CUNY, Richard (-d.1627), of St. Florence, Pemb.

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

s. of Walter Cuny by Katherine, da. of an unknown Beds. gent. m. (1) 16 Mar. 1590, Anne da. of Matthew Cradock† of Stafford, 1da.; (2) by 1609, Jane, da. of Morgan Powell, merchant, of Greenhill, Pemb., 1s. 6da. (? 1 d.v.p.) d. by 24 Oct. 1627.1 sig. Richard Cuny.

Offices Held

Capt. ft. Lisbon expedition 1589,2 Normandy campaign 1591,3 Guernsey 1593,4 Ire. 1595, 1597;5 lt. col. Cadiz expedition 1596;6 col. and sjt.-maj. of the army, Ire. 1598.7

Commr. to establish sums collected by the late under-collector of the subsidy, Pemb. 1601,8 to examine witnesses (Alban Stepneth* v. John Heyward) 1605;9 dep. constable, Tenby Castle, Pemb. 1607-at least 1622;10 commr. inquiry, Carew Castle, Pemb. 1610, lands of Sir James Perrot* 1610;11 j.p. Pemb. by 1614-d.;12 mayor, Pembroke 1616, 1620, 1625;13 sheriff, Pemb. 1614-15;14 commr. piracy causes, Pemb., Carm., Card. 1623;15 dep. lt. Pemb. by 1626-d.,16 commr. Forced Loan 1627-d.,17 col. militia ft. by 1627.18


Cuny’s origins are obscure. His father, Walter, was probably the gentleman usher of the same name who served in Henry VIII’s Household and moved from Staffordshire to Pembrokeshire.19 Nothing is known of Cuny himself until he entered the service of Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex sometime before the summer of 1584, when he testified before the Admiralty Court regarding some stolen goods.20 In November 1585 he rode into Wales on the earl’s instructions, for which he was paid 50s., having perhaps been instructed to raise cavalry for Essex, recently appointed general of the horse under the earl of Leicester.21 Early the following year a man styled ‘ceunj’ in one Dutch source accompanied Leicester to the Netherlands and was billeted at Leiden.22 In 1589 Cuny served on the Lisbon expedition under Essex, commanding an infantry company under the earl’s brother, Walter Devereux. On returning to England he may have spent time at Chartley, Essex’s estate near Stafford, as in 1590 he married the daughter of one of Stafford’s leading townsmen.

In 1591 Cuny commanded a newly raised infantry company.23 Sent to Normandy, he again served under Essex. Although paid only until 1 Aug., he evidently kept the field throughout the Rouen campaign, as a Capt. ‘Cannye’ mustered his considerably depleted company at Arques on 13 October.24 Essex’s enforced retirement from military affairs at the beginning of 1592 failed to interrupt Cuny’s career, as in 1593 he took a company of raw recruits to Guernsey, where he spent four months. In April 1595 he was one of several captains dispatched to Ireland to suppress the rebellion in Ulster, and was wounded in the action to relieve Monaghan.25 On his recovery he served with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army led to Cadiz by Essex, and at his return to England he was evidently entrusted by Essex to oversee the movements of Spanish prisoners captured during the raid, perhaps obtaining part of their ransom for himself.26

By 1597 Cuny was back in Ireland, this time commanding a company at Carlingford. By June of the following year he had been granted his own regiment and the position of sergeant-major of the Army. In August 1599 he led the rearguard when forces under Sir Henry Bagnall† attempted to relieve the besieged garrison of the Blackwater Fort. Surprised at the Yellow Ford while strung out along their line of march, the English were overwhelmed. Bagnall was killed, having ignored the advice of Cuny and another colonel to lead the main body rather than the vanguard,27 and Cuny was forced to rescue Henry Cosby’s regiment after its commander disregarded the order to retreat. In the aftermath of the disaster, Essex declared Cuny guilty of cowardice, a slur which so outraged Cuny that he uncharacteristically put pen to paper.28 However, despite maintaining that his rescue of Cosby’s regiment had saved hundreds of lives, a claim supported by three other officers, he was cashiered in mid-November. His dismissal did not dent the high opinion in which he was held by the muster-master (Sir) Ralph Lane†, who later described him as ‘a commander ... of very singular worth’.29

In February 1601 Cuny was arrested in London on suspicion of involvement in Essex’s rising, as was Essex’s steward for Welsh lands, (Sir) Gelly Meyrick†. Under interrogation, Meyrick protested that Cuny had only come up to London to lobby for an addition to the Pembrokeshire property he leased from Essex and to petition the Council for payment of his arrears. As the Council could not disprove Meyrick’s story, or ignore the fact that Cuny’s military career had been ruined by Essex himself, Cuny was not surprisingly released.30 By November 1601 he was sufficiently trusted once more to be placed on a minor local commission.

