Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: P.J.L./J.P.F./A.D.T.

Created by: admin


1 Jan. 1604 Lord Henry Howard (subsequently 1st earl of Northampton)

20 July 1615 Edward Zouche, 11th Lord Zouche

Nov. 1624 George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham

22 July 1628 Theophilus Howard*, 2nd earl of Suffolk


1588 (Sir) Thomas Fane†

1603 Sir Thomas Waller* (jt.)

1606 Sir Thomas Waller (sole)

1613 Sir Robert Brett*

1615 Sir John Brooke*

1615 Sir Thomas Hammon*

1620 Sir Henry Mainwaring*

1624 Sir John Hippisley*

1629 Sir Edward Dering*

The Cinque Ports of Kent and Sussex, to which were early added the two ‘ancient towns’ of Rye and Winchelsea, controlled the shortest sea routes to the Continent, and during the medieval period their responsibilities for defence and the provision of shipping was recognized by the grant of exceptional privileges. They were exempt from subsidies, for instance, and provided representatives who helped carry the canopy at the Coronation. Moreover, the county authorities had no power over them.[footnote] Instead, the Crown was represented by a lord warden, invariably in this period a great nobleman, who had at his disposal a whole range of special law courts situated at Dover. Following the death of the earl of Northampton in June 1614, the wardenship was left vacant for 13 months, during which time the duties of the office were performed by the king’s favourite, Robert Carr, earl of Somerset.[footnote]

By the late sixteenth century it was hard to see why the Ports should continue to be exempt from taxation, as by then most of them had shrunk to mere fishing harbours. Besides, at a time of declining subsidy yields the Ports’ status as a tax haven had obvious drawbacks for the Crown. In 1593 Sir Thomas Cecil*, eldest son of lord treasurer Burghley (William Cecil†) advised the Commons to end the Ports’ exemption because ‘it hath been the use of men having any lands in the Cinque Ports to take sanctuary there’ whenever subsidies were levied.[footnote] The Ports themselves were keen to retain their tax exemption and, inter alia, pleaded poverty and the fact that they were required to provide fish for the royal Household as grounds for its continuance. However, their representatives frequently harmed their own cause by supporting grants of subsidy to which they and their constituents would not be required to contribute. During the supply debate of 1610, some Members were so infuriated by the Ports’ representatives that they proposed that their purses ‘should walk as well as their voices’.[footnote] Not surprisingly, repeated attempts were made in this period to end the Ports’ exemption. Though never successful, these challenges often aroused considerable alarm. In May 1614 the Ports drew up a series of points to be used by their representatives to counter the arguments of their opponents, while in March 1624 the corporation of Dover sent its Member, Edward Nicholas, detailed instructions on what to say should the Ports’ privilege be challenged.[footnote]

The Ports possessed their own representative institutions, the Guestling and the Brotherhood (Brodhull), which met annually at New Romney. Although regularly summoned to elect Members of Parliament from 1322,[footnote] they contrived to evade this burdensome duty until 1366. To the considerable annoyance of the Upper House, they insisted that their representatives should be styled not ‘burgesses’ but ‘barons’. In March 1607 the peers were afforded an opportunity to express their irritations after Sir Edward Hoby*, in the course of conveying a message to the Lords, carelessly referred to the Members sitting for the Cinque Ports as ‘the barons of the Commons House of Parliament’. Quite correctly, the Lords observed that no Member of the Lower House sat ‘as a baron of Parliament’, but they conceded that there were some who ‘may be termed barons of the Cinque Ports’.[footnote]

Hastings, Hythe, and New Romney were incorporated under Elizabeth; but in all the Ports the municipal organization took a similar form, with a council consisting of mayor, ‘jurats’ or aldermen, and commoners. In Dover, Hythe and Sandwich this body had, by the beginning of the early seventeenth century, succeeded in usurping the parliamentary franchise from the freemen. However, beginning at Dover in 1621, the freemen took back control of the franchise in all three cases during the 1620s.

