CORYTON (CURRINGTON), William (1579-1651), of West Newton Ferrers, St. Mellion, Cornw.

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



[1640 (Nov.)]
1640 (Nov.) - 18 Aug. 1641

Family and Education

bap. June 1579, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Peter Coryton of West Newton Ferrers and Jane, da. of John Wrey of North Russell, Sourton, Devon. m. by 1605, Elizabeth (d.1656), da. of Sir John Chichester of Raleigh, Devon, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 7da. suc. fa. 1603. d. 30 Apr. 1651.1 sig. William Coryton.

Offices Held

Collector subsidy, Cornw. 1603-7, commr. 1626,2 commr. piracy 1607, 1613, 1624-6, 1637, 1641,3 sheriff 1613-14,4 j.p. 1618-26, 1630-46, custos rot. by 1626;5 v.-warden of stannaries 1620-6, 1629-?1646;6 col. militia ft. Cornw. c.1620-6, from 1629, dep. lt. by 1623-6, c.1629-at least 1640;7 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1624-6, 1632-42;8 collector, Privy Seal loan, Cornw. 1625-6,9 commr. knighthood compositions 1631;10 repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral 1633;11 under-steward, duchy of Cornw. from 1634;12 steward, W. Antony, Crafthole, Portpigham, Trelowia, Landulph and Leigh Durant manors, and E. Looe bor. Cornw. 1635-at least 1645;13 commr. incorporation of maltsters, Cornw. 1636;14 mayor, Bossiney, Cornw. 1640;15 commr. array, Cornw. 1642.16

Gent. of the privy chamber (extraordinary) 1637-at least 1641.17


Coryton’s ancestors took their name from a Devonshire manor sold to Sir Thomas Wise* around the early seventeenth century. However, their principal seat was at West Newton, which they acquired by marriage in 1314. The family first appeared in the Commons when Coryton’s great-uncle, William, represented Liskeard in the final Marian Parliament.18 Coryton’s patrimony, which he inherited in 1603, amounted to nearly 9,000 acres, including 9 manors, the bulk of which lay in east Cornwall. His subsidy assessment of £20 in the following year identified him as one of the county’s elite. As sheriff in 1613-14 he was precluded from standing for the Addled Parliament, though he supervised the county’s elections. In July 1620 he was reported to the Privy Council for allegedly defrauding a near neighbour, but emerged apparently unscathed.19 Later that year he was appointed vice-warden of the Cornish stannaries by William, 3rd earl of Pembroke, in succession to Sir Anthony Rous*. This office had a major influence upon his political career, since he not only became responsible for administration of the Cornish tin industry, with its attendant legal system, but also emerged as a key figure within Pembroke’s patronage network. Doubtless emboldened by his new status, and despite lacking previous parliamentary experience, he attempted to stand as a knight of the shire in the 1620 general election. However, after he had ‘bespoken many voices for himself, ... finding his cousin [John] Arundell* [of Trerice] to have the same design’, he decided to step aside ‘and throw all his voices upon his said kinsman’. This tactical withdrawal established a firm bond with Arundell, and proved a shrewd long-term investment. Coryton might have consoled himself with a seat at Callington, the borough closest to West Newton, but instead he probably organized the return of James, Lord Wriothesley at Pembroke’s behest.20

In 1624 Coryton reaped the reward of his patience, and entered the Commons as senior knight of the shire. Arundell, who opted to represent St. Mawes, presumably placed the Trerice interest in the county at his disposal. The vice-warden most likely arranged the returns of two other Pembroke clients, Sir Robert Coke and George Mynne, at Fowey and West Looe respectively. He probably also had a hand in the election of Ambrose Manaton at Tregony, a borough controlled jointly by Arundell and Charles Trevanion*. As the latter three men all emerged subsequently as Coryton’s firm political allies, the Tregony election offers early evidence of the gentry faction which formed around him.21 Although this was his first Parliament, Coryton played an active role at Westminster, attracting 25 committee nominations and making 15 speeches. Notable for their clarity of thought and expression, his curt, unadorned sentences must sometimes have provided welcome relief in a chamber heavily populated with trained rhetoricians. His status as a shire knight doubtless helps explain his appointment on 23 Feb. to the committee for privileges, but he took a definite interest in its discussions, twice expressing opinions in the House about particular election disputes (16 and 24 March). He himself obtained privilege on 23 Apr. for the stay of a suit in Chancery.22

