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

These volumes of the History contain biographies of the 1,754 Members who sat in the House of Commons between the opening of the first Jacobean Parliament in March 1604 and the dissolution of Charles I’s third Parliament in March 1629, together with entries on an additional 29 individuals who for various reasons have not been considered full Members. Those whose status had not been resolved by the end of the Parliament in which they sat have been included in the main sequence. The volumes also include accounts of all 259 constituencies, which explore the varying electoral fortunes, economic circumstances and political situation of the places they describe. An Introductory Survey, based partly upon information contained in the biography and constituency articles, is also provided, as are brief summary articles on each of the seven parliaments that sat between 1604 and 1629. Though not essential, readers may find it helpful to read the constituency articles and the relevant biographical entries in conjunction with one another.

In quotations from contemporary sources (though not in the titles of books or treatises) spelling, capitalization and punctuation have been modernized. Dates may be understood to remain in Old Style unless otherwise stated, but with the year beginning on 1 January. Place and date of publication have generally been omitted from book titles, which have been abbreviated wherever possible. An asterisk (*) following a name denotes a Member of the House of Commons during this period (where this is not apparent from the surrounding text); a dagger (†) denotes a Member whose parliamentary career lies entirely outside the period.


The Introductory Survey provides an institutional history of the House of Commons between 1604 and 1629, and explores key changes in the nature of the Commons during this crucial period in its history as well as the conduct of elections and the nature of the membership.

The appendices to the Survey provide the names of parliamentary officials and list the more important Crown officeholders. They also include a list of defeated candidates and the names of those Members returned in 1628 known to have resisted (either by refusal or by default) the Forced Loan of 1626-7. A bibliography of the principal manuscript sources used is also provided.


The entries offer an analysis of the ‘structure’ of constituency politics and a narrative account of elections. Each article is preceded by a summary of the basic information relating to the constituency, in tabular form. As well as a record of each election, this may include an estimate of the number entitled to vote and a definition of the franchise. However, in only a small minority of constituencies is it possible to give even a rough estimate of the size of the electorate. Indeed, this is normally possible only in those English boroughs where the right to vote was held exclusively by members of the corporation, or the number of voters was fixed by some other means, such as burgage-holding.

The recording of each individual election begins with the date, which is normally to be found in the Return of Members of Parliament (1878) or its appendix, published in 1879. Where the date of election is known to differ from that recorded on the indenture, the correct date has been given. Dates of by-elections (which are taken to exclude those elections resulting from a Member having been returned for more than one constituency) appear in italics. The names of all candidates are given, that is to say those who pursued their candidacy as far as the ‘cry’ or a poll, or who received votes even though they themselves may not have sought election. Those who undertook a canvass but withdrew before the election are not listed. Peerage or baronetcy titles are included if in force at the time of the election. Capital letters are used to denote the successful candidates, as listed in the indenture or indentures accepted by the sheriff and the clerk of the Crown in Chancery. These names are given in the order in which they appear in the indenture (as printed in the Return of Members), irrespective of any numbers of votes recorded, since precedence on the indenture depended on social seniority rather than the number of votes received. Unsuccessful candidates are listed in the order of their position in the poll, if known. Where more than one return was accepted by the sheriff and the clerk of the Crown (a ‘double return’), all names appearing on those indentures are capitalized, and the order of names preserved. Decisions taken subsequently by the House in the adjudication of double returns and petitions are noted, together with the date on which the decision was taken. In by-elections, and also in those cases where the elected Member chose to serve for another constituency for which he had also been returned, the name of the Member replaced appears in lower case, together with a brief indication of the cause of the vacancy.

The articles themselves concentrate on parliamentary elections, but attention has also been paid to the economic and political circumstances of each constituency, to the instructions and information which passed between Members and their constituents, and to a constituency’s legislative interests.


The formal arrangement of biographies in this section of the History generally follows the practice of earlier volumes. However, in a departure from previous practice, the biographies are arranged in two sequences rather than one. Following the main series readers will find an appendix consisting of 29 individuals whose status as Members is questionable. Some of these men, like Sir Anthony Aucher and James Thurbarne, were elected but never returned; others, like William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp and Sir Thomas Coventry, were returned but were no longer eligible to serve by the time Parliament met. Those who failed (or refused) to take the oaths required for membership have also been placed in the appendix if they did not also sit in another Parliament during this period.

It should be noted that many of the biographies published here differ from entries on the same Members appearing in The House of Commons 1558-1603. Where the information presented in a biography differs from an article already published on the same Member the current version is to be preferred. Such corrections have usually been made silently.

