MARTIN (MARTYN), Richard (c.1570-1618), of Colaton Raleigh, Devon and the Middle Temple, London

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

b. c.1570, 1st s. of William Martin†, merchant, of Exeter, Devon and his 1st w. Anne, da. of Richard Parker of Suss.; bro. of Thomas* and half-bro. of Nicholas*.1 educ. Broadgates Hall, Oxf. 1585, aged 15; New Inn; M. Temple 1587, called 1602.2 unm. suc. fa. 1609.3 d. 31 Oct. 1618.4 sig. Rich[ard] Martyn.

Offices Held

Commr. inquiry, duchy of Cornw. 1607, piracy, Devon, 1614-15, assurance, London 1616;5 freeman, Exeter 1612;6 j.p. Devon, Essex, Kent, Mdx. and Surr. 1618-d.7

Cttee. Virg. Co. 1609; ?Irish Co. 1609;8 member, Somers Is. Co. 1615.9

Reader, M. Temple 1615, bencher 1615-d.;10 recorder, London 1 Oct. 1618-d.11


Martin’s grandfather was a merchant in Exeter, though the family was originally of the Dorset gentry. After studying at Oxford and the Middle Temple, Martin entered the legal profession, but his career was probably hindered rather than helped by his reputation as a leading wit and a member of the convivial circle at the Mermaid and Mitre taverns.12 He made his mark in the last Elizabethan Parliament with an impassioned attack on monopolies,13 and clashed with secretary of state Sir Robert Cecil† over a point of order, demonstrating a typical concern for correct procedure in the House, as well as a tendency to cause a stir, unintentionally or otherwise.14 Called to the bar a year later, Martin was chosen by Cecil, who does not seem to have borne a grudge, to welcome to the capital in May 1603 the new king, James I, on behalf of the sheriffs of Middlesex. In his address to the monarch Martin confidently predicted that James would reform the abuses of the previous reign.15 By his own account Martin greatly impressed James with his ‘ability and discreet demeanour’ on that occasion, though he received no concrete evidence of royal favour.16

Martin was eager to resume his parliamentary career in 1604, and personally wrote to Christchurch corporation in advance of his nomination by Lord Arundell of Wardour, who recommended him to the borough as ‘a very discreet, sufficient and honest man’.17 He also decided to insure against defeat by standing at Cirencester as well. Nevertheless he was successful in both elections, and chose to sit for Christchurch with his fellow Middle Templar Nicholas Hyde. At the official opening of Parliament, on 19 Mar. 1604, Martin criticized the churlish conduct of a yeoman of the guard towards Sir Herbert Croft*.18 On the first full day of business, 23 Mar., he spoke on the Buckinghamshire election controversy, which dominated the first two weeks of the session, and was named to the privileges committee.19 When the king subsequently ordered the Commons to confer with the judges about the election, Martin moved on 5 Apr. that James should preside over this meeting in person.20 During the course of the 1604 session, Martin confirmed his reputation as a wit, earning for himself the epithet ‘facete’ in the margin of the Commons Journal after he presented ‘some delightful applications’ against a bill concerning wines and alehouses on 11 Apr., which was consequently rejected.21 Five days later Martin interrupted a speech by Sir Francis Hastings, who was in the process of proposing a select committee on religion, to outline a new method of appointing committees randomly. The names of all knights, citizens and burgesses should be placed in three urns, he suggested, and an equal number drawn from each to a total agreed by the House. This evoked little enthusiasm, but a committee including Martin himself was appointed to consider the proposal.22 His preference for random selection made him an obvious choice to chair the committee for a bill against loaded dice (21 Apr.), which was immediately rejected when he reported it on 10 May.23

Early in May 1604 a bill charging the bishop of London with treason was delivered to the Speaker, who without informing the Commons passed it to the king. Martin was among those who objected on 17 May that this action contravened the privileges of the House, for it must not be ‘drawn into precedent, that any Speaker should receive a bill, being trusted by the House, and deny to read it, or withdraw it from the House, or inform the king, or any other, before the House be acquainted’. He reiterated the point almost verbatim five days later.24 He made two further interventions on procedural matters within the week, arguing on 25 May that the solicitor-general, Sir Thomas Fleming I*, should have no special claim to speak to a bill (for assart lands) which particularly concerned the king, since all Members were equally the king’s counsellors.25 Martin moved on 30 May in response to a message from James arranging an audience with the whole House, that if the king criticized any Member, the Speaker should be instructed to answer.26

On 19 May Martin spoke in support of a bill against hunting with guns, a measure greatly favoured by James but which was subsequently dashed.27 Despite serving on the committee for the free trade bill (24 Apr.), he opposed the measure in open debate on 4 June, when he answered a series of points made by the bill’s main advocate, Sir Edwin Sandys*.28 This was surprising given his earlier stance against patents and monopolies, but it seems likely, as one historian has speculated, that Martin was retained by one of the large London trading Companies to speak on their behalf.29 In debate on the continuance of expiring statutes on 5 June, Martin moved for Lyme Regis, near the border of his native Devon, to be exempt from contributing towards the costs of repairing Dover pier.30 He argued against a petition to the king concerning deprived ministers on 13 June,31 and commented upon bills for the better execution of justice (20 Apr.), accountants’ debts (15 June), the residence of married men in colleges (21 June), and blasphemy (3 July), among others.32 He took custody of a bill against covert outlawry (27 Apr.), which had been drafted in response to the Buckinghamshire election dispute, and chaired the committee of a bill preferred by the Painters’ Company of London aimed at preventing deceits in painting (15 June), which he reported ten days later. It is typical of Martin’s insistence on procedure that when the when the latter measure passed, those who had voted against it were ordered ‘go out and bring in the bill’, a formality to be performed ‘according to ancient order ... and done (once in a Parliament) for preserving the memory of the order’.33

