COXE, Charles (c.1661-1728), of Lincoln’s Inn and Rodmarton and Lower Lypiatt, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. c.1661, 2nd but 1st. surv. s. of John Coxe of Tarlton, Glos. by Deborah, da. of John Driver of Avening, Glos. educ. St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. matric. 10 July 1674, aged 13; L. Inn 1677, called 1684, bencher 1707, treasurer 1711. m. lic. 15 Feb. 1693, Catherine, da. and h. of Thomas Chamberlayne of Wanborough, Wilts., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1692.1
Serjeant-at-law 1700; King’s serjeant 1701; puisne judge, Brecon circuit 1702–3, c.j. 1703–15.2
Coxe’s family had been settled at Rodmarton near Cirencester in Gloucestershire since at least the late 16th century. His father set him on what was to prove a successful legal career, and by a fortunate marriage shortly after his father’s death in 1692 he augmented his estate with the manor of Lower Lypiatt in the vicinity. He was by the early 1690s a figure of importance in Cirencester as bailiff of the manor, an office which he was said to enjoy ‘by purchase for life’. As such he served as returning officer for the town at elections, and in 1690 his actions came under scrutiny when he was accused by the Whig candidate, John Grobham Howe*, of showing blatant partiality towards the Tories. In 1698 he was returned unopposed at Cirencester, having the advantage of the interests of both his kinsman Thomas Master† (whose wife was one of Coxe’s cousins) and Sir Benjamin Bathurst*, the lord of the manor. A Tory, he was listed as a supporter of the Country party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, and was separately noted as a likely opponent of a standing army. Until the later years of Queen Anne’s reign his parliamentary activity is impossible to distinguish from that of Charles Cox (MP for Southwark) and Charles Cocks (Droitwich).3
Re-elected in January 1701, Coxe was subsequently blacklisted as having opposed preparations for war, possibly in a division on 14 Feb. 1701. He had recently been appointed a King’s serjeant, though Robert Harley’s* ‘earnest desire’ to see him rewarded at this time with a more substantial legal office, as part of the peace offering to the Tories, testifies to his loyalty and usefulness to the Country party. He was duly classified by Harley as a Tory in his list of the December 1701 Parliament, and voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the proceedings of the Commons in the impeachment of several of the King’s former Whig ministers. On 6 May he carried to the Lords a private bill empowering the bishop of Gloucester to make leases of certain diocesan lands. It was through Harley’s continuing friendship that in June 1702, during the Tory appointments that followed Queen Anne’s accession, Coxe was appointed a junior Welsh judge, and the next month he was re-elected for Cirencester. On 28 Nov. he was named as a drafter of a bill to establish a workhouse in Gloucester. He followed his party line in voting on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for extending the period in which the oath of abjuration could be taken. In November Harley secured Coxe’s promotion to chief justice of the South Wales circuit. A Court Tory, his name features on a list of probable supporters of Secretary Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in connexion with the inquiry in mid-March 1704 into Nottingham’s conduct over the Scotch Plot. Forecast as an opponent of the Tack in October, Coxe either voted against it on 28 Nov. or was absent.4
In the 1705 election Coxe was involved in a double return at Cirencester with Henry Ireton*. Though Coxe petitioned, he withdrew on 15 Nov., enabling Ireton to be declared duly elected. Defoe told Harley that Coxe had done so in order to prevent the House scrutinizing the extensive bribery that been practised by both sides and which in his case would undoubtedly have harmed his position as a judge. In 1706, while he was no longer an MP, an attempt was set afoot to remove him from the judiciary but this was successfully forestalled by Harley. Deeply appreciative, Coxe told the secretary: ‘When I consider that by your favour only, I was made a judge in Wales . . . I must say I have more obligation to you than to all mankind.’ The attempt to remove him from office was renewed in April the following year when the Whigs sought to blacken his reputation with the Court by accusing him of having voted for the Tack in 1704. Once more he appealed to Harley:
I cannot forbear taking the first opportunity to clear myself from an aspersion laid upon me as an argument to remove me from the post I have in the Queen’s service. If anything were laid to my charge relating to my behaviour in my office I could be content to be silent myself and trust my fate to the report of those counties where I have had the honour to serve. But this, sir, that I hear I am accused of, is most proper to be cleared by myself, that is, that I should vote in the House of Commons for the Tack. Though you were then in the Chair, I cannot suppose you should remember everyone that voted in that question, but I am sure you will remember what I told you (before it came on) was my purpose to do upon that point, and that I should not only vote myself, but do the little I could to bring others to vote against it, and I think I had success therein. I cannot forbear to say, this report is like stabbing a man in the back. The authors might as well accuse me of murder, for as I voted against it, so I find I had like to have been a double sufferer by it. Some misled friends of mine have been my enemies ever since for voting against it; and I perceive somebody or other would have made me suffer under pretence I had been for it. It falls out, I can produce gentlemen who sat near me upon that question, when I voted against the Tack.
Harley’s intervention on his behalf was evidently successful and Coxe retained his office.5
Coxe recovered his seat at Cirencester in 1708, a result which Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) recorded as a ‘loss’ for the Whigs. Although his election was afterwards declared void by the House on 10 Dec. 1709, he was successful in the by-election on the 23rd. He was included on the drafting committee of a bill to remove abuse in the administration of a Gloucestershire turnpike on 25 Jan. 1710. He voted against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament, he featured during the 1710–11 session as a ‘Tory patriot’ in favour of peace, and as a ‘worthy patriot’ who detected the mismanagements of the previous administration. He also joined the October Club. On 30 Apr. 1713 he was first-named among the drafters of a bill to simplify the compounding of fines levied on lands in Wales.
At the last election in Anne’s reign Coxe was forced to transfer to Gloucester when his former partner at Cirencester, Allen Bathurst, who had recently taken a seat in the Lords, requested him to make way for one of his brothers, while the other seat was wanted by Thomas Master for his son (Thomas Master*). Harley gave backing to an arrangement whereby Thomas Webb, one of the sitting Members for Gloucester, who had initially invited Coxe to stand with him in the forthcoming campaign, was persuaded to relinquish his seat to Coxe. He also accepted the offer of a seat at Helston but, on being returned, made his election for Gloucester. Three lists of the 1713 Parliament identify him as a Tory. In the immediate aftermath of the death of Queen Anne he asked Harley (now Lord Oxford) to recommend him to the new monarch, but must have realized that his professional career as a judge had little future under a Whig regime. Dismissal came in January 1715, though he retained his parliamentary seat until 1722. He died on 17 Oct. 1728 and was buried at Rodmarton. To his eldest son, John, who sat for Cirencester in George II’s reign, he left the mansion house which he had rebuilt at Lower Lypiatt and his estate at Tarlton, while to his grandson he left his three manors and various other lands in the vicinity of Cirencester and Stroud.