CARVILE, John (1564/5-at least 1635), of the Middle Temple, London and Nun Monkton, Yorks.

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.1564/5, 1st s. of Capt. John Carvil of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. and Prudhoe, Northumb. and Anne, da. of John Bennet of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb., master of the ordnance in the North.1 educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1583, aged 18, BA 1587; M. Temple 1588, called 1596.2 m. 1 Jan. 1598, Dorothy, da. of Robert Kay of Woodsome, Yorks., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.).3 suc. fa. c.1588. sig. [John] Carvile.

Offices Held

Solicitor to Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland 1595-8.4

Ancient, M. Temple by 1631.5


Carvile’s father and his uncle Robert raised the family from obscurity by military service on the Scottish border during the reign of Elizabeth. Carvile inherited property on the Percy estate at Prudhoe, and served the 9th earl of Northumberland as solicitor in the first years of his career. He maintained his connection with the earl for many years, leasing Percy lands at Nun Monkton, eight miles from Aldborough, representing the earl at assizes, collecting his rents, and assisting his officers to inquire into his debts.6 Carvile subsequently became a legal advisor to Sir Thomas Wentworth*, who wrote him a letter of condolence on his daughter’s death in 1620. At the end of the same year he was returned at Aldborough with Wentworth’s associate Christopher Wandesford*, although his electoral patron was presumably the local landowner Arthur Aldburghe, who held three of the nine burgages which carried votes at the election.7

From the outset of his parliamentary career, Carvile was an active Member. During the subsidy debate of 15 Feb. 1621 he offered qualified support to Christopher Brooke’s* call for a swift grant of two subsidies for relief of the Palatinate:

If we look to have ease of our grievances, we must procure the king’s gracious favour ... Therefore I think one subsidy and two fifteenths to be levied during the session; for if we delay till all grievances be heard, it will be too late and so to no purpose ... And that is as much as can be levied, considering the necessity of the country.

The chief grievance, he held, was ‘that out of every £1,000 levied in the country scarce £200 comes to His Majesty’, an allusion to the peculations of monopolists, against whom a head of steam was already building in the Commons; ‘I doubt not but that the king will be willing to have them examined’, he insisted with a confidence borne out only a few days later, when investigations into the patentees commenced.8 One prime objective of these early inquiries was the patents for discovery of concealed Crown lands. Carvile spoke at the second reading of the concealments bill on 2 Mar. (though his point went unrecorded) and was named to the bill committee, while five days later he was one of a committee of lawyers appointed to consider the legality of (Sir) Giles Mompesson’s* concealments patent.9 He was less involved in the concurrent attack on corruption in the law courts, although on 6 Mar. he introduced a bill to redress certain ‘misproceedings in courts of equity’, a measure apparently sponsored by Sir Peter Frescheville*, his contemporary at the Middle Temple in the 1590s. Carvile was later appointed to a committee to draft a bill for reform of regulations in Chancery (25 April).10 When the subsidy bill completed its passage through the Commons on 12 Mar., there were calls to send it to the Lords with other important legislation, but Carvile, among others, successfully moved ‘to have the subsidy go alone’.11

Carvile was as involved in local issues as national ones, sometimes taking his cue from Wentworth. The latter’s controversial victory in the Yorkshire election produced a formal complaint to the privileges’ committee, and while Wentworth’s conduct was exonerated, two high constables were accused of impropriety, having issued warrants to ‘will and require’ the freeholders to give their voices for Wentworth. At a hearing on 23 Mar., Sir Henry Widdrington called for the constables to be punished, but Carvile insisted that the phrase ‘will and require’ was common usage in Yorkshire, and claimed that the summons before Parliament was sufficient punishment; the House ultimately settled on a public submission at the next quarter sessions. On 14 Mar., when it was decided that the Durham enfranchisement bill should erect only two new borough constituencies rather than three, Wentworth called for Barnard Castle to be dropped from the bill so that Hartlepool might be retained. Carvile also spoke in favour of Hartlepool, which had a charter from the Crown, and insisted that if any borough were to be dropped, it should be the bishop’s town of Durham; he was overruled by Secretary Calvert, who reminded the House that Barnard Castle belonged to the duchy of Cornwall and that its enfranchisement was desired by Prince Charles.12 Carvile also spoke at the second reading of the bill to facilitate Lord Aubigny’s sale of the Yorkshire manor of Temple Newsam to Wentworth’s ally, Sir Arthur Ingram*; but despite this connection, he seems to have had reservations about the legal technicalities of the sale.13 At the second reading of the bill to exempt fisheries from tithes (26 Feb.) he moved for an exception for the Tyne fisheries, a Crown fee-farm, and he later supported John Glanville’s claim that the bill to ban fishing in the Thames estuary during the spawning season was poorly drafted.14