Amid this wide range of parliamentary activity, Martin showed most interest in the proceedings against abuses of purveyance, which he declared on 14 Apr. 1604 must be done ‘by way of act, not by way of petition’. He urged the House on by arguing that ‘all good kings will submit themselves’.34 He was appointed to draft a petition concerning purveyors (27 Apr.), and to prepare for a conference on the subject with the Lords on 8 May.35 The next day he reminded the Commons that the demands touching purveyors must be examined, but thought that the case of Sir Thomas Shirley* should take precedence.36 Shirley had been elected for Steyning but incarcerated in the Fleet for debt before Parliament opened. His gaoler, who refused to release him without a legal warrant, was consigned to the Tower by the Commons, but on 14 May, Martin joined a chorus of complaint againt the lieutenant of the Tower for treating the warden of the Fleet so leniently that he had still not consented to Shirly’s release. 37 It was proposed on 16 May that wardship, another resented source of prerogative revenue which the Crown was prepared to surrender in return for sufficient monetary compensation, should be considered together with purveyance. However, Martin, who had been appointed to the conference on wardship earlier in the session, declared that James ‘hath now broken the heart of this matter of wards’.38 Two days later Martin argued against composition for purveyance, but no further progress was made on the subject before the recess.39

Martin helped to draft the Form of Apology and Satisfaction, and was among those Members who wished to see grievances redressed before subsidies were granted, arguing in the supply debate on 19 June that there should be ‘no gratification until the next session’.40 A week later he moved for an address to thank the king for withdrawing his request for a subsidy, and for it ‘to be framed, for the sight of all strangers; and to be recorded’.41 On 29 June, as the first session drew to a close, Martin’s exchange of repartee with Sir Robert Wroth I* on the customary collection for the poor prompted Sir John Hungerford* to suggest that he should be recorded in the Journal as a good jester.42

The second session assembled early in November 1605. On 5 Nov. Martin was appointed to the committee concerning the incorporation of the Spanish Company and the following day named to consider the bill for the execution of the penal statutes. When the session resumed in January 1606, however, he reported that the latter committee had not met.43 In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, Martin was one of those ordered to consider how to prevent future conspiracies (21 Jan.); but he opposed fining the husbands of recusant wives, which he argued on 3 Feb. would penalize many good subjects.44

On 30 Jan. 1606 Martin was named to consider a bill to abolish purveyance devised by his fellow lawyer John Hare*.45 The Lords proposed instead an annual composition of £50,000, but the Commons thought this excessive. Martin himself now argued in favour of a ‘contribution’, perhaps intending a one-off payment, though he did not specify a sum.46 He clarified his proposal on 10 Feb. during a debate on supply, when he argued that the Commons were ‘not to buy laws’, but could still offer the king ‘a consideration, merely to manifest the general love’ of his subjects.47 Hare’s radical bill, and the terms of his report from the committee, offended the Lords. Although Martin stopped short of endorsing the bill, he insisted on 20 Feb. that there should be no further negotiations on purveyance ‘until Mr. Hare may be righted in his reputation; no mention of subsidy, until there be some remedy for the purveyors, and other grievances’.48 Two days later, after the Commons had cleared Hare of any misconduct, Martin urged that a message be immediately sent to the Lords ‘in the best terms; not to stir, not to exasperate their Lordships, but to right ourselves’.49 By this point a stalemate had been reached; on 25 Feb. Martin therefore argued pragmatically ‘to have the bill pass; and though it be dashed above [by the Lords], yet we have done our duties’.50 This was not the end of the purveyance debate, however, and on 6 Mar. Martin made a significant speech in which he labelled purveyors the ‘drones of the commonwealth’, and called upon the Commons to make the king an offer ‘quickly and cheerfully’, and to ‘take the thanks ourselves’.51 Again, he seems to have envisaged this ‘offer’ as a single payment or additional subsidy rather than composition, which had been ‘strangled now, and he would not give it new life’.52 During the same debate his colleague’s brother, Lawrence Hyde I*, proposed the surrender of all grants made in the present reign to prepare the ground, whereupon Martin blithely asserted that he would set an example by yielding up all the ‘good and bad woods’ he had received. His levity annoyed the House, but he continued more ‘in earnest’, with a plea to continue the negotiations at another conference, for ‘the Lords are neither such sirens nor we such ill mariners that we need fear to be drawn out’.53

