COKE, John (1563-1644), of Hall Court, Kynaston, Herefs.; Garlick Hill, London and Tottenham, Mdx.; later of Melbourne Hall, Melbourne, Derbys.

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. 5 Mar. 1563, 2nd s. of Richard Coke (d.1582) of Trusley, Derbys. and Mary, da. and h. of Thomas Sacheverell of Sacheverell Hall, Kirkby, Notts.1 educ. ?Westminster Sch.; Trin., Camb. 1576, scholar 1580, BA 1581, jnr. fell. by 1583, MA 1584, snr. fell. 1584; incorp. MA Oxf. 1584.2 m. (1) bet. 8 May and 14 Sept. 1604, Marie (d. Mar. 1624), da. of John Powell of Preston, Herefs., 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. at least 1 d.v.p.);3 (2) Nov. 1624, Joan, da. of Sir Robert Lee, alderman, of London, wid. of William Gore of Tottenham, Mdx., s.p.4 kntd. 9 Sept. 1624.5 d. 8 Sept. 1644. sig. John Coke.

Offices Held

?Lecturer in rhetoric, Trin., Camb. 1584-91.6

Collector of fines for Fulke Greville* by 1590.7

Collector, subsidy, Radlow and Greytree hundreds, Herefs. 1610;8 commr. Forced Loan, Mdx. 1626,9 oyer and terminer, the Verge 1627;10 j.p. Mdx. and Leics. 1631, Derbys. 1632;11 steward, Wirksworth manor and Soke, Derbys. 1631;12 gov. Charterhouse hosp., London 1635-d.;13 commr. new buildings, London and Westminster 1636, piracy, Suss. 1637.14

Paymaster, RN 1599-1604,15 commr. RN 1618-28,16 compounding for purveyance and carriage 1622;17 master of Requests 1622-5;18 commr. to investigate (Sir) Henry Mervyn* and Sir William St. John 1623,19 trade 1625;20 sec. of state 1625-40; PC 1625-40;21 member, Council of War 1626-at least 1628;22 commr. sale of royal lands 1626,23 RN inquiry 1626-7;24 member, High Commission, Canterbury province 1626-at least 1633;25 commr. Admlty. 1628-38,26 survey, arms in the Tower 1629,27 ordnance office 1630, 1635,28 composition for knighthood 1630, inquiry into complaints against Jerome Beale, master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge 1630, exacted fees 1630, to search the recs. of Sir Robert Cotton* 1630,29 examine seizures made by Capt. Kirke in Canada 1630,30 inquiry into execution of the poor laws 1631,31 manufacture of saltpetre and gunpowder 1631,32 repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral 1631, govern Virg. plantation 1631,33 survey contents of King’s Chapel, Whitehall Palace 1632, to hear London’s accts. regarding land sold to the City 1632,34 reprieve of felons 1633,35 Treasury 1635-6, inquiry into postmaster of Eng. 1637,36 repair of Tower of London 1638.37

Member, Fishery Soc. 1632.38


One of the most able, conscientious and honest royal administrators of the Caroline age, Coke, who twice rescued the navy from serious decay, has justifiably been described as ‘the Samuel Pepys of his day’.39 His ‘cardinal perfection’, as Clarendon observed, ‘was industry’, a virtue which ultimately helped him achieve high office. However, he was also an inflexible pedant, as his ‘unpardonable’ dismissal of the accounts of the royal financier Philip Burlamachi in 1636 demonstrates.40 Moreover, Clarendon’s view that he was ‘unadorn’d with any parts of vigour and quickness’ has been echoed by Coke’s most recent biographer, who has remarked that Coke’s lack of spontaneity and flamboyance was a serious handicap when it came to managing Parliament.41 Perhaps his chief defect, as Clarendon observed, was ‘covetousness’, for while Coke never stole from the Crown he certainly regarded the legitimate profits of office as a means to self-enrichment. During the war years of the 1620s, when others, including his patron Buckingham, dug deeply into their own pockets to help meet the Crown’s military costs, Coke kept his purse tightly closed, even when surrounded by sick and starving soldiers and sailors whom the king could not afford to discharge. Instead, he spent the proceeds of office purchasing large estates for himself, seemingly indifferent to the suffering all around him.42 Despite these flaws, Coke was undeniably an exceptional bureaucrat, as Edward Nicholas*, another selfless and hardworking royal servant acknowledged in December 1639, when he remarked that ‘seldom comes the better’.43

Coke’s earliest known ancestors lived in Staffordshire, near the Derbyshire border until the early fifteenth century, when the family settled at Trusley, near Derby.44 Coke himself was the second son of a prosperous local lawyer, who served as Derbyshire’s clerk of the peace between 1564 and 1578. Like his brothers, he attended university. Admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1576, he was awarded a scholarship in 1580 and took his BA in the following year, when he was ranked fifteenth out of 194 recipients of the degree. On the death of his father in 1582, Coke completed his studies through the generosity of his elder brother Francis, receiving his MA in 1584, when he also attained his majority. Over the next seven years he taught rhetoric at Trinity, where he was now a senior fellow.45

Had Coke stayed at Cambridge he might have merited Clarendon’s description of him as ‘a man of a very narrow education’,46 but by 1590 he had begun to cast his eyes further afield. He helped to manage the lands of Fulke Greville, then clerk to the council in the Marches of Wales, whom he may have met through a mutual acquaintance, George Talbot, 6th earl of Shrewsbury, or through Greville’s patron, Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, whose time as a student at Trinity overlapped with Coke’s. In 1591 Coke left Cambridge, probably to work full-time for Greville, who certainly paid for his lodgings, and in the autumn of 1593 he embarked upon a tour of the Continent, undoubtedly at the behest of Essex, who was busily establishing a network of agents abroad and whose chaplain, Lionel Sharpe had earlier invited Coke to enter the earl’s service.47 After visiting Frankfurt and Heidelberg he went to Ratisbon, from where he reported the proceedings of the 1594 Diet to Essex. By October 1595 he was at Siena. He subsequently journeyed to Geneva, where he lodged with an English Protestant minister, before travelling to France, where he penned a treatise ‘for practice of that language’.48 He also visited the United Provinces, where he drafted a short treatise in which he urged the recovery of the trade which had been lost to the Dutch following the outbreak of war with Spain.49

By the summer of 1597 Coke had returned to London, where he reported to Essex and expanded his trade treatise.50 His principal patron, however, remained Greville, and therefore when the latter was appointed treasurer of the navy in December 1598 Coke became his chief clerk. The duties involved were primarily those of book-keeping and accounting, for which Coke, with his firm grasp of detail and insatiable appetite for work, was ideally suited. Before long Greville had grown so dependent upon his capable protégé that he told him that ‘without you I conclude nothing’. Coke was appalled at what he discovered in the navy’s accounts, for it quickly became apparent that the sole concern of many naval officials was to line their own pockets. Chief among them was the surveyor, Sir John Trevor†, whose corruption was aided and abetted by the lord admiral, Charles Howard†, 1st earl of Nottingham. Supported by Greville, Coke soon began gathering incriminating evidence, fully confident that, despite Trevor’s bitter opposition, the queen would inevitably order reform. However, Essex’s fall in February 1601 gravely weakened Greville’s position at Court, which was further eroded by Elizabeth’s death in March 1603. 51 Undeterred, Greville and Coke submitted their reform proposals shortly after James’s accession and turned for support to the earl of Suffolk and Robert, Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil†). This proved to be mistake, however, as Suffolk supported naval reform only while he entertained hopes of becoming lord admiral, and lost interest after he was made lord chamberlain instead, while Cecil eyed with suspicion the former Essex supporter, Greville, and was reluctant to oppose Nottingham, whose position was strengthened on his marriage to a young cousin of the king in October 1603. By January 1604 a vengeful Nottingham was demanding that Greville be replaced by Sir Robert Mansell*. Less than three months later Greville was forced to resign, and with his departure Coke too was displaced.52

Loss of office was a bitter pill for the 40-year-old Coke to swallow, but now at least he had time to attend to his long-neglected personal affairs. Over the summer he courted Marie Powell, the daughter of one of Greville’s principal servants, John Powell of Preston, in Herefordshire, and by September the two were married. He initially lived with his father-in-law at Preston, but by 1608 had begun building a house of his own at nearby Kynaston, which he named Hall Court. He continued to audit Greville’s accounts and occasionally travelled to London on the latter’s behalf,53 but otherwise he seems to have spent most of his time in rural retirement, while maintaining a correspondence with his friend Robert Naunton*, whom he had met at university. In May 1610 Naunton, then Member for Helston, sent him a ‘relation of our Parliament’s proceedings’ after receiving from Coke an account of the building work at Kynaston. The following month Naunton proudly recounted that the Commons had refused to budge in the negotiations for the Great Contract, which were now far advanced.54 Later that year Coke served as a collector of the subsidies voted by the Commons.

In October 1614 Greville was appointed chancellor of the Exchequer, and not long after he invited Coke to join him in London. Coke, however, remained bitter at the treatment he had received ten years earlier and judged that the time was not yet ripe for him to return to public duties, for the earl of Suffolk, whose inconstancy had helped ruin the project for naval reform, remained at the helm of government and had recently been appointed lord treasurer. Greville was offended at this rebuff, and for a while relations between the two men were severely strained.55 In January 1618 Coke was again invited to return to public life, this time by his old friend Naunton, who had just been appointed secretary of state. Coke now needed no second bidding, as financial reform was sweeping the royal Household and a new favourite, George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham, was challenging Suffolk and the Howards, whose power was rapidly waning. ‘I will be ready’, he replied, ‘to put myself to any trial you shall think fit for me’.56 This was not a moment too soon, for early in June the Privy Council instructed Greville to reform the navy. Greville, however, had his hands full at the Exchequer as Suffolk was under investigation for corruption and would soon be dismissed. At Naunton’s behest, Coke was summoned, and on 18 June he was appointed to a 12-strong commission of inquiry headed by Sir Lionel Cranfield*, whose recent reform of the Household had proved so successful.57

Although ranked tenth in the list, Coke was the only one of the commissioners with previous experience of the navy’s administration, which remained under the control of the earl of Nottingham. From the outset, therefore, he played the dominant role in its activities. By mid-July he was writing directly to Greville, who showed his letters to the king, and over the summer he drafted the commissioners’ report, which claimed that annual ordinary spending could be cut from £53,000 to around £30,000. These findings were submitted to the king on 29 Sept., and although Cranfield made the formal presentation, Buckingham, who now aimed to succeed Nottingham as lord admiral, soon learned the identity of the report’s true author. 58 Early in October he offered Coke a substantial salary. Coke was delighted, for though he turned down the offer of payment he realized that he had now acquired a new and powerful patron who, though young and inexperienced might, with careful guidance, be persuaded to initiate fundamental change.59 Soon he was privately advising Buckingham that the commissioners’ recommendations would be ignored if the navy’s principal officers remained in charge of the day-to-day running of affairs. As Coke doubtless intended, this advice soon found its way to the king who, on 2 Nov., placed the navy’s administration in the hands of the commissioners after the officers declined to implement their proposals.60

The transformation of the commissioners from a body of inquiry into a board of governors took formal effect on 12 Feb. 1619, by which time Nottingham had been replaced by Buckingham. One of the first acts of new lord admiral was to promise to promote Coke at the earliest opportunity.61 Over the next few years Coke continued to seek further administrative improvements, beginning with the size of the navy commission, which seemed to him to be large and unwieldy. In order to conduct business more speedily, he suggested, the lord admiral should issue his warrants to selected commissioners only. This was sound advice, for several of the commissioners had other official duties to perform, but it was also self-serving, for if Coke succeeded in limiting the role played by his colleagues he would inevitably enhance his own. To avoid this suspicion, perhaps, he declared that his intention was to make it appear to the outside world that Buckingham himself was running the navy rather than the commissioners, who ‘shall not assume so much as the project, the carriage or the dispatch’. Buckingham was impressed at this apparent willingness to sacrifice personal recognition for the good of the service as, indeed, was the king.62

Over the next few months Buckingham remained largely dependent on Coke for advice, on one occasion telling his new mentor that he had ‘followed that way which you chalked out’.63 This arrangement suited Coke very well, for although his reforms had been adopted more were needed. The commissioners had so far addressed the navy’s financial mismanagement, but as yet the duties of each of the dockyard officers remained poorly defined. New orders were required, Coke told Buckingham, without which the navy would ‘ever be in danger of relapse’. Consequently, Coke drafted a detailed set of instructions and submitted them towards the end of 1619.64 Another area that had not yet been examined was the ordnance office, which supplied guns and munitions to the navy’s ships. Coke had indicated as early as October 1618 that the commissioners soon expected to turn their attention to this department, but not until the spring of 1620 were they given their head.65 Once again it was Coke who drafted the commissioners’ report, which was submitted in July and promised to reduce annual spending from £14,000 to just £4,000.66 However, if Coke expected his proposals to be swiftly accepted he was to be disappointed as attention was now focused on the deepening foreign policy crisis involving James’s daughter and her husband, the Elector Palatine. In October the navy commissioner Sir Francis Gofton lamented that ‘there is no thought of all our labours for the office of the ordnance, but all buried in alto silentio’.67 The day after the king received news of the Elector’s defeat at the White Mountain, Greville reported that the hearing of the ordnance officers had been postponed.68

