PYE, Robert (c.1586-1662), of St. Stephen's Court, Westminster and Richmond, Surr.; later of Faringdon, Berks.

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



Dec. 1640

Family and Education

b. c.1586, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of Roger Pye (d.1591) of the Mynde, Much Dewchurch, Herefs. and Bridget (d.1624), da. of Thomas Kyrle of Walford, Herefs.; bro. of Walter I*.1 educ. M. Temple 1607.2 m. by 1620, Mary (bur. 5 Jan. 1654), da. of John Croker of Batsford, Glos., 3s. 2da.3 kntd. 13 July 1621.4 d. May 1662. sig. Robert Pye.

Offices Held

Servant, household of William Spencer, 2nd Lord Compton by 1614-16, George Villiers, earl (later 1st duke) of Buckingham by 1617,5 recvr. by 1620-at least 1624,6 commr. of finances by 1623-at least 1627,7 solicitor until ?1626.8

Clerk of the patents, Chancery, 1618-25 (jt.);9 auditor of the receipt and writer of tallies, Exchequer 1620-?54, 1660-2;10 commr. revenue 1620, 1626;11 collector, Palatine benevolence 1622,12 Privy Seal loans, merchant strangers 1625-6;13 commr. navy 1625-8,14 prizes 1625, 1627 (French),15 sale of Crown lands 1626-at least 1627,16 St. Paul’s Cathedral repair 1631,17 treaty payments to Scots 1641.18

J.p. Westminster 1620-at least 1640,19 Mdx. 1625-at least 1642,20 Surr. 1625-42;21 commr. subsidy, Westminster 1621, 1624, 1625, 1628-9, 1641-2,22 Forced Loan 1627,23 charitable uses, Surr. 1630, Mdx. 1633-4, Berks. 1634,24 sewers, Berks. and Oxon. 1634,25 view Blackwall docks, Kent 1635,26 maltsters, Surr. 1636;27 vestryman, St. Margaret’s Westminster 1642-at least 1659;28 sequestrator delinquents, Westminster 1643;29commr. assessment, Westminster 1643,30 Berks., Herefs., Mdx., Oxon., Westminster 1647-8,31volunteers, Mdx. 1643,32 assessment [I], Mdx. and Berks. 1643-4,33 execution of ordinances 1644,34 New Model ordinance, Mdx. and Westminster 1645,35 excise 1645,36 collegiate church of St. Peter, Westminster 1645-?60,37 sale of bps.’ lands 1646,38 militia Berks., Mdx. and Westminster 1648.39


Pye should be distinguished from a namesake of Chillwood house, Gloucestershire, who lost his ears in 1602 for plotting the death of a fellow lawyer.40 Expelled from the Inner Temple and disbarred, this man rented out several London properties, and may subsequently have worked in London as a scrivener, perhaps for the clerk of the assize of the Norfolk circuit.41 The future Exchequer auditor, on the other hand, was only a boy when his Gloucestershire namesake was admitted to the bar in 1595. The youngest of five sons, his inheritance comprised just one tenement, called Nolton, and three meadows, for which he owed an annual rent of £4 payable to his eldest brother Walter*.42 In October 1612 he sold Nolton to Walter for £100, although not before buying a further property in Huntingdonshire. The money was paid to him at London, where he had probably been living since entering the Middle Temple in 1607.43 It was presumably in the capital that he met Ben Jonson and developed a love of the theatre.44

Pye’s father had leased Elcombe Park, in Wiltshire, from the 1st Lord Compton (Henry Compton†).45 In October 1613 Pye obtained for himself a 21-year lease of this property - by now owned by the Charterhouse hospital - for which he paid an annual rent of £30.46 By July 1614 he was a servant of the 2nd Lord Compton, later earl of Northampton.47 He resided at Great Wolford, Warwickshire, about seven miles south-west of his master’s house at Compton Wynyates, and in November 1615 sold his Huntingdonshire property to his patron for the princely sum of £800.48 By December 1616, however, he had left Lord Compton’s service.49 His new patron was the rising royal favourite, George Villiers, earl (and later duke) of Buckingham, in whose ‘most private affairs’ Pye was employed.50 It seems likely that Pye entered Buckingham’s service with the blessing of Lord Compton, whose brother, Sir Thomas, had married Buckingham’s mother. This is the implication of a letter written to Buckingham a few years later, in which Pye recorded that Sir Thomas had accused him ‘of ingratitude and neglect to your lordship, my lord of Northampton, and himself, protesting I made but shows towards his brother and himself ...’. The quarrel was evidently bitter, for Pye complained that he had not been ‘dealt withall like a man’, and accused the Comptons of having chosen ‘to censure and mislike bargains after they were ended’.51 Nevertheless, the rupture did not effect relations between Pye and Lord Compton’s son, Spencer*, on whose behalf Pye entered a bond in the Court of Wards some years later.52

