BEAKE, Robert (d.1708), of Coventry, Warws.
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Family and Education
m. Elizabeth (bur. 24 Sept. 1689), 1da.1
Lt. of ft. (parliamentary) 1642-5, capt.-lt. 1645-7, June-Nov. 1648, maj. 1650-9; gov. Coventry 1650-1.2
Freeman, Coventry 1650, sheriff 1650-1, common councilman 1652-5, alderman 1655-62, mayor 1655-6; commr. for assessment, Warws. 1650-2, Warws. and Coventry 1657, Jan. 1660, Coventry Sept. 1660-3, 1673-80, poor prisoners, Warws. and Coventry 1653, scandalous ministers 1654; master of drapers’ co. Coventry 1656-7, 1701-2; j.p. Warws. 1656-July 1660; commr. for militia, Warws. and Coventry Mar. 1660; capt.-lt. of militia horse, Warws. Apr. 1660; commr. for inquiry into recusants’ fines, Leics., Northants., Rutland and Warws. Mar. 1688.3
Commr. of Admiralty 1656-9.
Although Beake’s parentage has not been ascertained, he must have held some position in Warwickshire society to be commissioned at the outset of the Civil War. His regiment was raised in the north of the county, but he became a draper in Coventry and represented the city in the Protectorate Parliaments. A close associate of Major-General Edward Whalley, he was appointed to the board of Admiralty in 1656 and voted for the offer of the crown to Cromwell. He was brought before the Council of State in 1659 after Booth’s rising on the strength of an intercepted letter from Baxter, and took part in the overthrow of the military regime, when he was thanked ‘for assisting Parliament’s interest in the late interruption’, and subsequently reported to George Monck on a seizure of arms at Coventry.4
Beake was returned for Coventry after a contest at the general election of 1660. An inactive Member of the Convention, he was named to the committee of elections and privileges, and to those to establish the names of those who had sat in the high court of justice during the trial of Charles I, and to inquire into the revenue received from impropriate rectories. He was alleged to have urged the inclusion of Sir Richard Temple in the list of persons to be excepted from the indemnity bill as ‘a menial servant to Cromwell and a great promoter of his interest’. The Coventry election was declared void on 31 July, and Beake was not returned in the by-election, although he served on the delegation from the corporation which presented a gift to the King and pledged the city’s loyalty.5
Beake resigned from municipal office on 12 Feb. 1662 in anticipation of a purge by the commissioners for corporations. A ‘brave, honest, ingenious gentleman’, he was for many years ‘the great ornament’ of the Independent chapel in Coventry and in 1669 became one of the lay leaders of the Great Conventicle at Leather Hall, said by Bishop Hacket to be attended by 700 people. He regained his seat after a contest at the first general election of 1679, and was classed ‘honest’ on Shaftesbury’s list. A moderately active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, he was named to seven committees, including the committee of elections and privileges, and spoke twice. He agreed with the Lords that banishment was a more appropriate punishment for Danby than attainder:
For divers ages after the Conquest, confiscation of estate and banishment were the usual punishment. ... If you attain those ends you desire by banishment, etc., a greater punishment will follow him, and that which he will never recover;— the curse of Englishmen will go after him. He carries with him a wounded conscience, and that is part of the spoils he will take with him. His crimes are transcendent! They will dog him wherever he goes; the meanest person that he has oppressed may assault and attack him on the other side of the water. If we can but reach this, to lay him as low as the dust, can you promise to yourselves that the Lords will concur with what you aim at, or the King? I would take that course by which we may probably arrive at our end. And his honours and estate may be taken from him before he had the Treasury.
He was appointed to the committees to bring in more effective measures against profanity and to consider the bill to prevent illegal exactions and the security bill. His speech of 11 May on exclusion was equally closely reasoned and even more remarkable for a display of historical learning. He pointed out that the Tudor sovereigns had invariably altered both doctrine and ritual before seeking the concurrence of Parliament:
Royal authority put in the scales of parliamentary authority, I find, has ever over-balanced it. ... So that if we have no better security for religion than paper laws, I doubt not but a popish successor will rescind them. But is our religion of no older date than Edward VI? It is as old as the Christian religion, and it is that we are now contending for, not a statute religion, but a common-law religion, a history of propriety in the common law of England. Now consider, if you name a successor, what title he has to the crown. By the ancient records and monuments such and such a line ought to inherit. If we have as good authority for our religion as a successor has for his crown, we have a better title; we are in possession of our religion, he is not of the crown yet. It is not mine or this man’s religion that is the case, it is the religion of the nation. If religion then be so dear to us, how can the medicines tendered to us by the King affect the security of it? Should the King die (kings are subject to diseases) then are we subject, not only to the Pope, but to a company of atheists. Have you power over the arms of the nation? Could I see laws and force together, that would be something towards our security; but that still might induce an alteration of the government. I see no safety in what is here proposed, and therefore I will abide by your further debate of this great affair.
He voted for exclusion, and for the recommittal of the bill promising to wreak vengeance on the Roman Catholics if the King should come to a violent end, and he was added to the committee. Nevertheless, his moderate attitude towards Danby may have damaged his standing in his constituency, for at the autumn election he was replaced by another exclusionist, John Stratford.6
Beake never stood again. After the Rye House Plot it was his turn to be searched for arms, though Thomas Lucy found ‘but one little sword’ in his house. He may have become a Whig collaborator in 1688, when he was appointed to the local commission of inquiry into recusancy fines. Even after the Revolution he remained an obnoxious figure in the eyes of the Coventry Tories. Stones and turnips were thrown at him, though he was ‘an ancient man’, as he went to vote in 1701. He was buried at St. Michael, Coventry on 22 Sept. 1708. His daughter had married into a minor gentry family, but he had little property to dispose of in his will, apart from 80 acres at Stoke Golding in Leicestershire and his books on divinity and history.7