GILES, Sir Edward (1566-1637), of Bowden House, Ashprington and Dean Court, Dean Prior, Devon

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

bap. 21 July 1566, o. surv. s. of John Giles† of Bowden and Agnes, da. of Hugh Stukeley of Afton, Devon.1 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1583;2 New Inn; M. Temple 1585.3 m. 28 Jan. 1588, Mary (bur. 26 Jan. 1643), da. and h. of Edmund Drew of Hayne, Devon, wid. of Walter Northcote (d. 30 Sept. 1587) of Crediton, Devon, s.p.4 kntd. 23 July 1603;5 suc. fa. 1606. bur. 28 Dec. 1637.6 sig. Edward Giles.

Offices Held

Officer militia, Devon by 1596,7 commr. inquiry, Sir Robert Bassett’s† lands 1606,8 piracy, Devon 1607-d., Exeter, Devon 1607-at least 1612,9 oyer and terminer 1612,10 sheriff, Devon 1612-13,11 capt. militia ft. by 1613,12 j.p. c.1613-d.,13 commr. subsidy 1621-2, 1624,14 impressment 1623, 1625,15 sub-commr. fees 1623,16 dep. lt. 1626-?d.,17 commr. Forced Loan 1627;18 freeman, Totnes, Devon by 1629;19 commr. sewers, Devon 1634,20 col.-gen. militia 1635.21

Vol. Low Countries bef. 1603.22

Member, New Eng. Co. 1620.23


Giles was the great-grandson of a wealthy Totnes merchant, John Giles, who represented the borough in the Reformation Parliament and purchased the family’s principal estates, Bowden Barton just outside the town, and Dean Prior manor, five miles to the north-west.24 Giles’s father, also named John, retained close ties with the borough, which returned him to the Commons in 1586, but he was primarily a country gentleman. At his death he owned more than 500 acres, including seven manors, the bulk of this property being situated within a few miles of Totnes.25 The income from this compact estate was adequate to fund a conventional gentry education for the young Giles, who was active in the local militia by 1596, when he was assigned a minor role in guarding the Devon coast against invasion. In the following year he entered Parliament for the first time, as senior Member for Totnes. According to the biographer John Prince (1643-1723), he was drawn to the military life by his ‘active and vigorous spirit’, and served as a volunteer in the Low Countries for several years towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign. He also helped to recruit Devon men for the Irish wars in around early 1602.26

Giles received a knighthood at the time of James I’s coronation, but reportedly relied on his father to pay the requisite fees. He played little further part in public life until he succeeded to his patrimony in 1606. Thereafter, he rose slowly but steadily through the ranks of local government, both civil and military, and as sheriff of Devon in 1612-13 he created a particularly favourable impression by his generous displays of largesse. At around the same time he also acquired a solid reputation as a godly gentleman: the puritan town preacher at Totnes, Barnaby Potter, who lived with Giles for many years at Bowden House before marrying his step-daughter, attested to his piety in a funeral sermon published in 1613. This combination of qualities, of piety and generosity, earned Giles the intense admiration of his contemporaries. Indeed, Thomas Westcote, in his View of Devonshire, actually omitted a character sketch of him on the grounds that, ‘by speaking the truth, [he might] be said to flatter’.27

Giles was returned to the Commons in 1614 as knight of the shire for Devon. Appointed by name to 11 committees, he also made 15 speeches, and despite his relative lack of parliamentary experience, he was soon highly regarded at Westminster. On 8 Apr. he was named to help prepare the important bill for continuing or repealing expiring statutes, and the next day he was added to the prestigious committee for privileges. Firm in defence of Members’ rights, he insisted on 10 May that Sir Thomas Parry’s* electoral misdemeanours should be punished by the Commons, and not left to the king’s discretion. He also shared in the general sense of outrage on 17 May when Richard Martin* strayed from his formal brief as counsel to the Virginia Company to deliver a diatribe against Parliament.28 Anxious that only firm Protestants should sit in the Commons, Giles successfully moved on 9 Apr. that Members should be barred from entering the House unless they had first publicly received communion. He was subsequently nominated to help scrutinize bills against clerical non-residence and the controversial oath ex officio (12 and 31 May). Given his record of foreign service in the Protestant cause, it was not surprising that he secured appointment on 14 Apr. to the conference with the Lords concerned with the Palatine marriage bill.29

On 17 May Giles spoke in support of the estate bill promoted by a fellow Devon magistrate, Sir Warwick Hele*, and as a Member for Devon he was entitled to sit on the committee. Conscious of his responsibilities as a knight of the shire, he also took a close interest in business that affected Devon’s economy. He backed complaints by the Plymouth Member, Sir William Strode, against the French Company’s patent (3 May), and attempted on 1 June to revive interest in this issue. On 20 May he called for a committee to consider the impact of the Cockayne project on cloth production, Devon’s principal industry. He also supported a bill to prevent weirs from damaging fish stocks (21 May), and was nominated on 25 May to the legislative committee concerned with corrupt customs officials.30

