SAVILE, Sir Thomas (1590-1657/9), of Howley, Yorks.

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



1628 - 23 Apr. 1628

Family and Education

bap. 14 Sept. 1590,1 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir John Savile* and 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Edward Carey† of Aldenham, Herts.2 educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1608; I. Temple 1610.3 m. (1) 19 May 1618, Frances, da. of Sir Michael Sondes* of Throwley, Kent, wid. of Sir John Leveson of Cuxton, Kent, s.p.; (2) 1640/1 Anne, da. of Christopher, 1st earl of Anglesey. 1s., 1da.4 kntd. 6 Mar. 1617;5 cr. Visct. Savile of Castlebar [I] 11 June 1628;6 suc. fa. as 2nd Bar. Savile of Pontefract 1630;7 cr. earl of Sussex 25 May 1644.8 d. bet. 3 Nov. 1657 and 8 Oct. 1659.9

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (W. Riding), 1619-?44, custos rot. 1641-?4, Cornw., Devon, Dors., Wilts., Glos., Oxon., Berks., Hants, Suss., Surr., Mdx., Herts., Essex, Staffs. 1642;10 high steward, honour of Wakefield, Yorks. 1619-?49;11 commr. subsidy, W. Riding 1621-2, E., N. and W. Ridings 1624, feudal tenures, W. Riding 1626, fines, Northern parts 1628;12 forester and steward (jt.) Galtres Forest, Yorks. 1626-30;13 freeman, York 1628;14 feodary (jt.), honour of Pontefract, Yorks. 1641-?9.15 ld. pres. Council in the North, Apr.-Aug. 1641.16

Gent. privy chamber by 1626; treas., king’s Household 1641-5.17

Commr. Treaty of Ripon, 1640,18 regency Aug.-Nov. 1641; PC 1644.19


As the son of Sir Thomas Wentworth’s* arch-enemy, Sir Thomas Savile was never short of detractors: in the 1630s George Garrard* entertained the lord deputy with tales of Savile’s legal difficulties, and thirty years later the 1st earl of Clarendon (Edward Hyde†), a keen Straffordian, dismissed Savile as ‘a man of an ambitious and restless nature, of parts and wit enough, but in his disposition and inclination so false that he could never be believed or depended upon’.20 This comment reveals more about its author than its subject, but there is no doubt that Savile failed to translate the advantages of birth into a successful political career.

Sir John Savile’s troubles in 1614-16, culminating with his resignation as custos rotulorum of the West Riding, may explain why his son did not marry until 1618. The bride was a widow who had a claim to a dowry of £6,500 and the lands of Malling Abbey in Kent, which had been seized by the Crown in 1603 on the attainder of her uncle, the 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke alias Cobham†). After several years of lobbying, Savile received a reversionary grant of Irish lands worth £400 a year as compensation for his wife’s claims.21 His father’s disgrace notwithstanding, Savile was appointed to the West Riding bench in 1619, and took over the stewardship of the honour of Wakefield from his father, who had used the post to build up an affinity among the freeholders of the West Riding.22

Savile received his political baptism of fire at the general election of December 1620, when he and his father challenged Wentworth and secretary of state Sir George Calvert* for the Yorkshire county seats. Throughout the campaign Wentworth and his supporters assumed that Sir John Savile intended to run alone, as he had done in 1604 and 1614, and they accordingly went to great lengths to ensure that he would contest the senior seat with Wentworth, leaving Calvert to be returned unopposed. However, as in 1597, Savile announced the pairing on this occasion, with his son on the day of the election, forcing a contest between a local man and an absentee courtier.23 Wentworth and Calvert apparently won by a comfortable margin, but on 8 Feb. 1621 Sir Thomas Savile appeared before the Commons’ privileges’ committee, complaining that he had been denied a poll, and that Wentworth had used his position as custos rotulorum of the West Riding to circulate letters ordering the high constables to ensure that the freeholders turned out to vote for him. The allegation about the denial of a poll was swiftly dismissed, but Savile supported his other charge with copies of Wentworth’s warrants to the high constables, who were summoned to explain themselves. One was exonerated after he produced an innocuous letter from Wentworth extolling the virtues of Secretary Calvert, and under cross-examination Savile’s key witness admitted that he had not actually seen the incriminating letter. Two of the constables were deemed to have exceeded their instructions, and were therefore ordered to apologize at the next quarter sessions, but Wentworth escaped scot free. However, his attempt to turn the tables by accusing Savile of suborning others to commit perjury was rejected by the House.24

