HOLLES, Sir Frescheville (1642-72), of Long Acre, Westminster and Carleton, Notts.

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



22 Nov. 1667 - 28 May 1672

Family and Education

b. 8 June 1642, s. of Gervase Holles by 2nd w.educ. M. Temple 1659. m. lic. 24 Nov. 1662 (with £5,000), Jane, da. of Richard Lewis of Selston, wid. of Valentine Crome, merchant, of Fenchurch Street, London, s.p. Kntd. June 1666.1

Offices Held

Capt. of militia ft., Westminster 1663, maj. 1664-7; freeman, Portsmouth 1667; alderman, Grimsby 1667-d., mayor 1669-70; j.p. Hants 1671-d.; bailiff of Burley walk, New Forest 1672-d.2

Gent. of privy chamber 1664-9, 1671-d., capt. RN 1665-7, 1672; capt. 2 Ft. Gds. 1667-9.3

FRS 1672.


Holles married an ‘old, foul wife’ whom he soon discarded, though of course retaining her money. He inherited a full share of the martial spirit of the family. Before going on active service in command of a frigate in the second Dutch war, he composed his own epitaph, declaring his intent to require no other monument ‘than what my sword should raise for me of honour and of fortune’. He lost an arm in the Four Days’ battle of 1666, after which he was knighted. According to Henry Savile he and Sir John Harman had ‘got immortal fame, and are extremely in the favour of their generals and our sovereign’. But (Sir) William Penn called him ‘a conceited, idle, prating, lying fellow’, and Samuel Pepys, always hostile to gentlemen-captains, complained of his profanity and the indiscipline of his men. At the end of the war he received a bounty of £300, and was commissioned in the guards.4

Holles stood for Grimsby at a by-election in October 1667. His father already held the other seat, and Holles bragged to Pepys that his family had represented the borough for 140 years. He was defeated by Sir Philip Tyrwhitt, but reversed the result on petition. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 45 committees, acted as teller in five divisions, and made 20 speeches. On taking his seat he was added to the committee of inquiry into the miscarriages of the war. He was among those ordered to bring in a proviso to the public accounts bill on 17 Dec., and to take the accounts of the loyal and indigent officers fund over the Christmas recess. When the House resumed, Holles took the leading part in the attack on the naval administration to which his empty sleeve entitled him. A follower of Buckingham, he was particularly severe on (Sir) William Coventry, whom he blamed for the division of the fleet in 1666. Together with Sir Richard Temple he was rumoured to be sponsoring a petition for the repayment of the fees that Coventry had exacted for passing naval commissions. On 20 Feb. 1668 he told the House that ‘the defect of provisions of victualling is as great a miscarriage as any’, but he defended Lord Brouncker warmly over the discharge of seamen by ticket. He was among those ordered to receive information about illegal conventicles, but on 8 Apr., according to the Anglican John Milward:

Sir Frescheville Holles made a very long and impertinent speech [asking for toleration for] dissenters from the Church, and in conclusion moved to make an address to the King to take the business into [his] hands, and to call some principal persons of all the dissenters, and to receive proposals from them.

In the resumed debates on the miscarriages of the war, he wanted Harman to be given an opportunity of clearing himself from the charge of failure to press home the success off Lowestoft in 1665, and strongly attacked William Penn over the disposal of prize goods. He was one of those ordered to attend the Lords with the articles of Penn’s impeachment.5

In the next session Holles urged that the public accounts commission should be ordered to prove their charges against Sir George Carteret. He was appointed to the committees for the bills to improve the art of navigation and to settle the differences between Lady Lee and the coheirs of Sir Thomas Pope. He complained to the House that an attorney had described his opposition to Lady Lee’s bill as ‘a very unworthy and unhandsome action’, but the words were denied and the matter referred to the committee of privileges. On 26 Nov. 1669 he compared the condition of the Dutch and English fleets, to the disadvantage of the latter, and he acted as teller against appointing a day to hear the charges against Lord Orrery (Roger Boyle). His continued hostility to the Court did not escape attention, and his troop was given to Richard Kirkby. In vain he offered his services to the French king, and, perhaps with a view to ingratiating himself, spoke against the proposed prohibition of brandy. He supported the bill to enable Lord Roos (John Manners) to marry again, both in debate and division.6

During the recess Holles went to Ireland, presumably to escape his creditors; while there, he purchased timber for the Admiralty. When Parliament resumed, he was one of the five prominent Members who went over to the Court, and as ‘one of the great councillors of state to the Duchess of Cleveland’, he soon regained the favour of Charles II. He was appointed to the committees on the bills for the preservation of shipping and the continuance of the Conventicles Act. He paid two visits to the French Embassy in December 1670, offering to ensure that the grant of supply would not be made dependent on the maintenance of the Triple Alliance, and to engage two or three Members in the interests of France at £100 a head. ‘A court projector, both body and soul’, he proposed a poll-tax on 10 Dec., and opposed deferring supply until the bill to punish the assailants of Sir John Coventry had passed. He acted as teller against the proposal to devote the additional excise to paying off the King’s debts, and was appointed to consider the Lords’ bill to prevent the disturbances of seamen and preserve naval stores. At the end of the session he was given £3,000 royal bounty ‘for his virtues’, and listed as a court supporter by the Opposition, who also believed him to have received ‘a promise to be rear-admiral the next fleet and £500 p.a. pension’. He was indeed recalled to naval service at the outbreak of the third Dutch war, though not promoted. He took part in the attack on the Smyrna fleet under Sir Robert Holmes in March 1672, but before the next campaign he made another will, ignoring his wife and father completely, and after legacies totalling £850 devoting the residue of his estate to the erection of a memorial in Westminster Abbey. He was killed at Sole Bay on 28 May. His executors, Sir Robert Clayton and John Morris, gave him a splendid funeral and presumably paid off the debt to the crown of £1,500 for timber not delivered.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Cat. Ashmolean Mss, 209; Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Clay, ii. 60; Hunter, South Yorks. i. 361; Harl. 7005, f. 82.
  • 2. HMC Buccleuch, i. 540-2; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 359; E. E. Gillett, Hist. Grimsby, 149; HMC 14th Rep. VIII, 291; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 1225.
  • 3. HMC Buccleuch, i. 541; Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 188.
  • 4. Harl. 7020, f. 35v; PCC 116 Eure; Savile Corresp. (Cam. Soc. lxxi), 10; Pepys Diary, 14, 17 June 1667; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 796.
  • 5. Pepys Diary, 28 Sept. 1667, 11, 14, 18, 26 Feb., 24 Mar. 1668; Milward, 196, 248, 262, 294; Grey, i. 87, 136; CJ, ix. 42, 88.
  • 6. Grey, i. 158, 189, 219, 252; CJ, ix. 109, 114, 150; Bodl. C37/1110; PRO 31/3, bdle. 125, f. 300v.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1670, pp. 373, 583; 1671-2, pp. 161, 206; 1672, pp. 288, 304; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, i. 290; ii. 305; Harl. 7020, f. 35v; PRO 31/3, bdle. 125, ff. 300v, 305; Dering, 27, 45; CJ, ix. 210; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 796; PCC 78 Pye; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 176.