V. The Composition of the House of Commons

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

It is a point that deserves more attention than it has received that both James and Charles came to believe that the difficulties they experienced with their parliaments were attributable, in some degree, to the composition of the House of Commons. In the aftermath of the disastrous Addled Parliament the attorney-general, Sir Francis Bacon, encouraged James to believe that if only the Commons were rightly composed it would be ‘a sufficient House, worthy to consult within the great causes of the commonwealth’.1 James himself was thought to be open to the suggestion that he might circumvent the electoral process by using the royal prerogative to nominate a certain number of Members to the Commons, and in December 1623 he certainly contemplated excluding two of the chief troublemakers of the 1621 Parliament, Sir Edwin Sandys and Sir Edward Coke, from membership in 1624. In November 1625 Charles actually pricked as sheriffs several men who had proved troublesome earlier that year in order to keep them from membership of the 1626 assembly.2 For its part, the Commons lived in fear of royal attempts to manipulate its composition: the worry that a lord chancellor might pack the House with men subservient to the king if Chancery gained the exclusive right to determine the outcome of controverted elections was one of the issues at the heart of the Buckinghamshire election dispute in 1604, and fear of packing was widespread in 1614 after it was discovered that the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir Thomas Parry, had unduly interfered in the Stockbridge election.3

The composition of the Commons is among the more neglected aspects of early Stuart parliamentary history, as few scholars have examined this complex subject.4 However, we are now in a position to probe in detail the make-up of the early Stuart House, particularly as more than 98% of the men who sat can be clearly identified.5 Above all, two key questions can now be addressed. First, what significant changes to the Commons’ composition took place over the course of this period? Secondly, to what extent were James and Charles justified in believing that if only the Commons had been differently composed their difficulties would have been eased?

Friends and strangers, veterans and novices

The early modern House of Commons was so large that it would have been extraordinary if many of those who entered the chamber for the first time did not know at least some of their fellow Members. When a man sat at Westminster he joined a vast throng of strangers, to be sure, but unless he was remarkably obscure he was also likely to encounter many of his friends, neighbours and relations. On entering the Commons for the first and only time in 1604, Nicholas Steward of Taplow, in Buckinghamshire, would have been familiar not only to the handful of fellow civil lawyers with seats in the House but also to the two Members for Guildford, Sir George More and George Austen, both of whom were his former neighbours in Surrey and godfathers to one of his sons. In 1614 the former soldier Sir William Lovelace and the king’s carver Sir Walter Chute both made their parliamentary debuts. Though Lovelace sat for the Kent city of Canterbury and Chute for the Nottinghamshire borough of East Retford each was certainly known to the other, as they served on the same county bench and both lived at Bethersden, in Kent. More than one father and son had overlapping parliamentary careers, and it was not at all unusual for brothers to sit simultaneously: Sir Thomas Hoby and his elder sibling Sir Edward sat in five of the same parliaments, and in 1624 four of the sons of the 4th Lord St. John had seats in the Commons. One of the best-connected Members of the early Stuart House was Sir Henry Neville of Billingbear, Berkshire, whose kinsmen included several of the most prominent parliamentary figures of his day, among them William Hakewill, Sir Maurice Berkeley and Sir Robert Killigrew. So extensive were Neville’s parliamentary connections that they undoubtedly lent credibility to his offer, made to James in 1612, to manage a Parliament on the king’s behalf.6

In any Parliament men of all ages rubbed shoulders. Even though only those who had attained their majority were deemed capable of election, there were, as we have seen, always a few under-age individuals in the chamber. Most of these minors were aged between eighteen and twenty, but a few were considerably younger: Sir William Pulteney was sixteen when he entered the chamber for the first time in 1601, and James, Lord Wriothesley and Sir Peregrine Bertie were just fifteen when they made their parliamentary debuts in 1621 and 1624 respectively. There were no upper age limits put on membership, and provided he was in moderately good health a man could not be forced to step down by reason of old age, as Great Yarmouth’s corporation evidently discovered when it tried to persuade John Wheeler to surrender his seat in December 1610.7 Consequently it was not unknown for some individuals to sit well into their declining years. Sir Edward Coke was nearly seventy-seven when he decided to hang up his spurs in 1629, and Sir William Selby of Ightham Mote, in Kent was even older by the time the first Jacobean Parliament ended. Most Members commenced their parliamentary careers in their youth or middle age, but Francis Brakin was in his late sixties when he entered the chamber for the first time in 1614, as was Francis Pierse, who never sat again. Henry Banister and Sir Baptist Hicks were even older, being in their seventies by the time they sat.

Just as the ages of those who sat varied widely, so too did the parliamentary experience which they brought to the Commons. In every assembly there was a solid core of veterans to balance against the inevitable influx of newcomers. For instance, while 191 (or 41%) of the 468 men returned at the 1604 general election were new to the chamber, 144 of them (30%) had previously sat in two or more parliaments. Nevertheless, it sometimes seemed that the House was being overrun by new and inexperienced Members. Writing to England’s ambassador to Brussels at the start of the 1624 Parliament, Sir George Chaworth, then in his mid fifties, declared that many of his parliamentary colleagues were mere ‘boys’, and that the Commons contained ‘many young and new men never of any Parliament before’.8 In fact, only 176 novices had actually been elected, slightly less than 37% of the House.9 Of these, three were under-age (though there were admittedly eight minors in the House in all) and twenty-two were aged between twenty-one and twenty-five. There were actually just as many newcomers aged fifty and above in 1624 as there were novices under the age of twenty-five, but this evidently escaped Chaworth’s notice.

Chaworth was not alone in suggesting that there were too many callow youths in the Commons. In the aftermath of the Addled Parliament Sir Francis Bacon claimed that James’s second Parliament had been poisoned by the reckless behaviour of an abnormally large number of young, inexperienced Members. ‘Three parts of the House were such as had never been of any former Parliament’, he complained, ‘and many of them young men and not of any great estate or quality’. Experienced former Members had chosen not to stand, leaving the field wide open for men with little or no experience to take their place. To those who thought that the king stood to benefit from a House full of young men as ‘such men will give most because they have least’, Bacon retorted that they were ‘wonderfully mistaken ... for such are ever more forward to deny and oppose upon bravery than the gentlemen of the country or wealthy merchants’. Besides, a House populated with too many inexperienced young men undermined the gravity of the chamber, mere striplings being inclined to turn serious matters of state ‘into a kind of sport or exercise’.10 He clearly persuaded the king, for in a proclamation issued ahead of the 1621 Parliament James prohibited the election of ‘young and unexperienced men that are not ripe and mature for so grave a council’.11

Although Bacon was himself a Member of the 1614 Parliament, the impression he conveyed of a Commons dominated by inexperienced newcomers was seriously misleading. It is of course true that a high percentage of novices sat in 1614, a consequence perhaps of the great length of the first Jacobean Parliament, many of whose Members may have been reluctant to commit themselves to another meeting that, for all they knew, might last just as long.12 However Bacon was wide of the mark in claiming that three-quarters of the men returned had not previously sat. There were actually 260 newcomers to the Commons in 1614, who between them accounted for just 55% of the entire membership.13 This figure, though certainly higher than in 1604 and 1624, compares rather favourably with many Elizabethan parliaments, when typically around half of all Members were novices.14

It was also misleading for Bacon to suggest that a majority of the novices elected in 1614 were landless young men. Although the ages of a handful cannot now be ascertained, only about a third of the newcomers (eighty-eight or eighty-nine in total) were under the age of thirty. Of these, admittedly, a majority had either not inherited their father’s estates or were younger sons and therefore not likely to succeed. Nevertheless only about sixty-four individuals actually fit Bacon’s profile of landless young men with no former parliamentary experience. These represented just a quarter of the novice Members that year, and less than fourteen per cent of the House’s entire membership. Bacon would have been on far safer ground had he noticed the correlation between novice Members and the number of Members without office.15

Bacon’s suggestion that the novices in the chamber made the House more than usually difficult to manage are also hard to substantiate. Several Members made inflammatory or provocative speeches during the Parliament, but only two – Walter Chute, who said that the king might repair his finances if his major officers were not so corrupt, and Sir William Walter, who stated on the final day of the Parliament that the king’s refusal to surrender impositions made them all slaves – were new to the House. Two other newcomers, the lawyers Leonard Bawtree and Thomas Hitchcock, actually stood up for the king’s right to levy impositions, while a third, John Dackombe, a former servant of the Cecils, urged his colleagues to vote subsidies to prevent the king from marrying off Prince Charles to a French princess.16 Perhaps the chief difficulty associated with novices in 1614 was not with the rank and file membership of the House but with two of the king’s most senior spokesmen, Secretary of State Sir Ralph Winwood and the Speaker, Sir Ranulphe Crewe. Astonishingly, Winwood had never before sat in Parliament, while Crewe’s previous experience was limited to the short-lived assembly of 1597-8.17

There is very little evidence that the proportion of newcomers to the House had any bearing on the Crown’s ability to manage the Commons. The Parliament with the highest percentage of newcomers was that of 1621, in which around fifty-eight per cent of the Members returned at the general election (278 in total) had never sat before. However, as will be seen in chapter 13, for the first three months of its existence the 1621 Parliament was considerably more harmonious than its two immediate predecessors, both of which contained fewer novices. Perhaps the clearest evidence that there was no correlation between parliamentary inexperience and difficulty of management is provided by the first three parliaments of Charles’s reign. During these assemblies the number of newcomers to the Commons shrank to just 26% of the intake at the general elections of 1625 and 1628 and to 24% of the intake in 1626, yet all three assemblies proved very far from easy for the Crown to manage. Indeed, in 1626 a large section of the Commons actually sought to topple the king’s chief minister, the duke of Buckingham.


Given that they were mainly drawn from the nation’s ruling classes, most Members of the Commons held office at some time during their lives. Many, in fact, held several offices simultaneously, especially if they were well connected. A not untypical example is that of Sir Edward Hoby of Shurland House, north Kent, who served for Rochester in the first two Jacobean assemblies and was first cousin to the king’s chief minister, Robert Cecil. During the time he sat in Parliament, Hoby was a magistrate in three separate counties, held the constableship of Queenborough Castle, served as a vice admiral of the coast under the lord high admiral and was a gentleman of the king’s privy chamber.

