MONCK, George (1608-70), of Potheridge, Merton, Devon.

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

Constituency

Dates

1653
c. Apr. - 7 July 1660

Family and Education

b. 6 Dec. 1608, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Thomas Monck (d.1629) of Potheridge by Elizabeth, da. of Sir George Smyth. of Heavitree, Devon. m. 23 Jan. 1653, Anne (d. 29 Jan. 1670), da. of John Clarges, farrier, of Drury Lane, Westminster, presumed wid. of Thomas Radford, milliner, of the New Exchange, Strand, Westminster, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) suc. bro. Thomas c.1647; KG 26 May 1660; cr. Duke of Albemarle 7 July 1660.1

Offices Held

Ensign 1627-8, (Dutch army) 1629, capt. of ft. c.1631-8; lt.-col. of ft. (royalist) 1639-44; adj.-gen. of ft. [I] (parliamentary) 1646-9; gov. of Carrickfergus 1648-9; col. of ft. 1650-d. (Coldstream Gds. 1661); lt.-gen. 1651; c.-in-c. [S] 1651-2, 1654-Jan. 1660; gen.-at-sea 1652-3, 1666; col. of horse 1654-61; ld. gen. Nov. 1659; capt.-gen. Aug. 1660-d.

Commr. for settlement [S] 1651-2, Admiralty 1652-9, Feb.-July 1660; councillor of state [S] 1655-May 1660; commr. for security [S] 1656, army Oct. 1659; councillor of State 2 Jan.-28 May 1660, PC 28 May 1660-d.; master of the horse May 1660-8, ld. of Treasury June-Sept. 1660, first ld. 1667-d.; ld. lt. [I] June 1660-1; master, Trinity House June 1660-1, commr. for trade Nov. 1660-d.; gent. of the bedchamber Nov. 1660-d.; commr. for coronation claims Dec. 1660-1, loyal and indigent officers 1662, Tangier 1662-d., sale of Dunkirk 1662, prize appeals 1665-7; dep. ld. high adm. 1665; commr. for royal assent 1667, public accounts [I] 1668.2

Commr. for assessment, Devon 1652, 1657, Jan. 1660, freeman, Portsmouth 1653, j.p. Essex, Mdx. and Surr. 1655-d., Cambridge July 1660-d., St. Albans and Saffron Walden Sept. 1660-d., Haverfordwest Sept. 1660-2, 1666-d., York and Poole 1661-d., Buckingham 1663-d.; commr. for militia, Devon 1659, Devon and Mdx. Mar. 1660; keeper, St. James’s Park Feb. 1660-d.; custos rot. Devon Mar. 1660-d.; ld. lt. Devon July 1660-d., Mdx. 1662-d.; commr. for sewers, Lincs. Aug. 1660; keeper, Hampton Court Aug. 1660-d.; bailiff of Teddington, Byfleet and Ashtead Aug. 1660-d.; warden, Finkley forest by Dec. 1660-d.; member, corp. for propagation of the Gospel in New England 1661; high steward, Kingston-upon-Hull 1661-d., Exeter 1662-d., Barnstaple 1664-d.; commr. for oyer and terminer, Home, Midland, Norfolk, Northern and Oxford circuits 1662; ld. prop. Carolina 1663, palatine 1669-d.; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1664-d.3

FRS 1665.

Biography

The career of ‘honest George Monck’ requires only a brief summary. His family had been established in Devon since the 12th century, but his father was the first to enter Parliament and then only in the hope of escaping from a debtors’ prison. With a younger son’s portion of £20 p.a. Monck became a professional soldier. He fought in the expedition to La Rochelle and later in the Dutch army under Frederick Henry. Returning to England in 1638, he served chiefly in Ireland until 1644, when he was captured by the forces of Parliament. After two years’ imprisonment, he agreed to serve against the Roman Catholic rebels in Ireland. His elder brother, who had been a royalist commissioner, compounded shortly before his death for an estate of £200 p.a., heavily mortgaged and encumbered with rent charges and marriage portions. Monck, ‘by reason of his public employments’ could not ‘so exactly look into his own estate as other men do’; but he committed it to the charge of his kinsman William Morice I, who had raised £2,000 for Monck’s nieces by 1649.4

