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Bible Encyclopedias
Sir Henry Vane (Secretary of State)

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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SIR HENRY VANE (1589-1654), English secretary of state, eldest son of Henry Vane or Fane, of Hadlow, Kent, a member of an ancient family of that county, by his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Roger Twysden of East Peckham, Kent, was born on the 18th of February 1589. He matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford, on the 15th of June 1604, was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1606, and was knighted by James I. on the 3rd of March 1611. He purchased several offices at court, was made comptroller of the king's household about 1629, and in spite of a sharp quarrel with Buckingham managed to keep the king's favour, in 1639 becoming treasurer. He was returned to parliament in 1614 for Lostwithiel, from 1621 to 1626 for Carlisle, in 1628 for Retford, and in the Short and Long Parliament, assembled in 1640, he sat for Wilton. He was despatched on several missions in 1629 and 1630 to Holland, and in 1631 to Gustavus Adolphus to secure the restitution of the Palatinate, but without success. In 1630 Vane had become a privy councillor and one of the chief advisers of the king. He was made a commissioner of the Admiralty in 1632 and for the colonies in 1636. He was one of the eight privy councillors appointed to manage affairs in Scotland on the outbreak of the troubles there, and on the 3rd of February 1640, through the influence of the queen and of the marquis of Hamilton and in opposition to the wishes of Strafford, he was made secretary of state in the room of Sir John Coke. In the Short Parliament, which assembled in April, it fell to Vane, in his official capacity, to demand supplies. He proposed a bargain by which the king should give up ship-money and receive in return twelve subsidies. Parliament, however, proved intractable and was dissolved on the 5th of May, to prevent a vote against the continuance of the war with the Scots. In the impeachment of Strafford, Vane played a very important part and caused the earl's destruction. He asserted that Strafford had advised the king at a meeting of the privy council, "You have an army in Ireland; you may employ it to reduce this kingdom." He refused to admit or deny the meaning attributed by the prosecution that "this kingdom" signified England; he was unsupported by the recollection of any other privy councillor, and his statement could not be corroborated by his own notes, which had been destroyed by order of the king, but a copy obtained through his son, the younger Vane, was produced by Pym and owned by Vane to be genuine. He was on bad terms with Strafford, who had opposed his appointment to office and who had given him special provocation by assuming the barony of Raby, a title ardently desired by Vane himself. He was not unnaturally accused of collusion and treachery, and there is no doubt that he desired Strafford's removal not only on private but on public grounds, believing that his sacrifice would satisfy the demands of the parliament. Nevertheless,. there has appeared no evidence to support the charge that he deliberately compassed his destruction. Suspicions of his fidelity, however, soon increased, and after having accompanied the king to Scotland in August 1641, he was dismissed from all his appointments on the 4th of November on Charles's return. Vane immediately joined the parliament; on Pym's motion, on the 13th of December, he was placed on the committee for Irish affairs, was made lord lieutenant of Durham on the 10th of February 1642, became a member of the committee of both kingdoms on the 7th of February 1644, and in this capacity attended the Scots army in 1645, while the parliament in the treaty of Uxbridge demanded for him from Charles a barony and the repayment of his losses. He adhered to the parliament after the king's death, and in the first parliament of the Protectorate he was returned for Kent, but the House had refused to appoint him a member of the council of state in February 1650. He died in 1654. He had married Frances, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Darcy of Tolleshurst Darcy in Essex, by whom he had a large family of children, of whom the eldest son, Sir Henry Vane, the younger, is separately noticed.

Clarendon invariably speaks of Vane in terms of contempt and reproach. He describes him as merely fit for court duties, "of very ordinary parts by nature and ... very illiterate. But being of a stirring and boisterous disposition, very industrious and very bold, he still wrought himself into some employment." He declares that motives of revenge upon Strafford influenced not only his conduct in the impeachment but his unsuccessful management of the king's business in the Short Parliament, when he "acted that part maliciously and to bring all into confusion." The latter accusation, considering the difficulties of the political situation and Vane's total want of ability in dealing with them, is probably unfounded. On the general charge of betraying the king's cause, Vane's mysterious conduct in the impeachment, his great intimacy with Hamilton, and the favour with which he was immediately received by the Opposition on his dismissal from office, raise suspicions not altogether allayed by the absence of proof to substantiate them, while the alacrity with which he transferred himself to the parliament points to a character, if not of systematic treachery, yet of unprincipled and unscrupulous time-serving. Materials, however, to elucidate the details and motives of his ill-omened career have hitherto been wanting.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sir Henry Vane (Secretary of State)'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​s/sir-henry-vane-secretary-of-state.html. 1910.
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