Firmly opposed to impositions, Giles attempted on 20 Apr. to get debate on this subject brought forward. On 5 May he argued against granting supply before the issue of impositions had been resolved, which he proposed to do either by bill or by petitioning the king. Named on 23 May to the committee to consider whether it would be wise to provoke James further by challenging his right to create baronets, he remained to the fore as the session descended into chaos. Following Bishop Neile’s offensive attack on the Commons’ campaign against impositions, Giles supported the proposal to complain to the Lords not just verbally but in writing (27 May). He again insisted, on 3 June, that no supply should be granted until the king offered concessions over impositions. His words were apparently relayed to Court, and three days later he sought to clear his name, having heard that the government intended to question him about his comments. Nevertheless, on 7 June he once more insisted that, despite the imminent threat of dissolution, the Crown had not yet given enough ground over grievances for the Commons to vote supply.31 The session having reached its abrupt end, Giles was summoned before the Council on 8 June and prohibited from leaving London. He was discharged a week later. No other evidence of royal displeasure was forthcoming, however, and consequently Giles’s career in local government continued without interruption.32

At the next parliamentary election Giles was once more returned for Totnes. Somewhat surprisingly, he quickly emerged as one of the leading figures in the 1621 House of Commons. During the first sitting alone he was named to 24 committees, including that for privileges, and made 71 speeches. Indeed, barely a week into the session, John Chamberlain noted him as one of the six ‘chief speakers’ in the House.33 Doubtless mindful of his own treatment after the 1614 Parliament, Giles stunned the Commons on the first full day of business, 5 Feb., by challenging the recent royal Proclamation ‘against excess of lavish and licentious speech of matters of state’. Apparently acting in conjunction with Sir Robert Phelips, who seconded his motions, he called for a petition requesting the king to respect parliamentary free speech; Members who ‘spake extravagant in the House’ should be punished by the Commons, not questioned by the government after the session ended. In addition, summoning up the spectre of the Gunpowder Plot, he demanded a further petition to demand that the king implement the law banning Catholics from the London area in order to guarantee Members’ personal safety.34 Ostensibly, Giles had decided to embark on a high-risk strategy, which threatened to jeopardize relations between the king and the Commons before any serious business had been transacted. Some of his audience certainly assumed that Giles was trying to stir up trouble. In one uncorroborated newsletter report of the ensuing debate, he was alleged to have opposed an early grant of supply, arguing ‘that if the subsidy must first be done, the Parliament would be as good as done also.’ However, subsequent comments made by him on 12 Feb. suggest that Giles was actually aiming to avoid the clashes that had undermined the 1614 session. Whichever interpretation is correct, Giles was undoubtedly being very brave, as most Members were nervous of tackling the issue of free speech.35

Giles was appointed to committees to consider how to broach the matter of free speech with James, and to draft a petition on the same subject (5 and 12 Feb.), but progress in both was painfully slow and hesitant. Even when Giles reported firm evidence that Henry Lovell* had been threatened with punishment for having made certain controversial remarks in the House (13 Feb.), the Commons could not be stirred into action. Not surprisingly, therefore, the king’s declaration two days later that he would uphold traditional freedoms proved sufficient to bury the issue.36

The second strand of Giles’s speech of 5 Feb., the attack on recusants, was much better received by Members, and two days later he returned to this theme, complaining that the penal laws were not being applied fully to wealthy Catholics in Devon. Appointed to help devise a petition against recusants, he was also nominated to attend the conference with the Lords to finalize its text (5 and 15 Feb.). Meanwhile, on 13 Feb. he affirmed that the king should be requested to ban ordnance exports to Spain, on the grounds that any artillery so exported might end up being used in the Palatinate. James’s rejection of both these petitions was a major blow, but Giles returned to the fray on 4 May, opening the debate on a new bill against recusants by again calling for full implementation of the penal laws, and also for the education of Catholic children as Protestants. He was named to the committee, but this measure too failed to meet with royal approval.37

The king’s ambiguous stance on religion probably helped to stiffen Giles’s natural resolve to maintain the Protestant orthodoxy of the Commons. Appointed on 5 Feb. to monitor Members’ corporate communion, he was outraged when Thomas Sheppard, who was suspected of Catholic leanings, attacked the Sabbath observance bill on 15 February. On the following day he argued that Sheppard should be sentenced at the bar of the House without being first allowed to defend himself.38 Similarly, on 7 Feb. he backed the expulsion of (Sir) Henry Britton, who had been returned at Gatton by a recusant landowner. Religious considerations certainly swayed Giles’s attitude towards Members’ privileges. When Sir Edward Fraunceys* was threatened with legal action, Giles opted to defend the culprit, Michael Chambers, after it emerged that he was an informer against recusants (28 April). Predictably, Giles took a hard line over the seditious Catholic, Edward Floyd, calling on 1 May for him to receive as many lashes as there were beads in his rosary. Once the king’s displeasure at this incident became known, Giles was ordered to help search for precedents that would justify the Commons’ assumption of the power of judicature (2 May). Even when these failed to materialize, he remained undeterred. Asserting two days later that ‘no man sorrows more for the infringing of the liberties of the House’ than he did, he called on the House to make a new precedent if necessary, rather than concede ground to the Lords on this issue.39

