OLDISWORTH, Michael (1591-1664), of St. Martin's Lane and Whitehall, Westminster.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.)
[1640 (Nov.)]

Family and Education

bap. 17 Jan. 1591, 2nd s. of Arnold Oldisworth* (d.1621) and Lucy, da. of Francis Bertie of Foster Lane, London, merchant.1 educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1606, BA (Magdalen, Oxf.) 1611, MA 1614.2 m. 26 Apr. 1617, Susan, da. of Thomas Poyntz of G. Inn, London, s.p.3 bur. 1 Feb. 1664.4

Offices Held

Fell. Magdalen, Oxf. 1612.5

Asst., Mineral and Battery Co. 1623-41, dep.-gov. 1641-63.6

Sec. to William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke by 1624-30,7 Philip Herbert*, 4th earl of Pembroke by 1635-c.Nov. 1640.8

Regimental sec., king’s bodyguard 1639.9

Member, cttee. for Whitehall by 1644; 10 registrar, PCC (sole) 1644-9,11 (jt.) 1649-at least 1653;12 member, cttee. adv. money 1649, Derby House cttee. 1649, commr. revenues of dean and chapter of Westminster 1649, indemnity 1649.13

Member, co. cttee., Glos. from 1645,14 commr. regulate Oxf. Univ. 1646;15 kpr. Windsor Gt. Pk., Berks. by 1648;16 commr. militia, Glos., Mon., Brec. 1648, Glam. 1648, 1659-60, Wilts. 1648, 1659, Westminster, 1649, 1659-60,17 commr. sequestration, S. Wales and Mon. 1649;18 gov. Westminster sch., 1649;19 commr. assessment, Westminster, Wilts., Glam. 1649, 1650, 1652, 1660,20 oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1654-8,21 sewers, Mdx. 1656.22

Member, vestry of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster from 1647.23


Oldisworth was educated at Oxford, becoming a fellow of Magdalen College and receiving a master’s degree in 1614. He is not known to have enrolled at an inn of court, but by 1617, when he married Susan Poyntz, the daughter of a prominent Gray’s Inn lawyer, he was living in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, presumably at his father’s house in St. Martin’s Lane. As a younger son Oldisworth could not expect a substantial patrimony, but his wife was joint heiress to a moderate landed estate in Essex, and this property must have provided a welcome boost to his income.24 Oldisworth’s father developed serious financial problems in the late 1610s, and emigrated in 1620 to Virginia, where he died soon afterwards leaving debts of more than £6,000.25 In the short term Oldisworth apparently received from his father only a share in the Mineral and Battery Company, though he eventually secured control of his parents’ remaining assets in 1633, his elder brother having presumably predeceased him.26

Oldisworth entered the service of the lord chamberlain, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, by December 1621, when he was entrusted by the latter with the task of organizing a Christmas masque at Court. The two men had possibly become acquainted through the Mineral and Battery Company, of which Pembroke was a governor, though Oldisworth’s father had enjoyed connections with the earl’s circle for several decades.27 By 1624 Oldisworth was the earl’s secretary, and during the remainder of this decade he became the principal intermediary between his master and supplicants for household offices and miscellaneous favours.28

Oldisworth’s election for Old Sarum to four successive parliaments in the 1620s was arranged by Pembroke, who controlled the borough jointly with William Cecil*, 2nd earl of Salisbury.29 In 1628 Pembroke attempted to return both Oldisworth and Sir Henry Marten for Oxford University, and thus make a place available for another of his appointees at Old Sarum. However, the university objected to the presumption that Pembroke, as its chancellor, had a right to recommend both Members, and so elected Marten and its former MP Sir John Danvers, thereby obliging Oldisworth to sit once again for Old Sarum.30 Oldisworth’s contribution to the work of the House during these Parliaments was negligible. In 1624 he was added to the committee for the bill against arbitrary imprisonment (17 March).31 He is not mentioned in the parliamentary records for 1625 and 1626, while in 1628-9 he was named to only one committee, to consider Henry Billingsley’s petition about the carrying of foreign post (14 June).32 However, he was more active than he would appear from a reading of the Commons Journal and private parliamentary diaries, as a letter of February 1629 addressed to Sir John Eliot* indicates. In this he refers to having invited Eliot ‘to some trouble’ and being now ‘ready to expose you to a second’:

the business which then I gave you but a hint of, I have enlarged it to a brief, and accompanied that (as I conceive) with weighty reasons why the House should not entertain it. When it comes to a second reading, please you to draw some of them upon it, or rather out of your better armoury, that it may not be received.

