John Lovelace was born at Hurley in 1641, the son of John Lovelace, 2nd Baron Lovelace of Hurley and Lady Anne, Baroness Wentworth & Baroness Le Despenser, daughter and eventual heiress of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Cleveland. He was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, whence he matriculated on 25th July 1655, was created MA on 9th September 1661, travelled in France and the Low Countries and represented Berkshire in the House of Commons from 1661 until his father's death in 1670, when he succeeded to the peerage and to the family home, Ladye Place. In 1680, he was greatly affronted by being left out of the commission of the peace for Berkshire.
Lovelace soon became
noted for his sporting propensities and, still more, for his violent
whiggism. He very probably imbibed some of his political notions from John
Owen, the noted independent, who was rector of Hurley
Church between 1640 and 1650. In 1680, during a visit of the Duke of
Monmouth to Oxford, he offered a plate to be run for 'in Portmeed,' on which
occasion Monmouth himself rode, but was not successful. In July of this
year, he was made a freeman of the city of Oxford and, at a banquet in his
honour, drank "to the confusion of all popish princes". He was
arrested in 1683 "on account of the [Rye House] plot," but was
discharged on bail. In March 1688, he was summoned before the Privy Council
for telling some constables that they need not obey a Roman Catholic Justice
of the Peace. Subjected to a strict examination, he resolutely refused to
incriminate himself and the evidence against him was insufficient. He was
dismissed but, before he retired, James II exclaimed, in great heat,
"My lord, this is not the first trick you have played me."
At Oxford, after James' interference at Magdalen College, he became very popular and, for a time, "Lord Lovelace's Health" was a standing toast. Shortly afterwards, admitted into the confidence of those who planned the Glorious Revolution, Lovelace embraced the cause of James' son-in-law, Prince William of Orange with characteristic warmth. A picturesque passage in Macaulay, describes the midnight conferences held in a vault beneath the hall of his mansion at Lady Place in Hurley, "during that anxious time when England was impatiently expecting the Protestant wind." A commemorative tablet was subsequently affixed to the walls of the vault, which was inspected by General Paoli in 1780, and in 1785 by George III. In September 1688, Lovelace made a hasty visit to Holland, returning the same month. Early in October, a warrant was issued against him, on the information of a Roman Catholic, as an abettor of the Prince of Orange. The truth of the charge was soon put beyond a doubt. On the news reaching him of William's landing, early in the second week of November 1688, Lovelace set out with seventy followers to join the Prince. He reached Gloucester, but had to encounter a strong force of militia, under Beaufort, at Cirencester. He resolved to force a passage, but after a short conflict was overpowered and, although "most of his men got clear," he himself was captured and sent to Gloucester Castle. Vigorous efforts were made to procure his release, William threatening to burn Badminton House unless he was set at liberty. Rescued by Captain Bertie by the end of November, he entered Oxford at the head of three hundred horse on 8th December. He was well received and occupied the city for William. A ballad was written to commemorate his triumphal entry by John Smith, second master at Magdalen School.
During the first days of February 1689, after the debate in the Lords, in which the proposition that the throne was vacant had been rejected, Lovelace was suspected of encouraging the whig mob which clamoured in Palace Yard for the Prince and Princess of Orange to be declared King and Queen. It is certain that, with his usual impetuosity, he set on foot a petition to that effect, in order to exert pressure upon the two houses. On 28th April 1689, Lovelace was appointed Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners and, in the following August, he was unenviably conspicuous as one of the tellers in the debate on the reversal of Titus Oates' sentence. He had previously been on the friendliest terms with Oates. In September 1690, he was visited by King William at Ladye Place, Hurley and was created Chief Justice of their Majesties' Parks and Forests this side of Trent.
In May 1691, Luttrell relates that Lovelace had been recognised in the company of Lord Colchester, Lord Newburgh and Sir John Conway, "scowring the streets," and committing "gross disorders." It is probably in allusion to some earlier exploits of this nature that Marvell described him in his ĎLast Instructions' (1667) as Lovelace young of chimney-men the cane.
His excesses were, in fact, rapidly undermining his health, as his inveterate fondness for betting and gambling had already dissipated his estate. He was constantly tipsy and Thomas Hearne relates, on the authority of Dr. Brabourn, Principal of New Inn Hall, that "he used every morning to drink a Quart of Brandy". On 26th April 1692, he fell down stairs and broke his arm. In September of the following year, James Cresset, writing to Lord Lexington prior to his departure for the Hague, said, "Going to take my leave of Lord Lovelace at his house, I found Harry Killigrew had carried him away in a chair to his lodgings at Whitehall, and there I saw him, a sad spectacle. He is probably dead by this time". The surmise was correct. Lovelace died on 27th September 1693 at Lincolnís Inn Fields. By his wife Martha, daughter and coheiress of Sir Edmond Pye of Bradenham, Buckinghamshire, whom he married on 30th July 1662, he had a son, John, who died in infancy, and three daughters.
There is a portrait of Lovelace, by M. Laroon, in Wadham College Hall. Another, which represents him full of youthful vivacity, is among the Lovelace portraits at Dulwich. Ashmole calls him "Avitae virtutis degener haeres,'' an active zealot against James II and very instrumental in the Revolution, a prodigal of his large paternal estate. His tendency to drink and debauchery, however, would appear to have been an heirloom. A decree of the high court of chancery ordered his estate to be sold in order to pay his debts, and it was purchased by a solicitor, Vincent Oakley for £41,000. He was succeeded in the peerage by his cousin Williamís son, John Lovelace.
Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1893)
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