FINCH, Hon. Heneage I (c.1649-1719), of Albury, Surr.

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

Family and Education

b. c.1649, 2nd s. of Heneage Finch I, and bro. of Daniel Finch, Hon. Edward Finch and Hon. William Finch. educ. Westminster; I. Temple, entered 1662, called 1673; Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 18 Nov. 1664, aged 15. m. 16 May 1678, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir John Banks, 1st Bt., of The Friars, Aylesford, Kent, 3s. 6da. cr. Baron Guernsey 15 Mar. 1703, Earl of Aylesford 19 Oct. 1714.

Offices Held

Attaché, Breda 1667; KC 1677; solicitor-gen. 1679-86; chairman, committees of supply and ways and means 22 May-20 Nov. 1685; PC 20 Mar. 1703-May 1708, 13 Dec. 1711-d.; chancellor, duchy of Lancaster 1714-16.1

Bencher, I. Temple 1678; commr. for assessment, Oxford Univ. 1679-80, 1689-90, Surr. 1689-90, I. Temple 1690; j.p. and dep. lt. Surr. by 1701-?d.


Finch followed his father’s profession with great success, but in the absence of any family interest he found it more difficult to enter Parliament. He was narrowly defeated at Leicester in 1677, when he stood on the Earl of Huntingdon’s interest. His brother Daniel wrote that at the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament ‘he was in a very good station, lucrative and quiet’. But against his father’s recommendation he was appointed solicitor-general on the dismissal of Sir Francis Winnington on 13 Jan. 1679, and renewed efforts were made to find him a seat. He was apparently defeated by the country candidate Sir Trevor Williams at Monmouth, in spite of ‘six files of musketeers’ ordered into the town by the Marquess of Worcester (Henry Somerset); but at Oxford University, which his father had represented till he was raised to the peerage, he was successful after a poll. He was marked ‘base’ by Shaftesbury and voted against the exclusion bill; but was apparently otherwise content to be totally ignored by a House that heaped responsibilities on Winnington. He did not stand for the University at the general election, nor apparently for Monmouth as his brother expected, and was out of Parliament till 1685. ‘The smooth-tongued solicitor’ showed none of his father’s urbanity in prosecuting Lord Russell (Hon. William Russell) after the Rye House Plot; Burnet condemned his ‘vicious eloquence and ingenious malice’. Meanwhile he had bought an estate at Albury, four miles from Guildford, for which he was returned to James II’s Parliament, though his election was ‘disputable’, and he was defeated at Newport (I.o.W.). He was a very active Member, with 14 committees. As chairman of the supply committee, from which he made 14 reports, he was given sole responsibility for bringing in five bills. The first of these were the bills to settle on the new King for life all the revenues enjoyed by his brother, and to lay an imposition on wine and vinegar, both of which Finch carried to the House of Lords. He helped to draft the loyal address from the House on the Duke of Monmouth’s invasion. His name stands first on the committee for the bankruptcy bill. He was one of ten Members ordered to bring in a clause against exclusion on 26 June. But he took the chair in the committee which drew up the address against the employment of Popish officers in November, and his days in office were numbered. He was retained to conduct the prosecution of Lord Delamer (Henry Booth) ‘with his usual vehemence’, but gave occasion for his dismissal by refusing a warrant to the apostate Obadiah Walker to continue to hold the mastership of his Oxford college.2

Finch won great applause as counsel for the Seven Bishops in 1688, and on 10 Dec. was elected under James’s writ for Oxford University. The result was confirmed in the following month. He was an active Member of the Convention, in which he was appointed to 39 committees and made 28 recorded speeches. He helped to draw up the address of thanks to the Prince of Orange on 22 Jan. 1689, and to bring in the list of essentials for securing religion, laws and liberties. He favoured establishing a regency for James’s lifetime, ‘as if the King were a minor or in a frenzy’. In the debate on the state of the nation, he concluded:

For us to limit the succession is plainly to say we may choose a king; and is this called the prudence we ought to act with, to destroy that constitution of the government, which we came here to maintain?

According to Ailesbury’s list Finch voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. His committees included those to amend the Lords’ version of the declaration of rights, to suspend habeas corpus, to inquire into the authors and advisers of grievances and to prepare the bill of rights. On 11 Mar. the Lords sent down a bill for annulling Russell’s attainder, and Finch rather ill-advisedly opened the debate: ‘I see many gentlemen’s eyes are upon me; therefore I stand up to give an account of my reasons for the part I acted in that unfortunate business’. He was repeatedly interrupted by calls to order, and as stout a Tory as Sir Henry Goodricke coldly observed that it was strange ‘to hear the learned gentleman vindicate himself, when nobody accuses him’. Nevertheless he was named to the committee. He helped to draw up the address for the suppression of the Ipswich mutiny, but he may have found the atmosphere of the Lower House increasingly unfriendly, for from then until the end of the Convention he obtained leave to attend the Lords as counsel in no less than 17 cases. However, he was among those ordered to examine precedents for the indemnity bill and to bring in a new coronation oath on 25 Mar. In the debate on comprehension he had the better of the argument with John Birch, but his antagonist had the last and most damaging word: ‘The strength of Finch’s arguments, and the smoothness of his discourse, have been known here before’. He was among those Members ordered to draw up addresses of thanks to William for undertaking to maintain the Church of England and of support for the war with France, and took part in a conference on the new oaths of allegiance and supremacy. He was appointed to the committee for the toleration bill and helped to manage a conference. He was added to the managers of a conference on the poll-tax on 27 May, and took part in considering the Lords’ amendments to the bill of rights. In July his name was added to the committees to draw up reasons for conferences on Titus Oates and the duties on coffee, tea and chocolate.3

In the second session Finch was instructed to search for precedents concerning the Jacobite prisoners in the Tower and appointed to the committee on the bill for restoring corporations. He spoke in favour of Princess Anne’s patent and helped to draw up the address on her behalf. He attacked the disabling clause root and branch, declaring it incapable of amendment. If there were Tories who had surrendered charters there were also Whigs who had benefited from the dispensing power. So general was the offence that, if the clause stood, ‘you put out the men of estates, and the ancient corporations are put into the hands of men of little or no fortune, and some call them the mobile’. In the closing days of the Parliament, he was appointed to the committees for enforcing a general oath of allegiance and for restoring the university charters.4

Finch continued to represent Oxford University, except in the 1698 Parliament, till he was raised to the peerage under Queen Anne. He generally followed his brother’s line in politics, and on the Hanoverian succession was advanced two steps in the peerage and given office. He died on 22 July 1719 and was buried at Aylesford, where he had succeeded to the Banks property in the right of his wife. His eldest son was sitting for Surrey as a Tory when he succeeded to the peerage.

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Leonard Naylor


  • 1. HMC Finch, i. 457, 479.
  • 2. Recs. Bor. Leicester ed. Stocks, iv. 546; Leics. RO, Finch mss, Daniel to Sir John Finch, 10 Feb. 1679; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 198; HMC Finch, ii. 54; HMC Ormonde, ii. 50; Evelyn Diary, iv. 500; Burnet, ii. 376; VCH Surr. iii. 74; CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 118, 125; CJ, ix. 715, 723, 724, 743, 758, 760; Burnet ed. Routh, iii. 96-97; Reresby Mems. 407, 424.
  • 3. Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxvi), 287; IHR Bull. xlix. 258; Grey, x. 49, 84, 91, 93, 143, 153, 241, 242.
  • 4. Grey, ix. 499, 518-19; CJ, x. 312.