MANNERS, John, Lord Roos (1638-1711), of Belvoir Castle, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. 29 May 1638, 3rd but o. surv. s. of John Manners†, 8th Earl of Rutland, by Frances, da. of Edward Montagu†, 1st Barren Montagu of Boughton. educ. travelled abroad c.1662-5. m. (1) 13 July 1658 (with £10,000), Lady Anne Pierrepont (div. 1670), da. and coh. of Henry, 1st Mq. of Dorchester, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) 10 Nov. 1671, Lady Diana Bruce (d. 15 July 1672), da. of Robert Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury, wid. of Sir Seymour Shirley, 5th Bt., of Staunton Harold, Leics., 1s. d.v.p.; (3) 8 Jan. 1674, Catherine, da. of Baptist Noel, 3rd Viscount Campden, 2s. 2da. cr. Baron Manners of Haddon 29 Apr. 1679; suc. fa. as 9th Earl of Rutland 29 Sept. 1679; cr. Duke of Rutland 29 Mar. 1703.1
J.p. Leics. Mar.-July 1660, 1661-d., Derbys. 1672-?79; commr. for militia, Leics. Mar. 1660; dep. lt. Derbys. July 1660-70, Leics. and Rutland by 1667-77; commr. for assessment, Leics. Aug. 1660-79, Lincs. (Kesteven) Aug. 1660-1, Lincs. 1661-3, 1673-9; recorder, Grantham 1677-d.; ld. lt. Leics. 1677-87, 1698-1703, 1706-d., custos rot. 1702-3, 1706-d.2
The Manners family can be traced back in Northumberland to the 13th century, and one of them sat for the county in 1340. But after inheriting Belvoir Castle from Lord Ros in 1508 they settled in the East Midlands, and were granted the earldom of Rutland in 1525. The 8th earl, ‘a soft, harmless man’ with a rent-roll of £8,000 p.a., avoided commitment in the Civil War. Lord Roos was returned for Leicestershire at the general election of 1661, and became one of the least active Members of the Cavalier Parliament, with only ten committees. He was named to the committee of elections and privileges in seven sessions, and to two others in 1661, one for an estate bill and the other for confirming public Acts passed in the Convention. His wife’s misconduct and his loathing of London drove him to travel abroad, and on his return he found that she too had not been idle. He obtained a separation from her in the ecclesiastical courts in 1666 and introduced a bill in the Lords to illegitimize the children born in his absence. It ran into some difficulty there because the barony of Roos or Ros had descended in the female line to the Duke of Buckingham, but was sent down to the Commons on 12 Jan. 1667. Here the measure received the status of a government bill, with Heneage Finch heading a committee of 50 and the queen’s attorney, the Hon. William Montagu, in the chair. On 26 Jan. the family lawyer reported:
I got six and forty of the House of Commons to the Dog Tavern in the Palace Yard at Westminster, where was present Mr Attorney [Montagu] and Mr George Montagu. My Lord Roos was taken with a fit of the colic, and was forced to run away before dinner, and, as soon as they had dined, we carried them all to the House of Commons and they passed the bill, as the committee, without any amendments, and ordered it to be reported the next day; since which time Mr Attorney, who is to make the report, could not possibly get an opportunity, having offered at it every day. But on Monday we have spoken to all our friends to be here betimes in the morning, and so make no doubt in the least to pass the bill, since all is done but to get it read the last time, which will not be an hour’s work, and we are in the less fear to pass the bill (since nothing can give obstruction but shortness of time) because the Parliament will not be prorogued until Monday sennight at soonest.
