CHAWORTH, Sir George (c.1569-1639), of Annesley, Notts. and Westminster
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Family and Education
b. c.1569, 1st s. of John Chaworth of Cropwell Butler, Notts. and Jane, da. of David Vincent of Barnack, Northants.1 educ. Trin. Oxf. 1586, aged 17, MA 1605; G. Inn, entered 1605.2 m. Mary (d. 28 July 1646), da. of Thomas Kniveton† of Mercaston, Derbys., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. kntd. 29 May 1605; suc. uncle Henry in Annesley estate by 1610; cr. Visct. Chaworth [I] 4 Mar. 1628; suc. fa. 1628. d. 3 July 1639.3 sig. G[eorge] Chaworth.
J.p. Notts. by c.1607-at least c.1614, 1616-29, liberty of Southwell and Scroby, Notts. 1609-29;9 kpr. Kingswood and Fellwood forests, Glos. 1614-?d.; constable, Bristol castle 1616-?30;10 commr. subsidy, Notts. 1621-2, 1624, Nottingham 1621-2, Newark 1621-2,11 sewers, Leics. and Notts. 1625, 1629,12 musters, Notts. 1621-6,13 Forced Loan 1627,14 swans, Midland counties 1627;15 sheriff, Notts. 1638-d.16
Chaworth needs to be distinguished from his uncle and namesake, who sat for East Retford in 1589, was knighted in 1608 and died in 1615.17 Although described by the French ambassador in 1621 as ‘a man of little breeding and even less merit’,18 Chaworth was, as Sir George Calvert* noted, descended from ‘one of the best families of gentlemen in the kingdom’, as well as being ‘heir to a good fortune’ and ‘a very honest gentleman’. 19 Certainly Chaworth could trace his ancestry to the de Cardurcis family, which originated in Sourches, near Le Mans in Maine, and to Thomas Chaworth, who received a writ of summons to the Lords in 1299. Indeed, Chaworth was very conscious of his baronial ancestry, and of the fact that James I himself was descended from the marriage in the 1290s between Maud Chaworth and Henry Plantagenet, later earl of Lancaster. When, in October 1623, Chaworth lobbied Buckingham for a peerage he pointed to this marriage as being ‘argument enough of my blood being capable’.20
Chaworth’s wife was a niece (by the half-blood) of ‘Bess of Hardwick’, the formidable countess of Shrewsbury, and he seems to have begun his career in the service of her granddaughter, Lady Arbella Stuart, making a transition to the Court on the accession of James I. Chaworth’s uncle, Henry Chaworth, who owned the bulk of the family estates, 21 died in 1606, but not before Chaworth, with the help of the countess of Shrewsbury, put pressure on Henry to make him his heir. By 1610 he had emerged from a ‘sea of suits’ with his first cousin and another kinsman, Roger Manners, 5th earl of Rutland, in possession of at least a good part of the family’s property at Annesley and Wiverton in south Nottinghamshire.22
Despite a later claim to have ‘served for honour’ only for many years,23 Chaworth received some more substantial tokens of Crown favour. These included (in 1612) a grant of the benefit of the recusancy of Thomasine Greville, mother of Sir Edward*,24 and (in 1613) the right to make a number of free denizens.25 In 1617 he tried to move in on lord keeper Sir Francis Bacon’s* farm of the petty writs, but then, with the king’s approval, struck an agreement whereby Bacon retained the farm but granted Chaworth an annuity of £500.26 By 1619 Chaworth was sufficiently prominent at Court to be appointed to carry the banner of the Union at the funeral of Anne of Denmark.27
Returned for Nottinghamshire in 1620, Chaworth received only three committee appointments in the 1621 Parliament but made ten speeches. On 12 Feb. he supported proceeding both by petition and bill to defend freedom of speech in Parliament. He criticized the Speaker, Thomas Richardson, who, he said, ‘made not the petition for liberty of speech, as usual’ in the Speaker’s traditional address at the opening of Parliament, but he also rebuked Bacon for answering ‘with more caution than usual’.28 Four days later, however, he supported the expulsion of Thomas Sheppard for his attack on puritans, pointing out that as ‘one of the busy young lawyers in the Proclamation’ of 6 Nov. 1620, he ‘ought not to have been elected’.29 He spoke against certain monopolists, urging on 23 Feb. that Sir Francis Michell, one of the patentees for licensing alehouses, should be degraded from the order of knighthood, adding that it should be declared that Michell might henceforth ‘only have only the title of an ale-knight’.30 On 16 Mar. he agreed that Members should be sworn in the Lords as witnesses against (Sir) Giles Mompesson*.31 He displayed his familiarity with the Court five days later in the debate on (Sir) Robert Lloyd’s patent for engrossing wills and inventories, arguing that the project had been floated there 12 years ago, from which he adduced that Lloyd was ‘no projector, but a prosecutor’.32 His only legislative committee appointment was on 20 Mar., for a private bill to secure an annuity granted by Sir Roger Dallison*.33 As a loyal courtier, he warned the House on 30 Apr. not to continue to discuss the