HERVEY (HARVIE), Sir George (c.1533-1605), of Marks Hall, Dagenham, Essex and The Tower, London

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



1604 - 10 Aug. 1605

Family and Education

b. c.1533, 4th (posth.) s. of Sir Nicholas Harvey† of Ickworth, Suff., being 3rd s. with his 2nd w. Bridget, da. and h. of Sir John Wiltshire of Stone Castle, Kent, wid. of Sir Richard Wingfield of Kimbolton Castle, Hunts.; half-bro. of Thomas†. m. by 1569, Frances (d. 4 Nov. 1627),1 da. and coh. of Sir Leonard Beckwith of Selby, Yorks., 6s. (5 d.v.p.) 5da. (4 d.v.p.).2 kntd. 11 May 1603.3 d. 10 Aug. 1605.4

Offices Held

J.p. Essex 1589-1603, Mdx. 1600-d.;5 commr. subsidy, Essex 1593, 1597;6 sheriff, Essex 1596-7;7 commr. gaol delivery, Havering-at-Bower, Essex 1601-2, Newgate, London 1603-4,8 piracy, London and home counties 1603, oyer and terminer, Mdx. 1604,9 sewers, Essex and Mdx. 1604, Mdx. 1605, preservation of ditches, home counties 1605.10

Dep. lt. of the Ordnance 1600-3;11 lt. of the Tower 1603-d.12


Hervey’s father, a courtier and ambassador under Henry VIII, was a younger son of a long-established Suffolk gentry family based at Ickworth. However he died before Hervey was born, and as a result little is known of this Member’s upbringing or early career. Hervey made an advantageous marriage, and by 1584 was sufficiently prosperous to lend a substantial sum to (Sir) Francis Bacon* on the security of Marks Hall; 12 years later he bought the freehold of this property from Bacon for £1,500.13 Having occasionally assisted his nephew Sir George Carew I* as deputy lieutenant of the Ordnance, he was formally appointed to the post after Carew was sent to Ireland in 1600, and he hoped to succeed to the surveyorship when Sir John Davies was implicated in Essex’s rising.14 This promotion never materialized, but in 1603, at the age of 70, Hervey became lieutenant of the Tower. Unfortunately for him, soon afterwards his guileless sailor son, Sir Gawen, was detected carrying communications between two high profile prisoners in the Tower, Sir Walter Ralegh† and the 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke alias Cobham†). Gawen explained to the Privy Council that it was to Ralegh that he owed his marriage to ‘a handsome young gentlewoman ... that would be worth to him £10,000 in portion’, and he begged that his father, for the sake of ‘his grey hairs and many years may not be disgraced by any sudden removing from his place’. Hervey’s dismissal was eagerly anticipated, but in the event he kept the lieutenancy, having learnt that it was ‘more safe to be curious than careless’.15

It was doubtless Carew who secured Hervey’s election at West Looe in 1604. Although he made no recorded contribution to the debate, Hervey may have taken a keen interest in the question of peace with Spain when the subject was raised in the Commons. Given his former connections with Ralegh, Cobham and others, it is likely that he was opposed to any peace. He certainly acquired at least two versions of an anti-Spanish speech delivered by Sir Edward Hoby on 12 May 1604, and owned copies of two anti-peace tracts by Sir Robert Cotton*, being personally acquainted with both Hoby and Cotton.16 Hervey was perhaps discouraged from voicing his own opinion on the matter by his involvement in the scandalous case of Sir Thomas Shirley I, an MP who had been imprisoned for debt notwithstanding his parliamentary privilege. The offending officer, Trench, deputy warden of the Fleet, was committed to Hervey’s custody by the Commons. However, as Hervey explained on 11 May, instead of keeping Trench close prisoner (a fate reserved for those suspected of treason), he invited him to dinner, and refused to incarcerate him in the dungeon of Little Ease, ‘reported to be very loathsome, unclean and not used a long time’.17 Having thereby incurred the disapproval of the House, Hervey was presumably loath to draw further attention to himself.