Early in November Parliament was summoned to consider the crisis, and in December Coke was provided with a seat at Warwick by his old friend Greville. This was Coke’s first Parliament, and despite the fact that the Commons Journal often fails to distinguish him from Clement Coke, who also sat, it is apparent that he played only a modest part in its proceedings. Coke probably delivered his maiden address during the free speech debate on 12 Feb., as the Mr. Coke who spoke advised that any Member with a proposal to make should not couch it in general terms, which would take up ‘many days to no purpose’, but should submit a bill or ‘a model of his proposition which may be examined’. This observation, that a scheme was only worth examining if it had been worked out in detail, is just the sort of thing that Coke, with his administrator’s mind, would have said. At any rate, the speech earned the approval of secretary Calvert for its argument that Members had no grounds for complaint, and that provided they kept ‘within the limits’ they would have ‘free allowance from His Majesty’. 69 A ‘Mr. Coke’ also addressed the House on 10 Mar., when he suggested that Sir Edward Coke should be assigned to wind up a presentation to the Lords. As Clement Coke was Sir Edward’s son this might point to him as the speaker were it not for the fact that whoever spoke evidently did not know Sir Edward’s mind in the matter, as Sir Edward declined the invitation - and this perhaps points to John.70 It was probably also John who contributed to the debate on 8 May regarding two clauses that had mysteriously been inserted into the monopolies bill in order to wreck it. ‘Mr. Coke’ observed that these had been drawn to his attention by the ordnance officers, with whom he had discussed the monopoly for exporting iron ordnance. This conversation had presumably taken place in committee, for on 26 Mar. the House had appointed several Members, including a ‘Mr. Coke’, to draft a bill to prevent such exports. As John Coke had expertise on the ordnance office and Clement did not, it seems most likely that he was the ‘Mr. Coke’ mentioned in both cases.71 Coke was certainly named on 26 Apr. to committees concerned with the sorting of the House’s business and alleged abuses in the Irish administration.72 He must also have been the man appointed to consider bills on lighthouses (27 Feb.) and fish preservation (24 Apr.) - both measures with obvious implications for mariners and shipping.73 On 20 Mar. Coke’s fellow navy commissioner William Burrell appealed to him after some Ipswich shipowners tried to persuade the Commons to bring about the dissolution of the London Shipwrights’ Company, of which Burrell was then master, but with what success is not known.74

Shortly before Parliament was adjourned, Buckingham promised to reward Coke soon for all his labours. Once Parliament ended Coke pressed the favourite to honour this pledge, as he had not previously received any recompense, but Buckingham proved unable or unwilling to honour his commitment. For Coke, who was now in his late fifties and could see his chance of high office slipping away, this was deeply frustrating. His sense of grievance was exacerbated by the fact that neither his naval instructions nor the navy commissioners’ report into the ordnance office had yet received formal approval. In mid July 1621 he complained to Buckingham, but though the king and Council finally agreed to implement the proposals for ordnance reform, Buckingham remained silent about Coke’s naval regulations.75 Over the summer Coke retired to Hall Court, presumably in high dudgeon. On 24 Sept. Buckingham ordered him to return to London by the time the new law term began on 9 Oct., promising that he would soon ‘see an issue of your hopes’.76 Whether Coke responded to this summons is unknown, nor is it certain that he returned to Westminster for the winter sitting of Parliament. In any event he soon had cause to feel more aggrieved than ever, for while Sir Lionel Cranfield and Sir Richard Weston were both elevated to high office - Cranfield as lord treasurer and Weston as chancellor of the Exchequer - his sole reward was to be granted, in early November, an annuity of £300. The king promised that this would soon be augmented with something else,77 but Coke was so disappointed that for several months he abandoned his duties altogether. By mid-February 1622 his fellow navy commissioners, resentful that Coke now had a salary while they were expected to work unpaid, were complaining of his absence. Not until March 1622 did he return to work.78

Over the summer of 1622 Coke toured southern England for the king. Purveyance had resurfaced as an issue during the 1621 Parliament, and Coke was ordered to strike composition agreements with the chief gentry of each shire, but he enjoyed only limited success.79 On returning to London in September he was invited to join Buckingham’s household. Had Coke been younger he would undoubtedly have leaped at this offer, but at his age he realized that to accept it would mean that he would never achieve the high office he craved. On the other hand, refusal risked offending the lord admiral. In his reply, he suggested that the invitation was a trap laid by Cranfield, now earl of Middlesex, whom he now regarded as his enemy. There were, said Coke, ‘some that serve their turns with the labour of others’, whereas he had ‘done His Majesty and your honour not seeming but real service’.80 By this he meant that Cranfield had unfairly claimed the credit for the achievements of the navy commission in order to earn promotion for himself. Buckingham responded by offering to increase Coke’s annuity to £500 out of his own pocket and to provide him with lodgings at court and access to the king and himself at all times. Coke, however, remained resolute, refusing to accept what was, in effect, an office without portfolio. After five weeks of haggling, he was made, at his own suggestion, a master of Requests in succession to Sir Christopher Parkin*, who had recently died. Coke was delighted, and wrote to his wife that ‘I have now a real experience of my lord marquess’s favour, by whose means His Majesty hath bestowed on me a place of good account in his service’. Under normal circumstances Buckingham would have expected payment for his services, but he made no such demand of Coke, who remarked that ‘the manner of the giving doth ... much amplify the gift’.81

Following the journey to Spain of Prince Charles and Buckingham, the navy commissioners were instructed to prepare a fleet to fetch the two men home. Coke threw himself into the work with vigour, but his new duties at Court meant that he was not always able to consult his colleagues before taking decisions, and so incurred their displeasure.82 Buckingham, then in Madrid, nevertheless remained pleased with him, and at the end of May 1623 assured him that ‘a little more time shall better assure you how much I am your faithful friend and servant’.83 Over the summer Coke, who had promised on his appointment as a master of Requests to move his family closer to London, brought his wife and children to live at the Gatehouse, in St. John’s Clerkenwell for a few months. By they end of the year the family had settled at Austin Friars, presumably as house guests of Fulke Greville, while Coke investigated the possibility of taking a house in Westminster.84

The move from Hall Court to London kept Coke away from his desk for six weeks.85 On his return to duty in mid-August 1623 he learned that the king was dissatisfied at the fleet’s slow preparations and wished to increase its strength. Coke immediately took matters in hand himself, drawing up the estimate for an additional warship and spurring into action his fellow navy commissioners, who wrote to the fleet’s commander with proposals for remedying James’s complaints.86 The king was most grateful, for although Coke was careful not to claim the credit himself James let him know that he ‘doth most graciously cherish that diligence and good affection which you show in all occasions of his’.87

Over the summer Coke’s resentment that he had not been permitted to accomplish more began to resurface. In particular he remained bitter that the naval regulations which he had presented to Buckingham in 1619 had never been adopted. Had they been implemented, he claimed, they would have prevented any recurrence of the malpractices which had beset the navy before 1619. As it was, he now suspected that two of his fellow navy commissioners had misbehaved themselves. The man responsible for advising Buckingham that the draft regulations would ‘disturb the commission’, Coke now condemned as being ‘neither friend to the commission nor the service’.88 There seems little doubt that this was a thinly veiled reference to Middlesex, whom Coke had accused of posturing as a reformer only ten months earlier. Coke certainly suspected that the lord treasurer had obstructed his plans to reform the ordnance. Although these had finally been endorsed by the king and Council, Middlesex, who controlled the purse-strings, had failed to implement Coke’s recommendations. Middlesex may simply have been anxious to avoid being upstaged by a potential rival, but he may also have acted out of financial self-interest, for in July 1621 he had concluded a lucrative property deal with the ordnance officers.89 For the time being, however, Coke was powerless to take action as Middlesex remained one of Buckingham’s clients. Fortunately for him, however, this situation soon changed, for at the beginning of 1624 Buckingham, now a duke and newly returned to England, resolved to bring about the destruction of the lord treasurer in Parliament for refusing to support a war with Spain.

Coke was elected to the 1624 Parliament by the Cornish borough of St. Germans on the interest of his brother-in-law Valentine Carey, bishop of Exeter. As in 1621 he was not the only Mr. Coke in the Commons, as Henry Coke had been returned for Chipping Wycombe. It seems likely that he, rather than his namesake, was appointed on 27 Feb. to help examine the charge that Buckingham had spoken dishonourably of the king of Spain at a recent conference of both Houses.90 It was probably also Coke who was subsequently ordered to assist in explaining to the Lords the Commons’ reasons for advising the king to break off the Spanish marriage negotiations (3 Mar.) and to help draw up a declaration concerning the expected war that would ensue (11 March).91 Like most Members, Coke was an enthusiastic advocate of war, and drafted a speech against Spain in which he also criticized Middlesex obliquely. Financial necessity, he argued, should not be used to justify the pursuit of a Spanish dowry. Moreover, England was fully capable of paying for a war against Spain from its own resources provided that the royal finances were brought under control. However, Coke never delivered this speech, possibly because so many Members wished to participate in the war debates of 5 and 11 Mar. that it was not possible for all of them to be heard.92 He did manage to gain a hearing on 20 Mar., though, when Members debated in grand committee Sir Edwin Sandys’s proposals regarding the financing and management of a war. He condemned one of Sandys’s points as being too general to satisfy the king, and argued that James’s need for money extended to more than just the recovery of the Palatinate, as it was also essential to secure Ireland, assist the Dutch, fortify the ports and set out the navy - aims which were subsequently included in the Subsidy Act.93 Coke made no further recorded interventions during this sitting, but on 3 Apr. he had himself named to the committee for the Wye navigation bill (3 Apr.), a measure in which, as a Herefordshire resident, he was presumably interested. A week later he was also appointed to consider a bill to establish three lectureships in divinity (10 April). Coke was almost certainly the man who was added on 20 Mar. to the committee to consider the king’s demand for six subsidies and 12 fifteenths, and he must also have been the Mr. Coke who was appointed to help draft the charges against Middlesex on 12 April.94 This is because, one week earlier, he had given evidence to a Lords’ sub-committee on Middlesex’s failure to implement reform of the ordnance office. Coke’s testimony, which has not survived, was evidently highly damaging, and formed the basis of one of the main accusations against the beleaguered lord treasurer. On 9 Apr. Middlesex angrily declared that he was the victim of a conspiracy organized by Coke and Buckingham’s client, Sir Robert Pye*. However, the Lords were not impressed when he portrayed himself as a successful reformer of the king’s finances. On 13 May lord keeper Williams declared that in the navy at least, credit belonged not to Middlesex, who had ‘assumed the whole glory to himself’, but to Coke.95

The fall of Middlesex undoubtedly gave Coke great personal satisfaction, but it coincided with the death in childbirth of his beloved wife Marie. As he had a young family to support it was not long before he was casting around for a new wife, and in November, soon after being knighted, he wed the widow of a wealthy London alderman.96 Shortly thereafter he moved his family from the Austin Friars to a house in Garlick Hill, close to that road’s junction with Bow Lane.97 By then it was being rumoured that he would soon succeed as secretary of state Sir George Calvert*, but in the event he was pipped to the post by Sir Albertus Morton*.98

Following the death of James I in March 1625, England began preparing for war with Spain. In mid-April Coke, apparently on his own initiative, formulated a proposal which he presented to Buckingham directly, bypassing the Council of War which had been set up to offer strategic advice a year earlier. While the navy harried the enemy off the Spanish coast, he suggested, a fleet of privately owned vessels, spearheaded by a few royal warships, should establish bases in Spain’s Caribbean island colonies. In the short term this would merely deprive Spain of valuable territories, but in the long term the invaders, formed into a West Indies Company, would exploit the islands for their own commercial purposes. Each fleet would cost £180,000 to set out, which sum Coke expected to be raised from public subscription. In theory all donations would be voluntary, but in practice pressure would be exerted to ensure that money was forthcoming. Towns, for example, would be induced to give under threat of withdrawal of their municipal privileges.99 To some extent Coke’s scheme, with its allocation of particular sums to individual counties, officeholders and noblemen, resembled the Palatinate Benevolence of 1621-2, although in contrast to the Benevolence Coke hoped to implement his plan with ‘the advice and furtherance of Parliament’, which had recently been summoned to meet again. Coke’s scheme also harked back to the Elizabethan war with Spain, though as Young has observed, one of its central features - the creation of an English West India Company to rival the newly established Dutch organization - anticipated the Providence Island Company of the 1630s.100 Despite its boldness Coke’s scheme was not adopted, perhaps because it would have taken strategic control of the naval war away from the lord admiral and placed it in the hands of the directors of a limited Company.

