STRANGWAYS (STRANGWISH), Sir John (1585-1666), of Melbury Sampford and Abbotsbury, Dorset

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. 27 Sept. or 4 Oct. 1585,1 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of John Strangways (d.1593) of Melbury Sampford and Dorothy, da. of Sir John Thynne† of Longleat, Wilts.2 educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1601; M. Temple 1611.3 m. (1) by 1607, Grace (d.1652), da. of Sir George Trenchard† of Wolveton, Charminster, Dorset, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) at least 3da. (2 d.v.p);4 (2) 1653, Judith, da. of Francis Throckmorton of Wootton Wawen, Warws., wid. of Thomas Edwards (admon. 3 Nov. 1625) of London and Wadhurst, Suss., s.p.5 suc. bro. 1596;6 kntd. by 19 June 1608.7 d. 30 Dec. 1666.8 sig. J[ohn] Strangways.

Offices Held

Freeman, Lyme Regis, Dorset 1608,9 Weymouth, Dorset 1625;10 j.p. Dorset c.1608-26, 1628-c.1629, c.1639-at least 1640, 1660-d.,11 sheriff 1612-13;12 commr. inquiry into lands of 1st earl of Somerset, Dorset and Som. 1616, lands of Sir Walter Ralegh† 1633;13 high steward, Lyme Regis by 1617;14 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1617-26, 1629-32, 1641-2, 1660-d.,15 sewers, Dorset 1617, 1638,16 impressment 1620, 1623, 1625-6,17 collector, Palatinate Benevolence 1620,18 commr. subsidy 1621-2, 1624, 1628,19 piracy 1622,20 dep. lt. by 1624-5, from 1660,21 commr. aliens 1635,22 hard soap, W. Country 1638,23 assessment, Dorset 1641-2, 1660-1, 1663-d.,24 array 1642,25 contributions (roy.) 1643, rebels’ estates 1643;26 jt. steward, Fordington and Ryme manors, Dorset 1661-d.;27 commr. regulate corporations, Dorset 1662.28

Commr. trade 1622, 1625,29 Prince Charles’s revenue 1641.30

Member, embassy to Spain ?1622.31


Strangways was descended from a fifteenth-century Lancashire gentleman, who obtained a substantial estate in Dorset through marriage, and sat for Bedwyn in 1472. The family acquired Melbury Sampford in the next generation, while Abbotsbury Abbey became its secondary seat following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.32 Strangways’ great-great-grandfather, who married off his heir to a sister of the 1st earl of Rutland, served five times as sheriff of Dorset and twice as knight of the shire. With the family’s local prominence now firmly established, Strangways’ grandfather represented the county in five Parliaments, while his father held the shrievalty and several militia commands.33

Strangways was still a minor when he succeeded his brother in 1596, and his wardship was sold to the latter’s father-in-law, Sir Henry Newton†, who outbid Strangways’ grandmother, Lady Young.34 With a patrimony comprising more than 6,000 acres in Dorset and Somerset, including ten manors, Strangways’ high local standing was assured once he came of age in 1606.35 Knighted two years later, he became a Dorset magistrate at around the same time. In 1609, as joint heir to the immensely wealthy Nicholas Wadham, he inherited further lands worth approximately £1,000 a year.36 At this juncture his main seat was apparently Abbotsbury, for which he obtained a grant of markets and fairs in 1610, though he later preferred Melbury Sampford.37 He and his father-in-law, Sir George Trenchard, were both earmarked for inclusion in the newly created order of baronets in 1611, but their patents were stayed, presumably because they baulked at the cost.38 This episode notwithstanding, the Trenchard marriage served to consolidate Strangways’ position in Dorset. The 1st earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley Cooper†) later recalled him as being ‘very considerable both for estate and family, a wise, crafty, experienced man, but extremely narrow in expenses’.39 Strangways was also a minor patron of the arts, and in 1611 he contributed a poem to the introduction of Thomas Coryate’s Crudities, which implies a measure of contact with London’s literary circles.40 By this time Strangways had probably also attached himself to lord chamberlain Suffolk, the lord lieutenant of Dorset, as he christened his eldest daughter Howard.41

Strangways’ term as sheriff of Dorset in 1612-13 doubtless reinforced his local profile. In 1614 he was elected knight of the shire, presumably with Suffolk’s backing. He began his Commons career confidently, making three speeches and attracting 11 nominations. Surprisingly for a novice Member, he was named on 8 Apr. to help review old bills from earlier sessions. He was also appointed to six legislative committees, whose topics ranged from Sabbath observance to the naturalization of two Scottish courtiers (7 and 23 May).42 On 9 Apr. Strangways raised the case of the Bridport Member, Sir William Bampfield, then under arrest. Nominated four days later to the committee to devise a protestation to the king against ‘undertaking’, he urged the House on 10 May to censure Sir Thomas Parry* for interfering in the Stockbridge election.43 Strangways was appointed to attend the conference with the Lords concerning the Palatine marriage bill, and to consider the petition presented to the Commons against baronetcies (14 Apr., 23 May). Following Bishop Neile’s attack on the Lower House, Strangways was selected to attend the king on 28 May, when Members explained their suspension of business over this affair. While not a conspicuous critic of the government, on 6 June Strangways seconded Sir Guy Palmes’s motion for the Commons to clear or punish any Members whose actions might be questioned by the Crown after the Parliament ended.44

