John Hampden, Patriae Pater

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John Hampden

Birthplace: Great Hampden, Buckinghamshire, England
Death: June 24, 1643 (43-52)
Greyhound Inn, former house of Ezekiel Browne, Thame, Oxfordshire, England (Died as a result of an injury to his arm and shoulder six days after the Battle of Chalgrove Field.)
Place of Burial: Great Hampden, Buckinghamshire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of William Hampdon, MP and Elizabeth Hampdon
Husband of Elizabeth Hampden and Leticia Hampden
Father of Ann Pye; Elizabeth Knightley; John Hampden; Mary Hammond; William Hampden, MP and 4 others
Brother of Richard Hampden

Occupation: Parliamentarian Colonel, MP for Buckinghamshire, "Father of the People"
Managed by: Donna iLine Howse
Last Updated:

About John Hampden, Patriae Pater

From John Hampden's entry in British Civil Wars, Commonwealth, and Protectorate, 1638-1660:

John Hampden, c.1595-1643

Famous for his stand against forced loans and ship-money, his death early in the First Civil War was a great blow to the Parliamentarian cause.

Born in London, John Hampden was the eldest son of William Hampden, a Puritan landowner with estates in Buckinghamshire and Middlesex. His mother, Elizabeth, was Oliver Cromwell's aunt. John Hampden inherited his family's estates while still an infant upon the death of his father in 1597. His subsequent wardship resulted in a furious quarrel and extensive litigation between his mother and his father's cousin William Hampden of Ennington that continued for several years. John was educated at Thame School, Oxfordshire, then Magdalen College, Oxford (1610) and the Inner Temple (1613). In 1619, he married Elizabeth Symeon (d.1634), an heiress of Pyrton, Oxfordshire, with whom he had ten children. His second marriage, to Letitia Knollys (d.1666), widow of Sir Thomas Vachell, took place in 1640 and was childless.

Hampden sat as MP for Grampound, Cornwall in the Parliament of 1621 during the reign of James I, then as MP for Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in the first three Parliaments of the reign of Charles I. Like other Puritan country gentlemen, Hampden was critical of the Duke of Buckingham's influence on both King James and King Charles, and suspicious of Catholic influence at court. He became associated with the opposition Parliamentarians led by Sir John Eliot and the Puritan magnate Lord Saye and Sele.

In 1627, Hampden refused to pay the forced loan demanded by King Charles, stating that the loans were illegal and a violation of Magna Carta. Like others who refused to pay, he was imprisoned, first in the grim Gatehouse prison at Westminster, then under milder conditions in Hampshire. In March 1628, King Charles was obliged to call another Parliament following the Duke of Buckingham's disastrous and expensive expedition in support of the Huguenots of La Rochelle. Hampden and the other prisoners were released, but Parliament refused to vote funds until the King gave his consent to the Petition of Right, which stated that collection of taxes without the consent of Parliament was illegal.

After the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham, Parliament switched its attack to the King's religious policy. The King regarded Parliament's intervention in religious matters as an affront to his authority and angrily dissolved Parliament in March 1629. The MPs Denzil Holles and Sir John Eliot were imprisoned. Eliot died in the Tower of London in 1632 and came to be regarded by Hampden and other Puritans as a Protestant martyr.

Hampden lived quietly on his country estates until 1637, when the King attempted to raise money by extending the tax of ship-money which had traditionally been imposed on coastal towns in times of emergency to pay for naval defences. The King now tried to levy the tax on all the counties of England. When Hampden was required to pay ship-money on his lands in Buckinghamshire, he refused to pay the full amount, maintaining that the tax was illegal. A test case was brought before twelve leading judges at the Court of Exchequer. Hampden's stand aroused widespread public interest, with the attorney-general Sir John Bankes and solicitor-general Sir Edward Littleton putting the case for the Crown, and Oliver St John and Robert Holborn defending Hampden. On 12 June 1638, the judges found for the Crown by a majority of seven to five. Although the verdict had gone against Hampden, it was regarded as a moral victory against arbitrary tyranny and brought both Hampden and Oliver St John to national prominence as defenders of liberty.