Coryton’s godly tendencies probably explain his decision to make his maiden speech during the debate of 26 Feb. on the bill for the repression of drunkenness. His proposal for an additional clause to discourage the purchase of alcohol in alehouses for consumption elsewhere made sufficient impact for his name to be placed second on the committee list. Staunchly anti-Catholic, on 27 Apr. he certified that no recusants held office in Cornwall, but added that one of the deputy lieutenants, Sir William Wrey, was married to a Catholic. It is unclear how many Members would have realized that he was discussing his own uncle. He was promptly nominated to the select committee to examine the recusancy certificates, and on 1 May appointed to the legislative committee concerned with preventing Roman Catholic wives like Lady Wrey from evading recusancy fines. Coryton also closely followed the inquiry into the anti-Calvinist actions of Bishop Harsnett of Norwich, and he regretted the omission from Sir Edward Coke’s report on 7 May of an important charge regarding the penance imposed on certain parishioners of Hingham for meeting in the rectory after evening prayer to hear the puritan Robert Peck catechize and sing psalms.23

Coryton’s anti-Catholic prejudices must have predisposed him to back his patron Pembroke’s war agenda, and on 1 Mar. he encouraged Members to press on quickly with a conference at which the two Houses would debate the fate of the Spanish treaties. On the following day he prudently warned against placing too much pressure on the king, while on 5 Mar., as the financial consequences of war loomed into view, he asserted that ‘if we should give him [James] advice and not support him we should be no better than jugglers’. He supported calls on 11 Mar. for a joint address to the king on lines likely to encourage James to commit himself to a breach. However, he was also sensitive to the growing mood in the Commons that supply should be balanced by redress of grievances, and on 20 Mar. backed an immediate grant of three subsidies and three fifteenths providing that ‘the [reform] laws may first pass and the act of subsidies last’.24

Despite his apparent lack of formal legal training, Coryton could now draw on several years’ experience as head of the Cornish stannary courts. On 9 Mar. he urged the committal of the bill against wrongful imprisonment, which he believed ran counter to a clause in Magna Carta, and he was duly appointed to the committee stage. Similarly, his role as vice-warden probably explains his interest in the supersedeas bill, which was designed to protect local jurisdictions. Having been added to the legislative committee on 16 Mar., he unsuccessfully opposed recommittal at the report stage on the grounds that amendments now being urged had already been considered and rejected (23 March). He certainly drew on his local experience when he commented on the usury bill on 8 Mar., informing the Commons that high interest rates had reduced the value of land in Cornwall from 25 years’ purchase to 14. He was nominated to consider this bill and three others linked specifically to Cornwall, which concerned the estates of the Mohun family, Henry Heron’s fish-drying patent, and the duchy of Cornwall’s leases. He is also known to have attended the committee to scrutinize the bill to relieve London’s Feltmakers.25

The 1624 Parliament marked a short-lived alliance between Pembroke and the royal favourite, Buckingham, which barely survived the end of the session. During the next few months, presumably acting with his patron’s full knowledge, Coryton engaged in a highly risky and unsuccessful scheme to replace the duke with a new favourite, Arthur Brett.26 At the 1625 general election, he took a seat at Liskeard, where he was a leading landowner, clearing the way for Charles Trevanion to become a knight of the shire. In return, Trevanion presented a seat at St. Mawes to Coryton’s kinsman, the Pembroke client Sir James Fullerton.27 Back at Westminster, on 21 June Coryton was once again nominated to the committee for privileges, and proposed that the Commons should hold their own fast. The three legislative committees to which he was named all had godly themes, namely the strengthening of recusancy laws, the quieting of the estates of ecclesiastical persons, and the prevention of tippling in alehouses and inns (23-4 June). He was also nominated on 24 June to the select committee to frame a petition to the king concerning recusancy and the decay of religion. Coryton’s two speeches in this Parliament both occurred during the Oxford sitting. Arguably ‘among the least predictable of Pembroke’s clients’, his concern for the state of the kingdom now outweighed his commitment to war. On 6 Aug. he supported moves for the Crown to be granted supply ‘if there be a necessity’, but simultaneously called for a committee to consider the king’s ordinary revenues and to address such grievances as impositions and religion. He went further on 11 Aug., listing and dismissing the arguments marshalled in favour of supply:

It has been pressed that this is the first request that the king has made to us. Secondly, that in Parliament we have engaged ourselves. Thirdly, the necessity; and the great costs bestowed, like to be lost. Lastly, the disaster of parting in displeasure. Yet for all these things he cannot assent to give at this time, but hereafter.

He concluded by expressing his fear that the dispatch of a fleet would leave the kingdom defenceless, and moved to seek the advice of the Council of War.28