Coke was one of the official mourners at James I’s funeral on 7 May.101 Later that same month, and well into June, he laboured hard to ensure the adequacy of the victualling arrangements for the fleet that was preparing to attack Spain, organizing inspections and summoning those who were found to have provided faulty supplies.102 Buckingham, who was in France for much of this time, was so impressed with Coke’s diligence that he wrote to thank him.103 When Parliament finally opened on 18 June Coke, who had once again been elected for St. Germans, initially remained in the background, for though a key naval administrator and a master of Requests he had not yet achieved the seniority normally expected of a leading government spokesman. Indeed, before the beginning of the second week in July his only recorded involvement was to be nominated to three committees, one of which was to consider the Arminian cleric Richard Montagu’s anti-Calvinist treatise Appello Caesarem.104 At the beginning of July, however, events conspired to transform Coke into the government’s principal spokesman in the Commons.

Shortly after Parliament opened the new king, Charles I, failed to indicate how much money he needed for the forthcoming war. By the end of June many Members, desperate to escape the plague that was now raging in London, decided to vote the king two subsidies, worth around £160,000 in total. As this sum was entirely inadequate, Buckingham rode to Hampton Court to speak to Charles, returning to York House at around midnight on 7 July, by which time the subsidy bill had already received two readings. The duke immediately summoned as many of his friends and clients who had seats in the Commons and announced that he wished the issue of supply to be reopened the following morning. When the privy councillors with seats in the House learned of this early the next day they were horrified. Sir Humphrey May quickly realized that any attempt to revisit the question of supply would poison relations with the Commons, whose Members would feel affronted at the king’s apparent ingratitude. Since he was disliked by Buckingham, May turned for assistance to the duke’s client (Sir) John Eliot*, who spent the next couple of hours closeted with the duke. However, Buckingham was not only immoveable, but had already decided to bypass the councillors and employ Coke as his spokesman.105 Coke, whose residence at Garlick Hill lay not far from York House, had probably attended the previous night’s gathering of the duke’s ‘privados’, as he could not have addressed the Commons unless he had been fully briefed beforehand. In any event, Coke must have spent most of the early hours of the morning of 8 July writing his speech, which went through two drafts before it was completed.106

By the time Coke addressed the Commons the subsidy bill had been sent to the Lords, and therefore any chance of increasing the size of the grant without introducing fresh legislation had been lost. Despite this setback, Coke set about wooing his audience. He began by thanking the House for its grant of two subsidies, and for its zeal in not waiting to be asked, and he also commended its careful examination of the accounts of the subsidies voted in 1624. As promised, he declared, this money had been spent entirely on military preparations, and although Count Mansfeld’s expedition had failed to achieve ‘that good effect which was hoped’ for, its very existence had served to keep several princes from declaring for the emperor and forced the enemy to incur the expense of keeping more soldiers in the field. There was, of course, no excuse for the disorderly behaviour of Mansfeld’s troops, he added, but to some extent their misconduct was a self-inflicted wound, as many shires had deliberately raised recruits from the dregs of society. Indeed, Mansfeld himself had complained that he had been sent ‘such men as would be kept under no government’. As for those who grumbled that Mansfeld, a German, should never have been entrusted with command, Coke observed that as his army was to have included both French and Dutch units there would have been protests had an Englishmen been appointed. Coke’s defence of Mansfeld’s expedition was a necessary prelude to the remainder of his speech, for in seeking to show that the money voted in 1624 had been well spent he was hoping to remove one of the chief obstacles to further supply. Having dealt with this matter, Coke now turned to the main part of his speech. He began by asserting that the two subsidies now voted had, in effect, already been spent, for the king had recently laid out more than £200,000 on the navy from his own resources. Indeed, the shortfall was more than £140,000, and there was also the cost of the four English regiments in Dutch service to consider, as well as the £20,000 needed each month to keep Mansfeld’s army in being and a subvention of £46,000 paid to the Danes. The king was not capable of bearing these costs himself, he said, having inherited considerable debts and expended large sums on an expanded royal Household and his father’s funeral. This meant that either Charles should cease his military preparations, ‘and so desert the cause’, which course would be dishonourable, or Parliament should vote additional supply. As no help could be expected from France, which was once again on the brink of civil war, Germany’s Protestant princes would inevitably be forced to capitulate if England abandoned them. For the sake of religion, he argued, it was essential that the fleet should sail, ‘whatsoever it shall cost’. Charles was naturally anxious not to overburden his people and appreciated that Members would want to consult their constituents before offering more subsidies. In the meantime, however, the Commons should provide the king with a line of credit by promising to finance the war for as long as it lasted. Unless either money or credit was forthcoming, Charles might be forced ‘to strain some other way’ to raise money, a course of action which Coke himself hoped would never be adopted.107

Coke had made the case for additional supply as persuasively as possible under the circumstances, but the councillors present, irritated at having their role usurped and unhappy at the strategy that had been adopted, remained conspicuously silent. Only the Privy Council clerk Sir William Beecher rose to second Coke’s motion, which was quietly laid aside by the solicitor-general (Sir Robert Heath*). It was not only the councillors who were disgruntled, however, as it was widely felt that Coke’s request for a further grant was an attempt to exploit a thinly attended chamber, as many Members, fearful of the plague, had fled the capital. As Sir Robert Phelips later remarked, it looked more like a ‘surprise of enemies’ than ‘an overture from friends’.108 Some Members may also have resented the manner of Coke’s delivery, which Sir John Eliot, who was becoming increasingly estranged from Buckingham, privately described as ‘more proper for a school than for a state or Council’.109 Coke himself was incensed at the angry reactions to his speech. The next day he told his friend and fellow navy commissioner Sir Robert Pye, then Member for Westminster, that he had ‘no disposition’ to attend that morning as other business needed his attention, nor would he help present the petition of both Houses on religion to the king at Hampton Court that afternoon as he had been instructed. However, he wished Pye to let him know how the petition was received, ‘as also of any other occurrence or resolution concerning the adjournment of the House’.110 Coke remained aggrieved when he resumed his seat on 11 July. Before announcing that Charles had agreed to a recess, he denied having earlier spoken independently, as some had supposed.111

Following the adjournment Coke fled the capital and set up home at Tottenham, where his wife owned a house.112 When Parliament reassembled at Oxford at the beginning of August the king decided that secretary Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*) should repeat Coke’s earlier demand for additional supply. However, Conway was not well briefed, and at the last moment, before the assembled throng in Christ Church Hall, Charles quietly instructed Coke to deliver the speech instead. After thanking the Commons for its earlier grant of two subsidies, Coke repeated that more help was needed, either in the form of money or credit, as Spain was now planning to invade. The king had already spent £400,000 of his own and his coffers were now empty. Some assistance could be expected from the sale of prizes, he added, but the main burden necessarily fell on Parliament, which had a moral obligation to finance the war, as the Spanish Match had been broken off partly at its request. Coke spoke in this vein for nearly an hour, but many of those present scarcely heeded his arguments as they were outraged that, contrary to precedent, a Member of the Commons had been permitted to address both Houses. As on 8 July, Coke found himself sharply criticized for something for which he was not responsible and which he was powerless to remedy.113 Few Members were more jealous of Coke’s new found prominence than Sir John Eliot. On 6 Aug. Eliot attacked Coke obliquely blaming the fleet’s failure to put to sea on the navy commissioners, of whom Coke was now, of course, the most senior. Coke, however, retorted that Eliot’s criticism was merely ‘an artificial condemning of my lord admiral’, and he challenged the House to mount an investigation if it really believed the commissioners to be faulty.114

On 8 Aug. the Commons was informed that Buckingham, who intended to address the House, wished to be assisted by Coke and two senior members of the Lords. This request, so far as it involved Coke, was a tacit acknowledgement that the king’s earlier failure to observe customary practice had been mistaken, but it also paved the way for Coke to continue to act as a senior Crown spokesman without further recriminations. After grumbling that the request was contrary to its privileges, the Commons assented, provided that it was understood that Coke would be speaking ‘as a commissioner’ or as ‘the king’s servant’, rather than as ‘a Parliament man’.115 Later that day Buckingham, with Coke ‘standing by’, told the Commons that he had taken military advice from both the Council of War and Coke. He further explained that he had dug deeply into his own pockets to help meet the costs of the military preparations, and was thereupon seconded by Coke.116 Not everyone was satisfied that Buckingham had taken full account of the views of individual members of the Council of War, however, for on the final day of the sitting (12 Aug.) Sir Robert Mansell, a member of the Council, complained of a lack of proper consultation and claimed that he had not even been informed of the fleet’s objectives. Coke heartily disliked Mansell, a highly corrupt former treasurer of the navy who had earlier cast aspersions on the quality of the captains employed by Buckingham, and retorted that Mansell had not been consulted because he had refused to attend meetings of the Council after his advice was rejected by his colleagues. However, at least one diarist thought that Mansell had the better of the debate.117

Following the dissolution Coke returned to Tottenham. Shortly thereafter secretary Morton died of the plague and, perhaps at Buckingham’s behest, Coke was appointed to succeed him.118 He subsequently journeyed to Plymouth, where the king had gone to inspect the fleet, and was sworn in. There he saw the fleet not only put to sea but almost immediately return to port, whereupon he berated its commander, Sir Edward Cecil*. After the fleet sailed for a second time, he returned to Tottenham and turned his attention to his own affairs.119 Now that he was a government minister and the husband of a wealthy widow, he could afford to expand his property holdings, and by early December he had his eyes fixed on the manor of Baggrave, in Leicestershire, which would cost at least £8,000 and had, until recently, belonged to Buckingham’s elder half-brother, Sir Edward Villiers*.120 Before this transaction could be completed, however, he learned of the failure of Cecil’s expedition. Charles and Buckingham refused to be discouraged by this setback and planned to mount a further operation in the following year, but Coke, who was desperately trying to raise money from captured prize vessels, was horrified at this prospect. ‘For God’s sake (my good lord)’, he told Conway, ‘let us first see how we can raise monies to discharge this unfortunate army and fleet that cometh home before there be any debate or mention of increasing more charge’. He later warned that ‘if we proceed to work without means ... we shall but expose all our actions to the scorn of the world’ and ‘draw upon us more danger than is yet taken to heart’.121 This was sound advice but both the king and Buckingham were anxious to mount further military operations as soon as possible. On 20 Dec., shortly before writs ordering fresh parliamentary elections were issued, Coke suggested, rather half-heartedly perhaps, that it might be possible to intercept the Spanish treasure fleet the following May, provided that ‘our Parliament, or our officers of the finances ... enable us to be ready by that time’.122

Coke naturally expected to serve in the forthcoming Parliament, and in January 1626 wrote to his brother-in-law, Valentine Carey, bishop of Exeter, to obtain for him the seat at St. Germans which he had held previously. Carey was initially hopeful of success, but it quickly became apparent that he would be thwarted by his tenant Sir John Eliot, lord of the manor of St. Germans, who now ranged himself alongside Buckingham’s enemies.123 Coke seems to have anticipated this difficulty, however, and therefore also put himself forward for the senior university place at Cambridge, which was fast becoming a safe seat for successive secretaries of state. Although the university’s chancellor was Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk, whose obstructionism had wrecked Coke’s planned naval reforms in 1604, Suffolk indicated that he supported Coke, and subsequently both Coke and Dr. Thomas Eden, another of Buckingham’s supporters, were returned unanimously.124 Consequently Coke had no need of a burgess-ship at East Looe, which was offered to him by Sir George Chudleigh* at the beginning of February.125

Shortly after Parliament opened, Coke and his fellow privy councillor Sir Thomas Edmondes presented the Speaker, (Sir) Heneage Finch, to the House of Lords (8 February). The following day he became a member of the committee for privileges, and on 10 Feb. was appointed to the committee for considering all aspects of religion.126 This was timely, for the next day he attended, at Buckingham’s invitation, the York House Conference, where he helped defend the doctrine of predestination against the teachings of the Arminian cleric Richard Montagu.127 Coke’s presence at this conference, which also met on 17 Feb., presumably necessitated his temporary absence from the Commons, as must Council business, since for much of the first two weeks of the session he is scarcely mentioned in the parliamentary records. He may have put in an appearance on 14 Feb., however, when, being Member for Cambridge University, he was named to the committee to prevent corruption in presentations to headships, fellowships and scholarships in colleges and halls.128