The Commons had proposed to vote two subsidies and four fifteenths, but when word was received that this grant would be insufficient to supply the king’s wants, Martin maintained, during a heated debate on 14 Mar., that grievances would have to be considered before there was any question of increasing supply. However, he was not averse in principle to voting additional funds, and evidently supported solicitor-general John Doddridge* when the latter made a case for a third subsidy. Doddridge’s request resulted in a bitter exchange with William Noye*, and though neither the Commons Journal nor Robert Bowyer’s diary records any intervention by Martin, the latter subsequently claimed to have saved Doddridge from being ‘sacrificed and torn in pieces’ for ‘ill and disgraceful words given to a gentleman of the House’, on which occasion none ‘of the king’s party durst adventure to rescue or redeem him’.54 Martin later used this episode to demonstrate that, during the first the first two Jacobean Parliaments, he had acted as a ‘factor and solicitor’ for the king, and had shown ‘no averseness or untractable humour to His Majesty’s desires’.55 This was not entirely accurate, for by 1610, as will be seen, his willingness to accede to the king’s wishes was stretched to breaking point, but in 1606 at least there was certainly some truth in the claim that Martin was quick to defend the king’s interests in the Commons. At the third reading of the Welsh ordinances bill on 10 Mar., for instance, he declared that it was unfitting for the Council in the Marches to examine matters which the king had taken into his own hands.56 Moreover, on 22 May he opposed at first reading a bill which had been pushed through the Lords by Archbishop Bancroft, to restrain excommunications by ecclesiastical courts, as being derogatory to the king, who, if he saw it, would conclude ‘that it is mere spleen’.57

During the second session Martin spoke several times concerning grievous monopolies, the subject on which he had cut his teeth in the 1601 Parliament, among which he included the pre-emption of tin, logwood, the manufacture of saltpetre, Sir Roger Aston’s* greenwax patent in the duchy of Lancaster, and Sir Edward Hoby’s* wool patent.58 On 18 Apr. he was ordered to help the Speaker draft a petition on grievances, and on 14 May he was instructed to help present it to the king.59 Private measures occupied much of the rest of his time. On 1 Apr. he introduced a bill against the double payment of debts on shop books, a measure presumably promoted by London interests, and was named to the committee (18 April).60 He supported the ‘speech of favour and respect’ delivered on 5 May by Sir Francis Bacon in reporting a bill to enable Cecil, now earl of Salisbury, to extend his house in the Strand.61 Martin also steered two other private bills, one for John Holdich and the other for Mr. Throckmorton, through committee within a week.62

As always Martin was vigilant about matters of procedure and privilege. On 18 Feb. Sir Edwyn Sandys* demanded the release of his coachman from Newgate, whereupon Martin moved that the magistrate responsible should be ordered to remain in London.63 On 26 Mar., as many lawyers departed to go on circuit, Martin opposed holding a call of the House on the grounds that absentees would have to be prosecuted in King’s Bench, which laid them open to severe penalties; he was named to a subcommittee to consider the matter.64 At the subsequent debate on 3 Apr. he moved for a reading of the Proclamation recalling absentees.65 When Doddridge begged to be excused from taking a message to the Lords on 5 Apr., Martin observed that it was unprecedented for a Member to refuse such a service, adding, ‘the Lords in their wisdoms know that a messenger sent from hence saith nothing of himself, but merely by direction, which cannot be any way laid to the party’s charge’.66 On 10 Apr. Martin moved for the collection for the poor.67 He asserted on 26 May that the votes against a bill to prevent poaching had been miscounted, but the bill was in fact passed.68 Later the same day he moved that Dr. Parker, who had preached a sermon at Paul’s Cross highly critical of the Commons, should be dealt with by an Act declaring him ‘infamous and incapable’ of holding office, but he was against making a particular entry of his offence in the Journal.69

Martin was mainly preoccupied in the third session with the proposed Union with Scotland. His contributions to the Union debates during the first session have largely been lost, but he had already demonstrated that he was anxious to establish which laws would govern the United Kingdom, pointing out on 26 Apr. 1604 that if James died without issue the succession would automatically devolve upon a Scotsman.70 He had also helped defend the Commons from Bishop Thornborough’s accusation that the House was hostile in principle to the Union, claiming that the bishop had completely misunderstood the Common’s intentions.71 Now, in 1606-7, he took a more prominent role, helping to prepare and manage conferences with the Lords, for though ‘conference never brought advantage yet in this [they are] so necessary as they cannot be avoided’.72 Following Sir Henry Montagu’s report from conference on 26 Nov. 1606, he successfully proposed that the Commons should draft bills to repeal the hostile laws and remove trade restrictions with Scotland, while the Lords should take the lead over the procedure for trans-border offences and naturalization, ‘that so we may walk hand in hand to our best understanding’.73 On 3 Dec. he argued that municipal bye-laws discriminating against Scotsmen should be counted as hostile laws.74 The feudal duty of escuage, also deemed hostile, had already been the subject of a royal Proclamation, but on 15 Dec. Martin called for the matter to be considered more fully, in consultation with the Lords.75 In the meantime he chaired a committee to hear evidence from merchants and the Trinity House of Deptford, whose members could be said to represent English mariners, on the proposal to open English commerce to Scottish traders. The committee proved to be something of a fiasco, for on 9 Dec. Martin was obliged to report ‘nothing but confusion and disorder, and no conclusion’.76 Despite this setback, he was one of the six lawyers chosen ‘to propound and to maintain argument’ at a conference with the Lords four days later, and it was on his motion that the Commons agreed to defer sitting on 17 Dec. in order that the conference might continue.77

