VAUGHAN, Sir John (c.1575-1634), of Golden Grove, Llanfihangel Aberbythych, Carm. and Elm House, Parson's Green, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1575,1 1st s. of Walter Vaughan† of Golden Grove and his 1st w. Mary, da. of Griffith Rice of Newton, Llandyfeisant, Carm.; bro. of Henry*. educ. Jesus, Oxf. 1592, aged 17; I. Temple 1596.2 m. (1) lic. 13 Feb. 1598 (with £1,500) Margaret (d. by 1614), da. of (Sir) Gelly Meyrick†,3 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.;4 (2) by 1614, Jane, da. of Sir Thomas Palmer† of Wingham, Kent, wid. of Sir William Meredith† (d. c.1604) of Blackfriars, London,5 s.p. suc. fa. 1598; kntd. 30 July 1599;6 cr. Bar. Vaughan of Mullingar [I] co. Westmeath 13 July 1621,7 earl of Carbery [I] 5 Aug. 1628.8 d. 6 May 1634.9 sig. John Vaughan.

Offices Held

Bailiff, Carmarthen, Carm. 1598;10 j.p. Carm. 1598-?1601, 1602-29, 11 Carmarthen bor. by 1614-at least 1627,12 Mdx. 1621-5,13 Surr. 1622-5;14 commr. subsidy, Carm. 1598, 1602, 1608, 1621, 1624, piracy, S. Wales 1601;15 common cllr. Carmarthen by 1602-d.,16 mayor 1603-4;17 sheriff, Carm. 1604-6;18 recvr., lordship of Kidwelly, Carm. 1604;19 commr. mise, Carm. 1606;20 bailiff, coroner and escheator, Kidwelly 1607-d.;21 recvr., fines from quarter and gt. sessions, Carm. by 1609;22 dep. lt. Carm. 1609-?29;23 commr., Crown rents, Kidwelly 1610;24 lt. Llandovery Castle, Carm. 1614-1628 (jt.), 1628-?d. (sole);25 member, Council in the Marches, 1617-d.;26 freeman, Portsmouth, Hants 1624;27 commr. subsidy arrears, Carm. 1626,28 Forced Loan 1627,29 money levied for Ireland 1627,30 knighthood fines, Carm. 1630-2, Card. 1631;31 bailiff (jt.), Kidwelly and Carreg Cennen castles 1630-d.32

Comptroller, Prince Charles’s Household 1616-25.33


The Vaughans claimed descent from Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, an eleventh-century prince of Powys and founder of one of the royal tribes of Wales.34 The family arrived in South Wales in the late fifteenth century, and their support for Henry Tudor secured grants of lands and offices in Carmarthenshire.35 John Vaughan†, grandfather of this Member, built the family seat at Golden Grove in the vale of Tywi, and expanded his estates with acquisitions from the forfeited lands of Rhys ap Gruffydd.36 His son, Walter, continued to enhance the family’s interests in the county, so that Sir John Vaughan succeeded to an estate estimated to be worth £800 a year.37

Sir John Vaughan’s early political career was associated closely with the fortunes of his father’s ally Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex.38 These ties were fortified in February 1598 when Vaughan married the daughter of Sir Gelly Meyrick, steward of Essex’s Welsh lands and his principal man of business. At his marriage Vaughan was described as being ‘of Temple Bar’, which suggests that he was then completing his studies at the inns of court. Apparently an ‘earnest suitor’, he expected a portion of £1,500 to pay off considerable debts, and hoped for ‘great preferment’ by his alliance with Meyrick.39 Shortly after the marriage, Essex asked Sir John Scudamore†, steward of Kidwelly, to appoint his ‘servant’ Vaughan as his deputy.40 In the following year Vaughan accompanied the earl to Ireland, where was knighted - the tradition that he lost this honour after the earl’s rebellion in 1601 is groundless, as the man dubbed in 1617 was a namesake. 41 He was inevitably suspected of complicity in Essex’s failed rising: it was rumoured that much of Sir Gelly Meyrick’s treasure had been transported to Golden Grove shortly before the rebellion.42 Arrested and briefly removed from the Carmarthenshire commission of the peace, he was fortunate to be discharged quickly on bond, although his wife was included in her father’s attainder.43 In April 1601 he told Sir Robert Cecil† he was coming to London to demonstrate his ‘true loyalty’ and ‘honest innocency’, and his election to Parliament for Carmarthenshire later that year was probably also intended to demonstrate his loyalty.44 His efforts to achieve rehabilitation were successful, as he was reinstated to the Carmarthenshire bench in June 1602.