affairs of Ireland after the king had made his displeasure known.34 He was one of those added to the committee for grievances on Sir Henry Poole’s motion on 2 May.35 Five days later he argued against sending an immediate reply to the Lord’s message about Edward Floyd, the prisoner in the Fleet who had so incensed the Commons by his disparaging remarks about the queen of Bohemia, on the grounds that ‘more than half the House is away’.36 He acted as teller on 29 May for the noes in a division over the bill to settle the lands of a Kentish recusant on a Scottish favourite, the 1st earl of Holdernesse.37 On 2 June he agreed it was better for the session to be adjourned immediately than brought to an end in a fortnight’s time ‘but hoped we, requesting it, might have 14 days longer, and then an adjournment’.38
During the recess Chaworth was sent to Brussels to condole with the Archduchess Isabella, the ruler of the Spanish Netherlands, on the death of her husband, and afterwards to appeal for her support for the restoration of the Palatinate. According to his own account of his mission, the royal favourite, the marquess of Buckingham, would have preferred to employ Sir Henry Rich*, ‘but His Majesty would have me, intending it as a foundation for honour to me; but the marquess was malevolent to me’. Warned by the king that he should ‘not to look to make a fortune of this employment’, as James could not afford to spend much money on the mission Chaworth replied: ‘I have been a good husband of my own estate, and Your Majesty shall not find me unthrifty of yours’. He was nonetheless robbed of £350 by one of his own servants. He gave £28 to the convent of English Benedictine nuns at Brussels, ‘a place which (excepting some superstitions) is approvable, and worthy much honour’. According to his own account he won the ‘good opinion of all’ for the performance of his official duties.39
Chaworth seems to have returned in time to take his seat when Parliament reassembled in November, but he did not make his presence felt until 28 Nov. when, referring to William Towerson I’s speech of 4 June, he moved that the House should take Towerson ‘at his word, and, in lieu of the 20 or 30 subsidies which he said the Merchant Adventurers would give, that that Company should lay out this promised subsidy presently, and that the country should pay it in order’.40 On 3 Dec. he was one of the councillors and courtiers chosen to attend the king with the address calling on James to recover the Palatinate and marry Prince Charles to a Protestant.41 Four days later he objected to sending the Speaker with a reply to its rejection, and begged the House ‘to go on with our bills’.42
On 11 Jan. 1622 Chaworth wrote to Trumbull that ‘some who covert not that union [between king and Parliament] caused a bone to be thrown amongst us - no less than abridgement of our freedom either of our persons or speech in Parliament’. This ‘caused us to ... fall to petitions to the king, in which we can not brag of our good speed, the passages were divers, intricate and high’. Chaworth criticized the king’s reply to the Commons’ address, describing it as ‘written rather to serve for the meridian of any country than for our Parliament than which I assure you was never any better disposed for His Majesty’s purpose’. He lamented the sudden dissolution and loss ‘of all our labours and long hopes’.43 A week later he wrote again to Trumbull concerning the treatment meted out to the perceived ringleaders in the Commons: Sir Edward Coke was ‘most miserable - in Tower close - an indictment is drawing against him for a public trial for his life but on what points my pen dare not express’; and Sir Robert Phelips had also been imprisoned for being ‘too busy for the Commons’. William Mallory, too, had been sent for, while18 other prominent Members were to be dispatched as commissioners to Ireland. However, ‘the worst’ development of all was the initiation of the Benevolence for the Palatinate, and in particular the pressure brought to bear on potential contributors to pay, ‘not ... of their good will but by direct’, even on ‘the king’s servants that were of the House’. Chaworth ended by observing that ‘I pity these courses in regard I know they make not for my master’s good or honour - and they grind the faces of those [of] his subjects who have good hearts’.44
The payment of Chaworth’s annuity out of the farm of the petty writs had ceased after the fall of Bacon. However in March 1623 the farm was assigned to Chaworth, who promised to pay Bacon £600 per annum.45 At around the same time Chaworth was cultivated by the Spanish ambassador, Count Gondomar, who was anxious to drum up support for the proposed Spanish Match. Posing ‘as a friend, and an affectant to the amity betwixt our nations’, wrote Chaworth, Gondomar ‘was serious to apply himself unto me, to seek me and my honour, to magnify my house and extraction, to put me in hopes of rising by the match both into honour and office, and urged me particularly to hold correspondence with that virtuous princess, the archduchess’. Taking advantage of the absence of Prince Charles and Buckingham in Spain, Chaworth subsequently secured the archduchess’ direct support for his promotion to the peerage, transmitted through Gondomar’s successor. James, whose evident affection for Chaworth had not given him any exalted idea of his abilities, ‘laughed loudly and heartily’ when he read the letter, ‘saying: ‘A viscount! a viscount!’ but made vague promises.46
