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The Earl of Radnor
Portrait by Godfrey Kneller
Lord President of the Council
In office
24 October 1679 – 24 August 1684
MonarchCharles II
Preceded byThe Earl of Shaftesbury
Succeeded byThe Earl of Rochester

John Robartes, 1st Earl of Radnor PC (1606 – 17 July 1685) was an English politician, peer and military officer who fought for the Parliamentary cause during the English Civil War. He retired from public life before the trial and execution of Charles I (1649) and did not take an active part in politics until after the Restoration in 1660. During the reign of Charles II he opposed the Cavalier party (because he wished for more tolerance of non-Anglican religious sects). Toward the end of his life he opposed the more extreme Protestant groups, led by Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, who refused to accept the succession of James because he was a self-declared Catholic.[1]

Early life

Lanhydrock House

John Robartes was born in Truro, where his father Richard Robartes was knighted in 1616, created a baronet in 1621 and raised to the peerage as Baron Robartes of Truro in 1625. The family had amassed wealth by trading in tin,[2] wood and gorse (furze) used by the tin smelters, and in 1620 bought and began extending Lanhydrock House near Bodmin as the family seat. Richard became a baronet, and the baronet's hand on the shields engraved on the principal door of Lanhydrock House bear testimony to this. The barony was purchased for £10,000 in 1625. This ennoblement was claimed, by the opponents of the Duke of Buckingham, to have been purchased under compulsion.

His son, John, was the first of the family to receive a university education, being educated at Exeter College, Oxford. His father became the friend of Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, and succeeded in arranging the marriage of his son to the Earl's younger daughter Lucy, thereby cementing an alliance that would bring John into contact with influential radical preachers of the time. Convinced of the more Calvinist doctrines of the Church of England, John became alarmed at the Arminian slant of King Charles I's religious policy and his increasingly autocratic rule; he believed the King had been misled by evil councillors. For this reason John Robartes fought on the side of the Parliament and, according to his view of things, also the King, during the Civil War. He fought with valour at the Battle of Edgehill on 23 October 1642, and at the First Battle of Newbury, on 20 September 1643.[2]

He became a member of the Committee of Both Kingdoms.[2] This Committee, on which his mentors, the Earls of Warwick and Essex, also sat, allowed him to appreciate Scottish Presbyterianism. He always relied on his own interpretation of the Bible; annotations he made in his books show that he sympathised with those who put faith above ritual. He had succeeded his father, Richard Robartes, as Baron Robartes in May 1634.[3]

He is said by some, especially William Sanderson, to have persuaded the Earl of Essex to make his ill-fated march into Cornwall in 1644; he escaped with the earl from Fowey after the defeat of the parliamentary army in the first days of September 1644.[2] Having reached Plymouth safely, he became its Governor and defended the city from the besieging Royalists. With the Self-Denying Ordinance of April 1645 he lost his command in Plymouth and was obliged like his brother-in-law, the Earl of Manchester, to watch the successes of Cromwell's New Model Army from the sidelines. He, like other Lords who had sided with Parliament, was marginalised by the so-called Independents who saw no future in continuing negotiations with King Charles. The execution of the King would have appalled him.[3]

Later life and death

Between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of Charles II in 1660, he retired to Lanhydrock with his family and took practically no part in public life. From Lanhydrock he exercised influence in Cornwall, though he seems to have dedicated most of his time to study and to his growing family. After 1660 he became a prominent public man, with influence among the Presbyterians, and ranged himself among Lord Clarendon's enemies. Robartes was regularly attacked (not least by Samuel Pepys) for incompetence, dilatoriness, arrogance and bad temper. He was offered the post of Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1660 but was unwilling to serve, and was Lord Lieutenant in 1669–1670; from 1661 to 1673 he was Lord Privy Seal[2] although he did not exercise his office after his return from Ireland. He once again retired to Lanhydrock where he spent much time hunting deer and hare in his parks. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1666.[4]

In 1679 Charles II recalled him to public office to counteract the growing power of the Whigs, at that time a faction opposed to the succession of Charles' brother, the Catholic James, Duke of York. In 1679, for his support of Charles's policy of making his brother his successor, John was made Lord President of the Council and was created Viscount Bodmin and Earl of Radnor in the Peerage of England. He was President until 1684 and continued to attend the House of Lords until a few weeks before his death at Chelsea on 17 July 1685.