In April 1640, Hampden sat as MP for Buckinghamshire In the Short Parliament, where he collaborated with John Pym and other opposition MPs in attempting to overturn the ship-money judgment. He was elected to the Long Parliament later that year and continued to work with Pym in opposing the King's perceived moves towards reintroducing Roman Catholic practices into the English church. Like other Puritans, Hampden sympathised with the opposition of the Scottish Covenanters to Archbishop Laud's Prayer Book, and in August 1641 he was one of the four parliamentary commissioners who accompanied King Charles on his visit to Scotland in the aftermath of the Bishops' Wars. Hampden was an early advocate of Pym's scheme for a Protestant alliance between Parliament and the Scots.

Hampden's greatest skill in the stormy sessions of the Long Parliament was as a tactician and moderator, often defusing volatile situations and winning over his opponents by subtle persuasion. He was admired as a gentleman of honour and integrity by all parties, yet leading Royalists suspected that Hampden was the true author of many of the policies promoted by John Pym. After his support for the Grand Remonstrance of November 1641, Hampden was one of the Five Members accused of treason whose arrest was demanded by the King in January 1642. Hampden declared that there were two conditions under which active resistance to the King became the duty of a good subject: an attack upon religion, and an attack upon the fundamental laws of the land. Hampden had no doubt that King Charles had fulfilled both these conditions.

On the outbreak of the First Civil War, Hampden was appointed to the Committee of Safety that was formed to direct Parliament's strategy. He also played an active military role as colonel of the Greencoat regiment of foot that he raised from his Buckinghamshire estates. Hampden's regiment guarded the artillery train at the battle of Edgehill, halting Prince Rupert's charge and covering the retreat when the Earl of Essex withdrew towards Warwick. After Essex's subsequent withdrawal to London, Hampden's regiment checked the Royalist advance through Brentford on 12 November 1642. The following day, Hampden commanded a brigade sent to outflank the Royalist army during the manoeuvring at Turnham Green before the King finally withdrew his forces and retreated to Oxford.

During the winter of 1642-3, Hampden was associated with John Pym's "Middle Group" in Parliament, which opposed moves towards peace with the King on unfavourable terms while at the same time seeking to moderate the extreme militancy of the parliamentary "War Party". Although Hampden was privately critical of the Earl of Essex for not striking boldly against the King's army after Edgehill or the stand-off at Turnham Green, his public loyalty helped sustain Essex against the criticism of the militants.

In the spring of 1643, Hampden's regiment took part in the siege of Reading, which surrendered to Essex on 27 April. Although Essex intended to advance on the King's headquarters at Oxford, he became bogged down at Thame owing to sickness in his army, a shortage of cavalry and no money to pay his troops. On 17 June, Prince Rupert mounted a lightning raid out of Oxford on Essex's outposts. Hampden rode as a volunteer with a troop of horse commanded by Sir Philip Stapleton in pursuit of Rupert, with the intention of delaying him long enough for a larger force from Essex's main army to cut off his retreat. Rupert halted his troops at Chalgrove and ambushed the pursuing force. During the skirmish, Hampden received a mortal injury to the shoulder, possibly from his own pistol exploding, which shattered the bone and forced him to leave the field. He died from his wounds at Thame six days later.

John Hampden's death was widely lamented by the Parliamentarians. It was a severe blow to his political ally John Pym because Hampden was a key link between Pym's moderate Middle Group and the militant War Party. Hampden was buried at the parish church of Great Hampden in Buckinghamshire, where a monument to his memory was erected by his great-grandson in 1743.


