CRANE, Sir Robert (1586-1643), of Chilton, nr. Sudbury, Suff. and Buckenham Tofts, Norf.

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 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - 17 Feb. 1643

Family and Education

b. c.June-Dec. 1586,1 ?illegit. s. of Henry Crane (d.1586) of Chilton and Katherine, da. and coh. of John Jernegan of Somerleyton, Suff.2 educ. I. Temple 1607; L. Inn 1608.3 m. (1) 19 Jan. 1607, Dorothy (d. 11 Apr. 1624), da. of Sir Henry Hobart* of Intwood, Norf., c.j.c.p. 1615-25, s.p.; (2) 21 Sept. 1624, Susan (bur. 14 Sept. 1681), da. of Sir Giles Alington of Horseheath, Cambs., 1s. d.v.p. 7da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. grandfa. 1591;4 kntd. 27 Feb. 1605;5 cr. bt. 11 May 1627.6 d. 17 Feb. 1643.7

Offices Held

J.p. Suff. by 1610-at least 1641;8 commr. sea breaches, Norf. and Suff. 1610-16, Norf. 1625,9 aid, Suff. 1612-13;10 capt. militia horse by 1613-1614, ft. 1615-d.;11 commr. sewers, Essex and Suff. 1617, 1634, Suff. 1619-37,12 oyer and terminer, Norf. circ. 1618-1642, Suff. 1640;13 dep. lt. Suff. by 1619-d.;14 commr. subsidy, Suff. 1621-2, 1624-5, 1641-2, Hadleigh, Suff. 1624,15 Fen drainage 1625,16 Forced Loan, Suff. 1626-7, Ipswich, Suff. 1627,17 piracy 1627,18 worsted yarn, Norwich, Norf. 1629,19 gaol delivery, Hadleigh, Suff. 1630-41;20 sheriff, Suff. 1631-2;21 commr. swans, Essex and Suff. 1635,22 inquiry, Bury St. Edmunds canal, Suff. 1636-7,23 maltsters, Suff. 1636,24 array 1642,25 propositions 1642.26

Commr. trade 1625.27


Crane’s ancestors had held the manor of Chilton in west Suffolk since 1439.28 His father, Henry, married Anne Goodwyn, but the marriage was dissolved in 1579 on the grounds of Anne’s adultery with a servant.29 Henry then supposedly married Katherine Jernegan, by whom he fathered this Member, but as his first wife was still alive the validity of this union was doubtful. Henry died within the lifetime of Crane’s grandfather, and on the death of the latter in 1591 Crane’s supposed half-sister Rubath or Rubine was found to be the legal heir to the family estate. However, the estate had already been settled on Crane, whose upbringing was entrusted to his kinsman, Sir Robert Jermyn† of Rushbrooke Suffolk.30 Jermyn was a puritan, although Crane was reputed ‘a gentleman very prone to venery, and one that declined few that came in his way fit for that sport’.31

In 1607 Crane married the daughter of Sir Henry Hobart, then attorney-general and subsequently a judge, a match which provided him with a useful link to the Court. He acquired the manor of Sudbury, one-and-a-half miles from Chilton, from the duchy of Lancaster in 1610, and was returned for the borough in 1614. Though he left no trace on the records of the Addled Parliament, he was to represent either the borough or Suffolk in every subsequent Parliament summoned in his lifetime.32

In 1620 Crane succeeded in mobilizing an impressive array of forces to secure a county seat. In early November he secured the backing of the gentry of the liberty of Bury St. Edmunds, which constituted the western part of Suffolk. He subsequently circulated letters to the freeholders of the liberty informing them of this decision, and promising that he would ‘omit no opportunity’ to ‘show a requital’ to his supporters, although he made no specific promises. Soon he also began to attract support from the east of the county. On 29 Nov. Samuel Ward, the influential town preacher of Ipswich, wrote promising his backing, which was particularly important as the election was to be held at Ipswich, while Sir Robert Hitcham busily canvassed support for Crane in east Suffolk. Moreover, Hobart intervened with the sheriff, Sir William Spring*, to ensure that Crane had sufficient time before the election to complete his preparations.33

