VYVYAN, Francis (1575-1635), of Trelowarren, nr. Mawgan-in-Meneage, Cornw.

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

bap. 10 Aug. 1575,1 1st s. of Hannibal Vyvyan† of Trelowarren and Philippe, da. and coh. of Roger Tremayne of Collacombe, Devon; bro. of Hannibal*.2 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1594; M. Temple 1596, called 1605.3 m. (1) 13 Jan. 1606 (with £1,200), Elizabeth, da. of John Rashleigh† of Fowey, Cornw., s.p.; (2) settlement 25 Oct. 1610, Loveday, da. of John Connock of Treworgey, Cornw., 8s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1610;4 kntd. 9 Jan. 1619.5 d. 11 June 1635.6 sig. Fran[cis] Vyvyan.7

Offices Held

Capt. St. Mawes Castle, Cornw. 1603-32;8 collector subsidy, Cornw. 1605;9 v.-adm. S. Cornw. 1607-at least 1611,10 adm. in Duchy of Cornw. jurisdiction, Cornw. 1612;11 commr. piracy, Cornw. 1607-c.1612, 1624;12 j.p. c.1611-at least 1624;13 sheriff 1617-18;14 commr. subsidy 1624-5,15 impressment 1625,16 martial law 1627,17 Forced Loan 1626,18 duchy of Cornw. tenures 1628;19 dep. lt. 1626-?1627, 1629-at least 1630.20


The Vyvyans, one of Cornwall’s oldest families, improbably located their origins in the fabled Arthurian land of Lyonesse, off Land’s End. In the mid-thirteenth century they held property in St. Buryan parish in the far west of Cornwall, while their manor of Trelowarren was acquired through marriage some 200 years later. The medieval Vyvyans were frequently brigands and pirates; their Tudor descendants embraced respectability and local office. In the mid-sixteenth century another advantageous marriage brought them substantial estates in Devon. When he died in 1610, Vyvyan’s father Hannibal owned land in nearly 30 Cornish parishes, besides the Devon property and three Somerset manors. Active in local administration, in 1602 he combined the posts of captain of St. Mawes Castle, vice-admiral of South Cornwall, sheriff, and attorney-general of the duchy of Cornwall.21

Vyvyan took over the captaincy of St. Mawes in 1603, and in the following year entered Parliament. His father had twice represented Helston, the borough nearest to Trelowarren, but in 1604 both Helston and Penryn, the next closest constituency, were controlled by Sir William Killigrew I*. Instead, Vyvyan found a place at Fowey, undoubtedly through the Rashleigh family, into which he married two years later. Though he left virtually no trace on the Parliament’s records, as a Fowey burgess he was entitled to sit on 32 legislative committees during the course of the first three sessions. Those which are likely to have interested him the most dealt with the maintenance of the navy (10 May 1604) and, in view of his recent appointment as vice-admiral of South Cornwall, mariners (1 May 1607).22 Following the death of his father during the fourth session, Vyvyan was granted leave on 21 Feb. 1610 to return to Cornwall to order his affairs. He therefore probably missed attending most of the ten bill committees to which Fowey’s MPs were nominated, including those dealing with shipping (28 Feb.) and piracy (3 March).23

Vyvyan took his father’s place as a Cornish j.p. and in February 1612 added the duchy of Cornwall’s maritime jurisdiction to his existing responsibilities as vice-admiral. However, by November of that year he had fallen foul of the growing clamour in the West Country for effective anti-piracy measures. Like the former vice-admiral of Devon, Sir Richard Hawkins*, who had been sacked three years earlier, he was accused of harbouring and assisting pirates, and dismissed from his Admiralty post. He was pardoned, but not reinstated, in the following year. It is a measure of his local standing, or of a lack of government resolve, that, apart from his place on the Cornish piracy commission, Vyvyan retained all his other offices.24 In 1614 he used his position as captain of the local castle to secure election at St. Mawes, though he played no recorded part in the Common’s activities. As a Cornish burgess he was eligible to sit on three bill committees, concerned with the Hele family’s estates (17 May), a proposed pier at Axmouth, Devon, and the harm caused to fish-fry by weirs (both 21 May).25 He is not known to have stood for election again.

