WHITLEY, Roger (c.1618-97), of St. John's Hospital, Chester; Pall Mall, Westminster and Peele Hall, Cheshire.
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Family and Education
b. c.1618, 2nd’s. of Thomas Whitley (d.1650) of Hawarden, Flints. being 1st s. by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Roger Brereton of Haughton, Flints. educ.Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 29 Nov. 1633, aged 15; G. Inn 1637. m. Charlotte (bur. 18 Oct. 1662), da. of Sir Charles Gerard of Halsall, Lancs., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da.1
Capt. of horse (royalist) 1642, col. 1644-6; gov. Aberystwyth 1644-6; maj. Lord Gerard’s Horse 1662-3, 1666-7; quarter-master-gen. 1667.2
Gent. usher of the privy chamber (supernumerary) 1644-?63; registrar of indentured emigrants to America 1664-86; kt. harbinger by 1669-75; dep. postmaster-gen. 1672-7; freeman, E.I. Co. 1674; commr. for disbandment 1679; gent. of the privy chamber 1689-d.3
Freeman, Denbigh 1644; master of St. John’s hosp. Chester c. May 1660-d.; j.p. Flints. July 1660-87, 1689-d.; commr. for assessment, Flints. 1661-3, 1665-80, Westminster 1665-9, Cheshire and Salop 1679-80, Cheshire, Chester and Flints. 1689-90, loyal and indigent officers, Flints. 1662; farmer of excise, N. Wales 1662-74, receiver of hearth-tax Anglesey, Denb. and Flints. 1664-6, 1669-74; freeman, Chester 1666, alderman 1680-4, Aug. 1688-d., treas. 1688-9, mayor 1692-6; registrar of customs, London to 1672; commr. for pressing seamen, Lancs., Cheshire and N. Wales 1672; custos rot. Flints. Oct.-Nov. 1689.4
The Whitleys had been settled in Flintshire since Tudor times, but Whitley’s father, sheriff in 1637-8, and a commissioner of array, seems to have been the first of the family to attain county office. Whitley’s own career was largely determined for him by his early marriage, probably before the Civil War, to the sister of the 1st Lord Gerard, one of the most prominent royalist commanders in the field. He took up arms for the King, and two of his brothers were killed in action. A tireless conspirator, at home and abroad, from the surrender of Aberystwyth in 1646 till the Restoration, he took part in the royalist rising in North Wales in 1648 and the Worcester campaign. At Brussels in 1658 he drew up an elaborate memorandum for a royalist-presbyterian alliance, to which he appended a long list of potential supporters, principally in Wales and the north-west. Having served under Sir George Booth as major-general of horse in 1659, he was ‘confident that his Majesty’s chief joy in the Restoration is the rewarding of those that have been faithful to him’. The grant of St. John’s hospital in Chester, which gave him an interest in the city, served as a foretaste of more substantial rewards to come.5
The Flintshire elections to the Convention were not held until 12 Nov. 1660 owing to the death of the sheriff. Whitley, returned for the borough seat, wrote from London five days later:
I was only troubled that there should be any dispute about [it], being resolved by all means to waive it, except it were in obedience to the commands of the country.
He thus had little time to be active in his first Parliament, though on 8 Dec. he was appointed to the committee which drafted the preamble to the six months’ assessment. Re-elected to the Cavalier Parliament, he was a moderately active Member, being named to 104 committees, almost half of which were for private bills, but he is not recorded as speaking. In the first session he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges, and to those to report on the shortfall in revenue, and to consider ways of relieving loyalists. After a successful tender for the North Wales excise farm at £2,000 per annum, he was appointed to the committee to inspect the excise revenue (4 Apr. 1663). In 1664 he was listed as a court dependant and named to the committees on the conventicles bill and the additional corporations bill. He was less active in the next two sessions, but on 26 Sept. 1666 he was appointed to the committee on the bill to prohibit the import of Irish cattle.6
In 1668 Whitley was noted as a supporter of Ormonde, to whom he presumably owed his appointment as knight harbinger. In the following year he was appointed to the committees to consider the petition of the excise farmers, for the conventicles continuance bill and to receive information about conventicles. On 22 Nov. 1669 he was a teller for Sir John Hanmer in the Evesham election, and his name appeared on both lists of government supporters as a court dependant. In the next session he was appointed to 17 committees including that for the new conventicles bill (2 Mar. 1670). After his appointment as a deputy to Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) in the Post Office in 1672 he was less active as a committeeman, for he took his official responsibilities seriously. He ‘appears at the office every post night, and never goes to bed until the King’s letters are come down’. Nevertheless he was well aware of what was going on in the House, writing to Arlington after the autumn session of 1673:
I find some that voted with the highest now of the opinion that they were too precipitate, and incline to more moderation, yet loath to give money without redress of grievances. The main points listed (so far as I can collect from whispers) are religion, army, French alliance and councillors. His Majesty is doing something in the first two to their content, and we must endeavour to qualify and sweeten the two latter. A moderate middle way to keep things well betwixt King and people is the best I can hope for, and no man shall be more industrious (in my poor capacity and station) to promote it.