The subject of the bill referred to is unknown, and thus it is uncertain whether in this instance Oldisworth was acting in his own interests or in another’s, such as Pembroke’s.33 His limited involvement in parliamentary business may indicate that Oldisworth was not expected to act as one of Pembroke’s spokesmen in the Commons, and that his repeated return to Parliament was therefore more of a reward for his good service to the earl.

After Pembroke’s death in April 1630, Oldisworth transferred his services to Pembroke’s brother, Philip Herbert, who succeeded as 4th earl. Employed as the earl’s secretary by 1635, he relinquished this office at about the time of his election to the Long Parliament. He initially maintained his customary low profile in the Commons, becoming actively involved in proceedings only after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642.34 Oldisworth nevertheless continued to use his position close to the centres of power to obtain some personal advantage. His acquisitions by now included a Crown manor in Kent with a capital value of £1,200, a 31-year grant to make accounts of felons’ goods in Cornwall and Devon, and a share in the profits of Sir Henry Compton’s keepership of the writs in Common Pleas, an office worth £3,000 a year. In 1644 he secured the lucrative registrarship of the Prerogative Court.35 Oldisworth adhered to Parliament during the Civil War and was credited by contemporaries with persuading Pembroke to do likewise. His close relationship with his patron was the subject of numerous satires during these years, as he was believed to have composed many of ‘the earl his master’s wise speeches’. By 1648 he was keeper of Windsor Great Park, though in the following year he was obliged to share his office as registrar of the Prerogative Court. He died, childless and apparently intestate, in early 1664 and was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 1 February.36

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Henry Lancaster / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Reg. St. Martin-in-the Fields, London (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxv), 20, 22; BL, Loan 16, pt. 2, f. 1v; Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, i. 520; Returns of Aliens ed. R.E.G. and E.F. Kirk (Huguenot Soc. x. pt. 2), 284, 402.
  • 2. Al. Ox.
  • 3. Soc. Gen., St. Gregory-by-St. Paul’s par. reg; London Mar. Lics. ed. J. Foster, 994; PROB 6/5, f. 255; J. Maclean, Hist. Memoir of Fam. of Poyntz, 41.
  • 4. WCA, St. Martin-in-the-Fields par. reg., unfol.
  • 5. Al. Ox.
  • 6. BL, Loan 16, pt. 2, ff. 11, 90, 140v.
  • 7. Arundel, Autograph Letters 1617-32, no. 261.
  • 8. Hist. and Antiqs. of Westmld and Cumb. ed. J. Nicolson and R. Burn, i. 295-6.
  • 9. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 607.
  • 10. CJ, iii. 567a.
  • 11. CCAM, 687; CJ, iii. 687b.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1649-50, p. 238; 1653-4, p. 280.
  • 13. CJ, vi. 112a, 113b, 132a, 219b.
  • 14. CJ, iv. 239b.
  • 15. Ibid. 695b.
  • 16. C. Walker, Hist. of Independency (1648), p. 172.
  • 17. A. and O. i. 1137, 1244; ii. 20, 1290, 1328, 1334, 1437, 1447.
  • 18. Ibid. ii. 15.
  • 19. Ibid. 257.
  • 20. Ibid. 39, 45, 47, 303, 311, 314, 472, 480, 483, 669, 677, 680, 1373, 1381, 1383.
  • 21. C181/6, pp. 11, 303.
  • 22. Ibid. p. 176.
  • 23. WCA, F2517, f. 28.
  • 24. London Mar. Lics. 994; WARD 7/39/5.
  • 25. Recs. of the Virg. Co. i. 378, 448, 468, 520; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 197.
  • 26. BL, Loan 16, pt. 2, f. 1v; PROB 6/14A, f. 175.
  • 27. SO3/7, unfol. (Dec. 1621); BL, Loan 16, pt. 2, f. 3v; Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, ii. 64.
  • 28. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 255, 281.
  • 29. Arundel, Autograph Letters 1617-32, no. 261
  • 30. M. Rex, Univ. Representation in Eng. 1604-90, p. 115.
  • 31. CJ, i. 738b.
  • 32. Ibid. 913a; CD 1628, iv. 307.
  • 33. J. Forster, Sir John Eliot, ii. 427.
  • 34. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 398; Hist. and Antiqs. of Westmld. and Cumb. i. 296; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 290.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 163; 1629-31, p. 133; 1637, p. 300.
  • 36. N and Q (ser. 1), xii. 359; Ath. Ox. ii. 356; VCH Wilts. v. 126; WCA, St. Martin-in-the-Fields par. reg., unfol.