DANVERS, Charles (?1568-1601), of Dauntsey, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. ?1568, s. and h. of (Sir) John Danvers of Dauntsey by Elizabeth, 4th da. and coh. of John Nevill, 4th Lord Latimer. educ. travelled abroad 1584; Oxf. MA 1590; I. Temple 1599. Kntd. 1588; suc. fa. 1594.
Danvers was returned for Cirencester on his family’s influence. In 1586 his name was inserted on the return at the last minute after William Brydges had been elected for the county. Danvers is mentioned only once in the records of the House, when he was appointed to the subsidy committee on 11 Feb. 1589. From Paris he may have furnished Walsingham with reports on foreign affairs, which he was later to do for Sir Robert Cecil. By 1587 he was in Venice, where he received a report from one Poundsford in Vienna, conveying military data and political information relative to the Emperor’s war against the Ottomans. Subsequently he fought in the Netherlands where two years earlier his brother Henry had been page to Sir Philip Sidney. Danvers was knighted by Willoughby in 1588.1
With his scholarship, his interest in Italian books and his skill as a soldier, Danvers had the attributes of a successful courtier. In 1589 he was listed as one of the gentlemen to accompany the Earl of Lincoln, the Queen’s representative, to the marriage between King James of Scotland and the daughter of the King of Denmark. On 17 Nov. 1590, accession day, he performed with credit at the Tilt Yard entertainment. His familiar acquaintances, according to Aubrey, were the Veres, Sir Walter Ralegh and ‘the heroes of those times’. Yet some time in December 1593 he was committed to the Marshalsea, whence he wrote to Lord Hunsdon and Lord Cobham, requesting them to intervene with the Queen, and confessing that he had ‘gone in the rash way of a young man, more greedy in desire by seeming much, to grow more able for my country’s use, than haply remembering that ill must not be done that good may come of it’. Whatever the cause of his imprisonment, he was released by 31 Dec., possibly at the instance of Robert Cecil, to whom he wrote: ‘I have received the money of fortune ... it shall not fail to be discharged at the time you have appointed’.2
He was soon in more serious trouble. As part of a long standing dispute between the Danvers and Long families he was, in 1594, challenged to a duel and severely wounded by Henry Long, who was then shot dead in sensational circumstances by Henry Danvers. Both brothers then fled to Whitley Lodge, Hampshire, the residence of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, where Henry Danvers had been staying only a few days before the murder. Henceforth, Danvers was to be ‘exceedingly devoted’ to the Earl, with unhappy consequences. Outlawed from the realm, the brothers fled to France where they served, as soldiers of fortune, under Henri IV, who made unsuccessful attempts to secure Elizabeth’s forgiveness for them. During these years, Danvers bombarded Robert Cecil with pleas for pardon and snippets of foreign intelligence. On one occasion, he offered to serve in Ireland even if the Queen would not lift his banishment. He thanked Cecil in effusive terms for favours shown to his mother: ‘If I knew what toys would serve you, I would provide them, my fortune being very capable of such service’.3
Meanwhile Sir John Danvers had died, some said of a broken heart resulting from the disgrace of his sons, and Charles Danvers had inherited estates including the manors of Dauntsey, Smithcoth, Morden, Willifords, Bromenhall, Brokenborowe and other lands in Wiltshire, lands and property in Cirencester and elsewhere in Gloucestershire, and further property in Leicestershire, Cornwall, and Oxfordshire. During his banishment, the estates were managed by stewards, including Richard Danvers, a cousin, who was later charged with embezzlement. Danvers’ mother, who retained possession of her own lands, married Sir Edward Carey with the intention, according to Aubrey, of securing pardon for her sons. Carey certainly worked to this end as did Robert Cecil, and both were thanked for their efforts. The pardon, which seems to have been granted in June or July 1598, was conditional on payment of £1,500 to Sir Walter Long. There was in addition a further payment of £12,000 which may have been incurred by Sir Edward Carey in his efforts to secure the pardon. In any case, Danvers was considerably annoyed with his mother who was determined to exact this sum from his estate. He returned to England at the end of August. As early as 3 June, in celebration of the brothers’ pardon and ‘the great disgrace of their adversaries and general discontentment of the best disposed people in the country’, the church bells had been rung in Brembhill, Chrismalford, Dauntsey, Brod Somerford, Wootton Bassett, Clevepepper, Lyneham, Helmerton and other parishes.4
Although Cecil continued to show interest in his family, Danvers was still discontented. During these months, Sir Christopher Blount and Lady Leicester conceived the idea of a match between Danvers and Lettice Knollys. The proposal, couched in cynical terms, was signified to Danvers in a letter from Henry Cuffe, but nothing came of it. In January 1599 he was posted as a colonel to Ireland, where he renewed his friendship with the Earl of Southampton and became closely associated with the Earl of Essex. An early wound put him out of action, and in September he accompanied Essex back to London. From this time onwards, he was to be one of the Earl’s closest confidants and advisers, and acted as a link with Mountjoy and Southampton. During Essex’s disgrace in 1599, Danvers, in two letters to Southampton, advocated open resistance to a Queen possessed of ‘hard conceit’, and he gave his vote for insurrection at the decisive meeting. He justified his behaviour by his sentiments towards Southampton; indeed, on the scaffold, Danvers was to declare his hatred of Lord Grey, who was ‘ill-affected’ towards that nobleman. At the same time, when the failure of the uprising was apparent, he gave advice which, had it been followed, might well have saved Essex from capture and execution. The final plans of the conspirators were made at Drury House, where Danvers was staying, and he himself was given the task of securing the presence chambers and the ‘halberds of the guard’ at Whitehall.5
Danvers was imprisoned in the Tower 9 Feb. 1601, condemned 5 Mar. and executed 18 Mar., between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning, being buried in the Tower on the same day. It transpired from the examination of Sir John Davies 18 Feb. 1601, that Danvers was a Catholic. In July 1603 James I declared Henry Danvers heir of the inheritance.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
This biography is based upon F. N. Macnamara, Memorials Danvers Fam.
- 1. CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 119; D’Ewes, 431; CSP For. 1583-4, p. 658; 1586-8, p. 296; Wilts. Mag. i. 307; Lansd. 94, f. 94.
- 2. HMC 5th Rep. 269; HMC Hatfield, iv. 412, 436, 447, 449, 600; APC, xviii. 89-90; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, iii. 402; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. l. 341.
- 3. See LONG, Sir Walter; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 570; 1595-7, pp. 34, 66, 106; 1598