It is not known whether Chaworth sought re-election for Nottinghamshire in 1624, but he was certainly one of the ten ‘suitors’ for a seat at Nottingham.47 Although unsuccessful there, the earl of Arundel, who shared Chaworth’s pro-Spanish views and was married to a granddaughter of ‘Bess of Hardwick’, nominated Chaworth at Arundel, a borough under his control. The seat was contested by a local candidate, William Mill*, but Chaworth was returned by the mayor regardless.48
Before the Parliament met Chaworth was pessimistic about its prospects. On 16 Jan. 1624 he wrote to Trumbull that ‘there is much labour to make it of no use to the king and country’. Indeed, ‘to prevent the Lower House of so useful Members’, (Sir) Thomas Crewe had been chosen Speaker, while Sir Edward Coke and Sir Edwin Sandys had been appointed commissioners for Ireland. Chaworth predicted that these stratagems were likely to wreck the Parliament before it had begun, as Sandys had delayed his departure for Ireland, feigning ill health, and in the interim had got himself elected for Kent ‘with great acclamation’. Since James was unlikely to back down, and the Commons would not ‘on any terms’ be prepared to forego Sandys’s services, ‘many of these bones will (I fear) make this Parliament of as little good use as the two last were’.49 Chaworth’s first sight of the new assembly did not reassure him. On 20 Feb. he reported to Trumbull that the king’s opening speech, plus the fact that the House was composed of ‘many captains of the Low Countries’ and ‘of very many young and new men never of any Parliament before and of laboured men put in purposely’ was ominous, as it ‘must needs instantly engage us in a war’. Chaworth does not seem to have feared military defeat by Spain, although he thought ‘we are far unprepared’. Nevertheless ‘we shall do wonders by sea and verily ... may infinitely endanger or overthrow’ Spain, ‘but whether benefit ourselves (other than the soldiery) I see no probable reason how’.50
According to a memoir he later wrote, Chaworth decided to do all he could oppose the policy promoted by Charles and Buckingham of war with Spain, ‘and either crush it in the cradle or lull it a sleep until another and fitter season’. He added that he was encouraged in this by ‘Mr. Secretary’, presumably a reference to the crypto-Catholic Sir George Calvert. Consequently, in his only recorded speech of the Parliament, delivered during the war debate on 19 Mar., Chaworth strongly affirmed the king’s own policy of continued peaceful negotiation and directly challenged the alternative view, ‘which God knoweth I uttered from my own heart’. This speech was widely recorded by the parliamentary diarists, and Chaworth himself sent a copy to Trumbull on 8 Apr. as well as inserting a version in his memoir. In both memoir and letter Chaworth noted that he had been prompted to put his speech in writing by James, who had himself requested a copy. Chaworth told Trumbull that his own record of the speech was extremely faithful to the original, and that he not altered ‘six words that I said’, but in his memoir he noted that the king had asked him to ‘leave out all words which might suffer ill interpretation’. Consequently he had ‘left out all the bitterness of it, as may appear by some copies which I published purposely, both into the country and in London’. Neither the text provided for James nor any of those copies that were published, aside from the one sent to Trumbull, appear to have survived. Considering that Chaworth made the speech, as he said ‘upon present occasion, and wholly unpremeditated’, and that he claimed not to have written it down until after the event, the various versions which have survived agree to a remarkable extent, although the text in Chaworth’s memoir contains a final section which is not in found in any other account.51
