ERNLE, Sir John (c.1620-97), of Bury Blunsdon and Whetham House, Calne, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1620, 2nd but o. surv. s. of John Ernle of Whetham House, by Philadelphia, da. of Sir Arthur Hopton of Witham Friary, Som. m. (1) settlement, 1 Mar. 1646, Susan, da. of Sir John Howe, 1st Bt.†, of Little Compton, Withington, Glos., 2s. d.v.p. 7da.; (2) 19 Sept. 1672, Elizabeth (d. 1691), da. of William, 1st Baron Allington of Killard [I], wid. of Charles Seymour†, 2nd Baron Seymour, 2da. Kntd. Nov. 1665; suc. fa. 1684.1
Sub-commr. prizes, Bristol 1664–6; freeman, Windsor 1679.2
Commr. navy 1671–6, accounts, loyal and indigent officers 1671; chancellor of the Exchequer 1676–89; PC 10 May 1676–Dec. 1688; ld. of Admiralty 1677–9; ld. of Treasury 1679–85, 1687–9; commr. Tangier 1680–4.3
Ernle befriended John Aubrey, and was one of those Wiltshire gentry who in 1659 agreed to assist in the proposed collaborative history of the county, in imitation of Dugdale’s recently published Antiquities of Warwickshire, although he failed to contribute to the work. An opportunistic courtier under Charles II, he had diligently enforced the Corporation Act in those boroughs neighbouring his county estate, while under James II he was one of those Privy Councillors asked to advise on changes to the county bench to promote Dissenting j.p.s. Having represented Marlborough since 1685, a seat partly owed to connexions through his second wife, he was returned there again in 1690 after a contest. Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne+) classed him as a Tory and Court supporter at the beginning of the Parliament and his name appeared on another list of supporters at about this time. In December 1690 Carmarthen listed him again as a supporter, probably in case of an attack on his ministerial position. He was classed as a Country supporter by Robert Harley* in December 1691 and his name appeared on Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’ in the 1694–5 session when Guy was under attack in the Commons. Ernle was not active in the House, and held no offices under William III. Perhaps prompted by age, he chose not to stand in 1695.4
Ernle spent his last two years in retirement as a country gentleman at the family’s Wiltshire estate. He made his will on 20 Aug. 1696, leaving annuities of £100 to two daughters while they remained unmarried, together with £1,500 portions. A further £84 owed to him from the Exchequer was given to three grandsons. He made additional bequests to the poor of Calne, Highworth and Bury Blunsdon, and allowed a year’s wages to each of his servants. Two of his sons-in-law, Hon. Peregrine Bertie II* and Edward Pleydell*, were named executors. Ernle was buried at Calne on 27 June 1697. Having founded a widows’ charity in the town, he was further remembered by a memorial inscription in the church set up by his grandson.5