Despite his willingness to risk confrontation over religion and privilege, Giles was in fact anxious that this Parliament should achieve concrete results. On 6 Feb. he criticized the absent Sir Edwin Sandys for attending to Virginia Company business instead of taking up his seat. Moreover, with a view to facilitating business, he backed Sir William Strode’s motion on 12 Mar. for bills to receive their second readings before 8.30 am. Ten days later he supported the king’s request for a short Easter recess, asserting that Members who valued their private business above the country’s needs should not be in the Commons at all. On 24 Mar. he agreed with Strode that the committee for the continuation or repeal of expiring statutes should continue to meet during the recess, and he was subsequently nominated to the committee to organize the Commons’ agenda (26 April).40

Giles was not greatly concerned with private legislation, although once again he took an interest in Sir Warwick Hele’s estate bill. Named to the committee (28 Feb.), he reassured the House on 10 Mar. that Hele’s brother, Sir Francis, had consented to the measure.41 Ordinarily, Giles focused on more general concerns, though his priorities were clearly influenced by the needs of his own county. With his long experience of the Devon militia, for instance, he was an obvious choice for the committee to draft a bill to improve musters and the supply of weapons (7 March). Local concerns also informed his attitude towards trade-related issues, on which, as in 1614, he devoted a considerable amount of time. On 12 Feb. he again courted controversy by calling for the precedents previously gathered against impositions to be brought into the House. Two days later, during a debate on the bill for free trade in wool, he specifically blamed impositions for damaging the Devon cloth industry. Although he failed to rekindle debate on this topic, he again backed the wool sales bill on 13 March. He also supported the bill against exporting raw wool (30 Apr.), and was prepared to contemplate an end to the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly over woollen cloth exports (7 May). Seven days later, following a petition from the Cinque Ports against the Merchant Adventurers’ new charter, Giles, urged that the Company’s impact on other localities should also be debated, and highlighted the problems of his local port, Dartmouth.42

Drawing on his shrieval experience, Giles argued on 26 Feb. that the large sums spent annually in his county on foreign corn and Irish beef were a significant factor in the prevailing shortage of coin. Nevertheless, he opposed the bill to ban corn imports, insisting on 8 Mar. that it would serve merely to push up prices in Devon to unacceptable levels, and maybe even cause famine.43 Among the causes that Giles wished to encourage was the West Country fishing industry, which he believed was helping the national balance of trade. Despite his godly views, he confirmed on 26 Feb. that the highly profitable farming of the Newfoundland banks was being undermined by excessive tithing of fishing voyages. He also strongly supported the bill for freer fishing in America, describing it on 24 May as one of the best measures in the House.44

Giles’s attitude to the inquiry into monopolies was similarly influenced by his personal experience. On 19 Feb. he condemned outright (Sir) Giles Mompesson’s* patent for licensing inns: ‘never hath anything been ever granted under the Great Seal which did derogate so much from the authority of the justices of peace’. When the speakers at the conference with the Lords on 8 Mar. failed to mention the referees who had recommended that the patent be granted, Giles was scathing, asserting the next day that he would willingly have named even his own great-grandfather. Having supported calls for Mompesson to be imprisoned (22 Mar.), he was named to the committee to consider how to void the alehouses patent (21 April). On 11 May he proposed that the whole matter should be transmitted to the Lords for judgment there.45 Initially Giles had great hopes for the parliamentary attack on monopolies, not least because the government’s own law officers seemed powerless to act. On 5 Mar., after again denouncing monopolists as ‘these bloodsuckers of the kingdom, and vipers of the commonwealth’, he urged Members not to fear the patentees, however prominent: ‘the more examples we make of great men, the more good we do to the country’. Gradually, however, he came to recognize the necessity of working with the king on this issue. On 27 Mar. he enthusiastically welcomed James’s proposal that the Commons draft a Proclamation against the patents of inns, alehouses, and gold and silver thread. However, his suggestion that the king’s speech should be recorded on parchment in gold ink was not adopted. Subsequently, on 24 Apr., he excused the involvement in the alehouses patent of lord treasurer Mandeville (Sir Henry Montagu*). He also argued on 2 May that the Commons should be wary of punishing Sir Edward Villiers*, Buckingham’s half-brother, over his gold and silver thread patent. Referring back to the disputes that plagued the 1614 Parliament, he observed: ‘we have had bones cast among us heretofore to divide us. Let us not raise them ourselves’.46