England’s involvement in the confessional wars in Germany naturally aroused fears about the domestic Catholic threat, and Carvile was named to the committee for the bill to prevent recusants evading fines by means of fictitious trusts (2 Mar.), a measure endorsed by Frescheville. Religious tensions resurfaced on 1 May, when the Commons voted to punish the Catholic lawyer Edward Floyd for insulting the king’s daughter and son-in-law. James’s request that the Commons’ justify its right to punish Floyd exposed the precarious nature of the House’s ruling, and Carvile’s claim that ‘if any foreigner offend justly any Member of this House in words, we may convent and punish him’ was hardly relevant, as Floyd had criticized members of the royal family rather than Parliament.15 In a debate of 4 May on Sir Jerome Horsey’s bill to expedite the prosecution of recusants, Carvile wondered whether husbands should be liable for fines levied on recusant wives, especially if the couple were estranged; this loophole was covered by another bill which received its first reading the following morning. Both bills were referred to a select committee with a very small membership, but its deliberations were left open to all comers. Its proceedings were clearly the subject of dispute, as on 11 May Sir Thomas Hoby, supported by Carvile and others, successfully obtained a ruling that all who attended this committee should have a vote.16

When the parliamentary session resumed in November, Sir John Vaughan* and Sir Henry Carey I*, having been raised to the Irish and Scottish peerages respectively, absented themselves from the roll call held on 21 November. Sir Edward Coke and others argued that, as foreign patents did not run in England, these two Members should resume their seats, but Carvile doubted whether those liable to serve as lords elsewhere could continue to sit in the English House of Commons; further investigation of the case was ordered.17 On 30 Nov., at the third reading of the bill to prevent the export of wool, Carvile objected that the proposed ban ‘will prove the greatest monopoly ... in England’. He was presumably speaking on behalf of the Northumberland woolgrowers who, having failed to obtain a proviso exempting Berwick from the bill, stood to lose out to Scottish merchants, who would be able to export northern wools with impunity. However, his protest was countered by Wentworth who, speaking on behalf of the Yorkshire growers, retorted that if notice was to be taken of this objection ‘then we cannot pass any law’.18 Carvile’s last recorded speech during the session came on 11 Dec., when the king ordered the Commons to cease its investigation of the malicious Star Chamber lawsuit brought against Sir Edward Coke by the courtier John Lepton:

No Parliament man ought to be sued in the Star Chamber, nor in any court but in Parliament, during the Parliament time. If a Parliament man may be sued in Star Chamber, then all the Members, or the best Members of the House, may be drawn from the business of the House to answer a riot or any other business there...

As one diarist observed, this prolix exposition of parliamentary privilege served ‘little purpose’.19

Over the next few years Carvile became involved in litigation relating to lands in Yorkshire. In 1617 he sublet the rectory of Kirby Wharfe from Sir Edwin Sandys*, but the latter refused to renew the lease in 1622, citing Carvile’s ‘uncertainties, mutabilities and irresolutions’, and so gave rise to a futile Chancery suit.20 Shortly thereafter, a protracted dispute over the estates of the Fairfaxes of Steeton came to a head. Carvile and John Culpepper had become trustees of part of Sir Philip Fairfax’s estate in 1612, during their sale to Sir Thomas Fairfax I*. Following Sir Philip’s death in 1613, Carvile and Culpepper were ordered to pay his heirs just under £1,000 by the Court of Wards. Lord president Sheffield (father of Sir Philip’s widow) attempted to bring the case before the Council in the North, and payment was still outstanding in the autumn of 1623, when the Court of Wards committed Carvile to the Fleet for non-payment. Carvile apparently spent Christmas in Yorkshire with Wentworth and Northumberland, but this arrest provided him with ample incentive to seek re-election at Aldborough a few weeks later, where he resisted a challenge from William Peaseley, a servant of secretary of state (Sir) George Calvert*.21