Coke did not address the Commons until 22 Feb., when Eliot reported from the select committee for grievances concerning the recent arrest of a French ship, the St. Peter of Newhaven, on suspicion of carrying contraband goods. According to the select committee, this arrest, which had occurred several months earlier, had precipitated the seizure of English ships and wares in France. Over the last few weeks the crisis had deepened, for although the St. Peter had been released in late January 1626 following an appeal by her owners, she had been re-arrested on 4 Feb. after the lieutenant of the Tower, Sir Allen Apsley, and the lieutenant of Dover Castle, Sir John Hippisley†, had alleged that her cargo was certainly Spanish. Coke, who had played a key role in the Council discussions concerning the St. Peter, and had secured her original release, hoped that, despite the second detention of the ship, a peaceful diplomatic solution to the crisis might be found. He therefore urged the Commons to leave the matter to the king, who was keenly aware of the damage done to trade by the recent French seizures. He also played down the severity of the dispute, claiming that England still enjoyed friendly relations with the French government and dismissing the seizures of English goods, which he attributed instead to a local body, the parlement of Rouen. He further asserted that the seizures were in any case unconnected with the initial arrest of the St. Peter, a claim which failed to convince Eliot, who argued that the Privy Council itself had acknowledged that the two issues were closely related. Led by Eliot, the Commons now pressed for a further examination of Apsley, whose earlier testimony had been found to be weak and contradictory. Coke was alarmed, for Apsley’s performance had indeed been unimpressive and a further interrogation was only likely to make matters worse. He therefore asked the House to make allowance for the fact that Apsley was ‘a man of slow speech’. Eliot interpreted this plea as a thinly veiled criticism of the select committee’s earlier questioning of the lieutenant, and denied that there had been any attempt to take advantage of Apsley’s ponderous manner. Coke was disregarded, and his attempts to persuade the House not to draft a petition to the king over the second arrest of the St. Peter also fell on deaf ears.129

Coke’s difficulties deepened on 1 Mar., when it became clear that his version of events concerning the second stay of the St. Peter did not tally with the account related by Sir Henry Marten*, the judge of the High Court of Admiralty. At first sight this was surprising, as Marten answered to Buckingham for his office, but the judge was also a friend of Sir John Eliot, to whom he owed his parliamentary seat. Marten claimed that at a Council meeting on 15 Feb. he had told Buckingham that there was no evidence to justify the continued detention of the St. Peter, whereas Coke had affirmed that the ship was held on Marten’s advice. After hearing Marten the House sent for Coke, who was not then in the chamber, to explain the discrepancy, who agreed that Marten had not actually advised the stay of the St. Peter. However, he maintained that the judge had nevertheless told Buckingham that it was perfectly legitimate to detain the ship ‘till proofs might be produced’. In an aside he also cast doubt on Marten’s claim that he had made ‘an eloquent and elaborate oration’ at the Council meeting two weeks earlier, observing that he ‘has not the facility nor leisure to study elaborate speeches’. An outraged Marten replied that ‘if the House believe Sir John Coke, he cannot be an honest man’.

Coke’s disagreement with Marten was exacerbated by the outbreak of a fresh quarrel with Sir Robert Mansell, the former navy treasurer with whom Coke had crossed swords in August 1625. On 25 Feb. Coke had revealed to the House the advice that he and his fellow navy commissioners had recently presented to the Privy Council concerning the defence of the coasts and the Thames. Mansell, who clearly hated Coke, had thereupon expressed his disapproval and offered to lay an alternative course of action ‘before some few lords’.130 However, when Coke privately invited him to present his propositions before the Council Mansell declined, as he had not been granted permission by the House. On 1 Mar., shortly before Eliot outlined Marten’s testimony concerning the second stay of the St. Peter, Mansell roundly condemned the strategy recommended by Coke and the navy commissioners as ‘rather an invitation to an enemy’ than the basis for a sound defence. Coke retorted sharply that Mansell’s criticism was misguided, as the advice laid before the Privy Council by the navy commissioners had actually been formulated by others.131 This was doubtless true, but Mansell had caught the mood of the House as many Members were alarmed at the navy’s recent failure to defend merchant shipping and the coasts adequately. On 6 Mar. Eliot joined in the attack, accusing Coke of having disregarded an order from the Privy Council to provide warships for coastal defence, with disastrous consequences to the maritime community. Eliot was in fact referring to two Council orders, both of which had been issued while Buckingham was in Paris in May 1625, when only two warships were on duty in the Channel. Eliot’s accusation was extremely serious if it were true, but Coke successfully rebutted the charge of impropriety by pointing out that he had not provided the ships because the Council had been unable to find the money to pay for them, an explanation corroborated by Sir Humphrey May. Coke subsequently observed that additional ships for coastal defence had been at sea since October 1625.132

It was clear that Eliot at least was trying to discredit Coke, but after 6 Mar. he switched his attention to a far more promising and important target, his former patron, Buckingham. Eliot, like many others in the House, now believed that the recent failures in naval defence were primarily the responsibility of the duke, whom they also blamed for the re-arrest of the St. Peter. It therefore followed that any further attempt to blame Coke for these offences risked weakening the case against Buckingham. Coke, who must have been relieved that he was no longer a focus of parliamentary hostility, now devoted his energies to defending Buckingham from the charges that were being drawn up against him. On 16 Mar., when Eliot sought to revive the issue of the St. Peter, Coke warned Members that they should not let their ‘inaffections to any particular person’ lead them into ‘inconvenience’.133 Two days later Coke again intervened after Eliot complained that in the summer of 1625, when there had been only a couple of warships on duty in the Channel, Buckingham had not only lent the French eight English warships but also allowed them to be employed against England’s co-religionists, the Huguenots of La Rochelle. After pointing out that the Protestant Dutch had lent the French more ships than the English, Coke tried to forestall further criticism by claiming that any man who censured the loan of the eight ships ‘would wrong his king, his country’ and ‘himself’, a remark which drew a sharp response from both Eliot and Edward Kirton.134 Coke later attempted to draw the Commons’ attention away from Buckingham by admitting that he had drafted the instructions regarding these ships himself and by blaming the French for their duplicity, for it had been intended that the ships should be employed against the Spanish satellite state of Genoa rather than the Huguenots. Indeed, their captains had been expressly forbidden to serve against the Rochellois.135

Coke’s willingness to defend Buckingham so openly was not a strategy calculated to win him friends in the Commons. On 24 Mar. he again placed himself in the firing line after Eliot reported that the sub-committee appointed to investigate Buckingham had concluded that the responsibility for the failure to guard to the Narrow Seas lay entirely with the duke. Coke replied that lack of money rather than Buckingham was to blame, and in the heat of the moment he urged the House to consider ‘how unjustly these things are laid upon the lord admiral’. His choice of language was perhaps unwise, for the word ‘unjustly’ implied that the sub-committee had somehow acted unfairly. Consequently Eliot demanded that the House ‘take order’ with Coke, who hastily explained that he had not intended to accuse the sub-committee of any impropriety.136 The following day the Venetian ambassador reported that Coke’s enemies in the Commons, irritated perhaps by the secretary’s continual defence of Buckingham and emboldened by the recent expulsion from the House of the privy councillor Sir Thomas Edmondes, were trying to get the circumstances of Coke’s election investigated in the hope of unseating him.137 Coke’s right to sit was never formally challenged, however, but on 5 Apr. he and his fellow privy councillor Sir Richard Weston were given the unenviable task of presenting and reading out to the king the House’s Remonstrance against Buckingham.138 On 22 Apr. Coke, along with several other Buckingham clients, was ordered to attend the committee for steering through the House the impeachment charges against the duke. His testimony is unrecorded, but behind the scenes he evidently helped Buckingham prepare his answer to those of the charges that concerned the navy.139 However, Coke played no part in the debates which immediately preceded the presentation of the charges to the Lords in May. Indeed, his name disappeared from the records of the Commons between 26 Apr., when he spoke during a debate on supply, and 8 June, when he was appointed to help draft a Remonstrance against the continued levying of Tunnage and Poundage. For much of this time he was forced by illness to be absent from the Commons, for he was not back on his feet again until 30 May, when Conway congratulated him on his recovery.

As well as defending Buckingham, Coke also devoted much of his energy in Parliament to trying to persuade the Commons to finance the war against Spain. Six weeks into the session the king ordered the House to hasten its vote of supply, but many Members wished first to consider the complaints against Buckingham. Coke was aghast, for until money was voted it would be impossible to make defensive preparations, and therefore, on 20 Mar., he urged that they should ‘not lose a day’. Nonetheless it was not until three days later that the Commons turned to consider the question of supply. As in 1625, Coke spelled out in detail what was required, adding that haste was needed in view of Spain’s considerable naval preparations.140 On 27 Mar. the Commons finally resolved to vote money, but any relief Coke may have felt was short lived, as the Commons was unwilling to pass the subsidy bill until its grievances had been remedied, while Eliot and several other Members also favoured delaying payment of the first instalment even after the passage of the Act. Once again Coke argued that the government’s needs were urgent, but his remonstrations went unheeded.141 By Friday 9 June the king’s patience was almost exhausted. The Commons was ordered to turn its attention to the subsidy bill immediately or face dissolution. Some Members evidently thought that Charles was bluffing and suggested postponing all discussion until the following Monday, whereupon an exasperated Coke demanded that Members should commence their deliberations the next day. Coke was now more than ever convinced of the urgent need for supply, for ever since 1 June he had attended the Council of War, to which he had been appointed in early May, rather than the Commons, and had learned of the scale of Spanish preparations for an invasion.142 Many of Coke’s colleagues in the Commons, however, regarded the threat of invasion as merely a pretext designed to extract subsidies. Indeed, on 12 June William Coryton baldly stated that ‘there is no danger of a foreign invasion’, at which Coke was incredulous. There were ‘more certain arguments’ that an invasion was imminent, he said, than there had been in 1588. Indeed, the threat was so great that it required ‘more supply than is apprehended’.143

As a defender of Buckingham and an advocate of a generous and immediate vote of supply Coke was out of sympathy with many of his fellow Members, but in one respect his views and theirs may have coincided sharply. Coke was a mainstream Calvinist, as his defence of the doctrine of predestination against the teaching of Richard Montagu at the York House Conference shows, and like many Calvinists he evinced a deep hatred of Catholicism. Some observers regarded him as a puritan, and to the extent that he abhorred swearing, smoking and drinking there was some truth in this charge. However, he also deplored separatists and ‘private conventicles’ and was committed to the established church, in which his brother George served as a bishop.144 On 6 Mar. the Commons instructed Coke to help establish whether the king had written to the mayor of York to reprieve two popish priests; he later reported back Charles’s admission that the letter had been sent ‘upon good grounds’.145 At a joint conference with the Lords concerning recusancy on 28 Mar., Coke announced that recusants ‘doubt not to prevail and win ground upon us’. On 19 Apr. he was part of a four-man deputation sent to ask the king not to allow Montagu to publish any more books until the Commons had decided what to do about those that had already been printed.146

Following the dissolution the king, having failed to obtain parliamentary subsidies, resolved to ask his subjects for a Benevolence. Coke approved of this idea, for in a common danger men should not wilfully abandon ‘their religion, prince and country to the enemy’s power’, and he was relieved that the scheme would not involve any element of compulsion.147 He must therefore have been dismayed when, later that summer, Charles abandoned the idea of a Benevolence in favour of a Forced Loan. Money was certainly urgently needed, for in October a fleet under Lord Willoughby put to sea so poorly equipped that it failed to reach Spain. Although under-funding was undoubtedly to blame for this fiasco, the failure of both Willoughby’s and Cecil’s expeditions inevitably raised questions about the quality of the navy’s administration. Consequently, a special commission of inquiry was established by the king in December 1626. As a leading member of the navy commission, Coke could hardly be expected to take part in this inquiry himself, but the admiralty secretary, Edward Nicholas, argued that it would be intolerable if he were to be excluded, as many of the special commissioners were ‘of much meaner condition’ than himself and might want to examine him. Consequently, Coke and two of his fellow navy commissioners, the chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Richard Weston and and the Exchequer auditor Sir Robert Pye, were appointed to the special commission.148 In order to avoid a conflict of interest, however, Coke avoided attending its meetings until 18 Feb. 1627, when he put in an appearance as a privy councillor in company with the king.149 How far Charles and Buckingham blamed Coke for the two recent naval disasters is unclear, but in mid-January 1627 Sir Edward Greville*, a well-placed source, reported that ‘it is thought that Sir John Coke is in some disgrace’.150

Although Coke had his doubts about the Forced Loan he kept them to himself. Instead he praised the king for his ‘royal care and moderation’ and considered that both Charles and the Privy Council had been overly lenient in pursuing those who had hitherto proved reluctant to contribute. Writing to Conway at the beginning of March 1627 he hoped that payments would be demanded ‘in a more earnest manner’, for otherwise those who had not contributed ‘may gather confidence out of neglect’.151 Two months later Coke underscored his belief that the king had acted moderately by denying that the Loan was a novel expedient and arguing that Charles had made every effort to gain the consent and cooperation of his subjects.152 He made these statements during the trial in Star Chamber of Thomas Perkins, a groom who stood accused of distributing a pamphlet attacking the Loan as a means of obviating the need for a Parliament. Coke denied that Charles intended to do without parliaments, and sometime in the spring of 1627 he advised the king, in an anonymous treatise written in his own distinctive hand, to summon a fresh meeting ‘so soon as he hath prepared his fleet and land forces’.

