WENTWORTH, Sir Thomas (1593-1641), of Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorks.; later of Dublin Castle, co. Dublin

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



1625 - 5 July 1625
1 Aug. 1625
1628 - 22 July 1628

Family and Education

b. 13 Apr. 1593,1 1st s. of Sir William Wentworth, 1st bt. of Wentworth Woodhouse and Anne, da. of Robert Atkinson of L. Inn, London and Stowell, Glos.2 educ. Well g.s. Yorks.; I. Temple 1608; St. John’s, Camb. 1609; travelled abroad (France) 1611-12.3 m. (1) settlement 8 Oct. 1611, Margaret (bur. 21 Sept. 1622), da. of Francis Clifford*, 4th earl of Cumberland, s.p.;4 (2) 24 Feb. 1625 (with £5,000), Arbella (d. 5 Oct. 1631), da. of (Sir) John Holles*, 1st earl of Clare, 1s.;5 (3) c.Oct. 1632, Elizabeth (d. 19 Apr. 1688), da. of Sir Godfrey Rodes of Great Haughton, Yorks., s.p.6 kntd. 6 Dec. 1611;7 suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 1614;8 cr. Bar. Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse, baron of Newmarch and Oversley 22 July 1628, Visct. Wentworth 13 Dec. 1628, baron of Raby and earl of Strafford 12 Jan. 1640, KG Oct. 1640.9 exec. 12 May 1641. sig. Th[omas] Wentworth.

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Yorks. (W. Riding) 1611-d.;10 j.p. and custos rot. W. Riding 1616-26, 1628-d., j.p. E. and N. Riding, Ripon and Cawood liberties, Yorks., co. Durham, Northumbs., Southwell liberty, Notts., Cumb., Westmld. 1629-d.;11 commr. oyer and terminer, Northern circ. 1616-26, 1629-d.;12 member, Council in the North 1616-28, ld. pres. Dec. 1628-Apr. 1641;13 commr. subsidy, Yorks. (W. Riding) 1621, 1624, 1629;14 recvr.-gen. Yorks. 1622-3;15 sheriff, Yorks. 1625-6;16 commr. Forced Loan, W. Riding 1626;17 recvr. recusancy fines, N. parts 1629-40;18 kpr. Richmond and Middleham castles, Yorks. 1630;19 collector, knighthood fines, Yorks., co. Dur., Northumbs., Cumb., Westmld. 1630-4;20 commr. sewers, R. Derwent 1631, York Ainsty, Yorks. 1633, R. Trent 1634, N. Riding 1638.21

Commr. decay of trade 1622;22 PC 1629-40; commr. exacted fees 1630-4, 1636-40, repair of St. Paul’s cathedral 1631;23 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1633,24 Council of War 1640.25

Ld. dep. [I] 1632-9, ld. lt. [I] 1639-40.26

Lt.-gen., royal army 1640.27


The Wentworths were resident at Wentworth Woodhouse by the end of the thirteenth century, although Wentworth’s father boldly claimed his ancestors had ‘for a long time before the Conquest been of worship and reputation’. While surpassed in fortune and eminence by a cadet branch seated at Nettlestead, Suffolk, who were created barons Wentworth in 1529 and earls of Cleveland in 1626, the senior line were substantial West Riding gentry, deriving their income from both land and coal. This wealth did not translate into parliamentary influence before 1600: there were no borough constituencies in the area, and while Wentworth’s father and grandfather both served as sheriff, the Yorkshire county seats were apparently beyond their reach. Hence the only MP in their immediate family was Michael Wentworth, a Household official returned for Midhurst, Sussex in 1554. Moreover, Wentworth’s father was overshadowed by his powerful neighbour Gilbert Talbot†, 7th earl of Shrewsbury, lord of the manor of Sheffield, at whose behest he backed Sir John Savile* at the contested Yorkshire election of 1597.28

Given his relatively obscure background and his youth - he was only 36 years old when appointed president of the Ccouncil in the North - Wentworth’s early accomplishments as a politician and statesman were by no means pre-ordained. Some of his successes can be ascribed to fortunate circumstances, but he was also possessed of what Clarendon termed ‘a piercing judgment both into things and persons’, which he consistently turned to his best advantage.29 This can be seen both during his parliamentary career in 1628, when he laboured to dispel the mutual suspicion which existed between Crown and Commons, and also during the 1630s, when he juggled factional rivalries in Ireland, Yorkshire and Whitehall in order to secure his own position and effect administrative reforms. Although ‘Thorough’ can be viewed as a bulwark of Caroline absolutism, Wentworth, unlike Laud, was never afraid of Parliaments: in 1634 he secured a swift grant of six subsidies from the Irish Parliament, a stark contrast to the ugly scenes which had marred the opening of the 1613 session; while in 1641 his forceful rebuttal of impeachment charges laid in the English Parliament obliged his enemies to secure his downfall via an attainder.

I. Early Life

Schooled with Lord Henry Clifford* and Christopher Wandesford*, two of his staunchest supporters in later life, in 1611 Wentworth married Clifford’s sister, through whom he claimed kinship with lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†). He entered county politics at the Yorkshire election of 1614, when he was put forward as junior knight of the shire, either by Shrewsbury or his father-in-law, Francis Clifford, 4th earl of Cumberland. Although (probably) paired with Sir John Savile*, who was returned unopposed, Wentworth faced a challenge from Sir John Mallory*, who assembled an impressive coalition of support including Wandesford, his great-nephew. However, sheriff Sir George Savile† returned Wentworth (his great-nephew) at a tumultuous election, using ‘trumpets and other practices’ to drown out Mallory’s supporters. A petition from Mallory’s supporters was filed at the start of the session, but was ordered to be ‘respited till Sir John Savile’s coming up’. It was then forgotten, perhaps because a similar petition from Cambridgeshire had achieved nothing.30 Wentworth left little trace on the records of the Parliament: he was named to the committee for the bill to enfranchise county Durham (31 May); and another for the supersedeas bill (18 May), which Savile proposed to apply to the Council in the North; while the York MP Christopher Brooke* had him added to the apparel bill committee (17 May). He also took notes of the king’s opening speech and several other debates, and drafted two speeches, one for the debate about undertakers on 12 Apr., in which he urged

...that we should signify to our most just king that in ourselves we are fully satisfied by His Majesty’s gracious words that there is [sic] no undertakers, only that we would have him likewise fully satisfied that our liberties and loves went hand in hand... and they were not to be drawn on by the vain hopes of any private men’s preferments whosoever, further than our zeals and loyalties would willingly yield unto.

The other draft speech urged the exoneration of Sir Robert Killigrew following the latter’s attempt to drag Sir Roger Owen from the chair of the undertakers’ committee a month later. There is no evidence that either was delivered in the House.31

In December 1615 Savile, forced to resign as custos rotulorum of the West Riding for abusing his office, was allowed to recommend his successor. Having proposed two lawyers and Wentworth, he was almost certainly delighted when the latter was chosen, calculating that an inexperienced youth could be prevailed upon to surrender the post once his own stock had improved at Court. Thus in 1617 Wentworth received a letter from the favourite, the earl of Buckingham, urging him to resign in the hope of ‘as good preferment upon any other occasion’. Wentworth responded by proving that Savile had been removed for just cause, and, while claiming that ‘I am free from ambition to desire places of employment’, insisted that his resignation ‘might justly be taken as the greatest disgrace that could be done unto me’. Behind the scenes, he lobbied hard at Court, and Buckingham, admitting that he had been misinformed, begged Wentworth ‘not to trouble yourself ... with any doubt of further proceeding in this matter’.32 This dispute saddled Wentworth with a powerful enemy, but it also revealed that Savile was not politically invulnerable, as many had assumed since his crushing election victory of 1597. At the same time, the death of the earl of Shrewsbury left the manor of Sheffield in the hands of two absentee courtiers, William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke and Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, both of whom trusted Wentworth’s judgment in local affairs. Shortly thereafter, the arrival of the Catholic sympathizer Emanuel, 10th Baron Scrope as president at York in 1619 radically altered the political complexion of the Council in the North. Savile, patron of the West Riding puritans, publicized his disapproval of this appointment widely during the next parliamentary election, but Scrope, who had doubtless become aware of Savile’s hostility much earlier, co-opted Wentworth and Clifford onto the Council in July 1619.33

