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John Hampden (1595-1643)

John Hampden MPJohn Hampden, one of the most distinguished of the patriots of England, was the head and representative of an ancient and opulent family which had received the lands of Great Hampden in Buckinghamshire from the reign of Edward the Confessor. They boasted to have transmitted its wealth, honours and influence, unimpaired and increasing, in direct male succession, down to this the most illustrious name of the house. He was the eldest son of William Hampden of Great Hampden and of his wife, Elizabeth, second daughter of Sir Henry Cromwell, of Hinchinbrooke in Huntingdonshire, and aunt of the Protector, Cromwell. John Hampden was born in London in 1594 and, at the age of three years, came, by the death of his father, into possession of the family estates which, besides the ancient seat and extensive domain in Buckinghamshire, comprehended large possessions in Essex, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. He was brought up at the free grammar-school of Thame in Oxfordshire, entered as a commoner at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1609 and was admitted student of the Inner Temple in 1613, where he made considerable progress in the knowledge of common law. His classical attainments also seem to have been respectable, since he was associated, oddly enough, with Laud, then Master of St. John's, in writing the Oxford gratulatory poems on the marriage of the Elector Palatine and the Princess Elizabeth. From this union sprang Prince Rupert who led the Royalist troops when Hampden received his death-wound. In 1619 he married, at Pyrton in Oxfordshire, his first wife, Elizabeth Symeon, only daughter of Edward Symeon. Inheriting a noble property, he devoted himself principally to the business and amusements of a country life, without suffering his literary habits to fall into desuetude. Lord Clarendon says that he "retired from a life of great pleasure and license, to extraordinary sobriety and strictness, and yet retained his usual cheerfulness and affability." His first entrance into public life was in January 1621, when he took his seat in the Parliament then convened, for Grampound in Cornwall, at that time a borough of wealth and importance. He also sat in the Parliament 1624 and was active and diligent in his attendance, and intimately connected himself with Selden, Pym, St. John and other leaders of the popular party. Though he seldom spoke, his capacity for business was known and respected, as appears from the employments in committees and conferences imposed on him by the House.

Part 2: Parliamentary Career


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