ROBARTES, Hon. Francis (1650-1718), of Truro, Cornw. and Twickenham, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 6 Jan. 1650, 6th but 2nd surv. s. of John, later 1st Earl of Radnor, being 2nd s. by 2nd w. Isabella, da. of Sir John Smythe of Sutton-at-Hone, Kent; half-bro. of Hender Robartes and Robert Robartes. educ. Chelsea (Mr Cary); Christ’s, Camb. 1663; travelled abroad 1667-70. m. (1) lic. 13 July 1678, Penelope (d. 2 July 1680), da. of Sir Courtenay Pole, 2nd Bt., of Shute, Devon, s.p.; (2) by 1686, Lady Anne Fitzgerald (d. 4 May 1715), da. of Wentworth Fitzgerald, 17th Earl of Kildare [I], wid. of William Boscawen of Tregothnan, Cornw., 2s.1
Commr. for recusants, Cornw. 1675, assessment 1677-80, 1689-90, j.p. 1680-July 1688, Oct. 1688-1710, 1713-?d.; freeman, Saltash 1683, Bodmin 1685-Sept. 1688; dep. lt. Cornw. by 1701-?d.2
PC [I] 1692-?1714; commr. for excise [I] 1692-1702, 1710-12, revenue [I] 1692-1704, 1710-14, inquiry into forfeitures [I] 1693; teller of the Exchequer 1704-10.3
FRS 1673, v.-pres. 1689.
Robartes was first elected in 1673 at Bossiney on the family interest. But at this stage in his career politics probably took second place to music. As a composer he was esteemed the most accomplished among the English imitators of Lully. In the Cavalier Parliament he can have been appointed to no more than a dozen committees, of which the only one to be positively assigned to him was for an estate bill. He may have been a court supporter at first, but Sir Richard Wiseman marked him with a query and hoped that his half-brother Robert would ‘make sure’ of him. Shaftesbury classed him as ‘worthy’ in 1677, and he was on neither list of the court party in 1678, though on 18 Dec. he defaulted on a call of the House.4
Robartes replaced his half-brother as knight of the shire in the Exclusion Parliaments, and was again marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. However, his father was made a Privy Councillor in April 1679, and Robartes abstained from the division on the first exclusion bill. Presumably he came to oppose exclusion, for he was appointed to the commission of the peace. He left no trace on the Journals of these Parliaments, but he was active on behalf of his constituents elsewhere. With his colleague (Sir) Richard Edgcumbe he persuaded the Government to revert to quarterly tin coinages, and formed a syndicate of 16 Cornish Members of all shades of political opinion to contract for victualling Tangier. He did not stand at the general election of 1685, but in August he took over the county seat vacated by the succession to the peerage of his nephew, Charles Bodvile Robartes. He was again named to no committees in James II’s Parliament, but he presumably opposed the King’s ecclesiastical policy since he was removed from the Bodmin corporation in 1688.5
Robartes was returned at the general election of 1689 for Lostwithiel on the family interest, and sat in the Convention as a Tory. A moderately active Member he was appointed to 26 committees, acted as teller in three divisions and made three recorded speeches. In the debate of 28 Jan. 1689 on the situation created by James’s flight he said: ‘If the question is to have no other consequence than would follow on the King’s natural demise, will go nemine contradicente’, and he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. He was among those ordered to consider the new oaths and the repeal of the Corporations Act. One of his sisters was married to the bishop of Derry, and he was named to the committees for the relief of Irish Protestants and clergy. On 22 May he attacked the proposal to continue the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act:
This is not only to suspend habeas corpus, but all the liberties of the nation. The person is committed without oath, and may live in prison. This is putting arbitrary power in the Government.
In order that the indemnity bill might be debated on 17 June he was teller against a motion for the adjournment, and on the following day he was named to the committee to draft an address asking the King to make better provision for the security of Pendennis and Falmouth, among other places. He was added to the committee on the attainder bill on 29 June in order to bring in a new clause to apply the estates of Jacobites to the relief of refugees from Ireland, and on 3 July he was among those charged with drafting an address for leave to inspect the Privy Council records on Irish affairs. His other committees in the first session included those for preventing the import of French goods, reversing the judgment against William Williams, and inquiring into the collection of customs and excise after the death of Charles II. On 10 Aug. he was sent to remind the Lords of the attainder bill.6
After the recess Robartes was among those ordered to bring in a bill for the more effectual tendering of the new oaths, to inquire into the miscarriages of the war, and to consider the bill for restoring corporations; but he strongly opposed the disabling clause:
As the bill is now, it is a most pernicious bill. It came a good bill from the committee, but the additional clause has spoiled it. It was brought in in a thin House, and I hope you will reject it in a full House.
He acted as teller against a less extreme proviso on 10 Jan. 1690, and also for proceeding with the tithe bill on the last day of the Parliament.7
Robartes regained the county seat in 1690, but two years later he became a placeman on the Irish establishment, and for the remainder of his long parliamentary career he usually supported the government of the day. He died on 3 Feb. 1718, and was buried at Chelsea. His elder son inherited the earldom of Radnor in 1741, but he was the last of the family to sit in the Commons.8
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Paula Watson / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 398; Vis. Devon, 604; PC2/59/596; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1138.