Vaughan does not appear to have sought election to the first Jacobean Parliament. As mayor of Carmarthen he was technically disqualified from standing for the borough, while the county seat was taken by Sir Robert Mansell. He busied himself instead in the county, purchasing land and helping secure a new charter for Carmarthen in 1604.45 Chosen sheriff at the end of the year, he hosted the great sessions at Golden Grove after the plague ravaged Carmarthen.46

Vaughan and his relatives ran the lordship of Kidwelly as their own personal fiefdom, generating accusations that they extorted money from the inhabitants.47 In 1610 he was one of those commissioned by the duchy of Lancaster to discover the causes behind falling rents in the town of Kidwelly, but his explanations were evasive and there were reports that he was to be questioned over ‘his carriage to hinder the service’.48 In 1615 it was discovered that he and some of his brothers had tampered with duchy records in an effort to conceal Crown lands.49

Vaughan’s local misdeeds were discounted because of preferment at Court, which he earned by assiduous courting of the king’s favourite, the earl of Somerset. In October 1614, while in London, Vaughan promised Somerset loyal service in return for the latter’s favours as an ‘intercessor’ with the king.50 Two months later he used Sir Henry Neville I* as a conduit to Somerset, enumerating his efforts in the collection of the 1614 Benevolence in the counties of Carmarthen and Brecon, and asking Neville to move Somerset ‘to see whether I may be sworn in the place I have desired, not putting the king to any charge until the creation of my gracious master’.51 To encourage Somerset and the king, Vaughan added a New Year’s gift of £100 to the Benevolence receipts, a very substantial sum which aroused comment in London.52 Vaughan’s hopes of preferment were encouraged by the fact that he had recently taken as his second wife Jane, the daughter of Sir Thomas Palmer† of Wingham, Kent, whose brother, Roger*, had held a post in the Household of Prince Henry and would do likewise under Prince Charles.53 Vaughan’s lobbying bore fruit in March 1616, when he was appointed comptroller of Charles’s Household, a position which provided him with an annual allowance of £428.54 He clearly relished his new post, describing himself as ‘comptroller’ even in minor land transactions in Wales.55 Vaughan acquired a metropolitan residence at Elm House in Parson’s Green, Fulham,56 but spent much of his time at St. James’s, where, in 1618, he became involved in a skirmish with bailiffs who were pursuing a debtor. He was rescued by a company of Welsh apprentices who apparently recognized him as a countryman.57

Vaughan’s election for Carmarthenshire in December 1620, after a hiatus of 20 years, may reflect encouragement from Prince Charles.58 As Sir Robert Mansell had moved to the Glamorganshire seat, Vaughan’s path was clear. Although the pre-eminent squire in Carmarthenshire society, he also enjoyed support from his brothers Henry* and Walter,59 and Sir Henry Jones, the county’s second most powerful landowner.60 Despite his place in the prince’s Household, Vaughan played no part in forwarding his master’s official business during the Parliament. He was, nevertheless, elevated to an Irish barony during the summer recess,61 apparently because he accommodated the disgraced lord chancellor, Viscount St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) at his house in Parson’s Green, for which Bacon acknowledged himself ‘much beholden to Your Highness’s loving servant, Sir John Vaughan’.62 The peerage caused difficulties when Parliament reconvened in November. After the House was called, Sir Edward Coke noted that Vaughan was not present, despite having served prior to the adjournment.63 He insisted that Vaughan, whom he described as ‘a worthy gentleman’, should remain in the Commons, as his Irish peerage had no more than honorary status in England.’64 Ordered to produce his patent for scrutiny, Vaughan appears not to have done so, perhaps because it was actually enrolled under the great seal of England.65 This episode presumably explains why Vaughan subsequently relinquished the Carmarthenshire seat to his eldest son, Richard Vaughan I*.

