VERNEY, Sir Richard (1564-1630), of Compton Verney, Warws.
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Family and Education
b. 5 July 1564,1 o.s. of George Verney of Compton Verney and Jane, da. of William Lucy of Charlecote, Warws.2 educ. G. Inn 1582.3 m. 1582, Margaret (d. 26 Mar. 1631), da. of Sir Fulke Greville of Beauchamp’s Court, Alcester, Warws., 4s. 4da.4 suc. fa. 1574;5 kntd. 11 May 1603.6 d. 7 Aug. 1630.7 sig. Richard Verney.
J.p. Warws. c.1584-d.;8 sheriff 1590-1, 1604-6;9 commr. subsidy 1594, 1598, 1600, 1608, 1611, 1621-2, 1624, 1628,10 musters 1597;11 surveyor of Crown lands 1603-at least 1621;12 collector, tenths and fifteenths, 1604, 1608-10,13 Privy Seal loans 1604-6;14 commr. enclosure riots, Warws. and Coventry, Warws. 1607,15 depopulation, Warws. 1607;16 dep. lt. 1607-at least 1628;17 commr. aid 1609, collector, 1609, 1613;18 commr. Forced Loan 1626-7,19 swans, Midlands 1627-9,20 knighthood fines, Warws. by d.21
Resident at Compton Verney from the mid-fifteenth century, the Verneys were among Warwickshire’s more prominent gentry families, supplying the county with sheriffs in 1529 and 1562.22 Verney was aged only nine when, in 1574, he inherited nearly 5,000 acres, of which around half was near his home, and the rest in Gloucestershire. His wardship passed through several hands before coming to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester in 1579. Although a match with the niece of William Cecil†, Lord Burghley was discussed, Verney eventually married into a notable Warwickshire line, the Grevilles of Beauchamp’s Court, in 1582.23 His wealth and connections guaranteed him rapid entry into local government, and in 1589 he served as junior knight of the shire alongside his brother-in-law, Sir Fulke Greville*. In the years following Leicester’s death, Verney entered the circle of Sir Robert Cecil†, who probably arranged for him to represent West Looe in 1601.24
The new reign began promisingly, with Verney acquiring both a knighthood and the surveyorship of Crown lands in Warwickshire. Moreover, in 1604 he became junior knight of the shire for the second time.25 Although not known to have spoken in debate, Verney received several high-profile appointments during the first session. On 23 Mar. he was named to the committee to consider Sir Robert Wroth I’s controversial reform agenda. He was twice selected to accompany the Speaker to attend the king in connection with Goodwin’s Case (28 Mar. and 12 Apr.), and was nominated to conferences with the Lords on the Union and wardship (14 Apr. and 22 May). His surveyorship perhaps explains his appointment on 3 May to a bill committee concerned with assart lands. He was also named to the committee to consider the bill for restitution of William Paget (12 April).26
In the following autumn, Verney was again pricked as sheriff of Warwickshire. His term of office was just drawing to a close when the Gunpowder Plot was uncovered in November 1605. Whether Verney was then in London for the opening of the new session of Parliament is not clear. Either way, a large group of the conspirators escaped unmolested through Warwickshire. Although Verney quickly forwarded the names of some of the ringleaders to the Worcestershire authorities, and rounded up numerous suspects during the following weeks, he also had to deny a report that he had provided a pass for a servant of one of the plotters, Sir Everard Digby. The government was apparently unimpressed by his performance, and subsequently blocked his attempt to recover his expenses.27
As a consequence of the Gunpowder Plot, Verney’s shrievalty was extended into early 1606, and he may not have resumed his Commons’ seat until February. His profile during the second session was markedly lower. On 14 May he was nominated to help present a petition of grievances to the king, but apart from this he was appointed only to five bill committees. Of these, one was concerned with the election of MPs, and another with the naturalization of the children of a fellow Warwickshire gentleman, Sir Edward Conway I* (both 3 April).28 He was even less conspicuous in subsequent sessions. In 1607 he received a single committee nomination, to consider a naturalization bill (10 March). During the fourth session he was nominated or added to legislative committees concerned with the preservation of game, the naturalization of ambassadors’ children, and two defence-related issues, the export of ordnance and supplies of timber for shipping (22 Mar.; 27 Apr.; 10 May).29
