of Scarborough Castle by the care of Sir John Hotham, 1643; Rushworth, v. 265). By the end of April, however, he was in correspondence with the Earl of Newcastle concerning the terms on which a settlement might be brought about. He complained bitterly of the failure of the treaty at Oxford. ‘If those of the cabinet council had advised his majesty to have offered reason to the parliament, I should with my life and fortunes more willingly have served him than ever I did any action in my life’ (Sanford, Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, p. 554). While Sir John Hotham still negotiated, the arrest of his son obliged him to act, but before he could admit the royalist forces, Thomas Raikes, the mayor of Hull, and Sir Matthew Boynton, Hotham's brother-in-law, seized the town and secured his partisans. Hotham himself got out of Hull, but was stopped at Beverley (29 June 1643) and shipped off to London (Rushworth, v. 275; Vicars, Jehovah-jireh, pp. 365–72; Wildridge, Hull Letters, pp. 33–40, 151).

Hotham was brought to the bar of the House of Commons on 7 Sept. 1643, examined, expelled from his seat, and sent to the Tower. His further punishment was delayed till after an ordinance had been passed appointing commissioners to execute martial law, 16 Aug. 1644 (Rushworth, v. 777). Under this law Hotham was brought before a court sitting at Guildhall and presided over by Sir William Waller (28 Nov. 1644), by which he was condemned to death (7 Dec. 1644). He petitioned that either his own life or that of his son might be spared, so that his whole family might not be cut off root and branch. A powerful party among the presbyterians were anxious to save his life, and the lords twice reprieved him after the day for his execution had been fixed. But Cromwell and the majority of the commons were determined to punish him, and the lower house decided, by ninety-four to forty-six votes, that his execution should take place on 2 Jan. 1645, in spite of the fact that the lords had respited him until the 4th. Hotham was attended on the scaffold by Hugh Peters, and made a speech protesting his innocence and expressing his hope that God would forgive the parliament and the court-martial. He was buried at All Hallows Barking (Rushworth, v. 798–804; Clarendon State Papers, ii. 185; Old Parliamentary History, xiii. 347–359).

Clarendon briefly characterises Hotham as a ‘rough and rude man, of great covetousness, of great pride, and great ambition’ (Rebellion, v. 434). He was ‘a man of good understanding and ingenuity,’ adds Cholmley, ‘yet of a rash and hasty nature, and so much wedded to his own humour as his passion often overbalanced his judgment … he was valiant and a very good friend; and if his own interest had not been concerned would not have forsaken his friend for any adverse fortune’ (Clarendon State Papers, ii. 185).

Hotham married five wives, whose dowries much increased his inherited estate: (1) Katherine, daughter of Sir John Rodes of Barlborough, Derbyshire, 16 Feb. 1606–7; (2) Anne, daughter of Ralph Rokeby, secretary of the council of the north (m. 16 July 1614, d. about 1624); (3) Frances, daughter of John Legard of Ganton, Yorkshire; (4) Catherine, daughter of Sir William Bamburgh of Howsham, Yorkshire, and widow of Sir Thomas Norcliffe, kt. (d. 22 Aug. 1634); (5) Sarah, daughter of Thomas Anlaby of Etton, Yorkshire (m. 7 May 1635) (Foster, Yorkshire Pedigrees, ‘Hotham of South Dalton, Garth’). His son John [q. v.] by his first wife, and his two sons Charles [q. v.] and Durant [q. v.] by his second wife, are separately noticed.

[Authorities cited above. The Clarendon State Papers (ii. 181–6) contain ‘Some Observations and Memorials touching the Hothams,’ written by Sir Hugh Cholmley for the use of Clarendon in writing his Hist. of the Rebellion.]

C. H. F.