  • C.H. Firth, John Hampden, DNB, 1890
  • J.H. Hexter, The Reign of King Pym (Harvard 1941)
  • Conrad Russell, John Hampden, Oxford DNB, 2004
  • C.V. Wedgwood, The King's Peace (London 1955)

Links: John Hampden Society

From the English Wikipedia page for John Hampden:

John Hampden (c. 1595 – 1643) was an English politician, the eldest son of William Hampden, of Hampden House, Great Hampden in Buckinghamshire, a descendant of a very ancient family of that county, said to have been established there before the Norman conquest, and of Elizabeth, second daughter of Sir Henry Cromwell, and aunt of Oliver Cromwell. The towns of Hampden, Maryland, Hamden, Connecticut and Hampden, Maine, as well as the county of Hampden, Massachusetts are named in his honour. Also, Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia is named in his honour and that of Algernon Sydney, another English patriot.

Early life

By his father's death, when he was still a child, he became the owner of a large estate and a ward of the crown. He was educated at Lord Williams's School at Thame, and on 30 March 1610 became a commoner of Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1613 he was admitted as a student of the Inner Temple.


English Parliament

He first sat in Parliament for the borough of Grampound, Cornwall in 1621, later representing Wendover in the first three parliaments of Charles I, Buckinghamshire in the Short Parliament of 1640, and Wendover again in the Long Parliament.

In the early days of his parliamentary career, he was content to be overshadowed by John Eliot, as in its later days he was content to be overshadowed by John Pym and to be commanded by Essex.

English Revolution

Yet for many it is Hampden, and not Eliot or Pym, who is seen as the central figure at the start of the English Revolution. It is Hampden whose statue rather than that of Eliot or Pym that was selected by the Victorians as a symbol to take its place at the entrance to the Central Lobby in Palace of Westminster as the noblest type of the parliamentary opposition, sword at his side, ready to defend Parliament's rights and privileges by any means necessary. His statue stands opposite Earl of Clarendon in his Lord Chancellor's robes, a symbol of the respect for the law and royalism.[1]

[Views on Ship Money

Something of Hampden's fame no doubt is owing to the position which he took up as the opponent of ship money.[2] But it is hardly possible that even resistance to ship money would have so distinguished him but for the mingled massiveness and modesty of his character, his dislike of all pretences in himself or others, his brave contempt of danger, and his charitable readiness to shield others as far as possible from the evil consequences of their actions. Nor was he wanting in that skill which enabled him to influence men towards the ends at which he aimed, and which was spoken of as subtlety by those who disliked his ends.

Committee Work

During these first parliaments Hampden did not, so far as we know, speak in public debate, but he was increasingly employed in committee work, for which he seems to have had a special aptitude. In 1626 he took an active part in the preparation of the charges against Buckingham. In January 1627 he was bound over to answer at the council board for his refusal to pay the forced loan. Later in the year he was committed to the gatehouse, and then sent into confinement in Hampshire, from which he was liberated just before the meeting of the third parliament of the reign, in which he once more rendered useful but unobtrusive assistance to his leaders.

When the breach came in 1629 Hampden was found corresponding with the imprisoned Eliot, discussing with him the prospects of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hampden was one of the persons to whom the Earl of Warwick granted land in Connecticut in what was then referred to as the Saybrook Colony and today as Old Saybrook, Connecticut. While some claim there is no foundation but anecdote that Hampen attempted emigration to the colonies with Cromwell, others assert that Oliver Cromwell and other future architects of the English Civil War, including Hampden, may have been close to moving to America in the 1630's. The author Kevin Phillips points out that, "Even in the 1770's, residents of Old Saybrook still talked about which prominent Parlamentarian was to have had which town lot."[3]

It was not until 1637, however, that his resistance to the payment of ship money gained him wide fame. Seven out of the twelve judges sided against him, but the connection between the rights of property and the parliamentary system became firmly established in the popular mind. The tax had been justified, says Clarendon, who expresses his admiration at Hampden's "rare temper and modesty" at this crisis, "upon such grounds and reasons as every standerby was able to swear was not law" (Hist. i. 150, vii. 82).