The main capacity in which Pye served Buckingham was as his financial adviser. In October 1622 he recommended that Buckingham should put his financial house in order, for ‘a great man is first judged by his own government in his estate’.53 In the short term, Buckingham heeded this advice, appointing commissioners to investigate and settle his finances. The following July these commissioners, of whom Pye was one, reported that they had succeeded in paying off £17,300 of the £29,400 which Buckingham owed.54 However, by November 1623, probably as a result of the expense incurred in travelling to Spain that year, the duke’s debts had risen to £25,000. Pye did not attempt to conceal his exasperation:

Your steward, gent. of the horse, clerk of the kitchen have neither money nor credit to pay when you go abroad, your lady hath no money for her house, your mother, to whom you have promised £2,000 per annum, conceives it some of our faults it is not paid since Michaelmas, and for myself I had your letters to the commissioners but had neither money nor help ... I protest your lordship hath so little credit as every man is weary, and will be worse unless the disposing of your money be better ordered.55

The frankness with which Pye expressed himself on this subject demonstrates that he was far from being merely a ‘creature of Buckingham’s’, to use Chamberlain’s phrase.56 Even on important matters of state Pye was not afraid to offer unwelcome advice.57 However, his candour may have been one of the factors which recommended him to the duke.

Pye began to benefit from Buckingham’s patronage almost as soon he entered his service. In March 1617 Buckingham procured for him a grant in reversion of a poundage on the import and export of goods belonging to foreign merchants for 21 years.58 Thirteen months later, the office of clerk of the patents in Chancery was created especially for him and Richard Young* at Buckingham’s request. This new position was undoubtedly extremely valuable, as it gave the holders the right to charge a fee for every royal grant that was enrolled.59 The major advance in Pye’s fortunes, however, occurred after (Sir) John Bingley* was suspended from the auditorship of the receipt in July 1619. At first Pye was made acting auditor, but in January 1620 he became Bingley’s permanent replacement on Buckingham’s recommendation.60 Pye worked diligently in his new post. On one occasion in December 1621, for instance, he and the Lord Treasurer Cranfield (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), were ‘upon Sunday until one of the clock at midnight conjuring about the king’s estate’.61 Nevertheless, those owed money by the king sometimes mistook his inability to pay them for inertia. In 1633 the water-poet John Taylor complained on behalf of the king’s watermen that:

We sue and seek, and can no payment get,

We live in debt, we coin and credit lack,

And we do fear Sir Robert Pye is slack,

Or else unwilling; therefore we implore

Your lordship to remember him once more ...62

The auditorship was highly lucrative, as it generated an annual income of around £1,500 and came with a house and garden in St. Stephen’s Court, Westminster.63 However, Pye soon found that he was expected to dig into his own pockets whenever Buckingham or the navy was short of cash. In August 1620, for instance, he grumbled that he had been ‘enforced to use my own credit as far as it would go to furnish my lord, and use the help of any I would procure’.64 Following the outbreak of war with Spain in 1625, the cash-starved navy treasurer, Sir William Russell*, recorded that he owed Pye £3,000, ‘which he hath friendly lent me’.65 Outwardly at least, Pye did not resent these demands on his personal finances. In 1627 he boasted to Buckingham that he had used some of the money that he had set aside for his children to pay for provisions which were needed to relieve the duke’s army at the Île de Ré, and claimed that he would ‘lay myself to pawn for your lordship’.66

Pye first entered Parliament in 1621, when he was returned for the borough of Bath, in Somerset. It is not clear how he secured his election there, but may have been at Buckingham’s nomination. Pye’s elder brother, Walter Pye I, also sat in this Parliament, and since both men were usually referred to in the Journal as ‘Mr. Pye’ they cannot easily be distinguished. However, in view of his Gloucestershire connections, Pye was almost certainly the man named to consider the Tewkesbury bridge bill on 5 May. Moreover, since his employer, Buckingham, was lord high admiral it also seems likely that Pye was the man named to the lighthouses bill six days later.67 On 17 May a Mr. Pye was named to the committee to consider a land bill which sought to disinherit John Mohun*. This too was almost certainly Pye rather than his brother, for in July 1628 Mohun appointed Pye to act as one of the guardians of his children in the event of his death.68 Pye was definitely appointed to consider a bill to shorten Michaelmas term on 20 November.69 He may have made as many as five speeches during the course of the Parliament. Four were on matters which might have concerned either him or Walter, but it was probably he who spoke to defend his patron’s elder half-brother Sir Edward Villiers on 2 May, when there was talk of expelling Villiers from the House.70 On 21 Mar. Pye was sworn by the House of Lords as a witness in its investigation into the lord chancellor (Sir Francis Bacon*), but the nature of his evidence is unknown.71

