John Coventry (died 1685)
Sir John Coventry (c. 1636 – 1685) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1667 and 1682.
Coventry was son of John Coventry (died 1652), the second son of lord keeper Thomas Coventry. Between 1655 and 1659, he travelled in the continent with his tutor the poet Edward Sherburne. He matriculated at Queen's College, Oxford in 1660 and was made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Charles II, the following year.
In 1667, he went with his uncle Henry Coventry to the negotiations leading to the Treaty of Breda, ending the Second Anglo-Dutch War. That year and in the following parliaments of 1678, 1679 and 1681, he was elected for Weymouth. He followed Lord Ashley in politics, and was a fairly active member.
On 21 December 1670, owing to a jest made by Coventry in the House of Commons on the subject of the King's amours, Sir Thomas Sandys, an officer of the guards, with other accomplices, by the order of Monmouth, and (it was said) with the approval of the king himself, waylaid him as he was returning home to Suffolk Street and slit his nose to the bone. The outrage created an extraordinary sensation in the Commons, and in consequence Parliament passed an Act ‘to prevent malicious maiming and wounding’ (22 & 23 Chas. II, c.1), a measure known as the "Coventry Act" was passed, declaring assaults accompanied by personal mutilation a felony without benefit of clergy, an Act not repealed until 1828.
Sir William Coventry, his uncle, speaks slightingly of him, ridicules his vanity and wishes him out of the House of Commons to be out of harm's way. The character of Amnon in John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel (1681) is thought to be based on him.
He was suspected of having become a Roman Catholic while abroad in the 1650s and evidently was when he made his will in 1667. However during the Exclusion Crisis, he sided with the party seeking the exclusion of the Duke of York from the king's presence.
He died unmarried.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sir John Coventry". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Stephen Porter, ‘Coventry, Sir John (c.1636–1685)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 , accessed 3 Jan 2009
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