AUDLEY, alias TUCHET, Sir Mervyn (c.1588-1631), of Stalbridge, Dorset; later of Fonthill Gifford, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1588,1 1st s. of George Tuchet, 11th Lord Audley and 1st earl of Castlehaven [I], and his 1st w. Lucy, da. and h. of Sir James Marvyn† of Fonthill Gifford.2 educ. M. Temple 1611.3 m. (1) by 1608 (with c. £2,250), Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Benedict Barnham†, Draper, of St. Clement’s Lane, London, 3s. 3da.; (2) 22 July 1624, Anne (bur. 11 Oct. 1647), da. and coh. of Ferdinando Stanley, 5th earl of Derby, wid. of Grey Brydges† (d. 10 Aug. 1621), 5th Bar. Chandos of Sudeley, s.p.4 kntd. 30 Mar. 1608;5 suc. fa. as 12th Lord Audley and 2nd earl of Castlehaven 20 Feb. 1617. exec. 14 May 1631.6
Member, Irish Co. 1611.7
The Tuchets, minor gentry from Derbyshire, inherited the Audley barony in 1405, but until the seventeenth century their estates were relatively meagre, bringing them an income of less than £900 a year. Stalbridge was acquired following the attainder of Protector Somerset in 1552, but it was this Member’s father, a professional soldier, who turned around the family’s financial fortunes. Having already married the heiress to one of Wiltshire’s leading gentlemen, he was rewarded for service in Ireland with over 200,000 acres of newly confiscated land there.11 Audley, who in his youth adopted his future peerage title as a surname in preference to Tuchet, married the daughter of a City magnate, and in 1610 received from his father a portion of his Irish estates. The next year he entered the Middle Temple. He was admitted immediately after Sir John Strangways*, with whom he was evidently on close terms, for in 1612 his eldest son was baptized at Abbotsbury, Strangways’ Dorset home.12
It may have been Sir Francis Bacon* who encouraged Audley to seek election to Parliament in 1614, as Bacon was the brother-in-law of Audley’s first wife. Despite owning comparatively little land in Dorset, Audley’s status as heir to a peerage gave him the prestige he needed to stand as a knight of the shire, and he was returned along with his friend Strangways.13 During this Parliament he made three speeches and received four appointments. On 13 Apr., during the debate on the bill against extravagant clothing, he moved ‘that the lords may be also included, for that his ancestors by that as a principal means have, with the rest of the nobility, fallen’. He was subsequently named to consider another bill on apparel, and one on the wasteful use of gold and silver (5 May). Money was clearly a major concern for Audley; on 17 May he ‘preferred a bill against the intolerable fees of lawyers’, but this was abandoned after its first reading two days later.14 Appointed to attend the conference with the Lords on the marriage settlement between the Elector Palatine and Princess Elizabeth, he was also nominated to help consider the legality of baronetcies (14 Apr. and 23 May). Audley expressed concern on 9 May that petitioners against the Court candidates in the Stockbridge election dispute were being intimidated. His final appointment was to scrutinize a bill on the Gloucestershire property of Sir John Danvers* (31 May).15
Audley’s father died in 1617, having only recently acquired an Irish peerage, the earldom of Castlehaven. Within two years the new earl built himself a house at Stalbridge, but he was soon in dispute with his tenants there, and in 1620 he purchased the much grander seat of Fonthill Gifford from one of his Marvyn cousins.16 Early in Charles I’s reign he was dismissed from his local offices as a suspected Catholic, and had his arms confiscated.17 However, he achieved lasting notoriety through his trial in 1631 on charges of sodomy and rape. Found guilty, he was executed, still protesting his innocence, on 14 May. Fonthill was subsequently acquired by Sir Francis Cottington*, and Stalbridge by the 1st earl of Cork. No other member of the family sat in the Commons.18