WENTWORTH, Thomas I (c.1568-1627), of Lincoln's Inn and Henley, Oxon.

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



9 Feb. 1621

Family and Education

b. c.1568, 2nd s. of Peter Wentworth† (d.1597) of Lillingstone Lovell, Oxon. and 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of William Walsingham of Footscray, Kent, wid. of Geoffrey Gate of Waltham, Essex; bro. of Walter†; half-bro. of Geoffrey Gates†.1 educ. Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1584, aged 16; L. Inn 1585, called 1594.2 m. by 1598, Dorothy, da. and coh. of Thomas Keble of Newbottle, Northants., 6s. at least 3da.3 d. by Sept. 1627.4

Offices Held

Freeman, Oxford, Oxon. 1603;5 j.p. Oxford 1603-14, 1616-d.,6 commr. gaol delivery 1604-5, subsidy 1621-2, 1624.7

Fee’d counsel, Oxford 1603,8 recorder 1607-d.;9 bencher, L. Inn 1609, marshal 1611, reader 1612, kpr. of black bk. 1618, treas. 1620.10


Wentworth’s grandfather served Henry VIII as chief porter of Calais, and was granted Lillingstone Lovell in 1546. Having trained as a lawyer, Wentworth became standing counsel to the city of Oxford in 1603 in succession to George Calfield†. Since the recorder, Robert Atkinson†, was disqualified from Parliament as a recusant, Wentworth also succeeded Calfield as the city’s junior representative in the first Jacobean Parliament. Perhaps with the intention of emulating his father, the notorious defender of the Commons’ freedom of speech during Elizabeth’s reign, he sprang into action on the opening day of business (23 Mar. 1604) when he reproached the House, ‘for the infirmities of it, in lacking some of the Members; another, for the deformity, having more than it ought to have, viz. certain burgesses newly appointed for the universities’.11 These comments cannot have impressed his alma mater, and were perhaps a prelude to his subsequent discommoning as a ‘malicious and implacable fomenter of troubles’.12 With regard to the ‘infirmities’, Wentworth was named to help draft the address to the king on the Buckinghamshire election (27 Mar.) and to consider a bill to ensure that Parliamentary privilege was not misused so as to defraud creditors (26 April).13 As a member of both committees for grievances, he was among those charged with enumerating the alterations to the Prayer Book (26 Mar.) and, on 22 May, with managing a conference with the Lords on wardship.14 When negotiations over the latter broke down, he was included on a select committee appointed on 1 June to draft the ‘Form of Apology and Satisfaction’ to the king explaining the Commons’ position on wardship, and supply in general.15 In the debate of 23 Apr. on the projected Union with Scotland, he asked how far such a union already existed.16 He spoke on 7 June against the bill for an exchange of lands between Trinity College, Cambridge and Sir Thomas Monson*.17 After taking the chair for the bill to encourage archery practice by suppressing rival sports, he reported on 13 June that the measure was not approved by the committee, and it was rejected.18 He certainly shared his father’s puritan outlook and insisted on 15 June that husbands should continue to be financially responsible for their wives’ recusancy.19 On 29 June he vainly supported a bill for cancelling ‘the records of a feigned case ... devised of purpose to overthrow the conveyance’ of his late uncle Sir Walter Mildmay†.20

In 1605 Wentworth lent Oxford corporation £100 towards the cost of obtaining a new charter and entertaining the king on a royal visit to the city.21 The impact upon Wentworth of the Gunpowder Plot, to which he later harked back, was immediately apparent in the zeal with which he pursued religious measures during the second session. On 22 Jan. 1606 he moved for the provision of ‘an able, sufficient and resident ministry’, which, according to Robert Bowyer*, ‘he showed very scholarlike to be both possible and necessary, and offered, rather than there should want maintenance for such churchmen, himself would give the tenth part of his estate towards it’. This motion resulted in the appointment of a committee to consider ‘the fittest course for the general planting of a learned ministry’. Wentworth probably chaired this body himself, which subsequently drafted a bill.22 He spoke again on religion on at least three further occasions. On 15 Mar., for example, he complained of the poverty of deprived ministers. On 11 Apr. he was appointed to help manage the conference with the Lords on ecclesiastical grievances; the following day he reported another bill to reform the clergy.23 His numerous other legislative appointments included grants made by corporations (25 Jan.), measures to confirm the privileges of two Oxford colleges (6, 18 Mar.), and the control of elections by great men (3 April).24 On 14 Apr. he was among those ordered to search the records for precedents in relation to purveyance.25 He was responsible for a motion to consider a bill for satisfying due debts, but reported that it was ‘fit to sleep’ on 13 May.26 The Oxford Council Acts show that before 30 Jan. Wentworth was in correspondence with his constituency over a bill which it wished to promote against the erection of cottages within the city and its suburbs. However, this measure does not seem to have been brought into the House.27 He was more successful in advancing another piece of legislation on Oxford’s behalf, for a project to make the Thames navigable. He reported the bill on 13 May, and it passed into law at the end of the session.28