The most distinctive feature of Coke’s treatise was that it proposed a way of raising additional funds independently of Parliament, for although parliamentary subsidies were needed Coke had long understood that further significant revenues were required to fight a war with Spain, as his earlier project for the creation of an English West India Company made clear. Coke advocated the creation of a society of loyal subjects modelled on the Bond of Association of 1584, whose members would swear to serve and protect both the king and ‘the religion and government established under him’ against all enemies. Admission would be upon payment of a fee, which would vary depending on the social rank of the applicant. Every adult male would be encouraged to join, and a record would be made of those who refused. However, as members would be entitled to wear either a badge or a riband, it would be easy to identify refusers on sight, who could then be exposed to shame and ridicule. Like Coke’s earlier proposal for the creation of a West India Company, the beauty of this scheme was that, in theory at least, it was entirely voluntary and thus unlike the Forced Loan not vulnerable to the charge of illegality. Coke did not overtly criticize the Loan, of course, but his treatise contains a strong hint of disapproval, for in one passage he suggested that anyone who had failed to contribute to the Loan but who now gave generously to the new association would have their previous offence remitted, ‘that no remembrance of distraction may remain among us’.153

While there was considerable continuity of thought between Coke’s projects to create a West India Company and a loyal association, there were equally some sharp differences. Coke had envisaged that the West India Company would be an exclusively English affair, and had therefore ignored any financial contribution that either Ireland or Scotland might make. By contrast, in his treatise of 1627 Coke drew attention to the union of arms recently instituted in Spain, whereby the lesser kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula were forced to contribute to the Spanish war effort as well as Castile. The king, he argued, should follow Spain’s example by uniting ‘his three kingdoms in a strict union ... for their mutual defence ... every one with such a proportion of horse, foot or shipping as may be rateably thought fit’. It seems likely that Coke had been moving towards this position for some time, for in June 1626, at the height of the Spanish invasion scare, he had been deputed by the Council of War to ask the king to order the Scots to set out ships and provide mariners for military service. As a result of this initiative, which almost certainly originated with Coke himself, the Scots were forced to create a small navy of their own, which remained in being until at least the early 1630s.154 Coke’s advocacy of a union of arms was the only aspect of his treatise which seems to have attracted the support of either Charles or Buckingham, for the forces raised to relieve Buckingham’s army at the Ile de Ré later that year included one regiment each from Scotland and Ireland. Coke himself voluntarily provided a couple of horses, complete with saddles and pistols, for the Ré expedition, for which he received fulsome thanks from Buckingham’s master of the horse.155 As Robert Pye later informed the duke, Coke was eager to help Buckingham at Ré in any way that he could, but he proved unable to organize the relief expedition in time, and consequently following Buckingham’s defeat it was reported that he was in some disgrace.156 In February 1628 the duke decided to wind up the navy commission, which he now considered too unwieldy, and to restore the administration of the navy to the principal officers. Ironically, the large size of the navy commission was a defect which Coke himself had identified in 1619, but whereas Coke had then argued that it was necessary to slim down the commission Buckingham now decided to abolish it altogether. This was misguided, as the real problem was that there were actually too few active commissioners in 1627-8 rather than too many, but this was little consolation to Coke, who for the first time since 1618 was no longer formally associated with the navy.157

Following Buckingham’s return to England, Coke drafted a royal Proclamation imposing an excise on ale, beer and cider. Coke evidently favoured this new duty, perhaps because it would help keep the army in being and the fleet at sea.158 However, the excise was never introduced as the king, perhaps encouraged by Coke, resolved to call another Parliament. As in 1626 Coke turned to Cambridge University for a place. Although Buckingham was now its chancellor, the university proved slow to respond, tardiness for which the vice-chancellor subsequently apologized to Coke, who was elected unopposed.159

Soon after Parliament opened the Commons turned its attention to the Forced Loan. Coke, who had his own private reservations about the Loan and appreciated the explosive nature of this issue, attempted to disarm the Loan’s opponents by a candid confession. Speaking on 22 Mar. he admitted that ‘illegal courses have been taken’, but added that the government had been driven to adopt them out of necessity. Now was not the time to argue over legal niceties as this would be like trying to make minor repairs when the whole house was on fire. Besides, ‘necessity hath no law’. Everyone knew the danger posed by foreign enemies, he added, ignoring the fact that a few minutes earlier Sir Edward Coke had denied the reality of this threat. Rather than complain about the Loan the Commons should demonstrate its willingness to supply the king, which would ‘amaze the enemy more than ten subsidies’. This should be done straight away, for if grievances were handled first supply might become conditional on redress. However, Coke’s hopes of stemming the tide of criticism by admitting that the government had acted illegally out of necessity were quickly dashed as Sir Dudley Digges retorted that a king who was not fettered by the law ‘rules slaves that cannot serve him’.160 There was equally such little enthusiasm for Coke’s insistence that supply be considered ahead of grievances that Coke was forced to modify his demand. On 24 Mar. he asked that if Charles’s business was not to be dealt with first it should at least be accorded precedence, meaning that he wanted the heads of supply to be propounded before grievances were considered.161 The Commons remained unmoved, however, and Coke was again forced to retreat, for on the 25th he announced that Charles now regarded the House’s grievances as his own and therefore no longer insisted on precedence. Nonetheless Charles still expected the Commons to rush through supply, ‘lest we spend time in deliberation which should be in action’,162 and accordingly he had provided Coke with a list of his financial demands in the form of 14 propositions, which were now read out. These included money to set out ships to guard the coasts, relieve La Rochelle and keep open the Sound, pay off the debts of the navy and ordnance office, finance an army of 11,000 men and support 6,000 soldiers in Danish service. However, no sums were specified as the king preferred to leave the size of any grant to the Commons. This was not entirely helpful, for as Sir Edward Coke remarked the following day, it was difficult to assess the king’s requirements unless details such as the amount of the arrears were known. Secretary Coke agreed, and therefore promised that the House would be notified of the total amount owed by the king if it wished, but if he then expected the Commons to debate the propositions immediately he was to be disappointed as Members needed time to study them. A frustrated Coke subsequently moved the House to set a time but was ignored.163

Instead of debating the king’s propositions the Commons returned to the Forced Loan. On 26 Mar. Sir Robert Phelips complained that the oath associated with the Loan was ‘something resembling the Inquisition of Spain’, whereupon Coke angrily demanded that Phelips should ‘forbear such harsh words as to compare anything that is done here to the Spanish Inquisition’. For once Coke had the upper hand as Phelips was forced to explain, somewhat lamely, that ‘I did but resemble it to the better part of the Inquisition’.164 Later that same day Sir Francis Nethersole attempted to expand upon Coke’s earlier observation, that the king had been compelled by necessity to demand the Loan regardless of the law. If a man might take the goods of another in order to preserve his life, he reasoned, was it therefore not acceptable for the king to do the same for the sake of the kingdom, especially if he had asked Parliament for supply and been refused? Just as every man had an inviolable right to defend his life and goods, which could not be abrogated by law, so the king was entitled to defend the nation without reference to the law. Besides, Parliament’s refusal to vote supply in 1626 despite urgent necessity ‘must needs be wilful’. Nethersole, of course, was merely articulating what Charles and many of his advisers must have felt, but it was scarcely tactful to blame the Loan on the Commons itself and not surprisingly Coke hurried to distance himself from these remarks. ‘I humbly desire you’, he asked his colleagues, ‘to forget what was spoken last, and to take no notice of a case so put’.165 Over the following few days attention continued to be focused on the Loan, and on 31 Mar., after the solicitor-general, Sir Richard Shilton*, justified the Crown’s proceedings in the Five Knights’ Case, an exasperated Coke demanded that the matter be brought to a speedy resolution, for ‘you see how time runs from us, which never was so precious as now’.166

It was not until 2 Apr. that the Commons, sitting as a committee, debated the 14 propositions. From the outset matters went badly for the Crown. Edward Alford stated that his local community would only be able to give when the king enabled it to do so while Sir Robert Mansell, though he agreed that all the heads for supply were needful, thought that seven of them might wait. Sir Francis Seymour wanted to know where the subsidies and loans that had already been raised had gone, for so far all that had been accomplished was to provoke powerful enemies and purchase dishonour. In the face of such a barrage of criticism Coke rose to speak. He began by glossing over many of the remarks made by previous speakers, whom he thanked, with more than a hint of irony, for having expressed ‘great judgment and affection’. However, he was unable to ignore Mansell’s suggestion that seven of the heads of supply should be set aside as the king’s propositions were interlocking and it was impossible to separate them from each other. To those who continued to complain of previous ‘disorders’ he again pleaded the excuse of necessity and urged them not to dwell on the past. The king was ‘tender’ of the country’s grievances and would not demand more money than it could bear. Indeed, he was content that the Commons should give whatever it pleased, for even a small sum would restore his credit and enhance his reputation.167 Nevertheless there were some in the Commons who continued to question the king’s financial demands. Why was it necessary for the Commons to pay for ships to guard the coasts, asked Sir Nathaniel Rich, when money was already allocated for this purpose in the form of Tunnage and Poundage which the king, despite the lack of parliamentary authority, continued to collect. To this Coke answered that Tunnage and Poundage was insufficient, although this was not entirely truthful, as most of this money had been siphoned off to pay the costs of the royal Household. Coke also attempted to rebut the criticism of those who were unhappy at being asked to find the money to support an army of 11,000 men. These troops were needed to strike at France before she could invade. Besides, it would be both ‘miserable’ and an enormous waste of money if England limited herself to fighting a purely defensive war.168 Towards the end of the debate Coke urged the House to sit both morning and afternoon until the matter of supply was decided.169

Although Coke had now made a strong case for supply, both he and the king understood that the Commons would be unwilling to loosen its purse-strings without an assurance that its grievances would be redressed. Consequently the following day, after scotching a rumour that Buckingham had spoken maliciously about the Commons at the Council table, Coke revealed a conversation in which Charles had vigorously declared that the Commons should proceed with its grievances. Overcome with emotion, Coke announced that this showed Charles’s ‘true character’.170 The next day (4 Apr.) he reported that the king was willing to confirm the rights and liberties of the subject as they had been enjoyed ‘under the best of our kings’. This was the assurance that the House had been looking for, and as if by magic the Commons now resolved to grant the king five subsidies.171 Coke himself felt that five was the minimum number that could reasonably be offered, as the expected yield would fall some way short of the king’s wants.172 Charles, however, was so delighted that he declared through Coke that he had quite forgotten his earlier dislike of parliaments and would rejoice to meet them more often. While making this announcement Coke, perhaps inadvertently, gave the impression that he was trying to claim some of the credit himself. He was immediately attacked by Eliot, who accused him of acting as though he were responsible for the king’s goodness, whereupon many of those present cried ‘well spoken, Sir John Eliot!’173

The Commons had now agreed in principle to grant supply, but until the subsidy bill was passed neither Charles nor Coke could relax. In order to speed things along it was decided to instruct Parliament to dispense with the customary Easter recess. However, while the Lords were notified in plenty of time no one remembered to inform the Commons until 10 Apr., the day before Good Friday, by which time many Members had already gone home. Coke apologized deeply for this oversight, but several Members suspected that he and his fellow councillors had deliberately withheld the instruction in the hope of being able to rush the subsidy bill through a thin House.174 Rather than allow this to happen, the Commons determined to sit as a committee to discuss martial law the following day. This was not universally popular, however, for although it was clearly understood that the Commons could not pass the subsidy bill in the absence of so many of its Members, it could at least determine a timetable for the bill. This was certainly the view of Sir Edward Coke, who midway during the debate interjected that ‘subsidy without time is no subsidy’. Sir Edward’s intervention greatly annoyed both Eliot, who replied that the committee was meant to be discussing martial law, and Sir Edward Giles, who thought that this new motion, coming on top of their enforced sitting, added insult to injury. Sir Edward was not alone in his view, however, for Sir Dudley Digges remarked that it might fairly be objected that the House had done nothing in the week since it had agreed to give five subsidies. These divisions among the Commons’ leaders played straight into the hands of secretary Coke, who immediately expanded upon the point that Digges had made. ‘Nothing is done that the world can take notice of’, he fumed. Outside Westminster the world at large had concluded that the king’s business had been brought to a halt. Charles was entitled to ask what he had done to deserve this rebuff, especially as he had proceeded ‘with as much grace as ever [a] king did’. Coke clearly hoped that this harsh rebuke would force the Commons to act quickly, but at the suggestion of Sir Thomas Wentworth it was resolved not to report the bill until all the heads concerning the subjects’ liberties had been agreed.175

