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Arundell, Henry, third Baron Arundell of Wardourlocked

(bap. 1608, d. 1694)
  • Peter Sherlock

Henry Arundell, third Baron Arundell of Wardour (bap. 1608, d. 1694)

attrib. John Michael Wright, 1660s [The Crucifixion with … Lord Arundell and his Wife, Cicely Compton, at the Foot of the Cross]

Arundell, Henry, third Baron Arundell of Wardour (bap. 1608, d. 1694), royalist army officer and politician, was baptized on 23 February 1608 at St Andrew's, Holborn, London. He was the only son of Thomas Arundell, second Baron Arundell of Wardour (c. 1586–1643) [see under Arundell, Thomas, first Baron Arundell of Wardour], and his wife, Blanche Arundell, née Somerset (1583/4–1649), daughter of Edward Somerset, fourth earl of Worcester. The Arundells were one of the most prominent Catholic families in post-Reformation England, seated at Wardour Castle, Wiltshire. Henry's grandfather, Thomas Arundell (c. 1560–1639), had been made a count of the Holy Roman empire in 1595 (a status not recognized in protestant England) and raised to the English peerage in 1605 as Baron Arundell of Wardour shortly before Henry's birth.

Nothing is known of Arundell's early education, though in September 1658 he was admitted to the University of Padua and in 1669 he was granted honorary admission to Gray's Inn. About 1632 he married Cicely (1609/10–1676), widow of Sir John Fermor of Somerton, Oxfordshire, daughter of Sir Henry Compton of Brambletye, Sussex, and his wife, Cicely Sackville, and granddaughter of Robert Sackville, second earl of Dorset. A son and heir, Thomas, was born in 1633, followed by a daughter and another son.

Arundell's father died of battle wounds at Oxford on 19 May 1643, and Arundell succeeded to his estates and titles. Despite his mother's renowned defence of the family castle, Wardour was lost in the same month to parliamentarian forces led by Sir Edward Hungerford, and Arundell's wife and children seized. In September 1643 Arundell laid siege to the castle, which was garrisoned by troops commanded by Edmund Ludlow, retaking it in March 1644 after making '11 breaches in it, dismounting the rebels' ordnance that lay upon the uppermost leads, with the slaughter of 12 men of the Governor Sir Henry Ludlow's son' (CSP dom., 1644, 11). Arundell deliberately ruined the castle for ever by using mines to prevent its future use as a fortress. The family subsequently resided at Breamore, Hampshire, but after 1645 his estates were confiscated by parliament.

In 1652 Arundell was second to Lord Chandos in a duel on Putney Heath with his brother-in-law Henry Compton, in which the latter was killed. Chandos and Arundell initially fled but they came to trial in May 1653: they were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to be burnt in the hand and imprisoned for a year. Shortly afterwards Arundell petitioned the Commonwealth trustees to compound for his estates, though his Catholicism should have barred him from being able to do so, and he successfully sought the lord protector's intervention the following year. Arundell's lands were purchased and administered by three trustees, including his uncle by marriage, Humphrey Weld, at a cost of over £35,000. Following the Restoration, he was restored to his estates in title in December 1660.

Arundell led efforts in parliament to achieve Catholic toleration, in 1661 petitioning the Lords to modify the oath of allegiance. He was appointed master of the horse to Henrietta Maria, the queen mother, in 1663. In January 1669, together with other Catholic peers, he was asked by Charles II how best to propagate the Roman faith in England. He was sent to France to seek financial support from Louis XIV and inform him of the king's desire to be reconciled with Rome, leading to the secret treaty of Dover. In 1670 Arundell received legacies under the will of the queen mother, for late in 1669 he had assisted with arrangements for her funeral in France, doubtless a cover for his diplomatic activities.

In 1678 Arundell, a known supporter of James, duke of York, was named by Titus Oates and others as one of the chief conspirators in the plot to kill Charles II. Arundell, together with fellow Catholic lords Powis and Belasyse, was to pay an assassin, command an army of 50,000, and take over as lord keeper. One of Arundell's accusers, Miles Prance, claimed that this information came from his butler. On 25 October 1678 a panicked Commons imprisoned lords Arundell, Belasyse, Petre, Powis, and Stafford in the Tower and began impeachment proceedings. The five peers were found guilty of high treason by the Middlesex jury on 3 December, and two days later the Commons announced they were ready to impeach, but proceedings were interrupted by the dissolution of parliament.