In the third session Wentworth was appointed to the conference with the Lords about the instrument of the Union on 24 Nov. 1606, and on 5 Dec. he raised several legal points concerning escuage, a form of feudal tenure in the borders of England and Scotland which James proposed to abolish. He was among those ordered to prepare for another conference on 11 December.29 As one of the principal speakers in the ‘long and learned dispute’ of 17 Feb. 1607 on the naturalization of the Scots, Wentworth delivered a speech laden with Latin aphorisms, a style typical of his contributions to many debates.30 On 28 Feb. he spoke in defence of his distant kinsman Sir Christopher Pigott*, who had been expelled from the Commons for attacking the Union.31 In response to Sir Edwin Sandys’s* proposal for a ‘perfect’ Union, intended to delay the question of naturalization until the legal and governmental systems of the two countries had been fully integrated, Wentworth made the practical objection that ‘already this House is as great as one Speaker can moderate, as one room can contain’ (30 April).32 In June he made three further contributions as the Union debate turned to consideration of a bill for the abolition of ‘hostile laws’, leading to much discussion of the differences between the Scottish and English legal systems, in which Wentworth insisted that to deny the practice of trial by witness was ‘against the law of God’.33

In addition to the Union, Wentworth was occupied by a wide range of other business in the third session. He was added to the committee for another corporation grants bill (21 Nov. 1606), and in debate on 2 Dec. offered two provisos.34 On 4 Mar. 1607 he supported a bill for ‘better attendance of the House of Commons’, despite the fact that this meant crossing the interests of his fellow lawyers, whose absence on circuit had largely precipitated the measure.35 Although not appointed to the committee, he reported a Bedfordshire estate bill on 12 March.36 As an Oxford Member, he sat on the committee for the Northleach grammar school bill, presumably because Queen’s College was concerned, and twice reported its findings.37 He also chaired the committee of a bill to enlarge the powers of the churchwardens of St. Saviour’s, Southwark (12 May).38 He was among those appointed to draft a petition against Jesuits and for preaching, and clashed with the Speaker on 16 June over the latter’s delivery of a message from the king ordering that there should be no further dealings in it: ‘we cannot take notice of the king’s pleasure ... [since] as yet there is no petition of the House, for the House hath allowed none, therefore His Majesty can take no notice of any such petition’.39 Wentworth unsuccessfully appealed for a Benevolence towards the rebuilding of a ‘ruinated’ church in Warwickshire on 19 June.40 Finally, he was named to the committee for privileges (19 June) and another for a bill on the High Commission (26 June).41 Shortly after the close of the third session, Wentworth succeeded to the recordership of Oxford.

During the fourth session Wentworth emerged, in Notestein’s phrase, as ‘almost the watchdog of those in opposition’ to royal policy.42 In a debate on supply on 19 Feb. 1610 he recommended that the king ‘diminish his charge, and live of his own, without exacting of his poor subjects, especially at this time when we have no wars’. He further declared that ‘he would never give his consent to take money from a poor frieze jerkin to trap a courtier’s horse withall’; for he asked, ‘to what purpose is it to draw a silver stream out of the country into the royal cistern, if it shall daily run out thence by private cocks?’. As on several later occasions, Wentworth then appealed to his favourite biblical text, Ezekiel xlv. 9: ‘let it suffice you, O princes of Israel ... [to] execute judgment and justice, and take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord God’.43 His committee appointments included a pluralities bill (19 Feb.), preparation for a conference with the Lords on the authoritarian views expressed by Cowell in The Interpreter (27 Feb.), and a subscription bill (14 March).44 He was among those appointed to draft a message to the Lords on wardship on 14 Mar., and on the same day made a surprisingly complimentary reference to the administration of the Court of Wards under the 1st earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†), indicating that it was not through his fault that the Commons wished to abolish it.45 Wentworth preferred two bills, ‘touching purchases and defects in leases’ on 4 May and ‘touching restraint of fishing’ on 10 May.46

