CARLETON, Dudley (1574-1632), of Westminster and Imbercourt, Thames Ditton, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1626 - 22 May 1626

Family and Education

b. 10 Mar. 1574, 2nd s. of Anthony Carleton† (d.1576) of Brightwell Baldwin, Oxon. and his 2nd w. Joyce, da. of Sir John Goodwin of Upper Winchendon, Bucks., wid. of Robert Saunders† of Flore, Northants.1 educ. Westminster; Christ Church, Oxf. 1591, BA 1595, MA 1600; G. Inn 1605; MA, Camb. 1626; DCL, Oxf. 1636.2 m. (1) 2 Nov. 1607, Anne (d. 18 Apr. 1627), da. and coh. of George Garrard of Longfield, Kent, wid. of Sir Walter Tredway of Beckley Park, Oxon., 1s. d.v.p.;3 (2) 14 June 1630, Anne (d. 10 Jan. 1639), da. of Sir Henry Glemham† of Glemham Hall, Suff., wid. of Paul, 1st Visct. Bayning, 1da. (posth.).4 kntd. c.9 Aug. 1610;5 cr. Bar. Carleton of Imbercourt 22 May 1626, Visct. Dorchester 25 July 1628.6 d. 15 Feb. 1632.7 sig. Dudley Carleton.

Offices Held

Member, embassy, Paris 1595, 1597, Madrid 1605;8 sec. to Sir Edward Norris†, gov. of Ostend, 1597-1600, to Sir Thomas Parry*, amb. to France, 1602-3;9 comptroller, household of Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland 1603-5.10

Sec. of state [I] 1609-10.11

Amb. Venice 1610-15, Savoy 1615, Utd. Provinces 1616-25, 1627-8, (extraordinary) France 1626.12

PC 1625-d.;13 v.-chamberlain 1625-8;14 member, Council of War 1626-30;15 sec. of state 1628-d.;16 commr. Admlty. 1628-d.17

Commr. Forced Loan, Berks., Mdx. and Oxon. 1626-7, oyer and terminer, the Verge 1627-d., London 1629-d., Oxf. circ. 1631-d., sewers, London 1629, piracy, London 1630, Devon 1630, Cumb. 1631;18 j.p. Oxon. and Surr. 1632.19


Carleton’s grandfather made his fortune as receiver for the estates of Westminster Abbey, but his main estates, in the Isle of Ely, descended, via his eldest son, to Sir John Carleton*. Dudley’s own father, apparently an enthusiastic Protestant, settled in Oxfordshire and sat for Westbury in 1559. Carleton began his career as an Oxford don, but a facility with languages led him into diplomatic service at Paris in the households of ambassadors Henry Unton† and Anthony Mildmay†. In 1602 he returned to France as secretary to ambassador Sir Thomas Parry*; but the pair were soon at loggerheads, and he accepted an offer of employment at home from the 9th earl of Northumberland, who aspired to high office after James’s accession. Carleton accompanied the royal progress in the autumn of 1603, and one of his friends at Court, perhaps Henry Fanshawe† in the Exchequer or Thomas Smith†, clerk of the Privy Council, must have secured him a parliamentary seat at St. Mawes in 1604.20

While generally a frequent and eloquent speaker in the Commons, the only trace Carleton left on the first three months of the 1604 session was as a member of two of the large delegations sent to the king during the Buckinghamshire election dispute (28 Mar. and 12 April). He found his voice on 6 June, during the debate which followed the third reading of the free trade bill. Perhaps speaking to a brief from Northumberland, he lamented the impact of the plague in the West Country upon the Spanish trade, and a slump in the French trade, apparently arguing that the bill would have little impact upon such problems, and suggested that it be laid aside until the next session; it was, in fact, passed upon a voice vote.21 On 20 June, he opposed a motion to send to the king the petition known as the Form of Apology and Satisfaction, which was entered in the Journal but proceeded no further. Having attended a conference with the Lords about the controversy arising from Bishop Thornborough’s pamphlet attacking the Commons’ unco-operative attitude towards the Union (29 June), he mocked Sir Francis Hastings’s report of 2 July in terms which seem to have been intended as a personal slight to Hastings.22

