Canterbury

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Elections

DateCandidate
1558/9SIR THOMAS FINCH 1
 GEORGE MAYE 2
1562/3WILLIAM LOVELACE
 ROBERT ALCOCK
1571WILLIAM LOVELACE
 ROBERT ALCOCK
17 Apr. 1572ANTHONY WEBBE
 WILLIAM LOVELACE
9 Feb. 1578 (new writ)unknown vice Webbe and Lovelace, deceased
11 Jan. 1581 (new writ)SIR GEORGE CAREY vice Webbe and Lovelace, deceased
1584SIMON BROME 3
 JOHN ROSE Browne Willis.
13 Oct. 1586SIMON BROME
 JOHN ROSE
3 Oct. 1588SIMON BROME
 BARTHOLOMEW BROME
1593RICHARD LEE
 HENRY FINCH
15 Sept. 1597JOHN BOYS
 HENRY FINCH
8 Oct. 1601JOHN BOYS
 JOHN ROGERS II

Main Article

A county in itself from the time of Edward IV, Canterbury had its own sheriff, tax assessors, escheator and justices of the peace. A charter of 1498 provided for a mayor, 12 aldermen and a common council of 24. The right of parliamentary election belonged to the freemen. Parliamentary writs were received and returned by the city’s sheriff.

Canterbury was strongly independent in its choice of MPs. Although there is one gap in the list, all identified Members in Elizabeth’s reign, apart from Sir George Carey, appear to have been resident in the city at the time of their election, and many of them held official positions besides. No evidence suggests that the archbishop influenced elections.

Sir Thomas Finch, the senior Member in 1559, was a freeman of the city and owned one of its principal houses. His colleague George Maye was an alderman, who had already served one term of office as mayor. In 1563 and 1571 William Lovelace and Robert Alcock, two of the lawyers employed by the city, were chosen. Lovelace sat for a third time in 1572, but had to surrender the senior seat to the mayor, Anthony Webbe. Both these Members died before the 1581 session of Parliament and two separate writs for by-elections were issued, one in February 1578, the other dated 11 Jan. 1581, very near to the opening of the session. No returns have survived, but it is clear that a ‘foreigner’, the 1st Lord Hunsdon’s eldest son, Sir George Carey, was chosen, evidently at the later of the two by-elections. A comment on Canterbury elections, made in 1626 (not 31 Eliz. as on a later marginal note) provides the clues to his identity:

Canterbury did once, and but once, since we were a city ... and in a time of settled peace and security, seem to forget and carelessly pass by her duty and due right, when, no man opposing, we made choice for one of our Parliament citizens of a very honourable and good knight, in no respect unfit or to be suspected, if he had been eligible by law, of which then there was no question made. He was her Majesty’s near kinsman, a known and renowned protestant and patriot, and the heir apparent of a great baron, and faithful councilman of state. His freedom, before his election, was sent up unto him by the chamberlain of the city .... Since that time, nor before, we never heard of any but free residents ... aldermen, recorders, knights and esquires, long before their election made free and dwelling within the city, and for the most part burmote men and common councillors, if not aldermen.

This description, together with Carey’s admission as a freeman of Canterbury in 1580, and D’Ewes’s evidence that he was a Member of the House of Commons for the 1581 session, makes the identification conclusive.

Evidently several other outsiders had tried to win the seat in 1581. An entry in the burmote book, dated 7 Mar., suggests that there was a difference of opinion over this matter between the commonalty of Canterbury and the governing body:

Whereas, upon choice of burgesse