Having called for a debate on impositions on 1 May, Wentworth was the first to rise to reply to the message of 11 May, supposedly from the king, which ordered curtailment of debate on the prerogative. He did so by going onto the offensive: ‘is not the king’s prerogative disputable? ... Nay, if we shall once say that we may not dispute the prerogative, let us be sold for slaves’.47 He also challenged the general validity of Bate’s Case (1606), which had upheld the Crown’s right to demand an imposition on currants, arguing that since ‘no other man in England is bound by that judgment but he may try the law in a new action ... [why] should this bind the whole commonwealth perpetually?’.48 After the debate he was appointed to the committee to ‘sort the grievances’,49 of which the main cause for concern was the king’s right to impose.50 On 19 May Wentworth made his first reference to the assassination of the French King, Henri IV, but only by way of urging prayers for King James.51 After attending the king on 21 May, the House debated his speech to them on the following day. Wentworth said that he ‘saw nothing in that speech any way to restrain the power of imposing, even upon our lands and goods’ and complained that ‘the king referred us to his speech in print wherein ‘tis said to be seditious to dispute what a king may do; which, if it be, all our lawbooks are seditious’.52 impositions, he continued, were ‘not regal, but political’, meaning that they were not an inseparable aspect of kingship but merely the product of political necessity.53 On 14 June, in response to another royal message on grievances, he again mentioned the king of France, who had ‘wanted grace and the good will of his subjects’ and wished that ‘our king would be more careful to banish prelatry, to punish the Jesuits and priests, and to cherish his subjects; for without these things supply nor support are to no purpose’.54 He kept up the pressure, making a further three speeches against impositions in the same week. He was named to the committee to draft a petition on impositions on 3 July, and in committee of the whole House that afternoon he extended his criticism to Tunnage and Poundage, advising that customs should be kept low if the English wished their own exports to move freely.55 Attending a conference with the Lords on the ecclesiastical canons three days later, he spoke against the power of the bishops to declare a man a heretic, a matter affecting ‘not only men’s goods and liberty but their lives’.56 He acted as teller for the Noes in a division over a goldwire-drawers bill on 14 July when attendance had sunk to 30.57

During the brief fifth session Wentworth continued in the forefront of the campaign against the royal prerogative. On 2 Nov. 1610, during a debate on impositions, he claimed that ‘if the king have a power over the laws, we cannot have security, therefore we must see if the law can bind the king’.58 Two weeks later, after Sir Nathaniel Bacon proposed that no further supply should be voted until grievances had been addressed, Wentworth too urged that the question should be delayed until the next day.59 On 23 Nov. he again took Ezekiel for his text, as he was to do in 1614, and warned that ‘ill gotten impositions corrupt the honest revenues of the crown, as alehouses’. Englishmen, he said, ‘would be glad to hear of Spain that the king spent all upon his favourites and wanton courtiers’.60 James took offence, and demanded to know of his Council upon what evidence Elizabeth had imprisoned Wentworth’s father ‘and why he should be tied to other formalities than she was?’61 Whatever answer was given, Wentworth escaped punishment, perhaps through the mediation of lord treasurer Salisbury, who summoned Wentworth and other troublemakers following a brief adjournment.62

Wentworth’s services to Oxford’s corporation irritated his former university, which was frequently in dispute with the town. Indeed, the scholars took to terming him ‘Master Wantworth’, and in 1611 he was discommoned, with the effect of cutting him off from all intercourse with the university. However, he was restored three years later.63 In 1612 the corporation awarded him a gratuity of £20 towards his reader’s Feast.64 That same year Sir Henry Neville I* consulted him about his plan to manage a future Parliament on behalf of the king, though this scheme was never put into effect.65

When Parliament met again in 1614, Wentworth was added to the committee for privileges (9 April). On 11 Apr. he suggested a conference with the Lords to debate the eligibility to sit of the attorney-general (Sir Francis Bacon*).66 Next day he proposed a committee ‘for the growth of religion’ in a speech that came close to setting out his personal philosophy, for he argued that ‘religion [is] the root of justice’. He went on to warn of the dangers of the ‘want of religion’ especially in ‘great men ... or those that lie in their bosoms’, declaring that ‘the root of the powder treason [is] not dead’. He then moved for ‘a declaration of the thanks’ for the Palatine marriage, James’s writings against the papacy, and the provision of ‘fish days’, or public fasts.67 For some weeks thereafter he confined himself to legal matters, commenting on various bills for the king’s tenants and the Court of Wards, and praising the work of Sir Edward Phelips* as master of the Rolls.68 He received instructions from Oxford to propose a bill of amendments to the Thames navigation act of 1606, but there is no evidence that he acted on them among the surviving parliamentary sources.69