Despite these very vocal reservations about the costs of the government’s military strategy, Coryton helped to recruit soldiers from the stannary workforce during the early autumn. As the collector of Privy Seal loans responsible for east Cornwall, he encountered considerable resistance, and apparently raised substantially less money than the government had expected, leaving himself open to allegations of negligence from Buckingham’s leading West Country client, Sir James Bagg II*.29 By now Coryton had befriended Sir Richard Buller*, who emerged as another prominent member of his circle, while over the winter of 1625-6 the defection of (Sir) John Eliot* from Buckingham’s camp to Pembroke’s provided him with an even more significant ally both in Cornwall and at Westminster.30 With the earl now planning an attack on the duke in the forthcoming Parliament, Coryton, who again secured a county seat for himself in the general election, made even greater efforts to find burgess-ships for Pembroke’s clients. Despite having been sworn to secrecy by his patron, he was sufficiently confident of his own position to reveal his electioneering activities to Bagg, who duly reported them to Buckingham: ‘a letter was directed to him [Coryton] from Mr. [John] Thorowgood* in the name of the earl of Pembroke for his placing of Sir Francis Stewart, Sir Robert Mansfield [Mansell], Sir Elipsias [sic: Clippesby] Crewe, and Mr. William Murray, and one in name more’. Coryton placed Stewart at Liskeard, Mansell at Lostwithiel, Crewe at Callington and Murray at Fowey. The unnamed fifth man may have been Sir Benjamin Rudyard, who found a seat at Grampound, or perhaps William Carr at St. Mawes. The vice-warden was justifiably proud of this display of his local influence, but he would come to regret his candour.31

During the 1626 Parliament, Coryton emerged as a major figure in the Commons, making 53 recorded speeches, and obtaining nominations to 13 select committees and 18 legislative committees. He was once more named to the privileges committee, and on 9 June supported moves for Sir Edward Coke to be granted privilege, on the grounds that failure to do so would amount to an acceptance that the king had successfully excluded Coke from the House by pricking him as a sheriff. Ironically, given his close association with Pembroke, he chaired the committee for the bill ‘to avoid suspicion of injustice in any Member of the Commons House’, a measure intended to restrict the influence of outside patrons. His report was delayed until 10 June; his first committee report, delivered on 27 Mar., concerned a bill to conserve salmon stocks.32

Coryton maintained his interest in many of the issues raised in 1625. In two speeches on 13 Feb. he called for tougher action against papists, and for the maintenance of the clergy to be improved. He was nominated to select committees to consider how to present dangerous recusants, and to assemble arguments in favour of a general fast (2 Mar. and 29 April).33 His concern for the state of the government’s finances also continued, probably reflecting his patron Pembroke’s fear that the war with Spain could not be sustained without better funding.34 On 17 Feb. Coryton moved to consider how the Crown’s revenues might be increased. He argued on 26 Apr. that the yield from subsidies should be restored to its Elizabethan levels, and on 4 May successfully proposed a committee, to which he was promptly named, to frame a petition to the king containing the Commons’ recommendations for reforming the royal finances. On the following day he was nominated to the committee to draft the subsidy bill’s preamble. Political developments rapidly overshadowed the revenue discussions, and Coryton failed on 22 May to revive interest in them.35 However, he was named three days later to the committee to prepare assorted grievances for presentation to Charles. He was also appointed to committees to scrutinize bills concerning muster masters (28 Mar.) and abuses in impressment (9 May).36

As one of Pembroke’s principal clients in the Commons, it was inevitable that Coryton would be drawn into the attack on Buckingham, though he was more than just the earl’s unquestioning spokesman. His particular grievance against the duke was the latter’s failure as lord admiral to safeguard shipping in the Channel. During the debate on defence on 24 Feb. he urged the House to treat this matter as a priority, while three days later he highlighted the vulnerability of the Cornish ports. Coryton was one of the relatively few Members to show real enthusiasm for Eliot’s inquiry into the second arrest of the St. Peter, though again he was probably motivated not just by hostility to Buckingham, but by the impact on the West Country of the French embargo on English merchants. On 22 Feb. he backed calls for the lieutenants of the Tower and Dover (the duke’s clients Sir Allen Apsley and Sir John Hippesley*) to be questioned over the affair, while on the following day he proposed the establishment of a select committee. He demanded on 1 Mar. that the second arrest be adopted as a grievance, and opposed the decision ten days later to let the matter rest. Not surprisingly, he was appointed to the conference at which the Commons sought to explain away their tactless attempt to summon Buckingham to justify his actions (4 March).37

Meanwhile, Coryton had turned his attention to the conduct of the war with Spain. On 28 Feb. he pondered the reasons for the failure of the Cadiz expedition, citing poor funding, tactics and leadership, the continuing presence of Jesuits in England, and the ignoring of Parliament’s advice, ‘the cause of most of our calamities’. On the same day he was nominated to help prepare questions to be put to the Council of War, while on 7 Mar. he was appointed to attend the conference with the Lords about the need to step up the war effort. However, he was no longer prepared to countenance further financial assistance without redress of grievances. His response on 10 Mar. to the king’s demand for urgent supply was curt: ‘If we do not take care of things at home, we shall do little good abroad. That we should present in the first place the crying necessities of ourselves, the Commonwealth.’ This linking of redress and supply became his regular refrain over the next few weeks, though Coryton recognized that the Commons needed to offer Charles meaningful assistance in return for concessions over grievances. On 25 Apr., perhaps again prompted by Pembroke, he actually spoke in favour of increasing the existing offer of supply. On 14 Mar. he was named to the committees to draft a bill for finding arms, and to consider Sir Dudley Digges’s proposal for a privately funded naval campaign.38

