JERMYN (GERMAINE), Sir Thomas (1573-1645), of Rushbrooke, nr. Bury St. Edmunds, Suff. and Whitehall

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

Family and Education

bap. 12 Feb. 1573,1 1st s. of Sir Robert Jermyn† of Rushbrooke and Judith, da. of Sir George Blagge† of Dartford, Kent.2 educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1585; M. Temple 1590.3 m. (1) 26 Nov. 1599,4 Catherine, da. of Sir William Killigrew I* of Hanworth, Mdx., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da. d.v.p.;5 (2) 17 Mar. 1642,6 Mary (d. 19 Sept. 1679),7 da. of Edmund Barber of Bury St. Edmunds, wid. of Thomas Newton of Norwich, Norf., 1s. 1da.8 kntd. ?27 Sept. 1591;9 suc. fa. 1614.10 bur. 7 Jan. 1645.11

Offices Held

Vol. Normandy 1591-2,12 Islands voyage 1597;13 col. of ft. [I] 1599;14 gov. of Jersey 1631-d.15

Commr. musters, Suff. 1598,16 dep. lt. 1615-40,17 capt. militia ft. 1615, col. 1625-?42;18 j.p. Suff. 1617-at least 1626, Norf. 1625-6;19 commr. subsidy, Suff. 1624-5,20 Forced Loan, Norf. and Suff. 1627;21 kpr. of the game, Thetford and Swaffham, Norf. 1626;22 commr. sewers, Westminster 1634, Herts. Mdx. and Bucks. 1638-9, Lincs. 1638-41,23 inquiry, Fleet prison 1635,24 oyer and terminer, the Verge 1639, Surr. 1640;25 ld. lt. (jt.) Suff. 1640-?42;26 commr. array, Suff. 1642.27

Gent. of the privy chamber 1603;28 v.-chamberlain to the Household 1630-9;29 PC 1630-d.;30 commr. poor relief 1631,31 reprieve of felons 1633;32 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1633-41;33 commr. wardrobe inquiry 1635,34 defective titles 1635;35 comptroller of the Household 1639-41.36


Jermyn’s ancestors held land in Rushbrooke by 1286, and acquired the manor in the second half of the fifteenth century.37 Jermyn himself was knighted by the 2nd earl of Essex at the siege of Rouen, and served under him in his later campaigns. Having married into a leading family at the Elizabethan Court, Jermyn was granted, on James’s accession, a place in the privy chamber and the governorship of Jersey in reversion to Sir John Peyton†.38

Jermyn was returned for Andover in 1604 on the interest of the 3rd earl of Southampton, with whom he had served in the Irish wars.39 In the opening session he was named to conferences on wardship (26 Mar. 1604) and the Union with Scotland (20 April).40 In 1606 he was among those ordered to consider bills for the better maintenance of preachers in Norwich (13 Feb. 1606) and for the sale of Edward Downes’ Norfolk estate (21 February).41 He was known for his addiction to tobacco, and made a modest contribution to the Virginia Company when it was established in 1607.42 His smoking habit may have impeded his brief career at Court, as did his reputation for being ugly and awkward; he danced at the wedding of Sir Philip Herbert* in 1608 as though ‘with lead in his heels, and sometimes forgot what he was doing’.43 However, he was highly regarded for his skill at falconry, his favourite recreation.44 He made no recorded contribution to the fourth session, but evidently supported the Great Contract to reform the king’s finances, as he urged the Commons in the final session not to let the Contract fail as a result of other grievances. As negotiations were grinding to a standstill on 2 Nov. 1610 he called for ‘a good answer to go forward’ and, reminding the Commons of its ‘power of addition and restraint’, suggested a final conference with the Lords.45

Jermyn was elected for Suffolk in 1614, perhaps as a compliment to his dying father. The funeral was held on Easter Saturday, whereby Jermyn avoided missing any days of Parliament business.46 His three committee appointments were to consider a bill to naturalize a Scottish courtier, Sir Francis Stewart (23 May), to prepare a petition about baronets (23 May), and to manage a conference on the Sabbath (1 June).47 Having come into his estates, in the following year he bought a former Lincolnshire nunnery from the Crown for £25 6s.11d.48 He accompanied Lord Hay’s mission to France in 1616, but while he was there he earned the epithet ‘buffoon’ by falling downstairs and dislocating both his knees.49

