PUCKERING, Sir Thomas, 1st Bt. (1591-1637), of The Priory, Warwick

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

Constituency

Dates

[1628]

Family and Education

b. 30 Dec. 1591,1 o.s. of Sir John Puckering† of Kew, Surr. and Weston, Herts., Speaker of the Commons 1584 and 1586 and lord keeper 1592-6, and Jane, da. of Nicholas Chowne† of Fairlawn, nr. Wrotham, Kent. educ. Henry VIII g.s. Warwick (tutor John Owen);2 acad., Paris 1610-11; travelled abroad (France, Germany, Italy, Spain) 1610-14;3 L. Inn 1621.4 m. 2 July 1616,5 (with £5,000),6 Elizabeth (d.1652), da. of Sir John Morley* of Halnaker, Boxgrove, Suss. and Aldersgate, London, 3da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1596;7 cr. bt. 25 Nov. 1611; kntd. 3 June 1612.8 d. 20 Mar. 1637.9 sig. Tho[mas] Puckering.

Offices Held

Member, NW Passage Co. 1612.10

J.p. Warws. 1617-d.;11 commr. subsidy, Warws. 1621-2, 1624, 1628,12 commr. oyer and terminer, Midland circ. 1622;13 sheriff, Warws. 1623-4,14 dep. lt. by 1627-at least 1635,15 commr. Forced Loan 1626-7.16

Biography

Described by Shakespeare’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, as ‘much given to study, of lean constitution yet phlegmatic’,17 Puckering was born the only son of Sir John Puckering, who rose from humble origins to become both Speaker of the Commons and lord keeper and amassed estates in Hertfordshire, Kent, Warwickshire and Lincolnshire worth around £2,000 or £3,000 p.a.18 On Sir John’s death in 1596, Puckering’s wardship was sold for the token sum of £33 6s.8d. to his widow, Lady Jane,19 who settled in one of her late husband’s properties, the former priory of St. Sepulchre, near Warwick, a mansion boasting more than 40 rooms.20 At Warwick the young Puckering was tutored by the epigrammatist John Owen. From there he might have entered university had not his sister Catherine married, in 1605, Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales. Instead, he was educated alongside the Prince, although his tutor was not Newton but Thomas Lorkin,21 who became his friend and mentor. In the autumn of 1610 Puckering, bearing a licence to travel for two years and with the blessing of Newton and the Prince, journeyed to Paris with Lorkin, where he enrolled at Antoine de Pluvinel’s academy, situated in the Rue des Bons Enfants.22 The academy specialized in equitation as its founder, Pluvinel, had introduced the Italian style of horsemanship to France,23 but Puckering was also subjected to a daily round of linguistic study, fencing and dancing, carried out under the watchful eye of Lorkin, who periodically sent reports of his pupil’s progress to Newton. Puckering initially intended to remain in the academy for a year, but by mid-February 1611 he and Lorkin were so displeased with the ‘strict and hard condition’ of their diet that they contemplated leaving. In the event, they agreed to stay until Easter after receiving assurances that their requirements would be met. In the meantime, they resolved to investigate ‘the manner and form of pleading used here, and the course of justice’.24

