VERNEY, Sir Ralph, 1st Bt. (1613-96), of Middle Claydon, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 9 Nov. 1613, 1st s. of Sir Edmund Verney†, knight-marshal, of Middle Claydon and Covent Garden, Westminster by Margaret, da. of Sir Thomas Denton of Hillesden, Bucks. educ. Magdalen Hall, Oxf. c.1630-3. m. 31 May 1629, Mary (d. 10 May 1650), da. and h. of John Blacknall, counsellor at law, of Abingdon, Berks, and the Middle Temple, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da.; Kntd. 8 Mar. 1641; suc. fa. 1642; cr. Bt. 16 Mar. 1661.1
Commr. for oyer and terminer, Norfolk circuit July 1660; j.p. Bucks. July 1660-87, ?1989-d., Buckingham 1677; dep lt. Bucks. c. Aug. 1660-Feb. 1688, Oct. 1688-d.; commr. for assessment, Bucks. Aug. 1660-80, Bucks. and Buckingham 1689-90, corporations, Bucks. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662, sewers, Bedford level 1662-3, recusants, Bucks. 1675.2
Verney’s ancestors were settled in Buckinghamshire by the early 13th century, and first sat in Parliament in 1472. Middle Claydon, the main family seat, had been acquired before 1505. His father, who represented Wycombe in the Long Parliament, had ‘no reverence for bishops’, but, having served the crown for nearly thirty years, though with little profit to himself, he became a commissioner of array, and carried the royal standard at Edgehill, where he was killed in action. Verney himself, who was returned for Aylesbury at both elections of 1640, also sympathized with the puritans, but remained a sincere though moderate Anglican. Rather than sign the Covenant, he went abroad in 1643 and was disabled in 1645. His estates, worth about £1,000 p.a., were sequestrated in 1646, but restored to him in 1648 by the strenuous efforts of his wife. Returning to England in 1653, he was imprisoned as a royalist suspect in 1655, and suffered decimation the following year. With characteristic moderation, he neither actively opposed the Protectorate (though he abhorred military rule) nor sought to further the Restoration.3
A man of business from his youth, Verney was much in demand as a trustee. Lady Rochester had great confidence in him, and nominated him, together with her brother Sir Walter St. John, at Great Bedwyn in 1660. Forgetting his usual cautious economy, he wrote to her local agent: ‘as to any matter of charge, I shall readily disburse it’. There was a double return, but the House decided in favour of Robert Spencer and Thomas Gape, the candidates of the Cavalier interests. This was Verney’s last venture at the hustings for twenty years. Still encumbered with debt, he refused pressing invitations to stand for the county in 1661 and 1679, when he would have been an admirable compromise candidate. Presumably he opposed exclusion, for in 1681, when Lord Latimer (Edward Osborne) stood down, he re-emerged to contest Buckingham against the deist Charles Blount and the Tyrrell interest. All but £25 of his expenses were borne by his kinsman, Sir Richard Temple. He took no known part in the Oxford Parliament, but despite increasing age and infirmity he felt impelled to stand again with Temple in 1685 against Latimer, though Judge Jeffreys publicly stigmatized him at the assizes as a trimmer. Verney joined in gifts to the poor, and provided ‘reasonable’ entertainment for the mayor and aldermen; but he absolutely refused to treat the populace at the alehouses, declaring that he would ‘rather sit still than gain a place in Parliament by so much debauchery’. But when it was said that Latimer was certain to be returned if he would guarantee £300 for rebuilding the town hall, Verney and Temple had to match the offer, and were elected. A start was made on the town hall shortly afterwards. According to Browne Willis, Verney bore most of the cost, but contemporary evidence suggests that he shared it with Temple. Verney was moderately active in James II’s Parliament, in which he was appointed to the committees on the bills for building a church in Soho, for preventing clandestine marriages, and for relieving insolvent debtors. In 1686 the Privy Council ordered his removal from the county bench, and in 1688 he refused all three questions on the repeal of the Penal Laws and Test Act and was removed from the lieutenancy.4
As candidates for re-election in 1689, Verney and Temple had an easier victory, now that the town hall was built and Jeffreys’s influence destroyed. His only known action in the Convention was to vote for agreeing with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, and on the publication of the black list he probably decided not to stand again. Cautious, moderate and prudent, Verney carefully preserved his voluminous correspondence, an invaluable source for the social and political history of the 17th century, which his life almost spanned. He died on 24 Sept. 1696 and was buried at Middle Claydon. His son became an Irish peer, and at the age of 70 was returned as a Tory for Buckinghamshire in 1710.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 179; Verney Mems. i. 74-76.
- 2. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss, 2/452; S. Wells, Drainage of Bedford Level, i. 350.
- 3. Lipscomb, i. 178; VCH Bucks. iv. 33, 74; J. W. Stoye, English Travellers Abroad, 405; Cal. Comm. Comp. 3243; Verney Mems. ii. 11-12, 24, 41-42.
- 4. Verney Mems. ii. 161-2, 379, 381, 385, 397; CJ, viii. 3-4, 33; ix. 706, 716; BL M636/17, Denton to Stafford, 14 Feb. 1661, M636/32, Sir Ralph to Edmund Verney, 29 Jan. 1679; Bodl. Carte 79, ff. 175-6; G. Abernathy, ‘Borough of Buckingham, 1660-98’ (unpublished article) 17-18, 24; True Prot. Mercury, 23 Feb. 1681; Add. 28087, f. 27; Browne Willis. Not. Parl. 84.
- 5. CJ, x. 12, 89-90; Lipscomb, i. 179.