TRELAWNY, Jonathan I (c.1623-81), of Trelawne, Pelynt, Cornw.

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



16 May 1660
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
23 Feb. - Mar. 1681

Family and Education

b. c.1623, 1st s. of Sir John Trelawny, 1st Bt., and bro. of John Trelawny I. educ. Exeter, Oxf. matric. 14 Dec. 1640, aged 17. m. Mary, da. of Sir Edward Seymour, 2nd Bt., of Berry Pomeroy, Devon, 7s. (3 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 26 Feb. 1664.1

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. (royalist) 1642-3, horse 1643-4, col. 1644-6; lt.-col. Duke of York’s Horse 1678-9.2

Recorder, West Looe aft. Apr. 1660-5, 1680-d., Liskeard ?1668-d., East Looe by 1672-d.; j.p. Cornw. July 1660-d., dep. lt. 1661-d., commr. for assessment 1661-80, loyal and indigent officers 1662, corporations 1662-3; stannator of Foymore 1663; commr. for oyer and terminer, Western circuit 1665; sub-commr. for prizes, Plymouth, 1665-7; capt. of militia ft. Cornw. by 1667-d.; v.-adm. S. Cornw. 1671-d.; v.-warden of the stannaries aft. 1672-d.; commr. for recusants, Cornw. 1675; mayor, West Looe 1676-7.3

Gent. of the privy chamber by June 1660-8; comptroller to the Duke of York 1668-74; commr. for accounts, loyal and indigent officers 1671.4


Trelawny’s ancestors had held property in Cornwall since the 12th century, and first sat in Parliament in 1325. Trelawne, which became the principal residence of the family in 1600, gave them an interest at Liskeard, and more particularly in East and West Looe. Trelawny’s father, created a baronet for his attempt to prevent the election of Sir John Eliot in 1628, was a royalist commissioner in the Civil War, when his estate was valued at £1,000 p.a. Trelawny himself, while yet in his ’teens, raised a company of foot for the King, and finished the war in command of a regiment of cavalry. Father and son compounded jointly for £629 on the Truro articles, and were further obliged to repay £1,000 which they had levied on the local Parliamentarians, together with £500 costs. During the Interregnum Trelawny was one of the most active and persistent royalist conspirators in Cornwall. He was nine times imprisoned and thrice sentenced to death,

being always considered by the enemy as most obnoxious to them of all the King’s party in that county, being twice imprisoned when other of his Majesty’s party in that county was so treated.

In the winter of 1659-60 he spent £300 ‘in preparation of horses, arms and men for his Majesty’s service’.5

Though under the last ordinance of the Long Parliament Trelawny was ineligible at the general election of 1660, he was involved in a double return at East Looe, three miles from Trelawne, and was allowed to take his seat on the merits of the return. Lord Wharton considered him a friend both in this Parliament and the next. No committees can be positively ascribed to him in the Convention, and most of the appointments of ‘Mr Trelawny’ probably refer to his distant cousin Samuel. He may have given information to the committee of examinations about a member of the Cornish committee who threatened to kill the King with his own hand, and produced a letter implicating a customs official at Looe in the escape of the regicide, John Carew. At the Restoration he was given a post at Court, and petitioned for the lease of the import duties on hock, or alternatively for an allowance out of the profits. Clarendon reminded the King that

to the hour of your happy return he was always one of those that kept constant correspondence with you and performed many services for you, for which he suffered very many and long imprisonments, and I find that his estate is thereby very much impaired.

On 14 Dec. Trelawny was ordered to seek the concurrence of the Lords for an order in favour of his sister-in-law, Dorothy Seymour, who had lost £3,571 on the sequestration of the customs farmers in the Civil War.6

After the dissolution of the Convention Trelawny’s petition for the Rhenish wine duties was finally rejected as contrary to treasury policy. He was returned for the county at the general election of 1661, when his brother John and his brother-in-law Henry Seymour I were elected at East Looe. An active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to at least 194 committees, made fourteen recorded speeches, and acted as teller in 34 divisions. After an unpromising start, when the Speaker had to intervene to prevent a duel with his nephew, Edward Seymour, the most important committee in the first session to which he was certainly appointed was on the bill of pains and penalties. In 1663 he was added to the committee to consider a petition from the loyal and indigent officers, and appointed to that to prevent abuses in the sale of offices and honours. He was paid £1,200 as royal bounty, followed by £500 in 1664, when he was listed as a court dependant. A correspondent of Joseph Williamson, he reported great discontent over taxation, and ‘a general inclination to ease the two next subsidies’. On 13 Jan. 1665 he acted as teller for debating some relief for his county. During the second Dutch war he was given a post in the prize office, and a lease of the coinage duty on tin. He acted six times as teller for supply, inspiring Andrew Marvell to include in his description of the court party:

The troop of privilege, a rabble bare
Of debtors deep, fell to Trelawny’s care.