During the next few years, Strangways remained an active figure in local government. In 1616 he was appointed to inquire into the Dorset lands held by the former royal favourite, the earl of Somerset, which included the Sherborne estate subsequently granted to Sir John Digby*. Strangways was added a year later to the prestigious West Country oyer and terminer commission, and in 1620 he was chosen to collect the Palatine Benevolence in Dorset. With this track record, he had no problem retaining his seat as a knight of the shire at the election for the 1621 Parliament, serving this time alongside his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Trenchard.45

During the third Jacobean Parliament Strangways made 40 speeches, and received 19 nominations, though he could not yet be accounted one of the Commons’ leading figures. He clearly arrived back at Westminster with some private business to pursue. On 9 Mar. he was the first Member named to the committee for the bill to confirm the foundation of Wadham College, Oxford by his late kinsman. However, this measure, which was apparently intended to clarify the division of Nicholas Wadham’s lands between his heirs and the college, failed to complete its passage. Strangways was possibly also a sponsor of the bill for free trade in Welsh cottons. He was nominated to the committee on 2 Mar., and although he seems not to have attended its meetings, he called unsuccessfully on 20 Mar. for the bill to be engrossed. On 8 May he presented a petition from some clothiers against the Merchant Adventurers.46 Having argued on 22 Mar. in favour of a broad interpretation of parliamentary privilege in relation to Members’ servants, he was himself granted privilege for one of his own employees on 5 May.47

Strangways drew on his personal experience to complain on 15 Mar. that the government was making it harder for sheriffs, in their official capacity, to write off irrecoverable debts. He was promptly named to the committee for the bill on sheriffs’ accounts. Similarly, his informed proposal on 25 Apr., for a ban on the appointment of inexperienced lawyers as magistrates, earned him a nomination to help consider Sir Dudley Digges’s* petition for reform of county benches.48 Strangways’ interest in legislation was at best sporadic, but he was capable of pointed observations on specific measures. He criticized the bills to repress drunkenness, and to regulate the kingdom’s arms, as being poorly drafted (28 Feb., 29 May). Again, he was the first Member named on 28 Apr. to the committee for the bill on the estates of attainted persons, after moving an amendment to ban the abuse of grants of such lands being solicited prior to any conviction for treason.49 Such attention to detail helps to explain his appointments to help draft the bills for subsidy and for regulating inns, the sale of horsemeat, and clerks of the market (16 Feb., 24 April).50 Strangways certainly recognized the importance of the Commons’ legislative role, and twice called for more bills to be considered ahead of the Easter recess, as the House struggled with its agenda (5 and 22 March).51

Strangways echoed conventional wisdom on 26 Feb., when he blamed the current scarcity of coin on the East India Company’s export of bullion, the excessive production of gold and silver lace, and an imbalance in trade with Ireland.52 However, he could also be conspicuously independent-minded. Although he apparently shared the widespread concern about the abuse of monopolies, on 12 May proposing a shorter period during which new manufactures were protected by such grants, he abstained from the Commons’ witch-hunt of recent referees. Indeed, on 17 Mar. he argued that the evidence gathered against lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) was too weak to justify his impeachment.53 Even more strikingly, on 27 Apr. he was the only Member to defend the sale of honours, asserting that since royal pardons could be purchased, the Crown’s prerogative also extended to selling titles.54

Once Strangways settled on a course of action, he pursued it doggedly. On 14 Feb. he highlighted abuses in the management of the Fleet prison. This prompted the establishment of a committee of inquiry, which in turn led to a tour of inspection by Members (17 Feb.), with Strangways participating prominently in both stages. His initiative was somewhat compromised when it emerged on 19 Feb. that his own brother-in-law, Edmund Chamberlayne, was one of the prisoners. However, he stuck to his task, bringing in a fresh petition against the warden on 26 Mar., and calling for the latter’s arrest on 16 May.55

During the Fleet inquiry, Members learnt of slanders against the king and queen of Bohemia by a Catholic prisoner, Edward Floyd. Strangways delivered the first report of these insults on 28 Apr., and three days later he contributed to the vindictive demands for the offender to receive a brutal, exemplary punishment. When doubts were raised about whether the Commons had the power to impose such a sentence on Floyd, Strangways boldly advised Members ‘to make a precedent in this case, if none before’.56 This firm but ill-advised line presumably indicated a determination to uphold the dignity of monarchy. Despite his earlier role as a collector for the Palatinate, he was neither vocal on this topic in the House, nor conspicuously hostile to Catholics in general, possibly because he numbered some among his own relatives. On 4 May he argued that papists who conformed to the Church of England should keep their lands, even if they temporarily lapsed back into recusancy. Never sympathetic to puritanism, Strangways also took a lenient view of the virulent attack on the Sabbath observance bill by the Shaftesbury Member, Thomas Sheppard, a suspected Catholic, even while acknowledging the ‘general scandal’ of the latter’s comparison of maypole dancing with the celebrations of the biblical King David (16 February).57

