RALEIGH, Sir Charles (c.1652-98), of Rectory House, Downton.
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Family and Education
b. c.1652, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Gilbert Raleigh. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. matric. 21 May 1669, aged 16. m. lic. 7 Oct. 1672, aged 21, Frances, da. of Robert Ernle, servant to Queen Catherine of Braganza, of Whitehall and Chalbury, Dorset, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. 1675; kntd. 1 Aug. 1681.2
J.p. Wilts. by 1676-June 1688, Oct. 1688-d., Devon 1697-d.; commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1677-80, 1689-90, freeman, Salisbury 1680; dep. lt. Wilts. 1683-June 1688, Oct. 1688-d.; sub-commr. of prizes, Portsmouth 1689-?d.3
Page of honour by 1694-?d.4
Although Raleigh succeeded in improving the Downton tithes to over £600 p.a., and acquired some ‘new tenants’ in the borough, his estate was still relatively insignificant. He married the daughter of one of Shaftesbury’s Dorset clients, and probably began his political career under the same auspices, unsuccessfully contesting Downton with Maurice Bockland. Since Bockland, though a Churchman, was a firm exclusionist, Raleigh’s knighthood in 1681 is not altogether inexplicable. In the end it was the other Member, Sir Joseph Ashe, whom he displaced. He was a moderately active committeeman in James II’s Parliament, being named to the committees for the amendment of the Bedford Level Act, for estimating the yield of a tax on new buildings, for preventing the clandestine marriage of minors, and for encouraging the woollen industry. In April 1688 the King’s electoral agents reported that their local correspondents had no doubt of Raleigh, ‘he being at great odds with the Churchmen’; but that they themselves were not so confident. To the questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, Raleigh replied that he ‘does not disapprove a liberty of conscience, and when he comes into the House, will endeavour to serve his Majesty honestly, faithfully and loyally, but will not declare beforehand what he will do’. This was not good enough for James, who dismissed him from the lieutenancy and the commission of the peace.5
Raleigh was duly returned to the Convention, in which he was an active Member. He was appointed to 42 committees, and acted as teller in three divisions. His important committees were mostly of a negative or retrospective sort: for inquiring into the authors and advisers of grievances in the last two reigns, for interrogating the former Treasury solicitors, for ascertaining the causes of the delay in the relief of Londonderry, and for examining references to the Popish Plot in the Journals. Lord Halifax proposed him to the King for the Portuguese embassy. On 15 June 1689, outraged at the limited number of exceptions to the indemnity bill, Raleigh exclaimed: ‘If this must pass off so, for God’s sake let us send for King James again’, and had to explain that he had spoken ironically, and out of regard for the lesser offenders. He was one of the four Members appointed to represent the case of Mrs Fitzharris to the King. In the second session he was named to the committee on the bill for restoring corporations. He supported the disabling clause, and acted as teller for its recommitment on 10 Jan. 1690. He was also named to the committee on the bill for a general oath of allegiance.