HOWE, John Grobham I (1625-79), of Little Compton, Withington, Glos. and Langar, Notts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. 25 Jan. 1625, 2nd s. of Sir John Howe, 1st Bt., of Little Compton by Bridget, da. of Thomas Rich, master in Chancery, of North Cerney, Glos.; bro. of Richard Grobham Howe. educ. L. Inn 1645. m. by 1648, Lady Annabella Scroope (d. 20 Mar. 1704), illegit. da. of Emmanuel, 1st Earl of Sunderland 4s. 5da.1

Offices Held

J.p. Wilts. 1646-?49, Glos. 1650-3, Mar. 1660-d., Notts. July 1660-d.; commr. for assessment, Glos. 1649-52, Aug. 1660-d., Gloucester 1661-9, Notts. 1661-d., Yorks. (N. Riding) 1665-79; commr. for militia, Glos. and Notts. Mar. 1660; capt. of militia horse, Glos. Apr. 1660, dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d., commr. for loyal and indigent officers 1662, recusants 1675.2


It is difficult to distinguish Howe’s record from his father’s until comparatively late in life. It seems, however, that it was Howe who was the active royalist plotter in the closing years of the Interregnum, since the estates in Nottinghamshire which he held in his wife’s right were sequestrated after Booth’s rising. His father was rewarded with a baronetcy at the Restoration and his wife was legitimized. Howe was successful in a contested election in 1661, but proved an inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to only 40 committees. Listed by Lord Wharton as a friend, he was clearly a reluctant conformist, obtaining leave to go into the country on 20 May 1661, and thereby evading compliance with the resolution of the House that all Members should receive the sacrament on the following Sunday. He was appointed to the committee on the bill for preventing dangers from schismatics, but took no part in the Clarendon Code. On 7 Dec. 1666 he acted as teller for an unsuccessful motion seeking leave to speak against the compulsory taking of the sacrament. He was included by Sir Thomas Osborne in 1669 among those Members to be engaged by the Duke of Buckingham for the Court. A claim of privilege which he made in 1671 led to the apprehension of the under-sheriff of Gloucestershire by order of the House, and at the Cirencester by-election in the same year he quarrelled violently with Thomas Master I, striking him with an iron-tipped cane in the presence of many of the local gentry.3

Howe first took a prominent part in the House in the attacks on the Speaker (Edward Seymour) in the brief autumn session of 1673. He alleged that Seymour had called the House a company of curs. He thought it was a grievance to have a Privy Councillor in the chair, and was reluctant to vote money to be paid to him in his capacity as treasurer of the navy. On 13 Jan. 1674 he supported the motion for the dismissal of Lauderdale, alleging that he had been ‘solicitor from Scotland to bring the late King to the block’; but he was compelled to acknowledge that his story of Buckingham’s seizing the bridle of Charles II’s horse ‘to the great danger of the King’s person’ was unfounded. He moved to vote Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) innocent, declaring him the victim of a malicious prosecution instigated by Buckingham, and was appointed to the committee to examine the charges. On 28 Jan. he was sent with Peregrine Bertie I to desire the lord chief baron, (Sir) Edward Turnor, to expedite the passing of the accounts of Arlington’s brother, Sir John Bennet, who had recently married Howe’s daughter. An attempt was made to discredit him on Master’s evidence that he had said ‘he hoped this session might be worth five thousand guineas to him; but whether in relation to Irish cattle coming in again’ the witness did not remember. He failed to obtain leave to go into the country on 21 Feb. to answer a charge of riotous behaviour at the Cirencester election. In his absence, the attorney-general (Sir Francis North) for the prosecution suggested that the assize court should act as ‘somewhat of a limited Star Chamber ... for the punishment of such enormous crimes’, but (Sir) Matthew Hale sentenced him only to a fine of 500 marks.4

Howe was responsible for bringing to the notice of the House on 25 Oct. 1675 the challenge to William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish. His last important committees were in the same session, those to prevent the growth of Popery and to secure the liberty of the subject. In the working lists he was committed to the management of Osborne himself, now Lord Treasurer Danby, to whom Sir Richard Wiseman wrote significantly: ‘Your lordship knows who can influence him’. The influence was presumably successfully exerted, for when Parliament met again in 1677 Howe ‘moved to stand by the King with our lives and fortunes’. Nevertheless Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, and his name was not on either list of the court party in 1678. On 3 May he declared that he was glad to hear a reference to pensions:

We are named to be the greatest rogues and villains, and ‘tis said commonly ... that we take money to betray our country. I would have some committee to draw up a test about persons that receive pensions.

But it passed off, and he is not known to have attended the House again. He was buried at Langar on 27 May 1679.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Vis. England and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, xiii. 96-106.
  • 2. Parl. Intell. 16 Apr. 1660.
  • 3. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 78, 573; Ludlow Mems. ii. 86; Cal. Comm. Comp. 755, 3252; CJ, viii. 289; ix. 193; P. Ventris, K.B. Reps. 209.
  • 4. Dering, 153, 158; Grey, ii. 210, 241, 247, 280, 281, 288, 374-5; CJ, ix. 301; Ventris, 209.
  • 5. Grey, iii. 337; v. 318; Eg. 3345, f. 47v; Notts. RO, Langar par. reg.