Bury St. Edmunds, three-and-a-half miles from Rushbrooke, obtained a charter in 1614 that enfranchised the borough, giving Jermyn an opportunity to exercise electoral patronage. At the next general election he claimed seats for himself and Hay’s secretary, John Woodford, and he sat for the borough himself for the rest of his parliamentary career. In the 1621 Parliament his first appointment was to help manage the conference of 16 Feb. on the petition against recusancy.50 His chief concern in the opening weeks of the session was to protect his patron Hay (now Viscount Doncaster) from scandal surrounding the concealed lands patent. On 28 Feb. Jermyn moved that the patent might be scrutinized by the committee for grievances, and when Doncaster’s name came up in debate on 13 Mar. he declared that his share in the profits had been used only to pay for supplies to the Wardrobe.51 On 15 Mar. James Lasher II complained that a London Grocer named Lovell had been enabled to pursue a career of fraud by protections obtained from Sir Richard Grosvenor and Jermyn, who could only explain rather lamely that he had mistaken a tradesman for a gentleman.52 In the tobacco debate of 18 Apr. he told the House that ‘he hath long used it and finds no hurt ... he loveth tobacco as ill as any, if ill tobacco’, and argued in favour of a ban on all imports from foreign plantations.53 On the alehouse patent he favoured extending the inquiry to the referees: ‘examine the fault without respect of persons’, he advised on 24 April.54 Three days later he made a speech against lawyers’ abuses, calling for ‘some law that lawyers in their pleading and arguing at the bar may not be permitted to fall from the matter and to scandalize the parties of either side’. He also complained of ‘judges suffering sons and favourites to go circuits and plead before them’ and ‘lawyers taking fees of both sides in one term’. His motion was referred to the committee engaged in drafting a bill against bribery.55 On the case of Edward Floyd, a Catholic lawyer who had slandered the king’s daughter, Jermyn said on 2 May that he thought it ‘better to whip him tomorrow for the honour of the House than to hang him a month hence’, and regretted the Commons’ inability to impose such a punishment.56

On 12 May Jermyn praised the arms bill, to which he suggested only one alteration, that deputy lieutenants should decide on calibre, not the muster-master.57 He also desired provision ‘for a careful examination of the ordnance carried out in ships at their return; for else many will be by that means carried away’, and was appointed to the committee for the bill (14 May).58 On 17 May he successfully moved to recommit the bill to prohibit imports of corn, which had run into stiff opposition from merchants.59 He was named to help manage a conference on the Sabbath bill one week later (24 May).60 On the petition against the governor of Virginia he declared on 25 May that the colony’s laws were ten times more severe than those of England.61 When the adjournment was announced on 2 June he argued against trying to obtain a fortnight longer, which he thought would only ‘raise a great hope and frustrate the expectation of the commonwealth’.62

In the second sitting he urged the House on 28 Nov. to vote supply to ‘keep Count Mansfeld’s forces and ours in the Palatinate together, and not to consider the maintenance of a long war’. Clearly believing that this ‘noble action’ was worth whatever it might cost, he thought they should ‘give in such a manner as may secure the end for which it is given’.63 After the dissolution, unlike many advocates of entering the war in Europe on religious grounds, he was not averse to the proposed Spanish Match, and accompanied Charles and Buckingham to Spain in 1623.64

At the next general election Jermyn was re-elected, despite a challenge from Sir Francis Cottington*, who was recommended to Bury by Prince Charles’s Council.65 His committee appointments included the committee for privileges (23 Feb. 1624).66 He spoke in favour of sending a message to the Lords for the discharge of popish servants as security risks, and was appointed to help draft it on 24 February.67 Nevertheless, he succeeded in convincing the House two days later that an armed guard against Catholic extremists was unnecessary, declaring ‘they are but the faction now, and we the state, and ... we should not fear them’.68 He urged that relations with Spain should be immediately severed, and proposed on 1 Mar. ‘to thrust the word treaty out of the House, for every man is weary to hear of it’. Winding up the debate, he assumed that war was inevitable: ‘the Spaniard will take it for injury enough that we will be no longer abused, and will not want [i.e. fail] to give us just occasions of war when we leave to treat, and so will preserve our honours for that point’.69