When Parliament resumed in February 1607 Martin roundly condemned the anti-Scottish invective of Sir Christopher Pigott*: ‘we ought not to speak slanderously of any particular, much less a nation’.78 On 19 Feb. he advised caution in handling the question of naturalization ‘that they may have time to ripen it’, and called for the appointment of a ‘speedy’ committee.79 He reported from this committee on 5 March; however, no further progress was made before the Easter recess.80 On 29 Apr. Martin rejected Sir Edwin Sandys’s wrecking motion calling for a ‘perfect Union’ on the entirely reasonable grounds that ‘it cannot take good effect’. Unlike many of his colleagues, he showed considerable sympathy for the Scots, who, he argued, had little choice but to accept the Union, otherwise their nation would be ‘likely in time to become a province, which is more heavy than any commodity to be granted them can countervail’.81 On 8 May he dealt wittily with the frivolous suggestion that it would be monstrous to discuss the contents of the bill against hostile laws before agreeing on the title.82 In a more serious vein, on 5 June he conceded that in border cases the court should have discretion to call witnesses ‘if any man will say that the accused is wronged’.83

Martin’s practice and his credit both suffered from his heavy involvement in parliamentary work, and on 27 Feb. 1607 he appealed for shorter reports, so that ‘the business might be sooner dispatched, and lawyers, and others, might have leave’.84 The absenteeism of lawyers was a perennial problem as sessions often coincided with circuits, but again Martin demonstrated professional solidarity with his colleagues when he moved on 3 Mar. for no stronger sanction than ‘a letter to be written to all the lawyers ... with a resolute advice, that they do come presently’.85 Observing some Members looking out of the window during a break in proceedings on 4 Mar., he created merriment by moving that they should not leave the same way.86 After the mischievous reference by Sir Edward Hoby to ‘the barons of the Commons’ in a message to the Upper House, Martin chaired the committee appointed to consider the Lord’s protest, and carried up a justification of the phrase, which he read out on 5 March.87 He was among those ordered to consider how to proceed when the Speaker was too ill to attend, and it was on his motion of 23 Mar. that the House celebrated the anniversary of the coronation by hearing a sermon in the former abbey of Westminster.88

On 13 May the House was informed that Martin had been outlawed for a £5 debt; he was granted privilege, and subsequently served on the committee for the revived bill against covert outlawries.89 Despite his weighty political concerns in this session, he found time to report two estate bills,90 to present objections to the tanning bill from certain artificers on 27 Mar.,91 and to propose on 20 Apr. that parties interested in fen drainage bill should be represented by counsel.92 This latter proposal was not accepted, but he was named to the committee (9 May).93 In furtherance of a project to make starch from bran, put forward by his friend and financial adviser Sir Lionel Cranfield*, Martin supported legislation prohibiting the manufacture of starch from wheat, acting as teller for the bill on the third reading (29 May). The Commons, however, considered that Martin was being somewhat hypocritical, as he had previously declared himself opposed to monopolies, and the measure was rejected.94 On 18 June Martin moved that the king’s disclaimer of interference by message with the Common’s privileges should be entered in the Journal,95 and the following day he was appointed to help examine all other entries relating to privilege during the current Parliament.96

Martin was among the Members who visited Tobie Matthew* in the Fleet after his conversion to Catholicism. Matthew acknowledged his kindness but later dismissively described him and John Donne* as ‘mere libertines to themselves’.97 Martin’s financial embarrassment must have been only temporary, for in the following year he was one of four barristers commissioned to provide for the reader’s feast given by Lawrence Hyde, a notoriously gluttonous occasion.98 In 1609 Martin’s father died, leaving him lands in Devon and £300.99 He invested £75 in the Virginia Company, and may also have became a director of the Irish Company.100

At the start of the fourth session Martin was appointed chairman of the committee for privileges, from which he delivered an initial report on 19 Feb. 1610.101 He was among those ordered to attend a supply conference with the Lords later the same day, and moved that equal priority be given to both aspects of the Great Contract: ‘matter of contribution, and retribution, to be first proposed to the House’.102 He was appointed on the next day to no less than five committees, but over the ensuing few weeks he was primarily concerned with the high views of the prerogative expressed by the civilian Dr. John Cowell in his Interpreter, first as chairman of a sub-committee for grievances, then as the manager of two conferences with the Lords.103 After the second he was able to announce on 10 Mar. that both Houses were in complete agreement, and that the king had agreed to suppress the book.104

On 5 Mar. Martin reported that the privileges committee had made him responsible for summoning all absent Members without distinction, but three days later he admitted that there had been ‘many excuses allowed’.105 He was heavily involved in debates on the Great Contract, which sought to give the king a regular, fixed income in return for the surrender of various feudal duties. When the House received word on 14 Mar. that James would permit the discussion of wardship and tenures as part of the Contract, Martin supported calls to thank the king and to ‘acquaint the Lords’.106 On 21 Apr. he secured an order for daily meetings before the House assembled, and requested that all lawyers attend them.107 On 1 May he again urged that a message be sent to the Lords, a sign that he was keen to make progress, though others in the Lower House by now had deep reservations about the Contract.108 The next day Martin called for Sir Stephen Procter, a patentee for fines upon penal statutes, to be imprisoned and tried, perhaps in the hope that the abolition of such vexatious monopolies might be included in the Contract.109 However, progress was interrupted by a controversy that lasted several days. When a message purporting to come from the king forbidding discussion of impositions was relayed by the Speaker on 11 May the Commons refused to accept it because it was known that James was not in London. Under duress the Speaker was forced to admit that the message had, in fact, originated with the Privy Council. The following day Martin, who wanted simply to go on with the Contract, proposed a committee to consider what answer to send to the king concerning impositions.110 However, the stalemate continued, and consequently on Monday 14 May Martin proposed that the Commons should resolve the situation by sending two answers to James, one concerning messages that came from the king and the other concerning messages from the Council. Although ‘not misliked’, it produced ‘a general silence throughout the House for a while’.111 Earlier that day he had demanded that all lawyers should attend the grand committee for grievances, and that any absentees should be called to the bar. He was appointed chairman of the same grand committee four days later.112 On 21 May James finally announced that he would allow particular impositions to be debated, but Members were not to ‘impugn his prerogative’ in general. This concession ensured that impositions would remain on the Common’s agenda, and paved the way for reopening the Contract negotiations.