Returned for the prestigious first seat, Crane was named to 11 committees and made 16 recorded speeches in the third Jacobean Parliament. In addition he was almost certainly mentioned at the hearing concerning the dispute between Robert Grice and his wife over property in Norfolk at a meeting of the recess committee on 13 April. In his account of this meeting, John Pym records that this was actually (Sir) Francis Crane, who also sat in 1621, but the records of the 1624 Parliament, when the case was again raised, consistently describe Crane as the man appointed by Chancery to investigate the dispute.34

As Crane lived in the Stour valley, one of the principal centres for cloth production, it is hardly surprising that the industry, which was in the midst of a slump in 1621, was his major preoccupation in the Commons. At the first reading of the bill to liberalize the domestic wool trade (14 Feb.), Crane cited the receipts from alnage which he claimed demonstrated that the clothing manufacturing was ‘the third part decayed’ in Suffolk. He called for legislation to loosen the Merchant Adventurers’ control on cloth exports and argued that the ‘fraud of bankrupts’ was a major cause of the ‘decay of clothing’. Indeed, clothiers living near him had lost £60,000 in the previous two years as a result of merchants reneging on their debts.35 When the bill was reported on 18 May he called for clothiers to be given ‘liberty of pre-emption’ of wool.36 Crane was among those named to consider the bankruptcy bill on 13 Mar., and when the measure was reported on 24 May he reiterated his comments on the losses suffered by the Suffolk clothiers. He presumably supported moves to extend the measure’s scope beyond London, as he called for a rapid recommittal so that the bill might be amended.37

Crane was not appointed to the committee to consider the bill to prohibit the export of wool, which received its second reading on 30 Apr., but he reported the measure on 26 May. The bill was recommitted to add a proviso to allow ships to carry sheepskins for cleaning guns and was reported by Crane later the same day. Further provisos were tendered to exempt Newcastle and Berwick, but Crane successfully opposed them and the bill was ordered to be engrossed.38 Named to the committee concerning the bill for the true making of woollen cloth on 21 Mar., Crane attended one undated meeting.39 In addition on 26 Mar. he supported moves to prevent patentees running lighthouses from increasing the fees exacted from passing shipping.40

On 28 May Crane protested against the king’s message announcing that the sitting would end in seven days time. Fearing that this would not give enough time to pass legislation, he said that their constituents would ‘with a heavy heart pay the subsidies we have given’ unless they saw ‘some fruits of our labours’. He moved for a petition to the king to extend the session until the end of the law term. However, the diarist Edward Nicholas states that ‘the House liked not this motion’.41

Speaking again two days later, Crane questioned whether anything could be achieved ‘with the matter of trade’ in the time left available, stating that ‘we have sat here these 13 weeks and have had several meetings for trade, and yet we are no nearer a good success’. Protesting that ‘nothing that we desired [had been] granted’, he instanced ‘the matter of popery we were denied, for ordnance denied’ and stated that the two subsidies which had been voted were ‘like to prove a free gift indeed’, and that ‘contribution requires retribution’. He dismissed the various reasons advanced by James in favour of ending the sitting. There was little danger to their health in staying in Westminster because the weather was mild, and there were enough deputy lieutenants and justices of the peace - indeed ‘too many’ of the latter - to keep local government running while the Commons remained in session. Moreover, he felt that the House could cope perfectly well without the attendance of the privy councillors, a remark which may have been directed at the master of the Wards, Sir Lionel Cranfield, whom the king had particularly mentioned on 3 May when he had complained that the Parliament was distracting his ministers from their duties. He concluded by moving for a conference with the Lords to petition the king for more time.42 When the king responded by offering a further ten days to pass legislation on 2 June, Crane advocated taking up the offer, but was unable to carry the House.43