After Pembroke’s client Dr. Turner re-launched the faltering campaign against Buckingham, Coryton rallied to the cause, on 15 Mar. defending Clement Coke’s inflammatory comments about tyranny. Five days later he secured a place on the key committee for the ‘causes of causes’, which set about gathering the impeachment charges against the duke. His earlier complaints now acquired a new focus. On 24 Mar. he openly blamed the lord admiral for the failure to guard the seas, while on 27 Mar. he added the removal of evil councillors to his usual list of conditions for supply.39 With the momentum for impeachment finally building, he stirred up rumours that Buckingham was a crypto-Catholic, and drew on his acquaintance with the Cornish Lord Robartes to implicate the duke in the sale of peerages (4 and 6 May). Once the Commons had presented the impeachment charges, he supported the attempt to have Buckingham sequestered by the Lords, being named to the committee to devise the manner of the request (9 May). Following the government’s arrest of Digges and Eliot, Coryton rushed to defend the latter in particular, insisting that the charges relating to the St. Peter and the English ships lent to France, which Eliot had principally devised, were reasonable (12 May). On the following day he moved for a conference with the Lords over the double arrest, and continued to call for Eliot to be cleared, even after the latter resumed his Commons seat on 20 May.40 On 3 June Coryton’s call for a conference with the Lords about such disruptions to business as the arrest of Digges and Eliot began the process which evolved into the Remonstrance against Buckingham. Once Members began to consider the heads of the conference, Coryton encouraged a focus on the duke, and raised the spectre of ‘new counsels’. He unexpectedly found himself at odds with Eliot four days later, when he tried to get money owing to Philip Burlamachi for military transportation re-allocated to the payment of billeting expenses, a major Cornish concern. However, he used his final speeches on 12 June to call for the abandonment of the subsidy bill until such time as Buckingham was brought to justice, dismissing claims that any delay would imperil national security.41

After the Parliament’s dissolution Pembroke was forced to come to terms with the duke, who moved swiftly to rein in the earl’s Cornish clients. Like Eliot, Coryton was removed from the commission of the peace in early July. He lost his militia commands a little later, after obstructing the victualling of Pendennis Castle, while in October Pembroke appointed Bagg’s ally John Mohun* as vice-warden of the stannaries, at Buckingham’s request.42 However, all was not lost. Mohun soon proved unpopular in his new role, and while Coryton could no longer rely on Pembroke’s protection, he retained the loyalty of much of his Cornish network, as became apparent when the Forced Loan was introduced in late 1626. In the following April, Bagg reported to the duke that ‘in general all lend [in Cornwall]; saving Eliot, Corrington, [John] Arundell and their associates and faction’. The other refusers included Coryton’s nephew, Nicholas Trefusis*, and his friends Sir Richard Buller and Ambrose Manaton. This time the government tried to impose its will by arresting Coryton and Eliot, but at local level this was merely interpreted as further evidence of Buckingham’s malice towards them.43 Detained in London from May 1627 until the following January, Coryton proved more than a match for the Privy Council, insisting to their faces that the Loan was illegal, ridiculing their claim that it was voluntary, and maintaining that his due obedience to the king did not oblige him to act contrary to the rule of law: ‘I have ever in all public actions where I was in doubt, sought to God by my prayers; and then searched the statutes’. Like Eliot he circulated his opinions in pamphlet form, and stubbornly resisted the Council’s attempt to reduce his public profile by confining him in Sussex. He was finally released in January 1628 as part of the general amnesty ordered by the king in anticipation of a new Parliament.44

Once back in Cornwall, Coryton wasted no time in capitalizing on recent events. His announcement in early February that he would be standing again as a knight of the shire wrong-footed Buckingham’s local clients, who hastily put John Mohun and Sir Richard Edgcumbe* forward instead, and attempted to bully him into withdrawing. Coryton, who had doubtless anticipated this reaction, promptly appealed to the county’s voters, distributing notices reminding the freeholders to attend the shire election, while he and his running-mate Eliot canvassed for support on the basis of their treatment since 1626. To be on the safe side, they also arranged for Arundell, Trevanion, and another Loan refuser, Bevill Grenville*, to bring 500 men each to the county court. ‘Their pretence of suffering for their country had stolen away the hearts of the people’, as Mohun’s friends subsequently lamented, and Mohun and Edgcumbe, faced with the prospect of a crushing defeat, declined to contest the election. Coryton crowned his success by once again placing Sir Francis Stewart at Liskeard, and securing the return of the Yorkshire Loan refuser, Sir William Constable, at Callington. In the latter case, he was almost certainly obliging Sir Thomas Wentworth*. Back in November 1627, Christopher Wandesford* had identified Coryton as one of the ‘tribunitial orators of the west’ who might be willing to provide seats for Wentworth’s* friends, a clear sign that his stand over the Forced Loan had drawn him into a wider political network.45