Martin advised the Commons on 25 May to ‘expect [further discussion] of tenures, from the Lords’, since while they had been preoccupied with the controversies over messages and impositions, the Upper House had continued working on the Contract.113 He took the chair for the discussion of the government’s ten propositions on 1 June, with ‘the clerk by him to help to explain and make known the orders’.114 Salisbury’s speech at the conference of 11 June failed to convince him of the need for an immediate grant of supply, though he promised: ‘we shall give more hereafter than any great subject dare in reason demand’.115 He continued to maintain that the redress of grievances must accompany supply, and added that he would rather yield three subsidies than consent to a pardon for the monopolist Procter.116 The king’s message, promising an answer to all grievances before the prorogation, made 14 June for Martin ‘the fairest day that ever he saw in Parliament’.117 Five days later he was given 12 parcels of records concerning impositions to translate into English and read publicly in committee; but it was granted that, ‘being weary’, he might ‘name another’.118

On 26 June Martin took a major role in managing the Contract conference with the Lords, earning from Salisbury the compliment that ‘I am glad to encounter with you, Mr. Martin, for I assure myself I shall have short and apt answers’.119 That morning he had reported from the grand committee that seven ‘heads’ had been agreed out of the ten points of retribution originally proposed to be incorporated into the Contract.120 In the impositions debate of 29 June, Martin denounced Henry Yelverton* for claiming that the king, through ‘the law of nations’ rather than the Common Law, possessed ‘an arbitrary, irregular, unlimited and transcendent power’ to impose. This assertion was false, Martin claimed, because though ‘the king of England is the most absolute king in his Parliament ... of himself, his power is limited by law’, and ‘the Common Law extends as far [as] the power of the king extends’. Impositions, he concluded, infringed the liberties of the subject, for ‘the merchant’s liberty and riches is upon the sea. He hath as good a right to plough the sea as the ploughman hath to plough the land ... The liberty of the sea is parcel of the liberty of the subject’.121 He reported the petition against impositions on 4 July,122 and spent the rest of that week helping to ensure that the ‘northern and remote parts’ would be permitted to bargain separately on matters such as wardship and purveyance.123 He was given the responsibility for arguing the Common’s case on further ‘propositions of ease’ on 16 July.124 When the abolition of the Court of Wards was debated on 18 July, Martin drew attention to the income of its officers, which he said would be ‘damnified by this Contract’.125

Though preoccupied with the Contract, Martin took his full share in legislative activities in this session, reporting a butter and cheese bill on 14 May, three naturalization bills on 30 June, and handling three other private bills.126 He queried the impartiality of the committee for a Berkshire land bill revived from the previous session, to which he had not been reappointed, and on 20 June desired a standing order that no Member should be named to any committee ‘that shall not be present at the reading or naming’.127 As the session drew to a close without any agreement on the Contract having been reached, Martin devoted his energy to a bill condemning Procter’s monopoly, although this ultimately had to be deferred until the next session.128

Martin continued to be prominent in the fifth session, chairing the inconclusive supply debates in committee of the whole House on 2 and 3 Nov. 1610. Initially, at least, he seemed as willing as ever to accede to the king’s wishes, and indeed, on 2 Nov. he implored his colleagues to ‘proceed according to His Majesty’s mind’ in respect of the Great Contract.129 However, by 14 Nov. it was clear that the Contract was dead, and Martin decided to risk offending James by introducing a bill against the apologists for arbitrary taxation, aimed at those clergymen who argued that James was an absolute monarch and had ‘made him do here, what he never did in Scotland, nor his predecessors in England’. In an uncharacteristic invective he complained that ‘the highway to get into a double benefice or higher dignity is to tread upon the neck of the Common Law’, citing the example of various prelates including Samuel Harsnett, bishop of Chichester.130 Although tempted to say they should be put to death, he proposed the loss of all dignities and future preferment for a first offence, and praemunire for a second. He must have realized that such a measure would never pass, but he felt so strongly about the matter that he declared that even if it were not enacted, ‘yet we shall do well to leave a monument behind us that may show to posterity we do unwillingly endure servitude’.131 The word ‘servitude’ was almost guaranteed to offend the king, but the following day Martin continued to stoke controversy, when he reported the supply conference with the aid of notes in his ‘table book’, which suggests that he was either keeping a diary or making temporary jottings on a slate.132 Salisbury, he said, had asked for a generous vote of subsidies, but he was against voting any more money, for if the Commons conceded that it was duty-bound to supply the wants of the king ‘I see not why he may not as well want the next year, and so every year’. Moreover, if the king and the kingdom were both in want, he asked, was the subject obliged to supply the king? Was it not preferable, he insinuated, for the king to remain in want, for ‘if the kingdom want, the king must needs be poor’.133 Martin’s outspoken opposition to a grant of further supply meant that he was among the 30 Members summoned to a private audience with the king on 16 November. This meeting annoyed the rest of the House, but Martin refused to disclose what had transpired on the grounds that he had attended as a private individual and not as a Member.134 Martin later regretted offending the king by his speeches in Parliament, and attempted on ‘manifold occasions to redeem His Majesty’s good opinion of my affection and sufficiency’.135

