ARNOLD, Nicholas (1599-c.1665), of Llanthony, Cwmyoy and Llanvihangel Court, Llanvihangel Crucorney, Mon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 2 Dec. 1599,1 1st s. of John Arnold† of Llanthony and his 2nd w. Anne, da. of William Tanfield of Copford Hall, Copford, Essex.2 educ. St. Alban Hall, Oxf. 1616; ?travelled abroad (Italy) 1622.3 m. 29 July 1633, Lettice (d. aft. 1640), da. and h. of Sir Edward Moore of Drogheda, co. Louth [I], 1s.4 suc. fa. 1606.5 d. c.1665.6 sig. N[icholas] Arnold.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Mon. 1632-3.7


The Arnolds traced their lineage back to the kings of Gwent and Gwilym ap Meurig. The family crossed the Wye and established themselves at Highnam in Gloucestershire, but the Member’s grandfather, Sir Nicholas Arnold†, purchased the lands of the dissolved priory of Llanthony, Monmouthshire, thereby acquiring fresh status in his ancestral county.8 Sir Nicholas’s son, John, inherited the Llanthony estates and was living there when he represented Monmouthshire in 1597.9

John’s death in 1606, when his eldest son (this Member) was aged only six, meant there was vigorous jockeying for control of one of the county’s major estates.10 Sir William Cooke* married the heiress to the Arnold family’s Gloucestershire lands, having previously attempted to gain control of Llanthony by disputing John Arnold’s legitimacy.11 As clerk of the liveries, Cooke was well placed to influence the grant of Nicholas Arnold’s wardship, but the Member’s mother and grandmother, presumably to forestall such an eventuality, persuaded William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke to obtain the wardship instead. It was for this reason that Arnold later claimed that his family was ‘allied to the ... earl’.12 Cooke subsequently embarked on a concerted campaign in the courts to establish his title to the estates, but Pembroke fought off his challenge, assigning the wardship to his steward, Thomas Morgan*, who suggested a marriage between Arnold and his own daughter. These negotiations fell through, however, whereupon Morgan determined to exploit the estate aggressively for his own ends: Arnold later claimed that Morgan had garnered an estimated £20,000 from his estates.13 Morgan’s ruthless behaviour may have compounded an already weak financial situation, for Arnold’s father, who had died in debt to the Crown, had leased out the manor of Llanthony to Owen Hopton†, presumably out of necessity.14 Consequently, after Arnold attained his majority in 1620 he was forced to borrow money and mortgage some of his lands, while the accusation of rack-renting by his tenants in Comyoy suggests a determined effort to exploit his estates.15 Despite his financial difficulties, however, Arnold refused to live within his means, and in 1623 he purchased Llanvihangel Court, presumably as Llanthony was still occupied by Hopton.16

Arnold’s financial difficulties caused him to default on several loans, and it may have been to avoid his creditors that he entered Parliament in 1626 and 1628. He probably owed his election to Pembroke, although he described the most powerful gentry figure in Monmouthshire, Sir William Morgan* of Tredegar, as ‘his kinsman and intimate friend’.17 Arnold left little trace on the records of the Commons. He is mentioned only once in the records of the 1626 Parliament, on 25 May, when he was granted leave to be absent on unspecified business. He also made little impression on the records in 1628, when he was named to just one committee, which concerned the servant of a fellow Member, ‘Mr. Vaughan’, who had been arrested in breach of parliamentary privilege (24 June).18 Although this probably concerned another Welsh Member, Henry Vaughan of Derwydd, Carmarthenshire, Arnold’s particular interest in this matter has not been identified.

By 1640 Arnold was involved in litigation with his wife’s family to obtain monies, possibly connected with her dowry.19 Arnold’s creditors caught up with him shortly after, and in 1642 he petitioned the Commons, complaining of a recent verdict against him and the difficulty of lodging a writ of error on account of his distance from Westminster.20 Despite this appeal he was imprisoned in King’s Bench for debt, and spent over 20 years in captivity, ‘dying there to defeat his creditors’.21 No will or administration has been traced, probably because of his penurious condition and the likelihood that he had made prior provision for his goods and lands to save them being taken to cover his debts. His son, John, one of the most prominent opponents of Henry, 3rd marquess of Worcester and the Catholic cause in Monmouthshire during the Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis, represented Monmouth and Southwark during the 1680s and 1690s.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Lloyd Bowen


  • 1. C142/288/138; GL, ms 6667/1, unfol.
  • 2. J.A. Bradney, Hist. Mon. i. 219; Vis. Gloucs. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 4; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 295-6.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton ed. L. Pearsall Smith, ii. 244-5.
  • 4. IGI; CSP Dom. 1640, p. 53; Bradney, i. 219; Harl. 3538, f. 21v.
  • 5. C142/288/138.
  • 6. HP (Commons) 1660-90, i. 545.
  • 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 83.
  • 8. M. Gray, ‘Change and Continuity: The Gentry and the Property of the Church in S.W. Wales and the Marches’, in Class, Community and Culture in Tudor Wales ed. J.G. Jones, 16.
  • 9. WARD 13/88, unfol.
  • 10. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 8.
  • 11. WARD 13/81, unfol.; VCH Glos. x. 18.
  • 12. C8/76/22; WARD 9/159, f. 216v.
  • 13. C2/Chas.I/M33/61; 2/Chas.I/A9/1; C8/76/22.
  • 14. E178/3885; CCC, 2303.
  • 15. C10/70/4; 8/128/5; 2/Chas.I/A9/1; 2/Chas.I/M12/11; 2/Chas.I/C106/55.
  • 16. NLW, Mynde 381; J. Newman, Buildings of Wales: Gwent, 287-8.
  • 17. C2/Chas.I/A9/1.
  • 18. Procs. 1626, iii. 332; CD 1628, iv. 447.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 53.
  • 20. HMC 5th Rep. 65a.
  • 21. C10/70/4; HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 545.