NAPIER, Sir Robert, 1st Bt. (c.1640-1700), of Puncknowle, Dorset

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



3 Mar. - 17 Dec. 1690
1698 - 31 Oct. 1700

Family and Education

b. c.1640, o. s. of Robert Napier of Puncknowle by his 1st w. Anne, da. of Allen Corrance, Merchant Taylor, of London and Wimbish Hall, Essex.  educ. M. Temple 1655, called 1660; Trinity, Oxf. 1656; Padua Univ. 1659.  m. 21 Nov. 1667, Sophia, da. of Charles Evelyn of Godstone, Surr., 3s. 4da.  Kntd. 27 Jan. 1681; cr. Bt. 25 Feb. 1682; suc. fa. 1686.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Dorset 1680–1; recorder, Dorchester 1693–d.2

Commr. drowned lands 1690.3


Napier, a moderate Tory in the Convention, was returned for Dorchester in 1690 after a contest, and was classed as a Tory and a Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). In the Abjuration debates of 26 and 29 Apr. Napier spoke for the Court, making an identical analogy in both speeches between the insincerity with which many would take the oath and the digestive calm of ‘an old woman swallowing grey peas, which run through without offence to the stomach’. ‘An oath is a bond’, he further declaimed on the 29th, ‘but it is sealed with butter, it slips down the throat very glibly . . . Never trouble [the] world with oaths, but those that you suspect disarm, pare their nails and grind their teeth.’ On 14 May, in the committee of the whole on preserving the peace of the kingdom during the King’s absence, he spoke against the suspension of habeas corpus and seconded Sir Robert Sawyer’s motion for the Speaker to leave the Chair. His committee-work indicates an interest in matters of trade, and on 10 May he reported the bill confirming the privileges of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and subsequently carried it up to the Lords. He was teller on 3 Dec. in favour of a clause to be added to the clandestine marriages bill that would have augmented the rights of grandparents in cases where the father died ‘without devising the custody or tuition of children and their estate’. Further parliamentary activity was prevented, however, when Napier was unseated on petition on 17 Dec.4

Napier did not stand in 1695, but after returning to the House in 1698 he was an opponent of the Junto-dominated administration. In September he was classed as a member of the Country party and in another list was incorrectly noted as a placeman. In October it was forecast that he would oppose the standing army. He spoke on 17 Jan. 1699 against Sir John Phillips’ moral reform bill, declaring that ‘those who would not take the Old and New Testament for a rule of life would never be reformed by an Act of Parliament’. The next day he spoke on the third reading of the disbanding bill, presumably in favour as he was not listed as voting against it. He reported twice from committees on minor matters during this session.5

Napier died at Puncknowle on 31 Oct. 1700 and was buried there. Neither his son, who sold the estate, nor any later member of the family entered Parliament.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. cxvii), 50; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 770; Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 270; Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, ix. 67.
  • 2. C. H. Mayo, Dorchester Recs. 456–7.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 794.
  • 4. Bodl. Rawl. A.79, ff. 73–74, 87; Add 42592, f. 136; 42952, f. 96.
  • 5. Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/133, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 17 Jan. 1698[–9]; Cam. Misc. xxix. 387.
  • 6. Hutchins, Dorset, 770; Top. and Gen. iii. 36.