SUCKLING, John (1569-1627), of St. Andrew's, Norwich, Norf.; Dorset Court, Fleet Street, London; Barsham, Suff. and Goodfathers, Twickenham, Mdx.

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



22 July 1625

Family and Education

bap. 29 Mar. 1569,1 6th but 3rd surv. s. of Robert Suckling† (d.1589), mercer, of Norwich, Norf. and his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Adam Barwick of East Bergholt, Suff.2 educ. G. Inn 1590; Padua 1595.3 m. (1) 14 Oct. 1604, (with £500),4 Martha (d. 28 Oct. 1613),5 da. of Thomas Cranfield, Mercer, of London, 2s. 4da.;6 (2) 2 Mar. 1617,7 Jane (bur. 22 Nov. 1662),8 da. of John Reve of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff., wid. of Charles Hawkins of London, s.p.9 kntd. 22 Jan. 1616.10 d. 27 Mar. 1627.11 sig. Jo[hn] Suckling.

Offices Held

Sec. to ld. treas. Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†, later 1st earl of Dorset) by 1601-8.12

Recvr.-gen. of Alienations Office 1604-?1620.;13 jt. farmer of customs [I] 1612-18;14 master of Requests 1619-22;15 member, High Commission 1620-d.;16 commr. logwood imports 1620, starch manufacture 1620,17 aliens 1621-2;18 PC 1622-d.;19 comptroller of the Household 1622-d.;20 commr. exacted fees 1622-3,21 trade 1622, 1625,22 defective titles 1622-5,23 purveyance compositions 1622,24 commr. of finances to duke of Buckingham by 1623-4;25 commr. soap manufacture 1624,26 Virg. plantation 1624,27 customs regulation 1624,28 wardrobe expenses 1624, banishment of Jesuits and seminary priests 1624.29

Collector, Tunnage and Poundage, London 1611-d.;30 j.p. Mdx. 1616-d., Norf., Suff., Surr. and Westminster by 1619-d.;31 commr. musters, Mdx. 1616, 1620-2,32 oyer and terminer 1617, the Marshalsea 1623-d.,33 subsidy, Mdx. 1621-2, Norf., Suff. and Mdx. 1624;34 dep. lt. Mdx. 1623-d.;35 commr. new buildings, Mdx. 1624,36 privy seal loans 1625-6;37 freeman, Yarmouth, I.o.W. 1625,38 Sandwich and Norwich 1626;39 commr. Forced Loan, Mdx. and Norf. 1626-7.40

Cttee. E.I. Co. 1619-d.41


Suckling’s father, twice mayor and twice elected for Norwich under Elizabeth, was the first prominent member of a family settled in Norfolk since the fourteenth century, receiving a confirmation of arms in 1578.42 Suckling’s eldest brother entered the church and became dean of Norwich in 1614, while the next surviving brother was a Catholic exile. Consequently, Suckling himself inherited extensive property in and around Norwich, much of which he sold, including the large family home in the parish of St. Andrew.43 He was first returned to Parliament for Dunwich in 1601 as secretary to lord treasurer Buckhurst, later 1st earl of Dorset.44

Suckling continued in Buckhurst’s service after James’s accession, but is not known to have sought election to Parliament in 1604, when his master secured him the receivership of fines on alienations in succession to Sir Arthur Atye*, and the reversion to a customs office, later said to be worth £600 or £700 p.a.45 At the same time, Suckling paid £700 for the Yorkshire manor of Wandsford. Soon afterwards he acquired his country house at Twickenham, where his children were born, which he and his eldest son later extensively rebuilt.46 In 1605 Suckling facilitated the appointment to the receivership of Somerset and Dorset of his brother-in-law (Sir) Lionel Cranfield*, with whom he collaborated in various deals and investments.47 Both men contributed to the commendatory verses published with Thomas Coryate’s Crudities in 1611, and were partners in the syndicate which farmed the Irish customs until Buckingham assumed control in 1618.48 Their friendship remained close after the death of Suckling’s first wife Martha, the ‘rarest of wits’, as her sumptuous tomb in St. Andrew’s declared.49 Suckling himself was later remembered by Aubrey as ‘but a dull fellow’, but elsewhere as ‘a man of grave deportment’.50 It is not known whether Suckling remained in the service of the Sackvilles after the sudden death in 1608 of his patron, Dorset, though he received a gift of a jewel in a late addition to the latter’s will.51