Monck’s ‘eminent services’ at the Restoration, in making ‘a conquest of those who are enemies and disaffected to the government, happiness and welfare of church and state ... without the expense of blood or treasure’ were chiefly based on his qualities of ‘silence and inscrutability’. But he also gave evidence of political ability in his skilful purging of his officer corps and his adroit handling of the City. His position at the time of the general election of 1660 was unique, but, as the Venetian resident noted, he had little desire for authority in public matters. He himself could doubtless have stood successfully in any constituency in the country, and in fact was successful at Cambridge University as well as being returned unopposed for Devonshire. But it is clear from his letter to the vice-chancellor that he allowed his name to go forward only to exclude Oliver St. John, a potential focus of opposition in the House. Monck lacked a firm territorial basis for his interest; Morice was returned for Plymouth, but Thomas Clarges, an experienced Member, applied to Tamworth in vain even with his brother-in-law’s recommendation, though he was eventually returned for Westminster. William Lenthall, the former Speaker, and John Thurloe, the former secretary of state, found the electorates of Oxford University and Bridgnorth completely unmoved by Monck’s support. It was his misfortune that, owing to his long absence from England, he had few candidates to put forward except those who had served with him under the Protectorate, and these were now unacceptable. Two of his most trusted officers, Ralph Knight and John Cloberry. were successful, apparently on their own interest, but the only Member known to have owed his seat to Monck’s recommendation is William Penn. It must be remembered that Monck, in contrast to Edward Montagu I, had little patronage to offer, since it was not expected that any troops would be retained once normal conditions returned.5

In religion, Monck remained a Presbyterian at heart, and he was probably cognisant of the manoeuvre by which Sir Harbottle Grimston was elected Speaker; he was one of the three Members who conducted him to the chair. In the Convention John Bramston noticed that Monck usually sat next to another distinguished Presbyterian soldier, Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax. According to Burnet, he was responsible for the rejection of a proposal by Matthew Hale for a conditional Restoration. A moderately active Member, he was named to seven committees before his elevation to the Lords, including the drafting committee, and the committees to confirm sales of land and to recommend an establishment for Dunkirk. He served on two joint committees with the Lords, one to draw up instructions for the messengers to the King, the other to make preparations for his reception. On 22 May he was given permission to attend the King at Dover. He twice received the thanks of the House, once at the beginning of the session and again when he took leave of it on 29 June, and desired that ‘they would give all convenient despatch to the bill for sales’. But he was active behind the scenes. He reproved Edward King for faction and fanaticism, saying that ‘he could not promise to keep the people quiet if such motions were made in the House; he found things were not ripe’. It was reported that ‘the lord general is composed all of mercy, and has highly interposed in the Lower House for favour towards some of the most rich and potent of the Rump’.6

Offices and rewards were naturally heaped on Monck. In particular he was granted lands worth £7,000 p.a., and henceforward he divided his time principally between his seat in Essex, where he is said to have lived ‘in very great splendour to the diminution of his estates’, and his office at the Cockpit. He may have been shaken by the failure of Clarges at the general election of 1661, though it must have been some consolation that his cousin Sir James Smyth was returned for Exeter. He sought to increase his parliamentary interest by restoring to Torrington, the market town adjoining his ancestral home from which he took his second title, the right to send two burgesses to Parliament, which it had not exercised since 1369. He certified that the borough was loyal and of competent wealth, and on 1 Dec. 1662 the King directed Lord Chancellor Clarendon to issue a writ accordingly. His intention was to find a seat for Clarges, but Clarendon, whose relations with Monck were far from cordial, succeeded in convincing the King that the House would resent this use of the prerogative unless the franchise were dangerously wide, and, when a vacancy occurred at Salisbury, Clarendon put up his own son Edward instead of Clarges. Monck’s only other intervention in parliamentary affairs, his support for Sir John Colleton in the Dartmouth by-election of 1667, was equally unsuccessful. But his dogged courage and devotion to duty in the Plague, the Fire of London, and the second Dutch war maintained him in popular esteem, as witness the report in September 1667 that ‘the people take upon themselves to condemn all about the Court but the Duke of Albemarle’. He was known to have favoured the impeachment of Clarendon, for which his son (Christopher Monck) spoke in the Commons. But his own active career was almost over; he was seriously ill throughout most of 1669, and died on 3 Jan. 1670.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris

Notes

  • 1. DNB; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 569; Wards 7/76/182; SP23/184/13.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 427; 1661-2, pp. 416, 475; 1664-5, pp. 226, 289; 1667-8, pp. 90, 564.
  • 3. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 354; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 1