After the summer recess, Strangways contributed little further to the Commons’ proceedings. On 20 Nov. he queried whether his kinsman Sir Thomas Thynne could still sit in the House, since he had recently been selected as sheriff of Gloucestershire. When Justice Hutton was accused of misdirecting a Dorset jury in a case between the 2nd earl of Castlehaven (Sir Mervyn Audley*) and the rector of Stalbridge, Strangways proposed that the latter be detained while the facts were established, and was promptly appointed to examine the cleric (1 December). On the same day he was named to attend a conference with the Lords on the bill against informers.58 Strangways failed to participate in the heated debates about a possible war to recover the Palatinate. Indeed, while agreeing in principle to the grant of one additional subsidy towards this end, he argued on 28 Nov. in favour of delaying its collection. Meanwhile, his pronouncements on Catholics remained ambiguous. On 28 Nov. he joined the calls for recusants to pay a double rate of subsidy, on the practical grounds that their status spared them from many customary expenses. However, the next day he spoke in support of Sir Henry Spiller*, who stood accused of failing to enforce recusancy fines, and was nominated to help review these charges.59

Following the dissolution, the Crown launched a new Benevolence to compensate for Parliament’s failure to vote supply on the scale requested. Like many recent Members, Strangways found himself targeted by the government, and when he offered only £50 the Privy Council demanded double. However, he resisted this pressure, and was summoned again for non-payment in July 1623.60 He could certainly have found this money had he chosen to, for in around 1622 he donated the east window of Wadham College chapel, which cost nearly £114.61 Moreover, a year later he was one of the more prominent figures behind an abortive project to drain Sedgemoor in Somerset.62 Even so, Strangways was still not seriously at odds with the Crown. He apparently became a Dorset deputy lieutenant around this time, a position of considerable trust. More significantly still, he was appointed in 1622 to the government’s commission on English trade, conceivably on the recommendation of his friend Sir John Digby, now earl of Bristol. The two men’s association probably dated from around 1617, when the latter first acquired the Sherborne estate. As Bristol was a newcomer to Dorset, the locally powerful Strangways most likely viewed him as an equal, rather than as a patron. Nevertheless, he accompanied the earl on one of his embassies to Spain, probably in 1622, and their close ties were further confirmed in August 1624, when Strangways’ daughter Howard married Bristol’s stepson, Sir Lewis Dyve*. Certainly the earl proved a major influence on Strangways’ political outlook during the next few years.63

In 1624 Strangways was returned to Parliament as a knight of the shire for the third time, but had much less impact on the Commons, making only six speeches, and attracting just nine nominations. This was surprising, given that he confidently moved on 23 Feb. for the prestigious committee for privileges to be appointed, and was himself the first Member named to it.64 His immediate concern was doubtless with the revived bill to confirm Wadham College’s foundation. Nominated to its committee on 9 Mar., he secured a clause guaranteeing his title to Abbotsbury rectory, and the measure was enacted at the end of the session.65 Strangways also took a close interest in the bill to settle the manorial customs of Beaminster Second, Dorset. Although not named to the committee, he attended two of its meetings, and also obtained a Commons’ warrant to stay a related lawsuit (14 April). Conversely, on 15 and 24 Mar. he was nominated to legislative committees concerning corrupt customs officials and fishing in American waters, two issues relevant to Dorset, but failed to attend them.66

On 14 Apr. Strangways was appointed to attend a conference with the Lords on the controversial bill to amend the Henrician statute on Welsh governance. In marked contrast to his reticence about monopolies in 1621, he called on 13 Mar. for the referees of the patent for surveying coals to be severely punished, ‘to the terrifying of others from making the like certificates’.67 He also finally made a clear statement on the prospect of war with Spain. On 1 Mar., affirming that the breaking off of the current Spanish treaties would inevitably lead to conflict, he urged the immediate adoption of defensive measures, such as the confining of important recusants, the renewal of coastal fortifications, and the readying of the militia. He also favoured a ‘divertive war’ in Germany, involving the Protestant princes there. Strangways’ opinion must have carried weight in the House, given his close ties with Bristol, who had recently been disgraced after becoming an obstacle to the militaristic ambitions of Prince Charles and the duke of Buckingham. However, far from defending his friend, Strangways cited one of Bristol’s letters, which confirmed the duke’s claims that Spain had never seriously intended helping to recover the Palatinate, even if the proposed Spanish Match had been agreed. Conceivably, this gesture was calculated to help achieve Bristol’s rehabilitation, but Strangways’ alarm at the prospect of war was apparently genuine. This anxiety resurfaced on 12 Mar., when he informed the House that four ships from the Spanish-controlled port of Lisbon were heading for England in search of bronze for ordnance manufacture.68

Once Prince Charles became king in 1625, Bristol’s disgrace deepened, and Strangways seemingly suffered by association. In about May, he and his father-in-law were replaced as deputy lieutenants by Sir Walter Earle and Sir Nathaniel Napper, who had also just been elected as Dorset’s knights of the shire in the first Caroline Parliament. Strangways had to settle this time for a seat at Weymouth, seven miles from Abbotsbury, probably also arranging the return of his son-in-law Dyve at Bridport, where the Trenchard family were the dominant patrons.69 In the Commons, Strangways maintained a very low profile. He made no recorded speeches, and was named to just four bill committees, which addressed fishing in American waters, benefit of clergy, and two legal problems associated with landownership (25 and 27 June). It is not known whether he attended the Oxford sitting.70