The 1604 parliamentary session established Carleton’s usefulness as an orator, and he assiduously courted preferment over the following year, waiting on Northumberland during the summer, attending at Court the following Christmas, and making an overture to the secretary of state, Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil†). Frustrated in his ambitions, he went to Spain in the company of the 2nd Lord Norris (nephew of his former employer at Ostend), as part of the entourage of the 1st earl of Nottingham, who had been sent to ratify the peace with Spain.23 The Gunpowder Plot, news of which reached him in Paris, blighted his career because of his links with Northumberland’s cousin Thomas Percy, one of the conspirators: Carleton and John Hippisley* had secured Percy a lease of the premises within the Palace of Westminster in which the plotters had stored their gunpowder. He spent Christmas 1605 under arrest, but influential friends, notably John Corbet*, one of the clerks of the Privy Council, intervened to secure his release and the payment of his expenses, and he was permitted to retire to his brother’s house in the country.24 Discouraged from attending the Commons, in February 1606 he protested that ‘absence from Parliament, whilst the laws against recusants are passing, causes him to be reflected on’.25 He may have resumed his seat later in the session, as shortly before Easter he informed his friend John Chamberlain about proceedings in some detail:

The Parliament hath been more busied in committees and conferences these few days past than since the first sitting ... For church matters there were four points very curiously and learnedly handled by four apostles of the Lower House ... There was then a general fast and prayers among the brethren in this town for good success in their affairs.26

Northumberland, from the Tower, offered Carleton a small pension ‘to keep him from sinking’; but he judged it wiser to sever all links with his former patron, assuring Cecil (now earl of Salisbury) that his only desire was to serve the state.27

In the autumn of 1606, Carleton asked permission to resume his parliamentary seat once again, but he kept a low profile for the first few months. He attended the conference with the Lords of 25 Nov. at which the Union commissioners reported their proposals, but considered the opening manoeuvres to be of little consequence: ‘some idle fellows, having speeches in store, picked small quarrels to disburden themselves of them’.28 He spent Christmas at Eton courting the stepdaughter of Sir Henry Savile†, and was in no hurry to return to Westminster. However, on 7 Mar. 1607, he and Sir Henry Neville I* were ordered ‘to speak in point of the naturalization of the Scots in France’ at a conference with the Lords. Samuel Lewknor failed to see the relevance of this issue, the point of which - originally raised by attorney-general Sir Henry Hobart* - was that the Scots were to be required to surrender their privileges in France before acquiring new rights in England.29 By then, the Commons had rejected proposals that all Scots should be naturalized in England, arguing that the ante-nati - those born before James’s accession as king of England - were not legally eligible. The judges disagreed, but Sir Edwin Sandys* responded with an over-ambitious proposal for a ‘perfect Union’, clearly designed to wreck the entire Union project. During the ensuing impasse, Carleton was one of the few speakers prepared to urge the House to resume negotiations with the Lords (28 Mar.), on the pragmatic grounds that ‘of five points required to be imparted to the Scottish nation by this naturalization, the king of himself may do four, and then it is a good bargain for us to grant somewhat of our own, thereby to win the king to be pleased to tie even his own hands’.30

James dismissed the House for Easter with a speech which stressed the moderation of his ambitions, and when MPs returned at the end of April there were moves to restart negotiations with the Lords, which Carleton warmly endorsed: ‘I wish not the perfect Union, first because it is not likely to be effected; ... [secondly] no argument hath been used against the imperfect [Union], but it holdeth [also] against the perfect’. Having discussed the history of other unions in detail, he concluded ‘we should proceed in the course we are, the new project to be rejected, yet the goodwill of the gentlemen that did offer it, to be embraced and commended’.31 His arguments apparently swayed Salisbury’s cousin Sir Robert Wingfield*, but no agreement could be reached, and James put an end to these futile debates two days later, asking merely that the Commons pass a bill repealing anti-Scottish statutes. Scrutiny of these hostile laws quickly raised a host of difficulties, particularly over the treatment of English felons remanded to Scotland, where procedures differed significantly from those of the Common Law. James insisted that the Commons had overstated the differences in the treatment of witnesses, but by this stage the committee for the hostile laws bill had already made its decision on this issue. Carleton, seconded by Sir Roger Owen, had the decision referred back to the floor of the House, where the king’s plea was, however, rejected. The bill’s return from the Lords with amendments promised a lively debate, but when, on 26 June, it was moved to begin the committee stage presently, Carleton objected that ‘divers take exception to the bill who are now absent’, and the debate was deferred until the afternoon.32