II. Parliament and the Quest for Preferment, 1620-3

The impact of these local changes became apparent at the Yorkshire election of December 1620. Scrope initially planned to partner his vice-president, Sir Thomas Fairfax II*, with secretary of state (Sir) George Calvert, a Yorkshire native who had recently purchased an estate at Kiplin in the North Riding. However, Fairfax, whose father had paired with Savile at the 1597 election, clearly balked at the notion of a contest with such a formidable opponent. Wentworth, having nothing to lose by offending Savile further, persuaded Fairfax to step aside, and offered Calvert his own services. His first move was to ensure that his cousin George Radcliffe* obtained custody of the writ. He pressed Calvert to secure a letter from the Privy Council warning Savile to stand aside, promised various supporters an introduction to the secretary, and attempted to prod Scrope into action by warning that defeat would be ‘some touch to our own estimations above’. He worked hard to mobilize supporters across the North and East Ridings, while in the West Riding he promised Calvert ‘a thousand voices of my own besides my friends’. Even in Savile’s heartland, the cloth districts of the Airedale and Calderdale, he found allies. While some of Wentworth’s supporters boasted that Savile ‘will think it more wisdom and safety for his reputation to go to his grave with that honour the country hath already cast upon him than to hazard the loss of all at a farewell’, he was himself more cautious. Learning that Savile’s partisans proposed to petition against Calvert on the grounds that he was a non-resident, Wentworth planned to challenge Savile for the senior seat himself, leaving Calvert unopposed; the sheriff could then be prevailed upon to enter Calvert’s name first on the indenture. He used the high constables to circulate a refutation of Savile’s slanders against Calvert, and also to hold a canvass of the freeholders, ostensibly so ‘we may keep the note as a testimony of their good affections and know whom we are beholden unto’.34 Election day produced some surprises: Savile made a last minute pairing with his son Sir Thomas*, which invalidated Wentworth’s ploy to secure Calvert’s return unopposed; while the sheriff allegedly shut the gates of the castle yard with many of Savile’s supporters still outside. Calvert and Wentworth were returned, although the Saviles procured 362 signatures to a petition against the election. This dispute was heard by the privileges committee in the first week of the session, when only William Mallory*, resentful of his father’s defeat in 1614, called for the result to be overturned. Instead, the investigation focused upon the question of whether the high constables had exceeded their capacity in canvassing for Wentworth, and if so, whether they had done so at his instigation or on their own initiative. Two of the constables produced copies of Wentworth’s letters, which exonerated Wentworth from the charge of exercising undue influence; another two, who had exceeded their instructions by issuing warrants to the freeholders in the peremptory form to ‘will and require’, were punished on 23 March.35

While the county election inevitably dominated his attention, Wentworth was also involved in promoting the return of several of his allies, among them Arthur Ingram, his chief supporter in York, who was returned for Appleby in Westmorland, on the Clifford interest. This seat had initially been promised to Wandesford, who found another at Aldborough, Yorkshire, so displacing Sir Henry Savile*, who had represented the borough in the two preceding Parliaments. The latter had been canvassing for Wentworth in Sir John Savile’s heartland, the honour of Wakefield, and unsuccessful efforts were made to find him a seat at Richmond, with both Calvert and Scrope lobbying on his behalf.36 His rejection led Sir Henry to circulate a petition in the West Riding for the disenfranchisement of Aldborough - where the franchise lay in the hands of a mere nine burgesses - in favour of Wakefield or Leeds, both of which neighboured his own estates. He clearly hoped thereby to secure a seat for himself, but Wentworth, doubtless worried that Sir John Savile would dominate the new constituency, recommended Doncaster as an alternative. The petition never reached the Commons, perhaps because the king was known to have set his face against any such enlargement; but this did not bar the re-enfranchisement of boroughs which had occasionally returned Members during the fourteenth century. On 26 Mar., three days after the Yorkshire election dispute was resolved in Wentworth’s favour, Sir Edwin Sandys tendered a petition for the re-enfranchisement of Pontefract, which was referred to the privileges’ committee and approved the next day, allowing the election to be held during the Easter recess. Sir Henry Savile was not returned, but Wentworth, doubtless the promoter of the scheme, acquired a permanent electoral interest within the borough.37

Wentworth kept a parliamentary diary during the first month of the 1621 session, reporting debates at some length, but failing to identify the speakers, even when he spoke himself. He recorded the details of many of the complaints about election returns, doubtless to use as precedents, but omitted the details of his own case. He also covered the main debates held during the opening weeks, but he abandoned his efforts on 26 Feb., probably due to his own increasing activity within the House.38

Having remained silent during the final debates of the 1614 Parliament, Wentworth played no part in the freedom of speech debates with which the 1621 session opened; his first speech, on 13 Feb., secured the establishment of a standing committee for the expiring laws continuance bill. The investigation of patentees began a few days later, and on 21 Feb. Wentworth asked ‘to see what laws there were to punish the patentees, for if we let them go with laying down their patents, what do we reform?’ This remark suggests that he was aware of the significance of Sir Edward Coke’s plans to revive Parliament’s legal jurisdiction, which came to fruition over the following week, during which time Wentworth called for a patentee to be exempted from the general pardon, condemned the Virginia lottery as a grievance and warned, correctly, that the patentee (Sir) Giles Mompesson* might flee if not kept under arrest. The campaign against the patentees received a setback on 8 Mar., when those presenting Mompesson’s impeachment charges to the Lords failed to indict the referees. There were angry scenes the following morning as blame was apportioned, but Wentworth was one of those who sought to repair the breach: ‘for us to fall upon Members of our House, he holds inconvenient, though there was slips’. The result was a monopolies’ bill, which he urged should be carefully drafted, the penalties for infringement being so great.39

At least until the middle of March, Wentworth was mindful that an adverse decision over his election might leave him to face the Yorkshire freeholders once again, which led him to warn the House that demands for subsidies would prove unpopular with taxpayers unless the pill were sweetened:

he that thinks that countrymen have no understanding, or that they will be fed with words shall find himself much deceived. Therefore he desired that though the pardon went not with it, yet ... at least the bills of grace might go with it, not by way of merchandise, but as the subsidies come free from us, so these bills of grace might freely come from His Majesty.

