CAREW, Sir Nicholas (1635-88), of Beddington, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



29 Nov. 1664
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 30 June 1635, o.s. of Sir Francis Carew of Beddington by Susan, da. of Sir William Romney, Haberdasher, of London. educ. Hayes, Mdx. (Dr Thomas Triplett); Lincoln, Oxf. 1651. m. 4 May 1656 (with £4,000), Susanna, da. of Sir Justinian Isham, 2nd Bt., of Lamport, Northants., 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1649; kntd. by 3 Oct. 1660.1

Offices Held

Commr. for militia, Surr. Mar. 1660, j.p. Mar. 1660-70, capt. of militia horse Apr. 1660-at least 1661, dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-70, commr. for assessment Aug. 1660-80, corporations 1662-3, inquiry, Richmond Park 1671, recusants, Surr. 1675, rebuilding, Southwark 1677.2


Carew was the grandson of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, a younger son of the Warwickshire family, who changed his name on succeeding to the Beddington estate in 1661. His father pleaded that he had been obliged as a sworn servant to attend the King during the Civil War, but had not fought; and in view of his debts he was fined only £1,000 for his delinquency, though he was further assessed at £800 by the committee for the advance of money and the fine was still unpaid at his death. Carew became the ward of Carew Ralegh, who doubtless instilled in him a distrust of the Stuarts. At his marriage his estate was valued at £2,200 p.a., but land worth £600 p.a. had to be sold soon afterwards. He was involved in Booth’s rising in 1659, and his property still lay under sequestration at the Restoration. He accompanied Lord Berkeley, one of the peers sent to The Hague to invite Charles II to return in 1660, and was knighted. On the Fifth Monarchist rising in London in 1661, he was ordered to quarter his militia troop in Southwark ‘that so they may be on hand to suppress any insurrection’.3

Carew seized the opportunity afforded by the death of William Oldfield in 1664 without an adult heir to win a seat at Gatton, eight miles from his home. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 188 committees, acted as teller in 23 divisions, and made over 150 recorded speeches. In his first session he was named to the committee for the Brixton canal bill and acted as teller against the bill to make the Wey navigable. But the only measure of political importance with which he was associated during the Clarendon administration was the five mile bill. In 1667, however, he was appointed to the committees of inquiry into the miscarriages of the second Dutch war and the sale of Dunkirk. After helping to consider the bill to banish the fallen minister, he acted with Sir Robert Carr as teller both for putting the question on the report stage and against the amendments. He later accused some speakers in a debate on miscarriages on 15 Feb. 1668 of fearing that the results of the inquiry would justify the Banishment Act, and was teller for the motion to condemn the delay in ordering Rupert’s squadron to rejoin Albemarle in 1666. His proposal to ease the crown’s financial difficulties by the sale of cathedral lands evoked no response; but a second expedient, for laying a tax on ‘those that have cheated the King’, brought him into prominence for the first time. He carried three messages to the public accounts commissioners, and on 11 Apr. was ordered with (Sir) Robert Brooke to convey the House’s thanks for their report on the embezzlement of prize goods. He cited evidence that it was (Sir) William Penn who had first advised Lord Sandwich (Edward Montagu I) to break bulk on the rich East India prizes, and helped to prepare and deliver the articles of impeachment. He was among those sent to the King with a message for encouraging the wearing of English manufactures, and acted as teller for the proviso to the conventicles bill requiring the laws against Papists to be put into execution. He was so scornful of the defence offered by Sir George Carteret over his accounts that he provoked Sir Charles Wheler into a breach of order. He consistently obstructed supply; but he was equally hostile to measures against nonconformists and was removed from the commission of the peace on the passing of the renewed Conventicles Act. He wanted the lord mayor’s commitment of the prominent dissenter Jekyll condemned as illegal and arbitrary. After the assault on Sir John Coventry he proposed the deferment of all other business until a bill to banish the culprits had passed both Houses:

His reason is, that we may have freedom of speech till this bill be done. Without a better guard than Coventry had, he cannot speak freely to anything else. Perhaps this may be a new way of frightening people, that they may be alarmed and afraid. Hopes you will add more ‘to maim’, and let some general law be included in this particular occasion, for our safety in future.

