ATKINS, Sir Richard, 2nd Bt. (1654-96), of Clapham, Surr. and Tickford, Bucks.
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Family and Education
bap. 27 Aug. 1654, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Richard Atkins, 1st Bt., of Clapham by Rebecca, da. and coh. of Sir Edmund Wright of Swakeleys, Mdx., ld. mayor of London. educ. ?M. Temple 1671. m. in or bef. 1684, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Byde† of Ware Park, Herts., 6s. (4 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 19 Aug. 1689.1
Col. of ft. 1694–d.
Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.2
Atkins’ great-grandfather, Henry Atkins (d.1635), court physician to James I, purchased the manor of Tickford near Newport Pagnell from the crown, and also acquired the manor of Clapham for £6,000. Atkins’ elder brother, Henry, died in 1677 (aged 24), leaving him as the heir. As a j.p. for Buckinghamshire in February 1688, he gave negative replies to the first two of James II’s three questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws and at the Revolution raised a troop for the Prince of Orange.3
Atkins’ political allegiance at this time is somewhat perplexing. He was perceived as a Tory, yet he contested Buckingham in 1689 in alliance with Sir Peter Tyrell, 1st Bt.†, a Whig, against two Tories. When he stood there again in 1690, his stance was becoming clearer, at least in that the leading Buckinghamshire Whig, Hon. Thomas Wharton*, was prepared to back Atkins and Tyrell against the Temple interest. Certainly, Atkins was committed to the new regime, sending out warrants for the militia horse to assemble in July 1690 when a French invasion threatened. There seems little doubt that he was converted to the cause of Whiggery by Wharton, but the timing is difficult to pin-point. Richard Steele* later explained that Atkins had been one of the most active opponents of Wharton after the Revolution and had been
very zealous for promoting the Tory cause, assisted by the inferior clergy, but the thin appearance they made from time to time wearied Sir Richard at last, and he took a resolution to make his peace with my Lord [then Thomas] Wharton: accordingly he rode over to Winchendon, and told his Lordship with great frankness, he was come to dine with him and offer his friendship: for . . . my Lord, says he, I find ’tis in vain to be against you. My Lord Wharton received him with such candour and kindness as entirely gained him over to his party.
However, Steele placed this conversion a few months before Atkins acquired his regiment in 1694. Thomas Chapman* likewise dated Atkins’ conversion to some time after the Revolution and corroborated the story about the regiment. However, it was December 1693 before it was rumoured that Atkins would be given a horse regiment if any new levies were raised and April 1694 before he was actually given a commission to raise a foot regiment for service in Ireland. Meanwhile, despite being named first in the list, he possessed sufficient influence to avoid being pricked as sheriff of Buckinghamshire in November 1693.4
In the summer of 1695 Atkins was much in the news over a series of duels, apparently caused by the infidelity of his wife. He beat James Medlicott with his cane for talking about Lady Atkins, offered to fight Sir Edward Longueville with blunderbusses to compensate for the latter’s physical disadvantages and exchanged a few passes with Lord James Howard*, who denied sleeping with Atkins’ wife. Possibly finding his list of 15 men to confront a trifle overburdensome, Atkins took the matter up with his father-in-law, who ‘being sensible of the provocation’ agreed that his daughter should reside at Nottingham or in Buckinghamshire with £120 p.a. She duly took up residence in the ‘parson’s house near Newport Pagnell’. At the general election in October 1695, Wharton and Atkins were returned unopposed as knights of the shire, though Atkins possessed only a small estate in the county. However, Atkins also contested Buckingham, but again unsuccessfully. He was forecast as likely to support the Court on 31 Jan. 1696 in the division over the proposed council of trade, signed the Association, and voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. Despite his inexperience he was not averse to joining in party point-scoring, it being reported that on 13 Feb. 1696:
some words passed . . . in the committee [of the whole on the price of guineas] between Sir Richard Atkins and Sir Edward Seymour, that the House thought fit to interpose for preventing any quarrel. There being a question proposed for leaving the Chair, and Sir Edward Seymour being thought of in his debate to deviate from it, Sir Richard took him down to order, which he [Seymour] being surprised at, questioned whether he understood what order was; some others took notice of that as an improper reflection, and Sir Richard’s reply to it was, that he should not apply to the House for satisfaction in any case where he could hope for it elsewhere.
Atkins was then brought back into the House and ordered not to prosecute the quarrel further. His final recorded intervention in debate occurred on 27 Feb. when he was one of ‘two great courtiers’ who opposed a motion to note that the French King and James II were promoters of the Assassination Plot.5
Atkins died on 28 Nov. 1696, and was buried at Newport Pagnell. The monument erected by his mother praised his accomplishments and service in Parliament before remarking that ‘the latter part of his life [had] been clouded with some domestic troubles caused by the fault of others, not his own, which ought to be covered with a veil of silence’, although they had ‘hastened his end’.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. IGI, Herts.; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 362.
- 2. CJ, xii. 510.
- 3. Manning and Bray, 361–2; VCH Bucks. iv. 417; T. C. Dale, Our Clapham Forefathers, 91; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1883), 143; Add. 70217, Chapman to [Ld. Oxford (Robert Harley*)], 22 Dec. 1711.
- 4. BL, Verney mss mic. 636/44, Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, to John Verney* (Ld. Fermanagh), 6 July 1690; 636/47, same to same, 9, 11 Nov. 1693; Wharton Mems. 30; Add. 70217, Chapman to [Oxford], 22 Dec. 1711; Northants RO, Isham mss IC 1505, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 10 Dec. 1693; CSP Dom. 1694–5, pp. 116–17; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 293.
- 5. Verney mss 636/48, John to Sir Ralph Verney, 3, 4, 10, 11, 24 July, 7 Aug. 1695; Luttrell, 494, 506; Lexington Pprs. 168–9; HMC Kenyon, 405.
- 6. Manning and Bray, Surr. 362; Clapham and the Clapham Sect (Clapham Antiq. Soc.), 189–90.