In the debate of 11 Mar. on supply for the war he compared a general offer to ‘the philosopher’s stone which would multiply in infinitum’, and urged the Commons to fall to particulars.70 He seconded the motion of Sir Robert Phelips that the severest penalties should be visited on any Member who revealed the House’s resolution, adding that notice should be taken of those who had left early.71 His appointments included committees to draft a declaration of support for the war (11 Mar.), and a message to the Lords about preventing the export of bullion by papists (12 March).72 Regretfully acknowledging that he himself had been obliged to take up money at usury, he said that all such debtors looked ‘with a cheerful eye’ on the bill to limit the rate of interest, and was appointed to the committee (8 March).73 For the ‘miscarriages’ in the granting of monopolies he held the referees chiefly responsible, declaring on 15 Mar. that it would be ‘a very worthy act’ for the House to ‘set a brand upon these indignities’.74

No firm resolution on supply for the war had been reached before the Easter recess, and on 10 Apr. Jermyn warned that ‘there is great preparation by the king of Spain, and a great fleet ready for the seas’.75 He therefore moved for a committee to draft a preamble to the subsidy bill, to which he was appointed.76 Jermyn was appointed on 12 Apr. to draft the charges against lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), having argued in debate that it was worth including the abuse of impositions, in the hope that ‘the king will like it the worse for the company it keeps’.77 On 7 May he advised the Commons to proceed warily against the Arminian Samuel Harsnett, bishop of Norwich.78 In his last speech on 27 May he opposed the petition against benevolences brought in by Sir Thomas Belasyse. While agreeing that they were neither ‘honourable for the king, nor safe for the subject’, he thought ‘this no fit time to deal in it’ in view of the House’s promise to Prince Charles not to enter into any new business.79

On the opening day of the first Caroline Parliament Jermyn proposed asking the Lords to join in an address for a general fast (21 June 1625).80 He received four committee appointments in one day on 27 June, for bills to prevent the export of wool, to restrain grants of habeas corpus, to mitigate sentences of excommunication, and to modify incumbents’ obligations.81 At Oxford he was interrupted on a point of order when he rose to speak on 10 Aug., but he was allowed to second the motion for supply made by the master of the Wards, (Sir) Robert Naunton, giving as his reasons ‘the difficulty of recovering reputation once lost’ and ‘our security from the king’s message of a fit time to do the business of the commonwealth’.82

In the next Parliament, on 10 Feb. 1626, Jermyn moved that the committee for privileges might examine the town clerk of Bury St. Edmunds over the election of Emmanuel Giffard*, who had been returned a week after Jermyn on a separate indenture.83 Hoping that the Commons would not waste too much time on demanding to see the accounts of the Council of War, on 10 Mar. Jermyn proposed that the House should immediately transform itself into a grand committee for supply; but he was ignored.84 The following day he defended the detention of the St. Peter on Buckingham’s orders, declaring he ‘could not give his voice to pass this as a grievance. The stay was sudden because the ship would have been gone if they had stayed for proofs’.85 He was among those appointed to draft a bill of arms and consider the proposal of Sir Dudley Digges for a private enterprise war with Spain (14 Mar.), and to attend the king on 5 Apr. with the Remonstrance asserting the right of the Commons to criticize ministers of state.86 He continued to speak up for Buckingham, on 28 Apr. dismissing an allegation that the favourite had hastened King James’s death by administering remedies not approved by the doctors. Though he admitted that the duke was guilty of ‘great indiscretion and rashness’, he added that ‘if wise men were always wise, fools would beg their bread’.87 His final effort was to defend a fellow Buckingham supporter, (Sir) Dudley Carleton*, on 3 June.88 Carleton, who had caused uproar by warning the Commons that its privileges depended upon the prerogative, was rescued from the ire of the lower House by being hastily kicked upstairs to the Lords, and it was rumoured before the next Parliament met that Jermyn was also to be raised to the peerage.89

Such a promotion never materialized, but Jermyn continued to support the government in the 1628 Parliament. On 4 Apr. he pleaded with the Commons to put supply ahead of their grievances, warning that if ‘we fall into inconveniences, ... without great caution we are like enough to fall farther and farther’.90 When Edward Kirton* complained that John Selden* had been slandered by the earl of Suffolk (Theophilus Howard*), Jermyn replied on 14 Apr. regretting that ‘in so many great important affairs any particular should divert us. I hope there is no such matter can be proved. Let a committee examine it’.91 He likewise tried to avert disruption by suggesting that petitions concerning the vicar of Witney (9 May) and the Greenland fishery (26 May) should be referred to the king.92 He supported the Petition of Right, but when (Sir) John Eliot sought to follow up by pursuing the charges against Buckingham it fell to Jermyn to reply on 3 June with a stern warning about the ‘fearful issues of the breaches of Parliament’:

