DUKE, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (1633-1705), of Benhall, Suff.
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Family and Education
bap. 3 Jan. 1633, 1st surv. s. of Sir Edward Duke, 1st Bt., of Benhall by Ellenor, da. and coh. of John Panton of Westminster. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1649; travelled abroad 1657. m. c.1694, his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Edward Duke, MD, FRCP, 1s. 4da. suc. fa. 1671.1
Commr. for assessment, Suff. 1661-80, Orford 1679-80, Suff. and Orford 1689-90; j.p. and dep. lt. Suff. 1671-83, 1689-d., commr. for recusants 1675, mayor, Orford 1677-8; alderman, Dunwich June-Oct. 1688.2
The Duke family had been settled at Brampton in Suffolk since the time of Edward III, but the manor of Benhall, which became the principal family seat, was not bought until 1610. Duke’s father, who represented Orford eight miles away in the Short Parliament, was knighted and made a commissioner of array. He cannot have acted, however, for he was appointed to two parliamentary commissions in 1643-4. His sympathies were probably royalist, for he took no further part in local affairs. He was included in the list drawn up by Roger Whitley in 1658, and created a baronet in 1661.3
Returned for Orford to the Exclusion Parliaments, Duke was classed as ‘base’ by Shaftesbury. In 1679 he was not an active Member, being appointed only to the committees to consider the bill for regulating elections, and to inquire into the shipping of artillery from Portsmouth. He belied Shaftesbury’s rating by voting for the exclusion bill; but in the second and third Exclusion Parliaments he was totally inactive. He was removed from the Suffolk commission of the peace in December 1683, and the quo warranto brought against the Orford corporation in March 1684 was intended largely to overthrow Duke’s interest. As a result he did not stand in the 1685 election. Although nominated to the Dunwich corporation in June 1688, he probably opposed repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, for the King’s agents in September reported that they could ‘give no good account’ of him as a candidate for Aldeburgh. He was returned to the 1689 Convention for Orford in an election held under the old charter, but he was appointed to no committees and made no recorded speeches. According to Ailesbury’s list he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. On 28 Feb. he was granted leave to go into the country. He was, however, also listed as supporting the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations. After 1690 he had only one brief spell in Parliament, although his activity in the county continued. He was buried at Benhall on 24 July 1705. His son, Sir Edward Duke, 3rd Bt., sat for Orford as a Tory in 1721-2.4