Carleton played little part in other debates during the session. He served on the committee investigating the wrongs inflicted on English merchants by the Spanish authorities (28 Feb. 1607 and sub-committee on 26 Mar.), and later seconded Sandys’s motion that the Lords should not be pressed to ask the king to issue letters of marque to merchants whose goods had been seized, a request which, had it been granted, could have provoked a serious rift with Spain. At the end of the session, Carleton supported the addition of a proviso to the Southampton charter bill. The nature of this clause is unclear, but it was probably the one exempting merchants from the Cinque Ports from the trading restrictions imposed by the bill.33 His speeches may have achieved little, but they were clearly intended to be helpful to the Crown’s interests, and suggest a determination to improve his stock at Court. This was some time in coming: his plans to accompany Sir Walter Cope*, who was to be sent to observe the negotiations for a peace between the Dutch and Spanish, were quashed by Salisbury; and his marriage in November 1607 led him to turn down a diplomatic mission to Tuscany. By 1609 he was hoping to succeed Sir Ralph Winwood* as ambassador at The Hague, but instead he had to be satisfied with an appointment as Irish secretary of state, a posting he did not relish. His preparations for departure included making a recommendation for his brother-in-law Richard Harrison* to succeed him in his parliamentary seat, and it was apparently only at the last moment that he was retained in London, presumably in order to assist in the passage of the Great Contract, Salisbury’s ambitious plan for fiscal reform.34

Carleton attended the conference at which Salisbury laid his project before both Houses (15 Feb. 1610), but it took MPs several months to grasp both the scope and the seriousness of the plan, and during this time the only speech Carleton is known to have made concerned a stranger who had wandered into the Commons (31 March). Perhaps because of his failure to support the Crown’s cause, he was reported, after Easter, to be on the point of departure for Dublin, but on 24 Apr. he fired off a last salvo in Parliament. The occasion was a speech by Sir Dudley Digges*, who moved to obtain relief for the ministers deprived for refusing to subscribe to the Canons of 1604 by means of a petition to the king rather than by inclusion in the negotiations for the Great Contract. Everyone - even Hastings - welcomed this less confrontational means of relief, but Carleton left an ‘ill taste’ in the mouths of the godly by declaring that the House should not seek the restoration of the restored ministers.35 The outburst may have secured Carleton a temporary reprieve from his Irish posting, while he subsequently increased his usefulness by promoting the progress of the bill for the naturalization of ambassadors’ children on behalf of Sir Thomas Edmondes*, ambassador in France; this measure eventually failed in committee.36

The debate over the Great Contract heated up after Easter, when the Commons haggled over the price and sought to have the abolition of wardship and impositions included in the bargain. On 3 May, when the Lords sought a conference about wardship, MPs resolved that their delegation would merely report on the Lords’ offer, and not attempt to negotiate on their own initiative; Carleton endorsed this motion, but added that the Commons’ spokesman, chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Julius Caesar*, should be free ‘to express himself in other words if so he thought good’.37 On 11 May Speaker Phelips delivered a message from the king commanding that MPs cease questioning his prerogative right to levy impositions, whereupon Phelips was criticized for acting as the king’s mouthpiece. Three days later Carleton seconded recorder Sir Henry Montagu’s* attempts to defend him: ‘we never did, nor I think never shall refuse to receive any message from the king, without first asking the House whether it were their pleasures to hear it’. This argument almost carried the day, but Sir Robert Harley then tendered a rival form of words, and the debate ended inconclusively. The argument about impositions simmered for another ten days, but in the end a petition which had been tempered by Carleton (23 May) to make it more palatable to royal sensitivities persuaded James to concede a debate.38 The Commons was expected to requite this concession with a grant of supply, but many were reluctant to give until 14 June, when James made it clear that he was prepared to resolve a wide range of grievances in return for the Great Contract. Carleton was one of the large number of Crown officials who helped secure an immediate grant of one subsidy and one fifteenth.39