Outside Parliament Martin’s social life flourished. In September 1611 he attended a ‘philosophical feast’ at Brasenose College, Oxford, in which he rubbed shoulders with Cranfield, Sir Arthur Ingram*, Sir Robert Phelips*, Sir Henry Neville*, Sir Henry Goodyere*, John Donne* and Inigo Jones*.136 As a trustee for Ingram, Martin was granted a reversion to the office of secretary and keeper of the signet in the north in 1612.137 He made some progress towards improving his standing in the eyes of the king by organizing the inns of court masque in early 1613.138 Bacon, assessing the chances the king would encounter opposition in the next Parliament, noted that Martin would be unlikely to cause any further trouble as he ‘hath money in his purse’.139 This assessment seems to have been correct, for when a new Parliament finally met, in April 1614, Chamberlain reported that among those who had not stood for election was Martin, ‘who, they say, growing rich, is loth to venture his rising fortune upon his slippery tongue’.140 However, despite his absence from the Commons, Martin, according to his own testimony, managed to offend James ‘at the beginning’ of the Addled Parliament.141 How he accomplished this is not entirely clear, but in early April he and a fellow lawyer, Thomas Richardson*, were retained by the Vintners’ Company to oppose the recently incorporated French Company, which the Vintners claimed was a monopoly.142 Martin presumably appeared before the Commons committee that met to consider the patent’s validity on 19 April.143 The following day Sir Edwin Sandys reported that the committee had found the patent to be ‘a plain monopoly of trade’, and recommended that it should be condemned.144 However, the king then intervened, sending word that it was not in the Commons’ power to cancel a patent, and that he would handle the matter himself.145

It seems likely that James may have been angry with Martin for his role in the attack on the French Company. If this was indeed the case, it might help to explain Martin’s extraordinary behaviour on 17 May, when he again appeared before the Commons, this time as counsel for the Virginia Company. His brief was to request a committee to consider the maintenance of Virginia, and to his surprise, several of the Company’s leading noblemen, Lords Southampton, Sheffield and de la Warr attended the Lower House to hear his speech. He began with a resumé of the colony’s history, but ‘after a while, having spoken but little in the cause he came for, he fell to ripping up what had passed since their sitting, taxing them for their slow proceeding, for their disorderly carriage, and schooling them what they should do, with divers odd glances’.146 His criticism extended not only to the present assembly, but to the previous Parliament. The effect of these words was to cause uproar. Amid calls for Martin to be censured at the bar, Sir Edward Montagu deemed the speech ‘the most unfitting that ever was spoken in this House’, while Sir George More commented that such an attack ‘could not have [been] expected from any, much less from one of his experience here and judgment elsewhere’. Sir Herbert Croft, pondering Martin’s motives, wondered how ‘he could so overshoot himself?’, and observed that ‘this day [will be] fatal to him’.147 According to Sir William Maynard* the speech was premeditated, and therefore deserved to be severely punished, but Martin’s service in the last Parliament prompted pleas for leniency.148 Sir Robert Hitcham confessed that he had been visited by Martin in his chambers that morning, who said ‘he was in that perplexity as never was before since he was born. That he was never fearful to speak yet now benumbed with fear’.149 Hitcham claimed to have plied Martin with wine to give him courage; but the excuse that he may have been drunk is less convincing than Hitcham’s pathetic description of Martin’s ‘numbness’, by which ‘he might be carried to say he knew not what’.150 The reasons behind Martin’s uncharacteristic nervousness remain unclear, but one possibility is that Martin was overcome with fright because he had decided to chide the Commons forthrightly in order to regain the king’s favour. If this is correct, then it was a gambit that badly misfired, as he never received reward from the king. Summoned to the bar of the House, but excused from kneeling, he was let off with a short reprimand.151 To his thanks he added a final plea for a committee for Virginia; but Southampton and his colleagues were nonetheless furious, and Chamberlain commented that ‘though he abstained from being of the Parliament for fear of being transported and doing himself harm, yet it was in fatis that he should shame himself in that House’.152

Martin remained active in the affairs of the Virginia Company, and over the next few years he cultivated closer links with his native Exeter, fostering good relations between the corporation and the Court.153 He exchanged legal counsel for financial services with Cranfield, who also acted as agent for the rising favourite George Villiers.154 On the promotion of Sir Henry Montagu* to the lord chief justiceship, Martin solicited Villiers for the now vacant recordership of London. Realizing that his political record might be held against him, he wrote on 23 Aug. 1616: ‘some will say that I was wavering and uncertain, and that I offended His Majesty in the end of the first and the beginning of the last Parliament ... [but] let other mens vain ambition (w[hi]ch some of them have bought very dear) answer the ill issues of both those Parliaments’. Overlooking his two outbursts in the Commons in November 1610, he protested that his steadfast endeavour had been ‘to fall in with His Majesties profit’ in both the Parliaments of 1604-10 and 1614, and he recounted several instances in which he had demonstrated his ‘zeal and affection to His Majesty’s honour’. He had clearly recovered his self-confidence by now, for he continued, ‘I know no man among all the pretenders fitter or worthier (give me leave to boast a truth, being accused and undervalued) than myself’, and promised that he would dedicate himself to Villiers’ service alone, without whose help he must ‘bury all future hopes in a quiet desperation’.155 However, he was passed over in favour of (Sir) Thomas Coventry*, and only gained the recordership two years later through Cranfield.156 He took office on 1 Oct. 1618, but after laying out some £300 on his installation, he learned to his disgust that he was expected to pay Cranfield £1,500, over and above the £2,400 which he already owed him. He held the post for less than a month, as he died of smallpox on 31 October.157 James Whitelocke* later attributed the sudden collapse in his health to anxiety about the money he owed Cranfield.158

