TURNOR, Edward (c.1617-76), of Little Parndon, Essex and the Middle Temple.
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Family and Education
b. c.1617, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Arthur Turnor† of Little Parndon and the Middle Temple by Anne, da. of John Jermy of Gunton, Norf. educ. Abingdon g.s., Berks.; Queen’s, Oxf., matric. 9 Nov. 1632, aged 15; M. Temple 1633, called 1640. m. (1) Sarah (d. 19 Feb. 1651), da. and h. of Gerard Gore of Shillinglee Park, Kirdford, Suss., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) 4 Dec. 1652, Mary, da. and h. of Henry Ewer of South Mimms, Herts., wid. of William Ashton of Tingrith, Beds., s.p. suc. fa. 1651; kntd. 7 July 1660.2
Steward of borough court, Hertford 1648-61; j.p. Essex 1652-3, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1656-d.; commr. for assessment, Essex 1657, Aug. 1660-74, Herts. 1661-9, Mdx. and Norf. 1661-4, Westminster 1663-4, Suff. 1663-9, militia, Essex 1659, Essex and Herts. Mar. 1660, oyer and terminer, Home circuit July 1660, sewers, Havering and Dagenham levels Sept. 1660, loyal and indigent officers, Herts., Mdx., London and Westminster 1662; steward, Waltham forest by 1666-d. 3
Chairman, committee of elections and privileges 26 Apr.-29 Dec. 1660; KC June 1660; bencher, M. Temple 1660, treasurer 1662-3; attorney-gen. to the Duke of York June 1660-70; yr. bro. Trinity House 1663-d.; asst. R. Adventurers into Africa 1666, 1668-71; solicitor-gen. 1670-1; chief baron of the Exchequer 23 May 1671-d.4
Speaker of House of Commons 8 May 1661-23 May 1671.
Turnor belonged to the fourth generation of a legal family of Suffolk origin which acquired property in Essex towards the end of the 16th century. His father sat for Derby in the Addled Parliament and became serjeant-at-law in 1637; but both of them apparently maintained neutrality in the Civil War. Turnor held local office during the Interregnum and represented Essex in the three Protectorate Parliaments, but he was reckoned no friend to the regime, being excluded in 1656.5
At the general election of 1660 Turnor defeated Sir Harbottle Grimston for Essex, and was intended by his colleague John Bramston and other leading Anglicans for nomination as Speaker. But they were forestalled by the Presbyterian supporters of Grimston, who had been returned for Colchester. However, as chairman of the elections committee Turnor made a major contribution to establishing the royalist grip on the Convention. With an unprecedented number of disputed returns, he was called on to deliver 64 reports. He was a very active committeeman, being named to 99 committees in all, including eight conferences, and took the chair for eight bills, including the grand committee on the poll-tax. He carried eight bills and four messages to the Lords, and made fifteen recorded speeches. He took a prominent part in the formalities of the Restoration, helping to manage the conference on the King’s letter and to prepare bills accordingly. He was appointed to the committees on the bills for continuing Parliament and confirming land purchases. On 8 May he reported from the joint committee on the arrangements for receiving the King and carried the draft proclamation of the Restoration to the Lords. He was also closely associated with the indemnity bill, serving on the committee, and helping to prepare for a conference and to draft the clauses of exception, which he reported on 31 May. He also reported the declaration requiring the payment of customs and excise.6
After the Restoration Turnor was among those appointed to administer the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to the Commons. He became chief legal adviser to the Duke of York, took silk, and was knighted. He helped to manage the conference on recovering the queen mother’s jointure and to conduct the inquiry into unauthorized Anglican publications. He chaired the committee to examine the claims of Lord Willoughby of Parham, one of his clients during the Interregnum, and recommended a payment of £2,155 18s.10d. out of the excise. He helped to manage the conference on delays in passing the indemnity bill and to prepare for a conference on the debts of the army and navy. The nephew of a lord mayor, Turnor had been born in Throgmorton Street, and was appropriately named to the parliamentary delegation sent to raise a loan of £100,000 in the City. When the Lords returned the indemnity bill with additional exceptions, Turnor moved to agree, saying that:
We were between two rocks, the honour of the House and the desire of the Lords. ... We were masters of our own votes and ... had pardoned Thurloe, whom before we condemned, and added Hacker for life, which we never thought upon.
