GODOLPHIN, Sir Francis (-d.1640), of Godolphin, Breage, 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



Family and Education

3rd s. of Sir Francis Godolphin† (d.1608) of Godolphin and his 1st w. Margaret, da. of John Killigrew of Arwennack, Cornw.; bro. of Sir William*. unm.1 kntd. 31 Dec. 1621.2 bur. 18 Mar. 1640.3 sig. Fra[ncis] Godolphin.

Offices Held

Cupbearer, Prince Henry’s Household c.1604-12;4 gent. of Privy Chamber, Prince Charles’s Household by 1625;5 gent. of Privy Chamber, extraordinary c.1625-d.6

Gov. Scilly Isles 1613-d.7

Recvr. Crown revenues, Devon and Cornw. 1613-d.;8 j.p. Cornw. 1618-34;9 commr. inquiry, exacted fees, Cornw. 1623,10 piracy 1624-at least 1637,11 Mines Royal, Card. 1625;12 collector, Privy Seal loan, Cornw. 1625-6,13 commr. Forced Loan 1627,14 treas. of Loan 1627;15 commr. martial law, Devon and Cornw. 1627,16 Crown debts 1628,17 knighthood compositions, Cornw. 1631;18 stannator, Penwith and Kerrier, Cornw. 1636.19

Prothonotary (jt.), Chancery 1614-19.20

Recorder, Helston, Cornw. by 1620.21

Member, Fishery Soc. 1633.22


The fact that Godolphin became recorder of Helston implies that he received some legal training, but no details of his education survive. He entered Sir Robert Cecil’s† service around 1602, but transferred to Prince Henry’s Household by March 1604. His father, who in 1608 bequeathed him only the remaining term in two Cornish leases, presumably expected him to make his way at Court, and indeed Godolphin was granted an annual pension of £100 once Prince Henry came into his estates.23 However, both position and income ended with the prince’s death in November 1612, and Godolphin’s immediate prospects were rescued only by the equally unexpected demise ten months later of his brother Sir William, who designated him trustee of his property during the minority of his son Francis*. Godolphin stepped immediately into Sir William’s office of receiver of Devon and Cornwall, and presumably also took over the governorship of the garrison on the Scillies, under the terms of the family’s lease of the islands. With the help of his uncle Sir William Killigrew* he purchased Francis’ wardship in mid-1614, though he seems to have acted thereafter as sole guardian.24 In the same year he became joint prothonotary of Chancery, holding the post in trust for another nephew, Francis Carew I*. The death in 1619 of Godolphin’s elder brother John, who had been resident commander of the Scilly garrison, left him as undisputed head of his family, a situation recognized by his knighthood two years later.25

Like many of his forebears Godolphin became expert in mining technology, winning the accolade of ‘great mineralist’ from Sir Francis Bacon*. In 1621 he and a neighbour leased from the Society of Mines Royal all its workings in Breage and two adjacent parishes, though it is not clear how profitable this venture proved. Two years later he was sent with Sir Thomas Stafford* to assess new methods being employed in the royal mines in Cardiganshire for extracting silver from lead. Godolphin was back in Cornwall by the autumn of 1623, and is said to have entertained Prince Charles and Buckingham when they stopped at Scilly on their return from Spain.26 He may well have been appointed a gentleman of the prince’s Privy Chamber by this date, though once again his Court career failed to blossom. In the jockeying for positions after Charles became king, Godolphin had to settle for the lesser rank of gentleman extraordinary, and he failed to improve on this role thereafter.27

The mid-1620s saw a significant shift in west Cornish politics in Godolphin’s favour. In those parliamentary elections which had been held since 1604, his family seems to have backed Killigrew nominees at Helston and St. Ives, the boroughs closest to Godolphin House. Following the death of Sir William Killigrew in 1622, however, Godolphin began to assert his own interests. In 1624 he was himself returned at St. Ives, while Helston provided seats for two colleagues from the prince’s Household, his nephew Francis Carew and Thomas Carey. Godolphin was at least in part following a personal agenda; although he rescued one of Charles’s local nominees, Carey, who had been rejected at Grampound, he simultaneously wrecked the chances of another, Sir Julius Caesar*, at St. Ives. His one committee nomination during this Parliament related to a bill which sought to clear brewhouses away from Prince Charles’s main residence, St. James’s Palace (19 May). However, he also attended the legislative committee concerned with abuses in levying private debts in the king’s name.28 In 1625 Godolphin brought in the same candidates at Helston, and again secured his own election at St. Ives. No record survives of his activities in this Parliament.