Pye was knighted in July 1621, and in 1623 he purchased from Sir John Wentworth* the reversion to the Berkshire manor of Faringdon for £4,200.72 He evidently did not gain possession of this property until the 1630s and consequently, in about 1625, he acquired a house at Richmond, in Surrey.73 Pye was again returned for Bath in 1624, when Buckingham brought about the destruction of Cranfield, now earl of Middlesex, for opposing a war with Spain. Pye played a key part in this process, for although Middlesex was his departmental chief, he provided the Lords with important evidence against him.74 Pye himself might have become the subject of parliamentary criticism had it not been for his close relationship with Buckingham, for during the Commons’ investigation into grants of monopoly which it intended to abolish, his own office as joint clerk of the patents was subjected to scrutiny. However, it was decided to make an exception in this particular case (1 May).75 As a leading Exchequer official, Pye was well placed to supply the House with information concerning the Crown’s income. On 4 May, for instance, he and Sir Edward Wardour were instructed to report what benefit the Crown had received from the discovery of concealed lands over the past 40 years.76 Pye also sought to defend existing sources of Crown income from parliamentary criticism. When the legality of the pretermitted customs was questioned in mid-April, for instance, he sidestepped the issue and asked instead why only three-quarters of this revenue found its way into the royal coffers.77 The following month he observed that a patent for the survey of coals ‘doth cross and prejudice His Majesty’s revenue for the sea coal’.78

Pye was named to several legislative committees in 1624. As in 1621 he was appointed to consider the Mohun land bill (16 Mar.), which had been reintroduced, and on 19 May he was nominated to the committee for the York House bill, which concerned his patron, Buckingham.79 On 22 May he was appointed to consider amendments to the concealments bill. An interest in his native Herefordshire presumably explains his membership of a committee for a bill concerning the ‘prostrating’ of weirs upon the river Wye (3 Apr.), for which he acted as a teller for the yeas (15 May).80 Pye was one of six treasurers appointed on 12 May to collect a fee from every Member for payment of the House’s officers.81 On 29 May he was also one of the 30 Members chosen to present the House’s grievances to the king.82

One of the most important consequences of the 1624 Parliament was the fall of lord treasurer Middlesex. Many expected that the chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Richard Weston*, would now become the new lord treasurer and that Pye would therefore succeed Weston.83 In the event, however, neither Weston nor Pye were promoted, as the king conferred the treasurer’s staff on the ageing Exchequer baron Sir James Ley*, whom he also ennobled. Pye’s only consolation was to be appointed to the navy commission in April 1625, which was headed by (Sir) John Coke*, who had until recently lived for part of the year in Pye’s native Herefordshire. Pye had been friends with Coke for at least the past five years, and had often pleaded his cause with Buckingham.

Pye was elected to Parliament for the Wiltshire borough of Ludgershall in 1625, probably by arrangement with William (Seymour*), 2nd earl of Hertford. Shortly before Parliament met, he and (Sir) Richard Young, perhaps mindful of the Commons’ earlier hostility towards monopolies, surrendered their clerkship of the patents in Chancery. During the shortlived Westminster sitting, Pye was named to the committee for privileges (21 June) and to a committee for a bill for the assignment of debts to the king (23 June).84 On 9 July he urged the Commons to restore the credit of the royal financier Philip Burlamachi, who had put himself deeply into debt for the king, but to no avail. That same day he was ordered to help inform the lord chief justice that several places in the capital were ‘places of open bawdry’.85 On 10 July Pye penned a note to Sir John Coke concerning the presentation of the Commons’ petition on religion to the king. Coke had asked him to keep him informed of Commons’ business, as he was too angry or embarrassed to enter the chamber himself, having been humiliated two days earlier after trying to persuade the House to vote additional supply.86 During the Oxford sitting Pye renewed his efforts on behalf of Burlamachi (10 Aug.), and this time he succeeded in getting a committee established to consider the financier’s petition, although the dissolution on 12 Aug. meant that it was never able to meet.87 Pye also expressed concern for the social effects of the recent plague outbreak on Westminster, where he himself lived for much of the year. On 11 Aug. he urged that ‘some course’ be taken to ‘repress disorders’, as the city had been deserted by every magistrate and ‘man of value’ and the people were ‘much discontented and speak dangerously’. The following day he reported the recommendation of the committee established to relieve the nine parishes bordering London, which included those in Westminster, to hold a collection in the House.88