In 1613 Suckling purchased the Suffolk manor of Barsham, worth £240 p.a., noting: ‘I am confident that ere long lands will bear a better and a higher price; and therefore my purpose is not to grant any lease above seven years’.52 He was rejected at Scarborough in 1614, but returned for Reigate, where the Sackvilles owned half the manor.53 Suckling left no mark on the records of the Addled Parliament. In 1619 Suckling bought the mastership of Requests from Cranfield for £3,000, and in the same year was granted an annuity of £100.54 He is not known to have sought election to the third Jacobean Parliament. It was probably Cranfield who introduced Suckling to the patronage of George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham in the early 1620s, for during 1621 and 1622 he was frequently spoken of as a possible chancellor of the Exchequer or secretary of state.55 In October 1621 (Sir) George Calvert*, to whom Suckling had apparently promised payment of £7,000, expected to be replaced by Suckling as secretary of state within three weeks, and in March 1622 Sir Dudley Carleton* was told that the promotion had actually gone through.56 He had, indeed, become a privy councillor, but the secretaryship continued to elude him, and in the summer of 1622 he parted with his £7,000 for the comptrollership of the Household.57 In 1623 and 1624 he acted as Buckingham’s auditor, and presumably remained a client of the favourite, as he is occasionally mentioned in the latter’s accounts thereafter.58

At the general election of 1624 Suckling was initially promised a seat at Camelford by the Prince’s Council, but in the event he did not need the place, which was instead bestowed upon Sir Francis Cottington.59 This was because he managed to get himself returned for three other constituencies. At Hull he seems to have been obliged by Cranfield, while at Lichfield the intervention of a fellow Buckingham client, the city’s recorder, the 1st earl of Bridgewater, can probably be surmised.60 It was for Middlesex, however, that Suckling actually served, where he won the second seat in a hard-fought contest.61 Supporters of one of the defeated candidates, Sir John Franklin*, at first petitioned against Suckling’s return, but withdrew before the matter could be considered by the privileges committee.62 As a privy councillor, Suckling was frequently employed to carry bills and deliver messages for the Commons, though he was also named to 27 committees. None of his 15 speeches, which were mostly on trade, related to the fall of Cranfield, now earl of Middlesex. At the opening of the Parliament he was appointed one of the lord steward’s deputies to administer the oaths, and on 19 Feb. he joined the treasurer of the Household, Sir Thomas Edmondes, in escorting the Speaker to the chair. Both men were also instructed to keep strangers away from two early conferences.63 On 24 Feb., in a debate on trade, Suckling spoke of the king’s ‘indulgent care for this business’, as shown by James’s establishment of a commission, of which he himself was a member; he was later ordered to deliver ‘the fruits of the pains’ of that body to the committee for trade.64 In committee on 26 Feb. he propounded the orthodox argument that ‘the way to balance trade is to preserve wool and money in the kingdom’.65