On 12 May Wentworth and three other lawyer-Members were ordered to investigate certain legal issues concerning impositions. He was subsequently appointed to help manage a conference on impositions.70 On 21 May he delivered an impassioned speech, in which he argued that ‘impositions were cried out against in Scripture’, and that kings who resorted to them were tyrants whom God had promised to destroy. He consequently invoked not only Daniel xi. 20-1 against the king of Spain, whom he described as ‘a vile person’, but also Ezekiel xlv. 9 against Henri IV of France, who had ‘died like a calf that had his throat cut by a butcher’.71 The clear implication of these references was that unless James abandoned impositions he, too, would be murdered. Perhaps realizing that he had gone too far, Wentworth added: ‘but far be it from my lord the King that aught so should befall him’. Four days later, during a debate on Bishop Neile’s accusation that the Commons was guilty of sedition, he withdrew his comments about Henri IV and admitted that James ‘for imposition is yet to be excused, finding precedents here of it and advised to it by his then Council’. However, his earlier remarks had caused outrage at Court, where, as Chamberlain reported, Wentworth was considered ‘the boldest Bayard of all’. The Venetian ambassador expressed shock that Wentworth had spoken ‘with the utmost licentioso and with a certain amount of applause’. Nonetheless the House cleared him by general acclamation on the motion of Sir James Perrot.72 When he spoke again in the subsidy debate on 3 June, Wentworth remained insistent that the grievance of impositions must be redressed in return for supply, but this time advised the Commons to ‘sweeten our answer to gain His Majesty’s ears, to let him now have a taste of our offers and hereafter more when we see how things proceed’.73 Four days later the Parliament was dissolved, and in response to protests from the French ambassador Wentworth and three other Members were arrested.74 His offence, it was recognized, was ‘rather of simplicity than malice’ and he was released after a few weeks.75 Sir Henry Wotton* commented that he was ‘a silly and simple creature, God himself knows’, who by his imprisonment had ‘rather inherited his [father’s] fortune than his understanding’.76 Although he remained recorder he seems to have been removed from the Oxford commission of the peace and was not restored until 1616.77 His colleagues on the corporation perhaps sympathized with his defiant stance, however, for upon his return to Oxford in August he was voted £10 ‘for his pains in Parliament’.78

Between 1617 and 1620 Wentworth was chiefly concerned with Oxford’s efforts to obtain a further charter.79 When a general election was announced in November 1620, the writs were accompanied with a Proclamation warning boroughs to avoid electing ‘curious and wrangling lawyers’, whereupon Oxford was persuaded by its high steward, Viscount Wallingford (William Knollys†) to break with the tradition of returning its recorder, whom the king had found so troublesome.80 Wallingford instead suggested two other candidates, whose election was forced through by the mayor’s council despite overwhelming support for Wentworth among the city’s freemen. Nevertheless Wentworth was again consulted over the navigation bill, and found that he had sufficient backing among the townsmen to challenge the election. Consequently, on 9 Feb. the House declared him elected, in place of Sir Francis Blundell, who was unseated.81 Wentworth kept a low profile in the weeks immediately after this victory. Perhaps he failed to take up his seat straight away, or had been chastened by the experience, for he was silent during the free speech debate of 12 Feb., when Sir James Perrot and Sir Robert Phelips proposed to take up the case of the four ‘tribunes’ imprisoned after the Addled Parliament and Sir Edwin Sandys recalled the imprisonment of Wentworth’s father for daring to petition the queen concerning the succession.82

Wentworth’s first appointment was to draft a bill for the reform of London’s prisons (3 Mar. 1621).83 He made no recorded speeches until 6 Mar., when he produced a precedent in relation to proceedings against the gold and silver thread patentee, (Sir) Giles Mompesson*.84 Perhaps surprisingly he made no further contribution to the monopolies debate, even though this was the main business of the session, and his demeanour remained subdued. On 9 Mar., however, he commented on a bill concerning Wadham College, and was appointed to its committee.85 Three days later he spoke up in defence of his fellow puritan Sir James Perrot, upon whose motion his name had been cleared in 1614. Perrot was criticized by (Sir) Henry Spiller* for issuing a warrant to search the recusancy records in the Exchequer without the consent of the committee, but Wentworth countered that ‘there is an Act of Parliament that any man may search records’.86 During the debate on the disputed Yorkshire election, involving his kinsman Sir Thomas Wentworth*, he argued (16 Mar.) that Members giving evidence should not be required to do so under oath,87 and on 20 Mar. Wentworth chaired the committee for a private bill concerning the London property of another distant relative, Lord Wentworth, of Nettlestead.88