When the king sent a message of thanks on 12 Mar. it was Wentworth who moved to have it set down in writing, working the text into the speech he delivered to the subsidy assessors at Rotherham over Easter as evidence of the ‘happy union twixt the king and his people’. On this occasion he also commended the proceedings against patentees to his Yorkshire neighbours, ‘being of more safety to the commonwealth in the example than six of the best laws that have been made in six of the last Parliaments’. While obliged to admit ‘we have given away your money and made no laws’, he recited the benefits of some of the grace bills for supersedeas, informers and limitations of actions. He also commended Secretary Calvert for striking down the clause in the informers’ bill which would have allowed the attorney-general to continue laying informations.40

Wentworth returned to Westminster just in time to witness the Commons’ attack on the Catholic barrister Edward Floyd. At the end of a long day he had the presence of mind to move for a committee to provide formal charges against the accused. On the following morning the king asked the House to justify its actions, which led Wentworth to call for a law to confirm its jurisdiction over Floyd. The Commons’ stance was of dubious provenance, and Wentworth soon fell back on the notion that the Commons had jurisdiction, but the king reserved the power of execution. During his stay in Yorkshire Wentworth had clearly been briefed about a number of local grievances: on 2 May he tabled a petition against John Lepton’s patent for issue of process by the Council in the North, which was condemned by the grievances’ committee five days later. When the bill to regulate the brogging of wool was reported on 17 May, Wentworth moved to confirm the exemption granted under the Halifax Act of 1555, though Mallory claimed that a county Member should not show favouritism to a specific borough. A week later, Wentworth and John Lister of Hull moved to include the Hull whalers’ fishing grounds off Spitzbergen in the bill for free fishing in American waters. Finally, on 1 June, several Yorkshire MPs joined to quash a petition which accused lord president Scrope of corruption. On 30 May, when the king asked the Commons to choose between an immediate adjournment or a legislative session, Wentworth naturally pressed to continue with bills, ‘that we may do as much as lieth in our power to satisfy the people who have paid their money’. On the last day of the sitting, after the Commons passed a Protestation declaring its support for the Palatine cause, it was Wentworth who moved for the whole House to accompany the Speaker at the presentation of this document.41

When Wentworth offered Calvert his electoral services, he could not have foreseen the suspension of secretary of state (Sir) Robert Naunton* in January 1621, which left the pro-Spanish Calvert in sole charge of the implementation of royal diplomacy for the next two years. This coincidence, combined with Wentworth’s judicious performance in the House and his willingness to explain the early grant of supply to his neighbours, quickly led to rumours of preferment: a viscountcy was mentioned as early as June 1621. While this did not come to pass, Wentworth’s behaviour in the Commons during the following autumn provided an interesting counterpoint to the Crown’s official policy, suggesting that he was coming to identify his interests with those of the Spanish faction at Court.

Parliament reassembled on 20 Nov. in an atmosphere of crisis, with the Spanish threat to the Palatinate making supply the king’s top priority. Wentworth’s prime concern, however, was to ensure that the bills his constituents demanded resumed their orderly progress through the House: on 23 Nov. he called for legislation to be prepared for royal approval before Christmas. The Crown’s spokesmen inaugurated a supply debate on 26 Nov., at the end of which Wentworth unsuccessfully called to postpone the question of voting subsidies for five days, the better to pass bills. On the following day he moved to concede almost anything but supply. ‘The dangers of religion abroad’ were such that Members should seek to secure the safety of religion at home, he declared, and since ‘a sweetening of differences between the king and us’ had begun, he desired ‘to further this’. His timetable ran counter to that of the government: ‘first that there be a sessions and that some bills be signed’; then (necessarily after Christmas) another vote of supply; and finally ‘war and peace in the king’s hands, that we would declare that we would be ready to lay down our lives and estates at his feet’. The House settled on a grant of one subsidy the following morning, but Wentworth

would not have us capitulate with the king, nor to give the subsidy on condition to have a sessions before Christmas; but would have us petition the king for a session, without hope whereof he would not have given this subsidy. And the whole House saith the like.

The angry exchanges which began on 4 Dec. wrecked Wentworth’s hopes for the passage of legislation. He hoped to retrieve the situation for some time, calling for the House to continue with bills on 5 Dec., and spurning calls for a report about the investigation which threatened to establish that the confinement of Sir Edwin Sandys* was a clear breach of parliamentary privilege; over the next two days he clutched at any sign of a compromise. On 12 Dec. the king ordered the Commons to proceed with bills, which was, as Wentworth said explicitly three days later, exactly what he himself wished to do. Having lost everything, the Commons drafted a Protestation of their right to free speech: Wentworth advised against rehearsing the debates of the last two weeks, ‘but would have us stand on it that our privileges are our right and inheritance, and that it is at our election to go on with bills or other businesses’. He was one of a handful of Members ordered to go through the clerk’s notebook to remove incriminating material on the day after the session ended (19 December).42

The formal dissolution of the Parliament on 8 Feb. 1622 did Wentworth’s prospects at Court no harm: his advocacy of legislation before supply reflected the views of his neighbours, but also served a hispanophile agenda by helping to close off the military option, leaving the Spanish Match as the only realistic solution to the Palatine crisis. Rumours of a viscountcy resurfaced, and within days Wentworth had paid £100 towards the Benevolence the Crown called for in place of the lost subsidy. In April he was appointed receiver-general of Yorkshire, which offered him little prestige but a cash flow of several thousand pounds a year, while three months later he was tipped to succeed Viscount Falkland (Sir Henry Carey I*) as comptroller of the Household.

III. Consequences of the Breach with Spain, 1623-4

Wentworth’s immediate hopes for preferment at Court were dashed by repeated bouts of tertian fever, which killed his wife and prostrated him for much of the next two years. He had not fully recovered when the next Parliament was summoned in 1624, on which occasion he contented himself with a seat at Pontefract. He and his supporters stayed away from the return of the Saviles at the county election, although they had made some preparations to turn out upon rumours of ‘an intention in some to have elected persons suspected in religion’, which turned out to be false.43 A final attack of fever as the Parliament convened forced Wentworth to delay his arrival, although his recovery appears to have been swift: as early as 20 Feb. he asked Wandesford, then in London, for ‘your opinion what I had best do, and that you would take Sir Arthur Ingram’s advice therein, as also Mr. Secretary Calvert’s’. However, it was not until 22 Mar. that he first appeared in the House, speaking in support of Sir Richard Beaumont* at the debate on the Pontefract election. He thereby managed to miss all of the debates leading up to the supply vote on 20 Mar., perhaps deliberately, as the anti-war stance he had taken in November 1621 would have outraged Buckingham (now a duke) and Charles in the changed circumstances of 1624.44

With this consideration uppermost in his mind, Wentworth maintained what was, for him, a low profile during the 1624 session. He was clearly not prepared to abandon his pro-Spanish sympathies entirely: on 25 Mar., when the House learned of the Spanish ambassador’s complaint about impromptu celebrations outside his house following the supply vote five days earlier, several MPs denied any such incident had taken place, but Wentworth moved ‘we should declare our dislike of such incivility’ and leave the matter to the Privy Council. However, he echoed widespread fears that James would evade any open breach with Spain, misgivings Buckingham sought to dispel on 1 Apr. by informing the Commons that the treaties with Spain had been abrogated. The duke urged swift passage of the supply bill to allow preparations for the campaigning season, but few wished to oblige: Mallory and Sir Edward Coke urged that loans be taken up on the promise of future subsidies; while Wentworth suggested asking the duke what sums were required.45 The Commons selected religion as the touchstone of James’s intentions, and Wentworth joined in the clamour for reinstatement of the recusancy laws, a stance which ran counter to his normal instincts. In 1621 he had showed no interest in investigating the creeping suspension of the recusancy laws, nor did he share the widespread revulsion at the toleration of August 1622, for he was never a dogmatic anti-papist: his uncle Sir Francis Trappes was a Catholic, and later, as lord president, he would invite recusant gentry to dinner once they had compounded with him for their fines. There were, however, no doubts about his own allegiance: Sir Thomas Fairfax II later charged him to ensure that his grandson received a Protestant education; and when complaint was made about the bishop of Norwich’s liturgical innovations on 7 May 1624, Wentworth likened these to ‘a time when we groaned under the burthen of the insolency of the papists’.46