In speaking to the bill against the export of wool on 6 Mar. he opposed the use of the death penalty as a sanction, ‘for when the penalty draws blood, men will be tender how they inform against offenders’, and was the first named to the committee appointed to consider it; at the report stage he warned of the consequences ‘if Scotland should be left open’.66 He approved the committal of a bill to limit the Crown’s rights in the purveyance of carts, but expressed uncertainty ‘how far it may retrench upon the king’s prerogative’ (8 March).67 He helped to draft a message to the Lords about recusancy and ‘a thanksgiving’ to the prince on 12 Mar., and was appointed to two conferences on war with Spain.68 He gave ineffectual support to the grant of supply without conditions.69 His committee appointments included bills to reduce the maximum rate of interest to eight per cent (8 Mar.), to restore free trade to the Merchants of the Staple (24 Mar.) and to prevent extortion by customs officers (24 March).70 On 30 Apr. he successfully moved a proviso to the naturalization bill of Peter Verbeake, a Dutch grain merchant who had lived in Norwich since 1601, preventing the beneficiary from using his new status to ‘colour any stranger’s goods’; Suckling reported afterwards from the committee appointed to draft it.71 He was among those appointed to examine the patent of the Merchant Adventurers, and in the committee for trade on 10 May he argued strongly against this monopoly:

There are but two fears, the one is the Merchant Adventurers’ sullenness, if they grow sullen he would have them questioned for a conspiracy; and if there be war, it will destroy the making of cloth beyond sea and occasion the wearing of cloth there more than now, and therefore he thinketh trade will be the better for the war.72

Five days later he suggested that ‘12 select Members’ should join with the commissioners ‘to consider how there may be a government in trade’.73 He was also involved in surveying the patent for seacoals, and reported to the House on 24 May that the Privy Council would take the matter in hand.74 He was instructed to attend the king with the grievances on 28 May, and on the same day he acted as teller for the bill to secure Buckingham’s acquisition of York House.75 Later in 1624 he offered to secure the reversion to the deanery of Norwich for his nephew, John Hassall.76

In 1625 Suckling solicited a seat at Great Yarmouth but was rebuffed, one of the corporation doubting ‘whether Sir John should incline rather to the king than to the subject’.77 He also sought re-election for Middlesex, but despite personally attending the hustings he was thwarted by his former rival Franklin, an embarrassment that Chamberlain reported was ‘thought not so wise a part for a privy councillor’.78 In desperation, Suckling wrote ‘divers times’ to the corporation of Coventry, requesting a seat there to replace Sir Edward Coke, the town’s recorder, who had also been returned as a knight of the shire for Norfolk. Having obtained letters of support from the lord lieutenant, the earl of Northampton, and from the bishop of Lichfield, Suckling was admitted a freeman of Coventry on 18 May. However, Coke delayed formally plumping for the county seat until 4 July, and as a result no fresh election was ever held. Buckingham’s client Secretary Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*) finally provided Suckling with a seat in the Isle of Wight borough of Yarmouth, where he was returned on 22 July, replacing Edward Clarke who had chosen to sit for Hythe.79 During the Parliament he was named to only one committee, when he was appointed to the joint conference with the Lords on religion (8 August).80

In 1626 Conway again offered him a seat, but the recommendation to Newport came too late and was in any case unnecessary.81 Suckling had maintained his interest in his native city by regular distributions to the poor and the maintenance of a preacher. He claimed the freedom as his birthright, and was elected two days later with Sir Thomas Hyrne*. He was also returned in his absence for Sandwich ‘with great applause’ on Buckingham’s nomination, but chose to sit for his birthplace in the second Caroline Parliament.82 He was appointed to nine committees and made only five speeches. He was named to the committees for privileges (9 Feb.) and religion (10 Feb.), and to those to consider bills against the export of wool (16 Feb.) and for the increase of trade (3 March).83 He was added to the committee to prepare for a debate on the decay of shipping (23 Feb.), and appointed to attend a conference on 4 Mar. over the delicate question of obtaining evidence from Buckingham as lord admiral.84 He defended the duke over the stay of the St. Peter and against the attack of Samuel Turner*, which he described as a ‘defamatory speech made against a person eminent in degree and blood’.85 At about this time he was sent a letter from Colchester as ‘a member of the royal House of Parliament’ and ‘a good common weal’s man’, drawing his attention to the town’s export of gunpowder to Spain.86 On 13 Mar. he urged the giving of supply ‘cheerfully, roundly, and presently’.87 Shortly afterwards he himself came under scrutiny for having participated, as a member of the High Commission, in the imprisonment and excommunication of Sir Robert Howard*. Suckling protested that he had never heard of any claim of privilege made by Howard, but he and his fellow offender Sir Henry Marten were excluded from the House, and threatened with imprisonment in the Tower if they failed to justify themselves.88 Marten did so on 29 Apr., but Suckling was reported ‘sick’ and left no further mark on the records of the Parliament.89 He was not, however, wholly incapacitated: with his fellow Member Sir Thomas Hyrne he procured a Council letter on 15 May to prohibit the holding of the Norwich mayor’s feast for fear of plague, only to learn that the danger had been exaggerated and the citizens wished to celebrate as usual.90