The majority of Wentworth’s speeches during the first sitting concerned legal or procedural matters. On a bill concerning juries he suggested that ‘jurors must be returned not where they dwell but where their land lies’, and was appointed to the committee (19 April).89 Two days later he objected that a bill to restrict cart0taking by purveyors conflicted with another bill against informers.90 He seconded Hakewill’s motion on 26 Apr. to petition for a general pardon to mark the king’s fiftieth birthday.91 On 2 May, after the Commons’ bungled attempt to punish the papist Edward Floyd for slandering Elizabeth of Bohemia, Wentworth sagely advised that since Parliament had erred, like Moses, it was ‘better to acknowledge that we have trod awry than obstinately to persist’.92 He argued that Barnaby Gooch*, president of Magadalene College, Cambridge, should be allowed to speak on a bill concerning the college (4 May), but took a hard line against another Member, Clement Coke, for his violent behaviour, and said he should be committed to the Tower.93 On 9 May, speaking to a bill against the import of Irish cattle, he warned the House to ‘remember for whom we serve, many corporations who have benefit by the cheapness of meat’.94 He supported a bill against the excessive fees of lawyers and officers, saying ‘that lawyers had no cause to frown upon the bill. It was a kind of injustice to make justice too dear’ (15 May).95 The same day, he warned that with insufficient time remaining to pursue allegations of corruption against the chancellors of Peterborough and Durham these complaints should be presented to the Lords first; and indeed, the sitting was adjourned a few weeks later.96

The old fire burst out when the House met again in the autumn. On 3 Dec. 1621, in response to the proposal to marry Prince Charles to a papist, Wentworth urged Members to read again the official account of the Gunpowder Plot, for ‘these walls (methinks) do yet shake at it’. He believed it was warranted to petition the king on such an important matter, since ‘God himself doth direct us to petition Him for matters of His own glory and our good; methinks then it should be suitable to petition God’s lieutenant’. Against Sir Edward Sackville*, who had dismissed the possibility of any danger to the prince’s own faith, he pointed out that ‘the wives take up a great part and room in the husband’s heart’. He cautioned that the petition should, however, be ‘so far qualified as that we press not for an answer, but only express our fears and so leave it to His Majesty, and then I hope he will not take it offensively. There are some among us who act the devil’s part by making dissension between His Majesty and this House, and laugh at it when it is done’.97 He insisted that there were precedents that allowed Parliament to give advice on matters of the succession, but when James ordered the Commons to drop the matter and proceed with business Wentworth took the royal message of 11 Dec. in good part; three days later he exhorted the Commons ‘to remember what we are engaged in as about the bill of monopolies to confer with the Lords’.98 In a committee of the whole House on 18 Dec. to debate the Protestation, he maintained that he ‘had never yet read of anything that was not fit for the consideration of a Parliament’; but cautiously added, ‘if there be a negative bound ... then he wisheth it may be known, that we may know our bounds’.99 He was not one of the Members penalized after the Parliament.

In 1624 Wentworth was re-elected without challenge. On 24 Feb. he insisted, in the face of vehement denials from Sir Edward Coke*, that the concealments bill took more from the king than was intended.100 On his proposal it was referred to a committee, on which he served, and it returned to the House amended as he wished.101 He was most noted in this Parliament as an ardent proponent of war with Spain. On 11 Mar. he claimed that there was now ‘amity and confederation’ between Crown and Commons, and that this was based on religion; he urged prompt supply and the sending of troops to the Low Countries.102 On the following day he unsuccessfully defended a bill for the naturalization of the children of Englishmen serving there.103 In reply to a pacific but provocative speech from Sir George Chaworth* on 19 Mar. he maintained that ‘grievances at home may take some small drops out of our purses, but no drops of blood out of our hearts’ and, although he had ‘more children than acres’, he offered to ‘give liberally in so good an enterprise and eat in a wooden spoon and sell all towards this good business’. He nonetheless proposed only two or three subsidies and some fifteenths, ‘with this, that we will be ready hereafter timely enough to supply His Majesty’.104 He argued on 15 Apr. that ‘the word imposition’ was justified in the charge against lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) ‘because there was an imposing’.105 Although he had not originally been named to the committee for the Newfoundland fisheries, the bill was ordered to be delivered to him, and he reported it on 28 April.106 On 13 May he alleged in support of John Pym’s report on the Arminian Richard Montagu that he knew of ‘one that had preached the like and was made to recant’, and warned that ‘nothing doth more disturb the peace of the land than diversity of religion’.107