Many of those who held office were royal officials. For some of these men, service to the king was restricted to their localities, but for others it meant employment in the Crown’s central administration or in one of the minor royal households. Most departments of state were represented in the Commons during this period, and some, like Chancery, the Exchequer and the Court of Wards, always had several senior officials in the House. In 1614 no less than five of the six principal officers in the Court of Wards had seats: the master (Sir Walter Cope); the clerk of the liveries (Sir William Cooke); the receiver-general (Sir Miles Fleetwood); the surveyor (Sir Roger Wilbraham); and the attorney (Sir James Ley). Only the clerk (John Hare) was missing. At the general election in 1624 eight officers of the Exchequer, both upper and lower, secured places in the Commons: the chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Richard Weston); the clerk of the pells (Sir Edward Wardour); the revenue auditor (Sir Edmund Sawyer); the auditor of the receipt (Sir Robert Pye); the foreign apposer, who received the greenwax fines (William Cholmley); one of the joint surveyors of the greenwax (John Woodford); a deputy teller (William Pitt); and a clerk in the lord treasurer’s remembrancer’s office (Thomas Bancroft). In addition, two gentlemen with reversions to Exchequer posts – Sir Peter Osborne and Edward Pitt – were also elected. Osborne clearly regarded himself as an Exchequer official in waiting, for although his reversion did not fall in until 1628 he defended the department’s interests in the Commons in 1625. Towards the end of the 1624 Parliament a ninth Exchequer official – the king’s remembrancer, Thomas Fanshawe II – also gained a seat. Of course, not all government departments were as well or as regularly represented as the Court of Wards and the Exchequer. Small departments, like the Alienations Office, the Armoury or the Mint normally had just one or two officials in the House at most, and sometimes none at all.18

How far individual departments sought representation for themselves in the Commons must remain a matter for speculation, but it seems likely that those which felt threatened by Parliament did so. The size of the Court of Wards’ contingent in 1614 is certainly suggestive. In 1604, and again in 1610, the possibility of abolishing wardship in return for an annual payment to the Crown had been debated by the Commons, and the officers of the court may well have decided among themselves that unless they were well represented at Westminster their interests would not be heard. Another case that also hints at some sort of collective decision is that of the College of Arms. Under Elizabeth and for most of James’s reign no officer of the College of Arms ever sat in the lower House, but this changed in 1624, when two members of the College – John Borough, the Norroy herald, and Arthur Duck, the king’s advocate – secured seats for themselves. It seems unlikely that this was mere chance, for it was in the 1624 Parliament that the Commons investigated the fees charged by the heralds.19 Thereafter, one herald sat at Westminster in each of the parliaments of 1625, 1626 and 1628-9.20

The largest body of royal officeholders in the House, aside from the vast mass of local officials that is, were members of the king’s Household. The exact size of this cadre is hard to judge since the records pertaining to the lord steward’s and lord chamberlain’s departments are notoriously incomplete. We know, for example, that Sir William Godolphin was a gentleman of the privy chamber at his death in 1613, but we do not know whether he was also a gentleman of the privy chamber when he sat in the first Jacobean Parliament. Nevertheless, it is possible to gain a rough idea of the size of this body (for which see appendix viii) and to conclude that under James the number of Household officials in the Commons markedly declined. In 1604 between thirty-eight and forty-three Household officials entered the Commons, whereas in 1614 the number was between twenty-one and twenty-eight. That represents a fall of somewhere between a quarter and a half. During the final two parliaments of James’s reign a maximum of twenty-three or twenty-four Household officials sat in both assemblies, and perhaps as few as twenty-one.21

The most likely reason for the steep decline in the number of Household officials returned to Parliament between 1604 and 1614 was a growing distrust of courtiers among the electorate, the causes of which are discussed in chapter 14. On the face of it this alteration in the composition of the House had profound implications for the king’s ability to manage the Commons. However, office in the king’s Household did not automatically predispose a man to support royal policies of which he disapproved. Sir John Holles was a gentleman of the privy chamber between 1603 and 1610, but he nevertheless opposed the Union during the first Jacobean Parliament, and in 1614 the king’s carver, Walter Chute, famously argued against the granting of subsidies. In April 1626 three Members with office in the king’s Household were suspended from their posts, apparently for supporting the motion to add poisoning the late king to the Commons’ list of charges against the duke of Buckingham.22

Under Charles the number of Household officials in the Commons rose, though it did not return to the level of 1604. In 1625 there were between thirty-three and thirty-six in the chamber; in 1626 between twenty-nine and thirty-four; and in 1628 between twenty-five and twenty-seven. This sudden resurgence is difficult to explain, given that hostility among the electorate to courtiers remained pronounced throughout the 1620s. Perhaps more important than the general antipathy to courtiers was the widespread hatred of Buckingham, whose principal enemies at Court in 1625 and 1626 included the head of the Household-below-stairs, the lord chamberlain, William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke. At least six of the Household officials returned in 1626 – Thomas Carey, Sir Thomas Edmondes, Sir James Fullerton, Sir William Herbert, William Murray and Sir Francis Stewart – would also appear on any list of Pembroke’s clients for this Parliament.

Though the holding of office was unexceptional in the Commons, it was far from universal. In every Parliament up to a dozen Members seem never to have held a single position of responsibility outside the chamber.23 In some cases, like those of Sir George Simeon and John Good, this was because the individuals concerned were suspected of harbouring Catholic sympathies, but in others it was because death intervened before a man could succeed to his father’s offices. Nevertheless, the failure to attract office of a man like the Buckinghamshire lawyer Edward Duncombe, a client of the 3rd earl of Bedford, remains hard to understand.

As well as a handful of individuals who were never appointed to office, the Commons always contained a much larger number of Members who had either lost the positions they had previously held or were waiting to step into their fathers’ shoes. Precisely how many of these there were in any given Parliament is difficult to say, as the exact time of a man’s appointment or the time at which his tenure ended often remains a mystery. There is also the problem of whether to regard as officeholders all Members known to have served in the households of great men. Some of these individuals held clearly defined positions – as secretary say, or as master of the horse – but what are we to make of men like Thomas Unton and William Byng, both of whom sat in the first Jacobean Parliament and are known to us simply as servants of Henry Howard, earl of Northampton?

Despite these difficulties some broad conclusions can be reached. The first is that the number of Members without office in any given Parliament was subject to considerable fluctuation. The Parliament with the fewest such cases was that of 1604-10. Around seventy-six Members entered the Commons in 1604 without any discernible office, a figure equivalent to around sixteen per cent of the entire membership; ten more subsequently entered the Commons at by-elections. In thirteen cases some doubt exists about the Member’s status on entering the House; for instance, was Sir Thomas Darrell a magistrate at the time of his election or not? Moreover, several Members who did not hold office at the time of their election, like Sir Richard Weston, Sir Oliver St. John and Edward Musgrave, went on to obtain some sort of position before the end of the Parliament. Nevertheless it seems clear that at least eighty-five per cent of the Members of the first Jacobean Parliament at the time of their election, a figure which may have risen as the Parliament progressed.

The evidence for 1614 paints a noticeably different picture. No fewer than 115 men without office were returned at the general election, nearly a quarter of the entire intake, and two further individuals in the same boat – Roger Manwood and Sir William Selby – entered the House as a result of by-elections towards the end of the Parliament. As with the first Jacobean Parliament, several of these cases must be considered doubtful,24 but even so it seems clear that in 1614 the Commons included at least a hundred Members entirely lacking in office. Among the most surprising was the Speaker, Sir Ranulphe Crewe, whose only position of authority outside the chamber was his membership of the bench of Lincoln’s Inn. It is, of course, true that Crewe had been granted the post of under-steward of Great Yarmouth in 1608, but he had relinquished this position in 1611. It is also the case that he was appointed to two local commissions in 1614, but both of these post-dated the Parliament, as did his promotion to serjeant-at-law.

Over the course of the next three parliaments the number of Members without office fell well below a hundred, though the figures involved were far from negligible: between eighty and ninety Members can be counted in every case. During the final two parliaments of the period – those of 1626 and 1628/9 – the number of Members without office again rose sharply, to 116 and 120 respectively (though the precise status of nine or ten individuals must be considered doubtful). In other words, as in 1614, up to a quarter of the Members of the Commons in both parliaments lacked positions. This fraction is so much greater than the comparable figures for 1604-10 and 1621-5 that it seems unlikely it was merely the result of random fluctuations.

In the case of the 1614 Parliament the sudden influx of men without office bears a close relationship to the number of men without previous parliamentary experience elected that year. Of the 117 Members who entered the Commons without office in 1614, no less than eighty-four (72%) had never sat in Parliament before. The implication of this finding is that many of these novices were so young that they had not had time to accumulate offices. Indeed, most of the eighty-four individuals without either office or parliamentary experience in 1614 seem to have been aged thirty-five or less, and many were in their twenties.

What lay behind the sudden increase in Members without office in 1626 remains unclear and would repay detailed investigation, but it may have been a symptom of the rising opposition to Buckingham. In the case of the 1628-9 Parliament the finger of suspicion points to two likely causes, the first being the Commons’ attempt to impeach the duke in 1626, and the second being widespread resistance to the Forced Loan of 1626/7. Following these events, many leading parliamentary figures were stripped of their local offices, with the result that in 1628 several individuals –Sir Harbottle Grimston, Sir Robert Poyntz and Sir John Strangways among them – lacked office at the time of their election.

How far the absence of office influenced Members’ behaviour is difficult to say. As we have seen in a previous chapter, it might make for men who were more willing to please the king than to offend him,25 but equally it might engender bitterness. It is hard to believe that Sir Dudley Digges’s disenchantment with Buckingham in 1626 did not owe as much to a failure to secure office as it did to a close association with Archbishop Abbot. Equally, Sir Robert Phelips’s transformation from one of Buckingham’s chief supporters in 1624 to one of his sternest critics in 1625 must have had a great deal to do with the fact that his expectation of a tangible reward for his parliamentary services had been disappointed.

Social complexion and wealth

Although drawn mainly from the ranks of the ruling elite, Members came from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds. At one end of the spectrum were men with aristocratic blood coursing through their veins. These consisted mainly of the sons and brothers of peers, many of whom held courtesy titles and would one day inherit peerages in their own right, such as Lord John Paulet, heir to the 4th marquess of Winchester, and William Cecil, Viscount Cranborne, eldest child of Robert Cecil, 1st earl of Salisbury. However they also included a couple of Irish peers – Sir John Vaughan, who obtained an Irish viscountcy midway through the 1621 Parliament and Charles, Lord Lambart, who sat in both 1626 and 1628. The size of this group naturally fluctuated from one Parliament to the next, but though it never reached thirty the inflation of honours under James and Charles certainly caused it to increase. Just sixteen sons of peers were returned at the general election of 1604, whereas in 1625 the comparable figure was twenty-eight; and two Members of the first Jacobean Parliament who were not the sons of peers at the beginning of the assembly were so before its end.26 Parliaments lasting more than one session, of which there were two during this period, also tended to bring more sons of peers into the Commons. Eleven sons of noblemen joined the House as a result of by-elections during the first Jacobean Parliament, nine of them in 1610, part of Lord Treasurer Salisbury’s ultimately futile attempt to create a groundswell of support in the lower House for a negotiated settlement of the royal finances.27 In 1629 the heirs of the earls of Dover, Warwick and Carbery entered the chamber, swelling the number of Members drawn from noble families to twenty-eight.

At the other end of the social scale were men of relatively humble stock, such as Richard Tisdall, the fifth son of an undistinguished London Haberdasher. A member of the lower reaches of the legal profession, Tisdall evidently owed his election for St. Germans to the 1621 Parliament not to social or political prominence but to his friendship with the bishop of Exeter’s son-in-law, John Trott. Even more obscure than Tisdall was the 1625 Canterbury Member, John Fisher. A muster-master by profession, Fisher, whose ancestry has not been established, was described by one disapproving contemporary as a ‘renowned tobacconist, swearer, scoffer, cheater and lecher’ and a man of no fixed abode.28 More than forty of the Members who sat during this period were the sons of yeomen. Some, like the 1628 Heytesbury Member William Rolfe, were certainly from families of mean estate, while others were younger sons whose inheritance might easily have condemned them to remain at the bottom of the social pile had they not proved enterprising or industrious. Take the case of Thomas Hinson, who represented Barnstaple between 1604 and 1610 and rose to become receiver-general to the 3rd earl of Bath. A younger son, Hinson inherited from his yeoman father just £16, a featherbed and a share in his elder brother’s future barley crops.

