MASON, Robert II (c.1590-1662), of Mason's House, Croome's Hill, Greenwich, Kent and Doctors' Common, London; formerly of St. Clement Danes, Westminster
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Family and Education
b. c.1590, 1st s. of George Mason of Greenwich, and Barbara, da. of John Perkins of Flint.1 educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1606, BA 1610, MA 1613, DCL 1628; incorp. at Oxf. 1617; Padua 1631; G. Inn. 1633.2 m. 1633, Judith (d.1675),3 da. of Sir Christopher Buckle of Great Burgh, Banstead, Surr., 6s. 5da.4 suc. fa. 1609.5 bur. 27 June 1662.6
Proctor, Camb. Univ. 1619-20;7 chan., Winchester dioc. 1628-?d.;8 commissary, archdeaconry of Surr. 1629-?d.;9 judge of V.-Admlty., Hants and I.o.W. 1635-at least 1638;10 commr. piracy, Hants and I.o.W. 1635-6, London 1635, 1662, Winchester, Hants 1636, Southampton, Hants 1636,11 oyer and terminer, Hants 1635, London and Mdx. 1635-9,12 sewers, Kent 1640.13
Mason should not be confused with two namesakes, Robert Mason I* and Robert Mason†, who as father and son represented Winchester in the early Stuart period and at the Restoration respectively.18 This Member’s father was originally from Keighley, Yorkshire, but by the beginning of James’s reign he resided in Westminster, acquiring at least eight tenements in St. Clement Danes and the lease of a house in Greenwich. Mason inherited most of this estate at his majority, and was later to use the St. Clement property as security for a £1,000 jointure for his wife.19 Having trained in the Civil Law at Cambridge he entered Doctors’ Commons in 1629, where he retained lodgings until at least 1640.20 During the early 1620s he became acquainted with the royal favourite George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, perhaps through his cousin, Capt. John Mason, who was later the paymaster of troops. As a result Mason was appointed one of Buckingham’s secretaries, and in May 1624 was sent to France, presumably in the duke’s service.21
At the 1626 general election Buckingham nominated Mason for the second seat at Ludgershall, but a close contest between him and Sir Thomas Jay* ensued, resulting in a double return. The Commons resolved the dispute by ordering a fresh election for that seat, whereupon Mason withdrew his candidacy.22 Although he was therefore unable to defend Buckingham’s interests in Parliament, Mason soon afterwards canvassed for his patron’s election as chancellor of Cambridge University. In 1627 Mason accompanied Buckingham to the Ile de Ré, and later wrote a detailed account of the ill-fated expedition.23 Buckingham, who was assassinated the following year, remembered Mason in his will, bequeathing him £500.24
Despite his patron’s untimely death, Mason was appointed chancellor of Winchester diocese in 1628, and in the following year he became commissary to the archdeacon of Surrey. His work in these offices was interrupted by occasional travels abroad. While touring Italy in 1631 he was delayed at Padua after the town was quarantined because of the plague. He enrolled at the university there in April, presumably to avoid the censure of the local Catholic authorities. In 1636 he was at The Hague, from where he informed Edward Nicholas* of the movements of French and Dutch troops and of the proposed treaties between those nations and Spain.25 He had intended to winter at Strasbourg University, but he may have been recalled to England, for by November 1636 he was one of the Vice-Admiralty judges selected to oversee the trial at Winchester of captured Sallee pirates. The reluctance of the lords of the Admiralty to compensate him for personal expenses resulting from this duty prompted him to consider resigning his office.26 In 1640 he was appointed a master of Requests, an office worth £100 a year, and soon afterwards he moved from his residence at Doctors’ Commons to new lodgings at Whitehall.27
Mason was possibly attached to the Court at Oxford in May 1643, since his signature appears in papers drafted on behalf of the king concerning a petition for the keepership of the royal mews at Greenwich, in which he may have had an interest.28 He lent the Crown £2,000, a sum which was not repaid during his lifetime, and after the Civil War presumably retired to his house at Greenwich, which he called his ‘hermitage’ but which the diarist John Evelyn disparagingly termed ‘wretched’.29 He died at Bath of an apoplexy, having visited the spa town to take the waters, and was buried in the Abbey on 27 June 1662. An elaborate memorial, now lost, was erected to his memory, recording his numerous offices and his age at death as 73.30 His will, in which he named his widow as executrix, has not been found, but he apparently bequeathed his library to his old Cambridge college, St. John’s, to which he had given at least 15 books in around 1648.31 None of Mason’s sons sat in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Henry Lancaster
- 1. Bath Abbey Regs. (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 375; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 85.
- 2. Al. Cant.; Al. Ox.; H.F. Brown, Inglesi e Scozzesi all’Universita di Padova dall anno 1618 sino al 1765, p. 146; GI Admiss.
- 3. PROB 11/350, f. 422v.
- 4. C. Berry, Berks., Bucks. and Surr. Genealogies, pt. 3, p. 18; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 208; E. Hasted, Kent, i. 81; H. Lambert, Hist. Banstead, 8.
- 5. PROB 11/114, f. 491.
- 6. Bath Abbey Regs. 375.
- 7. Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae ed. J. Le Neve, iii. 622.
- 8. B. Levack, Civil Lawyers in Eng. 253; SP16/470/102.
- 9. Hants RO, 21M65/A1/30, ff. 19v, 51, 51v.
- 10. HCA 30/820, no. 25; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 502.
- 11. SP16/350/22; 16/390/64; C181/5, ff. 24, 27, 43v, 58; 181/7, p. 142.
- 12. SP16/295/30; C181/4, ff. 188, 189; 181/5, f. 130v.
- 13. C181/5, f. 168.
- 14. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 460; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 243; 1628-9, p. 9.
- 15. G. Squibb, Doctors’ Commons, 64; C. Coote, Lives of Eminent English Civilians, 77.
- 16. APC, 1630-1, p. 20.
- 17. Levack, 63; I. Leadam, Select Cases in Ct. of Requests (Selden Soc. xii), l; CTB, 1660-7, pp. 236, 580; CSP Dom. 16