Throughout the 1624 session Wentworth conformed to the strident anti-Catholic tone of the times: having been named to attend a conference with the Lords (3 Apr.) at which Prince Charles asked the Commons to alter its recusancy petition by removing the call for a Proclamation to enforce the recusancy laws, he persistently argued that the Commons should stand its ground. When the treasurer of the Household (Sir Thomas Edmondes) and others pleaded that this would give Catholic princes a pretext for persecuting their Protestant minorities, Wentworth was one of several who observed that Elizabeth’s recusancy laws had not prevented her from recruiting Catholic allies, and that the demand was merely for the enforcement of existing laws, not the imposition of new ones. On 9 Apr. Crown spokesmen assured the House that the requisite dispatches breaking off the Match had been sent to Madrid. Wentworth insisted that this was a diversion of more relevance to the subsidy grant, which fell due for payment in the year after the breach of the treaties, than the recusancy petition then under debate. He was still arguing for a Proclamation when the House voted to drop its demand, and on 20 May, following a motion for the first reading of the subsidy bill, he complained that ‘our [recusancy] petition hath lain asleep. Let us be satisfied in our consciences and first see religion advanced’. When a list of recusant officeholders was compiled at the end of the month, he moved twice for the scrutiny committee to be granted the power to summon suspected recusants for examination.47

Wentworth was involved with a number of other issues during the 1624 session. On 7 Apr., when the agent for the Palatinate appealed for assistance in collecting the arrears of the voluntary Benevolence gathered in the summer of 1620, he skilfully deflected the question with the observation ‘that this was not done by any authority of Parliament’, moving to refer the question to the Privy Council. While he did not rush to the defence of the hispanophile lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), he twice insisted on due process in considering the impeachment charges, and made it clear that he found the concept of impositions at least as repugnant as the bribes the farmers had given the treasurer to secure their lease. He also brushed aside one of the corruption charges against lord keeper Williams as ‘rather an error than a crime’.48 He also continued to take an interest in local issues in 1624, as befitted an erstwhile shire knight. Representing the new constituency of Pontefract, he naturally welcomed the enfranchisement of several other boroughs, although as in 1621 he opposed an allocation of seats to Barnard Castle, doubting whether Prince Charles’s interest there constituted a sufficient reason for it to be granted representation. On 23 Mar. he joined a chorus of northern MPs in arguing that the Council in the North should be included within the provisions of the supersedeas bill, while on 28 Apr. he objected to the requirement that j.p.s ‘aid and assist’ all manner of patentees: ‘they [justices] are to execute the laws of the kingdom and ought not to be made subject to every paltry patentee, which is a slavery makes men weary of the office of a justice of peace’. He opposed a patentee’s petition for release from prison: ‘if we should let him go, we should sit here to be abused and scorned of all men’; and when Serjeant Robert Hitcham spoke of the pretermitted custom as an imposition which was justifiable at law, he moved to have this phrase struck from the Journal. Named to two committees for scrutinizing the Merchant Adventurers’ patent (8 and 23 Apr.), he termed a levy the Company imposed to pay off the cost of regaining their charter ‘an exaction insufferable’. However, neither he nor Savile were happy to see the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly overturned, for fear of the chaos that might ensue: ‘not to make an experiment now in a commodity in which all our rents are paid’.49

Shortly after the prorogation, Wentworth offered a revealing observation on the changes the 1624 Parliament had wrought at Court when he chided Wandesford for opposing the duke in a vote on the final stage of the York House bill on 28 May. By this bill, which passed into law at the end of the Parliament, Buckingham acquired a grand new town house, in the garden of which he erected a statute of ‘Sampson with a Philistine between his legs, knocking his brains out with the jawbone of an ass: the moral and meaning whereof may be yourself [Wandesford] standing at the bar, and there with all your weighty, curiously spun arguments beaten down by some such silly instrument as that’.50 The collapse of the Spanish Match quickly raised the prospect of a French marriage engineered by Buckingham, a development which left Wentworth’s Court contacts out in the cold. Thus his anti-Catholic rhetoric during the 1624 session probably represented not a principled stand but rather a ploy to salvage something from the wreck of his hopes for patronage. He followed the development of events closely over the next year: as early as June 1624 he warned Wandesford that the French were demanding a toleration on the same terms as the Spanish, while he confided in Calvert that he was not at all surprised at the postponement of the session scheduled for 2 Nov.:

We conclude that the French treaty must first be consummate before such unruly fellows meet in Parliament, lest they might appear as agile against this, as that other Spanish Match. For my part I like it well, and conceive the bargain wholesome on our side, that we save three other subsidies and fifteenths. Less could not have been demanded for the dissolving of this treaty, and still the king your master have pretended to suffer loss (no doubt for our satisfaction only), which certainly we should have believed, and reputed ourselves great gainers, and that rightly too.

As Buckingham and Charles removed all but their own men from the treaty negotiations in the latter half of 1624, it became clear to Wentworth that the arrival of ‘the French lady’, as he rather casually referred to Henrietta Maria in a letter to Wandesford, would spell the end of his ‘pretences and hopes at Court’.51

IV. The French Match and Wentworth’s Breach with Buckingham, 1625-6

On the death of King James in March 1625 Wentworth, calculating ‘how to set my cards upon this new shuffle of the pack’, abandoned a planned meeting with Wandesford and Trappes and rushed to London upon news of ‘the now intended Parliament, and consequently a new election’. Before going, he fired off letters urging his friends to canvass for him as knight of the shire in his absence, but he warned them to promise no more than that he would be at the county court on election day; he also made alternative arrangements for a seat at Pontefract. The decision he had to take, therefore, was not whether to seek election, but whether he would challenge the duke as knight of the shire (as Savile had done in 1624), or merely sit as an obscure burgess. The only significant figure he is known to have met while at Court was Lord Clifford, but he doubtless also conferred with his new father-in-law the 1st earl of Clare (Sir John Holles*) and others such as Pembroke, Arundel, Calvert and chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Richard Weston*, about the ways in which his parliamentary performance might affect his prospects under the new regime. The advice he received cannot have been encouraging, as those he is likely to have approached were either pro-Spanish or anti-Buckingham, and thus out of favour on the eve of the king’s marriage.52

Returning to Yorkshire at the end of April, Wentworth discovered that uncertainty about his intentions had led Sir Thomas Fairfax I and William Mallory to declare their own challenge to the Saviles, so leaving him alone in an overcrowded field. Fortunately for him Mallory, whose Catholic connections had been widely publicized by Savile’s chaplain, announced his withdrawal from the fray in a letter to Trappes, leaving the way clear for Wentworth to pair with Fairfax. Wentworth quickly set about firming up the Clifford vote, recruited Sir John Hotham, 1st bt.* to canvass the East Riding and Henry Stapleton the Ainsty, and approached steward of the 10th earl of Northumberland (Algernon Percy*) for the voices of the Percy tenants. For all this activity, he only secured victory with the connivance of the sheriff, Sir Richard Cholmley*, who abandoned a poll when many of the freeholders began to depart, having been persuaded by Sir John Savile that the taking of the poll ‘would last many days’. Cholmley promptly returned Wentworth and Fairfax, claiming they had ‘double the number of freeholders’ mustered by the Saviles. Being aware of the questionable validity of his return, Wentworth used ‘all the arts which northern policy could invent’ in order to deny Savile a hearing before the Commons: when Sir Edward Giles submitted a petition from Savile on 21 June, Mallory and Wentworth immediately moved ‘to adjourn till Michaelmas, in respect of the plague’; while Wandesford recommended ‘an adjournment to another place’. Coming on the first day of business, these motions were spurned by the House, which granted Savile’s petition priority at the privileges’ committee.53