Puckering returned to England in June 1611, having no doubt learned of the approaching death of his mother.25 He carried with him a letter addressed to lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) from his fellow student Henry, Lord Clifford*, whom he had been encouraged to befriend, which stated that he was just the sort of gentleman who should be permitted to purchase one of the newly created baronetcies.26 Clifford’s recommendation ensured that Puckering became a baronet in the following November. By March 1612 Puckering had rejoined Lorkin in Paris, where he formed an attachment to the 22-year-old William Cecil, 16th Lord Roos, who was then touring the Continent. Roos’s Catholic leanings were well known, and when Puckering announced that he intended to tour the Spanish Netherlands in his company Lorkin protested, somewhat disingenuously, that such a journey would interrupt his study of the French language. Puckering, however, was determined to have his way, and promised to speak only French on their travels.27 Over the next couple of months, Lorkin’s worst fears were realized, as Puckering fell under the spell of the lewd and foul-mouthed Roos, who made no secret of his admiration for Spain and his contempt for both the Dutch and his own countrymen. Soon after arriving in Brussels, Roos succeeded in detaching Puckering from his tutor at mealtimes and allowed Tobie Matthew*, the openly Catholic son of the archbishop of York, to try to convert Puckering. An alarmed Lorkin advised his young pupil to remain mute when questioned about his faith, but the fiercely independent-minded Puckering thought he could easily rebuff Matthew’s approaches, whereas in reality his answers merely gave Matthew ‘a larger scope, and further occasion to object’. Soon Matthew was exploiting every opportunity to undermine Puckering’s faith, and it was only with difficulty that Lorkin was able to take away ‘those scruples that the other had put into Mr. Puckering’s head’. Roos persisted, and introduced his young friend to his wide circle of Catholic acquaintances, many of them English, including the renegade soldier, Sir William Stanley; the English prior of a Carthusian monastery; a chaplain to the Archduke Albert; and a priest named Wright, who was so ‘very hot and busy with Mr. Puckering’ that at the dinner table one evening another of the guests, the English Resident William Trumbull*, ‘could hardly refrain from striking him’. Exposed to the influence of ‘so dangerous a crew’, Puckering was urged by Lorkin to return to Paris to resume his studies. At first Puckering refused, but soon after recovering from a grave illness he was warned by his physician that if he did not escape the ‘agueish’ air of the Low Countries he might suffer a relapse. Puckering therefore packed his bags and left, not for Paris, as Lorkin had advised, but for England, where Roos was now bound, having run short of money.28

Puckering’s stubborn disregard of Lorkin caused his tutor the utmost exasperation. Writing to Newton on the homeward journey, Lorkin conceded that his pupil was ‘a gentleman otherwise of rare parts, and no mean hopes’, but that ‘if he continue these courses I shall soon grow weary, and must be a suitor that the charge be committed to some other, that may be better able to discharge it’. He warned that Puckering would soon begin to neglect his studies if his faults went unamended, for ‘he useth my help very little herein, and thinks it school-boy like to be under teachers’.29 Despite his waning enthusiasm, Lorkin subsequently agreed to return to the Continent with Puckering for the first leg of a European tour. Puckering may have been inspired to embark on this journey by his well-travelled friend Lord Roos. After obtaining a three-year travel permit,30 teacher and pupil (now knighted) set out for Germany. From there they journeyed to Florence, where they learned that Prince Henry had died. This was shattering news, as from an early date Puckering had been groomed for service in Henry’s household. Newton, writing in January 1613, consoled Puckering with the prospect that he might still be able to pursue a career in the household of Henry’s younger brother, Prince Charles.31 However, there was no immediate prospect of employment, as Charles was only 12 years old. Consequently, although Lorkin returned to England, Puckering continued his travels. In the winter of 1612/13 he journeyed to Naples, from where he corresponded with Dudley Carleton* at Venice. He reached Venice itself in July 1613, having decided that the outbreak of war over Montferrat made it too dangerous to journey to Milan.32

In June 1613 it was rumoured about London that Puckering had finally converted to Catholicism. Lorkin professed not to believe this, but he urged his young friend to return home quickly as it was thought that the king was about to establish Prince Charles’s household. Lorkin promised to put into Puckering’s hands ‘the commodity of advantaging yourself into His Highness’s favour’.33 Puckering, however, was in no hurry to curtail his travels, but instead journeyed to Padua and Palma, where he admired the fortifications, and thence to Spain, which he toured in the spring of 1614.34 Lorkin remained persistent, however, and in July 1614 he notified Puckering, now at Tours in central France, that it was rumoured that Parliament would meet in the autumn. Lorkin himself doubted that Parliament would assemble so soon after the collapse of the most recent assembly, but he had nevertheless taken the precaution of ensuring that ‘you may be chosen one of the burgesses, as being a notable means of bettering your experience’. Among those whom Lorkin approached for a seat was Puckering’s brother-in-law, Sir John Ferrers*, who controlled a burgess-ship at Tamworth.35 However, Puckering was not tempted, and in November 1614 he journeyed to Paris to meet Lorkin.36 He probably did not return to England until June 1615, when his passport expired.