In 1623, when Charles journeyed to Spain to woo the Infanta, Vaughan assisted in the dispatch of the Prince’s retinue, which left Portsmouth on 23 March.66 He carried a jewel from James to the favourite, the marquess of Buckingham,67 but his visit was not a success: he spoke of the barrenness of the country, while at one point the prince asked his retinue to turn back so they would not inconvenience the Spanish Court.68 In England it was reported that he had become a Catholic, while he later complained that the trip had cost him £3,000-£4,000.69 His letters to secretary of state Sir Edward Conway I* were filled with protestations of obligation to the king, which suggests that he was dependent on James rather than Charles for advancement. His dispatches also show pride in his Welsh heritage, pledging service ‘after the accustomed British fashion’, and assuring James that ‘by the faith of an ancient Briton’ he would ‘prostrate my life, estate and all I have on this world to be commanded at his pleasure’.70

Vaughan’s failure to secure a fresh place at Court after Charles’s accession in March 1625 ended his hopes of advancement: in April a London correspondent noted that no-one now spoke favourably of him.71 He continued to lobby (Sir) John Coke* for preferment, albeit without success, and in 1627 he asked Buckingham to support his quest for the comptrollership following the death of Sir John Suckling*; the post was given to Sir John Savile* instead.72 He was tipped to receive a pay-off of £400 p.a. in lands, an inadequate sum if his 1628 claim to have spent £20,000 in the prince’s service is to be believed, but no such grant is recorded.73 Pleas of penury seem to have been exaggerated, as he continued to enlarge his Carmarthenshire estates. He purchased the manor of Emlyn (the name of the earldom adopted by his son in 1643), and subsequently the lordship of Kidwelly, Carnwallon and Iscennen.74 He was elevated to an Irish earldom in 1628, probably through purchase.

On 29 Apr. 1634 Vaughan made a nuncupative will ‘in the time of sickness whereof he died’, renouncing previous dowry provisions for his daughter Mary, recently married.75 His son Richard, the future royalist lieutenant general, was made his executor. He died on 6 May 1634, and was buried in the family vault in the parish church of Llandeilo Fawr a few miles north of Golden Grove.76