Verney displayed no discernible interest in life at Court, even during the second decade of James’s reign, when his brother-in-law Greville, and other friends such as (Sir) John Coke* and (Sir) Robert Naunton* achieved high office.30 However, he took his responsibilities within Warwickshire society seriously, and his sense of public duty apparently convinced him in 1610 to take on a lease of several properties in the county, including Kenilworth Castle. Although these estates had escheated to the Crown following the flight abroad of Sir Robert Dudley, the illegitimate son of Verney’s former guardian, the king wished to provide for Dudley’s abandoned wife, who belonged to another major Warwickshire family, the Leighs of Stoneleigh. Accordingly, Verney and his two fellow lessees agreed to manage the estates while they remained in limbo, and to hand over the rents to Lady Alice Dudley and two courtiers, Lord Kincleven and Robert Sidney†, viscount L’Isle. This unusual arrangement swiftly proved a liability for the lessees, who were unable to claim back the costs of repairing Kenilworth, and suffered harassment from the two peers. Their pleas for the lease to be cancelled were ignored, although in 1615 they managed to obtain revised terms.31
Whatever the financial penalties, the Kenilworth saga did no harm to Verney’s local reputation, and he was once more elected a knight for his native county in 1614. He was named to just one committee, to consider taking action over the offensive remarks made by the bishop of Lincoln (1 June).32 Verney had now reached his sixth decade, and his declining years seem to have passed almost without major incident. However, in 1628 the death of his brother-in-law, Sir Fulke Greville, latterly 1st lord Brooke, precipitated a major inheritance dispute. Brooke had left the bulk of his property to Robert Greville*, the distant cousin who inherited his title, and the Verneys alleged that this included some lands which had been promised to them. The case eventually went before Star Chamber, which found against Greville, but it is unclear whether a final settlement was reached before Verney’s death.33
Afflicted by a sudden illness, Verney made his will on 30 July 1630. He had apparently already provided for most of his family, but he now assigned dowries totalling £2,000 to his two unmarried daughters, and bequeathed £30 to the poor of the six villages closest to Compton Verney. He died a week later, and was buried in the private chapel attached to his house. His monument, which cost £90, was supplied by Nicholas Stone.34
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paul Hunneyball
- 1. C142/169/77.
- 2. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 25.
- 3. GI Admiss.
- 4. R. Bearman, ‘Verney Fam. over 16 Generations’, Compton Verney: a History of the House and its Owners ed. R. Bearman, 28; Vis. Warws. 25; C142/514/55.
- 5. C142/169/77.
- 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 105.
- 7. WARD 7/86/148.
- 8. E163/14/8; C66/2527.
- 9. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 146-7.
- 10. E179/193/237, 248, 253, 280; 179/194/310; SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
- 11. APC, 1597, p. 137.
- 12. E315/310, f. 5; LR9/121.
- 13. E401/2403, 2410, 2413.
- 14. E401/2585, ff. 52-3.
- 15. C181/2, ff. 35, 42v.
- 16. C205/5/4.
- 17. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, DR98/895a; SP16/111/34.
- 18. E179/273/39; 179/283; E403/2732, f. 170.
- 19. C193/12/2, f. 60v; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145.
- 20. C181/3, ff. 227, 268v.
- 21. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 333.
- 22. Dugdale, i. 565; List of Sheriffs, 146.
- 23. C142/169/77; SP12/103/59; WARD 9/221, f. 61v; CPR, 1578-80, p. 144.
- 24. HMC Hatfield, vii. 244; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 557.
- 25. Verney’s election indenture does not survive, but his return is confirmed by SP14/7/82 II.
- 26. CJ, i. 151a, 157a, 169b, 172a, 197b, 222b.
- 27. A. Haynes, Gunpowder Plot, 91; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 484, 493, 529; xviii. 156; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 242-3, 257.
- 28. The remaining bill cttees. were concerned with a Worcs. bridge, and the Meyrick and Throckmorton families: CJ, i. 275a, 291b, 293a, 307a, 309a.
- 29. Ibid. 351a, 413b, 422a, 427a.
- 30. HMC Cowper, i. 44, 47, 63, 67-8.
- 31. C66/1874/4; 66/2068/1; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. lxii), 10; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 628, 632, 650; 1611-18, pp. 9, 24; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, iv. 230.
- 32. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 405.
- 33. R.A. Rebholz, Life of Fulke Greville, 1st Lord Brooke, 319; A. Hughes, Pols., Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 25; SP16/126/5.
- 34. PROB 11/160, f. 353r-v; Dugdale, i. 569; W.L. Spiers, ‘Notebook and Acct. Bk. of Nicholas Stone’, Walpole Soc. vii. 73.