Not every Member born to parents of below gentry status began life at the lower end of the social heap, of course, as some yeoman were so prosperous that they were virtually indistinguishable from the lesser gentry.29 The York-based lawyer Sir Richard Williamson, who represented Richmond in 1614, provides a nice example: the only son of a Lincolnshire yeoman cum draper, Williamson inherited in 1576 a landed estate sufficient to enable him to secure a grant of arms in 1602. Several Members of yeoman stock received university educations, and a number enjoyed glittering careers in their chosen fields, among them the London merchant Robert Bateman, the Chancery lawyer Francis Moore and Anne of Denmark’s attorney-general, Robert Hitcham. Even so, the stigma attached to low birth could be hard to bear: the lawyer Richard Taylor, who represented Bedford during the 1620s, was probably by no means alone in falsely claiming that his ancestors had been gentlemen.

Just as the social complexion of the House widely varied, so too did the wealth of its Members. At any one time gentlemen with large landed fortunes rubbed shoulders in the House with those with scarcely a penny to their names. Many of the richest Members of the Commons were, of course, the sons of peers: Sir John Harington, eldest son of John, 1st Lord Harington, was heir to an estate reputedly worth between £5,000 and £7,000 per annum, a fortune ‘not much behind many earls’,30 and Sir William Cavendish would ultimately inherit from his father, the 1st earl of Devonshire, a 100,000-acre estate. Great wealth was not, of course, confined to the ranks of the aristocracy: the three richest Members of the House in 1628 were all commoners, among them Thomas Thynne, the owner of the Longleat estate in Wiltshire. Besides, every Parliament saw many wealthy lawyers and merchants enter the House. Among the richest merchants were Sir Thomas Lowe, the governor of both the Merchant Adventurers and Levant Companies, who served in three parliaments, and Sir Maurice Abbot, who sat four times during the 1620s, first as deputy governor and then as governor of the East India Company. Those lawyers with the greatest fortunes included Sir Edward Coke, who acquired substantial estates in East Anglia and Buckinghamshire, put together a library larger than most colleges of the time possessed, and enjoyed an annual income that was rumoured in 1616 to be about £18,000;31 Sir Henry Montagu, who built up a substantial landed estate centred around Kimbolton Castle in Huntingdonshire, and became so wealthy that in 1620 he was able to purchase the office of lord treasurer for £20,000; and Sir Francis Bacon, whose landed estate was not enormous by the standards of the day but who nevertheless retained a huge household.32 Another Member worth his weight in gold was William Man, who represented Westminster three times in succession during the 1620s. Neither lawyer nor merchant, Man amassed a fortune as the Abbey of Westminster’s rent collector, and on his death in 1635 his entire estate, rumoured to be as much as £16,000, passed to his servant John Ingham, who promptly died of shock.33

These very rich individuals were, of course, thin on the ground, yet even so it is clear that a large section of the Commons was extremely well heeled. Between fifty and sixty of the men who sat in this period were wealthy enough to buy shares in the newly created East India Company, and more than one member of the landed gentry with experience of serving in Parliament invested in several money-making ventures simultaneously. Sir Henry Neville of Billingbear, for instance, joined the New River Company in 1610, the French Company in 1611 and the East India Company in 1614. One individual was so well off that he proved capable of underwriting an entire commercial enterprise himself, for when the patentee responsible for building the New River ran out of funds in 1608 Hugh Myddelton, the Member for Denbigh Boroughs and a leading figure in the London Goldsmiths’ Company, took his place. Some of these wealthy individuals were, of course, born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but by no means all: Sir Francis Crane, who seems to have come from minor gentry stock, began his career as a clerk, but he ended up as director of the lucrative Mortlake tapestry works, which he himself founded in 1619 with the support of the king.

Many of the Members who sat in this period were wealthy enough to take advantage of the Crown’s poverty, which famously manifested itself in the sale of honours. Between 1611 and 1642 no fewer than 109 of the 1,782 men returned to Parliament between 1604 and 1629 – an astonishing six per cent of the total – purchased a baronetcy. Of these a handful, like the duke of Buckingham’s crony Sir Francis Annesley, procured their honour at a hefty discount, but most were evidently prevailed upon to pay the asking price of £1,095. Knighthoods, too, were available to those with cash to spare. Among those Members who purchased the right to be dubbed was Sir Edward Dering, who paid £160 in 1619, plus an additional £43 in fees.34 For men with large sums at their disposal, like Sir Nicholas Tufton of Hothfield in Kent, peerages were also available, but for those whose purses could not stretch to the £15,000 Tufton is reputed to have paid for his barony in 1626, cheaper Irish titles might be had. Sir Robert Needham, who represented Shropshire in the first Jacobean Parliament, purchased an Irish viscountcy in 1625, thereby arousing the envy of his friends, who rushed to emulate him. Of course, not everyone who could afford a peerage did so, or at least not directly. With lands straddling three counties, John Poulett of Hinton St. George in Somerset, whose father had been listed in 1588 among those ‘knights of great possessions suitable to be created barons’,35 certainly possessed the means to procure a title but moral qualms prevented him from doing so. When he was eventually ennobled, in 1627, it was due to the intercession of the Huguenot refugee the duc de Soubise, whom the Crown had obliged him to feed and house at his own expense, rather than to direct purchase.

Although many Members were clearly well off, plenty of their colleagues were anything but financially secure. We have already seen that a small but significant minority of Members in every Parliament sought election to escape their creditors,36 and a few individuals, like Sir Thomas Shirley in 1604 and Arthur Bassett in 1625, were actually languishing in debtor’s prison at the time they were chosen to serve. While some of those who sat in the Commons enjoyed sizeable incomes, an alarming number also lived well beyond their means. Sir Edward Greville of Milcote in Warwickshire inherited an estate with a capital value judged by Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex to be £35,000, but he was an incurable rake, and over the course of thirty years he ruined his fortunes to the extent that he lost all his lands and ended his days in a modest residence in Fulham. (It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that one of Greville’s chief reasons for getting himself elected in 1604 was to lay before the Commons a bill to reduce the interest rate, which was fixed by statute, from ten per cent to eight per cent). The Essex gentleman Sir John Sammes, who represented Maldon in both the first and second Jacobean parliaments, enjoyed an income of at least £800 according to his son, but he too sat while in the throes of ruining his finances. Indeed, by 1620 he had racked up so much debt in building ‘a fair mansion house’ at Little Totham that he was forced to flee abroad.37 How far the presence of such individuals affected the behaviour of the Commons is hard to judge, but Greville at least sympathized with his fellow spendthrift James I, whose right to levy impositions he defended in 1610.38

Education and the professions

Although we now have a great deal of information about many of the men who sat in the early seventeenth-century House of Commons, our knowledge of their education is necessarily patchy. Whereas the admissions records for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, for the Inns of Court and for several of England’s most ancient public schools have survived more or less intact, those for the Inns of Chancery and for many of the smaller grammar schools have not. We also possess only an incomplete picture of the arrangements made by Members’ fathers or guardians to have their charges educated abroad. We know, for instance, that eight of the men who went on to sit in the Commons during this period attended the well-known riding academy at Angers, in southern France,39 but there were similar academies all over Europe, and only rarely do we catch a glimpse of one of our Members in his youth attending such an institution. Sir Thomas Puckering and Henry Lord Clifford, for instance, are known from Puckering’s correspondence to have studied at Pluvinel’s academy in the Rue des Bons Enfants in Paris in 1610-11, but there must have been plenty of other wealthy young men who went on to sit in Parliament who did the same. Much the same can be said about those Members who received part of their education at the hands of private tutors. Since the teachers involved were employed in a freelance capacity the only records we have of such arrangements are necessarily haphazard and incomplete. Gaps in our knowledge like these help to explain why it is that we know nothing about the education received by around a quarter of all the Members who sat during this period.40 Of course, it is possible that in a handful of cases these gaps are not gaps at all, that those concerned received little or no formal schooling, particularly if their parents were hard-up. However it would be stretching credibility to the limit if we were to conclude that a man like Sir Francis Godolphin, whose father employed 300 men in the tin and silver mines on his estates and who himself went on to serve in the households of Prince Henry and Prince Charles, was not afforded an expensive education.

There is every reason to suppose that most of the men who sat in the Commons during this period were highly educated. At least half attended the universities of Oxford or Cambridge, or both,41 and more than half enrolled at one of the Inns of Court or Inns of Chancery.42 Several Members are known to have been admitted to foreign universities in their younger days. Sir Julius Caesar and his eldest surviving son Sir Charles both attended the Sorbonne, and the University of Leiden enrolled at least half a dozen of the Members who sat between 1604 and 1629, though only one – the younger James Bagg – seems not also to have attended either Oxford or Cambridge.43 Before the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War, the University of Heidelberg, situated in the capital of the Rhenish Palatinate, may also have proved popular with many young Englishmen since it was a bastion of Calvinist teaching, but so far as we know the only Member of the early Stuart House of Commons to enrol there was Sir Henry Wotton. The University of Padua, in the Venetian Republic, admitted around twenty-three men who went on to sit in the Commons, but aside from Samuel Turner, who qualified as a physician in 1611, it seems unlikely that most employed their time there to study, as such activity was liable to be construed back home as evidence of Catholic sympathies.44 Nominal admission to Padua was instead one of the accepted ways for young Protestant Englishmen travelling in northern Italy to avoid the clutches of the Inquisition.

Foreign travel formed an important part of the education of many wealthy young gentlemen in the early modern period, so not surprisingly several of the men who went on to sit in the Commons under the early Stuarts had an extensive personal knowledge of the Continent. Indeed, about nine per cent of those who sat are known to have visited, and in some cases toured, mainland Europe as part of their education; the true figure is almost certainly much higher. Normally foreign travels complemented a man’s training at Oxford, Cambridge or the Inns of Court, but sometimes a stint abroad may actually have served as a substitute for a university education: Sir Henry Herbert, Sir John Jennyns and Sir Thomas Mansell are just three of the twenty or so individuals who seem to fall into this category. Of course, it was not just those who undertook what later became known as the Grand Tour who acquired a first-hand knowledge of the Continent before sitting in Parliament. Many future Members of the Commons spent time abroad in a professional capacity. Some did so as soldiers, others as merchants, like the London Haberdasher Martin Bond and the London Draper George Lowe, both of whom were based at Stade in northern Germany in the 1590s. Several men who went on to sit in Parliament served abroad in their youth as merchants’ factors, among them Sir Lionel Cranfield, Sir Arthur Ingram and Hugh Myddelton.

There was always a significant number of merchants with seats in the Commons, since commerce was vital to England’s prosperity. As the London lawyer Nicholas Fuller put it in 1610, merchants were ‘the legs we go upon’.45 The presence in the chamber of captains of industry was considered highly desirable by Sir Francis Bacon,46 but inevitably of course many merchant-Members were men of modest standing. For every wealthy merchant like Sir Thomas Myddelton of London there were an equal number of less prosperous traders, though many – like the Southwark brewer William Mayhew, who sat in the first Jacobean Parliament – were undoubtedly considered big fish in their own small ponds.

