Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
25 in 16201
|20 Feb. 1604||SIR MICHAEL SONDES|
|SIR EDWARD STAFFORD|
|21 Oct. 1605||RICHARD WRIGHT vice Stafford, deceased|
|Sir John Brooke*|
|Sir Moyle Finch†|
|31 Mar. 16142||ROGER PALMER|
|18 Dec. 1620||JAMES PALMER|
|23 Jan. 1624||ROGER PALMER|
|9 May 1625||SIR EDWARD HALES , (bt.)|
|23 Jan. 16263||ROGER PALMER|
|5 Mar. 16284||(SIR) ROGER PALMER|
|SIR JOHN HALES|
Situated on the western side of the Isle of Sheppey, Queenborough was named after Philippa of Hainault, Edward III’s consort, and received its first charter in 1368, which entrusted its government to a mayor, two bailiffs, and an unspecified number of freemen.5 It owed this privilege to its castle, which however failed to generate any significant urban growth. Indeed, shortly before its enfranchisement in 1571 it consisted of only 23 inhabited houses.6 Consequently, the constable of the castle assumed the right to nominate one of the Members. The remaining seat was, before 1604, in the gift of Lord Cobham, whose principal residence lay a few miles away. However, the fall in 1603 of the 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke alias Cobham) meant that at the general election of 1604 the disposal of both seats fell to Sir Edward Hoby*, who had held the constableship since 1597. His choice for the senior place lighted upon Sir Michael Sondes, who lived at nearby Throwley and had represented the borough four times previously. Sondes was evidently well acquainted with Hoby, having christened one of his sons after him.7 The second seat was bestowed upon Sir Edward Stafford who, like Hoby’s father, had served as ambassador to France. Although not from Kent himself, Stafford was related by marriage to Sir John Scott*.
When Stafford died early in 1605, Hoby expressed embarrassment at the multiplicity of applications for his goodwill in the by-election; from Stafford’s brother John†, from the courtiers Sir John Brooke* and Sir William Uvedale*, and from ‘sundry Kentish gentlemen, among whom Sir Moyle Finch† was most importunate, no whit doubting to have it without me, for so he replied unto myself’.8 Brooke, a kinsman of Lord Cobham, must have seemed a strong candidate, as he stood to inherit an extensive Kentish estate if Cobham’s attainder could be reversed. Hoby promised him ‘all the kindness I could show, which has bred no small dislike towards me’ among the others. In the event, however, the successful candidate was a Londoner, Richard Wright, described as ‘Mr. Wright the merchant’,9 though he was by now more of an administrator and financier. Wright required a seat in Parliament to defend the Muscovy Company from attack by the free trade lobby, and may have known Hoby through the latter’s close friend Sir George Carew, or as a result of a feast at Merchant Taylors’ Hall, where Wright was the clerk, which Hoby had helped to organize the previous year. However, Wright also had connections in north Kent, through his daughter’s marriage to Reginald Barker of Chatham. He also had a business association with Sir Philip Herbert*, who at his marriage early in 1605 obtained from the King the lease of Shurland manor. Situated near Queenborough, Shurland had previously been let to Hoby, who resented its loss.
Before the next election Herbert, now earl of Montgomery, strengthened his position in north Kent, for in 1612 he became lord of the manor and hundred of Milton.10 By contrast, Hoby’s influence continued to deteriorate, for though he remained constable of the castle he lost the stewardship of three nearby royal manors in 1606.11 Realizing perhaps that he was now overshadowed by Montgomery, Hoby seems not to have made any recommendation to the borough in 1614. Sondes, whose finances had at any rate been severely weakened by excessive litigation, consequently proved unable to stand again. His place was taken by Roger Palmer, brother of one of Montgomery’s principal servants, James Palmer, who came from a leading north Kent family. The junior seat went to Robert Hatton, steward of the household to Archbishop Abbot, a political ally of Montgomery’s elder brother, the 3rd earl of Pembroke.
