NAPIER, Sir Robert, 1st Bt. (c.1640-1700), of Puncknowle, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. c.1640, o.s. of Robert Napier of Puncknowle by 1st w. Anne, da. of Allen Corrance, Merchant Taylor, of London and Wimbish Hall, Essex. educ. M. Temple entered 1655, called 1660; Trinity, Oxf. 1656; Padua 1659. m. 21 Nov. 1667, Sophia, da. of Charles Evelyn of Godstone, Surr., 3s. 4da. Kntd. 27 Jan. 1681; cr. Bt. 25 Feb. 1682; suc. fa. 1686.1
Sheriff, Dorset 1680-1, dep. lt. May-Oct. 1688; j.p. Dorset June 1688-d., Surr. 1690-?d.; commr. for assessment, Dorset 1689-90, Suff. 1690; recorder, Dorchester 1693-d.2
Commr. for drowned lands 1690.3
Napier’s father, the uncle of Sir Nathaniel Napier, was receiver-general of the duchy of Cornwall during the Civil War and again after the Restoration. ‘He is a gentleman’, wrote Fairfax, to whom he surrendered at Truro in 1646, ‘of whom I have a very good report.’ Puncknowle, about 12 miles from Weymouth, and his other estates, recently acquired and encumbered with legacies and annuities, were valued at £506, and he was allowed to compound at only one year’s purchase. Both father and son signed the loyal address in 1660.4
Napier’s selection as sheriff for 1680-1 shows that he was well trusted by the Court, and in 1688 he was named to the lieutenancy and the commission of the peace. Nevertheless, his signature appears on the warrants for raising money for the Prince of Orange’s forces on 30 Nov. Nothing is known of the Weymouth election of 1689, in which Napier was returned. ‘When the House was about the vacancy of the throne and the distracted state of the nation, on 29 Jan. he moved that the word "woeful" might be put in the question', and incurred a great deal of ridicule from the nonconformist Morrice. He voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. He served on the committee for the suspension of habeas corpus (1 Mar.), and in the debate on the report said: 'This mistress of ours, the Habeas Corpus Act, if we part with it twice, it will become quite a common whore'. His other important committees considered the first mutiny bill, the case of the late solicitors to the Treasury, the new oaths of allegiance and supremeacy, the comprehension bill and the restoring of the corporations in both sessions. He took part in preparing addresses of thanks for royal messages on the hearth-tax and on a general pardon. On 18 Apr. his name was added to the list of managers for a conference on the removal of Papists from the capital. He was chairman of the committees for the corn bounty bill, which he carried on the Lords, for the relief of poor prisoners and for the examination of the petition from the widow of Edward Fitzharris. With three other Members he was charged with recommending her to the King for a pension (15 June). He was added to the committee drafting a proviso to impose the penalties of praemunire on any who refused to pay their subsidy. In local affairs, he sat on the committee to investigate abuses of the alnage, which since 1685 had been illegally extended to include the manufacture of stockings, a stable industry in Somerset and Dorset. In the committee on supply, he proposed a tax on lawyers, which his brethren of the long robe apparently succeeded in smothering. On 23 Nov. he produced something of a sensation by reading in the grand committee on the state of the nation a letter 'giving an account of great abuses discovered in the victuals and beer provided for the fleet' at Plymouth. Four days later, he discovered another abuse, the obtaining of protections from Members 'by undue means', and was ordered to produce his informants at the bar of the House within a week. On 17 Dec. he was named to a committee to inquire into certain discoveries of treasons. An active Member, he was named to 49 committees, and his record in the Convention is impressive in view of his lack of parliamentary and administrative experience. His high standing in the House is shown by his appointment on 23 Jan. to ask Dr Tillotson to preach on the anniversary of Charles I's execution.5
Napier, who seems to have remained a moderate Tory, died on 31 Oct. 1700, and was buried at Puncknowle. His son sold the estate, and no later member of the family entered Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 770; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. cxvii), 50; Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 270; Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, ix. 67.
- 2. C. H. Mayo, Dorchester Recs. 456-7.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 794.
- 4. SP23/208/638-59; Add. 8845, p. 10; Mayo, Dorset Standing Committee , 7, 239, 433; Address of Nobility and Gentry of Dorset (1660).
- 5. Churchill Coll., Cambridge, Erle-Drax mss; Hardwicke SP, ii. 413; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 478; 3, p. 5; Grey, ix. 263, 441; CJ, x. 38, 64, 74, 78, 162, 172-3, 296.