The newly elected parliament, however, resolved that the motion for impeachment had not been invalidated, and on 10 April 1679 Arundell and three of the other accused (Belasyse being ill) were brought to the House of Lords to put in pleas. Arundell argued that the charges were too vague, and asked for greater precision before entering a plea, but this was rejected on 24 April. Two days later the four were again brought to the Lords, and Arundell entered a plea of not guilty. In the surviving notes for his defence he wrote 'wicked principles are alleged to make good a plot, which being denied the Plot is introduced to make good the principles' (Miller, 158). A trial date of 13 May was fixed, but legal quarrels and another dissolution delayed it. During this period Arundell wrote a series of religious poems, published as Five Little Meditations in Verse (1679) and reprinted in Nathaniel Thompson's A Collection of Eighty-Six Loyal Poems (1685). Late in 1679 Arundell was accused by Thomas Dangerfield of offering him £2000 to kill the king in the Meal-Tub Plot.

On 30 November 1680 proceedings began against Lord Stafford, who was condemned, and beheaded on 29 December. The trial of Arundell and the three remaining prisoners was due to begin the following day, but ceased. They remained in the Tower for a further three years. Petre's death on 5 January 1684 and the influence of the duke of York prompted a successful appeal to king's bench, and Arundell, Belasyse, and Powys were released on bail on 18 February. Following James II's accession Oates was arrested and tried for perjury, and the king issued a nolle prosequi in the case of the three remaining lords, confirmed by petition to the Lords on 21 May 1685. Finally on 1 June 1685 Arundell's liberty was guaranteed on the grounds of false testimony.

Despite his age Arundell's political career was revived by the new king. He received a royal dispensation from taking the required oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and was appointed to the privy council on 17 August 1686. In January 1687 he was admitted as justice of the peace for Middlesex. He reached his highest office in March 1687 when he replaced the earl of Clarendon as lord privy seal. In June 1687 he presented James with the thanks of English Catholics for the declaration of indulgence, and received £250 for secret service to the king. In July 1688 a warrant was issued to make him lord lieutenant of Dorset in place of the earl of Bristol. On the following 22 October he was among those who testified to the veracity of the birth of the prince of Wales.

When James left the realm he committed his affairs to five lords, of whom Arundell was one, but with the triumph of William of Orange Arundell retired. During the 1680s he had built Wardour House on the ruins of the old castle, adding stables in 1686 and a banqueting house in 1687, but the family lived primarily at Breamore. He had remained actively involved in Wiltshire religious politics, presenting rectors to his advowsons at Tisbury and Donhead St Andrew in 1678 and 1684, while maintaining Catholic chaplains at his various residences. Two of these men dedicated books to him: Richard Mason in his Liturgical Discourse of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (1670) and John Weldon in The Divine Pedagogue (1692). Arundell was a noted sportsman and one of the first hunters to breed hounds to foxes alone, animals from whom the famous Quorn pack descended.

Arundell was remarkable (if not unique) as a Catholic peer who lived through the changing fortunes of the entire seventeenth century, actively engaging in war, espionage, and politics. Contemporaries preserved his name in London at Arundel Street, Panton Square (1673), and Wardour Street, Soho (1686). He was vigorously praised as a hero by nineteenth-century English Catholic historians. More recent scholars view him, perhaps too dismissively, as one of the 'pathetic group' of ageing peers implicated in the Popish Plot (Kenyon, 47).

Arundell died on 28 December 1694 at Breamore; he was buried in his ancestral parish church, Tisbury, Wiltshire, with his wife, who had died on 24 March 1676. An undated will was proved on 12 August 1695. A great-grandfather in the male line at the time of his death, he was succeeded in his titles and estates by his elder son, Thomas. His only daughter, Cecily, was a nun at Rouen from 1662 until her death in 1717.


  • G. Oliver, Collections illustrating the history of the Catholic religion in the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wilts, and Gloucester (1857), 81–5
  • J. Kenyon, The Popish Plot (1972)
  • J. Miller, Popery and politics in England, 1660–1688 (1973)
  • Calendar of the Clarendon state papers preserved in the Bodleian Library, 2: 1649–1654, ed. W. D. Macray (1869), 210, 214
  • The autobiography of Sir John Bramston, ed. [Lord Braybrooke], CS, 32 (1845)
  • H. F. Browne, Inglesi e scozzesi alla università di Padova (Venice, 1921)
  • J. Foster, The register of admissions to Gray’s Inn, 1521–1889, together with the register of marriages in Gray's Inn chapel, 1695–1754 (privately printed, London, 1889)


  • Wilts. & Swindon HC


  • attrib. J. M. Wright, portrait, 1660–69; Christies, 8 June 1995, lot 3 [see illus.]
  • portrait, the modern Wardour Castle, Wiltshire
Camden Society
J. Gillow, ed., , 5 vols. (1885–1902)
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
Public Record Office