Short Parliament

In the Short Parliament that started on 13th April of 1640, Hampden stood forth amongst the leaders. He guided the House in the debate on 4 May in its opposition to the grant of twelve subsidies in return for the surrender of ship money. Parliament was dissolved the next day, and on the 6th of May an unsuccessful search was made among the papers of Hampden and of other chiefs of the party to discover incriminating correspondence with the Scots. During the eventful months which followed, when Strafford was striving in vain to force England, in spite of its visible reluctance, to support the king in his Scottish war, rumour has much to tell of Hampden's activity in rousing opposition. It is likely enough that the rumour is in the main true, but we are not possessed of any satisfactory evidence on the subject.

Long Parliament

In the Long Parliament, though Hampden was by no means a frequent speaker, it is possible to trace his course with sufficient distinctness. His power consisted in his personal influence, and as a debater rather than as an orator. "He was not a man of many words," says Clarendon, "and rarely began the discourse or made the first entrance upon any business that was assumed, but a very weighty speaker, and after he had heard a full debate and observed how the House was likely to be inclined, took up the argument and shortly and clearly and craftily so stated it that he commonly conducted it to the conclusion he desired; and if he found he could not do that, he never was without the dexterity to divert the debate to another time, and to prevent the determining anything in the negative which might prove inconvenient in the future" (Hist. iii. 31). Unwearied in attendance upon committees, he was in all things ready to second Pym, whom he plainly regarded as his leader.

Hampden was one of the eight managers of Strafford's prosecution. Like Pym, he was in favour of the more legal and regular procedure by impeachment rather than by attainder, which at the later stage was supported by the majority of the Commons; and through his influence a compromise was effected by which, while an attainder was subsequently adopted, Strafford's counsel were heard as in the case of an impeachment, and thus a serious breach between the two Houses, which threatened to cause the breakdown of the whole proceedings, was averted.

Debate on Episcopacy

There was another point on which there was no agreement. A large minority wished to retain episcopacy, and to keep the Book of Common Prayer unaltered, whilst the majority were at least willing to consider the question of abolishing the one and modifying the other. On this subject the parties which ultimately divided the House and the country itself were fully formed as early as 8 February 1641. It is enough to say that Hampden fully shared in the counsels of the opponents of episcopacy. It is not that he was a theoretical Presbyterian, but the bishops had been in his days so fully engaged in the imposition of ceremonies regarded by the Puritans as verging on Papacy that it was difficult, if not impossible, to dissociate them from the cause in which they were embarked. Closely connected with Hampden's distrust of the bishops was his distrust of monarchy as it then existed. The dispute about the church therefore soon attained the form of an attack upon monarchy, and, when the majority of the House of Lords arrayed itself on the side of episcopacy and the Prayer Book, of an attack upon the House of Lords as well.

No serious importance therefore can be attached to the offers of advancement made from time to time to Hampden and his friends. Charles would gladly have given them office if they had been ready to desert their principles. Every day Hampden's conviction grew stronger that Charles would never surrender a position which he had taken up. In August 1641 Hampden was one of the four commissioners who attended Charles in Scotland, and the king's conduct there, connected with such events as the "Incident", must have proved to a man far less sagacious than Hampden that the time for compromise had gone by. He was therefore a warm supporter of the Grand Remonstrance, and was marked out as one of the five impeached members (the others being Pym, Arthur Haselrig, Denzil Holles and William Strode) whose attempted arrest brought at last the opposing parties into open collision. In the angry scene which arose on the proposal to print the Grand Remonstrance, it was Hampden's personal intervention which prevented an actual conflict, and it was after the impeachment had been attempted that Hampden laid down the two conditions under which resistance to the king became the duty of a good subject. Those conditions were:

an attack upon religion and

an attack upon the fundamental laws.

There can be no doubt that Hampden fully believed that both those conditions were fulfilled at the opening of 1642.

English Civil War

When the English Civil War began, Hampden was appointed a member of the committee for safety, levied a regiment of Buckinghamshire men for the parliamentary cause, and in his capacity of deputy-lieutenant carried out the parliamentary Militia Ordinance in the county. In the earlier operations of the war he bore himself gallantly and well. He took no actual part in the Battle of Edgehill (23 October 1642). His troops in the rear, however, arrested Prince Rupert of the Rhine's charge at Kineton, and he urged Essex to renew the attack here, and also after the disaster at Brentford. In 1643 he was present at the siege and capture of Reading.