The impositions debate finally opened the following week, with a lengthy speech from the lawyer Nicholas Fuller setting out the precedents for parliamentary approval of customs duties. Carleton, presumably extemporizing, responded with a hypothetical case: ‘if a foreign prince shall impose upon our commodities, the readiest and best way is for us to impose upon the foreign prince’s commodities; and if we shall stay for a Parliament, we shall suffer much wrong in the mean time’. Fuller, citing a precedent from the reign of Henry VI, responded that the king should call a Parliament swiftly.40 Following this rebuff, Carleton returned to the fray with a more considered speech on 2 July. He insisted that the lawyers’ copious precedents proved only that the Crown was barred from imposing new taxes within the realm, whereas customs were levied on goods not yet landed; matters were far worse in France and Spain, he warned, where the Crown also erected internal customs barriers between provinces. He took issue with Henry Yelverton’s attack on the Crown’s appeal to reason of state, a doctrine which, he insisted, promoted ‘preservation of the state, and not the ruin of the state’. At the same time he played down the authority of the laws, which, he suggested, ‘do in a mannerly style tell the king how far he may stretch his prerogative, and the subject claim his liberty’. He urged the Commons to ‘waive this question touching the right’ - by which he meant it should avoid the constitutional crisis which would inevitably result if MPs struck down the Exchequer verdict in Bate’s Case - but instead ‘frame our petition to the king touching the case of this grievance’. Rather than pursue the question of the king’s rights, the Commons, he argued, should offer retrospective approval of the existing impositions in return for a royal concession not to use them as a precedent. This advice was never likely to sway the House, of course, but perhaps in recognition of his efforts, Carleton was included on the committee appointed to draft a petition to the king urging him to surrender his claim to collect impositions (3 July).41

By 18 July the Commons had agreed to bestow on the Crown an annual revenue of £200,000 in return for the Great Contract. This settlement was almost wrecked by Sir Herbert Crofts’ insistence that the deal should include his pet project, the exemption of the Marcher shires from the jurisdiction of the Council in the Marches. Carleton was one of those who persuaded the House not to break the entire deal over such a small point, which was laid aside upon a voice vote. Despite this achievement, Carleton recognized that the deal was not yet sealed. Writing to Winwood after the prorogation, he observed that ‘only the particulars of the Great Contract and the price (which is £200,000 of annual review) is concluded between the king and the two Houses; and the manner of levy, with the form of assurance, put off till next meeting’.42

By the time of the summer recess, Carleton was aware that he would not be resuming his seat at Westminster in the autumn: with the transfer of Edmondes to Paris and the recall of Sir Henry Wotton*, diplomatic posts in Brussels and Venice had fallen vacant. Carleton’s previous experience in the Low Countries inclined him to prefer the former, but difficulties over protocol meant that he was sent to Venice. Meanwhile, at Westminster, the brevity of the session and the dissolution which followed meant that he was not required to resign his seat.43 He assured Sir Walter Cope* that he trusted in Salisbury as his ‘noble protector and patron’, but the earl’s death in 1612 obliged him to seek favour elsewhere. He subsequently handled art investments for the king’s favourite, the earl of Somerset, but the latter’s disgrace in 1615 left him out of pocket.44

Uneasy relations between the Venetians and their neighbours, the papacy and the Spanish garrisons of the Milanese, provided Carleton with the opportunity to promote the Protestant cause south of the Alps. Appointed ambassador to Savoy in 1615, he subsequently achieved a diplomatic success with the Treaty of Asti, which brought about the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Savoyard territory.45 Transferred to The Hague in the following year, Carleton was widely spoken of as a possible secretary of state following Winwood’s death in 1617, and again on the disgrace of Sir Thomas Lake I* in 1618. Edmondes interceded for him on the latter occasion, but reported that ‘the person who absolutely possesses the king’s favour’ - the marquess of Buckingham - ‘disposed it otherwise’, to George Calvert*. Carleton briefly aspired to succeed Sir Henry Savile as provost of Eton, but his hopes were crushed by the intrusion of a Scottish candidate. He protested that he was ‘the only ambassador who has served without reward’, but in fact he did well enough, taking over a Crown lease at Imbercourt, in Surrey, and acquiring a house in Westminster, which he hoped to sublet to a nobleman at £60 rent; he was also granted the right to nominate an Irish baronet.46

Carleton had difficulties in accommodating himself to the king’s pacific policy at the start of the Thirty Years’ War, particularly after the king and queen of Bohemia and their young family arrived in The Hague in April 1621. While James offered his daughter words of comfort, he privately ordered Carleton to ensure that the couple did not leave his sight: their arrival in England would have caused uproar in the 1621 Parliament, and would probably have wrecked diplomatic negotiations with the Habsburgs.47 Frederick eventually escaped Carleton’s clutches in 1622, mounting a last-ditch attempt to save the three strongholds held by his forces in the Palatinate, but the last of these surrendered (on James’s orders) in March 1623. At this point, the belated arrival of news of the Amboyna Massacre in the East Indies complicated Anglo-Dutch relations; Carleton failed to obtain any ‘effectual reparation’ for the sufferers or their families, and probably regarded the incident as an unwanted obstacle to friendly relations between two natural allies.48