In December that year Godolphin complained to his kinsman Jonathan Rashleigh* that he found his new task of collecting Privy Seal loans ‘unpleasing’, but for all his protestations he was assiduous in his duties. The fact that the money was used to relieve the burden of the troops billeted around Plymouth apparently made the Crown’s demands more acceptable to the county and, with his fellow collector William Coryton, Godolphin was chosen to represent Cornwall in the 1626 Parliament. At Helston he again provided a seat for Carew, partnering him with Francis Godolphin, who was about to reach his majority. As in the previous year no details survive of his Commons activities.29

The outbreak of war with Spain in 1625 had highlighted the inadequacies of the Scilly forts, and the government’s decision to fund the necessary reinforcements and repairs out of local Forced Loan payments guaranteed Godolphin’s enthusiasm for the levy. He took over from Sir George Chudleigh* as Cornwall’s treasurer in May 1627, and three months later proposed Privy Council intervention to speed up the collection process.30 Despite this unambiguous stance, Godolphin appears to have stood aloof from the Cornish factional struggles of 1626-8 between gentry supporters and opponents of government policy. By the 1628 parliamentary elections control of the family’s patronage lay with his nephew Francis, and the deteriorating situation on the Scillies, where Godolphin remained governor, most likely deterred him from seeking a Commons seat for himself. Rumours of impending enemy attack were now so frequent that he was hard put to prevent a mass evacuation of the islands, and he obtained a ship-load of munitions that August only by collecting it personally from London.31

Throughout the following decade Godolphin continued to press for improvements to the Scilly defences, but in a time of peace and retrenchment it proved even harder to secure government action, let alone regular payment of wages. The rumour circulating in 1636 that he had been captured by Turkish pirates was apparently unfounded.32 He still exercised a degree of local authority through his receivership, in September 1634 withholding funds from the captain of St. Mawes castle, whom he allegedly wished to see replaced by yet another of his nephews. However, it is not known if he was active as a commissioner for knighthood compositions, nor why he was removed from the Cornish bench in February 1634.33 Godolphin was wealthy enough to join the Fishery Society in 1633, and two years later he invested in the draining of Lindsey Level, Lincolnshire, as a junior partner in a consortium led by his cousin Sir William Killigrew II*. Still respected as a metallurgist, his opinion was sought in 1638 on the latest experiments in mechanized coin-production at the Mint. Godolphin latterly spent more time in London, and in 1632 and 1635 he was reported to the Privy Council for remaining in the capital contrary to royal Proclamation. For the second offence he was prosecuted in Star Chamber.34 However, he visited Scilly as late as January 1640, and was most likely at Godolphin House when he died two months later. His short will, drawn up on 15 Oct. 1637 before he received a grant of reclaimed fenland, referred only to goods and livestock. Childless, he left his entire estate other than charitable bequests to his sometime ward, Francis Godolphin. He was buried at Breage on 18 Mar. 1640.35

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball



  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 184. Claims that Godolphin was bap. in 1578 at Breage, and married Katherine Trevanion in 1622 are unproven: F.G. Marsh, The Godolphins, 7.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 178.
  • 3. Marsh, 7 (errata).
  • 4. LC2/4/5, p. 87; SP14/67/147.
  • 5. LC2/6, f. 69v.
  • 6. LC3/1, f. 24.
  • 7. C54/1796; PROB 11/122, f. 429; CSP Dom. 1639-40, p. 557.
  • 8. C66/2008/23.
  • 9. C231/4, f. 76; 231/5, p. 123.
  • 10. Add. 34601, f. 147.
  • 11. C181/3, ff. 113, 195v; 181/5, f. 83; HCA 30/820/18.
  • 12. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 49.
  • 13. E401/2586, p. 81.
  • 14. Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 15. APC, 1627, p. 260.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 440.
  • 17. HMC Rutland, i. 485.
  • 18. SP16/187/18.
  • 19. Add. 6713, f. 100.
  • 20. C66/1988/2.
  • 21. Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 282.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 42.
  • 23. HMC Hatfield, xii. 423; PROB 11/111, f. 370v; T. Birch, Henry Prince of Wales, 468.
  • 24. PROB 11/122, f. 429; WARD 9/162, f. 178; C2/Chas.I/C31/20.
  • 25. C66/1988/2; PROB 11/134, f. 368; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 566.
  • 26. HMC 7th Rep. 82; Cornw. RO, RP 1/9; APC, 1621-3, p. 514; Add. 34601, f. 147; Mr. Bushell’s abridgment of ... Bacon’s philosophical theory in mineral prosecutions (1659), pp. 4, 7; F. and P. Adams, Star Castle, 16.
  • 27. K. Sharpe, ‘Court and Household of Chas. I’, Eng. Court ed. D. Starkey et al. 228.
  • 28. CJ, i. 705b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Prince Chas. in the Parls. of 1621 and 1624’, HJ, xli. 618-19; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 222.
  • 29. Cornw. RO, R(S) 1/987; A. Duffin, Faction and Faith, 145.
  • 30. APC, 1626, p. 393; 1627, pp. 22, 260; SP16/73/49.
  • 31. CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 154-5, 175; APC, 1628-9, pp. 80, 112-3.
  • 32. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 97; 1633-4, p. 40; 1634-5, p. 71;1635, p. 91; 1637-8, pp. 260-1, 270; HMC Egmont, i. 90.
  • 33. CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 211. The Sir [sic] Francis Godolphin who disputed his knighthood composition demand in 1633 was a cousin: SP16/238/83.
  • 34. CSP Dom. 1635-6, pp. 27-8; 1637-8, pp. 498, 540; Bodl. Bankes 14/28, 62/34; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, ii. 291.
  • 35. J.H. Matthews, Hist. of St. Ives, 209; PROB 11/183, f. 113r-v; C54/3201/24.