In the following year Strangways reasserted his local standing. At the parliamentary elections of January 1626 he again opted for a burgess-ship at Weymouth, but this time he blatantly manipulated the Dorset contest to ensure the success of his chosen candidate, Sir George Morton. Dyve also took a seat at Bridport, confounding Buckingham’s bid to place two of his own nominees there.71 Back at Westminster, Strangways was highly conspicuous again, making 34 speeches and receiving 28 nominations. As usual he had some Dorset business to attend to. His committee appointments encompassed bills to found a new church in Weymouth, and to restore Carew Ralegh in blood, the latter measure having implications for Bristol’s title to the Sherborne estate (25 Feb., 24 March). He failed on 11 Feb. to dissuade the Commons from calling a fresh election in Dorset, following complaints from the losing party, but in the event Morton retained his seat. Another temporary setback followed three months later, when the Exchequer barons sought to distrain Strangways for failing to return a recent Dorset subsidy collection. The precise circumstances are unclear, but he secured a letter of discharge from the Speaker on 1 June.72

Strangways spent much of this session on the offensive against Buckingham. On 22 Feb. he attacked the duke’s decision as lord admiral to detain the St. Peter of Le Havre. Disputing the assertion by the Admiralty judge, Sir Henry Marten*, that this incident was not the sole cause of the current French trade embargo, he provocatively called for Marten to be sequestered from the Commons, though the latter was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing. The next day, Strangways proposed a Remonstrance to the king about the St. Peter case, reminding Members of a speech by James I in 1624 in which ‘the old king said he was in love with Parliaments’ because they informed him of matters which he would not otherwise hear about. This ploy also failed, but Strangways was promptly added to the committee investigating the embargo.73

On 27 Feb. he opened a major debate on the current parlous state of the kingdom, condemning the inadequacy of England’s coastal defences, the loaning to France of ships that were used against the Protestants of La Rochelle, and the huge casualty numbers on the Cadiz expedition and Count Mansfeld’s campaigns, which were due in part to inadequate provisioning. Of 500 mariners recruited in Dorset, fewer than 80 had reportedly survived. Arguing that the honour of Parliament itself was besmirched by these military disasters, he demanded that the councillors of war be called to account, to establish why the money voted for war in 1624 had not been employed as the Commons intended.74 When Strangways repeated his call the next day, the House established a committee for that purpose, and appointed him to it.75 In the event, the councillors were banned by the king from revealing their deliberations. Strangways personally visited Lord Brooke (Sir Fulke Greville*), who had excused himself on the grounds of illness, but reported back empty-handed on 11 Mar., and this strategy was shortly abandoned.76 Nevertheless, Strangways was now firmly identified in the Commons with the on-going inquiry into Buckingham’s military failures. Appointed on 7 Mar. to attend a conference with the Lords on the safety and defence of the kingdom, he was also nominated a week later to help draft a bill for finding arms, and to consider Digges’s proposal for a privately funded naval war.77

Strangways served on the so-called committee for the ‘causes of causes’, established on 20 Mar. to prepare impeachment charges against Buckingham. Initially he investigated the misappropriation of government revenues, and on 24 Mar. complained of the Navy’s failure to patrol the English Channel, despite £8,800 being assigned for this purpose. He also inquired into the sale of peerages, informing the committee on 22 Mar. that he himself had been offered an Irish viscountcy.78 Nevertheless, the duke’s critics recognized that the king would not agree to a trial unless his request for financial assistance was also addressed. Accordingly, on 27 Mar. Strangways moved for a debate on supply, though he was quick to dismiss the government’s estimates as unrealistic. Arguing that most of the recent campaigns could have been managed more cheaply, and that the Crown was lax about collecting money due from the sale of honours, he concluded that Parliament was obliged only to fund Count Mansfeld and a further fleet. Finally opting for a limited grant of three subsidies and three fifteenths, he successfully recommended that the subsidy bill be delayed until the Commons’ grievances were redressed.79

At this juncture a new front opened up in the campaign against Buckingham. On 30 Mar. the Lords ruled that the earl of Bristol, who had been under house arrest for two years, should receive his writ of summons to the Upper House, which had previously been denied him by the king. Charles could now prevent him from sitting only by accusing him of high treason, but Bristol intended to retaliate with similar charges against the duke.80 On 5 Apr., as the Commons prepared to adjourn for its Easter recess, Strangways was licensed to depart home for ten days, presumably so that he could consult the earl. He was back at Westminster by 19 Apr., when he revived debate on the privilege case of Sir Robert Howard*, who had committed adultery with Buckingham’s sister-in-law. That same day Edward Kirton alerted the Commons to Bristol’s allegations against the duke, which centred on the latter’s conduct during the Spanish Match episode.81 Kirton was the unofficial spokesman for another of Buckingham’s enemies, the 2nd earl of Hertford (William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp*), to whom Strangways was distantly related, and the two Members collaborated during the rest of this session in attacking the duke.82 Initially Strangways passed no comment on Bristol’s claims, but on 4 May he intervened three times to defend one Everard, a key witness to the charge that Buckingham had displayed Catholic sympathies while in Spain. He later confirmed that Everard would remain available for examination, which demonstrates that he was more active behind the scenes than his actions in the House might suggest.83