Giles’s approach to legal reforms was again informed to some extent by his local knowledge. On 19 Apr. he complained that the customary method of assembling juries at quarter sessions encouraged corruption, while six days later he supplied evidence from Devon to support Sir Dudley Digges’s claim that unsuitable men were being appointed as magistrates.47 He was also quick to back Sir Lionel Cranfield’s motion on 8 Feb. for a general inquiry into the central courts of justice. On 21 Feb. he upheld the principle that all petitions of complaint on this subject should receive at least a preliminary scrutiny by Members, whereupon he was promptly nominated to a select committee for that purpose.48 Giles initially hesitated to pursue the allegations made against lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*), but by 17 Mar. he had concluded that charges of corruption were serious enough to warrant investigation. Thereafter, he focused his attention on specific complaints linked to one of the Chancery registrars, John Churchill, on 20 Mar. securing a committee to examine him, to which he was himself named. As further evidence emerged, he also called for Churchill to be questioned (25 Apr. and 28 May).49

Giles was initially willing to let Sir John Bennet* answer the bribery charges levelled against him, but on 20 Apr. he denounced him as ‘the most dishonest man that ever he heard of’. Three days later, he asserted that Bennet’s failure to defend himself was sufficient proof of his guilt for charges to be transmitted to the Lords, and expressed surprise that he had not fled like Mompesson. On 26 May Giles preferred a bill against bribery and corruption, drafted by Thomas Crewe*.50 Meanwhile, he called on 26 Mar. for a sub-committee specifically to consider judicial fees, at all levels of the legal system from judges down to magistrates’ clerks. On 27 Apr. he was appointed to help investigate the fee increases secured by the masters in Chancery. During the debate on 3 May on the bill to regulate legal fees, he moved that the perquisites of the Commons’ officers should also be considered, and was named to the committee. On 28 May he called for the Commons to investigate fees in the Exchequer.51 Giles was nominated to the conference with the Lords concerning the bill against informers (19 Apr.), and certainly attended the drafting committee for the bill to regulate Chancery (appointed on 25 April).52

In the first sitting’s final weeks, Giles became increasingly concerned at the Commons’ slow rate of progress. On 17 May he successfully called for a ban on additional private bills until all public legislation was completed. The next day, he moved for a special order to allow committees with unfinished business to continue meeting during the summer recess, but this radical proposal was not adopted. On 30 May he joined calls for discussions with the Lords on how to complete the maximum amount of legislation before the adjournment, but he was not optimistic: ‘we shall be worse welcome into the country with nothing than with a few bills. If there be some who have laboured to break off this Parliament, they will rejoice to see us thus discontentedly and disorderedly to break off’.53 Following the adjournment, in late June, a rumour briefly circulated that, like Sir Edward Sandys, Giles had again been arrested by the government on account of his activities in the Commons, but this report was apparently unfounded.54

When the Parliament resumed in the autumn, Giles was once more a prominent figure, with 28 speeches to his name. With the Palatinate crisis at the top of the government’s agenda, he moved, on 20 Nov., for bills against recusants and the export of ordnance to be given priority by the Commons. However, many Members were still absent, and later that day he agreed with Sir Robert Phelips that there should be a call of the House, to assess the scale of the problem. This exercise highlighted Sandys’s continuing absence. Giles, like the rest of the House, assumed that he was still being detained, but, conscious of the urgent international situation, he counselled on 23 Nov. against addressing this apparent breach of the Commons’ privileges: ‘I desire to blow no coals. Let’s preserve our liberties but not raise a question before it be moved’.55 Despite this initial show of restraint, on the following day he urged that action be taken against John Lepton and Henry Goldsmith, who had plotted against Sir Edward Coke*, while on 29 Nov. he encouraged the House to receive written evidence against the conspirators. The next day he also called for the arrest of a man who had recently breached privilege by suing Thomas Brereton.56

Giles received four legislative committee nominations during this sitting. Of these, two concerned legal issues, the abbreviation of Michaelmas term, and the punishment of sturdy rogues (20 and 22 Nov.), while the others dealt with restrictions on clerical property-ownership and the problem of scandalous clergy (23 November). During the debate on the last of these measures Giles conceded that in general High Commission had succeeded in maintaining discipline among the clergy, but he insisted that in the West Country ‘ministers live ... very disorderly’.57

Giles remained vocal on economic affairs during the sitting. On 30 Nov. he dismissed claims that the bill to ban wool exports would penalize growers in north-east England, where the wool was generally coarser: ‘all the manufactures of this kingdom are made, for the most part, of the coarser wools; and ... the gain is greater on coarse wools than on fine’. Despite his recent investment in the New England Company, which promoted settlements on the North American coast, he also continued to defend the interests of Devon’s fishermen. The Company had secured a ban on fishing fleets which refused to comply with its conditions, but on 24 Nov. Giles called for this to be lifted. Seven days later he again supported the bill for freer fishing in America, firmly stating that ‘the plantation is not so beneficial as the fishing’ for the Commonwealth.58