Perhaps the most important development of the Oxford sitting was the emergence of feelings of dissatisfaction with Buckingham, which erupted on 5 Aug., when Sir Edward Coke, following the lead set by Sir Francis Seymour, criticized the slowness of the naval preparations and suggested that the duke was too young and inexperienced to hold the office of lord high admiral. These remarks incensed one of Buckingham’s most loyal supporters in the House, Edward Clarke, who on the following day declared that since he had been advanced by the duke he was ‘bound to oppose’ such ‘bitter invectives’.89 The Commons was so offended at this outburst that Clarke was suspended from his place. It is not known whether Pye was present during these events, but he made no effort to defend his fellow Buckingham client. On the contrary, on 8 Aug. he moved that Clarke should make his submission at the bar.90 Two days later he seemed to distance himself from Buckingham, offering ‘to acquaint the House with some things which should be useful’, and claiming that he was ‘was afraid of none’, nor did he ‘so much care for his office as to neglect his duty to the public’. In pointed contrast to Clarke’s earlier observation, he added that though he had been ‘raised by him that now sits at the helm,’ he was glad that Buckingham had been subjected to criticism, as he hoped that the duke would ‘make a good use’ of the adverse comments ‘and become an instrument of much good hereafter’.91 Taken at face value, these remarks came perilously close to an expression of disloyalty towards Buckingham. Pye was saying that, unlike Clarke, he did not regard it as his duty to stand by Buckingham through thick and thin, as the interests of the commonwealth were more important than those of any private individual, no matter how powerful or influential that man might be. However, Pye’s comments should perhaps be seen in the context of trying to persuade the Commons to vote supply.92 He may have understood that the best way to loosen the House’s purse-strings was to admit the justice of some of the criticisms being made. This was a tactic that was to be adopted in May 1626 by Sir George Goring, another of the duke’s supporters, who while conceding that his patron was not without blame, claimed that ‘a heart so generous will reform itself’.93 It may be, then, that both Pye and Goring were acting on the duke’s own instructions, and that Buckingham, by confessing some measure of fault, hoped thereby to placate his critics. Whatever the truth may have been, Pye had said nothing overtly disloyal, and Buckingham continued to employ him as one of his closest advisers.

Following the dissolution, Pye quarrelled with the lord treasurer after Ley sought to bypass the receipt in respect of recusancy revenue, so threatening the fee income of the officers of the receipt. When Pye and his colleagues complained, Ley allegedly endeavoured ‘to take all into his own and [his] secretary’s hands’.94 The outcome of this quarrel is unclear, but as late as 1627 Pye was prepared to embarrass his departmental chief by refusing to obey one of his warrants.95 When Parliament met again, in 1626, Pye was returned for the city of Westminster, presumably on the interest of Buckingham, who served as the borough’s high steward. This new assembly was soon dominated by fresh criticism of the duke, and Pye, who had hitherto felt torn between his loyalty to Buckingham and his duty to the commonwealth, swallowed any remaining doubts he may have had and rallied to the defence of his patron. When (Sir) John Eliot indirectly accused Buckingham of popery on 24 Mar., Pye rejected the charge and reminded the House that it had been Buckingham who had caused negotiations for a Spanish match to be broken off in 1623.96 Five weeks later, after Coryton reported that the duke was ‘adored in Spain’, Pye retorted that England’s enemies were bound to say that Buckingham was a papist, and that it would be foolish to play into their hands by giving credence to such claims.97 Pye was equally forceful in defending the duke against charges of corruption. In answer to the allegation that Cranfield had paid Buckingham £6,000 for the mastership of the Wards, Pye responded on 2 May that, if anything, the boot was on the other foot, as Cranfield ‘had received the £6,000 again with six score thousand pound more out of the king’s estate, ergo it was not the duke that had it’.98 One of the most serious charges against Buckingham was that he had neglected to defend the Narrow Seas. During March 1626 Pye admitted that ships had been slow to put to sea the previous summer, but he declared that the duke was hardly to blame ‘seeing he had no money’.99 For many Members, however, this answer merely begged the question of what had happened to Tunnage and Poundage, which was specifically granted for naval defence. On 8 June the sub-committee for the book of rates reported that Tunnage and Poundage had been ‘employed to other uses than they were granted for’. Pye admitted that this was true, but explained that it had been found during peacetime that the navy did not need all of this money and that therefore £20,000 had been assigned to the royal Household by Act of Parliament.100 It was certainly true that Tunnage and Poundage had been largely diverted to help pay the costs of the royal Household,101 but Pye was mistaken when he said that this had been done with parliamentary approval, and was therefore immediately contradicted by Richard Spencer.