The diplomatic context changed completely in October 1623 with the return from Spain of Buckingham and Prince Charles, both of whom were angry at their treatment in Madrid and determined to overturn the Spanish Match. To this end, they stoked up anti-Spanish feeling in the 1624 Parliament, and no sooner had James agreed to break off the treaties with Spain than they opened negotiations for a Franco-Dutch alliance.49 One consequence of this diplomatic reversal was that Calvert resigned as secretary of state in January 1625. Carleton, long a standard-bearer of the anti-Spanish cause, hoped to succeed him by offering Buckingham, now a duke, £400 worth of Dutch art, a present so magnificent that the favourite hesitated to accept it. When the duke told Carleton’s nephew - Dudley the younger - that he would be unable to requite this gift, he was reminded ‘that he had other means of helping his friends’. Despite this elaborate overture, Buckingham chose to recommend John Coke* for the secretaryship which, in the event, went to Wotton’s nephew, Sir Albertus Morton*. However, on Carleton’s behalf, the duke opened negotiations with Sir Edward Barrett* for the vice-chamberlainship of the Household.50

So confident was Carleton of his imminent preferment that, via Sir Francis Nethersole*, he asked Sir Edward Conway I* to procure him a seat in the 1625 Parliament; but Conway offered small hope, and Carleton was not elected. His promotion was also stalled, as Buckingham’s client Sir George Goring* explained, ‘by his dependence having been fixed on persons averse to the duke and his undertakings’. Mounting difficulties with England’s allies in the war with Spain - which finally began in October 1625 - may also have affected his prospects, though this was something he was qualified to remedy, as he was able to advise Buckingham and the earl of Holland (Henry Rich*) when they came to The Hague for negotiations with the Dutch and the Danes. On his return to England in December 1625, Carleton was sworn a privy councillor and vice-chamberlain, but was almost immediately sent back across the Channel with the earl of Holland for delicate negotiations designed to repair the French alliance, then under threat from worsening relations between the French Crown and the Huguenots. In his absence, Hippisley, who managed Buckingham’s interest as lord warden of the Cinque Ports, secured Carleton’s return to the Commons for Hastings.51

The negotiations in Paris prevented Carleton from taking his seat in the Commons until after Easter 1626; his first mention in the Journal is on 15 Apr., when he was named to committees for the apparel bill and to consider the pressing of ships and mariners for the war effort.52 Despite an offer of three subsidies and three fifteenths, Charles had come close to dissolving the Parliament at the end of March, but Carleton brought welcome news of a rapprochement with the French, which he relayed to the Commons on 18 Apr.: English ships lent to the French, which had been used against the Huguenots, were on their way home; Carleton had helped to broker a truce between the French Crown and the Huguenots; a French embargo on English merchants’ goods was to be lifted; and the French remained willing to launch an offensive against the Habsburgs in Germany, provided they received English support. Lest anyone mistake his meaning, he concluded ‘the point is what answer we will return for maintaining the war on the king’s part’. The chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Richard Weston, then proposed a vote of additional supply, which the House considered, with reluctance, a week later. The motion became sidetracked into a discussion of declining subsidy yields; in frustration, Carleton urged his fellow Members to ‘think of necessities in time and proportion of aid’. The matter remained unresolved the following morning, when Carleton warned that Danish forces, then in retreat, needed urgent assistance. With Weston’s support, his proposal for a grant of a fourth subsidy was adopted.53

As a privy councillor, Carleton was expected to play a prominent role in the Commons’ proceedings, but on 19 Apr., when selected to ask the king for a ban on publications by the Arminian cleric Richard Montagu, who had criticized the Commons in a recent work, he asked to be excused on the grounds that Montagu had attacked his own kinsman, Bishop Carleton of Chichester. His request was denied, but the answer he obtained - that Charles proposed to refer the matter to Convocation - was hardly likely to please MPs.54 He successfully proposed legislation to prevent the spread of the plague (29 Apr.) and at his recommendation, a committee was appointed to draft a justification of the Commons’ call for a national fast day (29 April). While he had been annoyed at attempts to derail the subsidy debate by discussing the improvement of royal finances, on 5 May he delivered a report about the augmentation of Crown revenues, the findings of which Charles subsequently approved. This may have been an olive branch designed to secure a first reading of the subsidy bill, which was tabled immediately after Carleton’s report, receiving strong support from a phalanx of privy councillors. Carleton stressed the costs of procrastination: ‘our soldiers at home ready to come up to cry for money, our mariners ready to go for want of pay, our allies ready to despair of us, our ships shortly not to be sent out’.55

