Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 3,000


17 Apr. 1660JOHN BRAMSTON 
 Sir Harbottle Grimston, Bt. 
 Oliver Raymond 
 Sir John Barrington, Bt. 
 Oliver Raymond 
17 Mar. 1663HON. BANASTRE MAYNARD vice Ayloffe, deceased 
12 Aug. 1679HENRY MILDMAY1592
 Sir Thomas Middleton III754
 Sir Eliab Harvey6691
22 Feb. 1681HENRY MILDMAY 
 Henry Mildmay13422
 Anthony Luther 
15 Jan. 1689HENRY MILDMAY1437
 John Lamotte Honeywood13023

Main Article

Events in Essex during this period are well-reported, thanks to the autobiography of John Bramston, who played a prominent part in Essex politics throughout, and to the nearness of Chelmsford, the county town, to London, which ensured maximum publicity for the hotly contested election to the second Exclusion Parliament. In 1660 Bramston and Edward Turnor stood as Anglicans and Royalists, whose records were beyond the scope of the Long Parliament ordinance against the election of Cavaliers or their sons. According to Bramston’s own account:

All that had been active as justices of the peace, committee men, sequestrators, etc. opposed, and the clergymen also, the generality of which were in sequestered livings, or in no orders, not many in Presbyterian orders. But the nobility and gentry laboured so in the places where they lived that they inclined the major part of the freeholders (and my neighbours were to a man for me) to make choice of men well affected to peace. The other party set up Sir Harbottle Grimston and one Mr Raymond, and a great contest there was. The Earl of Warwick laboured so hard at the election, and the weather being hot, put himself with fretting into a fever and was let blood.

Turnor was so dismayed that he was prepared to quit the field, and Bramston’s friends offered to divide the county with Grimston. But Warwick replied that he would have both his candidates elected, or neither.

The Earl of Warwick mistook his strength, supposing, because so many of the nobility and gentry were against him, that the numbers on our side were swelled by the servants and attendants of those noblemen and gentlemen, more than by freeholders having voices.

Bramston finished at the top of the poll, with a majority over Grimston of five hundred, and Tumor took the second seat. The Essex Royalists acclaimed the election of two ‘men of great integrity’, and 33 of them improved the occasion by signing a declaration abjuring animosity towards their opponents, which was presented to General George Monck two days later by their leaders, Sir Benjamin Ayloffe and Sir Edmund Peirce.4

At the 1661 election Warwick was ordered by the King not to oppose Bramston. ‘He appeared not, but he sent all he could against me.’ Under normal conditions Turnor’s modest estate was unequal to the dignity of a county seat. He transferred to Hertford, and was replaced as court candidate by Ayloffe. When the county court met, Grimston and Raymond were again nominated for the country party; but it happened to be assize time, and after the reading of the writ and a few hours’ polling the election was adjourned for a fortnight. In the interval Grimston decided to confine his ambitions to Colchester, and when the court met again he had been replaced as candidate by Sir John Barrington. But, as Bramston wrote:

I had started the first day before any of the rest; [so] that none came near me in number by very many. Sir Benjamin Ayloffe carried it with much difficulty; he had not above five or six votes more than the most of the others.

On Ayloffe’s death two years later, the county’s choice fell on Banastre Maynard, the son of a parliamentarian peer now turned courtier. Himself a colourless figure, he enjoyed good relations with the dissenters, and his election, probably unopposed, suggests that the tide had begun to turn.5