I protest to God, this day I came with great hope to see the wisdom of this House otherwise than now to begin to recapitulate those misfortunes that are now obvious to all; and I hoped that we should not at all have looked back, but forward.93

Two days later he further admonished Eliot that attacking royal ministers was no way for Members to ‘retain themselves as far as possible within the king’s good affections’.94 Jermyn again defended Buckingham’s record by land and sea on 9 June, declaring that the great losses of shipping had been ‘occasioned by reason of the greediness of the merchants that overloaded their ships’.95 In the supply debate on 12 June he asserted, not altogether convincingly, that ‘if a man give me £10,000 and appoint me how to spend it, I would not take it’, suggesting that Charles had no intention of demanding more subsidies than were strictly necessary.96 He asked on 14 June that the king might be allowed time to consider the Remonstrance, and moved the Commons ‘not press too much upon him’.97 Jermyn received only three committee appointments during the session. These were to draft another bill of arms (24 Mar.), to consider the penalties for adultery and fornication (22 Apr.) and to forbid the begging of forfeitures before attainder (14 May).98

In the second session, at the grand committee on the customs administration on 23 Feb. 1629, Jermyn sought to discriminate between the misdeeds of officials and the king’s commands.99 He made no further contribution until the turbulent scene that ended the Parliament on 2 Mar., when he informed the House that ‘the messenger who came for the serjeant from the king stayed at the door, and marvelled there was no answer’.100 In order to secure the hand of a London heiress for his eldest son Jermyn was driven to mortgage two of his manors in 1629, and to sell some land outright to his brother-in-law Sir William Hervey II*.101 Financial difficulties also prompted him to seek a more lucrative post at Court, and on hearing of the illness of Sir John Savile*, the comptroller of the Household, he wrote to his patron Doncaster, now earl of Carlisle, that ‘if something must be given, I shall rather choose to be a lay simoniac than to lie still under the reproach of being thought worthy of nothing’.102 Jermyn heard from Sir Richard Weston* that Carlisle had provided ‘testimony of his favour in general with assurance of the same in particular, if need require’; but once again he was to be disappointed.103 Savile survived until the following year, by which time Jermyn had succeeded (Sir) Humphrey May* as vice-chamberlain of the Household. He was finally promoted to the comptrollership in 1639.

Jermyn was re-elected to both the Short and Long Parliaments of 1640, in which he again acted as a spokesman for the king.104 Having lent thousands to Charles, he was obliged to sell his lands in the Bedford level, with a covenant for quiet enjoyment by the purchasers; but the enclosures were thrown down in 1641, and he became liable for a heavy claim for compensation. He also sold his office, left the House, and retired into the country, only to be hauled back under suspicion of royalism.105 Nevertheless ‘he lived quietly, paid his taxes, lent money on public faith, and died in debt’.106 He signed his will as a privy councillor on 4 Jan. 1645, and was buried at Rushbrooke three days later.107 Having already made generous provision for his servants, he bequeathed all his disposable property to his second wife. His son Thomas* inherited the estate and debts of £3,300, exclusive of interest charges.108 Jermyn’s portrait, painted in around 1626, survives in a private collection.109