The Commons rejected the motion to read the subsidy bill pending Buckingham’s impeachment. Carleton, having solicited the duke’s favour, was naturally expected to defend his patron, and indeed he fought tenaciously in a House which did not want to hear his arguments. The first of the charges he addressed was the provocative allegation that Buckingham’s interference had hastened the death of King James (28 April). The next concerned the duke’s inept handling of Anglo-French relations - a problem considerably alleviated by Carleton’s negotiating skills. On 1 May Sir John Eliot recalled the duke’s seizure of a French ship, the St. Peter of Le Havre, an act which was held to have provoked a retaliatory embargo on English shipping in France. Carleton dismissed this claim as ‘the pretended cause, but not the just cause’: the Anglo-French alliance treaty of 1610 forbade the imposition of trade embargoes, and the English seizure of the St. Peter was justifiable because it was suspected that it was carrying Spanish contraband. Moreover, the French had undertaken to lift their embargo, and any delay arose either from foot-dragging by the parlement at Rouen, which had imposed the ban, or by the machinations of the French ambassador, Blainville, who hated Buckingham. In the last resort, Carleton insisted, Charles could always threaten to impose an embargo of his own, if only the Commons would give him the money to make good his threat: ‘I wish we might give that remedy to ourselves that we seek after, that the king might be valued in effect, and that he might have credit to aid his friends’. This cogent speech notwithstanding, the duke’s opponents carried the day, albeit by a relatively small margin.56

Despite this defeat, Carleton continued to oppose the charge the following morning, when he observed that Buckingham had arrested the St. Peter at Charles’s command, and moved to petition the king to take retaliatory action against the French. He was ignored both then and again on 4 May, when he attempted to rebut the charge that the duke was a ‘countenancer of popery’ by asserting that Buckingham’s anti-Catholic and anti-Arminian credentials were widely known on the Continent. Two days later, at the final review of the impeachment charges before submission to the Lords, Carleton insisted that Sir Dudley Digges’s report ‘goes far beyond the intention of the House’. Eliot thereupon attacked him for insulting the work of the drafting committee, but he stood his ground, and managed to secure minor alterations to the wording of the charge about the St. Peter. However, on 9 May, his advice that the Lords should not be asked to detain Buckingham during his trial - ‘let us lay them aside and fall to our business’ - was spurned by a House determined to inflict the maximum humiliation upon the duke.57

Buckingham’s impeachment stalled even before the charges had been completed, as Charles, outraged at the claim of misconduct over King James’s death, had Digges and Eliot arrested. This caused uproar in the Commons, and on 12 May Speaker Sir Heneage Finch was silenced merely for proposing to read the agenda for the day. Carleton, attempting the nearly impossible task of justifying the arrest before a hostile House, began by commending John Pym’s advice that the House proceed ‘wisely and gravely, not tumultuously’. Angry voices interrupted him, but, given leave to continue, he urged MPs to consider that Charles had no option but to challenge any claim which suggested that James’s deathbed - which he had attended - had been the scene of foul play: ‘if he were not sensible of it, he were not worthy to wear the crown’. If Digges and Eliot had exceeded their brief, he insisted, they should be left to face the royal wrath, but if not, he conceded that they should be exonerated. Most ominously, he admitted ‘I have heard in this House a word of new counsels’, and while he protested that ‘His Majesty’s love to us is such that so long as we carry ourselves as fitting dutiful subjects toward so good a prince, he will not take new counsels’, he warned that another nation had recently seen its estates discontinued for taking ‘tumultuary licence’ in debate. He refused to name the country he had in mind, but then made it obvious whom he was referring to by protesting that his earlier speeches had been used to disgrace him with the French ambassador. This speech was given a rough ride by the House: Sir Benjamin Rudyard wondered whether his friend had gone too far; Edward Kirton called upon the king to prefer specific charges; Sir Nathaniel Rich secured a cessation of all other business until the two men were released; and Sir William Strode called Carleton to order for suggesting that Charles was not fit to wear the Crown if he had countenanced his father’s murder. It quickly emerged that this was a direct quotation of the king himself.58