He was named to the committee on the bill for illegitimizing Lady Roos’s children (21 Jan. 1667). On the following day he acted as teller for extending the royal favour to all merchants injured by the prohibition of trade with France, and served on the deputation that presented the address. He was teller for the leasehold estates bill on 7 Feb. and carried it to the Lords on the next day.7

After the fall of Clarendon Trelawny was among those appointed to report on the charges against Lord Mordaunt, to consider the public accounts bill, and to examine the accounts of the indigent officers fund, a matter which was expected to detain him in town over the Christmas recess. When Parliament met again in the New Year, he proposed raising a loan of £100,000 in the City, and tabled a particular of the bishops’ bounty, from which it appeared that they had given £413,800 to the King ‘and other pious and charitable works’. In the divisions on extending the Conventicles Act he favoured the substitution of fines for imprisonment, but opposed a proviso directed at the Roman Catholics, and on 28 Apr. 1668 he carried the bill to the Lords. On 6 May he was added to the committee for the impeachment of Henry Brouncker, and on the following day he was among those ordered to bring in amended articles. During the summer he became comptroller to the Duke of York, succeeding Lord Newport, who had been promoted to a similar office in the royal household. It was alleged that he bought the post with his profits as ‘a private forsworn cheat in the prize office’. On the surrender of the tin coinage duty, he was granted a pension of £500 p.a. for ten years, and £839 due from him to the duchy of Cornwall for entry fines was written off. When it was proposed to suspend Sir George Carteret from the House in 1669, he pointed out that no precedents for this course had been reported by the committee ordered to search for them in the case of (Sir) William Penn. He was appointed to the committees on the bills to prevent electoral abuses and to appoint commissioners for union with Scotland. He carried up a bill to prevent arrests of judgment on 8 Dec. 1670, and a week later, obviously as a government spokesman, proposed a 10 per cent tax on offices. On 6 Mar. 1671, in association with the Robartes interest, he tendered a bill for removing the Cornish assizes from Launceston to Bodmin; but it was rejected on a division because it had been brought in after 1 p.m. ‘Sir Thomas Meres and Sir Charles Harbord, both very knowing in the orders of the House, pretended this bill could be offered no more this session’; but their views were not accepted, and it received a first reading four days later. Trelawny probably also brought in the bill to enable the King to grant duchy of Cornwall leases, since he was the first Member named to the committee. He again acted as teller for supply in several divisions, and also for the conventicles bill and the assizes bill, which he was able to carry to the Lords before the session was prorogued. As a dependant of the Duke of York, he was on both lists of the court party at this time.8

By the next session this position had become less desirable, and in the debate on the test bill of 21 Mar. 1673 Trelawny had the unpopular task of urging the Commons to exclude the Duke’s household from its provisions:

The Duke has many Protestant servants, ... and some Papists have been long with him and in great dangers for him. The Duke has deserved well from this House and nation, has fought two of the greatest naval battles, and has exposed his person, and [he] hopes you will not deprive him of his servants.

He took the chair for the revived duchy leases bill. As teller he was for committing the general naturalization bill, and against continuing a debate on toleration for dissenters. His name appears on the Paston list. By 1674 his sons had all embarked on professional careers, six of them in the army and one, who became the most celebrated of the family, in the Church. He sold his place at Court to George Pitt for £2,500 and was granted an excise pension of £400 Retiring thankfully to Trelawne, he wrote to Williamson on 8 Apr. 1675: ‘I intend to wait on you if the session continues’. But there is no evidence that he attended Parliament again until the autumn, when he received the government whip, and acted as teller for adjourning the debate on appropriating the customs to the use of the navy. His name appeared on the working lists and among the government speakers, and Sir Richard Wiseman believed that Danby could be ‘well assured’ of his support. Nevertheless when Danby’s brother Charles Osborne was canvassing East Looe in February 1677 he soon became aware that Trelawny’s ‘principal intentions’ were to oblige Seymour by securing the seat for Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones). During the next session he took the chair for a naturalization bill, and acted as teller for a proviso to the bill to prevent frauds and abuses in the import of Irish cattle. During the debate on the proposed address for an alliance against France, he denounced the shouts of ‘agree’ from the opposition benches as savouring of ‘club law’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’, and in A Seasonable Argument he was described as

one that is known to have sworn himself into £4,000 at least in his account of the prize office; comptroller to the Duke, and has got in gratuities to the value of £10,000, besides what he is promised for being an informer.