He was buried in the family crypt in Lanhydrock Church with little ceremony, as he had stipulated in his will.[3][5]


Robartes was married twice: first to Lucy Rich, the second daughter of Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, and Frances Hatton, with whom he had three sons, including Robert and Hender; and secondly to Letitia Isabella (died 1714), daughter of Sir John Smith of Bidborough, Kent, with whom he had nine other children, including Francis, and Araminta, who married Ezekiel Hopkins, Bishop of Derry.[6] This lady has been identified with the "Lady Robarts" mentioned in Count Hamilton's Mémoires du Comte de Grammont, par le C. Antoine Hamilton. Edition ornée de LXXII portraits, Graves d'apres les tableaux originaux., A Londres, [1793] (she is described by Pepys as "a great beauty indeed".) [7]

John Robartes' eldest son, Robert, Viscount Bodmin, was ambassador to Denmark in 1681, and died there in February 1682.[8] He had married Sarah Bodvel, second daughter of John Bodvel of Bodvile Castle, North Wales, a marriage that displeased her father, whose consent had not been obtained, and led him to disinherit her in favour of a distant cousin. The title of Radnor later descended to Robert's son Charles (1660–1723), who is mentioned by Jonathan Swift in his Journal to Stella, and who managed to regain the Bodvel inheritance. The title became extinct on the death of the fourth earl, John Robartes (1686–1757), eldest son of Francis Robartes.[9]


  1. ^ Lord Robartes was 2nd Baron Robartes of Truro. His name is also spelt Roberts and it was as John, Lord Roberts that he was recorded as a member of the Committee of Both Kingdoms(Firth & Rait 1911, pp. 381).
  2. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911.
  3. ^ a b c Firth 1896, pp. 339, 340.
  4. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  5. ^ Gwyn Howells and Mike England, Lanhydrock: the First Three Centuries, Bodmin Town Museum, 2008
  6. ^ Burke, John. History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England Ireland and Scotland. p. 444. Google Books
  7. ^ Firth 1896, p. 341.
  8. ^ Firth 1896, p. 341 cites (Luttrell, i. 75, 164).
  9. ^ Firth 1896, p. 341 cites Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, ix. 405.
  • Firth, C.H.; Rait, R.S., eds. (1911). "February 1644: An Ordinance for the appointing a Committee of both Houses of Parliament, to join with the Committees and Commissioners of Scotland, for the better managing the Affairs of both Nations, in the common Cause, according to the Ends expressed in the late Covenant and Treaty between the Two Nations of England and Scotland". Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642–1660. pp. 381, 382. Sanderson, William, Sir, 1586?–1676, A complete history of the life and raigne of King Charles from his cradle to his grave collected and written by William Sanderson, Esq., London : Printed for Humphrey Moseley, Richard Tomlins, and George Sawbridge, 1658.


11 Annotations

First Reading

vincent  •  Link

Interesting Character: Certainly a diplomat being on both sides of the fence.
Robartes, Sir John\ [Danvers House] "... was let from 1660 to 1685 to John Lord Robartes, later Earl of Radnor, who despite having fought for Cromwell was able to entertain Charles II within months of the restoration. Samuel Pepys was also a visitor and 'found it to be the prettiest contrived house that I ever saw in my life'...." from…

more of his history : still has supporters at: and a history…

Cornwall and its part in the interregum and the after effects: and Robartes involvement with Cromwell…

The army connection at:…

Gwyn Howells  •  Link

The Robartes referred to was Lord and not Sir John Robartes. He did not fight for Cromwell although his son Robert was page-boy at the Protector's Inauguration in 1657.

