COKE, Sir Robert (1587-1653), of Caludon Castle, nr. Coventry, Warws. and Huntingfield, Suff.; later of Epsom, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 27 Sept. 1587, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Edward Coke* and Bridget, da. and h. of John Paston† of Cookley, Suff.; bro. of Clement* and Henry*. m. 12 Aug. 1613, Theophila (d. 22 Apr. 1643), da. of Sir Thomas Berkeley* of Caludon Castle, 1s. d.v.p. kntd. 20 Dec. 1607; suc. fa. 1634. d. 19 July 1653.1
Coke was the second son of Sir Edward, but his elder brother had died by 1606, when he was described as his father’s heir.4 Seven years later he married the daughter of Sir Thomas Berkeley, and he lived at Caludon Castle, which belonged to the Berkeleys, in the early years of his married life. Caludon is close to Coventry, where Coke’s father was chosen recorder in 1614, and Coke himself was returned for that borough the same year. The only mention of him in the records of the Addled Parliament was his appointment on 14 Apr. to attend the conference with the Lords about the bill the settle the succession following the recent marriage of the Elector Palatine to the Princess Elizabeth, alongside whom his wife had been brought up.5
Coke did not sit in the next Parliament. In 1623 (Sir) Dudley Carleton* was informed: ‘There is a doubtful speech abroad that Sir Edward Coke should be cracked, his brains being over-burthened with a surcharge of his children’s debts that arise to £26,000’. It was probably about this time that Coke submitted to his father a schedule of debts amounting to £21,955. His only known extravagance was avid book collecting, and although his wife was described as ‘judicious in architecture’, he does not seem to have spent much on building.6
Coke was returned to the last Jacobean Parliament for Fowey, probably as a nominee of William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, although he had no known connection with the peer.7 He was named to 11 committees, but made only one recorded speech. On 7 May Sir Robert Phelips reported from the committee for the courts of justice concerning Coke’s sister-in-law, Lady Grace Darcy, then in dispute with lord keeper Williams about the advowson of Sutton in Surrey. (Sir) Robert Heath cautioned against attacking Williams, ‘least ... we strike into his master’s [the king’s] honour’, whereupon Coke criticized the solicitor general for his ‘doctrine’, saying that if observed it would stymie any criticism of a government official, and ‘then we should receive no complaints’. Later that day he was named to consider the bill for settling Lady Darcy’s nominee in the living and subsequently attended two meetings of that committee.8 His other appointments included committees to examine the presentments of recusant officeholders (27 Apr.), to consider the bill to prohibit the receipt of pensions from foreign powers (12 May), to examine the charges against the anti-Calvinist Samuel Harsnett, bishop of Norwich, (15 May), and to present grievances to the king (28 May). He was also present at a meeting of the committee for the bill concerning exactions of customs official on 14 Apr., to which he had been appointed in his capacity as a Member for a port town.9 There is no evidence that Coke sought re-election.
Coke managed to run up another £6,000 debts before his father died in 1634. Sir Edward Coke had settled considerable estates in Suffolk on his son, including a house at Huntingfield, where Coke was living in 1635. That same year his mother-in-law settled a house at Epsom in Surrey on his wife, and it was there that Coke subsequently resided.10
During the Civil War Coke refused to take the Protestation or to contribute to the parliamentary war chest. His royalism led to imprisonment in the Tower, where sometimes he ‘had not [the] wherewith[al] to buy bread’. Assessed at £2,000, his estate was sequestered, and though he paid his assessment in October 1644 his lands were seized again a week later. He was ordered to pay a further £2,000 in March 1645, but secured bail a year later, when he retired to his house in Surrey. His estate was not released from sequestration until February 1647. His last punishment was to be appointed sheriff under the Commonwealth; but he died during his term of office on 19 July 1653, and was buried at Epsom. The moderate Anglican Dr. John Hacket, Williams’ biographer, preached the funeral sermon. His epitaph describes Coke as a prudent and upright man, neither elated by prosperity nor crushed by adversity, pious towards God and generous to the poor. His land, valued at £4,000 p.a., was entailed on his brother John, whose son and namesake represented King’s Lynn in 1670. In his will, dated 7 Dec. 1652, Coke instructed his executor Edward Wenyeve† to set up a library in Epsom for the benefit of the local clergy if his personal estate sufficed. Presumably it proved impossible to fulfil the terms of this bequest, and in 1682 his books were presented to Sion College.11
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. ‘Sir Edward Coke’s "Vade Mecum"’ ed. J. B[ruce] Coll. Top. et Gen. vi. 113; 119; C.W. James, Chief Justice Coke, 82; J. Aubrey, Natural Hist. and Antiqs. of Co. of Surr. ed. R. Rawlinson (1718-19), ii. 215; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 591; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 144.
- 2. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 3. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 132.
- 4. James, 79.
- 5. Ibid. 85, 326; VCH Warws. viii. 121, 249; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 82.
- 6. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 484; James, 80, 83, 85.
- 7. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129.
- 8. Holles 1624, p. 91; CJ, i. 785b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 212; VCH Lancs. iv. 326-9.
- 9. CJ, i. 692a, 703a, 705a, 714a, 747b; Kyle, 219.
- 10. James, 80, 82; VCH Surr. iii. 276.
- 11. CCAM, 246; CCC, 857; James, 84, 86; Add. 15520, f. 134; PROB 11/230, f. 201; Aubrey, ii. 215.