Wentworth was re-elected to Charles I’s first Parliament, but he played a far less prominent role in proceedings than he had under James. His main priority continued to be religion. His appointments included the committee for privileges (21 June 1625), and bill committees concerned with the Sabbath (22 June) and recusants (23 June). He was also ordered to help draft a petition on religion (24 June), and to consider a bill to remove benefit of clergy in some cases (25 June).108 On 23 June he spoke in the debate concerning the case of Sir William Cope, who had been elected for Banbury despite being a prisoner for debt. Cope claimed privilege as a Member of the 1624 Parliament, which had been prorogued rather than dissolved at the point when he was arrested; Wentworth saw the case as an opportunity to ‘make now a good precedent for hereafter’, and argued that ‘privilege holds during an adjournment but not after a prorogation’.109 He preferred a bill against bawdy houses which had its first reading on 24 June. This measure was framed as a response to the plague in London which some (presumably including Wentworth himself) clearly felt to be God’s wrath for the iniquities of the city and the Court.110 Soon afterwards the epidemic forced the Parliament to relocate to Oxford, where Wentworth and John Whistler* were required by the city to greet the king ‘as they saw fit’.111 Wentworth’s only other recorded speech was against Montagu on 2 August. He pointed out to the solicitor-general Sir Robert Heath* that the royal privilege now claimed privilege for Montagu as the king’s servant had not protected the former lord chancellor (Sir Francis Bacon) or lord treasurer (Sir Lionel Cranfield) from impeachment. He complained chiefly of Montagu’s ‘abuse of the Bible, paralleling it with that of trampling upon the Bible at Canterbury’ (an episode outlined in committee by Sir Thomas Wilsford*). ‘Both which, if they were not punished by authority, of private faults would become public, and though it be at no time fit to provoke the wrath of God, yet much less at this time, when we are all as it were making our wills, being already under His hand’.112

Wentworth was elected to his last Parliament in 1626. He was named to the committee for privileges (11 Feb. 1626) and numerous others, including those for the bills against simony (which covered the universities, 14 Feb.) and unworthy ministers (15 February).113 This latter measure had attracted criticism from various quarters, including his partner John Whistler, but Wentworth replied that he was ‘sorry that the purging of the faults of a church should be accounted scandalous’.114 His most notable speeches of the Parliament were on impositions (15 and 20 February).115 Though he repeated much of what he had said in November 1610, as he again insisted that Parliament must ‘make a declaration of our right to the king concerning imposts’, his conclusions were now entirely different. He stressed that the new king was ‘not an imposer’, and seems to have believed that the only way to preserve the constitution was to give Charles parliamentary authority for the revenue that he would collect in any event.116 This volte-face was quite remarkable; when faced with a choice between finding the means to fight Catholic Spain and her allies on the one hand and preserving the property rights of the subject on the other, Wentworth, unlike most Members, chose the former over the latter. His proposal on 18 Feb. to merge the committees of trade and grievances was rejected.117 On 24 Feb., during a debate on funding the war with Spain, Wentworth was among those who called for a Council of War ‘to manage our business’, and he also prayed that ‘our men may be trained up in use of their arms and that there be good leaders’, an oblique reference to the recent disastrous expedition to Cadiz.118 He was named to the committee for the cottages bill (4 Mar.), which was still a subject of concern to his constituency, but left it to Whistler to take the chair.119

Wentworth had been a keen advocate of war with Spain and despite recent military setbacks was anxious to continue fighting in the Protestant cause. He was therefore frustrated by the Commons’ constant recriminations over the affair of the St. Peter, a French ship unlawfully detained by the lord admiral, the duke of Buckingham. Rather than dwell on this matter, he urged (10 Mar.) that ‘the unum necessarium at this time is the security of ourselves from our provoked enemy ... howsoever things have been hither miscarried’.120 In the days that followed he recommended that the issue should not be pursued as a grievance against Buckingham, and vainly attempted to steer the debate back towards the question of supply, ‘to consider first what to give, and to what ends?’121 When Clement Coke* was alleged to have said that it was ‘better to die by a foreign hand than to suffer at home’, Wentworth, by now one of the few supporters of war in the House, added: ‘I have six sons, and had rather any of them should die by an enemy than suffer at home, as at Tyburn, [or] suffer at the assizes at Oxford’.122 On his proposal a committee was appointed to draft a bill ‘for the finding of arms and horses and of all things incident thereunto’ (14 March).123 As the House descended into chaos over the impeachment of Buckingham, Wentworth strove to stay focused on what he considered to be the most important issue: the maintenance of religion at home and abroad. He was particularly concerned with the new threat of Arminianism, and on 17 Apr. objected to (Sir) Humphrey May’s suggestion that Montagu should be given time to prepare his defence.124 In a characteristic speech on 3 June he cited a string of medieval precedents to warn the Commons that by refusing to co-operate with the king, Members were jeopardizing their chances of obtaining the redress of grievances.125 He was among those ordered on 8 June to draw up the Remonstrance against Tunnage and Poundage.126 On 9 June he reported that his committee had encountered ‘many difficulties about the finding of arms’, and it was agreed to refer the matter to a grand committee, which never met, owing to the dissolution.127