On his return Puckering began the search for a wife. His choice initially settled on the daughter of the crypto-Catholic privy councillor Sir Thomas Lake I*, but her hand was won by his old friend Lord Roos, with whom he had remained in contact.37 In the event he wed the daughter of Sir John Morley, a wealthy Sussex gentleman suspected by some of popery. This marriage, and the earlier courting of Lake’s daughter, suggests that Lorkin’s fear that Puckering had finally been lured into Catholicism was not groundless. However, in later life Puckering was to exhibit signs that his sympathies were anything but Catholic, for during the 1630s he was to share newsletters with his neighbour, the puritan Lord Brooke (Robert Greville*), and provide hospitality for the godly lecturer, Thomas Dugard.38

By the time he returned to England it was clear that any hope that Puckering once had of finding employment in Prince Charles’s Household had finally evaporated. Puckering therefore retired with his new wife to his childhood home, the Priory, near Warwick, supported by an income derived from rents and money-lending.39 Added to the Warwickshire bench in 1617, he soon established close ties with Sir John Ferrers,40 who provided him with the senior burgess-ship at Tamworth in December 1620. Shortly before the 1621 Parliament opened, Puckering received an anxious letter from his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Mildmay of Moulsham, Essex. Mildmay stood to inherit the lands of the Calthorpe family from his uncle the 5th earl of Sussex, who had married the Calthorpe heiress. However, Mildmay had learned that Viscount Haddington, whose late wife was Sussex’s daughter, was intending ‘to fly to the Parliament’ with the intention of overthrowing the conveyance to Mildmay and settling the lands on his own children. Mildmay therefore asked Puckering to notify him if Haddington laid a bill before Parliament, ‘that I may come up’ to answer it.41 In the event, however, no such bill was introduced. Puckering subsequently played only a modest role in the Parliament’s proceedings. On 21 Apr. he was appointed to the committee to consider the Coventry diocese bill. Nine days later he complained to the grievances’ committee, which was then considering alleged abuses committed by the glass monopolist Sir Robert Mansell*, that glassware he had sent to England while abroad had been seized on its arrival by Mansell’s agents, who still detained it.42

Puckering donated £50 to the Palatine Benevolence in February 1622.43 Towards the end of 1623 he journeyed to London, where he sought medical assistance for his wife, who was weak and heavily pregnant with their first child. Despite having been pricked to serve as sheriff of Warwickshire over the coming year, he was permitted by the Privy Council to remain in the capital until his wife’s health improved.44 By January 1624 he had returned to Warwickshire, where he presided over the county’s parliamentary election. Later that year he became embroiled in a tithe dispute with the corporation of Warwick, which he lost.45 On approaching the borough for a parliamentary seat in 1625 he was rebuffed, on the grounds that, unlike his rivals the Lucys, he ‘was but a stranger in the country and not so commodious by sending corn to the market for the general good of the people nor a man of such noble hospitality as that worthy family of [sic] the Lucys were’. In revenge Puckering urged Warwick’s commonalty to challenge the corporation’s monopoly of the franchise. In the meantime he was obliged once again to accept a seat at Tamworth from his brother-in-law. Soon after the Parliament opened he presented a petition to the Commons. Described in the Commons’ Journal as having been written by ‘the borough of Warwick’ (21 June), it seems likely that this petition was actually drawn up by the commonalty, and that their complaint concerned the corporation’s stranglehold over the franchise. The matter was referred to the privileges’ committee, but by 1 July it had still not been discussed, whereupon Puckering obtained an order to debate it that afternoon. The committee subsequently summoned leading members of the corporation to learn their views, but before a conclusion could be reached the Parliament was dissolved.46