As Members’ expectation of war with Spain increased, Giles redoubled his appeals for action against the Catholic menace at home and abroad. On 26 Nov. he affirmed his belief that the battle for the Palatinate was merely one part of the inevitable struggle between Europe’s Catholic and Protestant camps, which were headed by Philip IV and James I respectively. On that basis, he was unable to grasp the logic of English foreign policy, whereby ‘we must fight with the Spaniards in the Palatinate and be friends with them everywhere else’. Citing the confession of a Jesuit recently captured in Devon that there were now at least 500 such priests in the country, he warned that England must confront Catholicism both at home and abroad. Predictably for a West Country man Giles, while recognizing that the Palatinate must also be protected, favoured a naval war against Spain. However, his immediate priority was the recusant threat: ‘God hath hitherto done much for us; but we must not look for that help from him still, if we be so careless of his Church and the true religion’.59 Two days later, Giles moved for a ban on crypto-Catholics at Court, and proposed that taxpayers with recusant wives or servants should be surcharged as though they themselves were Catholics. Having granted supply, the Commons next prepared a petition to the king advocating a Protestant marriage for Prince Charles. Giles, aware that James might interpret this lobbying as a breach of the royal prerogative, supported the inclusion of a clause denying that this was the Members’ intention (3 December). Although it soon became clear that the petition had indeed caused offence, Giles remained conciliatory, agreeing that the House needed to justify its behaviour, but arguing against any suspension of normal parliamentary business (5 and 10 December).60 As the situation deteriorated, Giles opted on 12 Dec. to blame the Antichrist, whom he suggested was sabotaging the Commons’ efforts to uphold true religion. He supported the Protestation of parliamentary privilege, but on 18 Dec. expressed the hope that normal relations with James would be resumed once the current misunderstandings were resolved.61

Over the next two years, Giles continued to play an active role in local government. In 1623 he served, appropriately enough, as a sub-commissioner during the inquiry into fees for which he had himself campaigned in the Commons. He was now mainly living at Dean Prior, where he had presented his stepson-in-law Barnaby Potter to the vicarage. Having no children of his own, in April 1623 he made over his principal seat at Bowden to a cousin, Richard Giles. However, he retained his other properties in the area for life, and had no problem securing re-election at Totnes when Parliament was summoned in early 1624.62

Back in the Commons, Giles remained fairly conspicuous, making 19 speeches in total, although this was far fewer than the number he had given in 1621. He also received 25 committee nominations, of which four-fifths related to legislation. Of his seven appointments to private bills he is known to have attended at least one, the committee to scrutinize the measure concerning the estates of Sir Anthony Aucher* (7 April). Named to consider the bill against wrongful imprisonment (9 Mar.), he was also appointed to select committees to examine Exchequer abuses and to view petitions about the courts of justice (26 Feb. and 19 April). His only conference nomination (7 Apr.) was to discuss the monopolies bill with the Lords.63 Giles maintained his usual interest in economic affairs. Appointed to bill committees concerned with freer fishing in America and corrupt customs officials (15 and 24 Mar.), he attended both, and also argued on 5 May against an overhasty decision on whether to end the Merchant Adventurers’ monopoly over cloth exports.64 His puritan reputation now firmly established, he was nominated on 26 Feb. to consider the bill against drunkenness. He was also the first Member named to the legislative committee concerning the catechizing of children (14 Apr.), having already been nominated two days earlier to scrutinize the bill against simony in the universities. On 28 Apr. he was appointed to the select committee to hear petitions against education-related grievances.65

Although not reappointed to the committee for privileges, Giles followed its business closely enough to be able to comment on the Chippenham and Cambridgeshire election disputes (25 Feb., 16 March). He also successfully requested privilege for Sir John Eliot* in relation to suits pending at the Devon assizes (27 Feb., 2 March).66 Named yet again to help check that all Members were communicant Anglicans (23 Feb.), he moved on 3 Apr. for praemunire charges to be brought against Sir Thomas Gerrard, 2nd bt.*, who had refused to take the oaths of supremacy and allegiance. Simultaneously, he demanded action against the suspected recusant, Henry Lovell*, who was disputing the outcome of the Bletchingly election.67

As in 1621 Giles’s hostility towards Catholics was fuelled by an expectation of war with Spain. He was probably aware of the manoeuvrings by Prince Charles and the duke of Buckingham to secure this objective, as his kinsman Barnaby Potter was now a royal chaplain. Nevertheless, he contributed little to the debates about war. Apart from a suggestion on 23 Feb. concerning the reporting of the conference on the Spanish Match, he remained silent until 2 Mar., when he warned of ‘the inveterate malice of the Spaniards’ against England, which in his view rendered peace discussions completely worthless. The next day he suggested a framework for the petition inviting the king to break off negotiations, but Sir Edwin Sandys dismissed his proposal as merely replicating what the Commons had already agreed on.68 Somewhat surprisingly, given his earlier service in the Low Countries, Giles shied away from considering the financial consequences of war with Spain, arguing on 5 Mar. that the Commons should not rush to undertake specific funding commitments. He was equally cautious on 19 Mar., insisting that no grant of supply was possible until Members fully understood the scale of expenditure required: ‘we conclude not [for] ourselves but our countries, and we must account for it’. By comparison, he was much happier pursuing the Catholic threat at home, calling on 1 Apr. for the banishment of Jesuits and the disarming of recusants.69 Whether or not he understood the political motivation behind the parliamentary attack on lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield), he welcomed the evidence of his corruption produced by Sir Miles Fleetwood* on 5 April. Five days later, he affirmed that there were ample grounds for the Commons to censure the lord treasurer, while on 1 May he agreed that a further complaint against Middlesex should be transmitted to the Lords. Giles’s attitude towards the similar campaign to discredit lord keeper Williams is harder to discern. However, he attended the committee for the bill to settle the ecclesiastical patronage of Sutton parish, Surrey, which Williams had improperly sought to exercise himself (7 May).70