Headings. Members are styled at the head of their biographies according to their status at the time of their first election to Parliament in the period 1604-29. Where appropriate any subsequent acquisition of a knighthood, baronetcy or peerage will be reflected when the Member is mentioned elsewhere in the text, where parentheses are employed. For example, the form ‘(Sir) John Coke’ indicates that this man has been the subject of a biography in his original style as ‘John Coke’ (he having first entered Parliament in this period in 1621, four years before he was knighted). Likewise the form ‘the 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich)’ denotes that this man’s entry can be found under the heading indicated by the words contained in round brackets. Where two namesakes are styled in exactly the same way on their first entering the Commons in this period, ambiguity has been avoided by the addition of a numerical designation (in roman numerals), according to the chronological order of their first entering Parliament: hence ‘James Lasher I’ and ‘James Lasher II’, or, more unusually, ‘Sir William Selby I’ and Sir William Selby II’. The significance of such numerical designations is limited to this section of the History. They should not be taken to imply either family relationship or precedence by age. Eldest sons of peers are accorded their courtesy titles.

The spelling of a Member’s name reflects standard modern forms rather than contemporary usage or the Member’s own spelling. Members themselves, as well as fathers and sons, were not always consistent in the manner they spelt their surname. Employment of modern forms avoids using spellings that might strike the reader as perverse, such as ‘Jhon’ for John, or ‘Cornwaleys’ for ‘Cornwallis’ (a form consistently and repeatedly used by Sir Charles Cornwallis). However, where contemporaries commonly employed a spelling significantly at variance with our usage, we have indicated such variants in parentheses, for instance ‘ASTLEY (ASHLEY), Sir John’. Those readers wishing to know how a Member spelt his own name are directed to the end of the genealogical paragraph of the preamble, where these forms are indicated, if known, after the abbreviation ‘sig’. The spelling of peerage titles has also been standardized, according to the form adopted by the Complete Peerage. Thus Sir Francis Bacon is styled Viscount St. Alban and not Viscount St. Albans.

The address given in the heading is the subject’s place of residence at the time of his membership of the Commons during this period. Where necessary (such as in the case of lawyers who often owned country seats as well as chambers in London) multiple residences are given. Where a Member is known to have lived elsewhere before his first election to Parliament in this period, or to have moved after he ceased sitting during this period, the phrases ‘formerly of’ and ‘later of’ are employed. However, dates of residence are omitted, being given instead (if significant) in the main text.

Constituencies. All the constituencies for which a Member sat are listed, in chronological order, including those for which he served outside the period covered by these volumes. Where a Member was returned at a general election, a simple year date is given, this being that of the first meeting of Parliament. Month days are provided only where more than one Parliament met in the same year, as happened in 1554, 1640 and 1679. If a Member came in at a by-election, or at an election occasioned by a Member’s decision to serve for another constituency, the precise date of his election (day, month and year) is given. Terminal dates of service are not indicated unless a Member died or left the Commons early as a result of elevation to the peerage, disqualification or expulsion. For the dates on which each Parliament ended, readers are advised to refer to the preambles to the brief parliamentary accounts printed as part of the Introductory Survey. Members who left the Long Parliament to serve in the royalist Parliament at Oxford in 1644 also receive a terminal date to indicate the end of their service at Westminster, but with the addition of the phrase ‘1644 (Oxf. Parl.)’.

Birth. Where the Member’s exact date of birth has not been found, his date of baptism has been given instead. Where neither birth date nor baptismal date have been discovered, an approximate birth date is given, signified variously as ‘aft.’, ‘bef.’, ‘by’ or ‘c.’, depending on how it has been inferred. A question mark before a date indicates either inference or unreliable evidence, and an oblique stroke separating two dates indicates a date somewhere between the two. An approximate date of birth may have been derived from age at entry to school or admission to or matriculation at university, or it may have been established with the help of a Member’s funeral monument, a statement in a legal deposition or from a minimum age given in the inquisition post mortem of the Member’s father. Where no other evidence survives, a birth date may have been derived from the date of parents’ marriage (for first-born children) or from the birth dates of siblings.

Genealogy. Where available, the following information has been included immediately after a Member’s birth date: the Member’s position in his family (such as only son, second but first surviving son, and so forth); the name and address of his father (unless the latter is a Member in his own right in this period, when the address is normally omitted); his mother’s Christian name, and the full name and address of her father; the names of any brothers sitting in this or other periods. Where a Member inherited his father’s estates, the date of the father’s death appears towards the end of the genealogical paragraph and is prefixed with the abbreviation ‘suc. fa.’. Otherwise, the death date appears in round brackets after the father is first mentioned.

Education. Included here is time spent in school (or being educated ‘privately’), university, Inn(s) of Court or Chancery, and in foreign travel where it appears to have been conceived as part of his education. Where possible the full duration of each stage of the education process is given, but as the length of time spent at school, Inn or university is often not known only the date of entry is normally recorded. The academic qualifications obtained by the Member, together with the date of the award, are also indicated in this section, as is a Member’s call to the bar (‘called’), the date of call being also given. If the age at entry to Inn or university is given in the record of admission, this fact is recorded. In this period it was becoming increasingly common for young gentlemen to finish their education by touring the Continent for a year or two. In recording the details of foreign travel of this kind, the biographical summaries not only attempt to estimate the duration, but also to list the countries and states visited.