Suckling made his will in September 1626, desiring to be buried without ‘frivolous and impertinent expenses’; he ordered the sale of his Yorkshire lands to provide dowries for his daughters, £1,500 for the eldest, £1,200 each for the others, including ‘my two pretty twins’. He gave generously to the poor of Norwich and Twickenham, and endowed preachers in Norwich. To his ‘loving brother-in-law’, Middlesex, he left ‘my picture of a banquet as it now hangs in my country house’.91 He died on 27 Mar. 1627, and was buried in St. Andrew’s, Norwich. His widow married Sir Edwin Rich† in 1629.92 His eldest son, the card-sharp and poet, inherited lands in Lincolnshire, Middlesex and Suffolk, was returned to the Short Parliament for Bramber, and died unmarried in 1641. Suckling’s younger son expired in 1665, without surviving issue. The descendant of another Norfolk branch of the family sat for Portsmouth in 1776.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Add. 19150, f. 296; Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. F.A. Crisp, xiv. 101-5.
  • 2. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 274; Oxford DNB.
  • 3. GI Admiss.
  • 4. HMC Sackville, i. 180.
  • 5. F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. iv. 308.
  • 6. Vis. Norf. (Norf. Rec. Soc. v), 208-9.
  • 7. Reg. St. Olave Hart Street, London (Harl. Soc. xlvi), 261.
  • 8. W.A. Copinger, Suff. Manors, vii. 160.
  • 9. The Gen. n.s. xxii, 216.
  • 10. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 157; J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, iii. 132.
  • 11. Blomefield, iv. 309-10.
  • 12. HMC Var. vii. 87.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 175; 1619-23, p. 122.
  • 14. HMC Downshire, iii. 139.
  • 15. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 93; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 365; APC, 1618-19, p. 362.
  • 16. Rymer, vii. pt. 3, p. 135; pt. 4, p. 171.
  • 17. CD 1621, vii. 410, 442.
  • 18. Rymer, vii. pt. 3, pp. 210, 239, pt. 4, p. 31.
  • 19. SP14/129/36; APC, 1621-3, p. 175.
  • 20. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 434; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 213.
  • 21. APC, 1621-3, p. 325; Bodl. Tanner 101, no. 67, HEHL, Temple corresp. box 5, STT 877.
  • 22. Rymer, vii. pt. 4, p. 11; viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 23. Ibid. vii. pt. 3, p. 248; pt. 4, p. 77; viii. pt. 1, p. 32.
  • 24. Ibid. vii. pt. 4, p. 19.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 37, 353.
  • 26. Ibid. pp. 54, 127; Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 666.
  • 27. Rymer, vii. pt. 4, p. 144.
  • 28. Add. 34324, ff. 230-2.
  • 29. Rymer, vii. pt. 4, pp. 162, 168.
  • 30. Lansd. 1217, f. 74.
  • 31. C231/4, ff. 18, 144, C181/2, f. 331v; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 11; SP16/14/45.
  • 32. APC, 1616-17, p. 56; C66/2234.
  • 33. C231/4, f. 40; 181/3, ff. 97, 198v, 217.
  • 34. C212/22/20, 23.
  • 35. C231/4, f. 156; HMC Cowper, i. 269.
  • 36. Rymer, vii. pt. 4, p. 96.
  • 37. E401/2586, p. 456.
  • 38. Add. 5669, f. 68.
  • 39. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC 7, f. 137v; Reg. Freemen of Norwich ed. P. Millican, 209.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 435; 1627-8, p. 26; APC, 1627, p. 80, Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 41. CSP Col. E.I. 1617-21, p. 283, 1625-9, p. 601.
  • 42. Norf. Arch. xix. 208-10, 215.
  • 43. Norf. Arch. xx. 158-78; Blomefield, x. 190.
