SAVILE, Henry (c.1642-87), of Barrowby, Lincs. and Whitehall.

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



19 Apr. 1677

Family and Education

b. c.1642, 3rd s. of Sir William Savile, 3rd Bt., and bro. of Sir George Savile, 4th Bt. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1657; travelled abroad (France, Spain, Italy) by 1661-5. unm.1

Offices Held

Groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of York 1665-72, to the King 1673-May 1678, July 1678-80; envoy extraordinary, France 1672-3, 1678-82; v.-chamberlain 1680-7; ld. of Admiralty 1682-4.2

Commr. for assessment, Notts. 1677-9, Lincs. 1679-80; keeper of Bushey Park, Mdx. c.1684-d.; alderman, Newark 1685-d.; freeman, Portsmouth 1687.3


A cosmopolitan education, added to his native qualities of wit, ‘incredible confidence and presumption’ and sexual panache, fitted Savile for a career at the Restoration Court. He was indebted to his uncle (Sir) William Coventry for his first appointment, and accompanied the Duke of York to sea in the 1666 campaign. When the Earl of Chesterfield was given over by his doctors in August 1667, Savile, in anticipation of the succession of Arthur Stanhope to the peerage, prepared to contest Nottingham, but the vacancy did not occur. He then turned his attention to Rye, where he was recommended by the Duke of York, but was defeated by one vote. For carrying Coventry’s challenge to the Duke of Buckingham in 1669, he was sent to the Tower for a few days and suspended from his place at Court. On his release he went to France, but he had not abandoned his parliamentary ambitions. ‘Our measures now at Court are so taken’, he wrote, ‘that it is essential to a man’s succeeding there to be of the Parliament.’ He was sent on a courtesy mission from the Duke of York to Monsieur and the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1670, but was once more disappointed of a seat when his brother refused to exert his interest at East Retford. Savile again accompanied the Duke of York to sea in the third Dutch war, and wrote the official English account of the battle of Sole Bay. He hoped to be appointed secretary to the Duke, but instead was sent to Paris as envoy, and transferred from the Duke’s bedchamber to the King’s.4

When Newark was enfranchised in 1673, Savile was returned both by the corporation and the freemen, but he was not allowed to take his seat. He was temporarily disgraced in 1676 for mocking his former master’s bigotry and militarism to his face, but still commanded enough influence to make a very good thing of the renewal of the excise farm, with the unabashed connivance of Lord Treasurer Danby, who told all the applicants that Savile had recommended them. When the Newark election was declared void by one vote on 21 Mar. 1677, Savile stood again for the borough in conjunction with Sir Robert Markham. His rollicking account of the election is well-known. Eventually Markham stood down in his favour, and Savile was returned, though his opponent petitioned. ‘I am so delighted with my new seat in Parliament’, he wrote on 24 May, ‘that if Mr Whalley should in the least disturb me, I should scream as if I lost a limb.’ Nevertheless he was inactive, with only three committee appointments. Although an excise pensioner, he had been marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, and justified this rating by speaking in favour of the address on foreign policy of 4 May 1678 and soliciting votes against Lauderdale. He voted for the dismissal of Lauderdale on 7 May, the only Household servant to do so. Lord Ancram (Charles Kerr) informed the King, who dismissed Savile in an uncharacteristic rage. But his disgrace lasted barely two months, for in July Charles chose him to accompany Lord Sutherland on a diplomatic mission to Paris. Shaftesbury altered his comment to ‘vile’, and he was on both lists of the court party, though he never resumed his seat in the Cavalier Parliament.5

‘Having so good an excuse as foreign employment’, Savile did not stand for the Exclusion Parliaments, though he might have been chosen at Newark in 1681. At Paris he was an eye-witness to the tightening of the screws on the Huguenots. Profligate and spendthrift though he was, Savile was not heartless, and he did all that a foreign diplomat could do for these unfortunate victims of Louis XIV’s fanaticism. He also joined with the Dutch ambassador in protesting against the unscrupulous French annexations in the Netherlands. He was made vice-chamberlain in 1680, and in 1682 recalled to take up a post on the board of Admiralty. He regained his seat in 1685, and became a moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament, with five committees. Together with Charles Middleton, he conducted the Speaker to his chair at the opening of the session. He spoke against requiring conformity to the Church of England for Huguenot refugees, but was appointed to the committee for the general naturalization bill, and after the recess he helped to draw up the address against the employment of Roman Catholic officers. He refused to comply with James II’s ecclesiastical policy and was dismissed in March 1687. He died in Paris on 6 Oct. after an operation, leaving little but debts behind him. As a parliamentarian he deserves to be remembered for a degree of independence probably unsurpassed by any of his fellow placemen.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: E. R. Edwards


  • 1. Savile Corresp. (Cam. Soc. lxxi), p. xiv; Works of Sir Thomas Browne ed. Wilkins, i. 89.
  • 2. Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 95; Bulstrode Pprs. 251; Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. viii), 23; CSP Dom. 1673, pp. 252, 343, 372; Savile Corresp. 162.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 395; SP44/335/409; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 368.
  • 4. Clarendon, Life, ii. 459; Savile Corresp. 19, 25-26, 45; CSP Dom. 1667, pp. 539, 543.
  • 5. Hatton Corresp. 129; Essex Pprs. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xlvii), 281; (ser. 3, xxiv), 50; Macaulay, History, 2496; Savile Corresp. 44-47, 55; Grey, v. 334, 381; Lauderdale Pprs. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxxviii), 131, 140; HMC Bath, ii. 166-7.
  • 6. Savile Corresp. 179; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 196, 270, 278; North, Lives, iii. 181.