Wentworth was dead by September 1627.128 His eloquent but undated will was proved by his eldest son Thomas II* on 9 Dec. 1629. It bears out his claim to have been a relatively poor man, as he provided portions of only £200 for his daughters. His principal source of income, apart from his practice, appears to have been a lease of the tithes of Warkworth in Northumberland, which passed to his eldest son, with his lawbooks and the furniture of his chamber at Lincoln’s Inn. Another son was to be ‘trained up for the wars’, and a third Wentworth thought might become a factor or else be ‘placed in some office for to write’.129 His legal manual, The Office and Duty of Executors, was posthumously published in 1641.130

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. W.L. Rutton, Three Branches Wentworth Fam. 300-2; Bucks. Recs. vi. 238.
  • 2. LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 35.
  • 3. Rutton, 273; Baker, Northants. i. 659.
  • 4. Oxf. Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xcv) ed. H.E. Salter and M.G. Hobson, 6.
  • 5. Oxf. Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. lxxxvii) ed. H.E. Salter, 157.
  • 6. Ibid. 157, 254; C181/1, f. 73; C181/2, f. 71, C181/3. f. 2.
  • 7. Royal Letters to Oxf. ed. O. Ogle, 249; C181/1, f. 79; C212/22/20, 21, 23.
  • 8. Oxf. Council Acts, 157.
  • 9. Oxf. Council Acts, 181; C181/2, f. 7.
  • 10. LI Black Bks. ii. 120, 141, 208, 218.
  • 11. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 81.
  • 12. Ath. Ox. ii. 414-15.
  • 13. CJ, i. 156b, 185a.
  • 14. Ibid. 151a, 153b, 222b. However, his name is not included in the list of those named to one of the grievances cttees.: ibid. 151b, 934b.
  • 15. Ibid. 230b, 984a; W. Notestein, Commons 1604-10, p. 131.
  • 16. CJ, i. 182b, 955b.
  • 17. Ibid. 988a.
  • 18. Ibid. 237b.
  • 19. Ibid. 239b, 992b.
  • 20. Ibid. 999b.
  • 21. Oxf. Council Acts, xlvii, 165-6, 395.
  • 22. Bowyer Diary, 3; CJ, i. 258a, 291b.
  • 23. CJ, i. 273b, 285a, 286a, 296b, 298a.
  • 24. Ibid. 260a, 278b, 286a, 290b, 293a.
  • 25. Ibid. 298a.
  • 26. Ibid. 291b, 308b.
  • 27. Oxf. Council Acts, 159, 173.
  • 28. CJ, i. 308b; HLRO, O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 20.
  • 29. CJ, i. 324b, 329b, 1007b.
  • 30. Ibid. 336a, b.
  • 31. Ibid. 1022b.
  • 32. Bowyer Diary, 278n; CJ, i. 365b, 1038b; Notestein, 247-9.
  • 33. CJ, i. 1049a, 1052b, 1055a.
  • 34. Ibid. 1003a, 1006b.
  • 35. Ibid. 347a.
  • 36. Ibid. 351b.
  • 37. Ibid. 369a, 375a.
  • 38. Ibid. 372b.
  • 39. Bowyer Diary, 331-2; CJ, i. 1053a.
  • 40. CJ, i. 285b.
  • 41. Ibid. 386a, 387b.
  • 42. Notestein, 318.
  • 43. Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 11; Notestein, 262.
  • 44. CJ, i. 396b, 400b, 410b.
  • 45. CJ, i. 411a, b; Notestein, 275.
  • 46. CJ, i. 424b, 426b.
  • 47. CJ, i. 423a; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 82-3.
  • 48. R. Lockyer, Early Stuarts (2nd edn.), 125; P. Croft, ‘Fresh Light on Bate’s Case’, HJ, xxx. 538.
  • 49. CJ, i. 427b.
  • 50. Procs. 1610, ii. 93-4.
  • 51. Ibid. ii. 90, 97. This was in a cttee. of the whole House called to debate Wentworth’s own motion on messages from James.
  • 52. Parl. Debates, 1610, 37; Procs. 1610, ii. 108.
  • 53. CJ, i. 430b.
  • 54. Parl. Debates, 1610, 57; CJ, i. 438b.
  • 55. Parl. Debates, 1610, 61, 63; CJ, i. 443a, 445b; Procs. 1610, ii. 249.
  • 56. Procs. 1610, i. 127.
