John Robartes was born in 1606, his was a family that had grown in wealth and stature
by trading in wool and tin. His father Richard Robartes was knighted in 1616, created
a baronet in 1621 and raised to the peerage as Baron Robartes of Truro in 1625.
In 1620 Richard Robartes bought the manor and estates of Lanhydrock, near Bodmin
in Cornwall. He began work building a new house on the estate which his son John
was to complete before the outbreak of the Civil War.
John Robartes entered Exeter College, Oxford as a fellow -commoner in 1625 and it
was there that he developed his principles on church and state. With his marriage
to Lucy Rich, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, he became allied to the opposition
among the peers and in 1634 he succeeded his father as second Baron Robartes.
During the Long Parliament he voted with the popular party among the Lords, although
he refused the protestation. Robartes was made Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall on 28th
After the King's execution in 1649, a period in which Lord Robartes keeps a low profile
in Cornwall, it becomes clear that he is no lover of England's "new order" although
he refuses to have any part in anti -republican plots. He does however, seem to be
more at ease with the Protectorate than the Republic, his son even bore the train
of Cromwell's purple robe on his second installation as Lord Protector.
Robartes supported the restoration and his influence with its chief "architect" George
Monck even insured him a place in Charles II's government. In quick succession in
1660 he was admitted to the Privy Council, appointed a commissioner of the Treasury
and made Lord Deputy of Ireland.
Clarendon said of Robartes "a man of more than ordinary parts, well versed in the
knowledge of the law, and esteemed of integrity not to be corrupted by money. But
he was a sullen, morose man, intolerably proud, and had some humours as inconvenient
as small vices, which made him hard to live with." Samuel Pepys described him as
"a very sober man."
The choice of Robartes as Lord Deputy of Ireland was poor, he even refused to actually
go there and instead became Lord Privy Seal on 18th May 1661. King Charles made him
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 3rd May 1669 in place of Ormonde, this time he went,
but he was recalled in May 1670 after proving again that he was quite unequal to
the task in Ireland.
On 23rd June 1679 Robartes was made Viscount Bodmin and Earl of Radnor and on 25th
October he became Lord President of the King's new Privy Council.
It was said of Robartes by Roger North that he was "a good old English Lord" and
"notwithstanding his uncontrollable testiness and perverse humours, did the King
very good service."
He continued as Lord President of the Council until 1681 and one of his final actions
in the council was his opposition to the passing of Monmouth's Patent, thereby easing
the succession of James II.
On 17th July 1685 Lord John Robartes, first Earl of Radnor died at his house in Chelsea
and his body was taken back to Lanhydrock for burial, in his native Cornwall.