As well as vigorously defending Buckingham, Pye worked hard to secure a generous vote of subsidies for the king. When Sir Peter Heyman argued, on 24 Mar., that there was no need for supply because the subsidies voted in 1624, together with other sources of revenue, would give the king a total of £1,500,000, Pye retorted that the true yield would be less than half of this sum.102 A few days later the House considered voting three subsidies, but Pye realized that a grant this size would not meet the government’s needs. In order to prove his point, he argued, with considerable exaggeration, that ‘since the king of Denmark came into the field the king’s revenues have paid for it’.103 He later urged the House to ‘make an addition of two subsidies more’.104 By 5 May Pye’s patience was wearing thin. When counsel for the silkmen was brought to the bar to give evidence in connection with the dispute over Matthias Fowles’s patent of goldwiredrawers, Pye demanded to know whether the silkmen ‘had not been heard by their counsel in the Upper House in those very points’. He subsequently pressed the House ‘for a present committee’ to draft a subsidy bill, urging haste because, ‘since this Parliament, the want of money at this instant has cost the king every day above £1,000 a day in pay’.105 Pye’s exasperation was shared by the king, who on 9 June threatened ‘to take other resolutions’ unless the subsidy bill was immediately passed. Pye reinforced this message with one of his own: ‘action rather than words will join the king and us together’.106 Three days later, in answer to those Members who resented the threatening tone of Charles’s letter, Pye claimed, somewhat disingenuously, that ‘in this letter [there are] no threats’.107 During the heated exchanges which followed, Sir Humphrey May was criticized by Eliot for warning that if the House persisted with its declaration against Buckingham rather than with the subsidy bill ‘it will end your counsels’. Pye, however, defended May’s right to speak and urged the chair to ‘put the question for the bill of subsidies to be read’.108 He had no sympathy for Coryton’s suggestion that the question should be delayed until after the House had dealt with Buckingham. Instead he thought it more fitting that after they had voted supply Buckingham should be told ‘that if the occasions and charges of the foreign war be greater than this commonwealth can bear ... they may be looked into and lessened’.109

Pye was appointed to several committees during the 1626 Parliament. As in the previous assembly he was named to the committee for privileges (9 February). He was also appointed to help draft a petition to the king concerning the state of his revenue (4 May), having previously been named to a bill committee on the same subject (7 March).110 On 14 Mar. he was required to help consider Sir Dudley Digges’s motion for financing the naval war with Spain by the creation of a voluntary joint-stock company.111 Eight days later he was named to a select committee to consider various naval matters, having also obtained the appointment of a separate committee of lawyers to draft a bill to increase the wages of the navy’s seamen.112 These two committees appear to have been replaced on 15 Apr. by one concerned with naval affairs in general, to which Pye was also named.113 On 8 June Pye was instructed to help draft the heads of the Remonstrance concerning Tunnage and Poundage.114

Shortly after Parliament was dissolved, Pye was named to a commission for examining the state of the king’s revenue and as such he helped to draw up a revenue balance over the summer.115 In October he also contributed £20 to a Privy Seal loan.116 The royal finances were in a ruinous condition, however, and in September 1627, while Buckingham was on campaign, Pye urged his patron to abandon his bellicose foreign policy as ‘His Majesty’s revenue of all kinds is now exhausted’. He added that, ‘I know I please not, but I cannot see one I am so much bound unto, and not inform him my reason’.117 Despite the frankness of this criticism Pye remained one of Buckingham’s most valued servants, and in 1628 the duke again attempted to find him a seat in the borough of Westminster. However, Pye was defeated after a three-day long campaign which was dominated by the Forced Loan, in which, being one of the borough’s Loan commissioners, he was subjected to a barrage of abuse. When his supporters took up the chant ‘a Pye! a Pye! a Pye!’ their opponents responded with ‘a Pudding! a Pudding! a Pudding!’ and ‘a Lie! a Lie! a Lie!’.118 He was subsequently obliged to accept the offer of a seat at Grampound, in Cornwall, from John Mohun, another Buckingham client whom he had previously helped in Parliament.119 Pye’s ignominious defeat in the Westminster election may help to explain why he introduced a bill in April for ‘the more due electing’ of Members, which was given two readings before being thrown out.120 This measure aimed to limit the franchise in the boroughs to householders and 40s. shilling freeholders, and to prevent those dwelling in boroughs from voting in county elections unless they owned land worth 40s. in the county. Furthermore, it sought to fix the time of elections at between eight and nine o’clock in the morning, and threatened any Member who promised his electors ‘money, meat or drink’ with forfeiture of his seat.121

Just as in 1626, Pye found himself forced to defend Buckingham, who once again came under attack in the Commons. On 5 June he tried to persuade the House to establish a committee to consider the latest accusations against the duke, presumably in the hope of burying the matter there, but he was unsuccessful.122 Six days later, when Buckingham was again accused of popery, Pye retorted that ‘the greatest infusions against him, I am sure, have been by such persons as recusants that have had recourse to him’. At the same time, he repeated his earlier admission that Buckingham was not blameless and again reassured the House that his own duty to the commonwealth superseded his loyalty to his patron.123 Pye’s willingness to admit that Buckingham was not without his faults was undoubtedly sincere, for while he was certain that the duke was no papist he, like his fellow Buckingham clients Sir Robert Harley and Sir Henry Mildmay, was probably dismayed at his patron’s failure to censure the Arminians. His hostility towards the Arminians is evident from the fact that, following the king’s first answer to the Petition of Right, he declared that ‘I hope we shall have comfort in the matter of religion’.124 Pye was clearly a mainstream Calvinist, but he may also have had puritan inclinations, for he was named to committees concerned with the problem posed by scandalous ministers (19 April) and popish recusants (23 Apr. and 24 May).125 Moreover, on 20 Mar. he moved that Dr. Robert Harris, the puritan rector of Hanwell, Oxfordshire, should preach to the House.126 However, Pye was no religious radical, for he later donated £50 towards the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral.127