Regimental Officer

But it is not on his skill as a regimental officer that Hampden's fame rests. In war as in peace his distinction lay in his power of disentangling the essential part from the non-essential. In the previous constitutional struggle he had seen that the one thing necessary was to establish the supremacy of the House of Commons. In the military struggle which followed he saw, as Cromwell saw afterwards, that the one thing necessary was to beat the enemy. He protested at once against Essex's hesitations and compromises. In the formation of the confederacy of the six associated counties, which was to supply a basis for Cromwell's operations, he took an active part. His influence was felt alike in parliament and in the field. But he was not in supreme command, and he had none of that impatience which often leads able men to fail in the execution of orders of which they disapprove.


On 18 June 1643, when he was holding out on Chalgrove Field against superior numbers of Prince Rupert's forces until reinforcements arrived, he was mortally wounded in the shoulder, (some sources claim by two carbine balls, others by shrapnel from his own pistol exploding[4]). Leaving the field he reached Thame, survived six days, and died on 24 June.

Personal life

Hampden married:

1.Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Symeon of Pyrton, Oxfordshire, in 1619, and 1640, Lettice (or Letitia), daughter of Sir Francis Knollys "the Young", widow of Sir Thomas Vachell of Coley Park, Reading. Her father was son of the elder Sir Francis Knollys and his wife, Catherine Carey.

By his first wife he had nine children, one of whom, Richard (1631–1695) was chancellor of the exchequer in William III's reign; from two of his daughters are descended the families of Trevor Hampden and Hobart-Hampden, the descent in the male line becoming apparently extinct in 1754 in the person of John Hampden.

They lived at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire, now a National Trust property.


He now has two schools in Buckinghamshire, one in Hertfordshire and one primary school in Thame named after him, as well as an older persons' mental health unit based at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. There is also a statue of him in Aylesbury town centre (illustrated above) pointing to his home in Great Hampden. Aylesbury Vale District Council use an image of the statue as their logo.

Hampden, a community in Baltimore City, Maryland, is also named after him, and Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia is named after him and Algernon Sydney.

From the English Wikipedia page for Great and Little Hampden:

By the 14th century 'Hamdena' was split into the two villages,[3] Great Hampden at the top of one hill and Little Hampden on the next hill, with the lush arable land forming the rest of the two parishes spread out in the valley between them. It was also at about this time that Hampden House, the house belonging to the Hobart-Hampden family was rebuilt.[4]

After the death of John Hampden, a cross was erected just above the lane that leads from Hampden House to the nearby village of Prestwood. Where the cross stands is reputed to be the spot where John Hampden stood when he first refused to pay the Ship Money tax in 1636. However the nearby village of Great Kimble also claims to be the place where he refused to pay the tax. From the cross there is a view of the Chiltern Hills.

Hampden himself is buried at the church in Great Hampden, in an unmarked grave. His first wife had a stone tablet in her honour erected in the chancel. In the 19th century the floor below this tablet was lifted and a body exhumed which was missing its hand and had had its shoulder dislocated. Due to the nature of Hampden's death at the Battle of Chalgrove Field near Thame (he died as a result of an injury to his arm and shoulder) this was assumed to be the body of Hampden himself, however this assumption has since been challenged by other historians.

Great Hampden church stands a mile or so from the village. Its isolation made it an attractive location for some scenes in the 1970 film Cromwell. In more modern times Hampden House was used extensively by the Hammer film studios as the perfect gothic backdrop for many of their films.


3. ^ "Buckinghamshire F-M". The Domesday Book Online. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-21.

4. ^ "Great Hampden". British History Online. University of London & History of Parliament Trust. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-21.

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John Hampden, Patriae Pater's Timeline

Great Hampden, Buckinghamshire, England
Fausley, Northamptonshire, England
January 4, 1628
Shoreham, Kent, England
May 1, 1630
Great Hampden, Buckinghamshire, England