Arthur Capell, 1st Baron Capell (20 February 1608 – 9 March 1649), of Hadham Hall and Cassiobury House, Watford, both in Hertfordshire, was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1640 until 1641 when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Capell. He supported the Royalist cause in the Civil War and was executed on the orders of parliament in 1649.
Capell was the only son of Sir Henry Capell, of Rayne Hall, Essex, and his wife Theodosia Montagu, daughter of Sir Edward Montagu of Boughton House, Northamptonshire. He was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge. In April 1640, he was elected Member of Parliament for Hertfordshire in the Short Parliament and was re-elected MP for Hertfordshire for the Long Parliament in November 1640. At first he supported the opposition to Charles's arbitrary government, on 5 December 1640 he delivered the "Petition from the county of Hertfordshire" outlining grievances against the King with Capell continuing to criticise the King and the Kings advisers right through to the summer of 1641. In June 1641 in an effort to raise additional revenue reduced the price of baronies from £400 to £350, and Arthur Capell was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Capell of Hadham, in the County of Hertford, on the 6 August 1641. Capell was openly allying himself with the King's cause by early 1642, on which side his sympathies were engaged.
On the outbreak of the war he was appointed lieutenant-general of Shropshire, Cheshire and North Wales, where he rendered useful military services, and later was made one of the Prince of Wales's councillors, and a commissioner at the Treaty of Uxbridge in 1645. He attended the queen in her flight to France in 1646, but disapproved of the prince's journey thither, and retired to Jersey, subsequently aiding in the king's escape to the Isle of Wight.
Capell was one of the chief Royalist leaders in the second Civil War, but met with no success, and on the 27 August 1648, together with Lord Norwich, he surrendered to Fairfax at Colchester on promise of quarter for life.}} This assurance was afterwards interpreted as not binding the civil authorities, and his fate for some time hung in the balance. He succeeded in escaping from the Tower, wading the moat once he had got over the walls, only to be betrayed by a Thames waterman who was engaged to row him from a hiding place at the Temple to one in Lambeth. He was again captured and was condemned to death by parliament on 8 March 1649, and beheaded together with the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Holland. The next day, after the execution his heart was removed and placed in a silver casket which was eventually presented to Charles II.
Capell wrote Daily Observations or Meditations: Divine, Morall, published with some of his letters in 1654, and reprinted, with a short life of the author, under the title Excellent Contemplations, in 1683.
Marriage & progeny
On 28 November 1627 Capell married Elizabeth Morrison, daughter and sole heiress of Sir Charles Morrison, 1st Baronet of Cassiobury, Hertfordshire, who brought the Cassiobury estate into his family making him one of the richest men in England. His lands were scattered across ten counties, and brought him a reputed annual income of £7,000. By his wife he had four daughters and five sons, including:
- Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex (1631-1683), eldest son and heir, created Earl of Essex at the Restoration. When the Earl, facing charges of treason, committed suicide in 1683, the King remarked that he should have known his life would be spared, for "his father died for mine".
- Henry Capell, 1st Baron Capell of Tewkesbury (1638-1696), politician and founder of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
- Charles Capel (died 1657)
- Mary Capell (1630-1715), wife of 1st Duke of Beaufort
- Elizabeth Capell (1633-1678), wife of 2nd Earl of Carnarvon.