  • 57. CJ, i. 450a.
  • 58. Procs. 1610, ii. 393-4.
  • 59. Parl. Debates, 1610, 136.
  • 60. Ibid. 144.
  • 61. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 649.
  • 62. HMC Rutland, i. 425; SP14/58/54, 62; Notestein, 31, 427-8, 569n.
  • 63. Ath. Ox. ii. 414-15; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 360; A. Wood, Hist. Univ. of Oxf. ii. (1), 299, 304, 307, 310.
  • 64. Oxf. Council Acts, xlvi, liv-v, 219-20.
  • 65. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 244.
  • 66. Ibid. 41, 57.
  • 67. Ibid. 60.
  • 68. Ibid. 85, 162, 166, 234, 243.
  • 69. Oxf. Council Acts, 233.
  • 70. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 219, 226.
  • 71. Ibid. 313, 316.
  • 72. Ibid. 340, 348-9, 384; CSP Ven. 1613-15, p. 138; Chamberlain Letters, i. 533.
  • 73. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 415, 420.
  • 74. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 237; APC, 1613-14, pp. 456, 459, 465, 467-8, 476.
  • 75. Chamberlain Letters, i. 540.
  • 76. Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton ed. L. Pearsall Smith, ii. 37.
  • 77. Oxf. Council Acts, 254.
  • 78. Ibid. 234.
  • 79. Ibid. lix, 273, 281.
  • 80. Stuart Royal Procs. ed. J.F. Larkin and P.L. Hughes, i. 493.
  • 81. CJ, i. 515a; CD 1621, iv. 32; Oxf. Council Acts, 297, 298, 306.
  • 82. CD 1621, ii. 57-62; iv. 39-40; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 237; C. Russell, PEP, 93.
  • 83. CD 1621, ii. 158n.
  • 84. Ibid. v. 30.
  • 85. CD 1621, iv. 138; CJ, i. 546b.
  • 86. CD 1621, ii. 208.
  • 87. Ibid. v. 47; vi. 70.
  • 88. CJ, i. 563b; CD 1621, v. 312; Rutton, facing p. 1; Bucks. Recs. vi. 237.
  • 89. CD 1621, v. 80; CJ, i. 582b.
  • 90. CD 1621, iii. 41n.
  • 91. Ibid. 88; ii. 323.
  • 92. CJ, i. 602b; CD 1621, iii. 143; ii. 340; v. 135.
  • 93. CD 1621, iii. 159, 216; ii. 358; v. 158.
  • 94. CD 1621, ii. 356; iii. 213; v. 157; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 48.
  • 95. CD 1621, iv. 345.
  • 96. Ibid. iii. 265.
  • 97. CD 1621, ii. 488-91; CJ, i. 655b.
  • 98. CD 1621, ii. 503, 519; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, p. 167.
  • 99. Nicholas, ii. 356; CD 1621, ii. 539; v. 243; vi. 341.
  • 100. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 7v.
  • 101. CJ, i. 673a, Russell, 157.
  • 102. CJ, i. 732b.
  • 103. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 74.
  • 104. CJ, i. 742a; Nicholas 1624, f. 93; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 197.
  • 105. ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 29.
  • 106. CJ, i. 692a, 767b.
  • 107. ‘Earle 1624’, f. 182.
  • 108. Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 215, 226, 240, 246.
  • 109. Ibid. 227.
  • 110. Ibid. 238, 638.
  • 111. Oxf. Council Acts, 331.
  • 112. Procs. 1625, pp. 379, 382.
  • 113. Procs. 1626, ii. 21, 32, 44.
  • 114. Ibid. ii. 46, 48.
  • 115. Ibid. ii. 47, 50.
  • 116. Ibid. ii. 73, 76; Russell, 279.
  • 117. Procs. 1626, ii. 70.
  • 118. Ibid. 115, 121.
  • 119. Ibid. 195.
  • 120. Ibid. 249.
  • 121. Ibid. 260, 274.
  • 122. Ibid. 289, 291.
  • 123. Ibid. 279, 283; Russell, 274-5.
  • 124. Procs. 1626, iii. 10, 16, 22, 46, 50.
  • 125. Ibid. 352, 356.
  • 126. Ibid. 392.
  • 127. Ibid. 404; Eng. Commonwealth 1547-1640 ed. P. Clark et al., 101-2.
  • 128. Oxf. Council Acts, 6, 7.
  • 129. PROB 11/156, f. 373.
  • 130. Wing (2nd edn.) W1358.