At the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, Maynard retired and Bramston transferred himself to the more manageable constituency of Maldon. It was reported that Sir William Wiseman and Sir Thomas Fanshawe II would stand as court candidates, but at the first general election of 1679 Sir Eliab Harvey and Henry Mildmay, both ‘very adverse to the Court’, were returned unopposed. During the summer the Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck) succeeded in splitting the opposition by persuading Harvey to stand with the moderate Sir Thomas Middleton against the radical Mildmay. The contest which followed was fully described in two pamphlets representing the court and country views respectively. It is clear that the presence of the peers Lord Grey of Warke and Lord Chandos, and their followers, was vital to the country party. Rival cavalcades were organized, Albemarle’s including ‘most of the knights and gentlemen’ and about two hundred of the clergy. If contemporary accounts are to be believed there must have been some eight thousand present at the election, only a third of whom were voters. It was not until the reading of the writ that Mildmay nominated John Lamotte Honeywood, Wiseman’s son-in-law, as the second country candidate. They were greeted with cries of ‘A Mildmay, a Mildmay, and no courtier nor pensioner’, and ‘A Honeywood, a Honeywood, a good Protestant’. The polling lasted three days in the middle of August; but when the freemen were reminded of the harvest, they replied that ‘they would rather trust God with their corn than trust the devil to choose their Parliament men’. Mildmay’s supporters, it was alleged, spoke disrespectfully of their betters, calling Albemarle a devil, and they certainly attacked the behaviour of the clergy, which they ascribed to intoxication. But no more serious disorder is reported than the pulling of Mildmay’s nose by Turnor’s son. The result was a crushing defeat for the Court by over two to one. When the poll was announced Grey thanked the freeholders for their ‘gallant carriage and behaviour’, and in particular for paying their own election expenses, a necessary gesture, as Mildmay had resolved to be at no charge. In January the two successful candidates presented a petition for the meeting of Parliament; but although Charles saw with regret that many gentlemen had signed it, they had failed to gain the assent of the grand jury, who formally ‘abhorred’ it. Nevertheless the sitting Members were re-elected unopposed to the Oxford Parliament.6

The grand jury again produced a loyal address in July 1681, pledging themselves to serve to defend Church and King against the nonconformists, and in 1683 Grey advised his fellow conspirators that even Mildmay would prove a broken reed if a rebellion were contemplated. A Tory pamphlet of 1684 called upon ‘all persons in ... Essex to be as unanimous in the election of loyal and serviceable Members, for the service of their King and country, as Oates and his party are industrious to promote those of the dissenting faction’. It declared that the Whigs were confident that Mildmay would be elected, and with him either John Eldred or Anthony Luther of Kelvedon Hatch. Bramston refused nomination as court candidate in 1685, when Mildmay and Luther were opposed by Fanshawe and Sir William Maynard, from a cadet branch of the family. On 26 Mar. a correspondent wrote to Sunderland offering to send 35 Harwich freeholders to vote against Mildmay if their expenses were paid, and Albemarle mustered a number of ‘Colchester gentlemen’. At Chelmsford the court cavalcade was joined by the Roman Catholic Lord Petre ‘with a great number of gentlemen, his kinsmen, his tenants and other freeholders, his neighbours’, about 300 in all. There was a slight hitch when it was discovered that Mildmay had occupied the bench at the Sessions House, but the obliging sheriff speedily dislodged him by adjourning the court, first to the field and then back to the Sessions House where Albemarle’s men proceeded to occupy the bench. Provision had been made for the usual two or three days’ poll; but when Bramston returned from a snack lunch on the first day, he found the Whig candidates, with all their supporters already polled, over 500 votes behind, whereas the Tories ‘had at least five hundred in town that had not given their votes’. After Maynard’s death a writ for a by-election was ordered on 9 Nov., and canvassing began on behalf of his namesake, the younger brother of Banastre Maynard, but owing to the prorogation no election was held.7