Although Pye may have entertained reservations about Buckingham, he shared the duke’s determination to obtain for the Crown a generous grant of supply. On 4 Apr. he proposed that five subsidies were needed because, as Sir Edward Coke had observed, the value of each subsidy had fallen from £72,000 to £66,000.128 The Commons agreed with this suggestion, but on 21 June the case for such a large grant was threatened by Pye’s fellow Buckingham client Sir Miles Fleetwood, the receiver-general of the Court of Wards, who offered to increase the annual revenue from wardship from £60,000 to £250,000.129 Pye was horrified and after announcing that he hoped that no-one would run away with the idea that ‘any such sum may be raised’ he cautioned Fleetwood that he was in danger of being branded a projector. Fleetwood was so offended to be thus described that Sir Thomas Wentworth had to reassure him that Pye ‘meant no ill’.130 Fleetwood’s proposal was not the only money-making scheme which Pye criticized, for on 23 June he questioned the wisdom of a grant made to the earl of Holland (Henry Rich*) of the office of exchanger, which had caused the profits of the Mint to fall from £7,500 to £1,500 p.a.131 Moreover, as a former navy commissioner he did not approve of the king’s attempts to raise money by selling off woodland, which threatened the supply of timber suitable for shipbuilding. On 6 June he urged that the sale of large tracts of the Forest of Dean be halted as its woodland contained ‘the best timber of England’. He also suggested that the destruction of oaks generally be added to the list of dangers facing the kingdom.132 His interest in this matter was acute, for not only was he named to a committee to investigate the shortage of timber suitable for shipbuilding (25 Apr.) but he also reported a bill designed to halt the decline (12 May).133 Pye’s determination to protect the kingdom’s scarce timber reserves may, of course, have also reflected the opinions of Buckingham. This was certainly the case with regard to Tunnage and Poundage and parliamentary subsidies, for like the duke he desired that money from both these sources should be ring-fenced for the navy (7 May).134

As in the two previous parliaments, Pye was named to the committee for privileges (20 Mar.), and on 16 Apr. he was appointed to consider a petition against John Mohun, to whom he owed his parliamentary seat.135 Among the many bills which attracted his interest were measures on saltpetre, powder and ordnance (25 Apr. and 7 June), all of which were of obvious concern to his master, Buckingham. He was also appointed to the committee for the bill to confirm the foundation of the Charterhouse hospital (8 Apr.), from which institution he leased Elcombe Park.136 On 6 June Pye revealed what he knew of plans to raise 700 German horse for the war effort, and on 12 June he called for a committee after there were calls for the money laid out in billeting troops to be repaid.137 He played little part in the debates about the liberties of the subject, but on 13 May he suggested a minor amendment to the wording of the Petition of Right and on 3 June announced that he agreed with those who wished the king to give a fuller answer to the Petition.138

When Parliament reassembled in 1629, Pye continued to show a marked interest in matters of religion. On 30 Jan. he was added to a committee for a bill to increase the availability of a preaching ministry, while on 4 Feb. he was placed on a sub-committee that had been instructed to discover who was responsible for soliciting the pardons which had been issued to four leading Arminians. He was also one of three Members dispatched on 14 Feb. to inquire of the attorney-general (Sir Robert Heath*) why the indictment against the Catholic priests arrested at Clerkenwell the previous year had been so badly drawn.139 One of the main grievances of the sessions was the king’s continued levying of Tunnage and Poundage without parliamentary authority and the detention by the customs officers of the goods belonging to various merchants who had refused to pay the duty. On 14 Feb. Pye was appointed to help search for precedents in the Exchequer concerning the detaining of goods for non-payment. Most Members of the Commons were already convinced that the levy was illegal, however, and on 2 Mar. Eliot and Walter Long II announced that anyone who paid Tunnage and Poundage without parliamentary authority ought to be declared a ‘capital enemy to the kingdom’. Pye replied, somewhat lamely, that he ‘would not have us go so generally as to prohibit merchants to pay what they will voluntarily’.140