One of the most unusual features of the Cinque Ports was that the lord warden distributed the writs and returned a consolidated list of Members to Chancery. This enabled him to nominate one Member in each port, and usually to leave the other to the electorate. Normal procedure seems to have been for the lord warden, who was invariably an absentee, to send his letters of nomination to the clerk of Dover Castle. The clerk then had the messenger for the Ports – known as the boder – distribute these documents, along with the writ and the lord warden’s precept. However, in December 1620 the clerk of Dover Castle, Richard Marsh, went down with these documents to the town of Dover in person, for which courtesy he was given 2s. by the corporation, before riding over to Hythe (having an errand there), where he delivered the writ and the lord warden’s letters.[footnote] Once each borough had held its election, it made its return to the clerk, who sent it up to the lord warden once all the others were in. This procedure was longstanding, but at New Romney at least it was not well understood, for in January 1621 the town clerk claimed that his town normally had one of its Members make its return to Chancery. An astonished Richard Marsh told him to re-read the writ more carefully, ‘for’, as he informed the lord warden’s secretary, ‘they have no return of writs to Westminster from their town’.[footnote] However, one week later Marsh had still not received the borough’s return, ‘so as for want of it and Dover’s I cannot now send all away as I projected’.[footnote]

The lord warden was represented locally by a deputy, the lieutenant of Dover Castle, who was frequently able to ‘come in upon my own strength’.[footnote] The two most compliant constituencies were Dover and Rye. Dover was not only directly under the lieutenant’s eye, but also dependant on recurrent legislation for the maintenance of its harbour; whereas the Rye electorate may have been unnerved by their sudden descent from Elizabethan prosperity to impoverishment and depopulation. Sandwich, with its ‘schismatical sectaries’, and Hythe, with an abundance of neighbouring gentry, were the most difficult constituencies for the lord warden to control.

Following the accession of James I in March 1603 a Parliament was widely believed to be imminent. In May the lord warden, Henry Brooke†, 11th Lord Cobham, dispatched a note to the borough of Rye announcing that he expected it to yield him the nomination of one of its Members at the next election.[footnote] In fact, however, a Parliament was not summoned for another ten months. During the interim Cobham fell from office after his participation in the Main Plot was discovered. By the time that writs of election were issued in January 1604 a new lord warden, Lord Henry Howard, had been installed.

As was his right, Howard proceeded to nominate candidates to one seat in at least six of the seven Ports under his control. At Dover his choice lit upon Sir Thomas Waller, a kinsman of the lieutenant of Dover Castle who had been acting as his deputy, while at Sandwich he selected Sir George Fane, the nephew of the lieutenant, Sir Thomas Fane. For Hastings he chose the queen’s vice chamberlain, Sir George Carew, while at New Romney he offered a place to Sir Robert Remington, a Hampshire gentleman closely associated with the Irish peer Lord Clanricarde. At Winchelsea he nominated his own servant Thomas Unton, while at Rye he chose the town’s absentee joint water-bailiff John Young, who seems to have regarded Howard as his patron. Only at Hythe is there no direct evidence of a Howard nomination. The Members chosen were Sir John Smythe I, who lived at nearby Westenhanger and Christopher Toldervey, a former servant of Smythe’s father. Both men had twice previously represented the town.

Howard might have encountered little difficulty in placing his nominees were it not for the fact that in July 1603, in the aftermath of the Main Plot, the brodhull had declared that ‘no baron shall be chosen for the Parliament out of the Five Ports and two ancient towns’ except ‘such persons as are freemen resident and inhabiting the said ports and ancient towns’ or were ‘of counsel with the Ports’.[footnote] A further, if related, problem was the king’s Proclamation of 11 Jan. 1604, which required enfranchised boroughs to ‘make open and free election according to the law’.[footnote] At Hastings and New Romney at least, this Proclamation was interpreted to mean that outsiders nominated by the lord warden were barred from standing because of the fifteenth-century laws prohibiting non-residents from serving in Parliament. Howard was horrified, but with the help of Sir Thomas Fane and his nephew Sir George Fane, both boroughs were browbeaten into submission. It was a different story at Winchelsea, though, where townsmen were elected for both seats. A furious lord warden entered the name of his candidate on the list returned to Chancery regardless. Adam White, the townsman elected by the borough, was consequently forced to resign, but only after the Parliament had begun and only after he had gone to the expense of sending his personal effects by boat to Westminster.