  • 44. HMC Var. vii. 87.
  • 45. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 175, 434; The Gen. n.s. xxii. 212; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 42; Birch, Chas. I, i. 213.
  • 46. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 162; Lansd. 1217, f. 38; D. Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 588; VCH Mdx. iii. 144.
  • 47. HMC Var. viii. 5; HMC Sackville, i. 105, 128-9, 139, 162, 257
  • 48. M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 49, 63, 75, 97, 126-7; APC, 1615-16, p. 366.
  • 49. Blomefield, iv. 308.
  • 50. J. Aubrey, Brief Lives ed. A. Clark, ii. 240; The Gen. n.s. xxii. 215.
  • 51. PROB11/113, f. 18.
  • 52. A. Suckling, Hist. Suff. i. 37-9; Copinger, vii. 154.
  • 53. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 98.
  • 54. HMC Cowper, ii. 67; Rymer, vii. pt. 3, p. 93.
  • 55. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 337, 392, 399, 429, 447, 599; Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, ii. 353.
  • 56. CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 296, 303, 306, 366, 376; 1623-5, p. 231.
  • 57. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 324; Eg. 2594, f. 133v; BL, HMC Trumbull transcript, xviii. 69.
  • 58. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 37, 353; Prestwich, 275; Add. 12528, f. 26; HCA 30/864, bdle. A, unnumb.
  • 59. R.E. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, pp. 58-9.
  • 60. J.K. Gruenfelder, ‘Yorks. bor. elections’, Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xlix. 106.
  • 61. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 541.
  • 62. Ruigh, 77-8; CJ, i. 732b.
  • 63. CJ, i. 670a, 671a, 717a, 725b.
  • 64. CJ, i. 717a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 47v.
  • 65. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 25v.
  • 66. CJ, i. 678b, 688b; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 55v; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 69v.
  • 67. CJ, i. 679a, 730b.
  • 68. Ibid. 683a, 684a.
  • 69. ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 222; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 69, ‘Lowther 1624’, f. 41v.
  • 70. CJ, i. 679b, 747b.
  • 71. Ibid. 780a.
  • 72. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 199v.
  • 73. Ibid. f. 206.
  • 74. CJ, i. 794b, ‘Earle 1624’, f. 192.
  • 75. CJ, i. 796a, 797a.
  • 76. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 404.
  • 77. Procs. 1625, p. 685; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 427b; C.J. Palmer, Gt. Yarmouth, 203-4; D. Hirst, Representative of the People?, 141.
  • 78. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 614; Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 143.
  • 79. Coventry Archives, BA/H/C/17/1, ff. 268, 276v; D.H. Willson, Privy Cllrs. in House of Commons, 73.
  • 80. CJ, i. 812a.
  • 81. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 97.
  • 82. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 230; Willson, 80.
  • 83. CJ, i. 816b, 817b, 820a, 829b.
  • 84. CJ, i. 824a, 830a.
  • 85. Procs. 1626, ii. 260, 316.
  • 86. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 275.
  • 87. Procs. 1626, ii. 275.
  • 88. Ibid. ii. 328, 330-1, 333; HMC 4th Rep. 307; C115/108/8633.
  • 89. Procs. 1626, iii. 99-100; Willson, 67n.
  • 90. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 333, 335; APC, 1625-6, p. 494.
  • 91. PROB 11/151, ff. 449-52.
  • 92. The Gen. n.s. xxii, 216.