CAPELL, Sir Arthur (1585-1653), of Little Hadham, Herts. and Whitehall

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

bap. 28 Nov. 1585, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Arthur Capell (d.1632) of Little Hadham and Rayne, Essex, and his 1st w. Margaret, da. of Lord John Grey of Pirgo, Essex; bro. of Henry†.1 unm. kntd. 23 Sept. 1617.2 bur. 24 Dec. 1653.3

Offices Held

Servant to Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury by 1605, treas. by 1612;4 gent. pens. 1612-25, gent. of the privy chamber extraordinary 1626-at least 1636.5


Capell was descended from a London Draper who served twice as lord mayor, represented the City in the Parliaments of 1491, 1512 and 1515, and acquired great estates in Essex and Hertfordshire.6 Capell’s father, knighted in 1598, was renowned for his hospitality and prominent in local government, but pleaded poverty when assessed at £100 for a Privy Seal loan in 1604, on the grounds that he had to fund an annual jointure of £420 to his father’s widow, and provide over £800 for dependent relatives.7 The family were on friendly terms with the local magnate, Robert Cecil, 1st earl of Salisbury, who appointed Capell to a senior position in his household.8 After Salisbury’s death, Capell immediately entered the service of the Crown as a gentleman pensioner, and was knighted when the king visited Enfield in 1617.9 In February 1622 he was summoned before the Privy Council to explain his failure to contribute towards the Palatinate Benevolence, and persuaded to hand over £50.10

As ‘Sir Arthur Capell, junior’, he was elected to Parliament in 1624 for St. Albans, where he had been nominated by the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil*), whose eldest daughter, a child of 12, was betrothed to his nephew, Arthur†, the heir to the Hadham estate.11 Once in the Commons, Capell was appointed to the committee for a bill to confirm the patent of the New River Company, a matter of local concern since it involved the diversion of water from Hertfordshire to supply London (22 Mar. 1624); and to attend a conference with the Lords on 1 May 1624 concerning two Exchequer bills.12 He was reproached for failing to write to the countess of Salisbury about some business he had promised to conduct on her behalf, but as she observed in December 1624, ‘London is a forgetful place’.13

Capell does not appear to have stood for Parliament again. It was reported in December 1628 that his courtship of an unnamed widow ‘went but coldly forward’, and he gave up entirely after breaking his shoulder in a traffic accident.14 Following James’s death he was retained in the Household of the new king until at least 1636, when he had the misfortune to kill his Hertfordshire neighbour, Sir Thomas Leventhorpe, in a duel at Hadham.15 Both were reputed ‘very honest, fair-conditioned men’ and friends of long standing; the fatal quarrel had erupted over a complaint by Sir Edward Howard II* that a hawking party led by Leventhorpe and the 1st earl of Dover (Henry Carey*), together with Capell’s nephew, had trespassed on his property.16 At the inquest the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, but when Charles instructed the judges of assize to impose no punishment considering ‘the manner and occasion of the fact’, Capell was granted a free pardon.17

Capell maintained neutrality during the Civil War, corresponding with the parliamentarian (Sir) William Lytton* over the sequestration of the estates of his nephew, who had joined the royalists.18 He drew up his will on 13 Jan. 1649, leaving his property to be divided between his surviving brothers, and died almost five years later.19 He was buried at Little Hadham on 24 Dec. 1653.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. VCH Herts. Fams. 90.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 163.
  • 3. VCH Herts. Fams. 90.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 275; xxi. 375.
  • 5. E407/1/41; LC3/31, p. 5; CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 50.
  • 6. Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. ix. 244; VCH Herts. iv. 55.
  • 7. Chauncy, Herts. i. 308; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 334.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 88.
  • 9. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 375.
  • 10. SP14/127/77, 82; 14/156/15.
  • 11. L. Stone, Fam. and Fortune, 121-2.
  • 12. CJ, i. 695a, 745a.
  • 13. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 87, 120, 202.
  • 14. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 330.
  • 15. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii. 248.
  • 16. C115/108/8607.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1636-7, pp. 49, 50; C231/5, p. 227.
  • 18. HMC Var. vii. 344-5.
  • 19. PROB 11/236, f. 294.