FITZJAMES, John (1619-70), of Leweston, Dorset.

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

Constituency

Dates

1654
1656
24 Jan. - 22 Mar. 1659
1660
15 June 1661 - 21 June 1670

Family and Education

b. 31 Dec. 1619, 1sts. of Leweston Fitzjames of Leweston by Eleanor, da. and coh. of Sir Henry Winston of Standish, Glos.; bro. of Henry Fitzjames and Thomas Fitzjames. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. 1636. m. 7 Aug. 1638, Margaret, da. of Nathaniel Stephens of Eastington, Glos. 2s. d.v.p. 5da. suc. fa. 1638; kntd. 9 July 1660.1

Offices Held

Capt. of militia ft. Dorset by 1641; commr. for assessment, Dorset 1643-9, 1652, Dorset and Som. 1657, Jan. 1660, Dorset Aug. 1660-9, Poole 1661-3, accounts, Dorset 1643, levying of money 1643, execution of ordinances 1644; ranger, Cranborne chase 1645-51; sheriff, Dorset 1645-6; j.p. Dorset 1648-52, 1656-d., Som. July 1660-d.; commr. for militia, Dorset 1648, Mar. 1660; freeman, Poole 1649, commr. for piracy, Dorset 1653, dep. lt. July 1660-d,; commr. for sewers, Som. Aug. 1660.2

Col. of horse (parliamentary) 1644-6.3

Biography

The Fitzjames family had been established in Somerset by the 15th century; but the Dorset branch acquired their principal estate by bequest from the last of the Lewestons in 1584. The elder line were recusants, but Fitzjames’s grandfather, founder of the Leweston branch, was a pillar of the Establishment, both materially and morally. The lack of a nearby borough limited their parliamentary opportunities; nevertheless Fitzjames’s father sat for Bridport in 1597. He was dropped from the commission of the peace in 1626 as an opponent of the Court.4

Fitzjames’s connexions with the Gloucestershire Presbyterians through his wife’s family brought him into the circle of Major-General Edward Massey, under whom his military career in the Civil War concluded, and he was closely associated with Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. But if he followed his father’s politics he remained faithful to his grandfather’s religion. He retained the use of the Book of Common Prayer in the family chapel throughout the Interregnum, insisting even in 1651 on an Anglican ceremony for his sister’s marriage, and acquired the reputation of a discreet but reliable protector of Cavaliers. At the Restoration he claimed to have tried to advance the King’s service for 12 years.5

Returned for his county in 1660, Fitzjames was prevented by illness from ‘making a personal submission’ to the King at The Hague and from playing much part in the Convention. He was named to the committee for the assessment ordinance, and acted as teller on 27 June against a clause in the indemnity bill on behalf of the maintenance trustees. He was too modest to expect re-election in 1661; ‘a burgess’s place ... is as much as (without vanity) I could expect’. He accordingly stood for Poole, doubtless in the Cooper interest, and was declared elected on the votes of non-resident freemen after a double return. He was included in Lord Wharton’s list of friends, and probably voted with the Opposition under Clarendon. Though he was named to only 17 committees in the first nine sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, he was far from inactive; according to (Sir) Edward Harley, writing in 1666, ‘he seldom fails in the House’. His ineffectiveness is shown in a matter which concerned him personally, the failure of the committee set up to find some means of encouraging Abraham Forester’s invention for repairing highways. Forester’s father, the versatile rector of Folke, was not only Fitzjames’s neighbour but his physician, skilled in compounding pills which relieved his wife of her melancholy fits during pregnancy. But in spite of the King’s recommendation and the naming of five other Dorset Members to the committee nothing was done.6

Fitzjames may have supported the Cabal, in which his patron (now Lord Ashley) played a leading role. He was included by Sir Thomas Osborne among the Members who had usually voted for supply, and acted as teller for his wife’s brother-in-law Peregrine Palmer in the Bridgwater election case. His record during the Interregnum leaves no doubt possible as to the sincerity of his Anglicanism; but his correspondence with the dean of Salisbury shows that after Bartholomew he maintained one of the ejected ministers in his house, which was later to be licensed to his widow for Presbyterian worship, and opposed the second conventicles bill. In also opposing the bill to enable Lord Roos (John Manners) to divorce his wife, he no doubt acted on principle, both as a good churchman and a good family man; moreover his brother Henry was connected with the Duke of York’s household. He died on 21 June 1670 and was buried at Long Burton.7

Fitzjames is revealed in his letters as an attractive, but not a strong character. Once his campaigning days were over, he seems never to have enjoyed good health, nevertheless serving with the militia during the second Dutch war. Tolerant and humane, though conscious of what was due to his position as a gentleman, he was happiest among his family and in his garden or library at ‘poor Leweston’. The adjective (which he habitually used) demands an explanation; but if his estimate of £700 as two years’ profit of all his lands is correct, his income was hardly equal to his rank. His debts, with which he was obsessed, amounted to less than £3,000, largely incurred on behalf of his brothers and sisters; they contrasted disagreeably with the purses of gold that his father and grandfather had been able to bequeath to their numerous offspring. Moreover, at his death he had not succeeded in making any provision for his daughters, all of or near mar