When the king learned of the Commons’ decision he was furious. On 12 Apr. he announced, through Coke, that while he had agreed that his affairs and those of the Commons should proceed in tandem he had never intended ‘that the one should give interruption to the other, nor the time to be spun out upon any pretence, upon which the cause of Christendom doth so much depend’. The Commons should take care not to force him to ‘make an unpleasing end of that which was so well begun’. Many of those present interpreted these words to mean that Charles was threatening to dissolve Parliament unless he had his way, but Coke warned Members not to ‘overstrain’ the royal message. The king was not looking to dissolve Parliament, he explained, since Charles hoped for its success, but he was certainly angry that his business had been suspended indefinitely and was alarmed that the Commons’ investigation into the abuse of power had begun to touch upon regal power itself. However Coke’s explanations merely exacerbated the situation as Richard Spencer wanted to know ‘into what powers we should not trench’, while Rich and Phelips suspected that Charles had privately been told that the Commons was a nest of republicans. Rather than return to the matter of supply the House decided to justify its proceedings in a petition to the king, which Coke was ordered to help prepare.176 A few days after the presentation of the petition, however, Coke renewed the king’s complaint. While the Commons sat on its hands all diplomatic activity had ground to a halt. The House’s moratorium, which Coke likened to ‘a frost upon the earth that hinders the sweet vapours between His Majesty and us’, had fuelled rumours that Charles had oppressed his subjects, who now clamoured against him. It also worked against the Commons, for without money Charles could not end one of its chief grievances, the billeting of troops. These soldiers had either to be disbanded or employed abroad, but either way money was needed. However, Coke’s complaints met with a stony silence.177

The Commons was clearly immoveable, and since the king was not yet ready to dissolve Parliament there was little choice but to wait until it had finished examining its grievances. On 22 Apr. it debated in grand committee the use of martial law. William Noye spoke for most if not all the common lawyers present when he declared that commissions of martial law were illegal. Coke was naturally unconvinced, and wondered aloud why there were complaints in this particular case when both ecclesiastical law and the law of equity were tolerated alongside the Common Law. Moreover, as soldiers needed to be governed, and their punishment lay outside the remit of the Common Law, the case for martial law was inescapable. Those who objected that martial law was needlessly sanguinary should remember that its punishments were aimed at those who acted against an entire army or the kingdom itself. Moreover, the commissions had been imposed not by central government, but at the request of the local gentry, who had been disturbed by the misbehaviour of the soldiery. By questioning the legality of martial law, Coke alleged, the Commons had undermined the authority of the army’s officers, who now ‘refuse to do their duties’.178 Yet, as so often before, Coke failed to win over his opponents, among them the common lawyer John Selden who, while praising Coke for his ‘great integrity’, refused to be lectured by a layman.179

If Coke was astonished that the Commons had inadvertently helped to make the king’s army ungovernable, he was no less amazed by its lack of discretion in military matters. On 25 Apr. the committee for trade reported that so many ships had been lost over the last few years that England’s famous ‘wooden walls’ no longer existed. Remedying this situation would be difficult, the committee concluded, because timber suitable for shipbuilding was now scarce. Coke was aghast, for ‘this decay is rather to be concealed and covered’. Indeed, it was far more important ‘to recover strength than make known our wants’.180 However, these issues were all but forgotten three days later, when the king, hoping to put an end to the interminable debates concerning the liberties of the subject, announced to both Houses through the lord keeper (Sir Thomas Coventry*) that he promised to uphold Magna Carta and six other statutes that guaranteed the rights of the subject. On returning to the Commons Coke declared that this showed that Charles was ‘the best of kings’. Members should now demonstrate that they were ‘the best of subjects’ and turn their attention to supply without further delay.181

Outwardly the Commons was delighted at Charles’s promise, but it had no intention of cutting short its debates, let alone of returning to the subsidy bill, and on 1 May it turned its attention to the matter of arbitrary imprisonment. Midway during the debate, however, Coke produced a message from the king, who demanded to know whether the Commons was prepared to rely exclusively upon the assurance he had given. The effect of this message was to produce an awkward silence, as no one dared say openly that a verbal promise from the king would be insufficient to secure their liberties. Eventually Coke decided to speak again. If Members expected to secure greater liberties for the subject than their forefathers had enjoyed, he observed, they would not have his support as this could only be achieved at the expense of the crown. Nor could they expect the king to relinquish the right to imprison without showing cause, for as one of the king’s ministers he knew that he was occasionally obliged to have men committed without revealing the cause either to a judge or gaoler in order to carry out his duties effectively. There was no risk that this power would ever be abused, for were he to imprison even the poorest porter without just cause he would suffer the loss of his office, a fate which Coke described as ‘a greater punishment than the law can inflict’. So far as the Forced Loan was concerned, Coke reminded the House that the government had already admitted that its actions had been illegal. Charles was so anxious to avoid any further acts of illegality, he claimed, that he had summoned this Parliament to settle matters accordingly.182

Coke clearly hoped by this personal intervention to allay the Commons’ deepest fears, but his words merely served to inflame the situation. Eliot was astonished that ‘a Member of our House, against our resolutions’, should have the effrontery to assert that he was entitled to commit men without showing the cause, and he was scandalized that the Commons had been accused of seeking to extend the rights of the subject at the expense of the king. He branded the speech as ‘unfit’ to be heard, but Coke refused either to explain himself or to retract his remarks.183 In the ensuing debate the House resolved to proceed by bill rather than rely upon the king’s bare promise, whereupon Coke indicated that Charles would find this acceptable, provided there was no attempt to expand upon the liberties granted in former laws.184 The next morning the Commons decided to present the king with a formal answer to his demand. Wentworth suggested it should be explained that Members had a responsibility to their constituents to demand a bill, as ‘a public violation requires a public satisfaction’. Coke, however, was unhappy with this wording, and urged the House to adopt ‘a fitter phrase for a king’s ear’, whereupon Wentworth replied that his criticism was not directed at the king but at his ministers.185 That afternoon Coke brought the king’s answer to the House. Charles was indeed prepared to allow a bill, but only if it confirmed existing law. However, time was now running out, as ‘the weight of the affairs of Christendom do press him more and more’. Moreover, he was worried that if allowed too much time the Commons would ignore his wishes and produce a bill which went beyond a mere confirmation of existing liberties. He therefore told the Commons to wind up its business by 13 May, on which date he intended to adjourn the assembly.

The news that the king intended to bring down the curtain in just 11 days’ time provoked howls of protest. Many Members had clearly hoped to be given plenty of time and now complained that the king had been misinformed about their intentions. Coke strongly denied that this was the case and seconded Edward Littleton, who urged the House to decide upon the substance of its bill.186 However, Coke and his fellow councillor-Members were ordered to arrange an audience with the king, which took place on 5 May. At this meeting the Commons was chided by lord keeper Coventry, who explained that the king ‘expects answers by your actions, and not delay by your discourse’. He added that Charles suspected that the House was trying to explain the liberties of the subject rather than merely confirm them, a course of action which would ‘hazard encroachments’ upon the royal prerogative. Members were instructed to proceed with their bill of confirmation ‘without further replies, messages or delays’.187 On returning to the Commons, Coke was told to help prepare an accurate record of this speech from the lord keeper’s notes, and this text was read to the House the following morning (6 May).188 Many Members were now close to despair, for just as they were unwilling to rely solely upon the word of the king so they were unprepared to settle for a bare confirmation. A gloomy silence descended, which was eventually broken by Coke who, after outlining in detail the two choices before them, concluded that they should trust the king rather than legislate.189

During the ensuing debate - which was held in grand committee despite Coke’s objection that ‘debate in committees is a great loss of time’ - Coke remarked upon the damage that had been done to the king’s reputation abroad by the House’s unwillingness to trust him. Indeed, he had a letter in Spanish in his pocket which proved his point. John Pym, however, retorted that the king’s word was effectively worthless, as it added nothing to his Coronation oath. Coke was incensed, and demanded to know ‘whether it be fit such speeches should pass, that the king’s word adds not strength to law?’, whereupon Pym was forced to explain himself.190 However, Coke’s attack upon Pym itself provoked fury. Sir Harbottle Grimston, who had suffered imprisonment for refusing to pay the Forced Loan, declared that he was perfectly happy to rely upon the king’s word, ‘but what shall I say of his ministers when, after it was voted in the House that none should commit without showing cause, one of them said here he had and must commit without showing cause?’ Matters were now turning ugly, as this very claim had been made by Coke himself six days earlier. Coke’s fellow privy councillor, Sir Humphrey May, hurriedly attempted to lower the temperature, while Coke himself tried to mollify Grimston by admitting that the Loan had been ‘one of the greatest grievances’ and suggesting that a petition against it would certainly ‘take good effect’.191

In fact the choices facing the Commons were not as Coke had described, for as well as the options he had outlined there was the possibility of proceeding by Petition of Right. By the end of the day it been resolved to adopt this course, which would enable the House to list specific grievances and seek confirmation that they were against the law. Coke did not oppose this decision, but over the next few days he badgered his colleagues to act more speedily.192 However, by 13 May, the day on which it had been intended to end the session, the Commons had still not passed the subsidy bill. Coke was therefore commanded by the king to announce that unless it did so quickly, ‘you shall shortly hear from him’.193 Over the next four days Coke continued to attend the chamber,194 but on 17 May he received the news that the king wished to speak to him about naval operations. A fleet under the earl of Denbigh had returned to England having failed to breach the French defences around La Rochelle, and it was imperative that a second, larger expedition be fitted out immediately. At the suggestion of lord treasurer Weston it had been decided to send Coke to Portsmouth to oversee the naval preparations there.195 Coke was no longer formally associated with the navy, of course, but Charles had no one else to whom he could turn, for Buckingham had come to regret his earlier decision to wind up the navy commission and restore the principal officers, whom he found to be ‘above their places in their imagination, and for want of understanding in such business not able to execute the same’.196

Coke initially believed that his work at Portsmouth would be over within a week, but on his arrival he encountered greater chaos and confusion than he had expected. He threw himself into his new duties with his customary energy and efficiency, and within three weeks, despite an acute shortage of money, had made such progress that Buckingham commented that were it not for Coke’s ‘extraordinary diligence’ the preparation of the fleet would have been ‘a work almost impossible’.197 Nevertheless Coke quickly grew weary of his employment, for as early as 4 June he complained that even though he was a secretary of state the navy’s principal officers treated him like one of their clerks. He subsequently asked to transfer his duties to the former paymaster of the navy, Kenrick Edisbury, whom he had made his assistant, pointing to the risks to his health if he were required to remain any longer at Portsmouth among so many sick mariners, but neither the king nor Buckingham would hear of it.198 Consequently he remained at Portsmouth throughout the summer, where he was kept informed of developments in Parliament by his fellow secretary of state Lord Conway, and by his friend, the Member for Hedon, Thomas Alured.199 In mid-August Buckingham arrived to oversee the final preparations, and on the evening of 22 Aug. Coke evidently dined with him. The following morning, however, the duke was stabbed to death by a disgruntled soldier, lieutenant John Felton, who was swiftly interrogated by Coke, among others, concerning his motives.200

Following Buckingham’s assassination Coke remained at Portsmouth to complete the fleet’s preparations, only receiving his discharge on 5 Sept., when the king congratulated him on his ‘extreme good service’.201 Shortly thereafter Coke returned to Tottenham, but rather than stay there to attend Buckingham’s funeral on 18 Sept. he journeyed north to visit his manors of Baggrave, in Leicestershire, and Melbourne, in Derbyshire, which he had purchased over the summer for £6,600. He only returned to London at the beginning of October, after learning of the death of his old friend and former mentor, Fulke Greville, who had been ennobled as Lord Brooke.202 As a trustee of Brooke’s estate Coke was perhaps obliged to cut short his holiday, but even so his reaction to the news of Brooke’s death contrasts strikingly with his avoidance of Buckingham’s funeral. It may be that he was not entirely sorry that Buckingham was now dead, for the duke had never adopted his cherished naval instructions and had been slow to keep his promises concerning Coke’s advancement. Moreover, Buckingham had unceremoniously wound up the navy commission earlier that year and had recently become reconciled to Coke’s bitter enemy Sir Robert Mansell, to whom he had evidently promised a role in the navy’s administration.203 Perhaps Coke’s chief source of grievance, however, concerned Buckingham’s squandering of the fruits of his labours in the navy by mishandling the wars with Spain and France. Writing at the end of 1640, he recalled that between 1618 and 1625 the navy commission had achieved genuine improvements, ‘yet when the state fell into action, all we had done was by other counsels overthrown’.204