Precisely how many merchants sat at any one time is not always easy to say, as there are gaps in our knowledge in respect of some of the minor townsmen. Take the Hereford Member John Warden, who was returned in November 1610. As well as being a member of Hereford’s corporation, it seems likely that Warden was also a brewer, since his widow was thus described in the year after his death, but if so firm evidence is lacking. A further difficulty boils down to a problem of classification, since not everyone who engaged in trade was primarily a merchant. Sir Edward Hales of Woodchurch, Kent, grew hops on a commercial basis on his manor of Chart from the early 1620s, but it would probably be going too far to describe him as a merchant. The same might also be said of the Westminster resident William Man, whose principal source of income was probably his employment as rent collector for the Abbey of Westminster rather than the timber business he also ran. Members whose fathers were merchants were not necessarily merchants themselves. Charles Cockayne, who represented Reigate in 1628, was son and heir of the City merchant Alderman William Cockayne, but so far as we can tell he never engaged in commerce and was content to remain simply a member of the landed gentry.

Although there are difficulties in establishing exactly how many Members were merchants, the overall picture seems clear. Under Elizabeth their number steadily fell, from 17% for the first three parliaments of the reign (taken together) to 13% for the last three.47 This decline, which almost certainly originated in a growing invasion of borough seats by the landed gentry, continued under the early Stuarts (see appendix vi). In 1604 approximately 61 merchants were admitted to the House,48 representing about 13% of that year’s intake, whereas in 1614 the number slumped to thirty-eight, or forty at the most, equivalent to just 8% of the House. Thereafter it was unusual for merchant numbers to reach forty.49 The exceptions to this rule are the parliaments of 1621 and 1628/9, when forty-nine or fifty men whose primary occupation was trade – about ten per cent of the whole membership – entered the Commons.

In 1621 the increase was almost certainly attributable to the fact that the Parliament met against the backdrop of one of the worst cloth-trade depressions in England’s history. Under such circumstances it seems likely that many merchants who might not otherwise have wished to do so entered Parliament. The reason for the increase in 1628 is harder to discern, but it probably reflected the recent emergence of an alliance between the City and the Commons. Prior to 1625, as Robert Brenner has shown, the Commons was largely hostile to London’s chartered companies, since many Members considered the latter’s trading privileges as little better than monopolies. The overwhelming majority of merchants in the Commons were drawn not from the City but from the outports, whose Members provided much of the impetus behind the free trade bills of 1604, 1605-6 and 1621.50 However, following the outbreak of war with Spain the old animosity between the City’s merchant community and the Commons began to evaporate, as the heavy losses sustained at sea among commercial shipping affected London and the outports alike. Moreover, protests by the Levant Company and London’s wine merchants on additional import duties meant that there was now a growing convergence of interests between the Commons and the City’s merchant community over the matter of unparliamentary taxation.51 The result was that more City merchants entered Parliament in 1628 than in any of the previous six assemblies – fourteen in total, twice the number elected in 1626.52 It would be surprising if this increase did not go a long way towards explaining the sudden rise in merchant representation in 1628.

It is difficult to be sure what impact the fluctuating number of merchant-Members had on the business of the Commons. However, the fact that so few merchant-Members sat in 1614 probably helps to explain why the House largely ignored a major restructuring of the cloth trade. Aside from a single debate held on 20 May, the Commons never debated the likely economic consequences of the recent suppression of the Merchant Adventurers’ charter nor the suitability of the new company under Alderman Cockayne that would soon take its place, preferring instead to focus its attentions on impositions. Conversely, the increase in the number of merchant-Members in 1628/9 may have helped fuel the House’s resentment of Tunnage and Poundage, particularly since one of the merchants who refused to pay this duty, John Rolle, was himself a Member of the Commons.

If merchant-Members were often thin on the ground, so too were the soldiers sitting in the Commons. Indeed, in each of the parliaments of this period the number of Members with military or naval commissions can easily be numbered on the fingers of two hands (see appendix vii). In 1621 there were only four – Sir Edward Cecil, Sir Henry Mervyn, Sir John Radcliffe and Sir Robert Sidney – and in 1628/9 just two (Thomas Brett and Sir John Chudleigh). In 1624 Sir George Chaworth claimed that the Commons contained ‘many captains of the Low Countries’, a fact which ‘must instantly engage us in a war’ with Spain,53 but this statement is no more reliable than Chaworth’s assessment of the number of young men and novices then present. There were actually only about half a dozen such individuals: Sir Edward Cecil; the younger Sir Edward Conway; Sir Thomas Littleton; Charles Price (perhaps the ensign of that name serving in the Netherlands); Sir Edward Vere (who probably never sat); and James, Lord Wriothesley. The only other military man with a seat in the House that year was Sir John Radcliffe, but it would seem that he no longer held a commission.

The absence of serving soldiers and naval seamen from the Commons is not altogether surprising. Throughout most of this period England was at peace, and though a small number of troops were kept in pay in the Low Countries there was no standing army, and the Navy maintained only a skeleton force at sea. When England did finally go to war, in 1625, most men with military or naval commissions were too busy to consider serving in the Commons. It was only because he was between military employments that Francis Carew of Westminster was able to sit in 1626. During the parliaments of the later 1620s, the Navy’s spokesmen in the Commons were necessarily administrators like Sir John Coke and Sir Robert Pye rather than serving seamen, and even so such individuals were thin on the ground: Sir William Russell was so overworked as treasurer of the Navy in 1626 that he rarely found time to attend to his Commons duties, while Sir James Bagg was kept so busy in victualling the Navy’s ships at Plymouth in 1628 that although the third Caroline Parliament opened in February he did not take up his seat until May.

While the number of serving soldiers and seamen remained pitifully small, the number of Members with some form of military experience was somewhat higher. Some, like Sir John Scott, who represented Kent in 1604 and Maidstone in 1614, were former professional soldiers, while others, such as the Somerset squire Sir Maurice Berkeley, had merely served as a volunteer on a single expedition. Not surprisingly, the number of military veterans was at its highest during the first Jacobean Parliament, a result of the eighteen-year long Elizabethan war with Spain. Roughly nine per cent of the House’s intake in 1604 – forty-two Members – are known to have had some form of military service, and though death claimed one of these men in 1606, and the House of Lords another, four others with military experience entered the chamber in 1610.54 As the years of peace rolled by, however, the number of Members with military experience began to dwindle. In 1614 the figure was thirty-five, equivalent to about 7.5% of the House; in 1621 it was just twenty-nine (6%), and this includes the former pirate Sir Henry Mainwaring. In 1624, the year in which the Commons persuaded the king to undertake a war with Spain, only about twenty-two Members (4.5% of the House) are known to have had any direct experience of warfare, half the number in 1604. The lowest point reached was in 1625, when the number slumped to just nineteen (4%). Thereafter, as the war progressed, the number of Members with some experience of military service increased, albeit marginally. Including the lawyer John Glanville, who had served as secretary to the ill-fated Cadiz expedition of 1625, those military veterans with seats in 1626 and 1628/9 numbered twenty-four (5%) and twenty-two (4.5%) respectively.

Undoubtedly the most influential group of professionals in the Commons were the lawyers. It was they who helped lead the charge against monopolies in 1601, the Union in 1604 and 1606-7, and impositions in 1610 and 1614. Lawyers also played a key part in the revival of impeachment in 1621 and 1624, in opposing Buckingham in 1626, in defending the liberties of the subject against the arbitrary actions of the Crown in 1628 and in complaining against the continued levying of Tunnage and Poundage in 1629. So indispensable were they during the imposition debates of June 1610 that a separate register of their names was kept to ensure their attendance.55 At least one Member not from the legal profession was grateful for the service they performed. Writing to the mayor of Leicester in February 1614, William Heyricke, who had previously sat for Leicester, recommended that the borough return its recorder to the forthcoming assembly, ‘for severally the lawyers did much good in the House the last Parliament’.56

The lawyers had long formed an essential component of the Commons. During the fifteenth century their numbers had swollen dramatically, from around 15% of the House’s total membership in 1395 to 24% in 1491. In part this growth reflected an expansion in the legal profession, but it was also a function of the Crown’s attitude, which ‘had changed from mild hostility to active encouragement’.57 By 1559 (and for reasons that have yet to be explained) the number of lawyers in the House had dwindled to its earlier low level, but this decline proved only temporary, as under Elizabeth the proportion of lawyer-Members nearly doubled, rising from 12% in 1559 to 23% in 1601.58

In view of the essential part they played between 1604 and 1629, one might easily assume that the number of lawyer-Members under the early Stuarts remained at around the level reached in 1601. In point of fact, the period witnessed a gradual yet substantial contraction in the number of lawyer-Members. Indeed, one symptom of this marked decline, – the difficulty that many borough recorders experienced during the 1620s in securing a seat for themselves locally – has been noticed in a previous chapter.59 By 1628 the proportion of lawyer-Members in the House was roughly the same as at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. Yet whereas there had been a recovery after 1559, the decline in the number of lawyer-Members between 1604 and 1629 appears to have been permanent. Although more than a fifth of the members of the Restoration Convention of 1660 were lawyers, the numbers sitting in the parliaments of the later Stuarts never exceeded 11% of the total membership.60

The surprising collapse in lawyer numbers between 1604 and 1629 is most clearly illustrated in tabular form, although for lists of names readers are referred to appendix v. The figures below show the total number of lawyers who entered the House at each general election. Those admitted at by-elections are excluded, as are men like Edward Salter who, though trained as lawyers, are known to have abandoned their legal careers by the time they sat in Parliament.61

Table 1


Seats available

at start

of the



and trainee


Civil lawyers (including


not members

of Doctors’




public and scriveners





Number of



as a percentage

of the





9 or 1063


































66 or 6767


10 or 1169





54 or 5570





What lay behind this startling decrease? One possibility, of course, is that the number of lawyers was shrinking. In fact, much of the legal profession during this period was thriving: by 1600 there were, according to Sir Thomas Wilson, at least 2,000 barristers and just as many attorneys, not to mention an ‘infinite number’ of ‘solicitors and pettifoggers’.71 The only side of the legal profession that was in the process of contracting was that occupied by the civil lawyers, who never constituted more than ten per cent of the whole. By 1605 membership of Doctors’ Commons – the professional body to which most of the successful civil lawyers belonged – had begun to dwindle, as many members of this branch of the profession increasingly found that jobs that had hitherto been open to them were now taken by their rivals, the common lawyers. Indeed, in a memorandum of 1603 concerning ‘Things grievous and offensive to the commonwealth’, one anonymous writer advised the new king to instruct the lord keeper to appoint as many civilians as common lawyers to senior positions in Chancery.72 As the employment prospects of civil lawyers shrank so, inevitably, did civilian representation in Parliament, which had risen markedly in 1597-8 and 1601 following the expansion of Doctors’ Commons during the 1570s and 1580s.73 Whereas in 1601 there had been a dozen civil lawyers in the House, in 1625 and 1626 there were only two. Not until the 1630s, when the employment prospects for civilians improved as a result of the business generated by the newly revived court of chivalry, did the number of civilians in Parliament rise significantly.74

Since only the civil lawyers belonged to a side of the profession that was dwindling, how can we account for the decline in lawyer representation in the Commons? One possible explanation is that lawyers grew increasingly unpopular with the electorate. Considerable hostility towards members of the legal profession certainly existed in the early seventeenth century, not least among many Members of the Commons, both past and present. In April 1604 the former Member Arthur Hall deplored the fact that the Commons was ‘swarming with mercenary lawyers, many of whom can talk and lie well’.75 The following month Sir Edwin Sandys, who had abandoned a legal training after his father’s death, claimed that ‘the violence of lawyers hath, in former times, abused this House’, and that over the course of the last three assemblies matters relating to the Church had, through the ‘cunning of lawyers’, been carried ‘clean contrary to the meaning of the House’.76 In 1629 Sir Francis Kynaston, who had represented Shropshire in 1621, wrote that ‘the absence of lawyers in a Parliament is one of the least imputations [that] can befall that great, high and venerable court’. Indeed, Kynaston recalled with fondness the Coventry Parliament of 1404, dubbed the ‘Parliamentum illiteratum’ and ‘Parliamentum indoctum’, because lawyers had been banned from sitting.77 However, animosity towards lawyers existed in all ages, and there is no evidence that popular hostility was any greater in 1628 than in 1604. Besides, since most of the common lawyers in Parliament opposed the king’s right to levy impositions it is unlikely that their profession at large excited the distaste of the electorate. The widespread anger at the king’s arrest of Sir Edward Coke, the leading lawyer of his age, following the end of the 1621 Parliament hardly suggests the existence of an underlying current of hostility towards the lawyer-Members.