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. S.H.A. Hervey, Rushbrook Par. Reg., 1.
  • 2. Ibid. 1; Suff. Inst. Arch. Procs. viii. 173.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. HMC 7th Rep. 528.
  • 5. D. Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 98.
  • 6. Hervey, 35.
  • 7. Ibid. 239.
  • 8. Ibid. 23; Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvi), 144.
  • 9. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 89.
  • 10. C142/345/133.
  • 11. Hervey, 56.
  • 12. Ibid. 225.
  • 13. Ibid. 226-7.
  • 14. CSP Carew 1589-1600, pp. 305, 311; HMC Hatfield, ix. 147; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 62.
  • 15. CSP Dom. Addenda 1625-49, p. 425; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 3, p. 83; R. Mollet, Chron. Jersey, 26, 29.
  • 16. APC, 1597-8, p. 307.
  • 17. HMC Rye, Hastings and Hereford Corp. 441, 443; Add. 15084, f. 4.
  • 18. Add. 39245, ff. 22v, 91, 116, 140v, 157v.
  • 19. Ibid. ff. 36v-37; C231/4, f. 172; C193/12/2, ff. 55, 76v.
  • 20. Harl. 305, f. 206.
  • 21. Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; W. Rye, Norf. State Pprs. 48.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 578.
  • 23. C181/4, f. 190v; 181/5, ff. 101, 122, 136, 196.
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 466.
  • 25. C181/5, ff. 154v, 169.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 336.
  • 27. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 28. Harl. 6166, f. 68v; HMC 7th Rep. 526.
  • 29. LC5/132, p. 202; CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 189; HMC Cowper, i. 359; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 378.
  • 30. APC, 1630-1, p. 49; C115/105/8128.
  • 31. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 474.
  • 32. Ibid. 1631-3, p. 547.
  • 33. Ibid. 1633-4, p. 326; R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 353.
  • 34. Rymer, viii. pt. 4, p. 127.
  • 35. Ibid. ix. pt. 1, p. 6.
  • 36. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 589; 1641-3, pp. 73, 77.
  • 37. W.A. Copinger, Suff. Manors, vi. 329.
  • 38. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 26.
  • 39. CSP Carew, 1589-1600, p. 311.
  • 40. CJ, i. 154b, 180a.
  • 41. Ibid. 267b, 272a.
  • 42. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 327; CD 1621, iii. 11.
  • 43. Carleton to Chamberlain, ed. Lee, 67; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 43; CSP Dom. 1640-1, p. 123.
  • 44. Harl. 6395, f. 37; Anecdotes and Traditions ed. W.J. Thoms (Cam. Soc. v), 30.
  • 45. Procs. 1610, ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 394.
  • 46. R.C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop, i. 435.
  • 47. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 320, 322, 405.
  • 48. C66/2058/2.
  • 49. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 14; Carew Letters ed. J. Maclean (Cam. Soc. lxxvi), 38.
  • 50. CJ, i. 522b.
  • 51. Ibid. 532a; CD 1621, ii. 210; iv. 147.
  • 52. Nicholas Procs. 1621, i. 166, 170.
  • 53. CJ, i. 581b; CD 1621, iii. 11.
  • 54. CJ, i. 589b.
  • 55. Nicholas, i. 336; CD 1621, ii. 328, v. 104-5.
  • 56. CD 1621, iii. 145, 165; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 109.
  • 57. CD 1621, iii. 237.
  • 58. CJ, i. 621b.
  • 59. CD 1621, iii. 283.
  • 60. CJ, i. 626a.
  • 61. CD 1621, ii. 390.
  • 62. Ibid. iii. 399-400; Nicholas, ii. 157-8; C. Russell, PEP, 118.
  • 63. CD 1621, vi. 224; Nicholas, ii. 241;
  • 64. Harl. 1581, f. 352; SP14/139/46; Add. 12528, f. 8; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 488.
  • 65. DCO, ‘Prince Charles in Spain’, ff. 37; R. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, p. 63.
  • 66. CJ, i. 671b.
  • 67. Ibid. 674a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 22.
  • 68. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 24; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 31; Ruigh, 170.
  • 69. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 61; Russell, 176; Ruigh, 182-3.
  • 70. ‘Pym 1624’, i. f. 26.
  • 71. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 108.
  • 72. CJ, i. 683a, 684a.
  • 73. Ibid. 679b; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 58.
  • 74. ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 52v
  • 75. ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 95, 102, 138; CJ, i. 743b.
  • 76. CJ, i. 762a.
  • 77. Ibid. 764a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 132v.
  • 78. CJ, i. 784b.
  • 79. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 249.
  • 80. Procs. 1625, p. 205.
  • 81. Ibid. 252-3.
  • 82. Ibid. 448.
  • 83. Procs. 1626, ii. 13, 44, 49, 54, 56.
  • 84. Ibid. ii. 251.
  • 85. Ibid. ii. 261.
  • 86. Ibid. ii. 280, 430.
  • 87. Ibid. iii. 91, 93; HMC Lonsdale, 9.
  • 88. Procs. 1626, iii. 357, 363.
  • 89. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 44.
  • 90. CD 1628, ii. 307.
  • 91. Ibid. ii. 447.
  • 92. Ibid. iii. 347, 616.