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:

over 2,700 in 1698


3 Apr. 1666(SIR) HENRY CAESAR vice Fanshawe, deceased
4 Apr. 1668JAMES CECIL, Visct. Cranborne vice Caesar, deceased
11 Nov. 1669WILLIAM HALE vice Cranborne, called to the Upper House
19 Feb. 1679SILIUS TITUS
 Ralph Freman
 Sir Thomas Byde
27 Mar. 1685RALPH FREMAN

Main Article

Hertfordshire had been a strongly parliamentarian county during the war, and the few royalist families, like the Fanshawes, were in rapid decay. The electorate showed a considerable degree of sophistication, and there was no predominant aristocratic or gentry interest. Even the heir to Hatfield could not secure election without heavy expenditure. Dissent was strong in Hertfordshire, and the Quakers particularly were an electoral force to be reckoned with. A letter from a royalist agent of 6 Apr. 1660 suggests that the Cavalier Robert Slingsby of Newsells, may have defied the Long Parliament ordinance by standing at the general election of 1660. But the successful candidates were Rowland Lytton, who had represented the county in the second and third Protectorate Parliaments, and Henry Caesar, who had held no office until the return of the secluded Members. The Restoration brought Lytton’s political career to an abrupt end, and even imposed a temporary check on the Caesar interest. It is not known whether Caesar stood in 1661, though an entry of £70 15s.6d. in the Hatfield accounts for election expenses suggests a contest. The successful candidates were Sir Richard Franklin, the son of a Parliamentarian, but not himself embarrassed by any political record, and Sir Thomas Fanshawe I, an ultra-Royalist whose loyalty was to bring him an Irish peerage. Later in the year Samuel Pepys observed that the Baldock Quakers ‘do still continue and rather grow than lessen’, and a letter of complaint from the Hon. William Willoughby, read by Fanshawe on 29 Apr. 1663, provoked the House to appoint a committee to recommend measures to prevent their meetings. Several Quakers were ‘men of estates and repute’, and apparently there was some reluctance to prosecute them at this time. There seems to have been a contest with an unidentified court candidate at the by-election on Fanshawe’s death, but Caesar regained the seat, supported by an alliance of the Anglican conformists, including Sir Harbottle Grimston, and the local dissenters. This was despite the furious opposition of Lord Fanshawe (Thomas Fanshawe), son of the deceased Member, who declared that he would ‘make all those gentlemen sheriffs successively that gave their voices for Sir Henry Caesar’. On 29 Feb. 1668, after Caesar’s death, the House directed the Speaker not to sign the writ till Thursday next ‘to prevent any surprise’. The contest was between an unidentified high-flyer for Church and prerogative and Lord Cranborne, the grandson and heir of the 2nd Earl of Salisbury. Even the King took an interest, remarking how the Quakers were willing to swear to their property qualification in order to vote ‘in behalf of one they have a mind to have’. Doubtless Cranborne benefited from their support, but his grandfather’s steward complained that ‘our rotten election ... cost us near £1,200, and without extraordinary supplies will starve us before Michaelmas’. It is to be hoped that Cranborne thought the experience worth the price, for within eight months he succeeded to the peerage.1

At the ensuing by-election in 1669, William Hale, who had just succeeded to a modest estate in the county, was successful. ‘A discreet country gentleman’ with substantial City interests, his character commanded universal respect, and he was urged to stand for re-election at the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament; but for reasons of health he was unwilling. Silius Titus, the other country candidate, was dismayed at his withdrawal, especially as the court candidate, Ralph Freman, was reckoned ‘sure’. Nevertheless, he was so far engaged that he did not know how ‘to make a handsome retreat’. When at the hustings it was seen that ‘150 or 200 Papists’ appeared for Freman, ‘the freeholders took notice of it and chose Hale’. Two opposition candidates were thus returned despite all the Court could do to prevent it. On 12 July 1679, Sir Charles Caesar, who as Member for Hertford had abstained from the exclusion division, wrote to Hale:

I doubt not but if you please to stand for the county you will be chosen without any opposition, and your charge as easy as you please. My interest is all at your service, and I beg you leave to inform my friends and neighbours that you will stand. My cousin Freman is in London but will be down tomorrow if he puts in again. I hope you will join your interest with his. As to Col. Titus I had rather serve him in Huntingdonshire than here. I am confident that he will be opposed if he stand for this county.

This time, however, Hale was adamant, declaring that ‘if they will choose him, he will not serve, but go travel beyond sea’, and Caesar stood in his place. Meanwhile the intriguer Sir Robert Peyton was spreading the rumour that Caesar and Titus, a notorious political chameleon, had in fact voted against exclusion, and it was reported that the electors were resolved against them ‘for his ill behaviour’ in that respect. Titus accepted Caesar’s advice and transferred to Huntingdonshire, where his Ramsey estate gave him a more substantial interest. As far as is known, Freman did not stand, but two exclusionists, Sir Jonathan Keate and Sir Thomas Byde, both newcomers to the county, disputed the election with Caesar, and Byde was defeated. The Earl of Essex and the Earl of Salisbury (James Cecil) recommended Hale ‘who is now willing to serve’, and Titus in 1681, but a gentry meeting rejected the latter and resolved upon Caesar and Hale, who were duly elected.2

In 1685 Sunderland wrote to the 2nd Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck) that ‘his Majesty would have you direct your tenants at Theobalds to give their votes for Mr Freman and Mr [Thomas] Halsey ... of whose loyalty he is very well satisfied’, and both these staunch Tories were returned, apparently unopposed. Caesar regained his seat in the election to the Convention, his partner being another strong Whig, Sir Thomas Pope Blount, who had represented St. Albans in the Exclusion Parliaments.3

Authors: E. R. Edwards / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. VCH Herts. iv. 356-7; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 643; EHR, lxxi. 387; Pepys Diary, 6 Aug. 1661, 4 Apr. 1668; CJ, viii. 473; ix. 58; HMC Verulam, 63, 70.
  • 2. Chauncy, Herts. ii. 207; Add. 29557, f. 113v; 33573, f. 126; Bodl. Carte 228, f. 134; Beaufort mss, Lord to Lady Worcester, 20 Feb. 1679; BL, M636/33, John to Sir Ralph Verney, 28 Aug. 1679; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 20; Grey, viii. 140; HMC Lindsey, 30; Dom. Intell. 5 Sept. 1679; Herts. RO, D/ELW/F29/4, James to Jacob Wittewronge, 2 Feb. 1681.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 79.