Another possible explanation for the decline in the number of lawyer-Members lies in the attitude of James I, who believed that lawyer opposition to impositions had been responsible for wrecking the 1614 assembly. In the proclamation issued ahead of the 1621 Parliament, James forbade the return of ‘curious and wrangling lawyers, who may seek reputation by stirring needless questions’. The lord chancellor, the former Sir Francis Bacon, was appalled, for in his earlier draft of this Proclamation he had suggested prohibiting the election only of those lawyers ‘of mean account and estimation’.78 However, neither Bacon nor the 3rd earl of Pembroke, who also protested,79 need have worried, since James had unintentionally said less than he meant. As Lord Zouche, lord warden of the Cinque Ports, told the corporation of Winchelsea in December 1620, the king had not actually prohibited the election of ‘such as are modest and discreet’.80 In other words, despite James’s transparent attempt to keep lawyers from the chamber, there was still considerable scope for members of the legal profession to sit in Parliament.

Since lawyers are unlikely to have declined in popularity among the electorate at large, and since there is no direct evidence from municipal records that James’s clumsy attempt to exclude them from membership had any impact on electoral behaviour, what then are we to make of the numerical decline of the lawyer-Members? In one or two cases the explanation may lie in a failure to prosecute the interests of constituents more vigorously. At Winchester in 1625, for example, the borough recorder, William Savage, who had represented the town in the previous two assemblies, was passed over in favour of a country gentleman, Sir Thomas Phelips, having failed to lay two bills before the 1624 Parliament as instructed. However, in general the most likely cause of the reduction in the number of lawyers was increased competition for Commons’ seats among the landed gentry, for as has been demonstrated in an earlier chapter, the number of contested elections rose significantly during this period. Another consideration, admittedly peculiar to 1628, may have been the failure of members of the legal profession to put themselves in the vanguard of the opposition to the Forced Loan. It is of course true that William Noye and John Selden, both of whom sat in 1628, acted as counsel to the Five Knights, whose prosecution for non-payment served as a test case for the legality of the Loan. Nevertheless, of the fifty-six Members of the 1628-9 Parliament known or suspected to have evaded payment only one – George Radcliffe – was a lawyer. The rest, with the exceptions of the merchants James Bunce, Christopher Clitherow, Edmund Day, Ignatius Jourdain and Henry Waller, were all members of the landed gentry, and of these twenty-three certainly suffered some form of imprisonment.81 Lawyer-Members like Richard Taylor, who sat for Bedford, certainly protested in Parliament at the illegality of the Loan, while others, like the Hereford Member John Hoskins, failed to attend meetings of their local Loan commission, but when push came to shove most of them seem to have paid up.

A dramatic decline in numbers was not the only change to overtake the legal profession in Parliament. During the first and second Jacobean assemblies the single largest group of common lawyers came from Lincoln’s Inn rather than from any of the other three Inns of Court. This is not altogether surprising, for as Wilfrid Prest has demonstrated, between 1590 and 1639 more men were called to the bar of Lincoln’s Inn than to the bars of any of the other Inns of Court.82 However, as the following table shows, during the 1620s Lincoln’s Inn lost its primacy, its contingent dwindling to roughly the same size as that from the Inner Temple.83 Why this should have happened remains a mystery.84

Table 2


Lincoln’s Inn

Middle Temple

Gray’s Inn

Inner Temple

















23 or 24


18 or 19

















No less difficult to understand is the fact that few of the lawyers who sat in the Commons were the product of Gray’s Inn. This institution admitted nearly twice as many entrants as any other house during this period, and prior to the 1620s it actually eclipsed Lincoln’s Inn in terms of bar calls.86 Yet in all four Jacobean parliaments it took third place in the league table of Commons’ membership, and in the first three Caroline assemblies it was relegated to last place. Three of the seventeen Gray’s Inn men who sat in 1621 – the recorder of Lincoln, Henry Pelham; the Star Chamber attorney George Shilleto; and the recorder for the city of Wells, Thomas Southworth – were not even barristers. On the other hand, Gray’s Inn produced a number of prominent Commons Members during this period, notably Sir Francis Bacon and Nicholas Fuller. It also provided two of the House’s six Speakers – Sir Thomas Crewe, who held office in 1624 and 1625, and Sir John Finch, who occupied the chair in 1628-9.

Client groups

Many members of the peerage, as well as several bishops, enjoyed a certain amount of parliamentary patronage. Through landholding or office, noblemen were often able to exert pressure on nearby boroughs to return their own friends, kinsmen or clients to the Commons. This did not mean that a vast swathe of the lower House was in thrall to the upper chamber of Parliament, nor did it mean that men who owed their seats to a particular peer necessarily regarded themselves as primarily part of an aristocratic party or faction in the Commons. In a perceptive study of the parliamentary influence of Charles Howard, 1st earl of Nottingham, R.W. Kenny has concluded that although Nottingham was head of the admiralty between 1585 and 1619 ‘there is almost nothing to suggest’ that the earl tried to create ‘anything like a coherent naval bloc’. Indeed, ‘it is perhaps anachronistic to suggest that it would even have occurred to him’. It is of course true, as Kenny concedes, that Nottingham used his influence with his clients in the Commons in 1604 to ensure the smooth passage of two bills of immediate concern to his own family – one concerning his daughter and the other his wife – since in both cases the bill committees concerned were packed with his friends and clients. However, as Kenny has also demonstrated, when Nottingham’s own licence for the sale of wines was attacked as a monopoly and included in the Commons’ list of grievances in 1606, none of his clients in the lower House offered ‘any defence or mitigation that the clerk or diarists thought worthy of notice’. From this silence Kenny has reasonably concluded that Nottingham ‘made no real effort to control the behaviour of even those members who owed every political success to his patronage’. Indeed, the most conspicuous feature of Nottingham’s group of supporters in the Commons ‘was that they were of an independent mind’.87 This is not to say, of course, that no member of the House of Lords ever tried to mobilize support for political reasons. In the interval between the parliamentary sessions of 1607 and 1610 Robert Cecil, 1st earl of Salisbury, sought to bolster the number of his clients in the House in the hope of improving his chances of reaching a settlement of the king’s finances with the Commons, and in the mid 1620s the conflict between the duke of Buckingham and his enemies at Court inevitably spilled over into the Commons. However, it should not be assumed that peers who exercised their powers of parliamentary patronage were necessarily involved in trying to manipulate the behaviour of the Commons.

Few members of the nobility, even those who held high office, were capable of obtaining seats for more than a handful of Members. Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk in 1614 is a case in point. Suffolk was not only lord chamberlain but also lord lieutenant of both Dorset and Cambridgeshire. He owned extensive estates, most notably in Wiltshire and Essex, and together with William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, has a right to be regarded as one of the chief architects of the 1614 Parliament. Yet so far as can be discerned, Suffolk managed to secure seats for only about fifteen of his clients, either by direct nomination or through the good offices of his brother Lord William Howard at Morpeth and his son Henry Howard at Derby.88 Given that there were more than 470 seats in the lower House, this represented just 3% of the entire membership of the Commons. Of course, Suffolk’s clients in the lower House were not simply restricted to those men who owed their seats to him or to members of his immediate family. His servant Richard Wynn also sat but was returned for Caernarvonshire on his family’s own interest, as did Sir Henry Rich, who obtained a letter of nomination from him for a knighthood of the shire in Norfolk, but ultimately got himself elected at Leicester on the interest of the 5th earl of Huntingdon. Even so, it remains the case that one of the most striking characteristics of the earl of Suffolk’s supporters in the Commons in 1614 is their paucity.

Another equally striking case is that of the 3rd earl of Pembroke. J.K. Gruenfelder has described Pembroke as ‘the greatest electoral patron’ of the early seventeenth century because his nominees may have taken as many as ninety-eight seats between 1614 and 1628.89 By the standards of the age this total was indeed impressive, but it still only yielded an average of sixteen seats per Parliament, a mere drop in the ocean compared with the overall size of the Commons. Of course, as with Suffolk, Pembroke’s clientele in the Commons did not consist exclusively of those individuals for whom he was able to find seats. At its height in 1626, Pembroke’s support in the Commons may have extended to as many twenty-eight or thirty Members if the electoral influence of the allies of his West Country lieutenant, William Coryton, is taken into consideration.[footnote] Yet, large though this group certainly was, it was not nearly large enough to bring about its patron’s primary aim, the impeachment of the duke of Buckingham. For this it was always going to be necessary for Pembroke and his clients to make common cause with other interest groups in the Commons, such as the followers of the earls of Hertford and Bristol and Archbishop Abbot. Only by acting in concert could Buckingham’s enemies in the Commons ever have hoped to bring down the duke.

The peer with the largest personal following in the Commons during the 1620s was not the earl of Pembroke but the royal favourite, the duke of Buckingham. Buckingham has sometimes been written off as a parliamentary patron, partly because in 1626 he or his subordinates acted too late to issue his letters of nomination, but also because many of his nominees were rejected by the voters. In fact, Buckingham’s known or suspected clients were more than twice as numerous as Pembroke’s in 1625 and roughly equivalent in number to the earl’s in 1626. Compared with Pembroke’s fifteen or so clients in 1625 (one of whom was not elected until July), Buckingham had thirty-two or thirty-three of his own supporters in the House,[footnote] and in 1626 the duke’s personal following – about twenty-seven strong if the two Arminians Richard Dyott and Richard Spencer are excluded – was roughly the same as his rival’s.90 During the 1628 session Buckingham’s supporters once again outnumbered those of Pembroke, whose interest in creating a large body of followers in the Commons appears to have waned after his rapprochement with the duke and his subsequent promotion to lord steward. Whereas about seventeen or eighteen Members can be identified as clients or friends of Pembroke, approximately twenty-eight others can be linked to Buckingham with some degree of confidence.[footnote] Even so, Buckingham’s following in the Commons was never big enough to prevent or stifle repeated attacks on the favourite.

