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|1558/9||JOHN SALESBURY 1|
|1562/3||SIMON THELWALL I|
|1588/9||JOHN EDWARDS II|
|1593||ROGER PULESTON II|
|1597||JOHN LLOYD 2|
|16 Dec. 1601||SIR JOHN SALUSBURY|
Traditionally Denbighshire was split into west and east, a fact recognized by the Act of Union which stipulated that county day should be held alternately at Denbigh and Wrexham, the capital towns of the two areas. Similarly, west and east had each its own deputy lieutenant and coroner. However, like the rest of the Welsh counties, Denbighshire returned only one knight of the shire to Parliament.
The leading family in the west of the county was the Salusbury family of Lleweni, but during Elizabeth’s reign the family suffered a political eclipse. In the 156os Sir John Salusbury, head of the family at Elizabeth’s accession, and four times Member for Denbighshire in the previous reign, was in trouble over his Exchequer accounts; he did not sit in Parliament again. When the Earl of Leicester acquired lands and titles in Denbighshire in 1564, Salusbury allied himself with him, even to the extent of commending, in his will, his grandson and heir, Thomas, to the Earl’s care. Lleweni thus became a focus for court sympathizers in the county, but those of the county gentry who resented Leicester’s interference in Denbighshire turned against it. In 1586 the Salusburys fell into serious though temporary disgrace when Thomas was executed for his part in the Babington plot. The Lleweni estates then passed to Thomas’s younger brother John, who further lessened the family’s chances of securing a county seat by remaining aloof from the Earl of Essex, the most important influence in the county after Leicester’s death in 1588. So it was that this family of first-ranking importance in Denbighshire returned only one knight of the shire during the Elizabethan period, to the last Parliament of the reign, and even then his election was contested.
The Salesburys were a junior branch of the Salusbury family. Their main estates were in Rûg, Merioneth, but they owned lands near Ruthin in western Denbighshire and were no doubt helped to their county seats in the early part of the reign by the older and more influential branch of the family, who were temporarily unable to furnish knights of the shire themselves. The third west Denbighshire family to represent the shire was the Thelwall family of Plas-y-ward, allies of the Leicester-Lleweni faction.
A powerful family in eastern Denbighshire were the Pulestons, whose main branch lived over the border at Emral in Flintshire, but a secondary branch held the estate of Plas ym Mers, Denbighshire, and wielded considerable influence there. Other county families in the east of the shire who were to feature in the struggles over the representation of the county were the Edwardses of Chirk, the Breretons of Borras, the Lloyds of Bodidris, the Almers of Pant Iocyn and the Trevors of Trevalun.
For the first six Parliaments of the reign east and west appear to have come to peaceable arrangements, both parts returning three knights each: for the west: John Salesbury (1559), Simon Thelwall I (1563) and Robert Salesbury (1586); for the east: Robert Puleston (1571), William Almer (1572) and Evan Lloyd (1584).
In 1588 William Almer stood for election a second time. He secured the substantial support of the Salusburys of Lleweni, who, although in trouble at the time, could still muster the largest number of freeholders in the shire. Almer also enlisted the support of the Salesburys and the Thelwalls. With the western families actively furthering an easterner’s candidature, all looked set for a peaceful election. Trouble came unexpectedly from the other families in the east. Almer, recently made deputy lieutenant of eastern Denbighshire, had succeeded in antagonizing a number of his fellow landowners, among them John Edwards II and Owen Brereton. An opposition to Almer’s candidature quickly grew up, supported by John Edwards’s nephew, Roger Puleston II of Emral, and brother-in-law, Sir Richard Trevor of Trevalum. To begin with the anti-Almer faction had two candidates, John Edwards of Chirk and Richard Trevor of Trevalun, each canvassing on his own account, but the vastly superior weight of numbers in the Salusbury-Almer party caused Trevor to withdraw in order to maximize support behind Edwards. The emergence of Edwards as candidate is interesting in itself. Coming, as he did, from a well known Catholic family, he could rely on the support of many gentry families in the county, families which would have had no love for the Salusburys or Thelwalls. Feelings among the Catholic community must have been particularly high in view of the execution of the first Welsh Catholic martyr, Richard Gwyn, in Wrexham itself only four years previously. Now that the Salusburys were themselves in trouble—ironically because the head of the household had involved himself in a Catholic plot—there were many people in Denbighshire who would be pleased to see their parliamentary candidate defeated.
In the event, Almer was defeated through the partiality of the sheriff Owen Brereton, and a show of armed force by Edwards’s supporters. Roger Puleston II, a leading member of the anti-Almer faction, was returned in 1593, and by 1597 the east Denbighshire faction was allied with the Earl of Essex, then at the height of his power. John Lloyd of Bodidris, one of Essex’s followers, was returned without a contest that year.
By 1601, however, the situation in Denbighshire had radically changed. Sir John Salusbury had established himself at court and had received a knighthood for his part in suppressing the Essex revolt. His enemies in Denbighshire were in disarray following Essex’s execution and the time at last seemed propitious for Salusbury to stand as knight of the shire. However, the machinery of local government in Denbighshire was still in the hands of his opponents, who had monopolized the shrievalty for the last five years, and they put up a candidate to oppose him in the person of Sir Richard Trevor, who had stood down in 1588, and was now deputy lieutenant of east Denbighshire. A levy for Ireland, coinciding with the election, gave Trevor the opportunity to arm his supporters, and Salusbury did likewise. An intended election on 21 Oct. was postponed by the sheriff to avert bloodshed, or, as Salusbury believed, to prevent his own victory. Both parties were summoned before the Privy Council, and each invoked the Star Chamber against the other. Nine days after Parliament opened, Cecil drew the attention of the House to the vacancy, but owing to disputes about procedure several weeks passed before a new writ was issued, and Salusbury was at last elected only three days before the House rose.
This account is based upon an article by A. H. Dodd in EHR, lix. 348-70. See also Neale, Commons, ch. 5.