Despite these difficulties, Howard, created earl of Northampton six days before the Parliament commenced, had secured at least six of the 14 available seats. He subsequently took advantage of a couple of by-elections to improve his position. At Rye in 1607 he secured the election of the London lawyer Heneage Finch in place of the townsman Thomas Hamon, who had died, while at Sandwich the following year he snapped up the seat previously held by Edward Peake, who had also expired, for his secretary, John Griffith. Elsewhere, Northampton ensured that he retained his interest, securing the return for Hastings of the wealthy north Kent gentleman Sir Edward Hales after Carew was elevated to the peerage, and the election of his servant William Byng at New Romney after Remington died. However, Hythe as yet seems to have remained beyond his grasp: at the election held in October 1609 to replace Smythe, who had died the previous year, it was a member of the local gentry, Sir Norton Knatchbull, who was returned.

At the general election of 1614, Northampton greatly improved upon his performance ten years earlier. Dover permitted him to nominate both Members after Sandwich made difficulties about accepting Sir George Fane, while at least five of the other Ports, including Hythe, all accepted candidates put up by the lord warden. As in 1604 they were a varied group. Dover returned both the lieutenant of Dover Castle, Sir Thomas Brett, and also Fane; Hythe agreed to take the London merchant and financier Sir Lionel Cranfield; while New Romney accepted the nomination of the London businessman Sir Arthur Ingram. At Sandwich, where the electors would have preferred to have been offered John Griffith rather than Sir George Fane, who was widely disliked, Northampton inserted his ‘dear friend’ Sir Thomas Smythe, a London merchant with property in the town but resident on the other side of Kent. Northampton’s servant William Byng, who had represented New Romney in 1610, now came in for Winchelsea, while Sir Edward Hales was returned a second time for Hastings. Only at Rye is there no clear evidence of nomination by Northampton. Both seats were certainly bestowed on outsiders: Thomas Watson was an Exchequer teller from north Kent, and Edward Henden was a Gray’s Inn barrister so unfamiliar to Rye’s corporation that it referred to him as ‘Edmund’ Henden in its minutes. It is not impossible that both men owed their seats to Northampton, but Watson at least is likely to have been nominated in the first instance by secretary of state Sir Thomas Lake I, his fellow contractor in the sale of Crown rectories.

Only two of the 14 Members returned in 1614 were townsmen: James Lasher I, who sat for Hastings, and Robert Wilcocks, who came in for New Romney. Thomas Godfrey, who took one of the seats at Winchelsea, had previously been a jurat of Winchelsea, and had even risen to the rank of deputy mayor, but by the time of the election he was living in London with his brother. His election may have been particularly acceptable to Northampton, as he was one of the earl’s former servants. At Sandwich the second seat was bestowed not on a townsman but on Sir Samuel Peyton, a member of the local gentry.

In the aftermath of the Addled Parliament, the success of the lord warden in obtaining additional places for his nominees, and the incursion of the local gentry into seats traditionally reserved for townsmen, gave rise to concern within the Ports. On 25 July 1615, five days after the patent appointing Lord Zouche as lord warden was enrolled, the Brotherhood increased the penalty for the election of outsiders from £20 to £50.[footnote] Despite this edict, Zouche became the most effective electoral manager of the period, perhaps because he held no other major office and was able to reside for considerable periods at Dover Castle. Before the next election he drew up a schedule of the candidates he wished to place:[footnote]

The names of such as I have promised to offer to the towns for burgess-ships this Parliament.

Dover Mr. Neville, son to the Lord Abergavenny

Hythe Sir Guy Palmes

Sandwich Sir Robert Hatton

Rye Mr. Emmanuel Giffard, His Majesty’s sworn servant

Romney Mr. Francis Fetherston[haugh], one of His Majesty’s pensioners

Sir Edward Zouche

Winchelsea Edward Nicholas

Hastings Samuel More

these two latter being my servants.

The names of such as I promised to place if any of them failed by choice elsewhere.