Peers were not the only individuals to establish client groups in the Commons. In 1621 and 1624 Prince Charles, through the council erected in 1615-16 to manage his household and properties, acted as an electoral agent and created a small body of supporters in the Commons. In both parliaments the council succeeded in returning thirteen of its nominees, though this success rate, particularly in 1624, was lower than it wished.91 The duchy of Lancaster, too, routinely used its powers of patronage to secure seats for its nominees. In most parliaments the duchy seems to have had no specific aims to pursue, but at the general election of 1620/1 its chancellor, Sir Humphrey May, tried to create a body of support for a bill to confirm decrees relating to the duchy’s estates.92 James I’s queen, Anne of Denmark, was barely active as an electoral patron, though several members of her household and some of her law officers sat in both the first and second Jacobean parliaments. Indeed, her influence is detectable in only two cases, those of Sir George Reynell at Grantham and Robert Lloyd at Ludlow, both in 1614. Henrietta Maria, queen consort to Charles I, certainly had no parliamentary aspirations of her own: in 1626, the first Parliament in which she might have exerted any electoral patronage, only one member of her household establishment – her attorney-general Sir John Finch – was elected to the Commons.


Few aspects of the Commons’ composition were ultimately more important to relations between the king and his parliaments than that of religion. In theory at least every Member of the House was Protestant. Indeed, as we have seen, before being formally admitted to the House, each man was required to take the 1563 Oath of Supremacy, which acknowledged that the king rather than the Pope was the head of the English Church. However, since there were still some parts of the country, such as Lancashire and Worcestershire, that inclined to the old religion, many closet Catholics and Catholic sympathizers attained membership of the House. Precisely how many can never be known, since such individuals kept their religious preferences concealed from their fellow Members by outwardly conforming.

Contemporaries often assumed that men married to Catholics were themselves popishly inclined. In 1605, for instance, the bishop of Hereford had the Hereford Member Anthony Pembrugge removed from the bench on the grounds that his wife was a recusant. However, this assumption was not entirely justified. In 1624 Sir Nicholas Saunders, who sat in 1604-10 and 1626, was presented to the Commons by Surrey’s knights of the shire as a recusant officeholder on the grounds that ‘his wife is of a popish disposition’, but they added that Saunders himself was ‘not suspected any way to be popish’. That same year Sir James Perrot admitted to the Commons that his wife was a recusant, though he himself was one of the hottest Protestants in the House.93 Catholic sympathies can often be inferred from a man’s family and associates. Take the case of Francis Moore, who sat in both the first and second Jacobean parliaments. Though Moore undoubtedly conformed to the requirements of the established Church, he enjoyed close connections with the Catholic Englefield family of Berkshire, served as solicitor to the crypto-Catholic peer Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland and married a recusant, as did his daughter. However, taken in isolation, accusations of popish leanings are not good evidence of Catholic sympathies: in 1624 Sir Alexander Temple was said by an electoral opponent to be ‘of suspected religion, and allied to an arch-papist, the earl of Clanricarde’, but following a Commons’ investigation Temple was completely exonerated.94

Although the exact number of Members who leaned towards Rome can never be ascertained, it is possible to gain some sense of the extent of Catholic infiltration of the Commons. Between 1563 and 1601 the number of avowed Catholics in the House tailed off dramatically as a result of the requirement that Members swear the Oath of Supremacy, but this was counterbalanced by an increase in the number of Catholics who outwardly conformed. Taken alongside those Members with strong Catholic affiliations, there were, at most, forty Catholic or crypto-Catholic Members sitting in 1601 – somewhat less than 10% of the whole House.95 In 1604 the number of Catholic-leaning Members admitted to the Commons was perhaps no more than two dozen, despite the widespread rumour that the new king, James I, would soon grant his Catholic subjects a limited form of toleration. Among those Members elected in 1604 least sympathetic to Protestantism were Adolphus Carey (St. Albans), whose sister-in-law was Catholic and who had recently returned from Italy ‘with a good opinion of the Catholic religion’; Matthew Chubbe (Dorchester), who circulated three anti-puritan libels by Thomas Adyn, a man imprisoned in 1608 as ‘a dangerous popish recusant’; and John Good (Camelford), a conformist who eventually converted to Rome and whose decision to sit seems to have been prompted by fears of a puritan resurgence raised by the Millenary Petition of 1603. Though the number of Catholic-inclined Members was relatively small, this fact was perhaps not widely appreciated at the time. In March 1610 the Venetian ambassador believed that the Catholics had ‘many secret defenders’ in Parliament who ‘sometimes kill a proposition by demanding that it should be applied to puritans as well’.96

As we have seen in an earlier chapter, the fear of Catholic penetration of the Commons – heightened not only by the assassination of Henri IV but also by the defection to Rome in 1608 of the St. Albans Member Tobie Matthew – led the Commons to tighten its procedures, with the result that from 1610 Members were required to take the Oath of Allegiance as well as the Oath of Supremacy. In the short term at least this additional requirement seems to have made little impact on the number of Catholics and their sympathizers in the House, for there were just as many in 1614 as there had been in 1604-10. Among the most conspicuous were Henry Britton, who owed his nomination for Christchurch to the Catholic Lord Arundell of Wardour, and whose family was certainly Catholic (his father was a notorious recusant and his sister was in an Augustinian convent); Sir Thomas Gerrard, 1st bt. (Lancashire), who had been in trouble in 1592 for keeping a Catholic schoolmaster and whose wife was a devout Catholic; Rowland Lacon (Much Wenlock), who never held public office (presumably because of his religious sympathies) and whose father was certainly a Romanist; Sir Anthony Mayney (Cirencester), whom Joseph Mead described in 1622 as ‘a great Papist’ and whose friends included the leading Catholic peer John Paulet, 4th marquess of Winchester;97 and Sir George Simeon (Wallingford), who had been convicted of recusancy in 1607 and whose wife was the sister of the 4th Lord Vaux, a notorious Catholic. To many committed Protestants in the Commons, the presence of so many clearly Catholic Members must have seemed deeply alarming. At the very least it provides a hitherto unsuspected context for Sir James Perrot’s suggestion that the House should henceforward hold a communion service at the beginning of every Parliament ‘to keep the Trojan horse out’.98

Not until 1624 did the Catholics in the House begin to dwindle. Parliament that year met in an atmosphere of heightened hostility towards Catholics, both at home and abroad, and in such a climate it is not surprising that fewer Members sympathetic to the old religion than before – perhaps no more than eighteen – secured admission to the Commons. Following the outbreak of war with Spain in 1625, the number of Members with known or suspected Catholic sympathies evidently declined still further, presumably as a result of widespread anti-Catholicism: in each of the parliaments of 1625 and 1626 there were perhaps no more than fifteen such individuals,99 and in 1628-9 there were between six and ten.100

Although there was always a small number of Catholic-leaning Members in the Commons, the vast majority of the House’s membership was Protestant. However, Protestant belief in early seventeenth-century England spanned an increasingly wide spectrum. Prior to the 1620s the chief division among English Protestants was between those who believed that the Elizabethan Church settlement was capable of improvement and those who did not. The main cause of complaint was that many of the rites and ceremonies that had been practised in the Church prior to the Reformation still remained, but some also considered the political structures of the Church unsatisfactory and wished to replace the bishops with a presbyterian form of government. A few even regarded the established Church as so flawed that they wished to separate from it entirely. Advocates of further reform of the Church were dubbed ‘puritans’ , but those so labelled often disliked this term, considering it a form of abuse, for not everyone who wished to purify the Church of its popish ceremonies was happy to be associated with presbyterianism, let alone separatism. During the 1620s the term ‘puritan’ gained an additional meaning in the hands of the Arminian cleric Richard Montagu, who applied it to all doctrinal Calvinists in the hope of tarring them with the brush of heterodoxy. In 1626 the Commons not unreasonably protested at this gross deception, claiming that Montagu ‘does draw together in one collective name of puritans the greatest part of the king’s true subjects’.101 It is because the term puritan was frequently used ‘with intent to deceive’ that some scholars prefer not to use it at all.102

Under the early Stuarts the House of Commons contained many of these would-be church reformers, among them the London Member Nicholas Fuller, whose godly proclivities did not prevent him from owning a half-share in a Smithfield inn, and Samuel More, who shipped his four children off to New England in the Mayflower (the youngest aged just six) after he discovered that his wife was an adulterer. However, precisely how many puritans there were in Parliament at any one time rather depends, as Conrad Russell observed, on what meaning we give this elastic term.103 Aside from Sir Francis Hastings, who thought he must ‘undergo’ the title even though he hated it, and Thomas Scott, who spoke approvingly of the ‘Conscientious puritan’, few Members were willing to admit to being puritans.104

One way of measuring the number of puritans in the Commons at any one time, suggested by Russell, is to see whether the House sat on Ascension Day. Those Members who thought that Ascension Day was holy would not wish to do so, whereas puritans, who considered it superstitious to imbue a particular day with holiness, were likely to favour sitting as normal.105 The result of this inquiry is rather surprising, for of the eight occasions during this period when Ascension Day (which fell in May) coincided with a meeting of the Commons the House decided to continue sitting only twice.106 The first of these continued sittings was in 1604, when those in favour of pursuing business as usual won by just nine votes, a majority just about large enough to bear out Tobie Matthew’s observation that ‘the House is strong in puritans’ but also ‘small enough to be vulnerable to daily variations in attendance’, as Russell observed.107 The second was in 1628, when the margin in favour of continuing to sit – approximately twelve – was almost as slender.108 Of the six occasions when the House rose for Ascension Day, the majority opinion was evidently so great in five of them that a vote was not deemed necessary. The exception was the Parliament of 1614, when those who wished to continue sitting were trounced by 248 votes to 141 (or 191, depending on which of our sources is the more accurate).109 Clearly, in most of the parliaments of this period, puritans were not in a majority in the lower House, and when they were that majority appears to have been decidedly thin.

This finding is highly significant, since James sometimes ascribed his parliamentary difficulties to puritan Members of the Commons. In a speech delivered to the judges in Star Chamber in June 1616, for instance, James complained of those gentlemen whose ‘puritanical itching after popularity’ had caused them to be ‘too bold of late in the lower House of Parliament’.110 This tendency in James to blame puritans for his parliamentary woes once formed the basis for the view among scholars that puritanism was a revolutionary movement and that the parliamentary conflicts of the early seventeenth century boiled down to a struggle between an Anglican establishment and a puritan opposition. However, like James’s belief that puritans necessarily meant Presbyterians, the notion that opposition to royal policies in Parliament originated exclusively with its puritan Members is misguided. While parliamentary opposition to the Union and impositions certainly included leading puritans like Nicholas Fuller, it also embraced the ecumenically minded Sir Edwin Sandys.111 During the 1620s many puritan Members such as Sir Thomas Hoby, Sir Nathaniel Rich, Christopher Sherland and Henry Sherfield were certainly in the forefront of the opposition to royal policies, but so too were men like Sir Edward Coke and John Selden, neither of whom can be described as puritans by any stretch of the imagination. Prior to 1626, Buckingham’s supporters in the Commons actually included a number of prominent puritans, among them Sir Robert Harley, the patron of several puritan ministers in his native Herefordshire. Clearly, opposition to royal policies in the Commons was never restricted to its puritan Members, and puritans themselves were not always to be found ranged against government ministers.