On 21 Jan. 1671 he remarked that he hoped never to hear it said in the House that the necessities of the King were above the abilities of the people, and three days later he carried to the Upper House the bill to encourage the export of beer, ale and mum.4

When Parliament met again in February 1673, Carew acted as teller against searching for precedents for the issue of election writs by the lord chancellor during the recess without warrant from the Speaker. In the debate on relieving Protestant dissenters, he said that he ‘would have the Church of England as strong as you can against the Church of Rome. Would be loath to ask toleration of them. Would take in those that dissent not in matters of doctrine.’ He was opposed to a sacramental test for office-holders, which would have excluded many nonconformists; renunciation of transubstantiation should suffice. In the autumn session he was appointed to the committees to devise a general test to ‘clear the House of Lords and the Court of Papists’, and to draw up the addresses against the Modena marriage and the standing army. The militia, he claimed, was fully as serviceable as the new-raised forces. In the next session he joined in the attack on the remaining members of the Cabal. He proposed that the King should be asked to prevent Lauderdale from returning to England. On 16 Jan. 1674 he told the House that:

Lord Arlington has confessed enough to condemn him. He told you of a statue that might have been erected for him, for maintaining the Triple League. Knows not by whom, unless at Rome. He says he had a hand in the prorogation. The war and the Declaration were only to introduce a standing army, without which Popery could not be secured. Arlington has told you he had a hand in all these. It is fit he should fare no better than others. Would have no root of the Cabal to grow; every little weed will grow.

He helped to draw up the impeachment, and was teller against seeking the concurrence of the Lords to the address for the dismissal of Buckingham. Although not named to the drafting committee, he brought in a bill on 23 Feb. for a test to be taken by Members of both Houses, but the session was suddenly prorogued before the second reading. Thereupon, as one of the ‘guilty Commons’, he took refuge in the City, where, as the grandson of a Jacobean alderman, he was sure of a welcome.5

In the succeeding sessions Carew was associated with all the favourite measures of the Opposition. ‘He is no friend to the Court,’ wrote his sister-in-law, ‘and is apt to speak his mind,’ a tendency which was probably reinforced by his sufferings from gout. He was particularly determined to incapacitate Papists from sitting in Parliament; but he was also appointed to committees for recalling British subjects from French service, appropriating the customs revenue to the use of the navy, hindering the growth of Popery, providing for the Protestant education of the royal children, and securing the liberty of the subject. One of his favourite themes was the enrichment of officials at the expense of the landowner, and on 22 Apr. 1675 he acted as teller, with Andrew Marvell, for a place bill. During the disputes between the Houses in the summer he helped to manage a conference and to prepare reasons for three others. In the autumn session he originated the proposal that the money to be raised for building warships should be paid, not into the Exchequer, but into the chamber of London, a suggestion no doubt prompted by his City connexions. In 1677 he was marked ‘thrice worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, and helped to draw up the addresses promising to assist the King in the event of a war with France, and urging the conclusion of alliances. He was also on the committee for the address of 10 May 1678 for the removal of counsellors. He was appointed to the committee to inquire into the Popish Plot, and moved for a warrant from the lord chief justice for the arrest of those accused by Titus Oates. Unmollified by the grant of a licence to erect water-mills on his estate for grinding dyes, he helped to draw up reasons for believing in the plot and excluding the Duke of York from the House of Lords. In the debate on disbanding the army on 27 Nov. he told the House: ‘I will not say this army was raised for this plot, but the more loyal this army is, the more surely they might take away the King’s life and place the crown on his successor.’ He was among those ordered to prepare instructions for the disbandment commissioners and the address on the dangers confronting the nation. When Ralph Montagu announced that he had letters of great consequence to produce, Carew exclaimed:

Let the papers in Montagu’s hands be brought now, and if they concern any man, under his Majesty himself, I would prosecute the thing now. I know not whether we shall be here to-morrow morning or no; it may be we shall all be clapped up by to-morrow.