Digges and Eliot were exonerated by a vote, and on the following morning Carleton tried to arrange for Charles to derive some small benefit from the concession he was now expected to make. Before the House could discuss a petition about the release of their two Members, Rudyard, probably by pre-arrangement with Carleton, wondered aloud who had informed the king about the wording of the impeachment charges by Eliot and Digges. Seizing the moment, Carleton reported a conversation with Charles the previous evening, in which the king claimed to have been informed about Digges’s words by ‘four or five’, and insisted that ‘I was far from imagining it [the poisoning charge] was the sense of the House’. Kirton spoiled the moment by accusing Carleton of being the royal informant himself, at which Carleton snapped back, ‘thank you for nothing’; he was called to order, but Sir Robert Mansell intervened to smooth matters over, and after Carleton proposed a form of words to be taken by MPs to exonerate Digges, the question of his clash with Kirton was laid aside.59 Charles hoped to settle the matter by releasing Digges alone, but on 17 May the Commons resolved to hold out for the return of Eliot. Carleton, having admitted that the confrontation of 12 May had left him reluctant to speak, still insisted that Eliot had exceeded his instructions. However, he agreed to a petition for Eliot’s release on the pragmatic grounds that ‘the dangers from abroad still increase, and a few days misspent will make them remediless’. He urged that the question of freedom of speech be left aside, but no-one else was prepared to waive this principle. Only Sir Humphrey May, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, took up Carleton’s point that Eliot was being questioned for other inflammatory speeches, which meant that a vote exonerating Eliot from speaking out of turn at the impeachment would not suffice to secure his release.60 Charles decided otherwise overnight, but when Carleton informed the House that Eliot’s release had been signed, the Commons declined to resume normal business, and dwelt upon Carleton’s role as a royal informer. Eliot resumed his seat on 20 May, when Carleton was required to present the charges against him. Eliot dismissed these in turn, and was subsequently cleared by a voice vote. With the Commons’ role in the impeachment now at an end, and his credit exhausted in the House, Carleton was, two days later, ‘raised out of the firing-line into the House of Lords’, to strengthen the duke’s party in the Lords in case the impeachment came to a vote.61

The Commons’ attacks on Carleton did not cease with his elevation. One of the additional charges levelled against Buckingham in the Commons on 3 June was the ennoblement of Carleton despite the latter’s modest means: his barony of Imbercourt was taken from a Crown manor in Surrey, of which he was sub-tenant. The point was raised by Kirton, and seconded by William Coryton, who also recalled the speech of 12 May in which Carleton had raised the spectre of ‘new counsels’. Digges insisted that Carleton ‘meant not ill in that he spoke’, but others complained that Carleton would have an opportunity to sit in judgment on Buckingham a second time. The debate ended inconclusively, and the charge was never transmitted to the Lords.62

Carleton played a prominent part in the royal counsels in the last six years of his life. Despite his continued diplomatic commitments, he was active in collecting the Forced Loan in Berkshire and Oxfordshire, but in the Privy Council he continued to argue the case for regular Parliaments. It was only after Buckingham’s assassination, which he witnessed, that he succeeded Conway as secretary of state. However, his influence at Court was undercut by the crypto-Catholic Weston, now lord treasurer Portland, and by his own declining health. He died on 15 Feb. 1632, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, near to his first wife. He was succeeded by a posthumous daughter, who died in infancy; his second wife received a cash payment of £6,000, and his lands, worth only £700 p.a., were divided between his nephews, including Dudley junior, who had succeeded him as resident in Holland. John Pory* remembered him as ‘an able statesman, a sincere Protestant, and ... a true Englishman’.63