As in 1621, Puckering played only a minor role in the affairs of the 1625 assembly. During the Westminster sitting he was named to consider legislation to punish petty larceny (25 June) and sell lands belonging to the 4th earl of Dorset (Sir Edward Sackville*, 8 July); at Oxford he received no committee appointments at all, although he was named to the joint conference with the Lords on religion, which was scheduled to meet on 9 August.47 He made two speeches, the first on 10 Aug., after Christopher Wandesford suggested that the House turn itself into committee to consider all business in general. He implicitly seconded the proposal, but thought that such a committee should ‘hold itself to the point of the king’s message’, which was that the Commons should immediately vote additional supply. Puckering himself was not in favour of voting extra funds for setting the fleet to sea, for on the following day he claimed that ‘there is no difficulty but that the fleet may go forth’. If money really was needed, he added astutely, it was because perishable items had been provided much too soon and now needed replacement. Instead of voting a further subsidy, the House should ‘fall to remonstrance to satisfy [the] king of our forwardness to assist him in all honour’.48

Three months after the dissolution, Puckering’s former mentor, Lorkin, was drowned at sea. Lorkin’s death not only deprived Puckering of a close friend but also denied him a valuable source of information. Ever since the beginning of 1613, when he had left Puckering to continue his tour of Europe on his own, Lorkin had written to Puckering every week they were apart.49 Between 1620 and 1625, Lorkin, then on a diplomatic errand in France, had kept Puckering abreast of political events abroad, and in return Puckering had written to Lorkin of developments in England.50 Now that Lorkin was dead, Puckering was obliged to find other sources of information. Among those who stepped into the breach were John Pory*, whom Puckering had perhaps encountered in Italy in 1613, and Sir George Gresley*, who had married the sister of Puckering’s brother-in-law, Sir John Ferrers. During the early 1630s Gresley wrote to Puckering every week from London concerning both domestic and foreign news.51 Many of the newsletters sent to Puckering have not survived, but those that do provide an invaluable source for the study of early Stuart England.

In 1626 Puckering renewed his parliamentary assault on the Warwick corporation. Sitting again for Tamworth, he exploited an interval between the reading of bills on the afternoon of 14 Mar. to propose that the privileges’ committee, of which he himself was now a member, should meet immediately after the rising of the House ‘to take the testimony of witnesses now ready for the case of Warwick’.52 However, the Commons again failed to resolve the franchise issue before the dissolution. Aside from this matter, Puckering seconded a motion on 13 Feb. to appoint commissions to inquire into the value and size of each ecclesiastical living, as in his view some parishes were over-large and needed to be subdivided while others were too small and required enlargement. Nearly one month later, on 10 Mar., when the House was debating whether to ask the king to send his messages to the House in writing, he declared that he, like Sir Roger North, remembered that in 1621 the Commons had insisted upon precisely that.53 A message from the king demanding that the Commons immediately turn its attention to supply formed the subject of Puckering’s third and final speech, on 18 April. Puckering responded by advising that ‘we shall better satisfy him by action than word’, by which he meant that the House should, in defiance of Charles’s demands, ‘go on with these things which hinder, i.e. our grievances not answered’.54 Puckering was appointed to only a handful of bill committees in 1626, one of which concerned the suppression of unlicensed alehouse keepers (25 Mar.), a measure in which he was presumably interested as a magistrate. His other appointments concerned the prevention of plague (29 Apr.); a Chancery decree regarding the tenants of Feltwell, Norfolk (6 May); the widow of the East India Company sea captain Sir Thomas Dale (8 May); the preamble to the subsidy bill (25 May); and the bankruptcy of Richard Piggott (14 June). Puckering’s only non-legislative appointment was on 22 May, when he was added to the committee for examining the privilege case concerning John More II, Member for Haslemere.55