Sir Richard Young

Richard Zouche, doctor of law

Sir William Monyns

Sir Samuel Peyton

Sir Roger Nevinson

Zouche’s plans were ambitious, and, despite an attempted intervention by the king, who hoped to use the lord warden’s electoral patronage himself,[footnote] generally successful. Of his first choices, Christopher Neville and Sir Guy Palmes were elected knights of the shire for Sussex and Rutland, making way for two of his second-stringers at Dover and Hythe respectively, while Nicholas, Gifford, Featherstonhaugh and More were all placed without difficulty. Only Sir Robert Hatton ran into trouble, for although returned with the aid of a sympathetic mayor he was unseated on petition. Sir Edward Zouche, the knight marshal, appears to have made no use of his cousin’s offer.

Zouche also managed to secure both seats at Rye, for as well as nominating Gifford there he also sent a letter in favour of John Angell, the son of the king’s fishmonger. He assured the borough that it was not his intention to deprive it of the right to nominate its second Member, but having been entreated by the young man’s father he had not known how to refuse. Zouche achieved further electoral success by endorsing the candidacy of two members of the local gentry, Sir Thomas Finch at Winchelsea and Sir Peter Heyman at Hythe. One individual whom Zouche conspicuously failed to support, however, was the lieutenant of Dover Castle, Sir Henry Mainwaring. The lieutenant had customarily been the recipient of a nomination from the lord warden – Sir Thomas Fane appears to have been acting voluntarily when he surrendered his interest in 1604 to his nephew – but Mainwaring was a former pirate, and may have aroused Zouche’s dislike. Despite being passed over, Mainwaring persuaded the corporation of Dover to grant him their senior seat.

Largely as a result of Zouche’s success, but also because of the increasing poverty of most of the Ports, not a single townsman secured a seat in 1621. It is true that James Thurbarne†, counsel to the Cinque Ports and a resident of New Romney, was initially adopted as a candidate by his home town, but he subsequently stood down in favour of Sir Peter Manwood, a Kentish gentleman ruined by his hospitality. It was also the case that at Hastings James Lasher II, the son of the jurat who had represented the borough twice previously, was selected. However, Lasher was hardly a resident, having lived in London since the mid-1590s. Attempts by leading inhabitants of a couple of the ‘limbs’ of the Cinque Ports to fill the void created by the absence of townsmen candidates failed: Samuel Short of Tenterden and James Berry of Lydd were defeated at Rye and Winchelsea respectively. Seven candidates contested Sandwich, but only one of them – John Jacob – was a townsman. Though popular with his fellow residents, Jacob was ultimately squeezed out by the lord warden’s candidate (Hatton) and a member of the local gentry, Sir Edwin Sandys of Northbourne. Although Hatton was subsequently unseated on petition, his replacement, John Borough, was also an outsider, despite having been born at Sandwich.

At the general election of 1624 most of Zouche’s previously successful candidates were re-elected, with the exception of the Catholic Giffard, who was obliged to give way to a son of Secretary Conway at Rye. In addition, the lord warden also secured both seats at Dover, one of which was bitterly contested by Sir Henry Mainwaring, whom Zouche had dismissed from the lieutenancy the previous year. Although Mainwaring persuaded the Commons to overturn the Dover return, he failed to obtain a seat at the ensuing election, which was won by the two previously successful candidates. It is unclear to whom the Surrey gentleman and Household official Francis Drake owed his seat at Sandwich, but if Zouche was responsible then both Members were placed by the lord warden.

Members of the local gentry also continued to make inroads on the Ports in 1624. At Hastings Nicholas Eversfield, who lived two-and-a-half miles away at Hollington, was returned out of gratitude for his help in raising money for the repair of the town’s pier, while at Winchelsea Sir Thomas Finch assigned his interest to his younger brother John, the deputy recorder of London. However, at Rye neither Sir William Twysden, from West Kent, nor Richard Tufton, whose family’s ancestral seat lay at nearby Northiam, proved successful. As in 1621, there were no genuine townsmen Members, and Samuel Short failed for a second time to get elected at Rye. On the other hand, at New Romney the freemen returned Richard Godfrey II, the son of a jurat of Lydd, who agreed to serve without wages.