He was included in the Paston list of court supporters and, when Parliament met again in 1674, wrote to (Sir) Joseph Williamson:
We wre above 400 in the House. You see what temper we are in. They talkof impeachments, yet I hope all will blow over and that time and patience will produce monies. I heartily wish you here for a few days; never more need of plausible, prudent managers. The Lords have voted all their Members to take the oaths of allegiance; fears and jealousies as rife as ever.
But on 30 Jan. he wrote:
I am still of opinion that a little patience and good management will get the King money. The complexion of the House is much changed since his Majesty’s last speech, and I hope it will prove a happy session.
By this time he had become involved in a lawsuit with his predecessors in the excise farm, and was granted a pension of £300 per annum out of the excise to help meet the costs. He was, nevertheless, a thriving man able to purchase £3,670 of East India Company stock.7
Whitley was not active in the sessions of 1674 and 1675, being named to two elections committees and to five others, including those for the bills for the prevention of illegal exactions, for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament, and to consider instructions for the collection of excise and hearth tax. He remained a court dependant, and his name appears on the working lists. In 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman confidently proposed to entrust the management of Sir John Napier and Sir Thomas Meres to him, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly vile’. Towards the end of the Cavalier Parliament, however, Whitley became ‘engaged in a venomous local feud against Tory rivals’ and he may have veered towards the Opposition in its closing sessions. According to Flagellum Parliamentariumhe ‘means honestly, but dare not show it’. He was among those appointed to consider the recall of British subjects from the French service (22 Feb. 1677), to inquire into the Popish Plot and to translate Coleman’s letters. On 13 Dec. 1678 he was nominated by the House as a commissioner for disbanding the army. His name was on the government list as a court supporter, but not on that drawn up by the Oppositions.8
Returned again for Flint in both elections of 1679, Whitley was moderately active in the first Exclusion Parliament. The most important of his eight committees were to bring in the disbandment bill, to inquire into miscarriages in the navy, to examine the disposal of the money granted for disbanding the army and to remedy abuses in the Post Office. Shaftesbury now classed him as ‘worthy’, but he abstained from the division on the exclusion bill. Two days later he was named by (Sir) Stephen Fox as a court pensioner. Whitley admitted receiving £900, adding that:
if I did betray my country etc. I am not only fit to be turned out of the House but out of the world. I have had money a long time due to me, and can get none of it. Be pleased to examine what relates to me as publicly as you please.
The House, however, was not given much opportunity to take Whitley at his word, for on the same day he sought and obtained leave to attend to his duties as commissioner for disbanding the army, and three days later Parliament was dissolved. Again moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed to the elections committee and to those to receive information regarding the Popish Plot and to bring in the bill for regulating the Post Office. On 20 Dec. 1680 a committee was appointed to examine the accounts of the disbandment commissioners, but Parliament was dissolved before it could report. About this time he seems to have bought Peele Hall, some five miles from Chester, to which constituency he transferred himself unopposed in 1681, with the support of his brother-in-law, now Earl of Macclesfield, leaving his son Thomas to succeed him at Flint. At Oxford he was appointed to the elections committee and to that to consider a more convenient place for sitting.9
Whitley was prominent in Monmouth’s rapturous reception at Chester in September 1682, and stood for the mayoralty a few weeks later. It is clear that he enjoyed much popular support and ‘was cocksure of being elected’; great exertions were made to defeat him by the court party, and Peter Shakerley, ‘over a glass of wine’, persuaded the aldermen, by the narrowest possible majority, to elect his opponent. After the Rye House Plot his house was searched for arms, and he was presented at the assizes as a danger to the peace of the county and required to furnish security for his good behaviour. In the next year he was tried in the Exchequer for embezzling post office funds. He pleaded that the money he had received was to cover the costs of franked letters in accordance with his contract with Arlington, but was sentenced to pay over £20,000. After the Revolution he was to claim that he had been punished because
I voted against the King in this House. I was one of the commissioners to disband the army; I would not deliver up the Chester charter; I am a neighbour and alderman of that city. These were my crimes.