Meanwhile, the impeachment articles against Buckingham were now ready, and on 2 May Strangways helped to persuade the Commons to transmit them to the Lords, rather than submitting them to Charles, or waiting until Bristol’s trial was concluded. The next day he was named as assistant to Christopher Wandesford, who had been entrusted with presenting the article about the duke’s alleged interference during James I’s final illness.84 Simultaneously, the Commons continued to dangle the carrot of financial assistance before the king, and Strangways was appointed to help draft proposals for augmenting the Crown’s revenues, and also the subsidy bill’s preamble (4-5 May). Nevertheless, he had no intention of relaxing the pressure on Buckingham himself, and on 9 May backed the proposal that he should be imprisoned during the impeachment proceedings, earning a nomination to the committee set up to broach this matter with the Lords.85

Whatever concerns Strangways felt about Bristol’s long detention resurfaced when the king unexpectedly arrested Digges and Sir John Eliot over their actions during Buckingham’s impeachment. On 16 May, supporting Kirton’s call for Eliot’s name to be cleared, he moved for Sir Richard Weston to explain his statement that Eliot had actually been imprisoned for matters ‘extra-judicial’ to Parliament. He was equally alarmed by Sir Dudley Carleton’s warning on 12 May that Charles might resort to ‘new counsels’ if Parliament persisted in confronting the Crown. Appealing on 5 June for the continuance of traditional patterns of government, he recalled a speech from 1610 in which James I stated that those who advised a monarch to act outside the law were ‘vipers fitting to be cast out, and pests of the commonwealth’. Expressing the hope that Charles would ‘inherit his father’s virtues as he did the Crown’, he appealed to the king to dispense with any advisors who advocated ‘new counsels’.86

Strangways clearly viewed Buckingham as the prime candidate for dismissal. On 3 June he and Kirton informed the House that the duke was continuing to receive fresh honours, despite the fact that he was officially still on trial in the Lords. Strangways highlighted the favourite’s election as chancellor of Cambridge University, and further questioned Buckingham’s religious orthodoxy by mentioning his patronage of the Arminian cleric, Richard Montagu. When Members voted on 13 June whether to consider a letter in which Sir John Savile* criticized the duke’s impeachment, Strangways was a teller for the yeas, who carried the day.87 Clearly now one of the Commons’ leading figures, he was nominated to help prepare the general grievances for presentation to the king, and added to the committee for assembling arguments in favour of a general fast (25 May, 9 June). He was also selected on 14 June to help draft the Speaker’s introduction to the Commons’ formal justification of its proceedings against Buckingham, delivery of which was prevented by the Parliament’s dissolution.88

On 28 June the king ordered Sir Robert Heath* to examine Strangways, Kirton, Dyve, George, Lord Digby† and others in connection with Bristol’s campaign against Buckingham. How long they were detained is unclear, but Charles considered that they deserved ‘exemplary punishment’ for ‘stirring up of the disaffection of divers of the Members of both Houses for the furtherance of their private ends’.89 Strangways was swiftly displaced from the Dorset bench ‘for being so busy last Parliament’, as William Whiteway II* observed, and was also removed from the western oyer and terminer commission.90 In January 1627, along with Sir Walter Earle and two other local gentlemen, he declined to subscribe to the Forced Loan. Summoned before the Privy Council, he again ‘made a fair and handsome refusal’, whereupon he was despatched to the Fleet prison. His detention was not unduly harsh. Confined to Bedfordshire from June, he was also twice allowed to visit the West Country, ostensibly to recover his health. He did not contest his punishment, but instead concentrated on rebuilding his local position, presumably aware that he was now ‘much pitied for his behaviour and good parts’.91 In a show of strength around May 1627, he engineered the sacking of Sir Richard Strode* as a Dorset magistrate.92

Set at liberty in January 1628, Strangways was once more elected as a knight of the shire in the following month, serving with his fellow refuser, Earle. He doubtless also arranged Dyve’s return at Weymouth.93 Very active again in the Commons during the 1628 session, he received at least 14 appointments, and made 29 speeches. As in 1624 he was named to the committee for privileges, and on 21 Mar. he was also nominated to attend a conference with the Lords concerning the proposed petition for a general fast. Still closely associated with Bristol, he was named to the legislative committee concerned with the earl’s title to the Sherborne estate (23 May). However, his appointment on 20 Mar. to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the Cornish election also identified him as an ally of Buckingham’s bitter enemy, Sir John Eliot.94