Cuny was returned for Pembroke Boroughs in 1604. By then he was settled at St. Florence, six or seven miles south-east of Pembroke and a couple of miles west of Tenby, one of the constituency’s contributory boroughs. He undoubtedly owed his election to Pembroke’s mayor, the lawyer Nicholas Adams†, an ally of the Meyricks and thus a former member of the Devereux faction in south Wales.31 Sometime before 1609 Cuny and Adams became brothers-in-law.32 Cuny played little recorded part in the proceedings of the first Jacobean Parliament, although he was appointed on 14 Apr. 1604 to attend a conference with the Lords concerning the Union.33 He may also have displayed an interest in the bill to restore to the young 3rd earl of Essex the estates which had been forfeited in 1601, although he was not named to the committee on 2 Apr. 1604.34 On 27 Apr., nine days after Essex’s bill was sent up to the Lords, having completed all its stages in both Houses, Cuny was licensed to depart in order to attend to ‘some special private occasions’. Required to return ‘within a short time’,35 he received no further mentions in the records until 5 Mar. 1606, when he was again granted leave of absence for ‘great and necessary occasions’. This second departure presumably explains why he was not included on the committee appointed on 1 Apr. 1606 to consider the bill to restore the lands of Roland Meyrick, the eldest son and heir of Sir Gelly.36 Cuny received a final mention in the Commons Journal on 1 May 1607, when he was appointed to the committee for the bill concerning the misconduct of mariners, a measure in which his constituents were presumably interested.37

Cuny’s connection with the Devereux family did not cease with the execution of the 2nd earl of Essex in 1601. Indeed, on 18 May 1607 he was appointed deputy constable of Tenby Castle by the castle’s joint constables, the 3rd earl of Essex and Lord Howard de Walden (Theophilus Howard*). However, his links with the Devereux were not as strong as he would have wished, for at around the same time he failed to obtain the lease of the Devereux manor of Lamphey, which adjoined his property at St. Florence, and which was awarded instead to one Rhys Phillips Scarfe. A furious Cuny subsequently endeavoured to have Scarfe evicted with the aid of his brother-in-law Adams. Cuny and his henchmen also allegedly beat and threatened Scarfe’s servants in the hope that Scarfe would default on his rent. These bullying tactics paid dividends, for in December 1609 Essex’s paternal grandmother, Lettice, countess of Leicester, who held Lamphey in trust for the earl’s half-brother, Walter Devereux*, finally lost patience with Scarfe and reassigned the lease to Cuny. Armed with this document, and a warrant issued by Common Pleas, Cuny and his servants stormed Lamphey in June 1610, manhandled and evicted Scarfe’s wife Alice and allegedly seized goods worth £800. Seven years later Alice recounted her story before Star Chamber, but to no avail.38

Cuny first served as mayor of Pembroke in 1616. During his second term of office he and his deputy, Nicholas Adams, ensured that their brother-in-law Lewis Powell, to whom Cuny had recently transferred the lease of Lamphey, was returned to the 1621 Parliament for Pembroke Boroughs.39 In the subsequent investigation by the committee for privileges it emerged that Cuny and Adams had thwarted the electoral ambitions of Henry Wogan of Wiston, who also desired the seat, by threatening to ‘admit no election unless Mr. Lewis Powell should be named’, by preventing the 160 voters in the out-boroughs from exercising their rights and by advising the burgesses of Pembroke that they were required by their charter to vote as he did.40 As a result of these findings, the committee recommended that Powell’s election should be declared void. However, at the suggestion of Sir Samuel Sandys, who blamed Cuny rather than Powell for subverting the electoral process, the House resolved to interview both men before passing judgment.41 Whether they ever appeared to explain themselves is unknown.

