Digby, John

, earl of Bristol, and father of lord George Digby, was by no means an inconsiderable man, though checked by the circumstances of his times from making so great a figure as his son. He was descended from an ancient family at Coleshill, in Warwickshire, and born in 1580. He was entered a commoner of Magdalen-­college, Oxford, in 1595; and the year following distinguished himself as a poet by a copy of verses made upon the death of sir Henry Union of Wadley, in Berks. Afterwards he travelled into France and Italy, and returned from thence perfectly accomplished; so that soon falling under the notice of king James, he was admitted gentleman of the privy-chamber, and one of his majesty’s carvers, in 1605. February following he received the honour of knighthood; and in April 1611, was sent ambassador into Spain, as he was afterwards again in 1614. April 1616 he was admitted one of the king’s privy-council, and vicechamberlain of his majesty’s household; and in 1618 was advanced to the dignity of a baron, by the title of the lord Digby of Sherbourne, in Dorsetshire. In 1620 he was sent ambassador to the archduke Albert, and the year following to Ferdinand the emperor; as also to the duke of Bavaria. In 1622 he was sent ambassador extraordinary to Spain, concerning the marriage between prince Charles and Maria daughter of Philip III. and the same year was created earl of Bristol. Being censured by the duke of Buckingham, on his return from the Spanish court in 1624, he was for a short time sent to the Tower but after an examination by a committee of lords, we do not find that any thing important resulted from this inquiry. After the accession of Charles I. the tide of resentment ran strong against the earl, who observing that the king was entirely governed by Buckingham, resolved no longer to keep any measures with the court. In consequence of this, the king, by a stretch of prerogative, gave orders that the customary writ for his parliamentary attendance should not; be sent to him, and on May 1, 1626, he was charged with high treason and other offences. Lord Bristol recriminated, by preparing articles of impeachment against the duke; but | the king, resolving to protect Buckingham, dissolved the parliament. The earl now sided with the leaders of opposition in the long parliament. But the violences of that assembly soon disgusting him, he left them, and became a zealous adherent to the king and his cause; for which at length he suffered exile, and the loss of his estate. He died at Paris, Jan. 21, 1653.

He was the author of several works. Besides the verses above-mentioned, he composed other poems; one of which, an air for three voices, was set by H. Lawes, and published in his “Airs and Dialogues,” at London, in 1653. Besides his tracts and speeches on the politics of the times, he was in the earlier part of his life the author of a work of a very different nature, namely, a translation of Peter du Moulin’s book, entitled, “A Defence of the Catholic Faith, contained in the book of king James, against the answer of N. Coeffeteau, 1610, &c.” He probably undertook this laborious task at the request of that monarch. The dedication, however, to the king, is not in his own, but in the name of J. Sandford, his chaplain. 1


Biog. Brit. Lloyd’s State Worthies, and Memoirs. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Park’s Royal and Noble Authors, vol. III.