Martin had taken the precaution of insuring his outlay on the recordership for £1,700 on the Exchange, and consequently this money was paid out to his executor.159 He was unmarried, and in his will, which lacks a religious preamble, he distributed cash bequests to his servants and to the poor of St. Petroc’s, Exeter, and those of Colaton Raleigh, ‘where my house standeth’. He also remembered the poor of his birthplace, Otterton, and those in three other Devon parishes. Everything else went to his brother Thomas, his executor.160 He was buried in the Middle Temple church, where a monument (with an effigy of him kneeling in his gown) was erected. His portrait is held by the British Museum.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 553.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; MTR, 293, 419.
  • 3. PROB 11/115, ff. 48-49v.
  • 4. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 103.
  • 5. C181/2, ff. 34, 201, 242v, 264.
  • 6. Exeter Freemen (Devon and Cornwall Rec. Soc. extra ser. i.), 117.
  • 7. C231/4, ff. 67, 72.
  • 8. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 68, 86, 329; T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 339.
  • 9. J.H. Lefroy, Memorials of the Bermudas, i. 85, 99.
  • 10. MTR, 598, 608, 610.
  • 11. Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 63-4.
  • 12. Ath. Ox. ii. 250; M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 97-8; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 72.
  • 13. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. I ed. T.E. Hartley, iii. 375-6.
  • 14. Ibid. 453-5.
  • 15. SP14/1/71; W. Notestein, House of Commons 1604-10, pp. 7-8, 28, 70.
  • 16. Harl. 1581, f. 226.
  • 17. Dorset RO, lcc, acc. 7998, unfol. (Martin to Mayor, 14 Feb. 1604, Arundell to Mayor, 20 Feb. 1604).
  • 18. CJ, i. 933a.
  • 19. Ibid. 934b, 149b.
  • 20. Ibid. 943a; Notestein, 76.
  • 21. CJ, i. 167a.
  • 22. Ibid. 172b; C.S. Sims, ‘Policies in Parls.’, HLQ xv. 54-5.
  • 23. CJ, i. 182a, 205b.
  • 24. Ibid. 974a, 978a; Notestein, 493.
  • 25. CJ, i. 980b.
  • 26. Ibid. 982b; Notestein, 128.
  • 27. CJ, i. 975b.
  • 28. Ibid. 985b, 183b.
  • 29. Notestein, 116.
  • 30. CJ, i. 986a.
  • 31. Ibid. 238b, 991b.
  • 32. Ibid. 179a, 240a, 244a, 251b.
  • 33. Ibid. 187b, 239b, 246a, 997b.
  • 34. Ibid. 946b.
  • 35. Ibid. 188a, 202a, 966a.
  • 36. Ibid. 968a.
  • 37. Ibid. 971b.
  • 38. Ibid. 154b, 973a.
  • 39. Ibid. 975a.
  • 40. Ibid. 242a, 243b, 995a.
  • 41. Ibid. 998a, 999a.
  • 42. Ibid. 250b, 999b.
  • 43. Ibid. 256b, 257a, 260a.
  • 44. Ibid. 257b, 263b.
  • 45. Ibid. 261b; P. Croft, ‘Parl. Purveyance and the City of London 1589-1608’, PH, iv. 23.
  • 46. CJ, i. 262a.
  • 47. Ibid. 266b.
  • 48. Ibid. 272a.
  • 49. Ibid. 273a; Bowyer Diary, 51.
  • 50. CJ, i. 274a; E. Lindquist, ‘King, People, and House of Commons: the Problem of Early Jacobean Purveyance’, HJ, xxxi. 549-70.
  • 51. CJ, i. 279a; Bowyer Diary, 63-4; Notestein, 192, 198.
  • 52. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 69.
  • 53. Harl. 6850, f. 57.
  • 54. Bowyer Diary, 80-1; CJ, i. 284b-285a; Harl. 1581, f. 226.
  • 55. Harl. 1581, f. 226.
  • 56. CJ, i. 272b, 281b.
  • 57. Ibid. 311b; Notestein, 542n.
  • 58. CJ, i. 295b, 298b, 301a.
  • 59. Ibid. 300b, 309a.
  • 60. Ibid. 292a, 300a.
  • 61. Ibid. 305b.
  • 62. Ibid. 307b, 311a.
  • 63. Ibid. 270a.
  • 64. Bowyer Diary, 93; CJ, i. 290a.
  • 65. CJ, i. 293a.
  • 66. Bowyer Diary, 105.
  • 67. CJ, i. 296a.
  • 68. Ibid. 312a.
  • 69. CJ, i. 313a-b; Bowyer Diary, 180.
  • 70. CJ, i. 958b.
  • 71. Ibid. 172a, 189a, 227a, 230a, 981a.
  • 72. Ibid. 1004b.