The 1628 session saw Coryton rise to even greater prominence in the Commons than hitherto. He was named to no less than 50 committees and made some 80 speeches, though he was never a key policy-maker. As usual he was named to the committee for privileges, and on the same day staged his most effective coup de théâtre in the House, brandishing letters which illustrated the attempt by Mohun and his allies to influence the outcome of the Cornish shire election (20 March). Their impact was immediate, and the offenders were shortly after summoned to Westminster. However, compared with Eliot, who vigorously pursued this business, Coryton was apparently content to let events take their course. When four of the offenders were finally found guilty on 13 May, he ostentatiously requested the House not to take his personal injury into account when punishing them, and interceded on behalf of one of them, his uncle Sir William Wrey, who was duly spared confinement in the Tower. His preferred target was doubtless his rival John Mohun, who had escaped punishment by securing a peerage, but whose abuses as vice-warden were investigated by the Commons. Coryton, who was entitled as a Cornish knight to sit on the committee of inquiry (16 Apr.), defended the stannary court system after Eliot delivered his report on 28 May, but otherwise seems to have refrained from passing comment. On 23 June, as the affair drew to a close, he was named to the committee to agree the fees the serjeant-at-arms was permitted to charge for bringing the conspirators to London.46 Beyond these matters, the only other business in which Coryton took a purely personal interest was the estate bill concerning the 2nd earl of Devonshire (Sir William Cavendish I*), to whom he was distantly connected by marriage. He spoke twice on this measure, and was named to its committee stage (21 Apr. and 10 June).47

Possibly because of his own recent experiences, Coryton was much more active in this session in matters of privilege. On 11 Apr. having perhaps developed a taste for dramatic entrances, he brought in a newly printed pamphlet which breached the convention that Commons’ proceedings should not be reported, and was named to the committee to investigate this offence. Three days later he called for a firm response to the slandering of John Selden* by the 2nd earl of Suffolk (Theophilus Howard, Lord Howard de Walden*), and was again appointed to the committee which pursued this affair.48 On 22 Apr. he alerted the House to the arrest of a servant of the Fowey Member Robert Rashleigh, and he chaired the committees which examined both this matter and a similar case affecting Sir Edward Dennys, reporting their findings on 30 Apr. and 30 May respectively. His views were also sought on wider questions of procedure, and he was nominated to committees to consider the king’s request for Members to forgo recesses (10 Apr.), and to review the Commons’ timetable of business (20 June).49

Coryton’s Protestant fervour remained undiminished. He dismissed marriage licences as ‘remnants of popery’ (22 Apr.), and was appointed to bill committees on such perennial topics as Sabbath abuses, excommunication and scandalous ministers (1, 14 and 19 April). However, when he complained on 16 May that ‘many erroneous and vile persons are crept into the Church and affront us’, he was presumably also thinking of Roger Manwaring, the cleric who had preached in favour of forced loans, as only two days earlier he had called for a bill to be introduced to deal with this offender.50

Coryton’s harsh treatment by Buckingham and the government was still fresh in his mind. On 2 Apr., responding to Selden’s comment that deputy lieutenants who had enforced emergency measures were obeying orders from their superiors, he observed: ‘We see what this blind obedience is, and if men will not do as they are commanded they are put out’. Nevertheless, he had not lost sight of the Crown’s financial difficulties, and on the same day acknowledged that at least some of the king’s new propositions for supply needed to be addressed, a message which he repeated on 4 April. On the other hand, he remained as firmly convinced as ever that a grant of supply must be balanced by the redress of grievances.51

In the session’s opening weeks Coryton focused on two issues of great concern in Cornwall - martial law and billeting. When Sir Edward Coke called on 24 Mar. for the lieutenancy to be better governed by statute, Coryton countered that laws were of no value while they could be freely contradicted by royal Proclamation. Despite this remark he was named to committees to draft bills addressing the lieutenancy’s powers and the problems of impressment (24 Mar., 3 April). On 11 Apr. he described an occasion when his authority as a magistrate had been undermined by martial law, a theme to which he returned on 22 Apr.:

I desire to live under a known law. The Common Law gives every man his due, and every offence that deserves death is punished by it. This martial law strikes to every subject. ... Shall that scourge be put on us, the magistrate will hence grow a terror to [do] the good.

