PEIRCE (PIERSE), Sir Edmund (d.1667), of Greenwich, Kent and Holborn, Mdx.

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



1661 - c. Aug. 1667

Family and Education

educ. Corpus Christi, Camb. 1629, Trinity Hall 1633, Ll.B 1635, Ll.D 1639, DCL 1639; adv. Doctors’ Commons 1640-6, 1661-d.; M. Temple 1641. m. 16 Aug. 1629, Jane (bur. 18 Oct. 1665), da. of James Franklyn of Maidstone, Kent, 1s. 1da. Kntd. 10 July 1645.1

Offices Held

Commissary, archdeaconry of Suff. 1637-42; dep. v.-adm. Suff. 1637-c.40, commr. for piracy 1640, judge of Admiralty, Cinque Ports May 1660-d.; chancellor, Wells dioc. July 1660-d.; j.p. Essex, Kent and Mdx. July 1660-d., Som. 1662-d.; commr, for assessment, Kent Aug. 1660-3, 1664-d., Colchester and Essex 1664-d., corporations, Kent 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers, Essex, Kent, London and Westminster 1662.2

Proctor, ct. of arches 1639; master of requests 1644-6; master in Chancery June 1660-d.

Officer, R. Life Gds. 1642; col. of horse (royalist) 1643-6, 1648; judge adv.-gen. c.1643-6.


Peirce was born in Buckinghamshire. He was noted for his severity towards Puritans in the ecclesiastical courts, and on 26 Feb. 1640 a petition was presented to the Long Parliament charging him with extortion and other offences. In 1642 he joined the King at York, whence he was sent into Kent where he helped to draft the Kentish petition. He was imprisoned by Parliament for a few weeks, and on his release rejoined the King, raised a regiment of horse and took part in many engagements in the first War, suffering ‘several wounds’. In 1646 he compounded, his fine being set at £82. He was again imprisoned after the 1655 rising, being then resident in Colchester, where he had been left considerable property by George Gilbert, his son’s godfather and a prominent resident of the town. Peirce wrote and privately printed nine pamphlets in support of the monarchy and the Church of England. On 19 Apr. 1660 he and Sir Benjamin Ayloffe presented a declaration of the Essex Royalists to General George Monck. After the Restoration he stated that

he hath been deprived of all benefit of his profession or any place whatsoever almost twenty years; his chamber at the Doctors’ Commons seized, plundered, and all his books and goods sold, plundered in several other places in London, Essex and Kent. All his other estates whatsoever sequestrated and squandered, and although he had the articles of Oxford, yet was with much difficulty admitted to compound for what remained.

He was rewarded with the post of judge of Admiralty in the Cinque Ports and a mastership in Chancery. He also became chancellor of the diocese of Wells, perhaps as kinsman of Bishop William Piers, though his parentage has not been ascertained.3

Peirce’s return for Maidstone in 1661 may have been assisted by his wife’s connexions; his father-in-law, who died in 1641, had been recorder. He was probably listed by Lord Wharton as a friend to be managed by Sir Richard Onslow. He was a very active Member of the Cavalier Parliament in its earlier sessions, with 221 committees, in seven of which he took the chair, and five tellerships. His chief interests were ecclesiastical, such as bills to empower churchwardens to raise money for repairs, to prevent mischief from Quakers, and to divide the parish of Wrotham. He was named to the committees to consider the corporations bill and the bill to prevent tumultuary petitioning. He took charge of two important bills in committee, the uniformity bill and the bill to restore the temporal jurisdiction of the clergy, under which the bishops were restored to the House of Lords; but his failure to provide against the return of High Commission had to be made good at the report stage. A member of the committee on the bill of pains and penalties for those excepted from the Act of Indemnity, he was added to the managers of the conference of 27 July when the Commons abandoned the proviso on behalf of the Marquess of Winchester. After the autumn recess he took the chair on the bill for the execution of those under attainder and helped to manage a conference. On 25 Feb. 1662 he was teller for those who found James Philipps guilty of sitting on a high court of justice that condemned a Cavalier plotter to death. He opposed the bill to set up a ‘court of conscience’ for small claims in the London suburbs. His first report as chairman for the Dover harbour bill did not satisfy the London merchants, and he was teller on 15 Mar. for an amendment introduced in committee. Together with (Sir) John Bramston and the Hon. William Montagu he was instructed to bring in a bill for the repeal of the Triennial Act on 4 Apr. With three other Members he was sent to ask the King that all the money intended for the loyal and indigent officers might be distributed by Michaelmas, and appointed to another small committee to insert an appropriate clause in the supply bill for a tax on offices for this purpose. But he was teller against imposing an oath on the contributors. He was among those ordered to proof-read the text of the revised Book of Common Prayer, opposed a debate on the amendments introduced by Convocation, and helped to fix the cost of the folio edition. He also helped to draft a list of those ecclesiastics who were to be required to renounce the Covenant and to prepare for the conference of 30 Apr. A member of the committee on the bill to increase clerical incomes in market towns and corporations, he was among those ordered to recommend whether a conference should be desired or a new bill prepared. He was appointed to the committee for the additional corporations bill, and on the last day of the session sent to ask the King not to exercise his right to appoint by lapse to livings where presentations had been delayed by parliamentary proceedings.4

Though never again so prominent as in 1662 Peirce remained active in the next session. He was named to the committees to report on defects in the Act of Uniformity, to consider a bill against pluralities, and to draft the address against the Declaration of Indulgence. He was also among those appointed to consider a petition from the loyal and indigent officers and a bill to prevent concurrent leases of ecclesiastical property. On 11 Apr. he was named to a committee to bring in a bill for expediting the hearing of maritime and mercantile cases in the law-courts, but three days later he was given leave ‘to go into the country for a month’. He returned punctually, and was appointed to the committees to consider the bill against abuses in the sale of offices and honours, to provide remedies against sectarian meetings, and to inquire into the conduct of Sir Richard Temple. Listed as a court dependant in 1664, he was named to the committees for the Lord’s Day observance bill, the conventicles bill, and the additional corporations bill. In December his committees included those to provide for the better collection of tithe from sectaries and Quakers and to regulate exorbitant fees. He was named to the committee of elections and privileges for the Oxford session, but his wife, who had evidently accompanied him to escape from the plague, was buried at St. Aldate’s a week later and he took no further part in its proceedings. In the next session he was appointed to the committees to consider the public accounts bill and the bill against imports from France. He was buried in the Temple church on 10 Aug. 1667. He died intestate, and nothing is known of his descendants.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. C. A. H. Franklin, Franklyn Fams. 26; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 3), ii. 210; Mar. Lic. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 77; City of Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxvii), 208.
  • 2. B. P. Levack, Civil Lawyers, 261-2; SP23/192/623; HMC Wells, ii. 430; Q. Sess. Recs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxxiv), p. xvi.
  • 3. Levack, 261; T. P. S. Woods, Prelude to Civil War, 41, 62-64; CSP Dom. 1655, p. 367; PCC 149 Alchin; Add. 34016, f. 15; Declaration of the Gentry of Essex (1660); Essex Arch. Soc. Trans. (ser. 1), v. 149; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 195.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 295, 296, 346, 349, 355, 380, 384, 387, 395, 403, 408.
  • 5. Temple Church Reg. 18; Prob. 6/42/122v.