Most MPs whose return lay under question kept a low profile in the House, but Wentworth’s political agenda would brook no delays, and he played a prominent part in the session over the next two weeks. On 22 June, Sir Edward Coke sidetracked overtures for a supply with a motion to dispense with the usual standing committee for grievances: Wentworth alone called ‘to have a committee for grievances and leave it to their discretion to entertain nothing unfitting’, doubtless hoping the contrary would prove to be true, but the House, clamouring for a debate on recusancy, ignored this request. Grievances remained a promising avenue of attack, and on 29 June he moved to have a petition against the wine imposition of 1620 ‘presented to the king among the rest of the grievances’. When a petition arrived from the Yorkshire constables on 1 July asking for payment of arrears of press money from the 1624 subsidies, he moved to ask the Council of War about this issue when they appeared before the House later the same day. He probably had advance notice of the most sensational event of the sitting, Sir Francis Seymour’s inauguration of an unofficial subsidy debate on 30 June, for when John Pym began the day by tabling a draft of the recusancy petition, which had already provoked heated debate, Wentworth pleaded ‘we shall have no time now to go to the Lords to join in this petition’. Seymour began with a motion for one subsidy and one fifteenth, a hopelessly inadequate grant on which to begin a war against Spain, and despite disorganized attempts to encourage a grant of up to three times as much (the balance of the sum James had asked for in 1624), Phelips, Edward Alford and Sandys steered the House towards grant of two subsidies. Wentworth then declared ‘he would not have any man heard that should speak for a greater proportion’, and moved for recusants to be charged double; he was seconded by Seymour, and the grant duly passed before most of the Crown’s spokesmen had a chance to influence the debate.54

The privileges committee reported the Yorkshire election dispute to the House on 4 July, agreeing with Wentworth’s claim that the sheriff should bear the blame for any misconduct on election day. Cholmley protested that he had been denied the opportunity to call witnesses, an issue Wentworth and his allies picked up on, wasting further time, but Sir Edward Coke eventually arranged a compromise whereby Wentworth, Fairfax and Cholmley produced a narrative of events which was to be verified by witnesses only if Savile disagreed with any matters of fact. Their expectations were confounded when Savile accepted their account: as (Sir) John Eliot* later recalled, ‘this, although desired, was no satisfaction unto Wentworth, who came unwillingly so near the determination of the question’. Clearly flustered, Wentworth called to be allowed counsel and witnesses, but these were denied, and his election was overturned. Facing the prospect of mustering his supporters for another election (which he had told the Commons would cost the shire a subsidy), Wentworth considered asking lord keeper Williams to delay issuing the writ, but settled for the latter’s assistance in procuring the support of the Catholic Viscount Dunbar in the East Riding. Savile, meanwhile, claimed that his opponents’ duplicity had caused the second election; but Wentworth sought to galvanize his gentry supporters by claiming that ‘the whole kingdom looks not only whether Sir John [Savile] be able to carry it against you and me, but indeed against all the gentlemen too besides’, while the freeholders were told ‘we were put forth by a faction for serving them honestly and boldly’. At the election, held on 1 Aug., Wentworth thoughtfully provided wine and beer for the freeholders ‘to refresh themselves with this hot season’, a necessary precaution as Cholmley was required to hold a ‘tedious and troublesome polling’ before returning Wentworth and Fairfax once more.55

Wentworth arrived at the Oxford sitting on 8 Aug., during tense negotiations over an increase in the two subsidies voted at Westminster, in preparation for which associates of Buckingham sought to recruit his services: he answered rather evasively that ‘I did honour the duke’s person’, and ‘that I would be ready to serve him in the quality of an honest man and a gentleman’. In a bruising debate on 10 Aug., the Crown’s spokesmen argued hard for further supply, but all others remained obdurate: in this instance, a well-placed speech for the government by such a prominent dove could have encouraged other pro-war voices to emerge. This did not happen: as Eliot later recalled, Wentworth ‘did so well express himself for his country as it ... allayed much of the labour to the contrary’. Two drafts of this speech survive in his own papers: in one he took a moderate line, explaining ‘that we cannot be entirely faithful to the king being the head, not having due regard to the subjects, being the members, nor truly liberal to His Majesty if we appear wanton dispensers of their purses’; in the other, while repeating these phrases, he opened with a clarion call ‘in no sort to create new precedents, which are strong in the case of princes, and in success of time produce such effects as were never dreamed of’. The speech actually delivered on the floor of the House owed more to the latter version: ‘the engagement of a former Parliament [1624] binds not this’, he declared, warning that ‘this precedent for so small a sum is to take advantage of it for greater hereafter’. He pronounced himself against a present grant, although ‘most ready and willing to give in due time’. As in November 1621, he called to go on with bills and grievances, leaving supply for a future session. This intervention was doubtless sufficient to annoy the duke, but on the following morning Wentworth opposed a motion to continue the supply debate, and on 12 Aug., with the dissolution imminent, he dismissed final pleas for a grant: ‘being now under the rod, we could not with credit or safety yield; and since we sat here, the subjects had lost a subsidy at sea’.56

The gamble Wentworth resolved upon in April 1625 paid off handsomely in August: he established his ‘patriot’ credentials and obliged the duke to make overtures to him, rather than the other way around. However, he probably expected the king to negotiate for rather longer before resorting to a dissolution, an assumption he might not have made had he been present in the House during the debates of 8 July and 4-6 August. He did not have long to wait before feeling the force of Buckingham’s revenge: in November 1625 he was one of six troublesome MPs from the 1625 session who were appointed sheriff to exclude them from the new Parliament summoned shortly thereafter. Sir Arthur Ingram recounted how at the pricking the king had produced a list given him by the favourite and had the names inserted in the roll, which somewhat undermined the credibility of Buckingham’s subsequent claim that ‘it was done without his Grace’s knowledge’. Having been advised by his father-in-law that ‘persecution is oftener a symptom of virtue than reward’, Wentworth declined to provoke a privilege dispute by seeking election in another shire. Instead, he took advice on how to reduce the burden of an office his predecessor, Cholmley, reckoned to have cost him £1,000.57

One compensation to be derived from the shrievalty was the chance to make trouble for his old adversary Savile at the county election in January 1626. He advised Wandesford against pairing with Fairfax’s son-in-law Sir William Constable*, preferring a partnership between the latter and his own neighbour Sir Francis Wortley*. As Wentworth saw it, if Wortley, being such an inconsequential figure, were victorious, ‘Savile were lost forever, and if he [Wortley] failed, the other got no conquest much to brag of’. However, Wentworth’s obvious disfavour at Court had eroded his electoral influence, as Sir Henry Savile, one of his keenest supporters in 1620, declared for his enemy shortly before the election. Learning of this defection, Wentworth lightheartedly chided his erstwhile ally: ‘you frame imagination of an opposition, whereof there is little ground’. The suggestion that opposition to Savile was less solid than it appeared hinted at the possibility of a deal, and ‘at the very hour of the election’ Sir John Savile’s son (Sir Thomas Savile*) suffered a remarkably well-timed indisposition which forced him to withdraw from the contest. Savile and Constable then divided the county representation between them, leaving only Wortley without a seat. Naturally, this brief truce between the two factions did nothing to improve long-term relations: in March 1626 Savile filed a Star Chamber bill against Wentworth, Fairfax and Cholmley for alleged misconduct at the 1625 election, a vexatious suit he protracted for three years.58

Wentworth’s office had one other advantage: it kept him away from a session where he would have been forced to take an irrevocable public stance either for or against Buckingham’s impeachment. Where Savile and Wandesford both had to make their choices, Wentworth spent much of the year sending mixed messages: in January 1626, amid rumours of Scrope’s impending resignation of the presidency of the North, he declared his interest in the obsequious language customary among the duke’s acolytes:

I am fully resolved not to ascend one step in this kind except I may take along with me by the way a special obligation to my lord duke, from whose bounty and goodness I do not only acknowledge much already, but, justified in the truth of my own heart, [I] do still repose and rest under the shadow and protection of his favour.