Montgomery’s grip on the borough tightened still further in 1617, when he succeeded Hoby as constable of the castle. At the next election Hatton transferred to Sandwich, and the townsmen determined to replace him with William Frowde, a servant of Montgomery’s who resided at Shurland. A gratified Montgomery proceeded to nominate James Palmer for the senior seat. However the borough was also approached by the new lord lieutenant, the duke of Lennox, who had been granted the principal Cobham estate. ‘In case you shall elect some that is not of your society’, he wrote, they should choose the Irish lawyer Richard Hadsor, who had defended Lennox’s patent for alnage on the New Draperies before the Commons in 1606.12 The borough council were clearly more sophisticated than their distant (and imaginary) predecessors caricatured on the stage by Middleton in The Mayor of Queenborough, and used Lennox’s saving clause to escape offending either of these two powerful noblemen. They politely excluded Hadsor by making Palmer and Frowde of their ‘society’, and elected them to the third Jacobean Parliament. The indenture, containing 25 signatures, described them as freemen of the borough, a formula to be followed in all the succeeding elections of the period.13
By 1624 Queenborough seems to have become unhappy that outsiders always monopolized its seats. When fresh elections were announced it therefore decided to offer only one place to Montgomery and to bestow the other on one of its freemen, John Basset, who seems to have been resident as his signature appears on the election indentures of 1620 and 1624. As Basset was one of Montgomery’s servants, the borough presumably expected that this arrangement would be acceptable. However, on 6 Jan. Montgomery informed them that he had already promised both seats to ‘his special friends’, Roger Palmer and (since Frowde was now dead) Palmer’s distant kinsman, John Poley, who lived in Suffolk. He added that Basset was ‘unwilling to undergo a place of that weight and trouble by reason of other employment he has in hand’.14 The borough quickly capitulated, and during the Parliament it sent a present of lobsters to its representatives, at a cost of £1.15 However, in 1625 the electorate rebelled against the influence of Montgomery, who had now succeeded Lennox as lord lieutenant. It is probable that they provided the initiative for the candidature of Sir Edward Hales, one of the wealthiest gentlemen in Kent who had had recently moved to Tunstall, near Sittingbourne. On 15 Apr. he and his son John were made freemen.16 Ten days later Montgomery wrote indignantly to the borough:
I have just cause to make the worst construction of your indiscreet and uncivil carriage towards me in slighting my letters which I directed unto you for Mr. Robert Poley, a gentleman every way able to discharge a greater trust …
He was convinced that Hales, ‘out of his respect to me’, would be ‘content to waive acceptance of that burgess-ship which you would enforce upon him’.17 However, two weeks later Hales was elected senior burgess and Roger Palmer was relegated to the junior place. This outcome many not have been universally popular in the borough, however, as neither the mayor nor the bailiffs signed the indenture.18
The borough’s defiance may have been responsible for persuading Montgomery to moderate his tone at the next election. Writing on 31 Dec. 1625, the earl asked merely for the right to dispose of one seat, which he desired should be conferred on Robert Poley, who is ‘very able and willing to do all good offices; neither can his sufficiency and abilities be unknown to you, as being a sworn burgess of the town and one that you have had experience of already’. The voters not only demurred, but also restored Roger Palmer to the senior seat as Hales had decided to stand for the county.19 Nevertheless, it seems that the electorate subsequently tried to lessen their dependence on their patron by seeking a grant of incorporation. The ostensible reason for the new charter was the resort to the borough of disorderly persons, both landsmen and sailors, whose misdemeanours remained unpunished for lack of resident magistrates in the neighbourhood. Montgomery may have been taken unawares, and the new charter had actually been approved by the king when the lord keeper (Sir Thomas Coventry*) intervened. A revised version passed the Great Seal on 15 Nov. 1626 with Montgomery’s consent.20 He was spared any further electoral difficulties by Poley’s death on the Ile of Ré in 1627, and at the next election Hale’s son was returned with Palmer, probably unopposed.
Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush
- 1. C219/37/134.
- 2. Cent. Kent. Stud. Qb/Rpr2.
- 3. Cent. Kent. Stud. JMS 4, f. 76.
- 4. Ibid. f. 84v.
- 5. M. Weinbaum, English Bor. Charters 1307-1660, p. 63; C. Eveleigh Woodruff, ‘Notes on the Municipal Recs. of Queenborough’, Arch. Cant. xxii. 172.
- 6. E. Hasted, Kent, vi. 233-4, 237.
- 7. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 567.
- 8. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 335.
- 9. SP14/18/26.
- 10. Hasted, vi. 175.
- 11. E315/310, f. 46.
- 12. Cent. Kent. Stud. Qb/C1/30-1; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 306; CJ, i. 299a.
- 13. C219/37/134.
- 14. Cent. Kent. Stud. Qb/C1/32. For the indentures, see C219/37/134; 219/38/124.
- 15. Woodruff, 177. The present of lobsters is mentioned on the chamberlain’s account for 1623[-4].
- 16. Cent. Kent. Stud. Qb/JMS 4, f. 70v.
- 17. Procs. 1625, pp. 695-6.
- 18. C219/39/120; Cent. Kent. Stud. Qb/RPr4.
- 19. Procs. 1626, iv. 249.
- 20. Lansd. 707, f. 2; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 471, 579.