CROKE, Richard (c.1625-83), of the Inner Temple and Marston, nr. Oxford.
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Family and Education
b. c.1625, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Unton Croke† of Marston by Anne, da. and h. of Richard Hore of Marston. educ. Winchester 1636, aged 11; I. Temple, entered 1636, called 1646. m. by 1654, Elizabeth (d. 27 Mar. 1683), da. of Martin Wright, goldsmith, of Oxford, 5s. (3 d.v.p.) suc. fa. 1671; kntd. 16 Mar. 1681.1
Commr. for sale of Woodstock manor 1649; freeman, Oxford 1653, dep. recorder 1653-60, recorder June 1660-d.; j.p. Oxford 1655-Aug. 1660, 1665-d., Abingdon 1655, Woodstock 1656-Aug. 1660, Oxon. Mar. 1660-d.; commr. for security, Oxen. 1655-6, assessment, Oxon. 1657, Jan. 1660, 1661-3, 1664-80, Oxford 1661-80, militia, Oxon. 1659, Oxford Mar. 1660; bencher, I. Temple 1662, reader 1670; commr. for recusants, Oxon. 1675.2
Croke’s ancestors were established in Buckinghamshire in the early 15th century, and first represented the county in 1572. His grandfather was Speaker in 1601 and later a judge. His father sat for Wallingford in 1626, supported Parliament during the Civil War, and was made serjeant-at-law by Cromwell. His younger brother took a prominent part in the suppression of Penruddock’s rising, but Croke himself, according to Anthony à Wood, ‘always ran with the times’. He married into a prominent Oxford family and sat for the city in the three Protectorate Parliaments.3
Croke was defeated in the general election of 1660, but he composed a loyal address from the corporation at the Restoration, and regained his seat after a contest in 1661. On 11 May 1663 he reported a bill for the benefit of his cousins, the children of Bulstrode Whitelocke†; but he was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He probably served on less than 50 committees, though before 1671 his record can seldom be distinguished from that of Robert Croke, his second cousin. Probably, however, he was appointed to the committees for preventing abuses in the courts of justice, the conventicles bill, and the prohibition of Irish cattle imports, and was listed by the Opposition as a court supporter. In the first of his seven recorded speeches, on 9 Feb. 1674, he urged caution over defining illegal exactions, since customary levies, for example in corporations, were recognized by common law. He favoured committing the bill, and was named to the committee. He was given the coif in 1675, in though he supported the bill to extend habeas corpus. ‘This bill’, he said, ‘may be done without prejudice to the King’s evidence and prerogative, and with great safety to the subject’. He was among those ordered to prepare reasons for resisting the claim of the House of Lords to hear appeals involving a Member of the Lower House. He was included in the working lists among the lawyers to be influenced by the lord keeper. In the debate of 21 Mar. 1677 on the Newark election dispute, Croke advanced legal arguments in support of the King’s right to enfranchise boroughs. ‘A charter is a flower of the crown’, he declared, ‘and the King’s undoubted right’. He conceded the inconvenience of the grant when Parliament was in session, but, in view of the precedents, ‘who can dispute the King’s right in doing it?’ Nevertheless, he moved for a committee of inquiry. When John Hatcher, the serving sheriff of Lincolnshire, petitioned against the return of Henry Noel for Stamford, Croke declared:
A writ of summons to choose Members of Parliament is an original thing, and not an iota can be altered without Act of Parliament. He hears it said that the corporation makes the return of the writ. No; they elect, but the sheriff makes the return, and it is against the law of nature for the same man to be both agent and patient. ... If they might return themselves, most of the sheriffs of England would sit here. There is reason in it, and it is against a rule of law and a dangerous precedent for a sheriff to return himself against all ancient usage.
Croke was changed from ‘worthy’ to ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. On 21 Dec. 1678, he moved unsuccessfully to omit the word ‘traitorously’ from the first article of Danby’s impeachment.4
Croke did not stand again, though he received three ‘castaway’ votes at the second general election of 1679. ‘A very loyal person’, he opposed exclusion, and on 31 May 1681 the corporation thanked him for drafting the address approving of the dissolution of Parliament, for which he was knighted. He is described in his epitaph as a ‘devoted son’ of the Church of England, but Anthony à Wood declared that ‘his religion was as venal as his tongue’. He died on 14 Sept. 1683 and was buried at Marston, the last of that branch to sit in Parliament.5