FANSHAWE, Sir Richard, 1st Bt. (1608-66), of Portugal Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mdx.

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



1661 - 16 June 1666

Family and Education

bap. 12 June 1608, 6th but 5th surv. s. of Sir Henry Fanshawe of Ware Park, Herts., King’s remembrancer in the Exchequer, by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Smythe of Westenhanger, Kent; bro. of Sir Thomas Fanshawe I. educ. Cripplegate (Thomas Farnaby) 1620-3; Jesus, Camb. 1623; I. Temple 1626; travelled abroad (France, Spain) 1627-34. m. 18 May 1644 (with £10,000), his cos. Anne (d. 30 Jan. 1680), da. of Sir John Harrison of Balls Park, Herts., 6s. (5 d.v.p.) 8da. cr. Bt. 2 Sept. 1650; kntd. Apr. 1660.1

Offices Held

Sec. of embassy, Madrid 1635-8; sec. of war [I] 1640-1; King’s remembrancer in the Exchequer 1641-8; sec. of war to the Prince of Wales 1644-6; treas. of the navy (royalist) 1648-50; Latin sec. 1659-d.; master of requests 1659-64; envoy extraordinary to Portugal 1661, ambassador 1662-3; PC [I] 1662; PC 2 Oct. 1663-d.; ambassador to Spain 1664-6.

Master of Ilford hosp., Essex c.1642-51; freeman, Limerick 1649, Portsmouth 1663.2

MP [I] 1640-2.


Fanshawe’s mother intended him for the law; but ‘it seemed so crabbed a study, and disagreeable to his inclinations’ that on her death in 1631 he determined to use the £1,000 she bequeathed him to qualify himself for a diplomatic career. To this he was well-suited by temperament, being ‘so reserved that he never showed the thought of his heart in its greatest sense’, except to his wife. He regarded argument as ‘an uncharitable custom’, and ‘would never be drawn to the faction of either party, saying he found it sufficient honestly to perform that employment he was in’. His distaste for ‘faction’ implied an unquestioning loyalty to his King and to his church; he was ‘a true Protestant of the Church of England, so born, so brought up, and so died’, though crypto-Catholics like Secretary Windebank chose to label him a Puritan. After three years at the Madrid embassy, he served as secretary to the council of war in Ireland and sat in the Dublin Parliament. Returning to England in 1641 he succeeded his brother as King’s remembrancer in the Exchequer, which he valued at £600 p.a. But he accompanied the King to Oxford, and was appointed secretary to the council of war designed to attend the Prince of Wales in the west country. Before his departure he married; but his wife’s portion and his own sources of income were all in the hands of the enemy. ‘We might truly be called merchant adventurers’, she wrote to her son many years later, ‘for the stock we set up our trading with did not amount to £20 betwixt us... Our stock bought pens, ink, and paper, which was your father’s trade; and by it, I assure you, we lived better than those that were born to £2,000 a year, as long as he had his liberty.’ Although his employment ceased with the collapse of the royalist cause in the west, he accompanied the Prince to Jersey; but in 1647 he obtained a pass from the Speaker to return to England and compound for his estate, which apart from his post in the Exchequer, on which debts of £1,173 were secured, consisted only of an annuity of £50 in Essex, presumably as master of Ilford hospital. He never compounded, however, the real purposes of his visit being to raise money to support his family in exile and to publish his translation of Guarini’s Pastor Fido, which won him considerable acclaim. He was summoned to join the royalist fleet in the Downs during the second Civil War, and acted as treasurer so long as Prince Rupert had a base in Ireland. Meanwhile his wife raised nearly £4,000 by selling a property in Essex. Fanshawe assisted Sir Edward Hyde, who found him ‘a very honest and discreet man’, in his negotiations with Spain in 1650, and was given a baronetcy. Summoned to Scotland to attend the King, he acted as secretary of state, though he refused the Covenant. He was taken prisoner after the battle of Worcester, but became seriously ill with scurvy and was set free after ten weeks on £4,000 bail. Until the death of Oliver Cromwell, to whom he chiefly owed his release, he lived quietly in England with his family, publishing a selection from Horace, perhaps his most accomplished work, and a translation of the Lusiad which shows a thorough understanding of Portuguese. With his reputation thus established as a linguist and a man of letters, and an unblemished moral character, he was invited by the 5th Earl of Pembroke to undertake the tuition of his eldest son, William Herbert, for a year. Pembroke’s interest with the Protectorate sufficed to secure the cancellation of Fanshawe’s bonds, and he was free to accompany his pupil to the Continent. He resumed contact with Hyde, who secured for him the posts of Latin secretary, at a fee of £100 p.a., and master of requests,

by which you have the King’s ear three months in [the] year as much as the secretary [of state], and in which you would very honestly get six or seven hundred pounds a year.3

Fanshawe returned to England with the King. The need to conciliate George Monck ensured that he never secured the post that he really coveted, that of secretary of state, and the profits of his principal office were engrossed by Secretary Nicholas. At the general election of 1661 he was elected in his absence and without his knowledge for Cambridge University, at no more expense to himself than ‘a letter of thanks, two brace of bucks, and 20 broad pieces of gold to buy them wine’. He figured prominently in the coronation, at which he represented the Duke of Normandy, attired in ‘fantastic habits of the time’. In the opening weeks of the Cavalier Parliament he was named to the committee of elections and privileges, and those for confirming public acts, the fen drainage bill, and a Hertfordshire estate bill. But he never became an active Member, and during the recess he was sent to Catherine of Braganza at Lisbon with the King’s letter and picture. He returned to England at Christmas, but after the royal marriage went back to Portugal as ambassador. He was named to the elections committee for the second session in his absence, but never resumed his seat, though he was in England again for the last three months of 1663, before being transferred to Madrid, and listed as a court dependant in 1664. He was superseded in 1666, ostensibly for exceeding his instructions, but actually in order to provide a refuge for the Earl of Sandwich (Edward Montagu I) from impeachment for embezzling prize goods. ‘It was no advantage to him to be known to be in the [lord] chancellor’s confidence’, commented Hyde, now Lord Chancellor Clarendon, on his dismissal. He died of a violent fever on 16 June while preparing to leave for England, and was eventually buried in the family vault at Ware, with an inscription to which the record of his parliamentary service had to be added as a postscript. His only surviving son, a deaf-mute, died unmarried in 1694.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: E. R. Edwards / Eveline Cruickshanks


This biography is based on the Fanshawe Mems.

  • 1. Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, vi. 162.
  • 2. VCH Essex, ii. 188.
  • 3. Cal. Comm. Comp. 1865; Cal. Cl. SP, ii. 70, 92; DNB; HMC Heathcote, 9.
  • 4. M. Rex, Univ. Rep. 344; Eg. 1634, ff. 28-29.