In the following year, Giles had fresh opportunities as a commissioner for subsidy and impressment to judge Devon’s commitment to war. Returned for Totnes to the first Caroline Parliament, he made relatively little impact on proceedings, receiving just nine committee appointments, and making only eight speeches. The second Member named to the committee for privileges, he delivered in a petition concerning the disputed Yorkshire election on 21 June. That same day he called, predictably enough, for all Members to receive communion, and was thereupon appointed to supervise this event. Nominated to legislative committees concerning Sabbath abuses and recusancy (22-3 June), he was also instructed to attend the conference with the Lords concerning the joint petition for a general fast, and to help draft a further petition on religious grievances (23-4 June).71 However, his attitude towards military action was no more constructive than it had been in the previous session. While happy to attack Catholics in England, on 22 June demanding that Jesuits suffer the full rigour of the law, he insisted that the country could not afford a further large grant of supply (30 June). Asserting that in some areas the poor had to sell basic necessities to meet the latest tax demands, he declined to offer more than one subsidy and one fifteenth, though the Commons finally voted two subsidies. When the government sought a supplementary grant on 8 July, Giles opposed the request, but his precise argument was not recorded.72

At the Oxford sitting in August, Giles helped to weaken the king’s position by producing a pardon bestowed on a group of Devon recusants immediately after the July adjournment. In so doing he provided damning evidence that Charles’s undertakings on religion could not be trusted (1 August). Five days later he joined in the general condemnation of Buckingham’s client, Edward Clarke*, who had attempted to defend his patron during a further debate on supply.73

When the king visited Plymouth in September 1625, Giles tried to convince him that the defences of this key Devon port were wholly inadequate. Little came of his lobbying, but around a year later he advised on measures to fortify Dartmouth. At about the same time he was consulted by Totnes’s corporation over problems arising from the billeting of the survivors of the failed Cadiz expedition. He is not known to have sought a place in the 1626 Parliament, and thus avoided any involvement in the Commons’ impeachment of Buckingham. His apparent willingness to co-operate with the government probably contributed to his appointment as a deputy lieutenant in mid-1627, though this role brought him face to face with the billeting crisis that gripped Devon by the end of that year.74

Giles returned to the Commons in 1628, as usual representing Totnes. During this Parliament’s first session he made 25 speeches and received 11 committee nominations, but he had now lost much of his old standing in the House. Even on the subject of religion his voice lacked authority, and his nominee as the Commons’ preacher, the puritan Richard Sibbes, was rejected on 20 March. That same day he was appointed to check that Members received communion before taking their seats, but on 3 Apr. he was dropped from this, his by now customary role, apparently on health grounds. During the debate on 16 May concerning the bill to improve access to preachers, he contributed a rambling anecdote about Bishop Cotton of Exeter, but for the first time since 1614 he failed to secure a place on any religion-related committee.75 He enjoyed barely more success with social and economic matters. Having brought in a bill on 9 Apr. against unlicensed alehouses, he was named to the committee eight days later. However, the position of chairman was bestowed on another. He was also appointed to scrutinize a bill to reform clerks of the market, and to consider rival petitions concerning the office of Royal Exchanger (18 Apr., 13 June).76

Giles’s attitude towards the campaign to defend the liberties of the subject was substantially shaped by his personal experiences. On 24 Mar., clearly anxious that billeting in Devon was making the local deputy lieutenants unpopular, he hastened to explain to the House that he himself had not held the office of deputy lieutenant for long. He then falsely accused the government of sending down more soldiers than the deputy lieutenants had been told to expect. Repeating this claim on 2 Apr., he insisted that the local gentry had been overruled by the military commander, the earl of Holland (Henry Rich*), and pointedly observed that his own tenants were threatening to sell up because of the billeting problems.77 Not surprisingly, he added that supply should be withheld until such grievances were addressed. On 4 Apr. he returned to his old theme that recent taxation had left the country impoverished: ‘these five late subsidies have made many a man sell his clothes from his back, and come with tears in his eyes to give away that which his wife and children stood in need of’. Unwilling to offer more than a further four subsidies, on 11 Apr. he resorted to denying that a timetable for payment had been agreed, thereby earning himself a sharp rebuke from Sir Dudley Digges.78 He showed little obvious interest in the Commons’ resolutions on the subjects’ liberties, arguing on 16 Apr. that instead of checking on the Lords’ reactions to them, Members should turn their attention to combatting recusancy. He apparently remained silent during the debates on the bill of liberties and the Petition of Right, and squandered some of his remaining credit by defending the Cornish deputy lieutenants summoned to Westminster for attempting to prevent the election of William Coryton and Sir John Eliot as knights of the shire (12-13 May).79

