John Robartes 1606-1685

From Book Owners Online

John ROBARTES, 1st Earl of Radnor 1606-1685

Biographical Note

Son of Richard Robartes, 1st Baron Robartes, from whom he inherited the title and estate at Lanhydrock, Cornwall in 1634. Matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford in 1625, but did not graduate. He fought at Edgehill on the parliamentary side during the Civil War, and was noted throughout his life for presbyterian sympathies. After the Restoration he was admitted to the privy council and was made Treasury commissioner and deputy lieutenant of Ireland. He became lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1669. In 1679 he was created Viscount Bodmin and earl of Radnor. He completed the building of Lanhydrock House, begun by his father.


The library at Lanhydrock includes some specific groups of books which belonged to other local men (e.g. Hannibal Gamon, Walter Snell) but also many books which belonged to John Robartes, or to his wife Lucy. They cover the range of subject material that might be expected in such a library, including theology, politics and current affairs, history, medicine and law. After his death, subsequent family members showed little interest in the library, although a sale of Robartes's manuscripts and papers took place in London, 2.5.1721. The books of Charles, 2nd Earl (1665-1723) were auctioned in London, 23.4.1724.

Characteristic Markings

Although there are exceptions, many of Robartes's books have plain and simple bindings. He regularly inscribed and annotated his books. His annotations ranged from lengthy marginal diatribes against the suppositions of the author, to simple manicules and underlining. He (or occasionally a scribe) would then frequently copy out the underlined or maniculed passages into various notebooks, which helps to identify when particular books were read. Occasionally, it is possible to link these ‘readings’ to very specific actions or debates. For example, in a notebook of 1667-8, various statutes copied from Fardinando Pulton’s Collection of Sundry Statutes (1636) and Edward Coke’s Institutes (1629), are followed by the phrase '[thus] the judgement against Holls 5* Caroli [should] by write of errore be refused by this parliament’. This was a reference to Denzil Holles’ plea of 1668 to have the judgement against him in the reign of Charles I removed; Robartes had sat on the parliamentary committee appointed to consider this matter.


  • Alston, R. C., Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
  • Duffin, Anne. "Robartes, John, first earl of Radnor (1606–1685), politician and army officer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Barker, N. Treasures from the libraries of National Trust country houses, New York, 1999, no 45.
  • Keep, D. Works by Zurich reformers in the library at Lanhydrock, National Trust Yearbook 1976-7, 73-80.
  • Librorum manuscriptorum, historicorum ... of a nobleman, who was Lord Privy-Seal, [Lonon, 1721], ESTC t57174.
  • Purcell, M. The library at Lanhydrock, The Book Collector 54 (2005), 195-230.
  • Information from Sophie Aldred.