Although James was mistaken in equating puritanism with opposition, this does not mean that the religious complexion of the Commons played no part in the early Stuarts’ difficulties with their parliaments. Most Protestant Englishmen subscribed to the view that the doctrine of the English Church was essentially Calvinist. At the heart of Calvinist teaching lay the doctrine of predestination, which stated that man’s salvation lay not in faith or good works but in the will of God alone. However, from the 1590s onwards this Calvinist consensus came under attack from a number of churchmen, who argued that all men were potentially capable of salvation. By the mid 1620s these anti-Calvinists, dubbed Arminians by their opponents, were not only influential on the bench of bishops but also in royal circles. Indeed, it has been argued that the accession of Charles I in 1625 occasioned ‘the overthrow of Calvinism’ as Charles, aided and abetted by the duke of Buckingham, not only refused to condemn Arminianism but also proceeded to advance its exponents.

Few Members of the Commons were anti-Calvinists, which is not altogether surprising, as lay Arminians were thin on the ground. Indeed, Nicholas Tyacke has identified only two ‘thoroughgoing Arminians’ in the House during the 1620s, these being the Staffordshire lawyer Richard Dyott and the Northamptonshire squire Richard Spencer, a younger son of the 1st Lord Spencer. He has also noted six other probable supporters of Arminianism, namely Sir Edwin Sandys, Sir Robert Killigrew, Sir Thomas Lake, Nicholas Ferrar, Edward Dowse, and Christopher Brooke. Of these perhaps only Lake, as clear an example of a crypto-Catholic as one can find, seems questionable.112 To this meagre list should also be added Thomas Keightley, a Member of the 1621 Parliament who sent both his sons to Peterhouse, Cambridge during the mastership of the notorious anti-Calvinist John Cosin, and Sir John Scudamore, a Member of four of the five parliaments of the 1620s, a lover of church ritual and a friend of the Arminian bishop (and future archbishop of Canterbury) William Laud. It should also perhaps include Edward Liveley, who sat in both 1624 and 1628-9. Secretary to the Arminian bishop of Durham, Richard Neile (subsequently archbishop of York), Liveley was put in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the religious orthodoxy of his employer in 1628.

Royal support for the Arminians cost the king and his favourite an enormous amount of goodwill in the Commons, since many Members regarded anti-Calvinists as little better than closet Catholics. Indeed, in 1628 the Northampton Member Christopher Sherland declared that the Arminians ‘run in a string with the papists’.113 The duke’s support for Arminianism certainly ate away at Buckingham’s following in the House. Among those who parted company with the royal favourite was the master of the Jewel House, Sir Henry Mildmay, who turned on his former patron in 1628 for lending succour to the Arminians. Faced with a Commons composed almost entirely of Calvinists, Charles had either to abandon his religious policies or do without parliaments. Since he was not willing to sacrifice the former, he ultimately had to give up the latter.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush

End Notes

  • 1. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, v. 190.
  • 2. See Chapter 2.
  • 3. For a discussion of this episode, see Chapter 13.
  • 4. For the exceptions, see T.L. Moir, Addled Parl. 55-7; Rabb, Jacobean Gentleman, 214.
  • 5. The identities of only 31 of the 1,782 Members covered by these volumes are in any doubt: Ralph Assheton; Edward Ayscough; John Bence; Roger Brereton; William Bromley; Thomas Byng; Edward Carr; William Carr; William Chapman; Thomas Cornwallis II; Francis Courtney; Thomas Crompton; Philip Digby; John Drewe; Thomas Gibbs; Christopher Hodson; Thomas Horner; Robert Jones; William Lakes; Edward Littleton I; Roger Manwood; Thomas Preston; Thomas Russell; Edward Thomas; William Thomas; Edmund Scott; Walter Steward; Anthony Turpyn; Thomas Tyndall; John Wilson; John Yaxley.
  • 6. For a detailed examination of Neville’s connections, see the entry on him.
  • 7. Norf. RO, Y/C19/5, f. 83v.
  • 8. Add. 72367, f. 95v.
  • 9. A further 22 were added before the end of the Parliament, but since these were not Members when Chaworth wrote they have been excluded.
  • 10. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, vi. 181.
  • 11. Stuart Royal Proclamations I, 494.
  • 12. For a discussion of this point, see Chapter 2.
  • 13. Moir put the figure at 61%, but he understated the overall number of seats (there were 471 rather than 464) and over-estimated the number of novices, putting them at 281. The figure of 260 excludes Sir John Selby, who was expelled as ineligible, and Roger Manwood and Sir Thomas Tracy, both of whom entered the Commons late in its proceedings. Moir, 55.
  • 14. Neale, Elizabethan House of Commons, 309.
  • 15. See below under ‘Officeholding’.
  • 16. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 408, 436, 444.
  • 17. For a detailed consideration of the inadequacy of royal management of the Commons during this period, see Chapter 13.
  • 18. The Armoury was only ever represented by its master, but he did not sit in 1604-10, 1626 or 1628; the Alienations Office had one or two officials in every Parliament except that of 1625, when it had none at all; and the Mint was represented by either its master or one or two of its wardens in every Parliament apart from 1626. The masters of the Armoury who sat were Sir Thomas Monson, Sir William Cope and Sir Thomas Jay. The Alienations Office was represented in this period by Arthur Atye, Thomas Bond, Michael Hicks, John Suckling and Sir Eubule Thelwall. The officers of the Mint with seats in the Commons were Edmund Doubleday, Sir Robert Harley, Sir Thomas Knyvett, Sir William Parkhurst and Sir Edward Villiers.
  • 19. CJ, i. 692b, 701a, 701b.
  • 20. The herald in 1625 and 1626 was Borough; in 1628-9 it was John Philipot.
  • 21. These figures include only the officers belonging to the departments controlled by the lord steward and lord chamberlain. If officials employed under the master of the horse are also counted then two more officials should be added to the lists for 1614 and 1621, and perhaps one more to the figure for 1624.
  • 22. Sir William Croft, Sir Ralph Clare and Sir Francis Stewart. For a further discussion, see Chapter 13.
  • 23. There were, for instance, eleven such cases in the Parliament of 1604-10: Adolphus Carey; Edward Duncombe; John Good; George Jeffery; Robert Lawley; Samuel Lewknor; Sir John Pulteney; William Rolle; Sir Robert Townshend; John Trott, and George Upton.
  • 24. There are eleven doubtful cases: Sir Peregrine Bertie, who may still have been an officer in Dutch service; Charles Danvers, who is known to have been a manorial steward by 1615; Sir Richard Edgcumbe, whose membership of Cornwall’s sewer commission may not have ended; John Eyton, who became a magistrate at around this time; John Harris I, who may still have been a member of Liskeard’s corporation; Thomas Hitchcock, whose only position appears to have been that of bencher of his inn; Henry Mervyn, who may still have been a captain in the local militia; Sir Sidney Montagu, who was possibly still steward of Kimbolton manor; Sir Carew Reynell; and Sir Thomas Roe, who is known to have been a gentleman of the privy chamber by 1615.
  • 25. Chapter 2.
  • 26. Sir Henry Neville II, whose father was ennobled in May 1604, and Richard Cecil, whose father became earl of Exeter in 1605.
  • 27. Henry Carey; Sir Edmund Carey; Sir William Cavendish I; William Cecil; Sir John Grey; Sir John Harington; Theophilus Howard, Lord Howard de Walden; Sir Thomas Howard; Henry Rich; Sir Robert Rich; Sir Francis Russell.
  • 28. Procs. 1628, vi. 135.
  • 29. K. Wrightson, English Soc. 1580-1680, pp. 134-5. For a contemporary comment on the prosperity of many yeomen farmers, see T. Wilson, ‘The State of Eng.’, in Cam. Misc. XVI (Cam. Soc. 3rd ser. lii), 38-9.
  • 30. Wilson, ‘The State of Eng.’, 23.
  • 31. CSP Ven. 1615-17, p. 245.
  • 32. L. Jardine and A. Stewart, Hostage to Fortune, 417-18.
  • 33. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. Knowler, i. 505.
  • 34. Cent. Kent. Stud., U350 E/4, unfol. entry of 22 Jan. 1619.
  • 35. HP Commons 1558-1603, iii. 188.
  • 36. See Chapter 2.
  • 37. C2/Chas.I/P88/42.
  • 38. CJ, i. 430b.
  • 39. Sir Henry Crofts; Walter Devereux; Sidney Godolphin; Sir William Goring, 1st bt.; John Manners; Roger Manwood; Allan Percy; John Thorowgood.
  • 40. There are about 437 Members in this category (24.5% of the whole), a figure which excludes those known to have undergone an apprenticeship or to have undertaken a tour of the Continent.
  • 41. In view of the problem posed by namesakes it is impossible to be more precise. Discounting honorary admissions, a minimum of 891 (50%) and a maximum of 929 (52%) Members attended Oxford or Cambridge.
  • 42. Precision is, as always, impossible, but discounting honorary admissions the minimum number is 939 (52.7%) and the maximum about 952 (53.4%).
  • 43. The other Members known to have enrolled there are Sir Richard Grenville (who admittedly did so after his stint in the Commons); Robert Greville; Lewis Morgan; Sir William Paddy; and Francis Rous. Piers Edgcumbe and Sir Edward Vere may also have attended.
  • 44. For a nice example of an inquiry which seems to have been carried out with just this suspicion in mind, see HALS, Hatfield sessions rolls vol. 2, no. 8, question and deposition dated 28 Oct. 1589. Those Members known to have enrolled at Padua during this period are Sir Nicholas Carew; Sir Edward Cecil; Sir Clippesby Crewe; Sir John Danvers; Piers Edgcumbe; Sir Thomas Finch; Sir John Gibson; Sir William Godolphin; Sir John Grey; Nathaniel Hobart; Henry Frederick Howard; Richard Leveson; William Lytton; Robert Mason II; Sir Dudley North; Algernon Percy; Sir John Suckling; Sir Robert Tracy; Samuel Turner; Sir Isaac Wake; Jerome Weston; Ralph Winwood; Sir Henry Wotton. The admissions of Wake and Wotton were clearly honorary.
  • 45. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 405.
  • 46. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, v. 190.
  • 47. HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 20.
  • 48. A further ten merchants were admitted over the course of the Parliament, though in a couple of cases these replaced merchant-Members who had been elected in 1604.
  • 49. In 1624, 37 merchant-Members are certainly known to have sat; two other Members who may have been merchants – John Bence and George Hardware – also had seats. Roger Mathew, who was returned for Dartmouth in December 1624, never took his seat and therefore has been excluded. In 1625 there were 38 merchant-Members, excluding Sir William Hewett, whose mercantile activity appears to have been limited to the earlier part of his career. There were also 38 merchant-Members in 1626.
  • 50. R. Brenner, Merchants and Revolution, 202-11.
  • 51. Ibid. 205, 230-3. See also the London constituency article for further details.
  • 52. The 14 London merchants elected in 1628 were: Joseph Bradshaw; James Bunce; Christopher Clitherow; William Coxe; Sir Baptist Hicks; Robert Jenner; George Lowe; Thomas Morice; Sir Thomas Moulson; Hugh Myddelton; William Rolfe; John Rolle; William Towerson I; and Henry Waller. The seven London merchants returned in 1626 were Maurice Abbot; Robert Bateman; William Coxe; Sir Baptist Hicks; George Lowe; Hugh Myddelton; and Sir Thomas Myddelton I.
  • 53. Add. 72367, f. 95v.
  • 54. The Member who died in 1606 was Sir Robert Stapleton, who had served as a volunteer in the Low Countries in 1585-6. The Member who was ennobled was Sir Oliver St. John, a former colonel of foot in Ireland. Those with military experience who entered the chamber in 1610 were Sir Edward Conway I, Sir Henry Helmes, Sir Francis Howard and Sir Thomas Vavasour. Clement Edmondes, who also became a Member in 1610, was a keen student of military strategy and published on the subject, but though he is known to have witnessed the battle of Nieuwpoort in 1600 he is not thought to have had any experience in the field himself.
  • 55. CJ, i. 441a, 441b.
  • 56. Leics. RO, BRII/1/4.
  • 57. S.J. Payling, ‘The Rise of Lawyers in the Lower House 1395-1536’, PH, xxiii. 104-6, 117.
  • 58. HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 20. Loach thought that the proportions rose from 16% to 27%. In fact, these figures describe only the increase in lawyers as a proportion of borough Members during this period: cf. J. Loach, Parls. under the Tudors, 38; HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 56.
  • 59. See Chapter 3.
  • 60. HP Commons 1660-90, i. 8, 10.
  • 61. Levack understates the number of civilians in the House because he has overlooked members in the lower reaches of this branch of the profession, like Henry Dade, deputy vice admiral (and later judge) of Suffolk, who sat in 1614, and Michael Purefoy, deputy official to the archdeacon of Nottingham, who sat in 1621. B.P. Levack, The Civil Lawyers in Eng. 1603-41, pp. 45-6.
  • 62. Levack understates the number of civilians in the House because he has overlooked members in the lower reaches of this branch of the profession, like Henry Dade, deputy vice admiral (and later judge) of Suffolk, who sat in 1614, and Michael Purefoy, deputy official to the archdeacon of Nottingham, who sat in 1621. B.P. Levack, The Civil Lawyers in Eng. 1603-41, pp. 45-6.
  • 63. John Plomer may have been a lawyer, as he was, perhaps, joint registrar of the Canterbury High Commission.
  • 64. Minehead’s two seats are excluded from this total, because during this Parliament the borough found itself temporarily disfranchised.
  • 65. Moir’s claim that there were only 48 lawyers in the 1614 House of Commons is false: Moir, 57. Excluding Anthony Dyott and William Cage, both of whom were elected late in the session, there were 72 barristers, five trainee barristers, six civilians, five attorneys and two others (William Courtman and William Gregory).
  • 66. This figure includes Thomas Wentworth of Henley, who was deemed by the Commons to have been returned for the borough of Oxford on 9 Feb., shortly after the Parliament opened.
  • 67. Nathaniel Hobart, who replaced his brother after the latter plumped for another constituency, has been included, but Robert Heath, who was unseated on the grounds that as attorney-general he was ineligible, and Walter Long, who was returned at a by-election in March, have both been omitted. It is unclear whether the Thomas Horner who sat for Minehead was the trainee barrister of this name.
  • 68. Robert Mason II, who was unseated on 10 Mar., never sat and has therefore been excluded.
  • 69. It is unclear whether William Puxton, who attended Barnard’s Inn and served as under-sheriff of Wiltshire in 1623, was a lawyer.
  • 70. It has not been established whether the Thomas Horner who sat for Minehead was the trainee barrister of this name.
  • 71. ‘State of Eng.’ ed. F.J. Fisher, in Cam. Misc. XVI (Cam. Soc. 3rd ser. lii), 25.
  • 72. SP14/1/68. Since it is expressed in a document about the grievances of the commonwealth, this concern for the employment of civil lawyers points to the possibility that the author was the admiralty court judge Sir Julius Caesar, the most senior civil lawyer in the royal administration.
  • 73. Levack, 43, 45-6, 61. Levack’s list of civil lawyers elected in 1597 and 1601 omits the ecclesiastical lawyer George Paule.
  • 74. Ibid. 62-3.
  • 75. SP14/7/82.
  • 76. CJ, i. 979a.
  • 77. Lansd. 213, f. 15v; HP Commons 1386-1421, i. 56-7, 171. For further contemporary evidence of hostility towards lawyers, see Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 256.
  • 78. Stuart Royal Proclamations I, 494.
  • 79. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 328.
  • 80. Add. 37818, f. 51r-v.
  • 81. For a list of the known refusers and defaulters, see Appendix IV. I am grateful to Simon Healy for compiling this list, which excludes the names of those whose opposition fell short of refusing to pay or to serve as a Loan commissioner.
  • 82. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 7.
  • 83. Unlike the previous table, this includes lawyers elected at by-elections. However, unless (like Sir Julius Caesar) they also went through one of the Inns of Court the civilians are necessarily omitted, as are several men whose training seems to have been restricted to one or other of the Inns of Chancery (like the attorney John Kent, who never progressed beyond Barnard’s Inn).
  • 84. The reason for the uncertainty in respect of the figures for Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn is that the identity of the 1624 Stamford Member Edward Ayscough is unclear, there being two barristers with this name, one at Lincoln’s Inn and the other at Gray’s Inn.
  • 85. The reason for the uncertainty in respect of the figures for Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn is that the identity of the 1624 Stamford Member Edward Ayscough is unclear, there being two barristers with this name, one at Lincoln’s Inn and the other at Gray’s Inn.
  • 86. W.R. Prest, The Inns of Court 1590-1640, pp. 10-11.
  • 87. R.W. Kenny, ‘The Parliamentary Influence of Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, 1536-1624’, JMH, xxxix. 229, 231-2. For a further discussion of the relationship between Members of the Commons and their aristocratic patrons see Chapter 14.
  • 88. Sir William Button (Morpeth); Henry Byng (Sudbury); Huntington Colby (Eye); Henry Dade (Dunwich); Sir Roger Dallison (Malmesbury); Sir John Eyre (Cricklade); Arnold Herbert (Morpeth); Henry Howard (Derbyshire); Thomas Howard (Wiltshire); Sir Thomas Monson (Cricklade); Meredith Morgan (Berwick); Sir John Strangways (Dorset); Sir Simeon Steward (Shaftesbury); and Arthur Turnor (Derby). Sir Miles Sandys, 1st bt. should probably be added to this list, as he was returned for Shaftesbury, almost certainly on Suffolk’s interest, though he eventually decided to serve for Cambridge University.
  • 89. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections 1604-40, p. 124.
  • 90. James Bagg II (East Looe); William Beecher (Ilchester; not returned until mid March); Sir Dudley Carleton (Hastings); Sir John Coke (Cambridge University); Sir Thomas Compton (East Grinstead); Sir Edward Conway II (Yarmouth, Isle of Wight); Sir Miles Fleetwood (Newton); Thomas Fotherley (Rye); Sir George Goring (Lewes); Richard Graham (Carlisle); Sir John Gill (Minehead); Sir Robert Harley (Herefordshire); Sir John Hippisley (Dover); Sir Henry Hungate (Newport); Henry Jermyn (Bodmin); Sir Thomas Jermyn (Bury St. Edmunds); Sir Robert Killigrew (Tregony); Robert Mason II (Ludgershall; unseated 10 Mar.); Reginald Mohun (Lostwithiel); Sir Robert Pye (Westminster); Walter Pye I (Herefordshire); Sir Edwin Sandys (Penryn); Sir Nicholas Saunders (Winchelsea); Sir John Savile (Yorkshire); Edward Savage II (St. Ives); Sir Richard Strode (Bridport); Sir William Russell (New Windsor); and Sir Richard Weston (Bodmin).
  • 91. P.M. Hunneyball, ‘Prince Charles’s Council as Electoral Agent, 1620-24’, PH, xxxiii. 316-35.
  • 92. R.L. Sgroi, ‘The Electoral Patronage of the Duchy of Lancaster 1604-28’, PH, xxvi. 318.
  • 93. M.L. Walker, ‘Manor of Batailles and the Fam. of Saunder in Ewell during the 16th and 17th Centuries’, Surr. Arch. Colls. liv. 97; CJ, i. 776b. Questions nevertheless remain concerning Saunders’ religion, since he owed his seat to the Catholic lord of the manor of Gatton, William Copley.
  • 94. Glanville, Reps. of Certain Cases (1775), pp. 16, 23.
  • 95. HP Commons 1558-1603, i. 29-30.
  • 96. CSP Ven. 1607-10, p. 445.
  • 97. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 306.
  • 98. CJ, i. 457b.
  • 99. Eight were common to both assemblies: Sir Thomas Canon; Sir Henry Compton;Edward Fraunceys; Sir Arthur Lake; Sir Thomas Lake II; John Monson; Henry Spiller; and Sir Richard Weston. Those who sat only in 1625 were Sir Francis Cottington; Francis Courtenay; Richard Erdeswick; Thomas Hughes; Sir Richard Molyneux II; John Monson; Sir Thomas Riddell; and William Russell of Strensham. Those who sat only in 1626 were Sir Edward Bishopp; Emmanuel Giffard; Henry Lovell; Sir William Monson; Sir Nicholas Saunders; and Samuel Turner.
  • 100. Sir Thomas Canon; Sir Francis Cottington; Sir Henry Compton; Henry Frederick Howard, Lord Maltravers; Sir Thomas Lake II; Sir Thomas Riddell; Sir Richard Molyneux II; Henry Spiller; Richard Tufton; and Jerome Weston. Of these ten, doubt exists in the cases of Cottington, Maltravers, Tufton and Weston.
  • 101. Procs. 1626, iii. 7. For a pithy summary of the changing meaning of the word ‘Puritan’ in this period, see N. Tyacke, ‘Puritanism, Arminianism and Counter-Revolution’, in The Origins of the English Civil War ed. C. Russell, 120-1.
  • 102. C. Russell, The Causes of the English Civil War, 85.
  • 103. Russell, James VI and I and his English Parls. (forthcoming).
  • 104. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 99; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 179.
  • 105. Russell, James VI and I and his English Parls. (forthcoming).
  • 106. The question on whether to sit on Ascension Day did not arise in 1625 or 1629, nor did it arise in 1606, as Ascension Day fell on 29 May, two days after the prorogation.
  • 107. CJ, i. 972b; A Collection of Letters, made by Sir Tobie Mathews (1660), p. 293; Russell, James VI and I and his English Parls. (forthcoming). The Venetian ambassador, Nicolo Molin, writing in 1605, also thought that the Parliament was ‘full of Puritans’, but the usefulness of his observation is marred by the fact that he also thought that Puritans were not Calvinists. CSP Ven. 1603-7, pp. 285, 511. For a valuable discussion of the dangers of taking at face value statements by Catholic ambassadors describing the Commons as ‘Puritan’, see Russell, PEP, 25-6.
  • 108. CJ, i. 901b.
  • 109. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 405, 409; HMC Portland, ix. 136.
  • 110. King James VI and I: Political Writings ed. J.P. Sommerville, 222.
  • 111. For this reason it is difficult to take seriously the Venetian ambassador’s observation, made in May 1607, that the Puritans ‘include the chief opponents of the Union’: CSP Ven. 1603-7, p. 501.
  • 112. N. Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism c.1590-1640, pp. 8, 145. Tyacke does not say to which Sir Thomas Lake he refers, but it is presumably to the former secretary of state rather than the latter’s eldest son.
  • 113. Russell, PEP, 379.