DUKE, Richard (1652-1733), of Essex Street, Westminster and Otterton, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1679
1695 - Nov. 1701

Family and Education

b. 2 May 1652, 1st s. of Richard Duke of Otterton by Frances, da. of George Southcote of Buckland Tout Saints, Devon.  educ. Colyton sch. 1660; Powderham, Martock, Exeter and Ottery schs.; Exeter, Oxf. 1669–70; I. Temple 1670–1; travelled abroad 1671–2, 1673–5.  m. (1) 17 May 1673, Isabella (d. 1705), da. of Sir William Yonge, 3rd Bt.*, 2da. d.v.p.; (2) 28 Feb. 1705, Elizabeth (d. 1726), da. of John Cholwich of Farrington, Devon, 1s. 1da. d.v.psuc. fa. 1716.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Lyme Regis 1680.2


A Whig and possibly a Dissenter, Duke wrote a series of hectoring letters in 1693 full of biblical quotations to persuade Christopher Savery to serve as sheriff of Devon. Having succeeded, he then urged Savery unsuccessfully not to choose two non-jurors as his under-sheriffs: ‘if you choose such officers, you will be but a Jack Straw and worse than a Tory justice, and will be declined by the true friends of the Government’. Savery took offence and Sir Francis Drake, 3rd Bt.*, who tried to smooth things over, had to admit that Duke ‘is a very indiscreet man’. Duke was returned in 1695 for Ashburton, where his father owned a moiety of the manor, and where the outgoing Member was his kinsman, the Irish lord chief justice Sir Richard Reynell, 1st Bt.* He was forecast in January 1696 as likely to support the Court over the proposed council of trade, signed the Association in February, and on 25 Nov. voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, although he was related to another of the conspirators, Sir John Freind†. Classed as a Court supporter in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments after the general election of 1698, he voted on 18 Jan. 1699 in favour of a standing army, but by February 1701 he was listed as likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’. On standing for re-election at Ashburton in December 1701 he was either defeated or more probably was brought to desist through the efforts of Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and Sir William Courtenay, 2nd Bt.* A further blow was his removal early in 1702 from the Devon commission of the peace at Seymour’s request. In September 1704 Duke wrote to Robert Harley* complaining bitterly that many wealthy and respectable gentlemen had not been reinstated in the commission, and took occasion to berate Seymour as a man ‘of many passions and perturbations’ whose views about the Resurrection were ‘unsound’. Duke made no attempt to regain his seat. He died in February 1733 and was buried at Otterton on the 27th, having devised his estates to his cousin Richard Duke.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Trans. Devon Assoc. i. 493–4; Misc. Gen. et Her. ser. 4, iii. 31; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. x. 196.
  • 2. Dorset RO, Lyme Regis mss B6/11, f. 321.
  • 3. Add. 44058, ff. 69–74, 149; Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF 3068, Elizabeth Duke to Mary Clarke [c.Dec. 1701]; HMC Portland, iv. 134–5; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 162, 173; Misc. Gen. et Her. 31.