The death of Buckingham in August 1628 had deprived Pye of his patron, but by January 1631 he was in the service of Philip, 4th earl of Pembroke,141 who, like Pye, was one of Buckingham’s executors and a trustee for the duke’s son.142 Despite finding a new employer, Pye faithfully continued to defend the Villiers’ interest, thereby bringing him into conflict with Ireland’s lord deputy, Sir Thomas Wentworth*, who in 1638 wished to buy out the duchess of Buckingham’s lease of the Irish customs in order to improve the king’s Irish revenue. In January an exasperated Wentworth commended Pye for his care but thought that he ‘ought to remember, we have a living master to be considered also’.143 Pye refused to budge, however, a decision which allegedly cost the king £2,000 a year.144 During the first Civil War he was a reluctant parliamentarian, who secretly sought an accommodation with the king. He died at his house in Westminster in May 1662, having bequeathed the bulk of his estate to his eldest son, Sir Robert, who represented Berkshire in Parliament between 1654 and 1660.145

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. SCL, EM1331, f. 1; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 270.
  • 2. MTR, 479-80.
  • 3. Memorials of St. Margaret’s Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 107, 115, 122, 131, 146, 635; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 270.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 177.
  • 5. See notes 47-50.
  • 6. Lansd. 93, f. 98v; Add. 12528, f. 7v.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 37, 353; HCA 30/864, bdle. A, unnumb. item, 18 Mar. 1626, Buckingham’s commrs. to Sir Henry Marten; Bodl. Eng. Misc. C.208, ff. 171v-2; SP16/86/45.
  • 8. Lansd. 972, f. 69.
  • 9. C66/2176; C216/1/67; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 29.
  • 10. LC5/50, f. 235; 4th DKR, ii. 187; Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xviii), 207.
  • 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, pp. 161-4; APC, 1626, p. 51.
  • 12. APC, 1621-3, p. 230; E403/2741, Easter term bk. f. 90.
  • 13. APC, 1625-6, p. 198; 1626, p. 167.
  • 14. Rymer, viii. pt. 1, pp. 9-12; E351/2263-6, unfol.
  • 15. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 113, 144; APC, 1627, p. 285.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1625-26, p. 428; Maynard Ltcy. Bk. ed. B. Quintrell, 193.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 7.
  • 18. SR, v. 123.
  • 19. C181/3, f. 16; C66/2858.
  • 20. C231/4, p. 386; 231/5, p. 533.
  • 21. C231/4, p. 387; 231/5, p. 533.
  • 22. E115/296/86, 103; 115/306/126; 115/310/109; 115/311/47; 115/318/82; SR, v. 153.
  • 23. Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 24. C192/1, unfol.
  • 25. C181/4, f. 179.
  • 26. Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. 1635-9, pp. 61-2.
  • 27. PC2/46, f. 273.
  • 28. WCA, E2431, ff. 16, 83v.
  • 29. A. and O. i. 114.
  • 30. Ibid. 140.
  • 31. Ibid. 961, 966, 970, 972, 1078, 1084, 1087, 1090.
  • 32. Ibid. 383.
  • 33. Ibid. 227, 232, 536, 541.
  • 34. Ibid. 455.
  • 35. Ibid. 623, 636.
  • 36. Ibid. 691.
  • 37. Ibid. 803-4.
  • 38. Ibid. 905.
  • 39. Ibid. 1234, 1239, 1246.
  • 40. LC4/198, ff. 56v, 162; J. Hawarde, Reps. del Cases in Camera Stellata, 129-33.
  • 41. E112/102/1344; C54/2585/27; STAC 8/288/31; WARD 9/162, f. 345.
  • 42. PROB 11/77, f. 318.
  • 43. SCL, EM1331, ff. 3, 5; C54/2255/34.
  • 44. Ben Jonson ed. C.H. Herford and P. and E. Simpson, viii. 231.
  • 45. PROB 11/77, f. 317.
  • 46. LMA, Acc/1876/G/06/01, ff. 21v-2v.
  • 47. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 302.
  • 48. C54/2255/34.
  • 49. Castle Ashby, FD 1084/5. We are grateful for this ref. to Peter McKay, archivist at Castle Ashby.
  • 50. Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 56.
  • 51. Bodl. Add. D111, f. 38. We are grateful to Roger Lockyer for providing us with a transcript of this document.
  • 52. Castle Ashby, FD 1084/10.
  • 53. Harl. 1581, ff. 118, 120.
  • 54. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 37.
  • 55. Harl. 1581, f. 125.