During the 1624 Parliament, Carvile was much less vociferous than he had been in 1621. He was clearly not one of those the duke of Buckingham and Prince Charles solicited to support a breach with Spain before the start of the session, as he is not recorded to have spoken during the supply debates in the first month of the session. The only support he gave to the ‘patriot’ cause came during the investigation of an allegation against the hispanophile lord keeper Williams, who had issued a Chancery decree depriving a widow of an advowson during a jurisdictional dispute with the Court of Wards. Carvile, seconding Sir Edward Coke, considered this an abuse of power, insisting ‘that blame should be laid where it is deserved’ - in other words, with Williams. However, no further charges were substantiated, and attempts to impeach Williams came to nothing.22 Carvile was busier as a legislator, tabling a bill on 14 Apr. to compel creditors to sue actions for debt in the county where the debtor lived, rather than at Westminster; he chaired the committee, and reported the bill on 24 Apr., but it was rejected at the third reading on 3 May.23 On 26 Apr. he reported another bill, to allow the Common Law courts to hear appeals from judgments in the equity courts. Sir Edward Coke promptly attacked its loose drafting, and it was recommitted. Carvile made a fresh report three days later, but no agreement was reached, and the measure progressed no further.24 Carvile was employed as a committee chairman on two other occasions during the session: on 20 May he reported a private bill to reverse a Chancery decree against Sir John Rives; and on the following day he reported the condemnation of the patent for the keepership of York gaol, such a grant being contrary to several statutes.25

Carvile was re-elected at Aldborough in 1625, this time with Richard Aldburghe*, son of the local landowner. He tabled a fresh draft of the equity court appeals bill on 22 June, which received a first reading the following day, but progressed no further. He may have left Westminster to avoid the plague: named to two bill committees on 25 and 27 June, he thereafter vanished from the record, and there is no indication that he attended the Oxford sitting in August.26 He presumably retired to Yorkshire, standing unsuccessfully for the post of recorder of York in November.27

The 1626 Parliament was dominated by the question of Buckingham’s impeachment, which encouraged all but the most vociferous MPs to keep silent; even Wentworth, pricked as sheriff of Yorkshire to keep him out of the Commons, spent much of the session trying to convince the duke of his loyalty. Carvile, however, contributed to the debates regularly, rarely attacking Buckingham directly, but trying to offer less partisan criticism, albeit with little success. The first charge levelled against the favourite concerned an order he had issued detaining a French ship, the St. Peter of Le Havre, which had provoked an embargo on English ships in France. On 23 Feb. Carvile appears to have cited a letter from France blaming the embargo on Buckingham’s arrest warrant. If so, Carvile was backing the duke’s enemies. However, a further speech delivered on 1 Mar., when Wandesford moved to petition King Charles to take diplomatic action against the French embargo, was somewhat less combative. Carvile observed that there was no conclusive proof that the St. Peter had been carrying Spanish contraband at the time of its arrest, and urged that the ship be released, with compensation. He was careful to stress that ‘punishment of the person’ responsible for the arrest, namely the duke, should not be undertaken, but insisted that the culprit should bear the charge of the compensation. The Commons resolved on a much harder line, however, and summoned Buckingham for questioning, thereby giving affront to the Lords and moving the king to leap to the defence of his favourite.28 The St. Peter affair was only one aspect of the proceedings against the duke; another concerned Sir Robert Howard’s* claim for parliamentary privilege, arising from his arrest by High Commission on a charge of adultery with Buckingham’s sister-in-law. Citing the privilege claim of William Trewynnard† (1544), Carvile insisted that the commissioners had demonstrated an ignorance of the law that was ‘affected and palpable’.29

The quid pro quo for allowing proceedings against Buckingham to go ahead was a generous grant of supply, an issue over which the Commons dragged its heels. When the House eventually considered the matter on 27 Mar., Carvile was happy to go along with the consensus for three subsidies, but, echoing others, he declared himself ‘against the [three] fifteenths, which are paid by the occupiers of lands’ as ‘the north parts are not able to endure it’. Instead of voting fifteenths he favoured adding an additional subsidy ‘or a subsidy and a half’. However, his motion was eventually rejected.30

The king considered the sum voted wholly inadequate, and briefly threatened a dissolution. He was apparently persuaded to continue the session by William, 3rd earl of Pembroke, on the understanding that the Commons would improve upon their initial offer. A number of Members attempted to evade any increase in the supply grant by moving to consider alternative methods of raising funds, including Carvile, who, citing a precedent from the reign of Edward I, argued for a tax on usurers and on those who sold offices and benefices or who demanded excessive fees. He also suggested that those who informed against the extortions of others should have their liability to this tax waived.31 Members eventually voted for an additional subsidy, but their generosity was tempered by the stately pace at which the legislation proceeded through the House. A leisurely debate of 5 May about the bill preamble was punctuated by ministerial calls for speed, but Carvile ‘mentioned how the people thought now that the parliaments were called for nothing but to give subsidies’, citing the 1621 and 1625 sessions as evidence, and called for ‘corruptions’ to be purged first, and ‘then [to] give’. Matters had progressed little further by 12 June, when Charles threatened an immediate dissolution unless the subsidy bill received a first reading presently. In a deeply divided House, Carvile suggested a compromise: that the Commons quickly pass a bill for payment of the first subsidy at the end of June, ‘and if our grievances be redressed afterwards, we shall go on cheerfully to pass the rest’. The Commons voted to give grievances precedence over supply, and Charles terminated the session three days later.32