Wentworth, who had been dogged by ill-health, did not stand for the county in 1624, although he briefly considered running on the eve of the election ‘upon a sudden noise in the country of an intention in some to have elected persons suspected in religion’. He abandoned his plans when he discovered that the Saviles were running unopposed, admitting that their ‘soundness in religion’ was ‘well approved’.25 While Sir John Savile played a key role in opposing the Gadarene rush into a war with Spain advocated by Prince Charles and the duke of Buckingham, Sir Thomas maintained a much lower profile during the session. On 3 Mar. he was named to a joint committee with the Lords to draft a paper to urge the king to break off negotiations for a Spanish Match, and eight days later he attended the conference at which Prince Charles reassured the House that the king was willing to accept its advice, and would not divert a vote of supply to pay off his debts.26

The only other politically significant measure with which Savile was involved was the petition to the king for removal of local officeholders suspected of recusancy. He was named to attend the conferences with the Lords which approved a draft of the petition on 3 and 6 Apr., and as a knight of the shire, he made the presentments for Yorkshire and county Durham on 27 April. Those he named included notorious Catholics such as the earls of Worcester and Rutland, William, 4th Baron Eure†, Sir Marmaduke Wyvell and Sir Ralph Conyers, as well as Archbishop Matthew, whose son Tobie Matthew* had converted. Most controversially of all, he cited lord president Scrope (who was notoriously reticent about his religious sympathies) for non-attendance at communion, a deliberately provocative move which was probably intended to repay Scrope for the support he had given Wentworth and Calvert at the Yorkshire election of December 1620.27

Most of Savile’s other activities in the Commons can be related to local issues. With his father having long been the champion of the Yorkshire clothing interest, it is hardly surprising that he was named to committees for bills prohibiting the export of wool and fullers’ earth (6 Mar.), modifying the 1606 Cloth Act (8 Mar.) and restoring the privileges of the Merchants of the Staple (24 March). Other economic legislation of more general interest with which he can be connected included the usury bill (8 Mar.), the monopolies’ bill (conference 8 Apr.), the bill to prevent moor-burning during the breeding season (13 Apr.) and the drafting of a petition asking the king to honour his promise to revoke a patent for ‘survey of coals’ at Newcastle (25 May). Apparently keen to defend the rights of poorer freeholders, he was one of the committee appointed to scrutinise the bill to prohibit the removal of minor suits to the central courts (9 Mar.), and two weeks later he dismissed Sir Christopher Hildyard’s* claim that the Council in the North restricted its writs of summons to those within 12 miles of York.28 He was named to committees for two private bills, one to clear encumbrances on Prince Charles’s manor of Goathland, Yorkshire (15 Mar.), the other to void a Chancery decree on behalf of the northern magnate Lord Wharton (17 March). Information about participation in bill committees is difficult to obtain, but Savile is known to have attended seven of the eight meetings of the committee for the Goathland manor bill.29

Savile and his father stood for Yorkshire once again at the general election of 1625, when they were opposed by Sir Thomas Fairfax I* and William Mallory*, whom they accused of Catholic sympathies. This only compounded their troubles, as Mallory resigned his interest to Wentworth, whose supporters carried the day at the county court, with the assistance of the sheriff, Sir Richard Cholmley*.30 Sir John Savile chose to handle the petition to the Commons in person on this occasion, but Sir Thomas came to Westminster as a witness, and on 31 May he brawled on Westminster Steps with one of Wentworth’s supporters, Sir Francis Wortley*.31 The Saviles managed to get the Yorkshire return voided, but lost the resulting election. They stood again in 1626, when their chances were increased by the fact that Wentworth had been removed from contention by his appointment as sheriff, but the latter encouraged Wortley and Sir William Constable* to run against them. On the morning of the election a contest was avoided when Sir Thomas Savile and Wortley stood aside, allowing Sir John Savile and Constable to be returned unopposed. The day after the election Savile salved his honour with the disingenuous claim that ‘at the very hour of the election ... I was surprised with a sudden sickness which enforced me to keep to my chamber and to resign my interest in that business to another’.32

