PHELIPS (PHILLIPS), Robert (1619-1707), of Redlynch, Som. and Whitehall.

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



17 May 1661

Family and Education

b. 1 Feb. 1619, 2nd s. of Sir Robert Phelips of Montacute and bro. of Edward Phelips I. educ. Wadham, Oxf. 1634-7; I. Temple 1637, called 1661. m. bef. 1653 his cos. Agneta (d.1691), da. of Sir Robert Gorges of Redlynch and h. to her nephew Poyntz, 2s. 3da. d.v.p.1

Offices Held

Col. of horse (royalist) 1643-6.2

Groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of Gloucester by 1656-Sept. 1660, to the King 1661-85; commr. for great wardrobe 1685-7, privy seal 1685-7; chancellor, duchy of Lancaster 1687-9.3

Freeman, Portsmouth Apr. 1660; warden of Salcey forest, Northants. July-Aug. 1660; commr. for assessment, Surr. 1661-4, Wilts. 1661-9, loyal and indigent officers, London, Westminster and Som. 1662, sewers, Bedford level 1662-3; conservator, Bedford level 1663-5, 1666-7, 1669-70, bailiff 1665-6; commr. for encroachments, Windsor 1671.4


Phelips, like his elder brother, took up arms for the King in the Civil War. He opposed his friend and kinsman Edmund Ludlow at the siege of Wardour Castle in the autumn of 1643 and was captured at Bridgwater two years later. Apparently he had insufficient property to interest the committee for compounding. One of the leaders of the western association in 1649, he played an important part in the escape of Charles II after the battle of Worcester. In 1653 he formed a wild plan to seize a seaport as a beachhead for a royalist invasion. He was arrested, but escaped, and made his way to the exiled Court, though he revisited England in disguise. He was appointed groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of Gloucester in 1656, and transferred to the same post in the royal household, with a salary of £500 p.a., on his master’s death.5

According to Sir Henry Lyttelton Phelips came as a stranger to Stockbridge only a few days before the general election of 1661, and carried it, no doubt by the usual venal methods, though his Roman Catholic cousins of the senior branch of the family, who lived at Stoke Charity some ten miles away, may have provided some assistance. He was involved in a double return with Henry Whithed, but allowed to sit on 17 May. As a courtier, he was probably an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, ‘Colonel Philips’ being named to some 200 committees. He was appointed to the committees for the corporations bill in 1661, the sectaries bill in 1663 and the conventicles bill in 1664. In the latter year he was listed as a court dependent. He was named to the committee for the five mile bill in the Oxford session, and acted as teller for the Court in a division on supply on 8 Nov. 1666. He was named to the committee to inquire into the miscarriages of the second Dutch war, but took no otherwise ascertainable part in the fall of Clarendon. He was closely associated with Samuel Sandys I in his fenland reclamation, giving evidence on his behalf in the Lords in December 1667, and serving on several committees concerned with draining the Lindsey level. He probably continued to support legislation against dissenters, being appointed to committees on both conventicles bills in 1670. He was on both lists of the court party in 1669-71, and was granted a share of the Somerset excise farm, which he surrendered almost immediately in return for a pension of £300 p.a. In the debate of 14 Jan. 1674 he alleged, on the authority of (Sir) Thomas Williams (who denied it), that the Duke of Buckingham had frequently called the King a knave who was unfit to govern; but he defended Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) two days later on the grounds that he had not advised the Declaration of Indulgence. Nevertheless he was added to the committee for Arlington’s impeachment. He was on the list of officials in 1675, and on the working lists was shown as having interest with (Sir) John Heath. Shaftesbury marked him ‘vile’, and in A Seasonable Argument he was said to have received £20,000 in gifts. This is probably an exaggeration, although he had been granted two valuable leases soon after the Restoration, the manor of Mere in Wiltshire and the reversion of Cannington in Somerset, besides minor gratifications; but he was unable to live within his income, and was obliged first to mortgage and then to sell his wife’s property to Stephen Fox. He was again on both lists of the court party in 1678.6

Blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’, and named to the House as an excise pensioner on 23 May 1679, Phelips is not likely to have stood for the Exclusion Parliaments. But he was returned for another Hampshire borough, Andover, in 1685. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to the committees on the bills for the new parish of St. James, Piccadilly and for the relief of poor debtors, and acted as teller against the bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees. He was summoned to the meeting of the court caucus on 17 Nov. He must have given affirmative answers to the King on the repeal of the Tests and the Penal Laws, for in 1687 he succeeded (Sir) Thomas Chicheley as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. After the Revolution he was a non-juror, though he did not shrink from receiving payments out of the royal bounty with the others who had helped in Charles II’s escape. He died on 21 June 1707, and was buried in Bath abbey. His epitaph, which caused a great sensation, asserted that

in the reigns of Charles I, Charles II and James II he stood out as a steadfast and energetic champion of the English church and the lawful monarchy against all treasons, both Scottish and English. The times changed, but he did not change with them.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1650-1718, p. 219; St. Paul Covent Garden (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxxiii), 16, 19; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 191, 229; Denizations and Naturalizations (Huguenot Soc. xviii), 76; CSP Dom. 1653-4, pp. 87, 143; R. Gorges, Hist. Fam. Gorges, 117-18.
  • 2. Ludlow Mems. i. 54, 416.
  • 3. Archaeologia , xxxv. 343; Cal. Cl. SP. iii. 198; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 296; viii. 20, 697, 1357.
  • 4. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 356; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 77, 213; S. Wells, Drainage of Bedford Level, i. 351, 456-9; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 923.
  • 5. Som. Arch. Soc. xxiii. pt. 2, p. 23; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 28, 54-55, 67, 70, 298; Clarendon, Rebellion, v. 209-11.
  • 6. C. H. Josten, Ashmole, 1563; Wells, i. 353; CJ, ix. 32; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 209, 531; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 640, 833; v. 230, 403; vii. 1587; Grey, ii. 254, 282; C. Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth, 164, 169.
  • 7. Grey, vii. 324; CJ, ix. 738; x. 107; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 431; xi. 243; HMC Downshire, i. 852; Le Neve, 219.