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Simon Healy


  • 1. Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 122-4.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. VCH Bucks. iii. 309; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p.514; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 117.
  • 4. CP.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 150.
  • 6. CP.
  • 7. C142/483/89.
  • 8. SP78/37, f. 105, 78/39, f. 243; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 235.
  • 9. Handlist of Brit. Diplomatic Representatives comp. G.M. Bell, 102; SP12/266/87, 12/286/5.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 222.
  • 11. CSP Ire. 1608-10, pp. 348, 373.
  • 12. Handlist of Brit. Diplomatic Representatives, 108, 196, 198, 229, 290.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 179.
  • 14. Ibid. 192-3.
  • 15. APC, 1625-6, p. 266.
  • 16. APC, 1628-9, p. 262.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 333; 1631-3. p. 277.
  • 18. T. Rymer, Foedera viii. pt. 2, pp. 141-5; C181/3, ff. 217, 255v; 181/4, ff. 15, 36v, 52, 71, 81.
  • 19. SP16/212.
  • 20. Wood, Ath. Ox. ii. 250; SP12/285/47; SP14/1/20.
  • 21. CJ, i. 157a, 169b, 987a.
  • 22. Ibid. 248b, 995b, 1000b; W. Notestein, Commons 1604-10, pp. 117, 140.
  • 23. Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 61-8; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 235.
  • 24. Add. 11402, f. 109v; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 243, 265, 272, 287; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 36, 53.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 287.
  • 26. Carleton to Chamberlain, 75-6.
  • 27. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 329; Carleton to Chamberlain, 85; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 215-17; SP14/28/58.
  • 28. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 335; CJ, i. 324b; Carleton to Chamberlain 93-5.
  • 29. W. Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 514; ii. 101; Chamberlain Letters, i. 241-3; CJ, i. 1028b; B. Galloway, Union of Eng. and Scotland, 105-8, 112-13.
  • 30. Bowyer Diary, 244-5, a speech somewhat garbled in CJ, i. 1033b.
  • 31. Bowyer Diary, 275-80; CJ, i. 1038b; Galloway, 117-19.
  • 32. Bowyer Diary, 284, 310-14, 350-1; Galloway, 122-6; S.J. Watts and S.J. Watts, From Border to Middle Shire, 149-51.
  • 33. CJ, i. 344b, 355a, 1050b, 1056b; SR, iv. 1149.
  • 34. Carleton to Chamberlain, 96-7; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 378-80, 468, 541, 574.
  • 35. CJ, i. 417b, 421a; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 7v; HMC Downshire, ii. 286.
  • 36. Birch, i. 113, 116-17, 124, 129.
  • 37. CJ, i. 424b; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 77.
  • 38. Procs. 1610, ii. 88-92; CJ, i. 431a.
  • 39. CJ, i. 439b; Procs. 1610, ii. 144-5.
  • 40. Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 61; CJ, i. 443a.
  • 41. Parl. Debates, 1610, pp. 109-12; CJ, i. 445b.
  • 42. CJ, i. 451-2; Procs. 1610, ii. 286-7; Winwood Memorials, iii. 201.
  • 43. Chamberlain Letters, i. 301; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 541.
  • 44. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 74; 1619-23, p. 548.
  • 45. SP92/3, ff. 61, 113, 137, 163; SP99/12, f. 130; 99/14, f. 33; 99/16, f. 156; 99/17, f. 135; 99/18, f. 107; 99/20, ff. 18, 38.
  • 46. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 232, 492, 495; 1619-23, p. 319.
  • 47. SP84/96, ff. 96, 160; 84/103, f. 281; B. Pursell, The Winter King, 165-94.
  • 48. BNF, fonds français 1597, f. 434; SP84/111, f. 61, 84/113, ff. 19, 33, 84/115, f. 151, 84/116, ff. 15, 56, 95, 116.
  • 49. T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 57-121.
  • 50. SP14/164/72; CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 232, 344, 450, 457, 553; 1625-6, p. 34; VCH Surr. iii. 465; APC, 1623-5, pp. 332-3.
  • 51. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp.13, 100, 179, 192, 217; T. Cogswell, ‘Prelude to Ré: the Anglo-French struggle over La Rochelle, 1624-7’, Hist. lxxi. 1-18.
  • 52. Procs. 1626, ii. 446.
  • 53. C. Russell, PEP, 290-2, 300-2; Procs. 1626, iii. 21-2, 62, 75-7.
  • 54. Procs. 1626, iii. 24-5, 30.
  • 55. Ibid. iii. 97-8, 100, 167-8, 171-3.
  • 56. Ibid. 93, 109, 112-13, 116.
  • 57. Ibid. 122-3, 127-8, 157, 160, 183, 185, 211-12.
  • 58. Ibid. 236-52; Russell, 306-7.
  • 59. Procs. 1626, iii. 254-60.
  • 60. Ibid. 274-80.
  • 61. Ibid. 283-5, 288-96; Russell, 307.
  • 62. Procs. 1626, iii. 361-4; VCH Surr. ii. 465.
  • 63. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 58, 112, 125, 289, 327; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 214; PROB 11/161, f. 356; Oxford DNB.