His authority on this issue was such that when on 13 June he dismissed a new bill to reform the militia as allowing too much discretion, the measure was abandoned. Named on 28 Mar. to the committee to investigate billeting abuses in Surrey, he was also harshly critical on 9 Apr. of John Baber, a Member who had co-operated with billeting in Somerset: ‘That he alleged he feared punishment for doing well, it makes his fault greater, for every man is happy that is punished for doing well’. On 12 June he was nominated to the committee to draft a petition requesting the king to settle outstanding billeting expenses out of his forthcoming subsidy revenues.52

Naturally Coryton also threw himself into the campaigns against arbitrary taxation and imprisonment. He was named on 3 Apr. to the committee to settle the Commons’ tactics for addressing these grievances, although he lacked the legal expertise to contribute directly to the great conferences of early–mid April when the constitutional impact of an untrammelled royal prerogative was debated. Firmly convinced that the Commons’ resolutions on the liberty of the subject merely reiterated existing rights, on 26 Apr. he rejected the Lords’ compromise propositions. Two days later he was nominated to the committee to draft the bill of liberties proposed by Wentworth, though he was unhappy that the completed text left open the question of whether the king could imprison people without stating a reason. When Sir Humphrey May on 1 May criticized Eliot for complaining about this issue, Coryton curtly informed him ‘that we come not hither to be chided’.53 His resolve merely hardened when the king demanded to know whether the Commons would accept his promise to uphold the rule of law. As he put it on 2 May: ‘they say, do what we can, there will be a dispensing power. Therefore let us be the more careful’. Four days later he rejected Charles’s offer to accept a bill confirming Magna Carta providing it was not also explanatory: ‘we desire an explanation, that ambiguities may be taken away. We see things still lie upon us. We petitioned for the removal of the soldiers, but I see no answer.’ Initially suspicious of the alternative strategy of a Petition of Right, he was nonetheless appointed to the committees to draft the document and to scrutinize its text before it was sent up to the Lords (6 and 8 May). Coryton proved just as hostile to the peers’ proposed amendments to the Petition as he had been earlier to their propositions on liberties. On 19 May he denounced the notion that arbitrary taxation might be justified in emergencies, and was equally scathing three days later about the ‘saving clause’ designed to protect the royal prerogative: ‘if power and the law come to wrestle the one with the other, how shall we obey His Majesty?’54

Having convinced himself that the king would fully embrace the Petition, Coryton shared the general dismay at Charles’s first answer to it. On 3 June he backed Eliot’s proposal for a remonstrance against the evils afflicting the realm, while shrewdly advising that it be coupled with a revived offer of supply. Four days later he was appointed to help draft the subsidy bill’s preamble. However, he had already, on 5 June, joined in the open attack on Buckingham, denouncing him as the ‘grievance of grievances’, and he was not diverted from this course by the king’s second, satisfactory answer to the Petition. By 11 June Coryton’s language was even more violent: ‘We cannot look upon this great man without astonishment. ... Disasters all belong to him: consumption of men at the Island of Ré, neglect of counsel ... Guarding of the seas is all his. Shipping, mariners, and trade all suffer under his command’. On the following day he attempted to delay the third reading of the subsidy bill, while on 14 June he urged that the Remonstrance include a request for the duke to be dismissed or even brought to justice.55 Fresh causes for concern were now mounting up. On 13 June he speculated that the heads of the general pardon were being withheld from the Commons, contrary to precedent, because the thousands of men currently being pursued for distraint of knighthood would be excluded from it. Ten days later he was appointed to examine the draft text. He was also reluctant to concede that the Crown was entitled to continue to collect Tunnage and Poundage, as this duty had not yet been granted by Parliament (25 June). Although nominated on 20 June to attend the conference with the Lords to agree the Petition of Right’s title, he must already have been nursing doubts about the effectiveness of this measure.56

During the next few months, Coryton and Eliot ‘incessantly roamed up and down all Cornwall’ amassing evidence that might be used for a fresh attack on Mohun when the Commons reassembled, though to no avail, as the issue never arose again.57 Coryton was once again a prominent figure in the 1629 parliamentary session, making 15 speeches and receiving 15 committee appointments. However, he now tended to respond to unfolding events rather than seek to influence developments. He made no comment during the initial controversy over the entering of the Petition of Right, and was only added to the investigating committee on 30 January. Although he joined calls on 22 Jan. for a committee to examine John Rolle’s* complaint about the seizure of his goods for non-payment of Tunnage and Poundage, to which he was named, his initial focus was on religious grievances. Appointed on 23 Jan. to a bill committee concerned with preaching, he responded enthusiastically to Francis Rous’s attack on popery and Arminianism on 26 Jan., casting doubt on the theological soundness of some English bishops. Over the next two days he insisted that religious reforms must take priority over the question of Tunnage and Poundage.58 On 3 Feb. he complained that the king’s ban on religious controversy clearly favoured the anti-Calvinist party within the Church of England. His pessimism about the situation was such that he opposed Eliot’s proposal for the Lambeth Articles to be adopted as an official theological statement, not because he disagreed with them, but rather to avoid a future scandal in which the Articles were disavowed by the episcopate. Named on 5 Feb. to the committee to review the different imprints of core Anglican documents such as the Thirty-Nine Articles, he subsequently and successfully recommended that the leading Cornish puritan Charles FitzGeffry preach before the Commons.59