Understandably, Strangways took a close interest in the early debates about infringements of the subjects’ liberties. Having persuaded Members on 25 Mar. to give priority to the issue of arbitrary imprisonment, he reminded them the next day of his own confinement for Loan refusal, and rounded furiously on Sir Francis Nethersole when the latter argued that kings could break the law if impelled by necessity: ‘if [he] had lain a while where I lay lately, he would have known more, searched records, and studied the cause’. Returning to this point on 3 Apr., he revealed: ‘I myself was told because I refused the Loan, ... that shortly we should not have the protection of the law. I see not the gentleman [that] told me so, but he is of the House’. Later that day he was named to committees to frame a bill on compulsory military service and foreign employment, and to plan the Commons’ next steps in securing liberties.95 Strangways’ determination that Parliament must act was reinforced by reports from Dorset of the abuses committed by soldiers forcibly billeted there. As he explained on 8 Apr., neither the local magistrates nor the martial law commissioners were willing to intervene, which left the inhabitants believing that ‘there is no judge in Israel’. Two days later, he successfully moved for the whole House to accompany the Speaker when a petition against billeting was presented to the king.96

When secretary of state Sir John Coke requested the House on 26 Mar. to consider the Crown’s propositions for supply, Strangways was so determined to prevent this that he suggested sending the propositions out for consultation around the country. However, he responded positively to the king’s subsequent assurances about liberties, and on 4 Apr. agreed in principle to a generous grant of five subsidies. This stance placed him at odds with Eliot and Earle, who interrupted him on 11 Apr. when he seconded Sir Edward Coke’s motion to fix the payment dates as a further incentive to Charles. Undeterred, Strangways countered: ‘we have many petitions, and I doubt not but this may help them on’.97

Given his constructive behaviour, he was doubtless embarrassed to find himself three days later at the centre of a major dispute between the two Houses. On 12 Apr., while visiting the Lords on private business, he was told by the 2nd earl of Suffolk (Theophilus Howard, Lord Walden*) that John Selden* deserved to be hanged for razing a record. This outburst, which was prompted by a misheard exchange in the Lords during Selden’s recent presentation of legal precedents for subjects’ liberties, took Strangways by surprise. Probably reluctant to offend Suffolk, his local lord lieutenant, he kept quiet about the episode until Kirton raised it in the Commons on 14 Apr., citing Strangways as the prime witness. Selden promptly demanded that his name be cleared, but when the Lower House made a formal complaint to the Lords, Suffolk denied making the offending remarks. Strangways, who by this time had given written testimony, was obliged on 15 Apr. to defend his own reputation. Reminding Members that he was merely a witness, not the earl’s original accuser, he stood by his version of events, alluding proudly to the aristocratic blood in his own veins, and called on the House to uphold his honour. A committee chaired by Eliot duly affirmed its confidence in him on 17 Apr., and a further complaint was sent up to the Lords, but the matter was then allowed to drop.98

On 23 Apr. Strangways was appointed to attend a meeting with the Lords to hear their latest views on subjects’ liberties, while five days later he was named to help frame a bill on this topic. When the king demanded on 1 May to know whether the Commons would accept his undertakings to uphold liberties, Strangways responded with a moderate appeal for an end to arbitrary government. While praising Charles’s latest pronouncements, ‘wherein his goodness appears in its own lively colours and proper lustre’, he attacked those royal advisers who had recently striven

to break asunder that chain which links and ties and unites the hearts and affections of the prince and people together. What has been acted to the prejudice of the liberties of the subject of late, had it been in former ages, had been sufficient to have shaken the frame and foundation of the kingdom. But ... our religion teaches us obedience, by lawful means and humble courses to seek redress of our grievances.99

Accordingly, on 2 May he urged the House to persevere with the bill of liberties, but also to reassure the king that no restriction of his powers was intended. No doubt disappointed that Charles then refused to accept this bill at all, he moved on 6 May for the alternative strategy of a Petition of Right to be put to a vote, and he was probably on the drafting committee for that document.100 He opposed the Lords’ attempt to add a clause to it saving the king’s sovereign power (20 May), and agreed that Charles’s first answer to the completed Petition was inadequate. While Strangways hoped that a fuller royal response could yet be secured, on 6 June he threw his energies into the new Remonstrance against Buckingham, predictably focusing on innovations in government such as enforced billeting and martial law. He also reacted angrily to rumours of a new excise tax, which would ‘overthrow all the propriety of our goods’, and reports that Charles was bringing over German mercenaries: ‘England is not so weak as to need such succour, and the king has no cause to distrust our loyalty’.101 He was named on 7 June to help draft the subsidy bill’s preamble. Once Charles gave an acceptable answer to the Petition later that day, Strangways urged faster progress on the bill, not least because it would generate the funds needed to end the burden of billeting. Nevertheless, he continued to support the Remonstrance, and also called for the Commons’ complaints against the Arminians Richard Montagu and John Cosin to be sent up to the Lords.102

Strangways was restored to the Dorset bench in December 1628, and to the western oyer and terminer commission a month later. Perhaps mollified by these olive branches, he barely contributed to the proceedings of the 1629 session. He was named to just three bill committees, one of which addressed an old concern from 1621, the begging of forfeitures prior to the confirmation of attainders (23 January). In his only speech, on 21 Feb., he sought to avoid confrontation between king and Commons over John Rolle’s* case, mistakenly arguing that when the latter’s goods were confiscated for non-payment of Tunnage and Poundage, it must have been the customs farmers who benefited: ‘we hear the king hath disclaimed his right to the customs, and we must not then make an imaginary case to suppose the king hath a right’.103