Under the 1684 charter, Whitley was expressly excluded from municipal office in Chester.10
Whitley’s intimacy with Monmouth now became a serious embarrassment. He contemplated proceedings for perjury ‘against a person that had falsely sworn against me that I had kneeled to the Duke of Monmouth’. In 1685 he was arrested, though he called the rebellion ‘as foolish and mad as wicked’, pointing out that even if it had succeeded William of Orange was unlikely to allow Monmouth to usurp his wife’s rights. On Whitley’s release, a friend found him ‘turned a great courtier’. On 6 May 1686 he noted in his diary a conversation with the latitudinarian divine, Richard Kidder:
He confirmed the report of the massacres in Piedmont. He said they were in arms and rebellion. I told him our preachers taught us better, that subjects must use no weapons but prayers and tears though religion were concerned, etc.
Danby listed Whitley among the country Opposition, though eminent only for his estates. But on 9 Apr. 1687 Bishop Cartwright of Chester recommended him to the King ‘as a penitent, and one who would strive to deserve his favour for the time to come’, later proposing him as a deputy lieutenant of Cheshire ‘if they thought to make use of him’. In May 1688 Whitley declared to a fellow Whig that
Monmouth’s designs were mad, so would [be] any design from Holland. They that remembered former troubles were well pleased with the Government; that all parties were at ease, enjoyed their liberties, paid no taxes, had no grievances. I believe that the Parliament would be very inclinable to comply with his Majesty; those that would not were fools to endeavour to be chosen.
In August he was nominated as alderman under the new charter.11
Whitley signed the declaration produced by the Earl of Derby at Chester on 18 Dec. ‘for adhering to the Prince of Orange for our religion, laws, etc.’, and was again returned to the Convention. A moderately active Member, he was named to 17 committees, the most important of which were those to inquire into quo warranto proceedings, to bring in the militia bill, and to inquire into the delays in the relief of Londonderry. After the recess he helped to consider the bill to restore corporations, and supported the disabling clause.12
Whitley was defeated in 1690, but regained his seat in 1695. He died on 17 July 1697, leaving a considerable estate. Although he was survived by a younger son and a grandson, the Cheshire branch of the family soon became extinct without further parliamentary representation.13
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Gillian Hampson / John. P. Ferris / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. SP29/69/86; Lloyd, Powys Fadog, v. 273-5; Cheshire Sheaf (ser. 3), xxv. 65; Vis. Staffs. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. v. pt. 2), 54; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 157.
- 2. Flints. Hist. Soc. xxii. 9-13; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 577; 1665-6, p. 557.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 447; 1661-2, p. 78; 1663-4, p. 182; 1672-3, p. 4; 1686-7, p. 79; APC Col. i. 384; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 221, 1242; iv. 747; vi. 58; H. Robinson, Post Office, 54; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, x. 110; Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 204.
- 4. Flints. Hist. Soc. xxii. 10; Nicholas Pprs. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxxi), 193; Hemingway, Chester, ii. 141; CSP Dom. 1659-60, p. 427; Fenwick, Chester, 318; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 429; ii. 34, 73; iii. 360, 567, 856; Chester corp. assembly bk. 2, ff. 154, 192; 3, ff. 35-54.
- 5. Flints. Hist. Soc. xxii. 9-21; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lvi), 277; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 50, 98-100; Bull. Rylands Lib. xxxix. 419-27, 431; CSP Dom. 1659-60, pp. 281, 332-3, 573; 1660-1, p. 92; Cheshire Sheaf (ser. 3), xxii. 90.
- 6. NLW, Gwysaney mss 44C.
- 7. Robinson, 56; Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. ix), 76, 108-9, 133; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. x. 398, 399, 400, 403.
- 8. J. R. Jones, First Whigs, 12.
- 9. Grey, vii. 324, 331; True Dom. Intell. 9 Sept. 1679; Ormerod, Cheshire, ii. 332; Prot. Dom. Intell. 18 Feb. 1681.
- 10. CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 383, 393, 471-2; 1683-4, p. 21; 1684-5, p. 233; HMC 10th Rep. IV, 363; HMC Dartmouth, iii. 140; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, pp. 387, 441; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 389.
- 11. Bodl. Eng. C711, ff. 4, 36v, 52, 55, 91v; Diary of Bp. Cartwright (Cam. Soc. xxii), 44, 79; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 256.
- 12. Bodl. Eng. C711, f. 100v.
- 13. Cheshire Sheaf (ser. 3), xxv. 70-73.