During his absence from London Coke was appointed to the six-man strong commission which was now given the task of running the Admiralty. On paper at least Coke was the most junior of the commissioners but in practice none of his colleagues, not even lord treasurer Weston, a former navy commissioner like himself, could boast his depth of knowledge or expertise. Coke’s colleagues were quick to grasp this fact, and less than three months after the commission was established, ‘for the better dispatch of business’, they ordered that all letters and warrants for signing were to be brought to Coke first for his perusal, ‘and after their lordships will sign them’.205 Coke was delighted that he had once again been given a pivotal role in the management of naval affairs, and over the next few years he firmly stamped his authority on the Admiralty, which he came to regard, in Wentworth’s telling phrase, rather like a mistress.206 At his behest a series of sweeping administrative reforms were introduced in 1630-1, and on his recommendation the king embarked upon a fresh building programme in 1632.207

At the beginning of 1629, however, the management of naval affairs was not uppermost in Coke’s mind, as Parliament reassembled on 20 January. Coke was initially hopeful that this new meeting would prove less stormy than the last, for in November 1628 he wrote that the king had eliminated ‘all distempers which have transported men’s minds’. Aided by the ‘wisdom and moderation’ of lord treasurer Weston, he prophesied, Parliament would ‘settle our home affairs in unity and regularity’.208 This prediction proved to be wide of the mark, however, for the Commons reassembled in an ugly mood. One of its chief sources of discontent was the seizure by the customs officers of currants belonging to the merchant-Member, John Rolle, who had refused to pay Tunnage and Poundage. Rolle argued that the Crown had no legal right to levy this duty, and that his goods were protected by parliamentary privilege. From the outset Coke tried to calm the Commons. On 22 Jan. he urged it to act moderately and not rush to judgment, ‘for it may be, though I will not say [it], that all the things may not be true’. As usual, however, Coke’s efforts at pacification served merely to aggravate the situation. Littleton retorted that it was rather rich to be lectured by a government minister about the need for moderation, while Selden complained that Coke’s suggestion that Rolle was speaking untruthfully was ‘not parliamentary’. To this Coke hastily replied that he had been misinterpreted, ‘for I said that it may be, not that it was untrue’.209 A committee to investigate Rolle’s claims was subsequently established, to which Coke himself was appointed.210

The continued collection of Tunnage and Poundage appeared to violate one of the main provisions of the Petition of Right, in which the king had bound himself not to raise taxation without parliamentary authority. Consequently Sir Humphrey May was instructed to lay a bill to put Tunnage and Poundage on a statutory footing before the Commons. In the event May was ill and therefore the task fell to Coke, who laid the bill before the House on 26 Jan. and demanded that it be read immediately, ‘that His Majesty and the world may see our affection by the speedy passage of it’. However it was objected, inter alia, that it was contrary to precedent to consider at the start of a session a measure that was, to all intents and purposes, a bill of subsidy, and consequently the House turned its attention instead to religion.211 In the ensuing debate Coke argued that matters of religion should be left largely to the king, who desired the Commons to restrict itself to matters of fact rather than doctrine, but his words went unheeded. The following day Coke announced that Charles expected the Tunnage and Poundage bill to be given precedence,212 but the Commons was now preoccupied with religion and the grievances of those London merchants who, like Rolle, had been punished for refusing to pay Tunnage and Poundage. On 28 Jan. one of these merchants, Richard Chambers, complained that as well as having his goods seized he had been imprisoned by the Privy Council, whereupon Eliot claimed that there was a general conspiracy, involving the Council, the judges, the sheriffs of London, the customs officers and the attorney-general, to trample on the liberties of the subject. Appalled at Eliot’s outburst, Coke demanded that such words ‘may be forborne’ and repeated the king’s demand that precedence be given to the Tunnage and Poundage bill. However, the House replied only that it would consider this legislation ‘in fit time’.213 Eliot resented Coke’s rebuke, and on 3 Feb., when Coke tried to correct the widespread impression that he had said that the king had commanded, rather than merely wished, the Commons to consider the Tunnage and Poundage bill, he pounced. Coke, he mischievously declared, had falsely tendered the bill in the king’s name, for which offence he was ‘unworthy to sit amongst us’. This was transparently untrue, however, and after a short dispute Eliot’s motion to expel Coke was quietly dropped.214

On 9 Feb. Coke seconded Sir Francis Goodwin’s motion to order the re-examination of the London sheriff involved in the seizure of the London merchants’ goods, but the House was so furious at this man’s earlier testimony, which was full of contradictory statements and prevarications, that it declared him to be a delinquent. Three days later Coke again urged that Tunnage and Poundage be given statutory authority, without which ‘our coasts are unguarded’.215 However, religion continued to dominate the Commons’ agenda, and on 13 Feb. the House asked to see the papers concerning a secret Jesuit college in Clerkenwell, which had been suppressed after its existence had been discovered by Coke in 1628, as there was concern that the college’s inmates had escaped punishment. The following day, after consulting the king, Coke shared his detailed knowledge of the case with the Commons. He blamed the failure to punish the inmates squarely on the indictment, which had sought to prove that the captured men were priests when it should have charged them with having erected an illegal society subject to a foreign power. He admitted that the king had reprieved the only priest who had actually been convicted, but argued that this showed how merciful Charles was in capital cases. For once the House listened attentively to Coke, who suddenly found himself to be the hero of the hour. Even his arch-enemy Eliot thanked him for having uncovered the existence of the Clerkenwell seminary.216 Coke was naturally anxious to capitalize on his newfound popularity, and in the subsequent debate enthusiastically seconded Selden, who argued that Sir John Hippisley’s request to answer a complaint against him in the Lords was an invasion of the Commons’ liberties.217

Coke’s moment of glory was all too brief, for by 21 Feb. he was again at loggerheads with several leading Members over the seizure of Rolle’s goods. Phelips claimed that nothing less than the liberty of the subject was at stake, whereas Coke argued that the issue was merely one of parliamentary privilege. As ‘the king is a parliament man as well as we are’, he added, it was debatable whether Charles ‘ought not to have privilege’ to keep Rolle’s goods. This ingenious argument was rejected by William Noye, who claimed that the customs officers had not only breached Rolle’s privilege in respect of his goods, but had done so without royal permission. At this Coke retorted that the customs officers’ commission entitled them to seize goods, but it was quickly proved that he was mistaken, and following an examination of the warrants sent to the customs officers, both Coke and Sir Humphrey May were forced to admit that in this respect their opponents had been right all along.218 This was a humiliating defeat for the two councillors, but the king was not about to abandon the customs officials to the wrath of the Commons, and on 23 Feb. he announced, through Coke, that ‘what those men have done they have done by his command and by his special directions’. Following the delivery of this message, Coke declared that the Commons’ attempts to distinguish between the actions of the king and those of the customs officials had failed, for Charles ‘will not be drawn to do that which is dishonourable’. He also demanded an explanation from Charles Price, who dramatically announced that the fate of the kingdom as well as the privileges of the House were now in question.219

It is unclear whether it was Coke or the Speaker (John Finch II) who delivered the king’s message of 25 Feb. adjourning the Commons until 2 March. In any event, Coke played no part in the chaotic final day of the session.220 Following the dissolution, Coke returned to his desk. Shortly after the death in February 1632 of his fellow secretary of state, Viscount Dorchester (Sir Dudley Carleton*), his duties as secretary of state were extended to include foreign affairs.221 That same year he and his fellow Admiralty commissioner lord treasurer Weston, now earl of Portland, established the Fishery Society of Great Britain, which aimed to recover the North Sea fishing trade from the Dutch.222 Despite his Calvinism, Coke had envied Dutch economic success ever since he had visited the United Provinces in the mid-1590s, and from 1618 at least had regarded a future war between England and the Dutch as a distinct possibility.223 In 1633 Coke, now 70 years old, accompanied the king to Scotland.224 Following the death of his ally Portland in January 1635 he served on the Treasury commission until March 1636. He remained at the Admiralty until April 1638, when the king appointed as lord admiral the young Algernon Percy*, 10th earl of Northumberland. Although he inclined to peace with the Scots, Coke accompanied the king on campaign in the north during the spring of 1639 and participated in the subsequent negotiations with the Covenanters at Berwick.225 By the end of that year, however, it was widely felt that he had outlived his usefulness, being now ‘much decayed’.226 On 10 Jan. 1640 the king instructed him, through an intermediary, to resign. At first Coke resisted, but on 30 Jan., after consoling himself that ‘no offence is taken against me’, he reluctantly stepped down.227

Coke spent most of his remaining years in retirement at Melbourne Hall, where he was able to indulge his love of falconry.228 Shortly after the Long Parliament assembled, his friend and former navy commissioner, Sir Robert Pye, recommended that he be asked to advise the Commons on the royal finances, the navy and the ordnance office, but Coke was unwilling to journey to London for fear of ruining his health.229 In October 1641, for reasons which remain unclear, the Commons suddenly voted him a delinquent and summoned him to Westminster. Coke evidently avoided complying with this order, telling the Speaker, William Lenthall: ‘I cannot conceive that I have been so ill-deserving of church and commonwealth that the hastening of my end by an impossible journey should be required to expiate an offence wherein no man can charge me to have been a mover or procurer of that which is objected’.230 Ten months later the House again voted him a delinquent after learning of his role in the imprisonment of four men who had opposed a royal monopoly during the 1630s.231 The Commons soon forgot this motion, however, as the country was now engulfed by civil war. In mid-September 1642 Coke wrote to the 3rd earl of Essex that ‘my heart is faithful and my prayers assiduous for the prosperity of the Parliament, wherein consisteth the welfare of this church and government’. How far Coke’s sympathies really lay with the Parliament is unclear, however, as his intention in writing to Essex was to preserve Melbourne from the depredations of the parliamentary forces. Moreover, while his eldest son, Sir John Coke the younger, sat at Westminster as knight of the shire for Derbyshire, his youngest surviving son Thomas fought for the king. Not surprisingly therefore, the Parliament continued to regard him with suspicion, forcing him in 1643 to compound for his estates.232 Whatever the truth of the matter, Melbourne Hall was looted by the armies of both sides, and Coke was forced to flee to his wife’s house at Tottenham where he died, intestate, on 8 Sept. 1644.233