On the report of Sir Herbert Croft* on 14 May, Hervey, in a ‘low voice’, gave an account of events at the Tower, and ‘desired his name might not without cause be taxed or mentioned in this matter’.18 It was proposed to fine him £1,000, but no punishment was in fact voted. On 16 May Hervey desired to know the pleasure of the House, which was that Trench should continue in Little Ease; at the same time the Commons demanded the immediate release of a clergyman, Brian Bridger, who had been sent to the Tower for describing the bishops as imitators of Antichrist.19 Secretary of state Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil†) immediately dispatched a note to Hervey ‘to desire you as you come to the House tomorrow morning you will call on me at the Court, at which time I will deliver you the warrant signed by the king’s own hand for stay ... of that lewd puritan’.20 The warrant was read to the House by the Speaker, and entered in the Journal; shortly afterwards Trench was released on his submission to the House.21 Towards the end of the session Hervey was named to two legislative committees for bills to prevent mariners from absconding after taking imprest money (29 June) and to prevent overcrowding in new buildings in and around London (2 July).22

After the prorogation Hervey’s attention was distracted by his responsibilities as keeper of the Tower’s menagerie. Although lions had been resident in the Tower since the reign of Henry III, they had never been successfully bred until now. A cub was born in August, but it died after being separated from its mother. When the king evinced a personal interest in the matter, conditions in the enclosure were greatly improved, and on 29 July 1605 Hervey was able to report the safe delivery of twins, ‘the rarest and royalest thing which ever happened to any king of this land’.23 Both parents and offspring thrived, but the strain had been too much for the lieutenant. Two days later he was complaining of weakness and indisposition, and on 10 Aug. he died, intestate, aged 72. The ‘troubles of this office have hastened his end’, wrote Sir Gawen.24 Had he lived Hervey would doubtless have faced inquiries about the purchases of gunpowder from the Tower by the Gunpowder plotter Robert Catesby and his accomplices. He was buried at Romford, where a memorial displays his coat of arms with 16 quarterings.25 Sir Gawen died childless, and Marks Hall passed through Hervey’s only surviving daughter to a branch of the Mildmay family.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Vis. Suff. ed. Howard, ii. 192-3.
  • 2. J.P. Shawcross, Hist. Dagenham, 212.
  • 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 107.
  • 4. C142/294/102.
  • 5. Cal. Assize Recs. Essex Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 325; C231/1, f. 92; C66/1620.
  • 6. E115/19/83; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 292.
  • 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 45.
  • 8. C181/1, ff. 10, 36v, 68v, 102v.
  • 9. Ibid. ff. 66v, 77v.
  • 10. Ibid. ff. 89v, 113v, 115.
  • 11. APC, 1599-1600, p. 33; H.V. Jones, ‘Jnl. of Levinus Munck’, EHR, lxviii. 245.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 25; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 364.
  • 13. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, i. 243; Baconiana (ser. 3), xxi. 239, 243; VCH Essex, v. 276.
  • 14. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 113; HMC Hatfield, xi. 135.
  • 15. HMC Hatfield, xv. 303, 310, 322; xvi. 122.
  • 16. Som. RO, DD/MI Box 18 FLIV/79; DD/MI Box 18 OBII/90; A. Thrush, ‘The Parlty. Opposition to Peace with Spain in 1604’, PH, xxiii. 303-4.
  • 17. CJ, i. 206b, 209b.
  • 18. Ibid. 209a, 971b.
  • 19. Ibid. 211b, 212b.
  • 20. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 100.
  • 21. CJ, i. 213a.
  • 22. Ibid. 248b, 251a.
  • 23. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 206-8; xvii. 84, 340-1, 346.
  • 24. Ibid. xvii. 357, 364, 376.
  • 25. Vis. Suff. ii. 156.
  • 26. C142/294/102.