HERNE, Sir Nathaniel (c.1629-79), of Lothbury, London.

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



Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1629, 5th s. of Nicholas Herne, being 1st s. by 2nd w.; bro. of Joseph Herne. m. 1 Sept. 1656 (with £5,000), Judith, da. of John Frederick of Old Jewry, London, 3s. 2da. Kntd. 9 Aug. 1674.1

Offices Held

Member, Barber-Surgeons’ Company 1655, master 1674-5; member, Hon. Artillery Co. May 1660; committee, E.I. Co. 1666-d., dep. gov. 1672-4, gov. 1674-6, 1678-d.; sheriff, London 1674-5, common councilman 1675-6, alderman 1676-d.; commr. for assessment, London 1677-9, Mdx. and Devon 1679-d.; member Royal Fishery Co. 1677.2

Commr. for inquiry into the Mint 1677-8.3


Herne’s family was of Norfolk origin, but his was the third generation to achieve civic office in London. A typically industrious apprentice, he married his master’s daughter the year after the expiry of his indentures and was taken into partnership. The Spanish trade in which the firm was principally concerned was hard-hit by Cromwell’s foreign policy, and Herne was probably the ‘stout and active young citizen’ concerned in Cavalier plots in the City in 1657.4

Herne first engaged in parliamentary politics in support of Joseph Williamson at Dartmouth in 1667. Correctly anticipating Williamson’s defeat, he offered to serve him also at Plympton. In both constituencies his interest was based on the extensive West Country connexions of his firm. A tireless worker (in one year he attended 215 out of 217 East India Company courts), Herne made himself useful both to the company and the Government in collecting foreign intelligence, though in the latter case under pledges of the strictest secrecy. His services were ill-rewarded when he stood for Dartmouth in 1673; court influence was used to intimidate his supporters and he was defeated by Josiah Child. The election was quashed owing to an irregularity in the writ, but Herne was unable to regain more than one of his lost votes. He petitioned against the second election on the grounds of bribery, but no result is recorded.5

On appointment to municipal office, Herne showed the same indefatigable industry as in business. He could hardly find a day free for dinner with his old friend Williamson because of sessions business. Herne was personally commended by the King for his loyalty, vigilance and conduct in handling a weavers’ riot against machines in 1675. But he declined to persecute conventiclers; inviting a dozen bishops to dinner, he told them bluntly that City merchants ‘could not trade with their neighbours one day, and send them to gaol the next’. In the same year he gave evidence before the parliamentary committee to hear complaints against the East India Company. For all his experience and worldly knowledge, Herne was badly shaken by the Popish Plot. He wrote seriously to Sir Robert Southwell ‘to know if he should not send his wife and children out of town, for that the massacres of Paris and Ireland were enough talked of beforehand, but believed by none’.6

Meanwhile Herne had improved his interest at Dartmouth by arranging a public water supply for the town, one of his many charities, on which it was believed he spent not less than £1,000 p.a. He stood as a court supporter at the general election of February 1679, writing to Williamson: ‘I glory in your favours, though they are alleged against me to keep me from an employment I am unfit for and desirous to avoid’. His name appears on Shaftesbury’s list as ‘base’. He was an active Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, sitting on 17 committees, of which the most important was for securing the King and kingdom against Popery. In the debate on a Tory pamphlet written in the character of a Jesuit by Dr John Nalson, Herne declared it to be ‘against the doctrine of the Church of England, and there are such desperate hints in it that it is fit he should answer it at the bar’. Nevertheless he voted against the first exclusion bill.7

Herne died after a short illness on 10 Aug. 1679, aged 50. His executors held £10,838 of East India stock at the Revolution. The family interest at Dartmouth was re-established in 1689 by his brother Joseph.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 378; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 110; The Gen. n.s. xxvii. 67.
  • 2. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 89.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 751, 986.
  • 4. Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. ix. 180; A. T. Young, Annals of Barber-Surgeons, 554-5; Cal. Cl. SP, iii. 248, 373; iv. 634; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 213.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 440; 1671-2, p. 508; 1672, pp. 177-8, 260; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. ed. Sainsbury, ix. 54, 224.
  • 6. M. Sylvester, Reliquiae Baxterianae, iii. 172; Life of Richard Kidder (Som. Rec. Soc. xxxvii), 36; CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 198, 258-9, 262; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. x. 241; HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 473.
  • 7. Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. x. 159; Grey, vii. 104; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 77.
  • 8. Add. 22185, f. 14.