Present, 1891, ii. 385, iii. 211; Gent. Mag. 1784 i. 73, 1802 i. 199; Burke's Peerage, &c., 1894, pp. 693, 1243–4; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, 1844, p. 473; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1894, i. 677; Grad. Cantabr. 1823, p. 414; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 119, 133, 145, 158, 171; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. ix. 147; information from Lord Hawkesbury.]
SAVILE, Sir HENRY (1549–1622), scholar, son of Henry Savile and Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Ramsden, was born at Bradley, near Halifax, on 30 Nov. 1549. His father was the second son of John Savile of Newhall, the representative of a younger branch of the Saviles of Methley (St. George's Visitation of Yorkshire, Surtees Soc. lxiii. 571). Sir John Savile (1545–1607) [q. v.] was his elder brother. Savile was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he matriculated about 1561 (Wood, Hist. of Oxford, ii. 152). He was elected fellow of Merton College in 1565, and graduated B.A. in January 1566. On taking his M.A. degree on 30 May 1570 he read ‘his ordinaries in the Almagest of Ptolemy,’ thereby establishing some reputation as a mathematician and a Greek scholar. For a time he gave voluntary lectures in mathematics, and in 1575 was elected junior proctor, an office which he held for two years. In 1578 he travelled on the continent, where he made the acquaintance of the most eminent scholars of his time, and collected a number of manuscripts. He is also said to have acted for a brief period as resident for the queen in the Low Countries (Wotton, English Baronetage, i. 60). On his return he was made tutor in Greek to the queen (Wood, Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 310), and in 1585 he was elected warden of Merton College. There was another candidate in the field, but the influence of Lord Burghley was exercised on behalf of Savile. Both Burghley and Walsingham signed a letter, which they addressed to the fellows on 28 Feb. 1585, urging his appointment (Brodrick, Memorials of Merton College, p. 61), and he was elected unanimously. The choice of the society was justified by Savile's conduct as warden. He was an autocratic ruler, but under his rule Merton College enjoyed a period of prosperity; in 1589 the whole north wing of the college was rebuilt from the gate to the warden's lodging, and in 1608 the fellows' quadrangle was begun, and completed by September 1610. Savile selected with great judgment men of learning as fellows, and thus conspicuously improved the position of his college.
In 1591 Savile's translation of four books of the ‘Histories’ of Tacitus appeared. The book was dedicated to the queen, and the notes and a commentary on the history of Roman warfare served to confirm the author's growing reputation as a man of learning. Six editions appeared during the next fifty years, and the work won its author a compliment in verse from Ben Jonson.
On the occasion of the royal visit to Oxford in September 1592, Savile and the fellows of Merton entertained the queen and all the privy council to a banquet, and Savile was chosen to sum up the university disputation provided for the amusement of the sovereign (‘Oratio habita Oxonii anno 1592 23 Sept. coram regina Elizabetha’).
In 1595 Savile applied for the grant of the provostship of Eton. Considerable difficulties stood between him and the preferment, not the least being that the Eton statutes provided that the provost should be a priest. Savile, however, secured the support of the Earl of Essex, with whom he was on terms of friendship. So energetically did Savile press his suit at court that early in 1595 the queen nominated him to be secretary of the Latin tongue, and to hold the deanery of Carlisle in commendam, ‘in order to stop his mouth from importuning her any more for the provostship of Eton’ (Anth. Bacon to Hawkyns, 5 March 1595). But Savile was undaunted, and he besought the influence of Lord Burghley, also appealing to Burghley's sister-in-law, Lady Russell (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 196), and to Burghley's son, Sir Robert Cecil (Cal. of MSS. of Marquis of Salisbury, iv. 189). When the queen was urged to maintain the ancient statutes of Eton College, Savile asserted that ‘the queen has always the right of dispensing with statutes’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 29 April 1595). His arguments prevailed, and the provostship was bestowed on him on 26 May 1596, ‘any statute, act, or canon to the contrary notwithstanding.’ He retained the wardenship of Merton, and introduced at Eton the severe régime which he had inaugurated at Oxford. Aubrey informs us that while at Eton he could not abide ‘witts.’ ‘When a young scholar was recommended to him for a good wit, he declared “Out upon him … give me the plodding student. If I would look for witts I would go to Newgate, there be the witts”’ (Aubrey, Lives of Eminent Men, II. ii. 525). That Savile approved in any way of Essex's rising is improbable; but his connection with Cuffe, Essex's secretary, whom he had made a fellow of Merton, and who left him a sum of money in his will (Camden Soc. Publ. lxxviii. 91), and his friendship with the unfortunate earl were sufficient to make him an object of suspicion. Accordingly in February