In May, Chancellor Weston brought Wentworth to a meeting with Buckingham, where he was offered friendship, with ‘all former mistakes laid asleep, forgotten’, an indication of how far the duke was prepared reach out to his enemies as the Commons presented their impeachment charges to the Lords. However, the dissolution of 15 June marked the end of Wentworth’s usefulness to the duke: within weeks, Savile had become a privy councillor and supplanted Wentworth as custos of the West Riding, timing the latter’s dismissal to coincide with assize week. Presumably forewarned, Wentworth put the best possible construction upon this setback:

I am ready to justify myself ... never to have declined forth of the open and plain ways of loyalty and truth towards their majesties, never to have falsified a little the precious and general trust of my country ... The world may well think I knew the way which would have kept my place: I confess indeed it had been too dear a purchase, and so I leave it, not conscious of any fault in myself, nor yet guilty of the virtue of my successor, that should occasion this removal.

This language was strictly for public consumption: to Weston he protested ‘that the reward of my long, painful and loyal service to His Majesty in that place is to be thus cast off without any fault laid to my charge that I hear of’.59

V. Resistance to the Forced Loan, 1626-7

Having cast himself in the role of the unjustly traduced patriot, Wentworth played his part to perfection over the next two years. Savile did his best to make life difficult for his enemy, nominating Wentworth as a Forced Loan commissioner in the autumn of 1626 in the knowledge that ‘if you refuse, you shall run the fortune of other delinquents [i.e. imprisonment]; if you come in at the last hour into the vineyard, he [Savile] hopes it will lessen you in the country’. After briefly visiting London at the end of January 1627, when the commission was first implemented in Yorkshire, he returned home to care for his wife and infant son. While he evaded the Loan, he conscientiously discharged one of his few remaining public duties by helping to raise contributions towards Hull’s coastal protection squadron. Meanwhile, the net closed around him, as first his lawyer George Radcliffe, then Hotham and Constable were summoned before the Privy Council and committed. In April he was included on a list of West Riding defaulters to be questioned. Friends such as Clare, Clifford and Calvert (now Lord Baltimore) urged him to submit; failing that, he was advised ‘it were better for him to come up than to give a negative in the country’, and disabused of the notion that the duke’s departure for La Rochelle would lessen the king’s determination to punish refusers. Having bought a little more time with a plea of illness, Wentworth eventually appeared before the Privy Council on 15 June, at which time (Sir) Humphrey May* wrote to warn him ‘you are in as fond and foolish a way for the public [and] for your private [interests] as ever wise man was’. Wentworth’s reply was a model of humility:

I am none of those which will refuse confinement. I will not dispute but obey ... as one naturally more delighting, more comforted to serve my sovereign his own way than my own; and when I do otherwise seemingly, I shall always judge it my misfortune, nay my greatest misfortune.

His carriage impressed at least some of the privy councillors, while Wandesford asked for a copy of his interrogation, doubtless to publicize his sufferings in Yorkshire. As a result, he spent only three weeks in the Marshalsea prison before being confined in Kent, and was later able to gain permission for a brief stay in London to attend to some legal affairs. He and all the other refusers were released on 2 Jan. 1628.60

Even during his confinement, Wentworth was continually weighing up the chances of another Parliament, though one correspondent worried whether he might be construed as an outlaw, and hence ineligible for election. The prospects for a new session improved following the army’s withdrawal from the Île de Ré in November 1627. It was at this point that Wandesford advised him of a discussion with Mallory:

I [Wandesford] told him [Mallory, that] Savile I thought would stand; he [Mallory] believed none could oppose him in your absence. I replied if the country understood themselves ... they could do no less than make choice of you, though absent; he agreed, and that H[enry] Belasyse* joining with you the field was yours.

The chief hindrance to Wentworth’s election prospects was ‘the universal dependence Sir John Savile hath from the Catholics’ following the success of the recusancy composition commission inaugurated in May 1627: this interest, if added to the West Riding clothiers and Savile’s Northern clients, could overpower any pairing Wentworth might make with Constable or Sir Arthur Ingram. Thus in January 1628, when Sir Ferdinando Fairfax offered a partnership between Wentworth and Belasyse, Wandesford urged ‘you must join with a man gracious with the papists, which only Henry is’. Wentworth approached the campaign with his usual vigour, but on election day the numbers were finely balanced: a poll was demanded, probably by Savile, but some of the freeholders refused to declare their names when tendered the oath confirming their 40s. freeholds. In his subsequent election report of 17 Apr. 1628, John Glanville declared that ‘Sir Thomas Wentworth had the major number at the poll, but the major number of them who put down their names in writing were for Sir John Savile’. The sheriff had nevertheless declared Wentworth returned, and the Commons endorsed this decision on the somewhat dubious grounds that freeholders did not have to give their names ‘because notice might then be taken of them to their prejudice’.61

VI. Parliament as a Means to Preferment, 1628

Wentworth’s approach to Parliament in 1628 was a logical development of his behaviour as a Loan refuser, posing as an honest broker in a dispute between two rival ideologies which the 4th earl of Dorset (Sir Edward Sackville*) described as ‘just prerogative and just liberty’. In this Wentworth, as a politician, differed from both the lawyers and the demagogues of the House, who were reluctant to concede the existence of any just prerogative. Parliament had only been summoned because the Crown, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, was desperate for supply, while the Commons was equally determined to banish the arbitrary measures of the past two years before granting the king a penny. The question was how to balance these two imperatives without provoking the king to a dissolution, or the Commons to the kind of futile privilege dispute which had destroyed the 1614 and 1621 sessions. In his first speech on 22 Mar., Wentworth, while drawing upon personal experience in portraying ‘a Privy Council ravishing at once the spheres of all ancient government, imprisoning us without bank or bond’, still maintained (for all he knew otherwise) the legal fiction that the king had done no wrong. Having established his credentials as a patriot during the opening weeks of the session, he was able to plead for an adequate hearing for the Crown’s interests: during the lengthy task of cataloguing infringements of the subject’s liberties, he was consistently prepared to move a particular debate on to a swift conclusion, or step in to avert a petty misunderstanding.62 On 2 Apr. he intervened for the first time in a more significant debate, on the king’s detailed propositions for military expenditure. Several important speakers saw an opportunity to waste time in debating individual points, but Wentworth disagreed, and on 4 Apr. the House voted to lay the propositions aside, and then agreed upon a grant of five subsidies. This sum equalled that demanded by the Forced Loan, and was the probably the smallest offer the Commons could make to avoid immediate dissolution. No sooner had the king’s thanks reached the House than Wentworth pressed to resume the liberties debate: ‘if we do not go home with our hands full of confidence and security in our liberties, we shall be the wonder of our country’. On 11 Apr., Sir Edward Coke interrupted a debate on martial law with a call to set times for payment of the subsidies, a motion which surprised many. Wentworth, calling, as ever, to ‘proceed with equal care of supply to the king and our liberties’, helped to secure the important concession that the entire sum should be paid in a single year, by agreeing that this resolution should not be reported to the House until the investigation of liberties was concluded. The king, interpreting this as a stay of business, complained and nearly wrecked the agreement, but Wentworth and Coke managed to defuse the crisis.63

Once the Commons had identified those liberties which had been infringed, Wentworth, not being a lawyer, followed rather than led the ensuing debates about how best to obtain a confirmation of the subject’s rights: when the Lords warned against using the law to redefine the prerogative out of existence, he hoped ‘that it shall never be a question here whether the king or the law are above each other’, precisely the issue many lawyers hoped to resolve. The Commons’ first attempt to obtain a confirmation of their rights involved a bill which reiterated Magna Carta and other medieval laws, the better to define the responsibilities of Crown servants when arresting and charging a suspect. On 2 May the king, who was prepared to grant almost any concession which did not impose fresh limits on the prerogative, offered a personal confirmation of these statutes, a move that was widely resented in the Commons. Wentworth, remaining calm, explained in measured terms that ‘when there has been a public violation of our liberties by some of His Majesty’s ministers, it requires a public satisfaction by bill’. The phrase caught the House’s imagination, and it was used as the basis for their response to the king. Charles spurned the opportunity to seek a compromise, and after several days of deadlock it was suggested that the Commons’ requirements be reformulated as a Petition of Right, a proposal Wentworth endorsed, with the proviso that if the king’s answer to the Petition proved inadequate, the Commons might reserve the right to take further action. After the Petition was drafted, Wentworth returned to the subsidy bill, helping to set the precise dates for payment which had been left undecided on 11 Apr., and moving for the bill to receive its first reading on 12 May.64