Well before the next general election Zouche sold the lord wardenship to the duke of Buckingham. The latter is usually considered to have been a poor electoral patron, but in 1625 at least he fared rather better in the Cinque Ports than Northampton had done in 1604. Of the 12 men nominated by him for seats, no less than eight were successful. However, in only one of the Ports – Dover – did Buckingham secure both places for his candidates; at Hythe, Rye, Sandwich and New Romney, his efforts to gain complete control were rebuffed. Of the eight successful candidates, three were close dependants of the duke: Thomas Fotherley, who came in for Rye, and Sackville Crowe, who was elected at Hastings, were both members of Buckingham’s household, while Edward Clarke, returned for Hythe, was one of the duke’s intimate servants. As in 1624, outsiders rather than townsmen took all those seats not controlled by the lord warden. The sole exception, perhaps, was at New Romney, where the junior seat once again went to Richard Godfrey II.

Buckingham proved unable to repeat the success of his first general election in 1626. This must have been partly due to his growing unpopularity, but matters were not helped by the fact that many of his letters of nomination failed to arrive before the Ports conducted their elections. The reason for this has never been satisfactorily established, but it may be significant that in early December 1625 his secretary for the Cinque Ports, Edward Nicholas, lay ill at his parents’ house in Wiltshire.[footnote] Whatever caused the delay, only three of Buckingham’s eight nominees were accepted, these being Sir John Suckling at Sandwich; Sir Nicholas Saunders at Winchelsea; and Sir Dudley Carleton at Hastings. In addition, the lieutenant of Dover Castle, Sir John Hippisley, scraped in at Dover. Those who relied upon Buckingham for a seat, only to be disappointed, were Sir William Beecher (at Dover); Sir Richard Weston (at Hythe); Walter Montagu (at New Romney) and Thomas Fotherley and Thomas Alured (both at Rye).

The outcome of the 1626 general election was nothing less than a disaster for Buckingham in the Cinque Ports, but worse was soon to follow. Shortly after the Parliament opened Suckling opted to sit for Norwich, for which borough he had also been returned. When Buckingham nominated as Suckling’s replacement the master of the Jewel House, Sir Henry Mildmay, the freemen chose to bestow the seat instead on a member of the local gentry, Sir Edward Boys. Matters got worse in May, when Sir Dudley Carleton was elevated to the peerage. Buckingham selected as Carleton’s replacement Walter Montagu, whom he had originally earmarked for a seat at New Romney. By now, however, impeachment proceedings against the duke were underway and Nicholas Eversfield persuaded the freemen of Hastings to return Sir Thomas Parker instead. By the time the Parliament was dissolved, only one of the Cinque Ports’ representatives, aside from the lieutenant of Dover Castle, owed his seat to the duke.

Buckingham’s failure to ensure that his letters of nominations were dispatched promptly ahead of the 1626 general election allowed the Ports to recover some of the ground they had lost since the end of Elizabeth’s reign. For the first time since 1614 a couple of townsmen were returned: Dover elected John Pringle, a jurat and master of the town’s fellowship of lodemanage, while Sandwich chose its former town clerk, Peter Peake. At New Romney, where Richard Godfrey II was returned for a third time in a row, the Thurbarne family appear to have used their influence to ensure the election of their kinsman by marriage of the Tenterden-born Thomas Brett.

From so low a point, Buckingham’s performance at the next election could only improve. Even so, the outcome of the 1628 general election must have been deeply disappointing to the duke. Seats were regained at Dover and Hastings, but perhaps only four of the Cinque Ports’ Members were the duke’s nominees: Edward Nicholas (Dover), John Ashburnham (Hastings), Thomas Fotherley (Rye) and Sir Ralph Freeman (Winchelsea). In addition Sir John Hippisley again came in for Dover, while John Philipot, a supporter of Buckingham’s, got himself elected at Sandwich. However, two of the duke’s nominees suffered defeats: Sir Edwin Sandys saw his distinguished parliamentary career brought to an ignominious end at Sandwich, while Sir Edward Dering was thwarted at New Romney by Thomas Godfrey. It apparently became known during the first session of Parliament that Buckingham had been sufficiently moved by criticism of his secular pluralism to resign the wardenship. ‘I know not who is lord warden’, declared Coke in the debate of 11 June on the Remonstrance.[footnote] However, it was not until after the prorogation that the earl of Suffolk was appointed, presumably as a reward for declaring that John Selden*, the principal legal expert among those opposed to the duke, deserved hanging.[footnote]