It took the king’s unsatisfactory first response to the Petition to stir Giles into life once more, and on 3 June he supported Eliot’s call for a Remonstrance. Averring that the Parliament had behaved with great moderation, despite the obstacles placed in its path, he insisted that such an appeal to Charles was now essential, not least because of the growing tolerance of Arminianism. Two days later, when the king tried to force the Commons to get on with normal business, Giles supported Sir Nathaniel Rich’s motion for a joint declaration with the Lords of violations of the subjects’ liberties. On 6 June he raised the spectre of fresh taxation in the form of an excise, and the next day he urged all Members to reveal anything that they knew of such government plans.80 Meanwhile, his thoughts were turning once more to Devon, and on 4 June he warned that Plymouth was vulnerable to attack, not least because the fort was not kept properly supplied with gunpowder. He was promptly appointed to a committee to investigate the shortage of ordnance. On 12 June he requested that the newly granted subsidies might be used towards clearing his county’s billeting debts. Still anxious about the government’s long-term intentions, he urged the next day that the general pardon should cover failure to compound for knighthood. He probably knew that he was greatly exaggerating when he claimed on 14 June that 7,000 soldiers had been lost during the 1627 expedition to the Ile de RĂ©. The previous day he was ordered to help consider how to complete the passage of the Tunnage and Poundage bill, the passing of which would significantly ease tensions with the Crown.81

Giles played little part in the 1629 session, being named to just five committees, including one to investigate the continuing export of ordnance to Spain (26 January). He was added on 30 Jan. to the committee appointed to check that the Petition of Right had been correctly enrolled in the Westminster courts, which suggests that he was viewed as one of the more politically radical Members. However, his personal priority remained religious reform. On 4 Feb. he called for the attorney-general, (Sir) Robert Heath*, to be questioned about the pardons recently granted to prominent Arminians such as Richard Montagu, who had been condemned by the Commons. He was also appointed on 16 Feb. to investigate the northern commission for compounding with recusants. Giles witnessed the tumultuous scenes in the House on 2 Mar., and urged Speaker Finch to let Eliot’s Remonstrance be read, but he carefully distanced himself from its contents.82

Giles’s final years were relatively uneventful. When Barnaby Potter became bishop of Carlisle in March 1629, his living at Dean Prior passed to another of the patron’s kinsmen, the poet Robert Herrick. In early 1635 Giles supported a Devon protest against Ship Money, earning one last summons before the Privy Council, though he successfully excused himself by pleading illness. This episode clearly did his local standing no harm, as he was appointed colonel-general of the county’s militia a few months later, shortly before his sixty-ninth birthday.83

Giles died intestate in December 1637, and Herrick composed the epitaph on his monument in Dean Prior church. Those parts of his estate that he had not already settled were shared out between four coheirs on the female side of his family. Dean Prior itself passed to a great-nephew, Edward Yarde, whose son Edward represented Dartmouth in two of the Exclusion parliaments.84