In the second sitting Crane seconded William Mallory’s motion on 23 Nov. for an investigation into Sir Edwin Sandys’ absence from the Commons, arguing that although the House should not ‘question matter of state’ there was ‘a murmur abroad’ that Sandys had been imprisoned for what he had done in Parliament, and that this needed to be cleared up.44 The following day he successfully moved to be excused from the investigation of Lepton and Goldsmith, who were alleged to have conspired against Sir Edward Coke*, on the grounds that he had married a kinswoman of one of the culprits.45 This request may indicate that he felt hostility towards Coke, whom he tried to keep from the chair of the grand committee on religion four days later by proposing Thomas Crewe instead. During the committee he seconded the proposal of Sir John Strangways* for a double taxation of recusants.46

At the third reading of the wool export bill on 30 Nov., Crane again spoke against the proviso to exempt Berwick-upon-Tweed, which had been pressed on his committee, ‘but thought very inconvenient because they may then transport wool at their pleasure’. The coarseness of the Northumberland fleece was no argument because, mixed with finer wool abroad, it would ‘overthrow our clothing’. He also desired that measures might also be taken against exports from Scotland and Ireland.47 In his last speech of the Parliament, on 13 Dec., he urged that the address of thanks for the king’s message should be deferred until the king returned to London.48

In 1623 Crane strengthened his interest at Sudbury by conveying a house in Friar Street to the corporation for use as a workhouse, and he presumably had no difficulty in securing his re-election for the borough the following year.49 Owing to his wife’s illness, he was unable to take his seat in the last Jacobean Parliament until 3 Mar., when Sandys successfully moved for him to be admitted before taking communion on the grounds that he was ‘a man so well known to be free from any exception in religion’.50

Crane received only two committee appointments in the 1624 Parliament - for the revived bill to prevent the export of wool (6 Mar.), and for extending the Act of 1607 for the true making of woollen cloth (8 Mar.) - and he attended at least one undated meeting of the former.51 Only one recorded speech can be certainly attributed to him. On 17 Mar., responding to Mallory’s motion for a bill to be drawn up to prevent the abuses of the clerk of the market, he informed the House that a measure to that effect had already been drafted.52 This Member may have been the ‘Crane’ who spoke on the Cambridgeshire election the day before, but it is possible that the speaker was (Sir) Francis Crane, who once again held a seat in the Commons.53 The Grice case was heard at the committee for courts of justice and was reported to the Commons by Sir Robert Phelips on 26 May 1624, but Crane made no recorded contribution to the proceedings on that subject.54 Indeed, Crane may well have been absent from the latter part of the session, as his first wife died on 11 April.

Re-elected in 1625, Crane was named to the committee for privileges on 21 June and to five others, including those for the wool export and free fishing bills (both on 27 June).55 In the supply debate of 30 June he successfully proposed a ‘middle way’, to vote two subsidies and no fifteenths, which fell ‘upon the poorer sort’. This, he thought, would ‘give good content to the country’.56 At Oxford he had liberty to come into the House on 4 Aug., and six days later urged his colleagues to respond positively to the king’s plea for additional supply.57

In the 1626 election John Winthrop, the future governor of Massachusetts, persuaded Crane to stand with (Sir) Robert Naunton*, the master of the Court of Wards, for the county, although Crane had misgivings.58 He was named to eight committees and made three recorded speeches. He was again principally concerned with economic matters, but now it was the threat of the Dunkirk privateers to the maritime economy of East Anglia that was uppermost in his mind. On 18 Mar. he stated that there were 300 fishing boats ready to set sail from the ports of Norfolk, which would contribute £60,000 a year to the local economy, but ‘they now dare not go out for fear of [the] Dunkirk[er]s’, and he moved that this be considered alongside the detention of English ships in France.59 He was presumably referring to East Anglia when, four days later, he complained that there were ‘32 Dunkirkers seen upon the coasts daily’, who not only preyed upon shipping but also ‘shoot into our towns and may ... burn them’. He was among those ordered on the same day to draft a bill to increase seamen’s wages.60