When the Petition of Right reached the Lords, various interests attempted to devise some sort of ‘saving clause’ for the Crown’s prerogative: among those who worked hardest to achieve this were Wentworth’s contacts Arundel, Pembroke and chancellor Weston (now a baron). On 17 May the Petition returned to the Commons with a new conclusion, ‘to leave entire that sovereign power wherewith Your Majesty is trusted’. Two days later, Wentworth attempted to wrap up the debate over the Lords’ amendments: ‘we contend for a very little, and which way soever we yield the Lords will pass them. If they be in the conclusion or prayer, or in the beginning, it is all one’. For once, his instincts failed him: the saving clause was, to him (and his aristocratic contacts), a political figleaf, whereas to a more legalistic (or suspicious) mind it was a potential loophole which might negate the whole Petition. During the debates of 22 May his mistake became clear, and he insisted ‘we all agree we may not admit of this addition’. On the following day he assumed ‘it will be necessary to acquaint the Lords that we are constant to our first grounds’, but urged the House to wait and see whether the Lords could devise a more innocuous form of words. An exasperated Eliot, clearly suspicious of Wentworth’s motives, insisted that ‘not only this addition but all of like nature will endanger the destruction of the whole’, but Wentworth retorted, ‘this petition without the Lords joining with us may be kept in a study, but it shall never be a record’, and begged the House not to force the Lords to reject the Petition and leave the Commons bereft of all redress. When advised of this setback, the Lords asked to appoint a sub-committee of both Houses to draft a compromise saving, which Eliot dismissed as ‘no Parliamentary way’; Wentworth chided him, recalling the Floyd case of 1621 had been resolved by such a device - a rather unhappy precedent - and the House resolved to decline the offer in a less provocative way. This final stand put an end to resistance in the Lords, who voted to accept the Petition without any saving clause: ‘sovereignty and subjection shall henceforth walk together’, claimed Wentworth, moving for the Petition to receive three readings in the House.65

Agreement on the Petition led to a cooling of tempers, and debate resumed on the long-delayed subsidy bill. On 29 May, Mallory mischievously moved to set a minimum subsidy rating of £50 in lands upon baronets, despite Wentworth’s plea that the House ‘forbear to set this brand upon us’. This decision was overturned two weeks later, probably at Wentworth’s instigation; after the vote, he smirked, ‘I should have been sorry to have gone from this House with any mark of displeasure upon me’. He also participated in the long debate over the precedence of Oxford and Cambridge universities in the bill, though he lost his temper when Sir Nathaniel Rich led the Cambridge men in a walkout: ‘we have sported ourselves enough. I pray let that which is left of the subsidy bill be read’. When the bill eventually received its third reading on 12 June, he averted an attempt to charge arrears of billeting money to the receipts, which would have had a disastrous impact on the net yield. Once the Petition and the subsidy were hastened on their way, the normal press of business, long neglected, was revived: Wentworth helped to secure the Hull whalers’ rights against the monopoly claims of the London-based Greenland company; he explained some of the technical objections to a revived monopoly for the drafting of legal documents produced by the Council in the North, which was condemned as a grievance; and he reported a petition against tolls on two Yorkshire bridges (20 June).66

For all this semblance of normality, the final month of the session came close to disaster on several occasions. The first occurred when the king offered a wholly inadequate answer to the Petition of Right on 2 June. Eliot, first on his feet the following morning, rehearsed a long list of dangers facing the realm, but was promptly accused of having planned this protest. Wentworth attempted to calm tempers with the observation that all must have freedom of speech to debate the ills of the commonwealth, but the debate ran out of control for several days, eventually lighting on the subject of religion. At this point Wentworth seized the opportunity to attack Savile’s recusancy composition scheme: ‘the commission granted for compounding with recusants amounts to no better than a toleration, and this is only on pretence of increasing the king’s revenue’. While Charles’s second answer to the Petition proved satisfactory, the debates of 3-6 June had spawned a Remonstrance, which rehearsed every known calumny against Buckingham. When the focus of this investigation turned to coastal defence on 9 June, Wentworth suggested that the number of ships lost since the outbreak of war might have been overestimated, a small point, perhaps, but an indication that he hoped for restoration to the duke’s favour. Two days later, he was clearly thinking of his constituents when he moved for a statement about the unpopularity of the Forced Loan: ‘I think it will make those that are near the king to be careful how they offer to inform his judgment with other reports than may be justly taken from the truth’. On 20 June, when auditor (Sir) Edmund Sawyer* insisted the king had personally commanded him to draft a new book of customs rates, Wentworth dismissed the claim as ‘a lewd and hateful speech ... We know the king cannot have knowledge of himself of these things’. Sir Edward Coke picked the following day to introduce the complex topic of administrative reform, which Wentworth tactfully suggested should be considered after the prorogation.67 In a House of Commons filled with the headstrong, the success of the 1628 session should not be discounted. Much of this achievement can be ascribed to Sir Edward Coke and Wentworth, who both realized that a workable compromise could and should be constructed from unpromising beginnings. Their impact cannot be measured accurately, but it is worth noting that the 1629 session, bereft of both their talents, had a very different outcome.

VII. Ennoblement and High Office, 1628-41

Although Wentworth did not cultivate Buckingham during the 1628 session in the obvious way that Savile had in 1626, his achievements helped Weston secure him a place in the duke’s favour, and a month after the prorogation he was elevated to a barony. However, Savile was ennobled on the previous day, and it was only after the favourite’s assassination and several months of jockeying for position that Wentworth, having parted with £20,000, emerged as a viscount and lord president of the North. Viceroy of Ireland for seven years during the 1630s, his ruthless efficiency made him many enemies, but returned handsome profits both for the Irish Exchequer and for himself. At the end of 1639 he was recalled to England to assist with preparations for the Second Bishops’ War, given an earldom and made chief minister of England in all but name. He was too effective a politician to escape the wrath of the Long Parliament, and when both English and Irish impeachment charges became bogged down, an Act of attainder secured his execution on 12 May 1641. The king quickly restored Wentworth’s only son William to the family lands and titles. His successors at Wentworth Woodhouse, the earls of Rockingham, became one of the great political dynasties of Hanoverian England.68

