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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:



  Double return of Boscawen and Robartes. BOSCAWEN seated, 5 May 1660
  Double return. ARUNDELL and BOSCAWEN seated, 16 May 1661
2 Oct. 1666HON. JOHN ARUNDELL vice Nicholas Arundell, deceased
 Hon. Hender Robartes
 Sir Thomas Littleton, 2nd Bt.
 Thomas Cooke
  Double return. ASHHURST and VINCENT seated, 2 Feb. 1689

Main Article

Although the freemen of Truro made repeated attempts to claim the franchise, all the elections in this period were decided on the votes of the corporation, consisting of the mayor, the recorder, four aldermen and 20 ‘capital burgesses’. This body also nominated the stannators of Tywarnwhaile. Until the surrender of the charter in 1684 the Presbyterian Hugh Boscawen dominated the corporation, which obediently returned his brother Edward to five Parliaments. But the Robartes family, though they had long ceased to reside in the town, retained the support of the freemen. Both families had been strong supporters of Parliament in the Civil War. The only royalist interest of any weight in the constituency lay with the Arundells of Trerice, who were precluded from standing in 1660 by the Long Parliament ordinance. There was no opposition offered to Walter Vincent, a thriving lawyer who lived in the town; although his father had been a Royalist, he had himself represented the borough in the second and third Protectorate Parliaments. The mayor returned him with Edward Boscawen, and on 5 May the House seated them on the merits of the return. A second indenture, naming Vincent and Hender Robartes as elected by the freemen, was finally rejected on 20 June, on the grounds that ‘the mayor and the four-and-twenty, without the freemen, have right to elect’. Only 17 of the corporation had signed the return, which suggests that the Robartes interest was not yet dead. In 1661, however, the family withdrew to the safer boroughs of Bodmin and Bossiney, and left two strangers to contest Truro with the other interests. William Brereton was probably recommended to Lord Robartes by his Presbyterian father-in-law, Lord Willoughby of Parham. For the youthful Arthur Trevor the intermediary may have been Ormonde, since his father Marcus, after a career remarkable even by local standards for time-serving, had been sworn of the Irish Privy Council, and was raised to the peerage as Viscount Dungannon in the following year. Nicholas Arundell, a younger son who had been an active Cavalier, was returned by the corporation with Boscawen, but only the mayor and 11 ‘burgesses’ signed the indenture. There may have been some cross-voting, since Arundell’s supporters would probably have preferred Trevor on political grounds. Another double return followed, with some 180 freemen signing an indenture for Brereton and Trevor. The House seated Arundell and Boscawen on 16 May, and on 20 July confirmed the resolution of the previous year on the franchise. When Arundell died in 1666, the corporation unanimously elected his nephew John, though he was only 17 years of age.1

John Arundell, blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters, is unlikely to have stood in the Exclusion elections. In 1679 Edward Boscawen was twice returned with his nephew William by ‘unanimous assent and consent’, though with only 11 signatures. In fact Hender Robartes seems to have stood again in the first election, though like the Boscawens he was probably an exclusionist at the time. William Boscawen died on 21 Nov. 1680, but no writ was issued for a by-election. The second Boscawen nominee in 1681 was Henry Ashhurst, a Presbyterian merchant from London closely associated with Titus Oates. His candidature aroused such enthusiam in the corporation that the number of signatures on the indenture rose to 18, a record for the period. Again ‘unanimous assent and consent’ was claimed, but on 25 Mar. a petition from Sir Thomas Littleton, 2nd Bt., and a certain Thomas Cooke was referred to the elections committee. Littleton, one of the board of Admiralty, had also been returned for a safe government borough in the Isle of Wight, and he may have been nominated by the Robartes interest, now in alliance with the Court, to lend lustre to the candidature of Cooke, perhaps one of a minor gentry family residing in the shadow of the Arundells at Trerice. But no report was made from the elections committee before the Oxford Parliament was dissolved. The corporation sent no loyal addresses approving the dissolution or abhorring the ‘Association’; they did abhor the Rye House Plot in 1683, but were compelled to surrender their charter in the following year.2

In the new charter of 1685 the Earl of Bath was nominated recorder, and several country gentlemen were added to the corporation. Arundell and Vincent’s son Henry, two of the new capital burgesses, were elected to James II’s Parliament. Seven of the corporation were removed by order-in-council in January 1687, including three of the Vincents, and in June 1688 it was reported that Truro, like Launceston, would elect any two candidates approved by their recorder, provided that they were Protestants and Cornishmen. Arundell had succeeded to the peerage in the previous year, and Lord Bath accordingly recommended Sir Walter Moyle and ‘John Moyle’, perhaps a mistake for John Manley junior, a barrister who had married a local heiress and abandoned the radical politics of his father, John Manley. During the Revolution it was reported that Hugh Boscawen had ‘resettled the corporation according to the old charter’. But the election of 1689 resulted in another double return. As Moyle was returned for St. Germans ‘which he always desires’, the only Whig candidate was Ashhurst, who was elected with Vincent by the corporation ‘with our unanimous consent and assent equally’. This, however, was clearly an occasion when some were more equal than others: 12 of the capital burgesses signed for both candidates, and three for Ashhurst alone. Bath’s candidates, Manley and a son of (Sir) Joseph Tredenham, his vice-warden of the stannaries, were elected by the freemen created under the new charter. On 2 Feb. the House seated Ashhurst and Vincent on the merits of the return. In the elections committee Sir Robert Sawyer defended the new charter, saying that ‘it was good law then’. He was roundly abused by John Somers and Richard Hampden, and the committee decided in favour of the old franchise. A report by John Birch to this effect was accepted by the House, and Ashhurst and Vincent retained their seats.3

Authors: Paula Watson / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iv. 252; VCH Cornw. i. 535; CJ, viii. 12, 69.
  • 2. CJ, ix. 708; London Gazette, 17 Sept. 1683; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 245.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 71-72; PC2/71/390; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 379; (1883), 215; Univ. Intell. 10 Jan. 1689; CJ, x. 16, 141-2; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 453.