Vyvyan was pricked as sheriff in 1617, and in December 1618 applied for reappointment as vice-admiral. Although he was turned down, he received a knighthood shortly afterwards.26 He procured the reversion of the St. Mawes captaincy for his brother Hannibal in 1620, while a major land purchase nearby strengthened his hold over the borough. He was probably responsible for the election there in December 1620 of a distant kinsman, William Hockmore, who retained his seat four years later.27 Vyvyan’s 1624 subsidy assessment of £30 made him one of Cornwall’s wealthiest men, yet he was dismissed from the county’s bench around the start of the new reign, and never reinstated.28 The cause of this fresh disgrace has not been established, but such a setback doubtless soured his attitude towards the Caroline regime. In the Cornish factional disputes of the later 1620s, Vyvyan almost certainly sided with William Coryton* and (Sir) John Eliot* against John Mohun* and his pro-Buckingham allies. Although selected as a Forced Loan commissioner in late 1626, he probably opposed the levy, since he was omitted from the revised commission of February 1627, and also dismissed from the county lieutenancy. In the 1628 parliamentary elections he secured a seat at St. Mawes for his brother Hannibal, who proceeded to attack Mohun in the Commons. Reappointed as a deputy lieutenant in June 1629, Vyvyan was accused of blocking Mohun’s efforts to enact the government’s militia reforms later that year.29

The final drama of Vyvyan’s tumultuous public career now unfolded. In about 1628 the garrison of St. Mawes Castle had begun stopping ships in Falmouth Bay, thereby usurping a right previously exercised only by Pendennis Castle on the cliffs opposite. Pendennis was controlled by the Killigrew family, who complained to London, but Vyvyan ignored the Admiralty’s orders to desist. During 1631 Sir William Killigrew II* raised the issue with the king, but by now attention was shifting to Vyvyan’s general conduct at St. Mawes.30 On 16 Nov. 1632 he was convicted in Star Chamber of negligence and embezzlement of government allowances. Curiously, the prosecution was brought not by the Killigrews but by the Trevanions, gentry rivals to Vyvyan for influence over St. Mawes borough. Vyvyan was sentenced to imprisonment in the Fleet, fined £2,000 and suspended from office. However, in the following May he paid £1,500 of his fine, and secured a pardon for the residue. For some months afterwards he held out hopes of reinstatement, but was finally deprived of office, probably later that year. Whether he actually suffered imprisonment is unclear.31

Vyvyan made his will in July 1633. Its lengthy religious preamble expressing supreme certainty of salvation repeated almost exactly the formula used by his father 25 years earlier. Bequests included sums of £1,000 each to Vyvyan’s two daughters, and £500 to his second son Robert, a London apprentice, ‘because money is more fitter for merchants than land’. A terse codicil drafted after the final loss of the St. Mawes captaincy cancelled charitable bequests to the town and its local parish.32 Vyvyan died in June 1635. His son Sir Richard sat in Parliament between 1640 and 1665.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball



  • 1. Cornw. RO, P140/1/1.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 529-30.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. Cornw. RO, DD.V/T/2/4,7; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 529-30.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 170.
  • 6. C142/550/99.
  • 7. Cornw. RO, DD.V/T/2/7.
  • 8. C66/1622; SP16/225/36.
  • 9. E401/2405.
  • 10. Vice Admirals of the Coast comp. J.C. Sainty and A.D. Thrush (L. and I. Soc. cccxxi), 6.
  • 11. Cornw. RO, X78/16.
  • 12. C181/2, f. 56; 181/3, f. 113.
  • 13. C66/1898, 2310.
  • 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 23.
  • 15. E179/88/291, 293.
  • 16. APC, 1623-5, p. 499.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 440.
  • 18. C193/12/2, f. 7v.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 7.
  • 20. Cornw. RO, X78/18-19; FSL, X.d.483(1).
  • 21. M. Coate, ‘Vyvyan Fam. of Trelowarren’, TRHS (ser. 4), xxxii. 111-13, 115; HP Commons, 1558-1603; C142/325/178.
  • 22. CJ, i. 205a, 365b.
  • 23. CJ, i. 398a, 402a, 404b; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 2.
  • 24. M.M. Oppenheim, Maritime Hist. of Devon, 58; C66/2008/20.
  • 25. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 269, 308-9.
  • 26. Harl. 781, f. 17v.
  • 27. C66/2229/19; PROB 11/171, f. 115r-v; C54/2372/48; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 93; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 472.
  • 28. E179/88/291.
  • 29. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; CD 1628, ii. 404; SP16/150/74.
  • 30. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 71; 1629-31, pp. 450, 481, 534; 1631-3, p. 62.
  • 31. SP16/225/36; E401/1920; C66/2625/3; PROB 11/171, ff. 115v, 118.
  • 32. PROB 11/171, ff. 115-18; 11/116, ff. 219v-20.