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion
Sir John Robartes, 2nd Baron Robartes, cr. Earl of Radnor 1679
(1606-85). Pepys's chief as Lord Privy Seal, an office he held from 1661-73. A wealthy and influential West-country figure, he had founght on the parliamentary side as a Presbyterian in the Civil War but had withdrawn from politics in the 1650s, and like Sandwich and Crew formed one of the group of moderates who supported the cause of restoration in 1659-60. He was rewarded by a place on the Treasury commission and the post of Lord-Deputy of Ireland, but resigned the latter out of pique at not being made Lord-lieutenant. At the Privy Seal, to which he was appointed in compensation, he was slow and obstructive. In 1669-70 he had a disastrous year as Ormond's successor as Lord-Lieutenant, and later served as Lord President of the Council 1679-84 and on the Tangier Committee. He was a morose and unsociable man, unpopular not only with Pepys but with almost everyone who knew him. He ceased to be a Presbyterian after 1660, but supported the cause of toleration of nonconformists. His London house was in Chelsea, opposite Crosby Hall.

His eldest son, Robert, styled Viscount Bodmin from 1679, whose marriage to Sara Bodville drew Pepy's attention, died before his father in 1682. He had been appointed ambassador to Denmark in 1681.

Gwyn Howells  •  Link

Lord Robartes, Earl of Radnor , was painted by his enemies as a morose and unsociable man. Those who knew him better, or who had enjoyed his patronage, praised him as a man of principle, a lover of learning and a friend to foreigners (mainly Huguenots). He sponsored, for example, the research of John Graunt who was the first to analyse tables of mortality and population growth in London. Is it surprising that a man who had fathered nineteen children and, by 1682, had survived all but five of them, should be rather solemn? His problem was being too Calvinistic and high minded in an age of lax morality. And yet, he served Charles II loyally and did not oppose the catholic James II's right to the throne. Old images greatly underestimate him.

luke  •  Link

this is the roberts family connection from Ireland to england.

Terry F  •  Link

John Robartes, 1st Earl of Radnor

"John Robartes, 1st Earl of Radnor (1606-1685) succeeded his father, Richard Robartes, as Baron Robartes of Truro in May 1634...." and more:…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

John, second Lord Robartes, created Viscount Bodmin and Earl of Radnor in July, 1679. At the Restoration William Viscount Say and Sele was appointed Lord Privy Seal, but he was succeeded in May, 1661, by Lord Robartes, who held the office until April, 1673. Lord Radnor died July 17th, 1685.
---Wheatley, 1899.

Bill  •  Link

The Lord Privy Seal was John, Lord Robartes, and his house stood at the corner of Paradise Row and Robinson's Lane. Lord Robartes was created Earl of Radnor in 1679, and one of the streets in the neighbourhood of his house is called Radnor Street.
---Wheatley, 1899.

Bill  •  Link

ROBARTES, Sir JOHN, first Earl Of Radnor, second Baron Robartes, and second baronet (1606-1685), of Exeter College, Oxford; succeeded his father as second baron Robartes, 1634; voted with the popular party during the Long parliament; he became a colonel in Essex's army, and in 1644 held the rank of field-marshal; was a strong presbyterian, and after Charles I's execution took no further share in public affairs; made at the Restoration lord-deputy of Ireland, an office which he exchanged for that of lord privy seal; closely associated with Clarendon's opponents from 1663; appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland, 1669; recalled, 1670; created Earl of Radnor, 1679; appointed lord president of the council, 1679.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Sir John, 2nd Baron Robartes (1606-1685) -- created Earl of Radnor in 1679. Lord Privy Seal from 1661-1673. In the 1660’s his London house was in Chelsea, opposite Crosby Hall. [Danvers House] “… was let from 1660 to 1685 to John, Lord Robartes, who, despite having fought for Cromwell, was able to entertain Charles II within months of the restoration. Samuel Pepys was also a visitor and ‘found it to be the prettiest contrived house that I ever saw in my life’ ….”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

According to a report of a 1663-64 law suit, daughter Sarah Bodvile secretly married Robert Robartes, Viscount Bodmin in 1657. She was disinherited by John Bodvile, who changed his will in favor of a friend, Thomas Wynn.

After Sarah and Robert Robartes had two sons, she reconciled with father John -- but John didn’t change his will before he died.

Lord Privy Seal, Sir John, Lord Robartes contested the will in 1663-64. My reading of the legal summation is that he lost the suit.

The digest of the suit at:…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.






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