Sir John Germain, 1st Baronet (c. May 1650 – 11 December 1718) was a British soldier of Dutch origin and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1713 and 1718. He was involved in a notorious affair with the Duchess of Norfolk and became very wealthy.
Germain passed as the son of John Germain, a private soldier in the Prince’s lifeguards, and his wife Mary Moll who was a mistress of William II, Prince of Orange. He was said to be an illegitimate half-brother of William III of England, and he encouraged this rumour himself. He lacked a proper education and was quite ignorant, but was a successful soldier and managed to acquire a fortune. He was described by John Evelyn as ���a Dutch gamester . . . who had gotten much by gaming’.
In 1685, Germain was in England and began in an affair with Mary Howard, Duchess of Norfolk, wife of Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk. After the Duke discovered them, Germain returned to Holland, only to return with King William in 1688. He enjoyed William’s favour and in 1689 he was aide-de-camp to the Dutch commander in Flanders. His brother was a merchant in London and was made a commissioner of wine licences in England. Germain was naturalized in 1689 and participated in the King’s campaign in Ireland. He resumed his affair with the Duchess of Norfolk, and in 1692 the Duke tried to divorce her by Act of Parliament but she opposed him in order to defend her inheritance, with the assistance of her father Henry Mordaunt, 2nd Earl of Peterborough. The bill was thrown out by the House of Lords insisting that the accusations be first proved in a lower court and so the Duke brought a much publicised action for criminal conversation against Germain in King’s bench for £100,000. He won his case, but the jury awarded only £66 in damages.
Germain was knighted on 26 February 1698, and created a baronet in the Baronetage of England on 25 March 1698. After an 8-year battle, the Duke finally obtained a divorce in 1700. The Duchess, who succeeded to the estate of Drayton, Northamptonshire and as Baroness Mordaunt on her father's death, married Germain by licence dated 15 September 1701. On her death on 17 November 1705 he inherited Drayton House. He married, as his second wife, Lady Elizabeth ("Betty") Berkeley in October 1706. The 3rd Earl of Peterborough had a claim to Drayton, but in November 1707 a case in the Queen’s bench was decided in favour of Germain. Germain became involved in several unsuccessful schemes to resolve the difficulties of the Royal African Company. In 1709 he was proposed as a candidate at the Weobley by-election but did not go to the poll.
At the 1713 general election, Germain was elected Member of Parliament for Morpeth. He was classed as a Whig and voted against the expulsion of Richard Steele on 18 March 1714. He did not stand at the 1715 general election. He was returned unopposed as MP for Totnes in a by-election on 22 April 1717, following the death of Arthur Champernowne.
Germain died ‘of a mortification in his back’ on 11 December 1718 at the age of sixty-eight. He encouraged his wife to remarry or to leave the estate to children of his friend the Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset. She survived him until 1769 spending most of the rest of her life with the Duke and Duchess of Dorset at Knole. She left the Drayton estate to Lord George Sackville, who adopted the surname Germain. There are memorials to Sir John Germain, his two wives and his three children (who died young) in St Peter's Church, Lowick, Northamptonshire.
- "GERMAIN, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1650-1718), of Drayton, Northants". History of Parliament Online (1690-1715). Retrieved 30 December 2018.
- Cokayne, George Edward, ed. (1904), Complete Baronetage volume 4 (1665-1707), 4, Exeter: William Pollard and Co, retrieved 30 December 2018
- "GERMAIN, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1650-1718), of Westminster, and Drayton, Northants". History of Parliament Online (1715-1754). Retrieved 11 September 2018.
- "St Peter's Church, Lowick - Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 September 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
|Parliament of Great Britain|
Sir Richard Sandford
| Member of Parliament for Morpeth
With: Oley Douglas
The Viscount Castlecomer
| Member of Parliament for Totnes
With: Stephen Northleigh
Sir Charles Wills
|Baronetage of England|
|New creation|| Baronet