The apparent rapprochement between Strangways and the government proved to be short-lived. By 1630 Strangways had been removed from the Dorset bench again, and he lost his place as an oyer and terminer commissioner in 1632. Two years later the king refused him permission to spend Christmas in London, while in 1637 Strangways and Dyve were sued in Star Chamber for taking too much gold overseas when visiting the earl of Bristol over a decade earlier. Not surprisingly, Strangways also cultivated ties with another dissident peer, the 4th earl of Bedford (Sir Francis Russell*).104 He probably opposed the collection of Ship Money, and certainly refused to contribute to the costs of the First Bishops’ War in 1639, even though he had by then been reinstated as a magistrate.105

Elected for Weymouth to both the Short and Long Parliaments, Strangways initially sided with the reformers. However, remaining true to the principles of ‘constitutional Royalism’ that he had enunciated in the 1620s, he came to view radicals like John Pym* as a greater threat than Charles to subjects’ liberties.106 At the outbreak of the Civil War he sided with the king, and was duly expelled from the Commons. He attended the Oxford Parliament of 1644, but fell into enemy hands in the following year, and spent around two years in the Tower.107 Fined £10,000 when he compounded for his delinquency in 1648, he remained a figure of suspicion under the Commonwealth, and was again briefly imprisoned following Penruddock’s rising in 1655. Strangways returned to public life at the Restoration, sitting for Weymouth in the Cavalier Parliament. He died in December 1666, and was buried at Melbury Sampford. His son and heir, Giles, represented Weymouth and Bridport during the 1640s, and served as a Dorset knight of the shire under Charles II.108