The King ordered him to tell the House that he wanted Vane, Hesilrige, Lambert and Axtell excepted as men of ‘dangerous principles’. When it was objected that some of the regicides had surrendered themselves voluntarily, Turnor replied that ‘the King might summon any person that was beyond sea to come over, and he was not bound to pardon him if he do’, and referred to the execution of the Cavalier commanders at Colchester by Thomas, 3rd Lord Fairfax in 1648. He was one of the managers of a conference on the subject. On 22 Aug. he reported the bill to reduce interest to 6 per cent and carried it to the Lords. He took the chair for a naturalization bill, and opposed the proposal of William Prynne to exact a fine from its beneficiaries. He was also named to the committees on the bills for disbanding the army and forming an establishment for Dunkirk.7
In the second session Turnor was among those appointed to bring in the bill for modified episcopacy and to consider the attainder bill, in which he was against making provision for creditors. He helped to manage a conference on the dissolution of Parliament on 22 Nov. and to consider the excise bill. He took part in drafting clauses to preserve private feudal dues and to supply defects in the poll bill. On 17 Dec. he carried the amended attainder bill to the Upper House. He was against compensation for officials of the court of wards, preferring to leave them to the King to be provided for. He helped to prepare for a conference on confirming marriages and to manage a conference on disbandment.8
At the general election of 1661 Turnor was returned for Hertford, ten miles from his home, where he had been acting as recorder since 1648. This time there was no mistake about the speakership. He was proposed by Sir Charles Berkeley I, and conducted to the chair by Sir George Carteret and Heneage Finch. He thanked Dr Gunning for his aggressively Anglican sermon when the Members took the sacrament after William Prynne had opposed a vote of thanks, and in March 1662 he was one of those who obtained a promise of preferment for the chaplain of the House. Listed as a court dependant in 1664, he was ‘useful to the crown and also to himself’, receiving at least £25,000 as ‘the King’s free gift and bounty without account’, besides his fees from private bills. Andrew Marvell wrote:
Dear painter, draw this Speaker to the foot;
Where pencil cannot, there my pen shall do’t;
That may his body, this his mind explain.
Paint him in golden gown, with mace’s brain,
Bright hair, fair face, obscure and dull of head
Like knife with ivory haft and edge of lead.
At prayers his eyes turn up the pious white,
But all the while his private bill’s in sight.
In chair, he smoking sits like master cook,
And a poll-bill does like his apron look.
Well was he skilled to season any question
And make a sauce fit for Whitehall’s digestion;
Whence every day, the palate more to tickle
Court-mushrumps ready are sent in to pickle.
When grievance urged, he swells like squatted toad,
Frisks like a frog to croak a tax’s load.
Roger North, writing many years later, asserted that ‘on the discovery of a small present made him by the East India Company he was blown in the House of Commons’. Presumably this refers to the gratuity of 50 gold pieces which it was resolved on 23 Mar. 1666 to present to him ‘for good service done the company’. According to North ‘it lost him much of his credit and authority in the chair which he was used to have, and he thought fit to give way and not to sit there longer to be exposed to the affronts which would continually be thrown at him’. However, he refused a judgeship when it was first offered him in February 1670, and his name appears on both lists of court dependants at this time. An opposition writer commented: ‘For a secret service, had lately a bribe of £4,000 as in the Exchequer may be seen, and about £2,000 before that’. Although a staunch Anglican, he probably favoured toleration, for when the King asked him a few months later what would be acceptable to the House he suggested a general act of grace. He was appointed lord chief baron during the next recess, and died in Bedford on circuit on 4 Mar. 1676. He was buried at Little Parndon. His will left £6,000 to a daughter and £2,000 to a grand-daughter, among other substantial bequests. His elder son sat for Orford under Queen Anne, while his younger son inherited the Shillinglee estate.9