In the first report of James II’s electoral agents in 1688 it was stated that the Church interest depended wholly upon Fanshawe and William Maynard, while the dissenters relied on Banastre Maynard, Mildmay, and Richard Stane of Kelvedon, ‘or any two of them, who by his Majesty’s recommendation it is hoped and believed will carry it’. Mildmay, however, had other ideas, and resolved to join his interest with the churchman William Maynard, who, together with Harvey, enjoyed the support of the Presbyterians. But most of the dissenters, it was now reported, and the Roman Catholics proposed to choose (Sir) Josiah Child and the republican enthusiast Col. Nathaniel Rich, whom Bramston styled ‘a leveller, or at least a commonwealth’s man’. In this confused situation the King’s agents declared in September that ‘the county have their eye upon Col. Mildmay. The dis senters conclude that he is right, having signified as much to several of them.’ But it is clear that Mildmay had not publicly committed himself to support James’s religious policy. Alternative court candidates were suggested: William Maynard, Luther, and Sir Gobert Barrington. The two last, it was said, were right, and would carry the election ‘if Col. Mildmay do not oppose’. The Tories too had their problems, for John Wroth, ‘a blustering country justice and a gentleman grazier’, had taken a pique against Maynard, and boasted that his ‘candidature would cost Mildmay five hundred votes’.8

In the event Fanshawe and William Maynard, the Tory candidates designate, withdrew before the poll in 1689, and it might have been expected that the Whigs would carry both seats in a constituency with such a tradition of hostility to the Stuarts. The election was fixed for 10 Jan., when about 1,200 Whig supporters appeared, and after an hour, with no opposition visible, ‘two chairs were brought to carry Col. Mildmay and Mr Honeywood’. At this juncture Wroth, who had gained prestige during the Revolution by assisting in the escape of Princess Anne, arrived and demanded a poll. His original party was estimated at only 200; but after five days’ polling (with a break for Sunday) he had nosed out Honeywood by 26 votes. Mildmay, who had a comfortable lead of 200, suggested closing the poll to prevent further adjournments, though he had not voted himself. The coroners appear to have controlled the election without difficulty. Some of Mildmay’s followers, who were ‘very outrageous’, had their fingers rapped, and ‘a parcel of Quakers’, who refused to swear that they were freeholders, were excluded. When the result was announced, and Wroth chaired in triumph, the ‘rabble’ shouted for Honeywood, but Mildmay told them: ‘It is a fair election, and therefore hold your tongues’. Honeywood petitioned on the grounds that some of his supporters had been unable to vote, and even the Tory Bramston admitted that Wroth would have been defeated ‘if great art had not been used, and also great diligence’. But Mildmay ‘gave a large account’ to the elections committee, Sir Richard Temple reported in favour of the sitting Member, and the House upheld the return. A petition from the Essex freeholders led to the appointment of a committee to bring in a bill to regulate elections, to which Mildmay was named; but it was never reported. 9

Authors: Gillian Hampson / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Essex's Excellency (1679).
  • 2. Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 178.
  • 3. CJ, x. 75.
  • 4. Bramston, 114-15; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 670; Declaration and Address of the Gentry (1660).
  • 5. Bramston, 119-20.
  • 6. BL, M636/32, John to Sir Ralph Verney, 19 Feb. 1679; Josselin Diary (Cam. Soc. ser. 3), xv. 176; Beaufort mss, Lord to Lady Worcester, 22 Feb. 1679; Essex’s Excellency; A Faithful and Impartial Account of a Party of the Essex Freeholders (1679); EHR, xlv. 557-60; Jones, First Whigs, 97-98; HMC 7th Rep. 474; London Gazette, 26 Jan. 1680; HMC Le Fleming, 165; Newdigate-Newdegate, Cavalier and Puritan, 132; Essex Rev. xliii. 194-7.
  • 7. A.C. Edwards, Eng. Hist. from Essex Sources (Essex RO xvii) 101; EHR, xlv. 561; The Essexian Triumviri (1684); Bramston 163-4, 172, 175-8; HMC Buccleuch, i. 344; CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 108-9; CJ, ix. 756, Eg. 2650, f. 144.
  • 8. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 407, 409-10; Bramston, 316-18, 325; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 142, 239, 273, 322; Ailesbury Mems. 191.
  • 9. CJ, x. 35, 75-77; Bramston, 346.