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. D. Coke, The Last Elizabethan, 1-3.
  • 2. M. Young, Servility and Service: The Life and Work of Sir John Coke, 8.
  • 3. Young, Coke, 33-4, 124-6; Coke, Last Elizabethan, 102-3; J.P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, ii. 365.
  • 4. Add. 69877, f. 68; Young, Coke, 128.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 187.
  • 6. Young, Coke, 8-9.
  • 7. Ibid. 11.
  • 8. Add. 69884, f. 33.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 435.
  • 10. C181/3, f. 217.
  • 11. C231/4, f. 48.
  • 12. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 175.
  • 13. G. S. Davies, Charterhouse in London, 353; LMA, Acc/1876/G/02/02, f. 55.
  • 14. T. Rymer, Foedera, ix. pt. 2, p. 8; C181/5, f. 68.
  • 15. Young, Coke, 15.
  • 16. Ibid. 45, 56, 190.
  • 17. Ibid. 91-2.
  • 18. Ibid. 103.
  • 19. Ibid. 111; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 501, 507.
  • 20. Rymer, viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 100; APC, 1625-6, p. 181; Young, Coke, 263.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 328; SP16/28, f. 77.
  • 23. Univ. London, Goldsmiths’ ms 195, i. f. 37v.
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 494.
  • 25. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 348.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 333; Young, 256.
  • 27. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 35.
  • 28. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 158; 1634-5, p. 527.
  • 29. Ibid. 1629-31, pp. 174-5, 236, 305.
  • 30. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 35.
  • 31. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 474.
  • 32. Ibid. 1631-3, pp. 6, 97.
  • 33. Rymer, viii. pt. 3, p. 192.
  • 34. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 37.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 547.
  • 36. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry, 42, 45.
  • 37. Rymer, ix. pt. 2, p. 157.
  • 38. SP16/221/1.
  • 39. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 76.
  • 40. Young, Coke, 61, 223-4.
  • 41. Ibid. 62-3.
  • 42. Ibid. 224-8.
  • 43. K. Sharpe, Personal Rule of Chas. I, 157.
  • 44. J.T. Coke, Coke of Trusley, 1-2.
  • 45. Young, Coke, 8-11.
  • 46. Ibid. 62.
  • 47. Ibid. 10-11.
  • 48. HMC Cowper, i. 18; J. Stoye, English Travellers Abroad, 1604-67 (revised edn.), 116; Add. 69883A, f. 14v; Add. 69882A, f. 1.
  • 49. Young, Coke, 13.
  • 50. Ibid. 13, n. 35, n. 38.
  • 51. Ibid. 24-5.
  • 52. Ibid. 29-31.
  • 53. Ibid. 33-5.
  • 54. HMC Cowper, i. 70-1.
  • 55. Young, Coke, 37.
  • 56. Ibid. 40-2.
  • 57. Ibid. 42-3; APC, 1618-19, p. 167.
  • 58. Young, Coke, 46-9.
  • 59. Ibid. 52-3; Add. 64876, f. 69.
  • 60. Young, Coke, 55-6; Jacobean Commissions of Enquiry ed. A.P. McGowan (Navy Recs. Soc. cxvi), xxv-xxvi.
  • 61. Young, Coke, 57.
  • 62. Add. 64876, ff. 118v-19v.
  • 63. Ibid. f. 126.
  • 64. Add. 64877, f. 10v. Sloane 3232, ff. 139-55 and ADM 7/730, pp. 5-96 are copies of a set of orders described as Buckingham’s Admlty. instructions, 1619, which were never issued. They are probably the instructions drafted by Coke.
  • 65. Add. 64876, f. 70; HMC Cowper, i. 107-8.
  • 66. Young, Coke, 87; M. Young, ‘Illusions of Grandeur’, HJ, xxii. 60; LJ, iii. 373b.
  • 67. Add. 64876, f. 176v.
  • 68. Bodl. Add. D111, f. 86. For the date of James’s receipt of the news concerning White Mountain, see Add. 31112, f. 259.
  • 69. CD 1621, ii. 56-7; CJ, i. 517a; Young, Coke, 90.
  • 70. CD 1621, iv. 143; v. 287; CJ, i. 549a.
  • 71. CD 1621, iii. 198; CJ, i. 572b.
  • 72. CJ, i. 592b, 593a.
  • 73. Ibid. 529b, 588b.
  • 74. HMC Cowper, i. 111. See also CJ, i. 563a-b.
  • 75. Add. 64877, ff. 10v-11. For evidence that James and the Council did eventually agree to the commrs.’ proposals, see Bodl. Rawl. A455, f. 139; LJ, iii. 373b.
  • 76. HMC Cowper, i. 113.
  • 77. Young, Coke, 95-6.
  • 78. Ibid. 116; Young, Coke, 96.
  • 79. Young, Coke, 91-2.
  • 80. Ibid. 97; Young, ‘Illusions’, 70.
  • 81. Young, Coke, 97-9, 101; HMC Cowper, i. 121-2.
  • 82. Add. 64878, f. 130.
  • 83. Young, Coke, 119.
  • 84. Add. 69877, ff. 72v, 74; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p.126; HMC Cowper, i. 127, 131.
  • 85. Harl. 1581, f. 124.
  • 86. Bodl. Rawl. A455, f. 155v; Add. 64880, ff. 15-16.
  • 87. SP14/150/108; Add. 64880, f. 21.
  • 88. SP14/151/35.
  • 89. Young, ‘Illusions’, 88.
  • 90. CJ, i. 722a; Lockyer, 180-1.
  • 91. CJ, i. 676b, 683a.
  • 92. For a fuller treatment of this speech, see Young, Coke, 120-1.
  • 93. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 96v.
  • 94. CJ, i. 744b, 753a, 762a, 764a.
  • 95. LJ, iii. 373b-74a; LD 1624 and 1626, pp. 61, 86.
  • 96. Young, Coke, 128; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 595-6.
  • 97. Add. 69877, f. 68; HMC Cowper, i. 177, 203, 384.
  • 98. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 585.
  • 99. SP16/1/59; Add. 64883, ff. 37-8v.
  • 100. Young, Coke, 135.
  • 101. LC2/6, f. 48v.
  • 102. A.D. Thrush, ‘Navy under Charles I, 1625-40’ (Univ. London Ph.D. thesis, 1990), pp. 294-5.
  • 103. HMC Cowper, i. 202.
  • 104. Procs. 1625, pp. 228-9, 240.
  • 105. Lockyer, 245-7; Procs. 1625, pp. 519-20.
  • 106. SP16/4/24, 25.
  • 107. Procs. 1625, pp. 347-8, 350-2, 654-6.
  • 108. Ibid. 540.
  • 109. Ibid. 521.
  • 110. Add. 64884, f. 38, note to Pye. This note was incorrectly dated to 10 July by HMC Cowper, i. 206. This was a Sunday and Parliament did not sit then. On the back of the note, which is actually undated, Coke has written ‘1625, 10 July Sir Rob. Pye’ - the date of Pye’s reply, which is scribbled at the foot of Coke’s note.
  • 111. Procs. 1625, pp. 369-70.
  • 112. Ibid. 731.
  • 113. Ibid. 534, 540, 708.
  • 114. Ibid. 414, 417.
  • 115. Ibid. 148-9.
  • 116. Ibid. 162-3, 436.
  • 117. Ibid. 476-7, 480-1.
  • 118. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 89-91, 99-100; Young, Coke, 150, n. 3
  • 119. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 110, 118, 120-1.
  • 120. HMC Cowper, i. 236.
  • 121. Docs. Illustrating the Impeachment of Buckingham in 1626 ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. xlv), 33-5.
  • 122. Add. 64886, f. 58v.
  • 123. Young, Coke, 157; HMC Cowper, i. 251.
  • 124. King’s Coll. Lib. Camb. KCAR/1/2/16, vol. iv, no. 59; Procs. 1626, iv. 262.
  • 125. HMC Cowper, i. 251-3.
  • 126. Procs. 1626, i. 27; ii. 7, 13.
  • 127. Lockyer, 306; Young, Coke, 65; Works of John Cosin, Ld. Bp. of Dur. ed. J. Sansom, ii. 38, 63.
  • 128. Procs. 1626, ii. 32.
  • 129. Ibid. 86-8, 91, 95-6, 98, 105, 108.
  • 130. Ibid. 126-7.
  • 131. Ibid. 159, 166-7.
  • 132. Ibid. 203-4, 208-9; A. Thrush, ‘In Pursuit of the Frigate, 1603-40’, BIHR, cliii. 30-1.
  • 133. Procs. 1626, ii. 298.
  • 134. Ibid. 314.
  • 135. Ibid. iii. 40; CSP Ven. 1625-6, p. 381.
  • 136. Procs. 1626, ii. 359-60.
  • 137. CSP Ven. 1625-6, pp. 380-1.
  • 138. Procs. 1626, ii. 430.
  • 139. Ibid. ii. 47; HMC Cowper, i. 285 (mis-calendared September 1626).
  • 140. Procs. 1626, ii. 322, 349-50.
  • 141. Ibid. 381.
  • 142. SP16/28, ff. 6-7. Young incorrectly assumes that Coke’s illness lasted until 9 June: Young, Coke, 166-7.
  • 143. Procs. 1626, iii. 425-6.
  • 144. For a detailed discussion of Coke’s religious views, and the difficulty of labelling them, see Young, Coke, 61-7.
  • 145. Procs. 1626, ii. 205, 349, 357.
  • 146. Ibid. v. 120; iii. 24-5.
  • 147. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 33-4.
  • 148. SP16/40/55.
  • 149. SP16/45, f. 78.
  • 150. Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/E28.
  • 151. CSP Dom. 1626-7, p.75; Cust, 137; Young, Coke, 169.
  • 152. Cust, 68-9.
  • 153. P. Christianson, ‘Two Proposals for Raising Money by Extraordinary Means, c.1627’, EHR, cxvii. 362-3.
  • 154. SP16/28, ff.13v-14; A. Thrush, ‘The Origins and Development of Ship Money’, War and Govt. in Britain ed. M.C. Fissel, 143-4, 159 n. 65.
  • 155. Young, Coke, 168.
  • 156. Ibid. 169; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 297.
  • 157. For a discussion of the effective size of the commission in 1627-8, see Thrush, ‘Navy under Chas. I’, 74-5.
  • 158. Christianson, 364; Harg. 321, f. 141v.
  • 159. For the election, see Gonville and Caius Coll. Camb. ms T44/249, ff. 178-9. For the vice-chan.’s letter, see Coke, 182.
  • 160. CD 1628, ii. 64-5, 70-1.
  • 161. Ibid. 80.
  • 162. Ibid. 97.
  • 163. Ibid. 98, 121-2.
  • 164. Ibid. 123, 142, 130.
  • 165. Ibid. 125, 131.
  • 166. Ibid. 212, 218.
  • 167. Ibid. 244-7, 256, 269.
  • 168. Ibid. 247, 256-7, 269.
  • 169. Ibid. 251, 267.
  • 170. Ibid. 277, 282; Procs. 1628, vi. 204; Lockyer, 429.
  • 171. CD 1628, ii. 297, 309.
  • 172. Ibid. 319.
  • 173. Ibid. 324-5, 328; Procs. 1628, vi. 183; Birch, i. 338; Lockyer, 429.
  • 174. CD 1628, ii. 398-401, 403.
  • 175. Ibid. 413-15, 419.
  • 176. Ibid. 428, 430-1, 433-4.
  • 177. Ibid. 480, 483, 485; Procs. 1628, vi. 192.
  • 178. CD 1628, iii. 23-5, 27; Procs. 1628, vi. 74-5.
  • 179. CD 1628, iii. 35.
  • 180. Ibid. 72, 78-9.
  • 181. Ibid. 125-7, 138.
  • 182. Ibid. 188-9, 196, 201, 203.
  • 183. Ibid. 190, 199, 196.
  • 184. Ibid. 191-2, 202.
  • 185. Ibid. 215-16.
  • 186. Ibid. 235-7.
  • 187. Ibid. 233, 237.
  • 188. Ibid. 258-9, 278.
  • 189. Ibid. 268n. 2, 279.
  • 190. Ibid. 271, 276, 282.
  • 191. Ibid. 276-7.
  • 192. Ibid. 309, 374.
  • 193. Ibid. 391.
  • 194. Ibid. 404, 406, 406-7, 411, 425, 449-50.
  • 195. Procs. 1628, vi. 45-6; HMC Cowper, i. 366.
  • 196. HMC Cowper, i. 343, 357; Young, Coke, 194.
  • 197. Add. 64896, f. 51.
  • 198. SP16/106/26; Add. 64896, f. 92; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 177-8.
  • 199. Procs. 1628, vi. 212-13; HMC Cowper, i. 350-3.
  • 200. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 264; Procs. 1628, vi. 215.
  • 201. HMC Cowper, i. 366.
  • 202. Add. 69878, ff. 32v, 36-40; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 344. For the cost of purchasing Melbourne, see Young, Coke, 225.
  • 203. HMC Cowper, i. 357; Thrush, ‘Navy Under Chas. I’, 67.
  • 204. Young, Coke, 273-4.
  • 205. SP16/117/76.
  • 206. Young, Coke, 214.
  • 207. Thrush, ‘Navy Under Chas. I’, 47, 89-91.
  • 208. SP92/14, f. 145r-v; Young, Coke, 179.
  • 209. CD 1629, pp. 7-8; HMC Lonsdale, 60-1.
  • 210. CJ, i. 921a.
  • 211. HMC Cowper, i. 381; CD 1629, pp. 12, 108, 246; C. Russell, PEP, 403.
  • 212. CD 1629, pp. 18, 110-11.
  • 213. Ibid. 22, 112-13; CJ, i. 923b.
  • 214. CD 1629, pp. 31-3, 121.
  • 215. Ibid. 52-3, 182, 201.
  • 216. Ibid. 75-8, 210.
  • 217. Ibid. 72-3. Coke was not the only PC to do so, as May, too, ‘stiffly’ seconded the motion.
  • 218. Ibid. 89-92, 164, 230.
  • 219. Ibid. 95, 168-9, 237.
  • 220. Ibid. 101; CJ, i. 932b.
  • 221. Young, Coke, 229; C115/106/8398.
  • 222. Young, Coke, 210.
  • 223. Add. 64876, f. 76.
  • 224. Northants. RO, IC4313; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 91.
  • 225. Strafforde Letters, ii. 186; Young, Coke, 257; Sharpe, 157.
  • 226. Young, Coke, 254-5; Sharpe, 157.
  • 227. Young, Coke, 262-3; HMC Cowper, ii. 250.
  • 228. J.J. Briggs, Hist. Melbourne (2nd edn.), 23, 90.
  • 229. Young, Coke, 273; HMC Cowper, ii. 270.
  • 230. D’Ewes ed. W.H. Coates, 50-1; HMC Cowper, ii. 294; Young, Coke, 271-2.
  • 231. CJ, ii. 722b.
  • 232. HMC Cowper, ii. 322, 335, 338; Briggs, 91.
  • 233. Young, Coke, 268, n. 51.