Soldier and English Catholic politician; b. Newburgh Priory, North Riding, Yorkshire, c. 1614; d. London, Sept. 10, 1689. It seems clear that Belasyse, second son of an ambitious country landowner of covert Catholic sympathies, conformed to Anglicanism at home, at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and while serving as Member of Parliament for Thirsk, from 1640 to 1642. During the first Civil War he emerged as a capable royalist general; he was present at the Edgehill, Newbury, Naseby, Selby, and Newark actions. He was created Baron Belasyse of Worlaby, Lincolnshire, by Charles I in 1645. His father, the first Viscount Fauconberg, eventually became a Catholic on his deathbed, but John Belasyse's nephew, the second Viscount Fauconberg, was resolutely Protestant and was married to Oliver Cromwell's daughter, Mary. After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Belasyse became governor of Tangier and lord-lieutenant of the East Riding. By 1664 his refusal to take the anti-Catholic oaths of office for Tangier revealed a definite shift in his religious views, and in 1673 the House of Lords accounted him a papist. In 1678 he and four other Catholic peers were imprisoned in the Tower during the Popish Plot scare, and he was not released until the accession of James II in 1685. He was then aged and very lame. Though elevated by James to the Privy Council and made first Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, he was politically moderate and it seems played no major part in the politics of the reign.
Bibliography: v. gibbs, ed., The Complete Peerage (London 1910–). j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time (New York 1961) 1:178–179. f. c. turner, James II (New York 1948).