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Dorset RO, D124 (Ilchester v. Raishley, 34); C142/247/93.
  • 2. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 86-7; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 662.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Hutchins, ii. 662-3, 679.
  • 5. Ibid. 662, 679; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 111; PROB 11/146, f. 304.
  • 6. C142/247/93.
  • 7. Dorset RO, D124 (letters and pprs. 1/12).
  • 8. Hutchins, ii. 679.
  • 9. Dorset RO, B7/B6/11, p. 10.
  • 10. Hutchins, ii. 452.
  • 11. C66/1786, 2527, 2858-9; C231/4, f. 261v; C220/9/4, f. 19; C193/12/3, f. 23v; William Whiteway of Dorchester: His Diary 1618-35 (Dorset Rec. Soc. xii), 83.
  • 12. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 39.
  • 13. C181/2, f. 260; 181/4, f. 136.
  • 14. Dorset RO, B7/D1/1, p. 51.
  • 15. C181/2, f. 269v; 181/3, ff. 178v, 259v; 181/4, f. 97v; 181/5, ff. 189v, 221; 181/7, pp. 9, 357.
  • 16. C181/2, f. 294; 181/5, f. 113v.
  • 17. APC, 1619-21, p. 248; 1621-3, p. 436; 1623-5, p. 499; 1626, p. 14.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 198.
  • 19. C212/22/20-1, 23; E179/105/313.
  • 20. C181/3, f. 72v.
  • 21. SP14/175/83; Whiteway Diary, 72; SP29/8, f. 67.
  • 22. C181/5, f. 22v.
  • 23. C181/5, ff. 92, 102v.
  • 24. SR, v. 83, 150, 211, 330, 457, 530, 586.
  • 25. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 26. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 73, 75.
  • 27. CTB, 1660-7, p. 186.
  • 28. Dorset RO, DC/LR/D2/1.
  • 29. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 4, p. 11; viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 30. C231/5, p. 441.
  • 31. SP16/361/92.
  • 32. Hutchins, ii. 660-1; OR.
  • 33. List of Sheriffs, 39, 124; HP Commons, 1509-58, iii. 395-7; Hutchins, ii. 662; HMC Foljambe, 37; APC, 1588-9, p. 391; 1589-90, p. 37.
  • 34. WARD 9/158, ff. 193v-4; HMC Hatfield, vi. 425-6.
  • 35. C142/247/93.
  • 36. C.S.L. Davies, ‘Dorothy Wadham and the Foundation of Wadham College, Oxford’, EHR, cxviii. 888-90.
  • 37. C66/1896/16; Dorset RO, B7/B6/11, p. 10; E179/105/313.
  • 38. J.G. Nichols, ‘Institution of the Dignity of Baronet’, Her. and Gen. iii. 208.
  • 39. Vis. Dorset, 94; W.D. Christie, Life of Shaftesbury, i. app. 1, p. xix.
  • 40. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 353.
  • 41. Vis. Dorset, 87.
  • 42. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 35, 172, 320.
  • 43. Ibid. 41, 76, 196.
  • 44. Ibid. 82, 323, 377, 426.
  • 45. Vis. Dorset, 94.
  • 46. CJ, i. 534b, 546b, 564b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 190; CD 1621, iv. 318.
  • 47. CJ, i. 569b; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 26.
  • 48. CJ, i. 555a, 590b; Nicholas, i. 166, 315.
  • 49. CJ, i. 531b, 595b; CD 1621, iii. 343.
  • 50. CJ, i. 523b, 590a.
  • 51. Ibid. 538a, 570a.
  • 52. Ibid. 527b; Nicholas, i. 97; CD 1621, v. 516.
  • 53. CJ, i. 561a, 619b; Nicholas, i. 185-6.
  • 54. Nicholas, i. 343; CD 1621, iv. 269; v. 108.
  • 55. CJ, i. 521a, 526b, 573a; Nicholas, i. 41-2, 62; ii. 81; CD 1621, iii. 273; iv. 77.
  • 56. CD 1621, v. 129; vi. 110; CJ, i. 601b; Nicholas, i. 373.
  • 57. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 330; CD 1621, iii. 161; v. 140; CJ, i. 524a; Christie, i. app. 1, p. xix.
  • 58. Nicholas, ii. 177-8; CJ, i. 654b-5a; APC, 1619-21, p. 72.
  • 59. Nicholas, ii. 244; CD 1621, v. 225; vi. 208-9, 212, 330; CJ, i. 652a.
  • 60. R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 189; SP14/148/29.
  • 61. Hutchins, ii. 214; VCH Oxon. iii. 284.
  • 62. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 256; R.W. Hoyle, ‘Disafforestation and Drainage’, in Estates of Eng. Crown 1558-1640 ed. R.W. Hoyle, 379.
  • 63. D. Underdown, A Freeborn People, 76; SP16/361/92; Hutchins, ii. 663, 730. Strangways was not listed as one of the gentlemen who went to Spain with Digby in 1617: SP94/22, f. 241.
  • 64. CJ, i. 716a.
  • 65. Ibid. 680a; Enactments in Parl. ed. L.L. Shadwell (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lviii), 251-7.
  • 66. Kyle, 201, 217, 221; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 151v; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 217; CJ, i. 737a, 747b.
  • 67. CJ, i. 767a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 80.
  • 68. CJ, i. 675b; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 36v; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 50; Rich 1624, p. 33; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 78v; C. Russell, PEP, 172.
  • 69. Whiteway Diary, 71-2.
  • 70. Procs. 1625, pp. 245-6, 252.
  • 71. J.K. Gruenfelder, ‘Dorsetshire Elections’, Albion, x. 5-6; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 237.
  • 72. Procs. 1626, ii. 22, 125, 356; iii. 339; Gruenfelder, 6-7.
  • 73. Procs. 1626, ii. 91, 95, 97, 103, 109.
  • 74. Ibid. ii. 136, 139-40, 144.
  • 75. Ibid. ii. 149-50, 153-5.
  • 76. Ibid. ii. 240, 256.
  • 77. Ibid. ii. 216, 279-80.
  • 78. Ibid. ii. 323, 336, 345, 360.
  • 79. Ibid. ii. 375-6, 382-3.
  • 80. S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. 1603-42, vi. 93-5.
  • 81. Procs. 1626, ii. 430; iii. 25-6.
  • 82. Russell, 282; CP, vi. 506-7; Vis. Dorset, 79.
  • 83. Procs. 1626, iii. 156, 161-3.
  • 84. Ibid. iii. 124, 130, 140; Russell, 294 n.3, 304.
  • 85. Procs. 1626, iii. 156, 168, 201, 209.
  • 86. Ibid. iii. 266, 370; D.L. Smith, Constitutional Royalism and Search for Settlement, 58.
  • 87. Procs. 1626, iii. 351, 355, 433.
  • 88. Ibid. 332, 405, 445.
  • 89. Eg. 2978, f. 18.
  • 90. Whiteway Diary, 83.
  • 91. Ibid. 87, 89; APC, 1627, pp. 40, 319, 395, 424; 1627-8, p. 57; C115/107/8541.
  • 92. HMC Cowper, i. 305.
  • 93. APC, 1627-8, p. 217.
  • 94. CD 1628, ii. 29, 42; iii. 558.
  • 95. Ibid. ii. 105, 131-2, 277, 286.
  • 96. Ibid. 361, 365, 407.
  • 97. Ibid. 129, 140, 312, 417.
  • 98. Ibid. 445, 448, 454, 460, 466, 508-9; vi. 95-6.
  • 99. Ibid. iii. 44, 124, 196-7.
  • 100. Ibid. 214, 229, 284, 297; vi. 88.
  • 101. Ibid. 501; iv. 145-6, 154, 157, 164-5.
  • 102. Ibid. iv. 178, 198, 205, 207.
  • 103. CJ, i. 922a; CD 1629, pp. 90, 164.
  • 104. Whiteway Diary, 154; SP16/361/92; HMC Cowper, ii. 83.
  • 105. Smith, 59; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, iii. 913.
  • 106. HMC Cowper, ii. 263, 272, 294-5; Smith, 64-5, 81, 83-5, 89, 91, 99, 179, 181.
  • 107. Underdown, 70; CJ, ii. 754b; Historical Collections, v. 573; HMC Portland, i. 293; HMC 6th Rep. 121.
  • 108. CCC, 1828; Smith, 283-5; Hutchins, ii. 662.