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 319.
  • 2. Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 374.
  • 3. Wentworth Pprs. 319; I. Temple database of admiss.; Al. Cant.; SCL, WWM, Strafford Pprs. 30.
  • 4. C142/346/162; Wentworth Pprs. 319, 323; CP.
  • 5. Wentworth Pprs. 324; Holles Letters ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xxxvi), 431, 484.
  • 6. CP.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 151.
  • 8. C142/346/162.
  • 9. CP; Shaw, i. 33.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 145v.
  • 11. C231/4, ff. 260v-1v; C181/3, ff. 265-6; Som. RO, Phelips DD/PH/219/66.
  • 12. C181/2, f. 234v; 181/3, ff. 180v, 208v, 262.
  • 13. R. Reid, Council in the North, 498, 501.
  • 14. E179/283, vol. ‘JPR 6371’; C212/22/20-23; Fairfax Corresp. ed. G.W. Johnson, i. 210.
  • 15. HMC 4th Rep. 276; Wentworth Pprs. 194.
  • 16. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 163.
  • 17. SP16/44/4.
  • 18. E351/427-32.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 306.
  • 20. E101/668/9; E198/4/32.
  • 21. C181/4, ff. 1, 174; Yorks. Arch. Soc. MD125.
  • 22. APC, 1621-3, p. 208.
  • 23. G.E. Aylmer, ‘Charles I’s Comm. on Fees, 1627-40’, BIHR, xxxi. 61; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 6.
  • 24. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 359.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 458.
  • 26. APC, 1621-3, p. 208.
  • 27. E351/293.
  • 28. Wentworth Pprs. 26, 37-9; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 23, f. 787v; C142/346/162, 142/708/99; HMC Hatfield, vii. 412-13.
  • 29. Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, i. 342.
  • 30. Wentworth Pprs. 49, 73, 319; W. Yorks. AS (Bradford), 32D86/38/2, f. 14; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 38, 471.
  • 31. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 65-9, 228-32, 268, 281-2, 389; Wentworth Pprs. 63-78.
  • 32. Wentworth Pprs. 83-6, 100-1; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 2-4; C231/4, f. 13; Fortescue Pprs. ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. i), 23-8.
  • 33. Wentworth Pprs. 100-1; STAC 8/225/12; SIR HENRY GREY; Reid, 387-8; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 59.
  • 34. Strafforde Letters i. 8-13; Wentworth Pprs. 143-5; Surr. Hist. Cent. LM1331/25; Beaumont Pprs. ed. W.D. Macray (Roxburghe Club cxiii), 43-4; W. Yorks. AS (Bradford), Sp St 11/5/3/1; CD 1621, iv. 48-9.
  • 35. CD 1621, ii. 45, 260; iv. 23, 48-9, 161, 187; vi. 96; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 38-9, 61, 175; CJ, i. 556-7, 571b; Surr. Hist. Cent. LM1331/25-6; W. Yorks. AS (Bradford), Sp St. 11/5/3/1.
  • 36. Strafforde Letters, i. 8-11; Beaumont Pprs. 43-4; Wentworth Pprs. 146; J.J. Cartwright, Chapters in Yorks. Hist. 203-4.
  • 37. A.J. Fletcher, ‘Wentworth and the Restoration of Pontefract’, NH, vi. 88-97; CJ, i. 572b, 576a; CD 1621, ii. 263; iv. 201; Surr. Hist. Cent. LM1331/29.
  • 38. CD 1621, v. 423-93.
  • 39. Ibid. ii. 64, 114, 163; v. 455; vi. 8, 46; Nicholas, i. 85; CJ, i. 530b, 532a, 553-4; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, pp. 65-9.
  • 40. CD 1621, ii. 163; CJ, i. 549-50; Wentworth Pprs. 152-7.
  • 41. CJ, i. 602, 604b, 607-8, 614a, 626a, 631b, 635a, 639b; CD 1621, ii. 386, 420-1; iii. 167-8, 194, 238, 387; Nicholas, ii. 37, 125, 149.
  • 42. CJ, i. 640, 647-8, 658-64, 669b; Nicholas, ii. 199, 221, 245, 356; C. Russell, ‘Wentworth and Anti-Spanish Sentiment’, in Pol. World of Thomas Wentworth ed. J.F. Merritt, 55-8; CD 1621, ii. 454-5, 504, 515, 521-5; vi. 226; Zaller, 156-83.
  • 43. HMC 4th Rep. 276b; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 446; Wentworth Pprs. 194-5, 202-3.
  • 44. Wentworth Pprs. 204-5; CJ, i. 745a; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 37; Russell, PEP, 171-90; T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 166-226.
  • 45. ‘Pym 1624’, f. 43v; Holles 1624, pp. 54, 56-7.
  • 46. Strafforde Letters, i. 142; SIR THOMAS FAIRFAX II; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 81.
  • 47. CJ, i. 691b, 694a, 754a, 756, 760-1; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 118-19, 132; ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 184-5; Cogswell, 232-4; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 58v; ‘Holland 1624’ ii. f. 42.
  • 48. ‘Pym 1624’, ff. 49v, 52, 61; Holles 1624, pp. 68, 83; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 146v, 167v.
  • 49. ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 156-7; Holles 1624, p. 79; ‘Pym 1624’, ff. i. 69, 82; iii. f. 37; CJ, i. 553, 697-9, 758b, 774a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 186v.
  • 50. Strafforde Letters, i. 21-4.
  • 51. Wentworth Pprs. 209-10, 214-15, 229-30; Russell, PEP, 206-10; C. Thompson, ‘Ct. Pols. and Parl. Conflict in 1625,’ in Conflict in Early Stuart Eng. ed. R. Cust and A. Hughes, 168-71.
  • 52. Wentworth Pprs. 228-31; Strafforde Letters, i. 25-6; Add. 25463, f. 72.
  • 53. Strafford Letters, i. 27; Wentworth Pprs. 231-2; Bodl. Fairfax 34, f. 47; Procs. 1625, pp. 295-7, 300; W. Yorks. AS (Bradford), 32D86/38/2, f. 19; Procs. 1625, pp. 206-12, 512.
  • 54. Procs. 1625, pp. 215-16, 268, 274-9, 282-3; Russell, PEP, 219-26; Thompson, 172-6.
  • 55. Procs. 1625, pp. 296-7, 300, 314-15, 513-15; Fairfax Corresp. ed. G.W. Johnson, i. 7- 10; H. Cholmley, Mems. (1787), pp. 23-4.
  • 56. Procs. 1625, pp. 423, 445, 461, 475, 562; Strafforde Letters, i. 34-5; Wentworth Pprs. 236-9; Russell, PEP, 257-9; Thompson, 180-4; R. Cust, ‘Wentworth’s Change of Sides’, in Wentworth ed. Merritt, 72-4; S.P. Salt, ‘Wentworth and the Parl. Representation of Yorks.’, NH, xvi. 154-5.
  • 57. List of Sheriffs, 163; Wentworth Pprs. 240; Cholmley, 24.
  • 58. Strafforde Letters, i. 31-3, 35; Wentworth Pprs. 243, 246, 250; HMC Hodgkin, 43; Fairfax Corresp. i. 24-8; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, iii. app. p. 21.
  • 59. SP16/18/110; Strafforde Letters, i. 35-6; Russell, PEP, 304-6; Som. RO, DD/PH/219/66; Wentworth Pprs. 255-6.
  • 60. Cust, ‘Change of Sides’, 73-6; SP16/44/4; Strafforde Letters, i. 36-40; Radcliffe Corresp. ed. T.D. Whitaker, 126, 152-4, 157; Holles Letters, ii. 331, 350, 356; Wentworth Pprs. 257-61, 272-5; APC, 1626-7, pp. 243-5; 1627, pp. 352, 402, 449; 1627-8, p. 217; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 222-3, 235-6.
  • 61. Wentworth Pprs. 263, 278, 283, 287-9; E351/2595; Strafforde Letters, i. 34; Procs. 1628, vi. 122; CD 1628, ii. 507-11.
  • 62. CD 1628, ii. 60, 123; iii. 52; Russell, PEP, 340-1.
  • 63. CD 1628, ii. 250, 302, 317-18, 327-8, 414, 434-5.
  • 64. Ibid. iii. 98-9, 139-40, 188, 216, 227, 293, 296, 328, 345; Wentworth Pprs. 292-5; Russell, PEP, 368-9.
  • 65. CD 1628 iii. 452, 468, 535, 559-60, 582, 584-5, 597, 602; Russell, PEP, 369-74.
  • 66. CD 1628, iii. 616, 619-20; iv. 17-18, 24, 30, 43-5, 48, 222, 283, 389, 474.
  • 67. Ibid. iv. 65, 73, 144, 210, 264, 410; Russell, PEP, 377-82.
  • 68. J. Howell, Epistolae Ho-Elianae (1727), pp. 215-16; Wentworth Pprs. 308-9; Radcliffe Corresp. 171-4; C. Russell, Fall of Brit. Monarchies, 280-302.