DRAKE, Sir Francis, 3rd Bt. (1647-1717), of Buckland Abbey, Devon, and Holborn End, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 1 May 1647, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Thomas Drake of Brendon Barton, Week St. Mary, Devon by Susan, da. of William Crymes of Buckland Crymes, Devon. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1663, MA 1663. m. (1) 6 Feb. 1665, Dorothy (d. 1679), da. of Sir John Bampfylde, 1st Bt.†, of Poltimore, Devon, 4da.; (2) lic. 21 Oct. 1680, Anne (d. 1685), da. of Thomas Boone† of Mount Boone, Devon and coh. to her bro. Charles Boone*, s.p.; (3) 18 Feb. 1690 (with £5,000), Elizabeth (d. 1717), da. of Sir Henry Pollexfen† of Woodbury, Devon, 7s. 1da. suc. fa. c.1653; uncle Sir Francis Drake, 2nd Bt.†, as 3rd Bt. 6 Jan. 1662.1
Recorder, Plymouth 1696–d.; v.-adm. Devon 1715–d.2
A staunch Whig, Drake had property in and nearby Bere Alston, as well as long leases which gave him a preponderant interest in that borough. He also enjoyed influence for one seat at Tavistock, which, until 1705, he managed for the Russells. This enabled him to provide seats for several leading Junto Whigs, often on the recommendation of Lord Somers (Sir John*), whom he held in great esteem, and his own friend and unpaid legal adviser, Peter King*. Returned for Bere Alston as well as Tavistock in 1690, Drake chose the latter and was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in March 1690. On 24 Mar. he served as a teller on the Whig side in connexion with the disputed return for Plympton Erle. A list among Robert Harley’s* papers noted him in April 1691 as a Country supporter. In a debate on 4 Jan. 1692 he spoke in favour of granting passports to the ‘witnesses’ mentioned in the recent disclosures of Jacobite intrigue by William Fuller, asserting that ‘Fuller has done service and I hope he may have the countenance of this House in an address to the King for his protection and those to come over’. However, when other MPs pointed to the contradictions in Fuller’s statements, Drake urged that these be investigated. His support for the interlopers’ plans for superseding the existing East India Company were revealed in tellerships he performed on 8 and 22 Jan.; while also on the 22nd he was teller against a private bill enabling the bishop of London to sell a manor in Worcestershire. On 14 Jan. 1693 he was allowed a month’s leave of absence to attend his sick wife, and family commitments led him to speak later in the year of retiring from parliamentary service. From this point on he was certainly less assiduous in the attention he gave his duties at Westminster. In the autumn Drake saw it as his responsibility to intercede with the new sheriff of Devon, Christopher Savery, to dissuade him from appointing as under-sheriff a friend of Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*: ‘if the under-sheriff should be of another kidney, if anything of difficulty should happen – which God prevent – it will be very easy for him to do what you and all your friends will be heartily sorry for’. However, Savery politely reassured Drake that he had reserved for himself both the handling of writs for parliamentary elections and the empanelling of quarter sessions juries, but would make his own nomination. Apologizing for his presumption, Drake commented that ‘the plain designs now set on foot against the government may perhaps have transported me into an unnecessary tenderness’, and expressed longing ‘for such an agreement among us as was in the late King Charles II’s time’. He was granted a month’s leave of absence on 19 Jan. 1694, but was still absent without leave on 14 Mar. when he was ordered into custody. On 14 Feb. 1695, when his absence was again noted, a motion to excuse him was defeated and he was again ordered into custody. He chose not to stand at the general election of 1695, saying that he would find it ‘mighty inconvenient’ to serve again, as the London air was ‘very prejudicial’ to his health.3
Early in 1696 Drake busied himself in scotching an attempt by a group of senior county Tories to avoid taking the parliamentary association by drafting instead an address to be presented by the Earl of Bath, the county’s lord lieutenant. He pointed out ‘the great absurdities and defects’ of such a document and was gratified to see it ‘somewhat amended’. Commenting to his friend Sir George Treby*, he said that there seemed at first ‘an almost universal inclination’ for the Association but then
one night we lost, many having notions put into them that Harrow-on-the-Hill stood in a bottom, for that the word ‘rightful’ was to break the Act of Settlement. Moreover, they could not consent to the word ‘revenge’. So nice are some of us grown since we hunted the poor fellows that followed the Duke of Monmouth after the whole of the design was wholly defeated. This defection is owing to some of our leading Churchmen . . . there was a most abominable grand jury provided, in it many non-jurors, which the judge having notice of discouraged that panel, and we have a new one . . . I am almost ashamed of the condition of our militia. The commissions to the colonels came last week, and they, under the impression of what may happen upon their not signing the Association, are not likely to be very effective in settling their regiments.
The matter was clarified when Parliament passed a bill making the taking of the Association compulsory for all those holding office under the crown and Bath was replaced as lord lieutenant of Devon by Lord Stamford, Drake’s Whig associate at Bere Alston. This led to a purge in the county commissions and an open breach between Drake and his Tory kinsman Sir William Drake, 4th Bt.* Sir Francis followed up the success by obtaining a new charter for Plymouth with the help of Somers and the Duke of Shrewsbury, under which he became recorder for life. His filling up the new corporation with Whig friends and contriving to exclude Charles Trelawny* from the command of the town’s militia earned him the nickname of ‘the regulator’. In November of that year he returned to Parliament at a by-election at Tavistock, where he had put up in order to keep out a Tory, Henry Manaton*. He was granted leave of absence on 6 Mar. 1697. In the following session he was teller on two occasions, but on succumbing to illness early in March 1698 was granted leave of absence. Following the 1698 election he was classed as a supporter of the Court party, and on 18 Jan. 1699 voted in favour of a standing army. On 15 Feb. he was given six weeks’ leave on account of a bronchial complaint which appears to have kept him at home for the rest of the Parliament. An analysis of the House according to ‘interests’ compiled during the first half of 1700 placed him as a supporter of Charles Montagu*.4
In later years Drake, who had seven sons to provide for yet continued to indulge in the expense of electioneering for the Whig interest, fell into serious financial difficulties. As trustee of the estates of Sir Henry Pollexfen†, and guardian to Sir Henry’s epileptic heir, he was able to marry off one of his own daughters to the heir and ensure that the Pollexfen estates eventually came into his family. Not surprisingly, Sir Henry’s brother, John Pollexfen*, accused him of sharp practice. Drake died during the last week of December 1717 and was buried at Meavy, near Tavistock. A local Tory remarked that ‘he died a lingering and tormenting death. I wish he be not punished worse in the other life.’5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. E. F. Eliott-Drake, Fam. and Heirs of Sir Francis Drake, i. 400; ii. 30, 65, 117
- 2. Ibid. ii. 113.
- 3. Eliott-Drake, ii. 86, 89–93, 114, 142–3; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 690; Add. 44058, ff. 75–81; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 33–34.
- 4. Eliott-Drake, ii. 104–10, 113, 126; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 40–41; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 123; Coxe, Shrewsbury, 481.
- 5. Eliott-Drake, ii. 119–23, 153–6, 207; Jnl. of James Yonge ed. Poynter, 229.