CECIL, James, Visct. Cranborne (1646-83), of Hatfield, Herts.

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



4 Apr. - 3 Dec. 1668

Family and Education

b. bef. 27 Mar. 1646, 1st s. of Charles Cecil, Visct. Cranborne (d. Dec. 1660) by Lady Diana Maxwell, da. and coh. of James, 1st Earl of Dirletoun [S]. m. lic. 25 Sept. 1661 (with £11,000), Lady Margaret Manners (d. Aug. 1682), da. of John Manners, 8th Earl of Rutland, 5s. 5da. suc. gdfa. as 3rd Earl of Salisbury 3 Dec. 1668; KG 31 Aug. 1680.1

Offices Held

Capital steward, Hertford 1668-d.2

PC 3 Jan. 1679-18 Jan. 1681.


Lord Cranborne, like his cousin Lord Burghley (John Cecil), was the great-great-grandson of the Elizabethan statesman. His great-grandfather, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, acquired the royal manor of Hatfield in 1607 in exchange for Theobalds, and this became the principal seat of the family. Cranborne’s father supported Parliament in the Civil War as MP for Hertford, but was secluded at Pride’s Purge, and died soon after the Restoration.3

Cranborne was returned for the county, apparently with Quaker support, at the cost of £1,200 at a by-election in 1668. He sat in the Lower House for just over a month before the recess as a supporter of the Cabal. During this time he attended the King with an address for wearing English manufactures, was appointed to a committee for an estate bill, and acted as teller against a proviso in the bill for appropriating the customs for the navy. He also presented a petition from the wife of Brome Whorwood complaining of hard usage by her husband. In the Upper House he became one of the Opposition ‘hotspurs’ and a close associate of Shaftesbury. His appointment to the Privy Council was widely welcomed, but as a strenuous supporter of exclusion he was given leave to retire in 1681. He died in May 1683 and was buried at Hatfield. His death caused a serious financial crisis, for though his income was estimated at £12,200 p.a., it was encumbered by debts, trust funds, annuities, and legacies to children of over £78,000. The parliamentary tradition of the Cecil family was temporarily interrupted by the 4th Earl, who became a Roman Catholic under James II, but a younger son was returned for Castle Rising in 1701 as a Whig.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: E. R. Edwards / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. VCH Herts. Peds. 118-19, 126; Northern Gen. iv. 144; L. Stone, Family and Fortune , 153-4; Luttrell, i. 215-16.
  • 2. L. Turnor, Hertford, 107, 120.
  • 3. VCH Herts. iii. 92; CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 622; Keeler, Long Parl. 130; A. Kingston, Herts. during the Civil War, 145-8.
  • 4. Pepys Diary, 4 Apr. 1668; EHR, lxxi. 387-8; Milward, 297; Letters to Williamson (Cam. Soc. n.s. ix), 156-7; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 15; Luttrell, i. 253, 260; Stone, 154-6.