Crane’s worry about the threat to England’s maritime security seems to have made him amenable to Charles’ requests for supply and impatient with the proceedings against Buckingham. On 20 Mar. he moved for consideration of grievances to be deferred until the following Monday, and for the House meanwhile to ‘consider of the king’s revenues’. He was among those ordered on 4 May to draft a petition ‘wherein the desire of the House may be intimated to His Majesty for the rectifying and augmenting his revenue’.61 He acted as a teller in the division against giving the impeachment committee power to examine new charges against Buckingham on 24 Apr., but the motion was defeated.62

Once again the poor health of Crane’s wife - he had remarried in September 1624 - obstructed his attendance in the Commons. He was absent without leave at the call of the House on 5 Apr., and though he was back in the chamber before the end of the month, he was given leave to depart on 24 May because of his wife’s poor health. His appointment to the committee for a bill concerning the privileges of Parliament on 13 June suggests that he managed to return before the dissolution.63

In 1626 Crane put up a monument to himself and both his wives at the cost of £50 and the following year he acquired a baronetcy and commissioned a pedigree from a local antiquary.64 In 1628 he was again elected for Sudbury, when he received only two appointments. One was to confer with the Lords on 26 Mar. concerning the enforcement of the recusancy laws, while the other related to the presentment of recusants, to which committee he was added on 12 May. Four days earlier, on 8 May, he had reiterated his support for the idea of forcing recusants to pay double subsidies like foreigners, arguing that ‘if they are alien in their hearts, let them be in their purses too’. His only other speech was on the following day, when he wanted Richard Burgess, vicar of Witney, to be deprived of his living by Act of Parliament for writing on anti-puritan satire.65 Crane only made one recorded contribution to the proceedings of the 1629 session. This was on 11 Feb., when he informed the House, on the authority of ‘a very honest man and a good divine’, that the anti-Calvinist John Cosin had attended communion in his college chapel ‘reading on a book which had to [sic] title A Preparative to the Mass’.66

In August 1630 Crane, along with Sir Lionel Tollemache, refused to sign warrants from the Suffolk deputy lieutenants for levying money to pay their county’s muster master. They alleged that similar levies had been questioned in the 1628-9 Parliament and that the king had refused to uphold them. Crane, however, argued that those deputies who had not been Members of Parliament could authorize rates on their own.67

Crane was re-elected for Sudbury to both the Short and Long Parliaments. In 1642 he was appointed a royalist commissioner of array as well as a parliamentary deputy lieutenant, but, after some hesitation, he sided with Parliament. He made his will on 13 Feb. 1643 and died in London, a very wealthy man, four days later. He was buried the day after his death at Chilton. He left no male heirs, but his four surviving daughters married a peer (John Belasyse†), three baronets (Sir Ralph Hare†, Sir William Armyne† and Sir Edmund Bacon), and a knight of the Bath (Edward Walpole†). The estate was partitioned between them in 1652. His widow married Isaac Appleton†, who sat for Sudbury in 1661.68