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Lloyd Bowen / Simon Healy


  • 1. MI in F. Jones, ‘Vaughans of Golden Grove’, Trans. Hon. Soc. Cymmrodorion (1963), p. 112.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; IT Admiss.
  • 3. London Mar. Lics. ed. J. Foster, 1382; Exch. Procs. in Wales, Jas. I comp. T.I. Jeffreys Jones (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studs., Hist. and Law ser. xv), 127; SP14/78/64.
  • 4. Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, i. 214; PROB 11/180, f. 46.
  • 5. HP (Commons) 1558-1603, iii. 42; Misc. Gen. et Her. i. 115.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 96.
  • 7. C66/2250/6.
  • 8. C66/2494/12.
  • 9. Jones, 112.
  • 10. NLW, 12366D, unfol.
  • 11. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 160-6.
  • 12. Ibid. 182; SP14/78/64.
  • 13. C231/4, f. 122v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, pp. 11, 16.
  • 14. Cal. Assize Recs., Surr. Indictments, Jas. I, ed. J.S. Cockburn, 222-87.
  • 15. E179/220/18; E115/326/108; SP14/31/1; C212/22/21, 23; C181/1, f. 6.
  • 16. Hatfield House, (BL, microfilm 485) ms 93/88; Carm. RO, Mus. 155, f. 58.
  • 17. Carm. RO, Mus. 611; C219/35/2/189.
  • 18. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 245.
  • 19. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Sommerville, 226.
  • 20. NLW, Dynevor A, 73.
  • 21. STAC 8/289/7; 8/290/27, f. 3; Carm. RO, Cawdor (Vaughan) 21/606; C54/2942/9.
  • 22. A Survey of Duchy of Lancaster Lordships in Wales, 1609-13 ed. W. Rees (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studs., Hist. and Law ser. xii), 300-1.
  • 23. Cheshire Archives, DNE16.
  • 24. DL44/907, ff. 1, 4.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 249; C2/Chas.I/C11/39.
  • 26. Rymer, vii. pt. 3, p. 21; C.A.J. Skeel, ‘Instructions to the Earl of Bridgewater, 1633’, Arch. Camb. (ser. 6), xvii. 194.
  • 27. Portsmouth Recs. ed. R. East, 349.
  • 28. E179/224/598, f. 5.
  • 29. C193/12/2, f. 67; SP16/54/54.
  • 30. APC, 1626, pp. 113-14.
  • 31. E178/5091, ff. 4, 8, 12; 178/5938; 178/7154, f. 62.
  • 32. Carm. RO, Cawdor (Vaughan) 21/606; C54/2942/9.
  • 33. SC6/Jas.I/1680; LC2/6, f. 66.
  • 34. DWB (Vaughan of Golden Grove); Dwnn, i. 213.
  • 35. Jones, 98-9.
  • 36. Ibid. 100-2.
  • 37. HMC Hatfield, xi. 108; G. Owen, Description of Penbrokshire ed. H. Owen, iii. 383.
  • 38. HP (Commons) 1558-1603, iii. 552-3.
  • 39. E112/146/85, 96; E134/12Jas.I/Mich.7, f. 5. Vaughan claimed (improbably) that his debts amounted to £1,500 more than the estate was worth: C78/130/9.
  • 40. C115/100/7409.
  • 41. Cf. V. Treadwell, Buckingham and Ire. 56-7.
  • 42. HMC Hatfield, xi. 82, 107-8, 126, 135; APC, 1600-1, p. 208; E112/146/85, 96; E134/12Jas.I/Mich.7, f. 3.
  • 43. JPs in Wales and Monm. 160-2; APC, 1600-1, p. 485.
  • 44. HMC Hatfield, xi. 160; APC, 1600-1, p. 289.
  • 45. C54/1786; Survey of Duchy of Lancaster Lordships, 176; C66/1645/17.
  • 46. NLW, Dynevor (suppl.) 6; Carm. RO, Mus. 611.
  • 47. STAC 8/289/7; 8/290/27, f. 3; Survey of Duchy of Lancaster Lordships, 287.
  • 48. C115/62/5439; DL44/907, ff. 1, 4.
  • 49. DL44/983, ff. 8, 12.
  • 50. SP14/78/42.
  • 51. SP14/78/64.
  • 52. Ibid.; E351/1950; NLW, 9055E/674.
  • 53. In 1618 Sir John was party to a deed with Roger Palmer and Edward Meredith, probably a relative of Jane’s 1st husband, releasing the manor of Dryslwyn, Carm., to the Prince’s Council: NLW, duchy of Cornw. D2; SC6/Jas.I/1682; SP14/78/64.
  • 54. SC6/Jas.I/1680; E101/434/3.
  • 55. NLW, Derwydd 688; Cwrt Mawr 773; C54/2347/5.
  • 56. E115/396/33; C.J. Feret, Fulham Old and New, ii. 98.
  • 57. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 114; APC, 1618-19, p. 333; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 605.
  • 58. C. Kyle, ‘Prince Chas. in the Parls. of 1621 and 1624’, HJ, xli. 607-10.
  • 59. C219/37/342.
  • 60. In the later 1620s, the Privy Council employed Vaughan to mediate between Sir Henry Jones and his estranged wife: APC, 1627-8, pp. 123-4.
  • 61. C66/2250/6; Harl. 5800, ff. 16v-17.
  • 62. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, vii. 288. On 13 Sept. 1621, Bacon was licensed to remain at Vaughan’s house for six weeks to settle his personal affairs: ibid. 300-1.
  • 63. CD 1621, iii. 412. Vaughan was described as going into Wales in July 1620, when James started his progress, and certainly was there in August: Harl. 7004, ff. 79, 81.
  • 64. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 182-3.
  • 65. CD1621, iii. 412, iv. 423, v. 399; CJ, i. 641b; Treadwell, 111; C66/2250/6.
  • 66. SP94/26, f. 249; J. Howell, Epistolae Ho-Elianae, i. 171.
  • 67. Orig. Letters ed. H. Ellis (ser. 1), iii. 189.
  • 68. SP14/147/40; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 491; Autobiog. of Sir Simonds D’Ewes ed. J.O. Halliwell, ii. 421.
  • 69. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 491; HMC Cowper, i. 369.
  • 70. SP14/140/12; 14/140/17.
  • 71. NLW, 9060E/1335.
  • 72. HMC Cowper, i. 369; SP16/86/16.
  • 73. Letters of John Holles ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. Rec. ser. xxxv), ii. 307; HMC Cowper, i. 369.
  • 74. C54/2640/19; 54/2942/9; Carm. RO, Cawdor (Vaughan) 21/606.
  • 75. PROB 11/180, f. 46.
  • 76. Jones, 112.