No amount of public business was likely to prevent the House from hearing the juicy scandals that had already entertained the Lords. Three days later Montagu was able to report the matter ‘at large’ and declare that the committee ‘found the bill just and fit to be passed without any alteration or amendment’. The bachelor William Prynne objected that the bill allowed the bastardized children to inherit from their mother, and the libertine Edward Seymour also opposed it in ‘a long, impertinent speech’. But it passed without a division, and duly received the royal assent.3
Roos was absent from a call of the House on 13 Feb. 1668, but his excuses were accepted without penalty, and he was named to his last legislative committee, on a bill to improve the art of navigation, in the following year. During 1669 his two sisters were married respectively to James Annesley, Lord Annesley and Anthony Ashley, and their portions may have been reduced because of their propects of inheriting the Belvoir estate, since Roos was now the last male heir of the Manners family. No divorce had been granted in England since the Reformation, but in March 1670 a bill was introduced to enable Roos to marry again that ‘made more ado than ever any Act in this Parliament did’. In the House of Lords at least it was widely believed that Buckingham, for one, hoped to establish a precedent for the King to divorce his barren wife, and cut out the Duke of York as heir presumptive. The debates in the Commons contain no suggestion of these high matters. On the second reading ‘Lord Roos desired the House to take his case into consideration, that he might by this bill be enabled to marry, that his family might be kept up by his posterity, which otherwise would extinguish’. Thomas Crouch, who usually spoke on behalf of the clergy, urged that the bill should be referred to Convocation, while the civilian Thomas Burwell forthrightly condemned it as expressly contrary to the will of God. The speech of (Sir) Edward Thurland, the Duke of York’s senior counsel, was no doubt listened to with great attention; he cited Selden to illustrate the differences between the Eastern and Western Churches, and urged the House to proceed with deliberation. (Sir) William Coventry hoped that adultery would be declared a general ground for divorce; ‘knows no reason but that a poor man may have a wife as well as a rich man; and therefore if the thing be made an Act, would have it general’. Seymour and Coventry’s brother Henry treated the debate in jocular terms; but Sir Philip Warwick, who disliked the bill as intensely as Burwell, moved that it should be committed to the whole House, a highly unusual procedure for a private bill. The motion was accepted by 141 votes to 65, the royal pimp Edward Progers and the runaway husband Sir Frescheville Holles acting as tellers for the majority. They were opposed by the thoroughly domesticated (Sir) John Fitzjames and (Sir) Robert Barnham, who had seconded Crouch’s motion for referring the matter to Convocation, while (Sir) Thomas Clifford spoke on behalf of the married men in the House, and not, as might have been expected, of the Duke of York. The bill was reported by Sir Thomas Meres, and passed after a debate that lasted till 10 p.m. Thus, despite Coventry’s repeated efforts, this cumbrous and expensive procedure became established as the only divorce law in England until 1857.4
Roos was listed as a court supporter by the Opposition in 1671, and his name appeared on the government working-lists as under the influence of the Roman Catholic Bernard Howard. Sir Richard Wiseman queried his reliability in 1675, but noted that ‘Lord Roos may be made sure by Mr Attorney Montagu’. After his appointment as lord lieutenant in 1677 he was marked ‘doubly vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list; but he disappointed the Court by his lack of energy in the Grantham by-election. He was again absent from a call of the House on 18 Dec. 1678, and was ordered to be sent for in custody. He was re-elected in February after a contest with the country candidate Sir John Hartopp, but unseated without taking any part in the proceedings of the Lower House in the first Exclusion Parliament. When the Commons declared their intention of investigating the irregularities of the election, a new barony was created for him, and he took his seat in the security of the Lords as one of Danby’s supporters. Four months later he succeeded to the earldom of Rutland.5
Lord Rutland managed the Leicestershire elections for the Court in 1685, but in August 1687 he was dismissed from the lieutenancy, and in the following year he was not questioned on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws on the assumption that the King was ‘already informed of [his] opinion in this matter’. His name stood high on Danby’s list of those in opposition at this time, and he joined the Earl of Devonshire (William Cavendish) in raising forces for William of Orange in Nottinghamshire. Subsequently, he took little active part in politics and never went to London. He signed the Association in 1696. Just before William’s death, the Whig junto obtained the promise of a dukedom for him, which Queen Anne, somewhat reluctantly, implemented. He died on 10 Jan. 1711, and was buried at Bottesford. In his funeral sermon, his chaplain described him as
a person of eminent and unblemished virtue, of a kind and noble nature, benevolent to all, and magnificent, as became him, but without vanity or ostentation. ... He was easy himself, and loved to have others so; and his greatest pleasure was to see all pleased about him. ... He had a great sense of the religion of his word and honour, which made him not forward to promise, but certain to perform. ... The prerogative of the crown and liberty of the subject were dear to him; he esteemed the crown the honour and safeguard of the nobility and the liberties of the country the glory of our land; and therefore he joined heartily in the Revolution. ... He lived and died in the communion of the Church of England. ... To all men he was courteous and affable; and as he was never wanting in the greatest civilities to the gentry around him, they ever paid him the greatest honour and respect. ... He had a large and noble revenue, and he managed it nobly; hospitality and charity called for large supplies, and they were never wanting; both were constant and uninterrupted; his table was always furnished like the table of a true English nobleman, and carried more resemblance of ancient hospitality than modern decorations; for he loved the old English ways and customs, and all was hearty and substantial at his board. ... And though his expenses in the support of his state and dignity, but more especially in his charity and hospitality, were very great; yet God so blessed him that his means increased as his family were enlarged, and many fair additions were made to the original estate, which was much burdened when he first entered on it.