When the letters were read, he was among those ordered to prepare Danby’s impeachment.6

Carew was re-elected to the Exclusion Parliaments, though in February 1679 he probably had to overcome the Oldfield interest, now exercised by Sir John Thompson. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, but he was only moderately active in the first Exclusion Parliament, with ten committee appointments and 13 speeches. He proposed the impeachment of the Queen’s physician. He said on 11 May: ‘I shall be glad to be shown any bands and fetters that a prince, when he comes to the crown, shall not easily break’. One of the ‘hot and violent conductors’, he helped to draft the exclusion bill, and voted for the second reading. He and his associates, according to Danby, were much praised ‘for their great earnestness to have a successor named’. He was again moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament, in which he was named to seven committees and made 25 speeches. He considered that Lord Halifax (Sir George Savile) should be removed from Court because he would change his religion when Popery came in, and he was among those appointed to draft an address on the dangerous state of the kingdom. When the charges against Edward Seymour were questioned he said:

If you put so great a discouragement upon Members that bring in impeachments against great men, what use are you of, unless to give money? We know the condition of the nation; if we go this way to work, we give up all. You must mistrust the honour and wisdom of your Members, that they bring in this charge maliciously, if you refer it to a committee, and rest not upon their undertaking to make it good.

Though he differed from William Sacheverell in believing that to cure Popery was to cure all, he had no faith in the expedients proposed after the Lords had rejected the second exclusion bill:

These bills will signify nothing, unless you can remove your popish successor and your popish interest. These bills will not reach your Papists in masquerade, who will certainly continue as long as there is a popish successor, and make your banishing bill, and your association bill too, as ineffectual as white paper. Let such as I could name to you have the command of the sea-ports ... and when the present heat is over, let the Papists come back when they will, they will have no cause to doubt having a kind reception. For you must not expect to have plain rustic country gentlemen in such commands, but well-bred courtiers, and some good, easy, credulous gentlemen, that will soon be persuaded there is no danger in Popery; and then of what use will your banishing or association bill be? As long as the Duke hath so many friends at Court (between whose interest and Popery I cannot hear there is any distinction), I think no laws that we can make against Popery will do us any good, because all the laws we have already have done us none.

Although Carew’s logic was not generally accepted, he was appointed to the committee to draw up the address insisting on exclusion. On the comprehension bill he was ‘for uniting, and parting with ceremonies, but never will part with the liturgy of the Church, nor a reverend habit’. In the Oxford Parliament he was appointed only to the elections committee. On 24 Mar. 1681 he proposed the reintroduction of the exclusion bill, ‘the same bill which passed the last Parliament’. On the proposal for a regency, he inquired what would happen if the Duke would not submit to it; would not those who opposed him be traitors in law?7

Carew did not stand in 1685, and in 1687 was included among the eminent Parliament men in opposition to James II. He died on 9 Jan. 1688 and was buried at Beddington. He seems to have been a crotchety but honest politician. Almost the only government action which he went on record as approving was the withdrawal of the Declaration of Indulgence in 1673. Unlike William Harbord he did not allow gout to control his temper, or appetite for office his policy. His son did not survive him long, but his grandson sat for Haslemere, and later for the county, as an independent Whig.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. Manningland Bray, Surr. ii. 523; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 212; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 252; Duppa-Isham Corresp. (Northants. Rec. Soc. xvii), 177; Q. Sess. Recs. (Surr. Rec. Soc. xxxv), 33.
  • 2. Duppa-Isham Corresp. 183; Parl. Intell. 23 Apr. 1660; Add. 6167, f. 207, Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1161.
  • 3. VCH Surr. iv. 170; Cal. Comm. Comp. 841, 3253; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 335; Grey, iii. 94; Duppa-Isham Corresp. 121; Add. 29597, f. 21.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 602; ix. 40, 42, 78, 80, 87, 90; Grey, i. 75, 108, 167, 187, 299, 336, 364; Milward, 223; Dering, 45, 47.
  • 5. CJ, ix. 248, 303; Grey, ii. 38, 86, 197, 220, 237, 281; Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. ix), 157.
  • 6. Northants. RO, IC982a, Grey, i. 315; vi. 116, 175, 279, 346; Bulstrode, 316; CSP Dom. 1678, p. 510.
  • 7. Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 174; Grey, vii. 74, 238; viii. 22, 88, 100, 295, 316; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 561; Browning, Danby, ii. 83; Exact Coll. Debates, 166.
  • 8. Manning and Bray, ii. 527; Grey, ii. 92; iii. 64; vi. 175; vii. 337.