Sir John Vanbrugh was, at different points in his life, a businessman, soldier, playwright and architect of some of the most distinguished country houses of his era.
Born in London in 1664, he was the eldest surving son of a cloth merchant and descended from Anglo-Flemish merchants. He grew up in Chester after his family fled the capital during a major outbreak of the plague in 1665.
He demonstrated a commitment to the Whig cause of parliamentary democracy from a young age. From 1686, he worked undercover to assist the armed invasion by William of Orange, deposing James II, and bringing about the Glorious Revolution of 1689. However, Vanbrugh was arrested at Calais on a charge of espionage in September 1688, two months before William invaded England, and was imprisoned in the Bastille as a political prisoner.
He returned to England in 1663 and joined the Navy. However, he soon exchanged army life for the London stage and wrote several plays, including The Provoked Wife and The Relapse. Vanbrugh also designed, constructed and managed the Queen's Theatre in Haymarket.
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