HOWE, John Grobham II (c.1657-1722), of Stowell, Glos.

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. c.1657, 2nd s. of John Grobham Howe I, and bro. of Sir Scrope Howe and Emmanuel Scrope Howe. m. lic. 30 Apr. 1683, Mary, da. and coh. of Humphrey Baskerville of Pontrilas, Herefs., wid. of Sir Edward Morgan, 3rd Bt., of Llantarnam, Mon., 1s. 1da.1

Offices Held

V.-chamberlain to Queen Mary II 1689-92; commr. for public accounts 1701-2; PC 21 Apr. 1702; paymaster of guards and garrisons 1702-14.2

Dep. lt. Glos. and Mon. 1689-?92; keeper of Pall Mall 1689-92; commr. for assessment, Glos., Herefs., Mon. and Som. 1689-90, Lincs. and Staffs. 1690; j.p. Glos. ?1689-96, 1700-?d., v.-adm. 1702-12.


In his early years, Howe, ‘a young amorous spark of the Court’, acquired some reputation as an author of lampoons. In 1678 he falsely boasted of enjoying the favours of the Duchess of Richmond, and was banished from Court; but he retained his reputation as a gallant and was frequently mentioned in the satiric verse of the period. His name was first mentioned in a political context in 1687, when he was included in the Gloucestershire opposition. He was returned for Cirencester at the general election of 1689, although he did not acquire Stowell, nine miles away, until later in the year. He took no great part in the routine business of the House, being named to only 24 committees, ‘but before he had been a Member three weeks, his volubility, his asperity, and his pertinacity had made him conspicuous’. He made the first of over 70 recorded speeches on the day that the Convention met, in the debate on an address of thanks to the Prince of Orange. ‘I think it [as] proper for us to say by whose means we were brought into Popery and slavery, as by whom we were brought out.’ But the drafting committee, on which he served, did not agree. In the debate on the state of the nation on 22 Jan. he urged somewhat paradoxically that ‘the King’s tyranny had before his departure put an end to his government’, and reflected very much on the Hon. Heneage Finch I. When Dr Sharp, preaching before the House on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, used the customary prayer for the King, Howe complained on 30 Jan. that:

This prayer of Dr Sharp’s, to put a contradiction on your vote, will encourage the priests to knock your brains out. The vote we made is contrary to passive obedience, and this man preaches it up.

His zeal for the Revolution was rewarded with the highly inappropriate post of vice-chamberlain to the Queen. His next important committee was that of 25 Feb. to recommend alterations in the coronation oath. On the following day he informed the House that

I received a letter from my corporation last night which acquaints me, with all the terror that can be expressed, that the soldiers are so insolent there, that, contrary to the interest of the King and Queen, they proclaim King James. ’Tis time to prevent these insolencies; they drank King William’s and Queen Mary’s damnation. I believe the justices will not redress this. The clergy are got into cabals, and they would not appear at the proclamation. I believe the black coats and the red coats to be the grievances of the nation. I would willingly satisfy the poor people I represent.

After demanding on 5 Mar. an inquiry into the grievances reported to the House and ‘who were the authors and advisers thereof’, he was named to the select committee. When news was brought of the Ipswich mutiny, he urged sending Dutch troops to suppress it. As a concession to the dissenters, he favoured the coronation oath proposed by William Garway which would bind the sovereign to accept changes in the established Church. ‘If you do not add the words moved’, he told the House, ‘it will be thought the King has taken an oath without any consideration for what these men [the dissenters] have suffered.’ Howe was constantly in search of subversive elements in the army, and on 21 Mar. he gleefully produced information that a discharged officer had forecast the return of King James within six months. Unfortunately for him the information was proved to be false and malicious, and his credulity was rebuked by his fellow Whigs. When William told the House that he was ready to pass an act of general oblivion, Howe agreed, provided that those concerned withdrew into obscurity, and he helped to draw up the address of thanks.3

In the debate of 1 June on the failure to relieve Londonderry, Howe demanded the removal from office of all who had ever been impeached, declaring that:

King William came over and delivered us from these counsels; if we be delivered to these men, who formerly gave the ill counsel, and were of the Privy Council to King James, they are not fit to be counsellors to King William. If you deprive him of these servants, who would draw the King into the same inconvenience they did King James, I hope affairs will go on much better.

He was named to the committee of inquiry, and not even a message from William himself through Dykvelt could persuade him to change his tune. Two days later he moved that the House should proceed with the indemnity bill:

As for offenders, I would shake them off gently from my hand like a viper, but when it is on the ground I would tread upon it, and destroy it, that it may hurt no more.

He obtained a resolution from the House that pardons were not pleadable against impeachments, and supported the proposal of Sir Robert Howard to reverse the judgment against Titus Oates, ‘who has saved the nation’, declaring that ‘possibly it is in the interest of some persons that no witnesses may be believed’. He acted as teller for excepting from indemnity those East India Company officials responsible for martial law on St. Helena, and helped to inspect the Journals for references to the Popish Plot. He continued to speak frequently on the indemnity bill, in an attempt to discredit those who had held high office in the last reign. ‘He that was against abdicating King James, and [declared] the throne not vacant is not fit to be trusted in King William’s Council.’ On the succession bill he suggested that, instead of the Privy Council, the House of Commons should be summoned on the demise of the crown to administer the Test to the new sovereign, because ‘it would content the people’. He supported the address for the dismissal of Halifax and Carmarthen, exclaiming: ‘I would keep out that filthy trimming trick, to disoblige our friends and oblige our enemies.’4

In the second session Howe was named to the committees to inquire into the expenses of the war and to consider the mutiny and desertion bill. He thought ‘there would be no good effect’ of the address to ask who had recommended Commissary Shales. Though he was eager to find out the ‘great men’ behind the appointment, he declined to name them when challenged. In the debate on the state of the nation on 14 Dec. he said, in a speech that could not have been delivered in any previous Parliament:

I think the worst state of the nation is to throw the [words] fanatic and Papist at one another’s heads. The Church of England have so well vindicated themselves from Popery that I hope we shall show ourselves not the men we are represented to ruin the Church, and ruin monarchy. I know not what religion does here; that is for the pulpit.

He acted as teller for recommitting the bill to restore corporations in order to save the disabling clause. ‘I cannot let so useful a clause be lost’, he said, and sought to make it more acceptable by applying it only to mayors and recorders, but in vain.5

In the next Parliament Howe continued to attack those politicians who had been identified with James II, but in 1692 he was dismissed from office and became as violent a Tory as he had been a Whig. Returned to favour under Queen Anne he was again dismissed from office on the Hanoverian succession. He died on 11 June 1722, and was buried at Stowell. His son represented Gloucester and Wiltshire under the first two Hanoverians as a Tory until 1735, when he became a supporter of Walpole, and was created Baron Chedworth in 1741.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. DNB; Vis. England and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, xiii. 103.
  • 2. Luttrell, ii. 390; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvii. 424; HMC Cowper, ii. 430; HMC Var. viii. 34.
  • 3. Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, ii. 123; iii. 309; VCH Glos. viii. 176; Macaulay, Hist. 1334; Grey, ix. 4, 24, 37, 112, 138-9, 165, 183, 187, 188.
  • 4. Grey, ix. 198, 276-7, 279-80, 282, 287, 349, 352, 362; Macaulay, 1674-5; IHR Bull. xlix. 250, 259; CJ, x. 168; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 590.
  • 5. Grey, ix. 415-16, 462, 484, 516; CJ, x. 329.
  • 6. Browning, Danby, i. 497; Hist. Reg. Chron. vii. 30.