POLEY, John (1603-1664), of Boxted, Suff. and Pembroke Coll., Cambridge, Cambs.; later of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff.

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



2 Apr. 1628

Family and Education

bap. 6 Nov. 1603, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Sir William Poley* of Boxted, and Anne, da. of Sir Robert Jermyn† of Rushbrooke, Suff.; bro. of Robert*.1 educ. Pembroke, Camb. 1619, BA 1623, MA 1626.2 m. 24 Apr. 1653, Catharine (d. 2 Aug. 1670), da. and coh. of Jasper Despotine, physician, of Bury St. Edmunds, 3s. 1da.3 kntd. 26 Nov. 1660.4 d. 9 Nov. 1664. sig. John Poley.

Offices Held

Fell., Pembroke Coll., Camb. 1624-44; proctor, Camb. Univ. 1642-3.5

Member, embassy of 1st earl of Carlisle and Sir Thomas Roe* to the Low Countries, Germany, Lorraine and Savoy, 1628-9; Roe’s embassy to the Baltic, 1629-30.6

Gent. usher of the privy chamber, Prince Charles’s Household 1638-49, king’s Household 1649-52, 1660-d.7


Though Poley spent 20 years of his life as a Cambridge don, his aspirations lay at Court. As an undergraduate, he wrote to the courtier Endymion Porter†:

The pleasure I find in this contemplative life is, besides my quiet studies, especially the knowledge of the affairs of my noble friends, with the remembrance of that practical life I lived at London and elsewhere of late, to which if I return, I hope I shall be better able to serve you than in this dull place.

Early in 1628, Poley and his cousin Henry Jermyn* secured a monopoly of a new treatment for foot-rot in sheep. Two months later Poley was returned to the Commons for Wilton, seat of the 3rd earl of Pembroke, presumably at the nomination of his brother-in-law, (Sir) Humphrey May*. He was cited only once in the records of the Parliament, during a protracted debate of 31 May about the details of the subsidy bill, when he declared that Oxford deserved precedence only over the suburbs of Cambridge.8

On 8 Aug. 1628 Poley was licensed to travel for three years; he had probably already left the country as a member of the earl of Carlisle’s embassy to Lorraine, Italy, Germany and Brussels, during which travels he met Sir Thomas Roe*, who found his conversation ‘sweet, gentle and equal’. He left no trace upon the 1629 parliamentary session, and soon after the dissolution he accompanied Roe to the Baltic ‘in an unprofitable journey, where he saw many courts’.9 After his father’s decease in 1629, Poley inherited property in Bury St. Edmunds and Essex, while at May’s death in the following year he secured a reversion of the clerkship of Star Chamber, after Sir William Uvedale* and Sir William Morley*, a sinecure he held in trust for his widowed sister. He was recommended unsuccessfully to Sir John Scudamore* for employment in the Paris embassy in 1635 by Roe, who commended his ‘ready Latin style and good character’, and noted ‘he is modest and governable’.10

Poley secured a Court position in the Household of the Prince of Wales in 1638. A royalist during the Civil War, he was deprived of his Cambridge fellowship by Parliament. He acted as a diplomatic messenger for the royalist cause, and accompanied his master to Scotland in 1650.11 However, in 1653 he returned to Suffolk, securing his finances by marrying the daughter of a physician of Italian origin. Knighted at the Restoration, he died on 9 Nov. 1664, and was buried at Boxted. In his will he bequeathed the Suffolk estates he had recently purchased for £3,800 to his wife as a jointure, with a reversion to his eldest son, William; his widow was granted probate on 13 Dec. 1664.12 None of his descendants sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Simon Healy


  • 1. Vis. Suff. ed. Howard, i. 296-7.
  • 2. Al. Cant.
  • 3. Vis. Suff. i. 296-7.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 232.
  • 5. Al. Cant.
  • 6. APC, 1628-9, p. 91.
  • 7. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 167; Eg. 2723, f. 106; CCSP, i. 289; HMC Pepys, 255.
  • 8. SP14/143/1; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 551; CD 1628, iv. 48-9.
  • 9. APC, 1628-9, p. 91; CSP Ven. 1626-8, pp. 520-1; 1628-9, pp. 324, 461, 511; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. from Accession of Jas. I, vi. 332, 371; vii. 103.
  • 10. PROB 11/156, f. 248; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 68; C115/108/8584.
  • 11. Strafforde Letters, ii. 167; CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 31; CCSP, i. 289, 320; ii. 452; HMC Pepys, 205; Nicholas Pprs. ed. G.F. Warner (Cam. Soc. n.s. xl), 118, 208, 255.
  • 12. Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), IC500/1/116.