  • 73. Bowyer Diary, 192-3, 195-6; Harl. 6850, f. 60v; Notestein, 216, 247.
  • 74. CJ, i. 1006b.
  • 75. Ibid. 1011a; Notestein, 530n.
  • 76. Bowyer Diary, 203; CJ, i. 329a, 1008b-1009a; Notestein, 220.
  • 77. CJ, i. 330b, 1011b.
  • 78. Ibid. 1014b.
  • 79. Ibid. 338a, 1019a.
  • 80. Bowyer Diary, 216; CJ, i. 347a, 350a, 1032b; Notestein, 230, 238.
  • 81. Bowyer Diary, 266-7; CJ, i. 1037a; Notestein, 248.
  • 82. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, iii. 343.
  • 83. CJ, i. 1049b.
  • 84. Ibid. 1022a.
  • 85. Ibid. 1025b.
  • 86. Ibid. 1026b.
  • 87. Ibid. 348b-349a, 1026b.
  • 88. Ibid. 354a.
  • 89. Ibid. 373b, 379b.
  • 90. Ibid. 353a, 386b.
  • 91. Ibid. 355a.
  • 92. Ibid. 364a; Bowyer Diary, 254.
  • 93. CJ, i. 372a.
  • 94. Ibid. 1048a; A.F. Upton, Sir Arthur Ingram, 19; Prestwich, 70.
  • 95. CJ, i. 1053b; Bowyer Diary, 343.
  • 96. CJ, i. 386a.
  • 97. Conversion of Sir Tobie Matthew ed. A.H. Mathew, 85.
  • 98. MTR, 493.
  • 99. PROB 11/115, f. 48.
  • 100. Recs. Virg. Co. iii. 86; Rabb, 339.
  • 101. CJ, i. 396b.
  • 102. Ibid; Notestein, 261.
  • 103. CJ, i. 399b; Notestein, 294, 295, 296, 543n.
  • 104. CJ, i. 404b, 408-9; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, i. 25, ii. 49-52.
  • 105. CJ, i. 406b, 407a-b; Procs. 1610, ii. 361n.
  • 106. CJ, i. 411b.
  • 107. Ibid. 420a.
  • 108. Ibid. 423a, 425b; Notestein, 305.
  • 109. CJ, i. 424a.
  • 110. Ibid. 428a.
  • 111. CJ, i. 427b; Procs. 1610, ii. 88.
  • 112. Procs. 1610, ii. 93, 96n, 97n, 99; CJ, i. 429b, 430a.
  • 113. CJ, i. 432b.
  • 114. Procs. 1610, ii. 126.
  • 115. CJ, i. 438a; Notestein, 339.
  • 116. Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 55-6.
  • 117. CJ, i. 439b.
  • 118. Ibid. 441b.
  • 119. Procs. 1610, i. 117.
  • 120. Ibid. i. 117-19; ii. 166.
  • 121. Parl. Debates, 1610, pp. 88-89; Notestein, 376.
  • 122. CJ, i. 445b.
  • 123. Procs. 1610, ii. 271; Notestein, 465.
  • 124. CJ, i. 450b; Procs. 1610, i. 140-1, 143; ii. 279; Notestein, 354, 556n.
  • 125. CJ, i. 451b; Procs. 1610, ii. 286.
  • 126. CJ, i. 428a, 442a, 444b, 445b, 446a.
  • 127. Ibid. 404b, 442b.
  • 128. Ibid. 452b, Procs. 1610, i. 162; ii. 386n.
  • 129. Procs. 1610, ii. 312-13, 392, 395, 400; Notestein, 406, 468-9.
  • 130. Procs. 1610, ii. 327-8; Notestein, 565-6.
  • 131. Procs. 1610, ii. 329.
  • 132. Ibid. 331-2.
  • 133. Notestein, 417.
  • 134. Parl. Debates, 1610, p. 140.
  • 135. Harl. 1581, f. 226.
  • 136. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 72.
  • 137. Ibid. 125; Prestwich, 94-5.
  • 138. Chamberlain Letters, i. 425.
  • 139. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, iv. 365, 370.
  • 140. Chamberlain Letters, i. 525.
  • 141. Harl. 1581, f. 226.
  • 142. GL, ms 15333/2, p. 606.
  • 143. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 58, 79, 87.
  • 144. Ibid. 111-114, 117-18.
  • 145. Ibid. 127-32.
  • 146. Chamberlain Letters, i. 531; Harl. 6842, f. 26v; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 317; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 269-71, 275, 279.
  • 147. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 271-2.
  • 148. Ibid. 277.
  • 149. Ibid. 273, 278.
  • 150. Ibid, 278.
  • 151. Ibid. 282-3, 285, 288.
  • 152. Chamberlain Letters, i. 531.
  • 153. HMC Exeter, 99, 102, 323.
  • 154. Prestwich, Cranfield, 95.
  • 155. Harl. 1581, f. 226.
  • 156. Liber Famelicus, 63-4.
  • 157. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 103.
  • 158. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 174, 183; Prestwich, 254, 255.
  • 159. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 595.
  • 160. PROB 11/132, f. 359v.