The crude attempt by the attorney-general, (Sir) Robert Heath*, to subpoena Rolle brought Coryton’s attention sharply back to Tunnage and Poundage, and on 10 Feb. he was nominated to the committee to investigate Heath’s actions. Two days later he echoed Eliot’s stance, insisting that progress over a new bill was impossible while merchants’ goods remained confiscated: ‘if the merchants be not established in their right we cannot show that we have power to give Tunnage. ... Kings ought not by the law of God thus to oppress their subjects. I know we have a good king, and this is the advice of his wicked ministers’. Challenged by Sir Humphrey May over his criticism of the government, he responded simply: ‘I hope we shall speak here as we may speak in Heaven, and do our duties’. He was nominated on 14 Feb. to the committee to consider how to respond to the Exchequer court’s refusal to order the release of Rolle’s goods, but by now his attention was once more drifting back to religion, and specifically the Catholic threat. On 13 Feb. he called for papist office-holders to be dismissed, and on the following day voiced his fears that the lenient treatment recently afforded to a group of Jesuits pointed to a conspiracy at the heart of the government. He was the first Member named on 16 Feb. to consider a petition complaining about Lord (Sir John) Savile’s* commission for compounding with Northern recusants.60

It was probably his mounting concern about Catholic influence within the government that persuaded Coryton to support Eliot’s plan to introduce yet another Remonstrance on 2 March. The Speaker, (Sir) John Finch II, had orders to prevent this, and accordingly sought to adjourn the sitting. In the tumultuous scenes that followed, Coryton allegedly ‘demeaned himself so passionately and violently that he ... forcibly and unlawfully struck’ Francis Winterton. When the Speaker ignored Eliot’s initial protest against the impending adjournment, Coryton, while confessing that he had contributed to the disorder, insisted that the Speaker was to blame for ignoring the House’s command to remain in the chair, and called for the Remonstrance to be read. Once Eliot had again spoken, Coryton intervened in his support.

His Majesty hath need of our help ... : We all came with a full purpose to give his Majesty Tunnage and Poundage, and a further supply also, if it should be needful: ... But such things have been put in amongst us now, as have heretofore been judged treason; ... shall every man that hath broken the law, have the liberty to pretend the king’s commands?

He closed with a motion for the Commons to advise the king to rid himself of the evil councillors identified by Eliot.61

Committed a close prisoner to the Tower two days later for his part in the riot in the Commons, Coryton, like Eliot, initially refused under interrogation to discuss what had happened. However, his courage failed, and by late April he was abjectly petitioning for his freedom. In June the king agreed to release him, and then, more surprisingly, allowed Pembroke to reinstate him to the vice-wardenship and his militia offices at the end of the year.62 Although regarded as a turncoat by Eliot and his friends, Coryton passed the next decade as a loyal servant of the Crown, apparently even co-operating with the commission for knighthood compositions which he had condemned in 1628. He was briefly imprisoned in London again in 1637 during a jurisdictional dispute between the stannary courts and King’s Bench, but Charles I intervened on his behalf, and six months later appointed him a gentleman of the privy chamber.63 Although he declined to contribute financially towards the First Bishops’ War, he organized the impressment of soldiers in 1640.64 Elected to the Long Parliament for both Launceston and Grampound, he was expelled in August 1641 following allegations of electoral malpractice at Bossiney and ‘undue proceedings ... as vice-warden of the stannaries, contrary to the Petition of Right’. Although one of Cornwall’s leading royalists for much of the Civil War, his surrender to Fairfax (Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax†) in February 1646 facilitated the advance of the New Model Army into eastern Cornwall, and he was favourably treated by the compounding commissioners, who reduced his fine from £1,244 to £828 in 1647. Nevertheless, he suffered sequestration in 1650, and recovered West Newton only in January 1651. He died intestate in the following May, and was buried at St. Mellion. His son John served in Parliament throughout the first two decades of Charles II’s reign.65