Marriage. Where known, the full date of marriage is given, together with the Christian name of the Member’s wife, the name and address of her father, and the name, address and date of death (year only) of any previous husband(s). If the date of the marriage has not been found, the date of the marriage licence (if applicable) or the date of any marriage settlement is given instead. In many cases, however, it has proved necessary to estimate the date of marriage, in which case the forms ‘aft.’, ‘bef.’, ‘by’ or ‘c.’ are employed to signify the nature of the evidence used. The full date of the wife’s death or burial is included, as is the size of the marriage portion where known. The wives of Members who married more than once are listed in strict chronological sequence. The number of children each wife bore a Member is given after her name and family details. Sons and daughters are separately counted, but where the sex of one or more children has not been established the following form has been used: ‘2s. 1da.; 1 other ch.’ Children known to have died before their father are indicated by means of round brackets and the abbreviation d.v.p. (decessit vita patris) thus: ‘2s. (1 d.v.p.)’. However, where all a Member’s sons or daughters by a particular wife predeceased him the brackets have been dispensed with. Illegitimate offspring are recorded separately, along with the name of the mother where it is known, after the Member’s marital history.

Titles and succession. The titles acquired by a Member during the course of his life, and the date that he entered into his inheritance, are recorded after his marriage details. Where a Member enjoyed a courtesy title, the year dates only are provided, but in all other cases full dates (of knighthood or creation) are given. Titles of honour are laid out in chronological order. Inheritance by the Member of his father’s estates is also recorded here (‘suc. fa.’), being inserted in the appropriate chronological position, but unless the Member inherited a title on the death of his father the year date only of succession is given. Where a Member succeeded to the estates of another family member, this fact too is recorded, except in the case of jointure lands which reverted to the Member on the death of his mother (these normally forming part of the Member’s patrimony).

Offices. The preliminary paragraphs attempt to list all offices held by a Member throughout his career. Normally year dates only are given, but where possible terminal dates are provided, though where a Member held an office until his death the terminal date has been replaced with the abbreviation ‘d.’ Fuller dates are given only where a Member’s tenure of office began and ended within the calendar year, or where a Member entered into an office in the year in which he died.

Offices have been grouped under eight categories: (a) central government; (b) local and municipal government, a category which excludes offices of a legal nature, such as borough recorderships; (c) legal; (d) military and naval; (e) academic; (f) membership of chartered or trading companies; (g) parliamentary, though chairmanship of committees is excluded; (h) membership of business syndicates. Sub-headings have not been employed, as the theme of each paragraph should be readily apparent and because further subdivisions have sometimes been employed for the sake of clarity. (For instance, in some entries parochial offices have been grouped together in a separate paragraph). The order of the paragraphs depends on the date of the first appointment in each group. For reasons of economy, offices within each paragraph are grouped together by type (so, for instance, all the appointments to sewer commissions are dealt with together), the dates of each appointment being set out chronologically. The arrangement of each type of office also follows a chronological pattern.

Main text. Where possible, the parliamentary career forms the main focus of each biography. The aim has been to explain why a Member sought entry to Parliament, how he came to be elected, and what he did in the House. In many of the smaller biographies all the information on a man’s parliamentary career is given, no matter how slight, but in the larger entries some selection of the material has proved necessary, particularly in respect of committee appointments. It should be noted that a Member’s parliamentary career outside the period 1604-29 is sketched in comparatively lightly.

Although the parliamentary career forms the main focus of many biographies, attention is also paid to a Member’s wider political interests, his family background and social status, his economic and financial interests, his landholdings and wealth, his religious beliefs and his cultural and intellectual pursuits. However the treatment of these subjects is necessarily limited, particularly in the case of those Members, like Inigo Jones and John Donne, whose principal claim to fame rests on their achievements outside Parliament. In some of the longer biographies subheadings have been provided for ease of reference.

Sources. The dates of parliamentary elections provided in tabulated form at the start of each constituency article are taken from Return of Members of Parliament (1878) or the appendix to this work published in 1879 unless otherwise stated. All other sources used are given in the endnotes/footnotes. Citations of Thomas Rymer’s Foedera refer to the ten-volume edition published at The Hague in 1745. A list of the parliamentary sources used will be found in the list of abbreviations located at the beginning of each volume. A list of the manuscripts consulted will be found at the end of this volume. Please note that some of the archives mentioned in the endnotes have changed their name since the time of writing. We are grateful to archives for bringing to our attention changes to references and call numbers since we originally looked at documents in their care. Where possible, these have been altered in the notes to each article. In many cases we have tried to indicate in the bibliography of manuscripts sources consulted the current call numbers for such documents.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush

End Notes