LONG, Robert (c.1600-73), of Westminster and Nonsuch, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1600, 4th but 3rd surv. s. of Sir Walter Long† (d.1610) of South Wraxhall, Wilts., being 2nd s. by end w. Catherine, da. of Sir John Thynne of Longleat, Wilts.; bro. of Sir Walter Long. educ. L. Inn 1619, called 1627. unm. cr. Bt. 1 Sept. 1662.1
Sec. to Ld. Treas. Marlborough by 1626-8; servant to Charles I by 1633; commr. for preventing export of butter 1636, compounding with tobacco planters 1636; jt. commissary for the army in the north 1639; receiver of recusancy forfeitures (south) 1639-46; surveyor-gen. to Queen Henrietta Maria 1641-6, by 1661-9, treas. and receiver-gen. 1671-d., auditor of the receipt in the Exchequer 1643-6, 1662-d.; sec. to Charles II as Prince of Wales 1645-9; sec. of state 1649-52; PC 14 May 1649-Jan. 1652, 3 July 1672-d.; commr. for trade and plantations 1672-d.2
Commr. for corporations, Yorks. 1662-3, assessment, Westminster 1663-d., Surr. 1665-d.; jt. keeper of Somerset House 1664-d.; j.p. Surr. 1666-d.3
Long, the younger son of a prominent Wiltshire family, entered public life as secretary to his kinsman, the 1st Earl of Marlborough (James Ley†). He was granted the reversion of the auditorship of the receipt to the long-lived Sir Robert Pye, for whom he substituted at Oxford during the Civil War. He accompanied Prince Charles to the west country as his secretary, and was also surveyor-general to Henrietta Maria, whose religion he seems to have adopted. The ablest of the Louvre group of royalist exiles, he was a bitter enemy of Sir Edward Hyde until he was dismissed in 1652. Besides a farm in Wiltshire which he had inherited, he had acquired substantial interests in the Lincolnshire fens and the former forest of Galtres, which were sold by the treason trustees. He was in England in 1654, but seems to have lived chiefly at Rouen till the Restoration.4
Long had recovered his office as surveyor-general of the queen mother’s estate by 1661, and presumably also his Yorkshire property. He was returned for Boroughbridge at the general election, but did not become an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being appointed to 43 committees, none of which was of much political importance. He retained his interest in the drainage of the Lincolnshire fens, in association with Sir William Killigrew, and was named to several committees. When his Exchequer reversion at last fell in he was created a baronet, with special remainder to his nephew. He showed himself ‘exceptional among 17th-century Exchequer officials in having a conscientious devotion to the personal performance of his duties’, and in 1663 he was appointed to the parliamentary committee to propose improvements in the revenue. In the same year his application for a long lease of Nonsuch was granted, nominally in reversion to the queen mother; but as she was now permanently resident in France he probably moved in at once. It is unlikely, however, that his old quarrel with Hyde, now Lord Chancellor Clarendon, had been made up, and his name was significantly absent from the list of court dependents in 1664. During the great plague the Exchequer was moved to Nonsuch, and it is not clear whether Long was able to attend the Oxford session; but during the next recess Samuel Pepys found him ‘mighty fierce in the great good qualities of payment in course’, provision for which had been inserted by Sir George Downing in the supply bill.5
Long was the first Member named to the inquiry into the loyal and indigent officers fund on 2 Oct. 1666, and his high standing in the House at this time is shown by his selection, together with Lord Ancram (Charles Kerr), to ask the dean of Westminster and the rector of St. Margaret’s to preach at the fast, to return thanks for the sermons, and to urge publication. As chairman of the committee for naval and ordnance accounts he reported on 15 Oct. that the papers tabled by Sir Philip Warwick were substantially correct. When the Treasury was put into commission in 1667, with Downing as the driving-force, Long entered on the most constructive period of his career. As the key official in the lower Exchequer ‘he was the Treasury’s principal executive ... receiving a steady flow of instructions and returning a regular sequence of information. ... If any one man could work out the current Exchequer balance between income and expenditure, it was the auditor of the receipt.’ Perhaps the additional burden of administration precluded Long from playing much part henceforth in the House. Presumably he welcomed the fall of his old enemy Clarendon, but he was not even among those appointed to consider legalizing the transfer of Exchequer bills. Whether by accident or design ‘the very first sum mentioned in the account brought in by Sir Robert Long of the disposal of the poll-bill money is £5,000 to my Lord Arlington [Sir Henry Bennet] for intelligence; which was mighty unseasonable, after they [the Commons] had so much cried out against his want of intelligence’. His only other recorded intervention in debate was on 19 Jan. 1671 when he told (Sir) Thomas Lee I that interest on crown loans above the legal maximum of 6 per cent was authorized not by the Exchequer but by privy seal. His last committee, not unsuitably, was on the bill to sell up the defaulting tax-collector Thomas Harlackenden two months later. He was on both lists of the court party in 1669-71 as a dependent, and was described in a hostile account as having gained at least £50,000 by managing the queen mother’s affairs. He continued to build up his Yorkshire estate, but died after a long illness on 13 July 1673 and was buried in Westminster abbey. He bequeathed £300 to his niece’s husband, Sir Richard Mason, to be expended for the good of his soul, as well as his lease of Worcester Park; but the bulk of the estate descended with the baronetcy to his nephew, Sir James Long.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. iii. 58; Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv), 118.