The settlement of the 1626 election failed to resolve the tensions between the rival camps. On 20 Mar. Savile took out a pardon for wounding Wortley, a timely precaution, as he was sued for assault in King’s Bench in Easter term; the court took a dim view of a crime perpetrated on the doorstep of Westminster Hall, and Wortley secured damages of £3,000. The two men were reported to have duelled over the summer, and in September the Privy Council attempted to effect a reconciliation.33 However, with his father high in favour at Court, Savile was never likely to be severely punished, and over the next 18 months he was closely involved with Sir John’s schemes for compounding with copyholders and recusants across the north of England. It was at this time that Wentworth’s friend Christopher Wandesford* noted that Scrope, reduced to a powerless figurehead by Sir John Savile’s rise to favour at Court, had been snubbed by Sir Thomas Savile at a meeting of the recusancy commission.34

Savile may have paired with his father at the Yorkshire election of 1628, but if so, his efforts were to no avail, as Wentworth and Henry Belasyse* emerged triumphant.35 There were alternative plans for Sir Thomas to be returned for York, but on the day of the election he was challenged by Alderman Thomas Hoyle*, a contest which resulted in a double return. Three days before the Parliament met Savile procured a petition backing his return from the lord mayor, recorder, five aldermen and 143 others. At the start of the session he secured nomination to the committee for privileges (20 Mar.), which subsequently received complaints that the city’s sheriffs had packed the electorate on Savile’s behalf and denied Hoyle’s demand for a poll. Savile was presumably not permitted to sit as judge in his own cause, and on 23 Apr., in an atmosphere of bitter hostility to Buckingham and his clients, the committee awarded the seat to Hoyle.36 During the investigation into his return Savile was not named to any committees, presumably quite deliberately. Doubts about the legitimacy of his return probably discouraged him from proceeding with plans for a bill to improve the navigation on the Aire and Calder rivers, and he was only recorded to have spoken once during his month in the House, in the subsidy debate of 4 Apr.: he supported the proposal for a vote of supply, and urged the House not to waste time over discussions about the relative priority of the various strategic options available to the government.37

Presumably as a sop to his feelings, Savile received an Irish viscountcy in June 1628, six weeks before his father was awarded an English barony. The titles were but small consolation in the face of the preferments heaped upon Wentworth, who accepted Court favour in the summer of 1628 and succeeded Scrope as lord president in January 1629. The power of the Saviles was thus eclipsed even before Sir John’s death at the end of August 1630. Savile inherited Howley and extensive estates in the Leeds area, although he became embroiled in a protracted lawsuit with his sister over the title to the manors of Barwick-in-Elmet, Scoles and Stapleton, which his father had bought from the London corporation in 1628.38 Wentworth’s ascendancy during the 1630s ensured that Savile remained out of favour, and when he finally replaced his rival as lord president in 1641, his only task was to oversee the abolition of the court. A politique and perhaps a would-be neutral during the Civil War, he offended both the king by his readiness to treat with the parliamentarians, and the Parliament by his apparent loyalty to the king. He was at various times imprisoned by each side, while his estates were despoiled by both, although during one of his moments of favour with the king he was elevated to the earldom of Sussex. He retired from public life after the Civil War, dying at some point between 8 Nov. 1657, when he wrote his will, and 8 Oct. 1659, when it was proved. His titles expired with his son James in 1671, whereupon his estates passed to his daughter, who married Francis, Lord Brudenell; her son, the earl of Cardigan, had Howley demolished in 1730.39