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Anne Duffin / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Cornw. RO, CY/7049; C142/662/101.
  • 2. Cornw. RO, CY/7282-4, 7290; E179/89/308; E401/2404.
  • 3. C181/2, ff. 56, 186v; 181/3, ff. 113, 196; 181/5, ff. 83v, 187v.
  • 4. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 23.
  • 5. C231/4, f. 63; 231/5, p. 25; Harl. 286, f. 297; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 112.
  • 6. Bodl. Add. C.85, p. 2; SP16/37/91; Cornw. RO, CY/7241-3.
  • 7. Cornw. RO, CY/7260-1; SP16/106/14; 16/459/8.
  • 8. C181/3, ff. 118, 207; 181/4, f. 111; 181/5, f. 221.
  • 9. E401/2586, p. 81.
  • 10. SP16/187/18.
  • 11. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 13.
  • 12. Cornw. RO, CY/7243.
  • 13. E315/311, f. 18; Cornw. RO, CY/7245.
  • 14. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 15. CJ, ii. 29a.
  • 16. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 17. LC3/1, f. 25; LC5/134, p. 218.
  • 18. D. and S. Lysons, Cornw. 222; D. and S. Lysons, Devon, 142; HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 709.
  • 19. C142/662/101; Cornw. RO, CY/7290; APC, 1619-21, pp. 267-8.
  • 20. G.R. Lewis, Stannaries, 108-9; SP14/117/55; J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129.
  • 21. Gruenfelder, 129.
  • 22. CJ, i. 671b, 687b, 749a, 774a.
  • 23. Ibid. 674b, 692a, 696a, 719a, 776a, 784b; Rich 1624, p. 15; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. ff. 51v, 80v; F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. ii. 424.
  • 24. CJ, i. 723a-b, 725a, 733a; Rich 1624, p. 42; ‘Spring 1624’, p.147; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 68.
  • 25. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 60; CJ, i. 679b-80a, 687a, 695a, 698a, 747a; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 61; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 202.
  • 26. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 201-2.
  • 27. Cornw. RO, B/LIS/108, 278; C142/662/101; Gruenfelder, 129; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 174; CP, ii. 351.
  • 28. Procs. 1625, pp. 204, 206, 226, 238-40, 412, 416, 463, 466; C. Russell, PEP, 254.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 105; 1627-8, p. 187; Cornw. RO, CY/7286-8.
  • 30. Antony House, Cornw., Carew Pole ms BC/24/4/41; SP16/523/77.
  • 31. N and Q (ser. 4), x. 325.
  • 32. Procs. 1626, ii. 374; iii. 409, 417.
  • 33. Ibid. ii. 28-9, 176; iii. 98.
  • 34. Russell, 266-7, 283.
  • 35. Ibid. ii. 66; iii. 75, 156, 159, 168, 307.
  • 36. Ibid. ii. 386; iii. 200, 332.
  • 37. Ibid. ii. 92, 109, 122, 142, 170, 195, 259.
  • 38. Ibid. ii. 149-50, 216, 250, 273, 279-80, 321; iii. 22, 63.
  • 39. Ibid. ii. 289, 323, 336, 361, 379.
  • 40. Ibid. iii. 160, 182, 201, 208, 242, 258, 296.
  • 41. Ibid. iii. 351-2, 355, 383, 387, 425.
  • 42. Harl. 286, f. 297; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 410; SP16/37/91; 16/106/14.
  • 43. SP16/60/75; CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 232-3; APC, 1627, p. 248.
  • 44. APC, 1627, pp. 298, 396; 1627-8, pp. 217-8; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 168-70; Harl. 39, f. 410; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 275.
  • 45. SP16/96/48; 16/106/14; HMC 1st Rep. 51; CD 1628, ii. 33; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 278-9; Cust, 227.
  • 46. CD 1628, ii. 29, 31, 33-4, 479; iii. 388, 392; iv. 6, 428.
  • 47. Ibid. iii. 3, 10; iv. 227; N and Q (ser. 4), x. 325.
  • 48. CD 1628, ii. 411, 416, 446-7.
  • 49. Ibid. ii. 398; iii. 33, 94, 171, 610; iv. 23, 389.
  • 50. Ibid. ii. 227, 444, 564; iii. 26-7, 408, 431.
  • 51. Ibid. ii. 247, 255, 297.
  • 52. Ibid. ii. 78, 90, 168, 277, 388, 421; iii. 25; iv. 280, 297.
  • 53. Ibid. ii. 277; iii. 94, 124, 164, 202.
  • 54. Ibid. iii. 214, 269, 278, 297, 325, 468, 533.
  • 55. Ibid. iii. 627; iv. 65, 124, 178, 255, 284, 321.
  • 56. Ibid. iv. 298, 334, 390, 428, 477.
  • 57. SP16/118/37.
  • 58. CJ, i. 921a-b, 924b; HMC Lonsdale, 61, 63; CD 1629, pp. 19-20, 22-3.
  • 59. CD 1629, pp. 34-5, 121-2, 129; CJ, i. 926b.
  • 60. CJ, i. 928b, 930a-b; CD 1629, pp. 61, 70, 142, 149.
  • 61. W. Cobbett, Parl. Hist. ii. 510; CD 1629, 255, 261-2.
  • 62. APC, 1628-9, p. 352; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 527; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-9, p. 374; Cornw. RO, CY/7261.
  • 63. R. Granville, Hist. of Granville Fam. 182; CSP Dom. 1637, p. 244; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 85-6.
  • 64. PC2/50, p. 300; 2/51, p. 79; CSP Dom. 1640, pp. 372-3.
  • 65. CJ, ii. 29a-b, 46b-7a; Bodl. Clarendon 26, f. 163v; CCC, 387, 398, 1678-9, 1992; PROB 6/26, f. 86; Cornw. RO, P/143/1/1, p. 62.