Following the transfer of his lease of Lamphey to Powell, Cuny moved to Pembroke where, by 1625 at the latest, he leased some property belonging to the Crown.42 His final term of office as mayor, in 1625, coincided with the re-election of Lewis Powell as Member for Pembroke Boroughs. Cuny was one of five Pembrokeshire magistrates who wrote to the Privy Council in August 1626 to explain his county’s refusal to contribute to a royal loan. Pembrokeshire was poor, they said, and there was disquiet among the county’s taxpayers at the unparliamentary nature of the demand.43

Cuny died in October 1627. In his will he stipulated that the revenues arising from the leases of four Pembrokeshire farms and land in Pembroke were to be applied to the maintenance of his only son Walter, who fought for Parliament in the 1640s.44 No other member of his family subsequently sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


F. Green, ‘Cuny of Welston and Golden’, W. Wales Historical Recs. xii. 170.

  • 1. Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, i. 25, 126; IGI Staffs.; Green, 170-1; J.C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl Hist. ii. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1920), pp. 6-7.
  • 2. Expedition of Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake to Spain and Portugal, 1589 ed. R.B. Wernham (Navy Rec. Soc. cxxvii), 348.
  • 3. E351/243, unfol.
  • 4. E351/245, unfol.
  • 5. SP12/253/35; SP63/202(i)/67.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, vi. 206, 361, 498.
  • 7. CSP Ire. 1598-9, pp. 240, 242.
  • 8. E178/3489.
  • 9. STAC 8/290/5, ff. 16, 23.
  • 10. E112/151/61.
  • 11. E178/205, 208.
  • 12. C66/1988; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 21; SP16/33/57.
  • 13. ‘Mayors of Pembroke’, W. Wales Historical Recs. v. 120-1; C219/37/363.
  • 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 266.
  • 15. C181/3, f. 97.
  • 16. SP16/18/50; APC, 1627, p. 88.
  • 17. SP16/73/6.
  • 18. SP16/88/50.
  • 19. Green, 169-70.
  • 20. HCA 1/43, f. 177v.
  • 21. Longleat, Devereux Pprs. 5 (IHR microfilm), f. 73v (ref. supplied by Paul Hammer).
  • 22. R.C. Strong and J.A. van Dorsten, Leicester’s Triumph, 114.
  • 23. APC, 1591, p. 29.
  • 24. E351/243; SP78/26, f. 40.
  • 25. CSP Carew, 1589-1600, p. 110. Essex seems to have exaggerated the extent of his injuries, as Cuny was able to sign a letter to Ireland’s lord deputy after the action: CSP Ire. 1592-6, p. 322; HMC Hatfield, vi. 361.
  • 26. A Spaniard in Elizabethan Eng. ed. G. Ungerer, ii. 210-11. We owe this suggestion to Paul Hammer’s reading of LPL, ms 661, f. 180.
  • 27. CSP Carew, 1589-1600, p. 280.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, viii. 409-12.
  • 29. CSP Ire. 1598-9, pp. 253-4, 278-9, 420; SP63/207, pt. iv. f. 199v; G. Owen, The Taylors Cussion ed. E.M. Pritchard, pt. 2, f. 43v, listed him among those officers discharged in Apr. 1599.
  • 30. HMC Hatfield, xi. 82, 106; APC, 1600-1, pp. 288-9.
  • 31. Pemb. County Hist. III: Early Modern Pemb. 1536-1815 ed. B. Howells (Pemb. Rec. Soc.) 148, 167.
  • 32. STAC 8/274/23.
  • 33. CJ, i. 172a.
  • 34. Ibid. 162a.
  • 35. Ibid. 189a, 959b.
  • 36. Ibid. 291a-b.
  • 37. Ibid. 277b, 280a, 366a.
  • 38. STAC 8/274/23. No fine is recorded against Cuny in PRO, Barnes index.
  • 39. Green, 171.
  • 40. Som. RO, DD/PH 216, f. 11.
  • 41. CJ, i. 624a-b; CD 1621, iii. 285.
  • 42. LR8/365, f. 25.
  • 43. SP16/33/57.
  • 44. Green, 172-3, 175.