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 145.
  • 2. W.S. Appleton, Mems. of Cranes of Chilton, 27; Howard, Vis. Suff. i. 145.
  • 3. I. Temple database of admiss.; LI Admiss.
  • 4. Appleton, 31, 51-2, 67; Howard, i. 140-2.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 137.
  • 6. CB, ii. 15.
  • 7. Howard, Vis. Suff. i. 142.
  • 8. C66/1822; 66/2859.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 128, 264; 181/3, f. 189v.
  • 10. E163/15/21; Harl. 354, f. 68v.
  • 11. Add. 39245, ff. 11v, 15, 22v; ‘Gurdon Pprs.’ ed. W.B. Gurdon, East Anglian, n.s. iv. 337.
  • 12. C181/2, ff. 272, 349v; 181/4, f. 173v; 181/5, f. 82.
  • 13. C181/2, f. 316; 181/5, ff. 1755, 218.
  • 14. Add. 39245, f. 43; LJ, v. 342.
  • 15. C212/22/20-1, 23; Harl. 305, f. 206v; SR, v. 66, 156.
  • 16. C181/5, f. 163v.
  • 17. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, ff. 55v, 85.
  • 18. C181/3, f. 232.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 113.
  • 20. C181/4, f. 57v; 181/5, f. 195v.
  • 21. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 132.
  • 22. C181/5, f. 28.
  • 23. CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 434; Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv-vii), 307.
  • 24. PC2/46, f. 373.
  • 25. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 26. LJ, v. 245,
  • 27. Rymer, viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 28. W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. i. 71.
  • 29. Bodl. Tanner 97, ff. 46v, 52, 53.
  • 30. The Gen. n.s. xiii. 277-8; APC, 1591, pp. 78-79; Appleton, 27; Howard, Vis. Suff. i. 151; C2/Jas.I/C16/31.
  • 31. Merry Passages and Jeasts’: A Manuscript Notebook of Sir Nicholas Le Strange ed. H.F. Lippincott (Salzburg Studies in Eng. Literature: Eliz. and Renaissance Studies xxix), 155.
  • 32. Copinger, i. 234; C66/1889/6.
  • 33. Bodl., Tanner 69, f. 150-1; 290, ff. 37, 54; Appleton, 69.
  • 34. CD 1621, iv. 226; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 251-2; CJ, i. 712a.
  • 35. CJ i. 520b; Nicholas, i. 40; CD 1621, iv. 49.
  • 36. CJ, i. 625a.
  • 37. Ibid. 626a; Nicholas, ii. 96.
  • 38. CJ, i. 597a, 628a; CD 1621, ii. 396.
  • 39. CJ, i. 565b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 186.
  • 40. CJ, i. 573b.
  • 41. Nicholas, ii. 113-14.
  • 42. Ibid. 128; CD 1621, ii. 410; iii. 355; iv. 299; v. 186. M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 319.
  • 43. CD 1621, iii. 400.
  • 44. Nicholas, ii. 199; CD 1621, iii. 347; iv. 434.
  • 45. CD 1621, iii. 439.
  • 46. Ibid. vi. 205-6.
  • 47. CJ, i. 653a-b; Nicholas, ii. 255; CD 1621, ii. 478; v. 226.
  • 48. CJ, i. 663a.
  • 49. E. Stokes and L. Redstone, ‘Cal. of the Muns. of the Bor. of Sudbury’, Suff. Inst. Arch. Procs. xiii. 272.
  • 50. Holles 1624, p. 18; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 72.
  • 51. CJ, i. 678b, 679b; Kyle, 224.
  • 52. CJ, i. 739a.
  • 53. ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 56v.
  • 54. CJ, i. 712a; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 197.
  • 55. Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 252-3.
  • 56. Ibid. 275.
  • 57. Ibid. 385, 445.
  • 58. Winthrop Pprs. ed. G. Robinson, i. 324-6.
  • 59. Procs. 1626, ii. 313.
  • 60. Ibid. 339, 341.
  • 61. Ibid. 322; iii. 156.
  • 62. Ibid. iii. 53.
  • 63. Ibid. ii. 431; iii. 53, 321, 432.
  • 64. Appleton, 77-81.
  • 65. CD 1628, ii. 120; iii. 331, 347, 369.
  • 66. CD 1629, pp. 139, 193.
  • 67. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 425.
  • 68. Keeler, 146; C. Holmes, Eastern Assoc. 49; Copinger, i. 73; Howard, i. 142, 160; PROB 11/191, ff. 70-70A.