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. CP sub earl of Sussex.
  • 2. Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 126.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. J.P. Malcolm, Londinium Redivivum, ii. 370; R. Thoresby, Ducatus Leodiensis ed. T.D. Whitaker, 150; CSP Dom. 1645-7, pp. 462-3.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 161.
  • 6. CP sub earl of Sussex.
  • 7. C142/476/141.
  • 8. CP.
  • 9. PROB 11/296, ff. 33-4.
  • 10. C231/4, f. 88; 231/5, pp. 446, 527-33, 536
  • 11. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 152.
  • 12. C212/22/20-3; C66/2384/2, 66/2481/8.
  • 13. C66/2382/2; E112/263/279.
  • 14. York City Archives, House Bk. 35, f. 57v.
  • 15. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 152.
  • 16. R. Reid, Council in the North, 498.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 582; 1641-3, p. 189; HMC Buccleuch, i. 288.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1640-1, p. 144; HMC Var. vii. 425.
  • 19. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 662.
  • 20. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 176-7, 336, 411, 426; ii. 128; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, ii. 534.
  • 21. Malcolm, ii. 370; Stowe 758, f. 2; Cent. Kent. Stud. 269/1/OE743.
  • 22. SIR JOHN SAVILE; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders, 152; Pennine Valley ed. B. Jennings, 55-7.
  • 23. Strafforde Letters, i. 11-13; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 143-5; Surr. Hist. Cent., LM Corresp. 14 Dec. 1620.
  • 24. CD 1621, ii. 45, 260; iv. 76, 185-7; v. 65-6, 319; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 38-9, 61; CJ, i. 571b; W. Yorks. AS (Bradford), Sp. St. 11/5/3/1-2.
  • 25. Wentworth Pprs. 202-3; R. Cust, ‘Wentworth’s "change of sides" in the 1620s’, Pol. World of Thomas Wentworth ed. J.F. Merritt, 70.
  • 26. CJ, i. 676b, 683a; C. Russell, PEP, 176-7; T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 193-4.
  • 27. CJ, i. 754a, 756, 776a; ‘Holland 1624’, ii, f. 52; Wentworth Pprs. 144.
  • 28. CJ, i. 679b, 680b, 730b, 747b, 757b, 764b, 794b; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 157.
  • 29. CJ, i. 686a, 688a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 196.
  • 30. Fairfax Corresp. ed. H.M. Bell, i. 6-7; Bodl., Fairfax 34, f. 47; Procs. 1625, p. 295; H. Cholmley, Memoirs (1787), pp. 23-4.
  • 31. HMC Hodgkin, 285-8.
  • 32. Strafforde Letters, i. 32-3; HMC Hodgkin, 43.
  • 33. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 24; J. Popham, Reports and Cases (1650), p. 207; F. Philipps, Regale Necessarium (1671), p. 23; Les Reportes de Sir William Jones (1675), p. 239; T. Birch, Ct. and Times Chas. I, i. 143; APC, 1626, pp. 274, 296.
  • 34. Procs. 1626, iv. 349; APC, 1627, pp. 312-13; C66/2384/2; Wentworth Pprs. 264-5, 271-2.
  • 35. CD 1628, ii. 507-8, 510-11. Sir John Savile’s partner is not named in the depositions.
  • 36. W. Yorks. AS (Leeds), GA/B10; CD 1628, ii. 37, 234; iii. 28, 45-6, 49-50, 53, 55; CJ, i. 879a, 887a.
  • 37. CJ, i. 873a; W. Yorks. AS (Bradford), 32D86/19, ff. 89-90; CD 1628, ii. 310; vi. 61.
  • 38. Borthwick, Reg. Test. 41, ff. 314-16; C142/476/141; C2/Chas.I/L8/67; 2/Chas.I/S52/10; 2/Chas.I/S63/33; 2/Chas.I/S64/63; 2/Chas.I/S65/66.
  • 39. Reid, 498; CSP Dom. 1645-7, pp. 389, 401, 403, 424-30; Whitaker, 237-8.