Carvile’s conduct during the 1626 session does not seem to have caused him to fall into disfavour at Court, as secretary of state (Sir) Edward Conway I* recommended his son Henry for a fellowship at Oxford in 1627. However, the parliamentary seat at Aldborough went to another man in 1628, and, bereft of parliamentary privilege, Carvile was subsequently outlawed for debt. In July 1633 Wentworth, as arbitrator of the Steeton estate dispute, ordered him to pay Culpepper £800, whereupon he took shelter from his creditors in the Temple. In the following year Culpepper petitioned the Privy Council for relief, claiming that Carvile intended to evade his obligations by joining Wentworth in Ireland. Carvile was taken into custody, but released under bond on 18 Feb. 1635. Nothing further is known about his fate; he probably either died or fled to Ireland. No other Member of the family entered Parliament.33

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Karen Bishop / Simon Healy


  • 1. Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 501; Vis. Northumb. ed. Foster, 15; CBP, i. 272, 340.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.; MTR, 369.
  • 3. Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 501; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xvii), 131; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. i. 76.
  • 4. Northumberland Household Pprs. ed. G.R. Batho (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. xciii), pp. xxix, xxxii, 150.
  • 5. MTR, 779.
  • 6. W. Wheater, Sherburn and Cawood, 163-5; Northumb. Estate Recs. ed. M.E. James (Surtees Soc. clxiii), 27, 174, 228, 234; T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 261; Yorks. Fines ed. W. Brigg (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. lviii), 28-9.
  • 7. Wentworth Pprs. 131; STAC 8/261/9; WARD 10/24; ALDBOROUGH.
  • 8. CD 1621, ii. 87.
  • 9. CJ, i. 534a, 543b.
  • 10. Ibid. 591a; CD 1621, ii. 242; v. 273; MTR, 355, 368; ii. 622, 627; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 1.
  • 11. CJ, i. 549-50; CD 1621, ii. 207.
  • 12. CJ, i. 553, 570-1.
  • 13. Ibid. 598b; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 363.
  • 14. CJ, i. 526b, 588b; CD 1621, iv. 104; v. 513.
  • 15. CJ, i. 534a, 602b.
  • 16. Nicholas, i. 325; CJ, i. 607a, 609a, 612b, 616-17; CD 1621, iii. 161, 221; Kyle thesis, 318, 323.
  • 17. CD 1621, iii. 412-13; iv. 422-3; v. 207.
  • 18. Ibid. ii. 479; CJ, i. 653b; P.J. Bowden, Wool Trade in Tudor and Stuart Eng. 189-93.
  • 19. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 309; CD 1621, vi. 233.
  • 20. C2/Jas.I/C28/7.
  • 21. C2/Chas.I/B157/63 ff.8-9; Fairfax Corresp. ed. G.W. Johnson, i. xxiv-xxv; Yorks. Fines ed. W. Briggs (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. liii), 171; WARD 10/24; SIR THOMAS FAIRFAX I.
  • 22. ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 166v-7; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 156; C. Russell, PEP, 166.
  • 23. CJ, i. 774b, 782b; ‘Lowther 1624’, f. 64; Kyle thesis, 286-7.
  • 24. CJ, i. 694a, 775a; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 162r-v; ‘Pym 1624’, iii. f. 19v; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 273; Kyle thesis, 200-2.
  • 25. CJ, i. 708a, 791b.
  • 26. Procs. 1625, pp. 215, 228, 245, 253.
  • 27. York City Archives, House Bk. 34, f. 324v.
  • 28. Procs. 1626, ii. 108, 170-1; Russell, 279-82; SIR THOMAS WENTWORTH.
  • 29. Procs. 1626, ii. 333-4; SIR ROBERT HOWARD.
  • 30. Procs. 1626, ii. 378; Russell, 290-2.
  • 31. Procs. 1626, iii. 75-8; Russell, 300-2.
  • 32. Procs. 1626, iii. 173, 176, 426, 429.
  • 33. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p.183; J.T. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, 154-5; PC2/44, ff. 227, 244, 400.