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, p. 409.
  • 2. Al. Ox.
  • 3. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Vivian, 409, 581.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 118.
  • 6. Soc. Gen., DE/REG/107408/2 (Dean Prior burial reg.).
  • 7. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 14.
  • 8. C181/1, f. 130.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 52, 175; 181/5, f. 84.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 164v.
  • 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 37.
  • 12. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 63.
  • 13. C66/1988; C193/13/2, f. 14v.
  • 14. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 15. APC, 1621-3, p. 436; 1623-5, p. 499.
  • 16. Bodl. Tanner 287, f. 72.
  • 17. E. Windeatt, ‘Totnes Mayors’, Western Antiquary, xi. 74; SP16/291/14.
  • 18. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 10.
  • 19. Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. xxxii. 112.
  • 20. C181/4, f. 163v.
  • 21. SP16/291/14.ii.
  • 22. J. Prince, Worthies of Devon, 421.
  • 23. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 898.
  • 24. W.G. Hoskins, Devon, 108; HP Commons, 1509-58, ii. 216; Prince, 421.
  • 25. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 192; C142/296/110; PROB 11/109, f. 343v.
  • 26. HMC 15th Rep. vii. 14, 55; Prince, 421.
  • 27. Prince, 421-2; Oxford DNB, xlv. 9; Ath. Ox. iii. 22; Vivian, 581; B. Potter, The Baronet’s Buriall (1613); T. Westcote, View of Devonshire in 1630, p. 419.
  • 28. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 35, 41, 194, 199, 272.
  • 29. Ibid. 37, 82, 217, 393.
  • 30. Ibid. 129, 268-9, 300, 309, 339, 405.
  • 31. Ibid. 115, 148, 323, 366, 420, 428, 438.
  • 32. APC, 1613-14, pp. 460, 466; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 324; Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 43.
  • 33. CJ, i. 507b; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 342.
  • 34. R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 37; CJ, i. 508a; CD 1621, ii. 17; vi. 437.
  • 35. Birch, ii. 224; CJ, i. 517b.
  • 36. CJ, i. 518a, 520a; SP14/119/69.
  • 37. SP14/119/70; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 24-5; CD 1621, ii. 70; iv. 27; v. 139; CJ, i. 607a-b.
  • 38. CJ, i. 508a, 522a, 524b.
  • 39. Ibid. 512b, 596b, 601a, 604b, 608a; CD 1621, iii. 124, 166-7.
  • 40. CJ, i. 510b, 549b, 570a, 572a, 592b.
  • 41. Ibid. 531a, 548a.
  • 42. Ibid. 520b, 543a, 552b, 597a, 620b; CD 1621, ii. 55, 75-6; iii. 190; v. 115.
  • 43. CJ, i. 528a, 544b; Nicholas, i. 98; CD 1621, ii. 178.
  • 44. CJ, i. 526b, 626b; CD 1621, ii. 136, 386.
  • 45. CD 1621, vi. 252; CJ, i. 547a, 570a, 582b, 618a.
  • 46. CJ, i. 539a, 577b, 589b; CD 1621, ii. 168; iii. 69, 132.
  • 47. CJ, i. 582a, 590b; CD 1621, v. 80.
  • 48. CJ, i. 514b; CD 1621, ii. 44; ii. 116; vi. 258.
  • 49. CJ, i. 561a, 564a; CD 1621, iii. 80, 326.
  • 50. CJ, i. 584a, 587b; CD 1621, iii. 55; v. 341, 385.
  • 51. CJ, i. 574b, 594b, 606a; Nicholas, ii. 12; CD 1621, iii. 150; v. 181.
  • 52. CJ, i. 582b, 590b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 194.
  • 53. CD 1621, iii. 279; iv. 364; Nicholas, ii. 127-8.
  • 54. Birch, ii. 261.
  • 55. CD 1621, iii. 410, 436; vi. 191.
  • 56. Ibid. iii. 439; vi. 213; CJ, i. 651b, 652b.
  • 57. CJ, i. 641a-b, 643a-b; Nicholas, ii. 196.
  • 58. Nicholas, ii. 256; CD 1621, ii. 483; iii. 442; CJ, i. 654a.
  • 59. CJ, i. 646a; Nicholas, ii. 213; CD 1621, ii. 449; iv. 438.
  • 60. CD 1621, ii. 467; vi. 207, 230; CJ, i. 650a, 657b, 658b.
  • 61. CJ, i. 662a, 668a; Nicholas, ii. 313; CD 1621, vi. 337-8.
  • 62. Oxford DNB, xlv. 9; C142/580/83.
  • 63. CJ, i. 674b, 757a-b, 770b; Kyle, 199.
  • 64. CJ, i. 669a, 737a, 747b; Kyle, 217, 221.
  • 65. CJ, i. 674b, 692b, 762b, 766b.
  • 66. CJ, i. 673a, 687b, 719b, 724a; ‘Holland 1624’, i. ff. 4v, 56v.
  • 67. CJ, i. 671b, 753b; Holles 1624, p. 60.
  • 68. Oxford DNB, xlv. 9; CJ, i. 676b, 716b; Ferrar 1624, p. 45; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 20v.
  • 69. ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 87, 128, 166; Rich 1624, f. 10v; Holles 1624, p. 42.
  • 70. CJ, i. 696a, 755a, 785b; ‘Jervoise 1624’, f. 124; ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 3; Kyle, 212.
  • 71. Procs. 1625, pp. 204-6, 215, 226, 228, 240.
  • 72. Ibid. 216, 274, 352.
  • 73. Ibid. 375, 413; C. Russell, PEP, 239-40.
  • 74. CD 1628, iv. 90; APC, 1627, p. 122; M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 175; SP16/90/43.
  • 75. CD 1628, ii. 30, 37, 275; iii. 437, 441.
  • 76. Ibid. ii. 383, 507, 540; iv. 289.
  • 77. Ibid. ii. 80, 90, 253, 264; Russell, 333.
  • 78. CD 1628, ii. 251, 303, 309-10, 418.
  • 79. Ibid. ii. 484, 486; iii. 376, 393.
  • 80. Ibid. iv. 66, 74, 123, 146, 158, 184, 187; Russell, 381.
  • 81. CD 1628, iv. 83, 90, 284, 289, 302, 310, 322; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. of Eng. 1603-42, vi. 198.
  • 82. CJ, i. 922a, 924b, 930b; CD 1629, pp. 38-9, 257.
  • 83. Oxford DNB, xxvi. 802; C115/106/8445, 8448; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 372; PC2/44, p. 440.
  • 84. Prince, 422; Devon Wills ed. E.A. Fry (Index Lib. xxxv), 72; C142/580/83; Vivian, 409, 830-1; T. Risdon, Survey of Devon, 378. Giles’s i.p.m. incorrectly states that he died in December 1638: C142/580/83.