1601-1610, Jane and John Daniell pester the authorities with many petitions

Transcriptions of the petitions

Report by Penny Bidgood

These seven petitions, dating from 13 December 1601 to 28 January 1609/10 are a small sample of over 100 submitted by John and Jane Daniell during this time.

Much has been written about the Daniells, particularly the case that led to John’s imprisonment in the Fleet in 1601 to which these petitions refer.  This is a synopsis from several sources, referenced below. Both John and Jane Daniell had interesting lives before their marriage in 1595.

Jane Daniell (1566-1613) was born Jeanne van Kethulle, daughter of a Flemish Protestant nobleman, Francois van Kethulle, Lord Rihoven, former governor of Ghent.  Jane became a lady in waiting to Louise de Coligny, widow of William of Orange.

Later Jane travelled to England, where she could practise her Protestant faith freely, to be lady in waiting to Frances Walsingham, Lady Sidney, a widow.  In 1590 Lady Sidney married Robert Devereux and so became the Countess of Essex who is mentioned in the petitions.

Although born in Ireland, John Daniell (c1545-1610) came from an ancient family, the Daniells of Daresbury in Cheshire.  In 1559, when he was about 14, John became a royal ward on the death of his father.

At age 18, John became attendant to an Anglo-Irish nobleman, Thomas Butler, the Earl of Ormond, at Queen Elizabeth’s Court.  About this time John entered Barnard’s Inn; this was common amongst gentlemen of the time, although they never intended to practise the law.  However this experience did give John some knowledge of property law and of court procedures.

This was useful as throughout his life John lived beyond his means, favouring a life at Court rather than in rural Cheshire.  Hence he was often in debt and there are records of several lawsuits, many of which he lost and so ended up in prison.   In one such case against Thomas Brooke over the possession of Runcorn rectory, Daniell not only lost but had spent a lot of money.  John is reputed to have said that this was “the first ground of all my ensuing misfortunes”.  Moreover,   he developed some bitterness to the Countess of Essex who had used her influence in helping Brooke.

Several times John seems to have acted as a double agent on behalf of the Queen.  He would infiltrate himself with various Irish Catholic groups who were plotting with Phillip of Spain to kill the Queen but then report their plans to Lord Burghley.

When Ormond returned to Ireland for good, probably in the late 1580s, John transferred his allegiance to the Earl of Essex and it was during this time that he met Jane.  They married in 1595 and had at least 4 children, the second son being called Devereux which shows the close connection at that time. This was despite the fact that the Earl and Countess of Essex had promised a dowry on the marriage which they never paid.

Essex’s political ambitions were thwarted by Sir Robert Cecil amongst others and on Ist October 1599, following a failed campaign in Ireland, Essex was put under house arrest.

On 10 October 1599 the Countess entrusted a locked casket of letters purportedly from the Earl to her, to Jane’s safekeeping.   When the casket was returned in January 1600, a number of letters were missing.  John Daniell had had some of them copied by a scrivener, Peter Bales.   John demanded £3000 for the return of the letters, saying that something was due as the dowry had never been paid.  In April 1600 the Countess paid £1720 having raised the money by selling her jewellery.  John handed over the copies but kept the originals.

In 1601 Essex tried to raise the support of Londoners to seize the Queen and force her to dismiss Cecil amongst others.  This failed and Essex was brought to trial in February; he was later executed.

Essex’s trial brought to light John’s blackmail over the letters and so he was called before the Star Chamber on 17 June 1601.  Peter Bales testified against him, claiming that he had been asked to imitate Essex’s handwriting closely when copying the letters.  This suggested that John was making forgeries rather than just copies.

John was fined £3000, imprisoned in the Fleet and sentenced to stand with his ears nailed to the pillory beneath a notice which read “A Wicked Forger and Imposter”.  £2000 was to go to Lady Essex who wanted the money at once.

Thus the extent and value of John’s property had to be ascertained; many of the complaints in the petitions are about the corruption of officials who have undervalued John’s estates and stolen household goods.

The petitions also repeatedly ask for John’s freedom; demand the return of his bonds; request the right to sue “in forma pauperis” i.e. without having to pay lawyer’s fees; beg relief from the debts that John had incurred in Fleet prison.  John Daniell was finally released in 1604, but he and Jane continued to petition for restoration of his lands and bonds.

Lady Essex’s portion of the fine had still not been paid by 1607.   During these troublesome years Jane supported the family by making tyres a type of headdress, and as attendant to ladies of the Court.

John died intestate on 30 April 1610, when he was about 64, by which time Daresbury had been returned to him; Jane died 3 years later


Kathy Lynn Emerson, A Who’s Who of Tudor Women: Jane van Kethulle, https://www.tudorwomen.com/?page_id=713

Geoffrey Chesters, John Daniell of Daresbury, 1544-1610. Read 15 September, 1966. https://www.hsic.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/118-2-Chesters .pdf

Martin Taylor, ‘Disasters and Misfortunes: the Story of John and Jane Daniell’, https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/tudorhackney/daniells/danstry.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.