  • 56. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 283.
  • 57. See body of text.
  • 58. C66/2135; PSO5/3, unfol.
  • 59. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 206.
  • 60. Bodl. Add. D111, f. 38.
  • 61. Ct. of Jas. I ed. G. Goodman, ii. 215.
  • 62. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 342.
  • 63. G. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 209; C66/2338. See also ‘The Notebk. and Acct. Bk. of Nicholas Stone’ ed. W.L. Spiers (Walpole Soc. vii), 104-5.
  • 64. Bodl. Clarendon ms 3, f. 78.
  • 65. Add. 64884, f. 43v.
  • 66. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. xvii, 353.
  • 67. CJ, i. 609b, 611b.
  • 68. Ibid. 623b; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 199.
  • 69. CJ, i. 641a.
  • 70. CD 1621, iii. 132.
  • 71. LJ, iii. 60a.
  • 72. Berks. RO, D/ELL/E3/1-3.
  • 73. VCH Berks. iv. 493; Add. 64884, ff. 55, 109; C54/3194/12.
  • 74. LJ, iii. 286a; R. Ruigh, Parl of 1624, pp. 322-3; LD 1624 and 1626, 21; SP14/162/13.
  • 75. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 188.
  • 76. ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 281; CJ, i. 698a.
  • 77. ‘Earle 1624’, f. 138.
  • 78. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 221.
  • 79. CJ, i. 687a, 705b.
  • 80. Ibid. 793a, 753a, 789b.
  • 81. Ibid. 788a. See also ibid. 715a.
  • 82. Ibid. 714a.
  • 83. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 577.
  • 84. Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 229.
  • 85. Ibid. 360, 362.
  • 86. HMC Cowper, i. 206.
  • 87. Procs. 1625, pp. 442, 447.
  • 88. Ibid. 469, 472.
  • 89. Ibid. 418; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 256.
  • 90. Procs. 1625, p. 422.
  • 91. Ibid. 451.
  • 92. Ibid. 445. For an alternative view, see Aylmer, 312.
  • 93. Procs. 1626, iii. 129.
  • 94. Add. 64884, f. 109v; Add. 64885, f. 71. For the remonstrance of the officers of the receipt, see Add. 6176, f. 28.
  • 95. Liber Famelicus, 108.
  • 96. Procs. 1626, ii. 358.
  • 97. Ibid. iii. 160.
  • 98. Ibid. 129.
  • 99. Procs. 1626, ii. 203, 360. For a discussion of this point, see A. Thrush, ‘In Pursuit of the Frigate’, HR, lxiv. 30.
  • 100. CD 1628, iii. 311.
  • 101. A. Thrush, ‘Naval Finance’, War and Govt. in Britain 1598-1650 ed. M.C. Fissel, 141.
  • 102. Procs. 1626, ii. 362.
  • 103. Ibid. ii. 380.
  • 104. Ibid. 74.
  • 105. Ibid. iii. 172-3.
  • 106. Ibid. 408.
  • 107. Ibid. 429.
  • 108. Ibid. 428.
  • 109. Ibid. 425.
  • 110. Ibid. ii. 214; iii. 156.
  • 111. Ibid. ii. 280.
  • 112. Ibid. 339-40.
  • 113. Ibid. 446.
  • 114. Ibid. iii. 392.
  • 115. Univ. of London, Goldsmiths’ ms 195, i. ff. 4, 24v.
  • 116. E401/1913, unfol. payment of 25 Oct. 1626.
  • 117. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. xvii, 353.
  • 118. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 327.
  • 119. Procs. 1628, vi. 139.
  • 120. CD 1628, ii. 566-7; iii. 26, 29.
  • 121. Ibid. iii. 33-4.
  • 122. Ibid. iv. 127.
  • 123. Ibid. 249, 266.
  • 124. Ibid. 66; C. Russell, PEP, 345.
  • 125. CD 1628, ii. 564; iii. 43, 593.
  • 126. Ibid. ii. 36.
  • 127. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 11.
  • 128. CD 1628, ii. 316; Procs. 1628, vi. 63.
  • 129. CD 1628, iv. 420. The exact figs. given by Fleetwood vary in different accounts. See ibid. 406, 410, 414, 417.
  • 130. Ibid. 410, 414; HMC Cowper, i. 351.
  • 131. CD 1628, iv. 432, 442.
  • 132. Ibid. iv. 155.
  • 133. Ibid. iii. 71, 373.
  • 134. Ibid. 311.
  • 135. Ibid. ii. 28, 479.
  • 136. Ibid. 360; LMA, Acc/1876/G/06/01, ff. 21v-2v.
  • 137. CD 1628, iv. 146, 158, 285
  • 138. Ibid. iii. 396; iv. 66.
  • 139. CJ, i. 924b; CD 1629, p. 211.
  • 140. CJ, i. 930a; CD 1629, p. 171.
  • 141. C112/18/17. See also SCL, EM1351; CLRO, Deed 62.1.
  • 142. Wills from Doctors’ Commons ed. J.G. Nicholas and J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxxxiii), 91; CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 342.
  • 143. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 144.
  • 144. Ibid. 205. See also Works of Abp. Laud ed. J. Bliss, vii. 403-4, 409-10, 418, 448, 455.
  • 145. PROB 11/308, f. 131v.