Following the dissolution the corporation of Warwick adopted a more conciliatory approach towards Puckering, whose persistent attempts to widen the borough’s parliamentary franchise had put the corporation to a great deal of expense. At the 1628 parliamentary election it bestowed the senior burgess-ship upon Puckering, hoping thereby that he would refrain from pursuing his complaint against them any further. However, Puckering declared that ‘he could not with honour desert his former prosecution’, and although he initially accepted the seat, on entering the Commons he opted to represent Tamworth, where he had once again been elected (28 March). This time, Puckering was to emerge triumphant, for whereas the privileges’ committee had previously shown some sympathy for the Warwick corporation it now upheld the electoral rights claimed by the commonalty.56

As in the previous parliaments in which he had been a Member, Puckering made only a modest contribution to the work of the Commons. On 4 Apr. he spoke during the subsidy debate, but his words have gone unrecorded.57 He addressed the House for a second time on 7 June, regarding the hire by the king of 1,000 German cavalry, whose transportation to England had reportedly now been stayed. Claiming to have seen an official letter confirming the transport arrangements for these troops, Puckering expressed the widely held concern at the possible consequences of having mercenaries on English soil, and asked to know ‘if the restraint was yet taken off those ships’. The only committees to which Puckering achieved nomination concerned the bill to naturalize Giles Vanbrugh (13 June) and the fees payable by those Cornish gentleman whose had been committed to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms (23 June).58 He played no recorded part in the 1629 session.

Puckering lived out the remainder of his life in rural obscurity. In 1630 he founded a hospital for eight poor women at Warwick, an indication, perhaps, that he endeavoured to heal the earlier breach with the borough’s corporation. Five years later he was called upon by the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield to help resolve a dispute between Warwick and Coventry over their respective Ship Money contributions, and attended a meeting held for this purpose at Coventry. 59 His sympathies may have been divided, for although he lived near Warwick, his counsel, John Wightwick*, was Coventry’s recorder. Puckering’s relative inactivity during his later years was a consequence of continual ill health. In February 1633 it was observed by one of his correspondents that he was so unwell that he was ‘neither willing to read or write much’,60 while an undated note by the physician who treated him indicates that he suffered from ‘feebleness and faints and distemper’, headaches and sleepless nights.61 The sickness he endured was shared by the rest of his family: he and his wife were both said after his death to have ‘lived on drugs and physic these many years’, while the youngest of his two surviving daughters, Jane, was reported to extremely weak, indeed ‘a very skeleton’.62 Jane’s elder sister, Cecilia, was even more sickly, and died in April 1636. Following Cecilia’s death, Puckering’s wife was so grief-stricken that she refused to remain in the house where her daughter had died, but instead persuaded her husband to move to Halnaker, near Chichester, the seat of her brother, Sir William Morley*. There Puckering himself expired on 20 Mar. 1637, having three days earlier made final alterations to his will, which had been drafted in January 1635. The principal beneficiary of Puckering’s estate was his seven-year-old daughter Jane, whose wardship was purchased by Puckering’s widow.63 Puckering asked to be buried without ostentation, and during daytime rather than by torchlight, as was then fashionable. His three executors, including his close friend Sir Simon Archer and his counsel John Wightwick, were left to decide whether to provide a formal funeral dinner for the mourners or merely ‘a running banquet’, but Puckering was more precise about the tomb he required to be erected in St. Mary’s, Warwick, ‘the materials, form and proportion’ of which were to be ‘suitable to that erected in Charlton church for my brother [Sir Adam] Newton, deceased’. This latter tomb had been built by the celebrated stonemason Nicholas Stone, whom Puckering himself had employed to fashion a monument to his beloved daughter Cecilia. After Puckering’s death, Stone was paid £200 to construct a handsome black marble tomb flanked by Corinthian columns, very like the one built for Newton. The inscription, which mentioned that Puckering had been educated alongside Prince Henry, was devised by Puckering himself.64

Following the death of his daughter without male heir in 1652, Puckering’s lands descended to Sir Henry Puckering, 2nd bt., on whom Puckering had earlier settled his lands in north Kent.65 Sir Henry, who represented Warwickshire in the Cavalier Parliament and Warwick in 1679, was actually the son of Sir Adam Newton, but changed his surname in honour of his uncle.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush

Notes

  • 1. WARD 9/158, f. 178v.
  • 2. W. Cooper, Hist. Lillington, 19.
  • 3. SO3/5, unfol. licence 21 June 1612; Harl. 7004, f. 67r-v.
  • 4. LI Admiss.
  • 5. J.P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, i. 305.
  • 6. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 15.
  • 7. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 140-1; Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 521; Cooper, 20.
  • 8. CB; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 151.
  • 9. C111/185, pkt. 12, item 9, p. 85.
  • 10. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 239.
  • 11. C231/4, f. 48; SP16/405.
  • 12. SP14/123/78; C212/22/21, 23; E179/194/310.
  • 13. C181/3, f. 62.
  • 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 147.
  • 15. SP16/80/19; Coventry Archives, A35, f. 35.
  • 16. C193/12/2, f. 60v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145.
  • 17. M. Eccles, Shakespeare’s Warws. 114.
  • 18. C142/246/125; A. Hughes, Pols. Society and Civil War in Warws. 1620-60, p. 33; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 72.
  • 19. WARD 9/158, ff. 178v-9.
  • 20. Hughes, 36.
  • 21. Lansd. 90, f. 99.
  • 22. SO3/4, unfol., Aug. 1610; Lansd. 91, f. 190; HMC Downshire, ii. 399-400; Lansd. 92, f. 3.
  • 23. F.A. Yates, French Academies of the Sixteenth Cent. 278.
  • 24. Lansd. 841, f. 188; J. Stoye, English Travellers Abroad, 41.
  • 25. She was bur. on 15 July: Soc. Gen. transcript of par. reg. of St. Mary’s, Warwick, p. 2 (where she is named in error as Elizabeth).
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 43. For his friendship with Clifford, see Lansd. 92, f. 3.
  • 27. Harl. 7000, f. 187r-v.
  • 28. Harl. 7002, ff. 199-200v.
  • 29. Ibid. ff. 200v-1.
  • 30. SO3/5, unfol. 21 June 1612.
  • 31. Harl. 7004, f. 67r-v.
  • 32. Stoye, 85; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 255.
  • 33. Birch, i. 253, 255-6, 258.
  • 34. Stoye, 85; SP94/20, f. 257.
  • 35. Birch, i. 332.
  • 36. Harl. 7002, f. 363.
  • 37. Birch, ii. 68; SP94/20, f. 257.
  • 38. Harl. 7000, ff. 338-9v; Add. 23146, ff.29v, 31v-2; Hughes, 74, 78, 90 n. 136.
  • 39. C3/374/25; C21/P24/4; C2/Chas.I/M65/54; 2/Chas.I/M77/42.
  • 40. Harl. 7000, f. 13; FSL, L.e. 666.
  • 41. Harl. 7000, f. 51; CP, sub Haddington and Holdernesse.
  • 42. CJ, i. 584b; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 360.
  • 43. SP14/156/15.
  • 44. APC, 1623-5, pp. 137-8.
  • 45. Cooper, 19.
  • 46. Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 282, 703.
  • 47. Ibid. 245, 349, 422.
  • 48. Ibid. 446, 465, 467, 470. For the premature provision of the fleet’s victuals, see A.D. Thrush, ‘Navy under Charles I, 1625-40’ (Univ. of London Ph.D thesis, 1990), pp. 296-8.
  • 49. Birch, i. 258-9, establishes that his letters were written on a weekly basis.
  • 50. None of Puckering’s letters are known to survive. For Lorkin’s, see Harl. 7000, ff. 7, 11, 15, 31, 128, 130, 142, 144r-v, 147r-v, 149r-v.
  • 51. Ibid. ff. 439-70.
  • 52. Procs. 1626, ii. 7, 281.
  • 53. Ibid. 28, 252.
  • 54. Ibid. iii. 22.
  • 55. Ibid. ii. 366; iii. 97, 180, 189, 301, 329, 444.
  • 56. Procs. 1628, vi. 170; CD 1628, ii. 169.
  • 57. Procs. 1628, vi. 62. Th