Presumably the last clause refers to his correspondence with Williamson, though it was by no means regular. He was on both lists of the court party in 1678. In the earlier sessions he was added to the committee to prepare reasons for the growth of Popery and appointed to that to summarize England’s foreign commitments. He was teller for committing a bill to settle the stannary laws and against bringing in a bill to distinguish Popish recusants from other dissenters. On the outbreak of the Popish Plot, he was appointed to the committee to consider a bill for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament. But he had renewed his connexion with the Duke of York by accepting a commission as second-in-command of a new cavalry regiment, and supported the Lords’ proviso to except him from the bill.

The consequences may be so fatal if you throw out this proviso that I am for agreeing with the Lords in it. The scope of the bill is not only to suppress persons that may propagate the growth of Popery, but to break their future hopes. This before you is of the greatest moment and concernment that ever came before a House of Parliament. I speak sincerely; by throwing out this proviso give you not the greatest disadvantage to the Papists and drive the King into Popish hands? Should that day come of the King’s death, what disobligation do you put upon the Duke?

The proviso, for which he acted as teller, was accepted by a majority of two. But this climax to a long record of leniency towards Papists and severity towards nonconformists was followed by a scuffle with William Ashe,

Sir Jonathan reflecting upon Mr Ashe and his family as Presbyterians and Mr Ashe vilifying the Papists, obliquely taxing Sir Jonathan as a favourer of them by his vote; from thence they grew to higher words, ‘rogue and rascal’, and thence to blows, Sir Jonathan first striking Mr Ashe as he had given the first ill language.

Trelawny may well have been unpopular in the House, having recently pressed for the reprimandship of such leading Opposition Members as William Williams and Meres. After heated debate a motion for his expulsion was defeated by 130 votes to 110, the House dividing on party lines. But Speaker Seymour said that

for the honour and peace of the House they ought to make more than an ordinary example of such an offender, and therefore desired he might be committed to the Tower.

He was ordered to remain there for the remainder of the session, and although on the grounds of ill health the House agreed to release him from custody on 9 Dec., he did not resume his seat.9

Neither this unfortunate incident, nor his inclusion in the ‘unanimous club’ prevented Trelawny from success at both elections of 1679. In the first he was returned for East Looe himself, and secured the election of his brother and eldest son at West Looe. Classed as ‘vile’ by Shaftesbury, he is said to have voted against the first exclusion bill, but he was henceforward totally inactive both as speaker and committeeman. After the autumn election, in which he was returned both for East Looe and Liskeard, and with his interest at West Looe unshaken, the Earl of Peterborough congratulated him on his success, adding that ‘the King and the Duke will have occasion for their friends in Parliament’. Nevertheless there is no evidence that he attended the second Exclusion Parliament, and he never chose between his seats. He was re-elected for both boroughs in 1681, but he was buried at Pelynt on 5 Mar. before the Oxford Parliament met. His successor was his clerical son, Jonathan, soon to win fame as one of the Seven Bishops. But the family electoral interest was not neglected. His younger sons, Charles and Henry, sat for Looe and Plymouth under William and Anne, and his grandson, the fourth baronet, represented one or other of the family boroughs as a Whig from 1713 to 1734.10

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 476-7.
  • 2. Trelawny Pprs. (Cam. Misc. ii), 10-11; CSP Dom. 1678-9, p. 403.
  • 3. T. Bond, Sketches of Looe, 244; A. L. Browne, Corp. Chrons. 54, 57, 129, 137; HMC Var. i. 333; HMC 1st Rep. 51; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 286; 1666-7, p. 54; 1667, p. 236; 1671-2, p. 141; 1679-80, p. 61; Lysons, Cornw. p. vii; Add. 6713, f. 178; J. Allen, Hist. Liskeard, 326.
  • 4. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 165; Add. 36916, f. 105; CSP Dom. 1671, pp. 255, 384.
  • 5. Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iv. 37-38; Symonds Diary (Cam. Soc. lxxiv), 62; M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 238, 284, 290, 296, 301; Trelawny Pprs. 11.
  • 6. CJ, viii. 36, 52; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 58, 269; Trelawny Pprs. 13.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 191, 526, 601; CJ, viii. 286, 685; CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 286, 381; 1667, p. 96; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, i. 145.
  • 8. CJ, ix. 42, 87, 90, 230, 233, 234; Milward, 223, 233; Grey, i. 213; CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 367; 1670, p. 501; Dering, 39, 90; Harl. 7020, f. 34.
  • 9. Grey, ii. 140; iv. 380; vi. 45, 89, 242-3, 254-6; CJ, ix. 272, 275, 281, 373, 415, 501, 506, 543; CSP Dom. 1675, p. 58; Eg. 3330, f. 75; Finch diary, 21 Nov. 1678.
  • 10. HMC 1st Rep. 51.