Chaworth seems to have aimed to be deliberately provocative, for he began by stating that he ‘agree[d] with no man [that] hath spoken before me’. Contrasting the belligerence of his fellow Members with their reluctance to vote the king the support demanded, he asserted that ‘all do agree in ... drawing the sum to as little a proportion as they may’. He argued that ‘if we give the king but a third part of his demands, we must expect from him but a third of our desires’. He also ridiculed the demand that negotiations with Spain should be broken off, asserting that the marriage treaty had already been thoroughly wrecked and there was no chance of a treaty for the restoration of the Palatinate without the Spanish Match. However, if war with Spain did come then the cost would be far greater than the sum James I had asked for in 1621. He further questioned the need for war. Some said that ‘the king’s honour, the commonwealth, religion, and all [are] at the stake’, but ‘war is not tomorrow’, nor was there any urgent need to help the Dutch, as the enormous effort required by Spain to take Ostend and the recent failure of the Spanish to make advances in the Low Countries showed. Instead of war, Chaworth urged the Commons to turn its attention to ‘inward enemies’, which he enumerated as ‘briberies, oppressions, corruption, and great fees’. He advocated a straightforward deal in which supply should be given in exchange for redress of grievances, and proposed a grant of two subsidies and four fifteenths, which should be tied to ‘good laws’. This would better enable taxpayers to fund a war at a later date ‘if there be one’. Foreign policy meanwhile could be safely left to James and his ministers. In a passage which is only recorded in the text of the speech copied into his memoir, Chaworth attacked Buckingham’s motives, arguing that if there was a war ‘I would rather be in the office of admiral of England than king of England’, by which he was presumably referring to the potential rewards from prizes. He ended by asserting that ‘the way to benefit’ his ‘own country’s good’ was ‘to preserve it in peace with all Christian nations and to root out home corruptions’.52
According to John Pym*, Chaworth’s speech ‘might have done some hurt’ had there been ‘bad humours enough in the House’, but ‘it made no impressions which were not taken off by Mr. [Thomas] Wentworth, Sir Henry Mildmay, and Sir John Walter’.53 Chaworth confessed to Trumbull that ‘it was madness in me’ to have given the speech, and he hoped that Trumbull would ‘censure me only a fool and not a papist, a Spaniard, or I know not what’. Knowing ‘the indisposition of some there to run and carry tales to Court’, Chaworth also wrote to the king justifying his speech. James initially thanked him, declaring that Chaworth ‘spake his heart’, but shortly afterwards he sent Thomas, 1st earl of Kellie, to explain ‘that much exception was taken to my speech, not only by Buckingham, but by divers others, and especially by [James, 1st earl of] Carlisle, who said it was the most malicious one that could possibly be uttered’. When the toned down copy which James I requested was read in the presence of Chaworth’s critics, however, ‘the prince said nothing at all ... Carlisle said as he had said before’, while Buckingham complained that ‘it had like to have dashed all his hopes of getting money for a war’. However Chaworth thought that the king had no intention of going to war, and that the Commons had no intention of giving money for one, ‘but before have to have all their desires or give nothing, and if they give, to have with such restrictions as a servant that loves him [the king] and his honour may say they are not kingly for him to yield unto’.54
On 22 Mar. Chaworth was named to his only committee of the Parliament, to consider the bill for the abolition of trial by combat.55 Meanwhile James stood by his champion, claiming that he would have said the same himself, but in the Commons his enemies
irritated an old challenge against me, of my mis-election, ... and after I had sat in the House six weeks ... the committee entered to the hearing the cause but just at sunset, and being then darkish (before Easter), they made it such a work, and in one quarter of an hour, without so much as hearing one witness for me, or more than one witness against me,
that Mill’s petition was accepted, ‘so powerful was the very humour of the duke in that House at that time’. He insisted on presenting his case to the House, but to no avail, as the Commons endorsed the judgment of the committee on 24 March.56 The election had certainly been irregular, but several reporters, including Sir Francis Nethersole*, thought that Chaworth might have held his seat but for his speech, ‘so as they were glad to be shut of me, giving me the title of a royalist’. He also accused Buckingham of pursuing a vendetta against him as farmer of the petty writs, which he had taken over in 1623.57
Chaworth carried a bannerol at the funeral of James I. During the elections to Charles I’s first Parliament in 1625, he was again rejected by Nottingham.58 In 1628, after refusing to pay Buckingham £2,500 for a Scottish viscountcy, he obtained the Irish equivalent for £1,500, at the same time submitting a claim to the English barony of Basset (of Drayton), ‘which is my right in blood’.59 He had further trouble over the petty writs in 1628, when he was successfully sued in Chancery by officials wanting their agreed remuneration.60 He received few further favours under Charles. His offers of diplomatic service were brushed aside, and he was imprisoned in 1631-2 for carrying a message to Henrietta Maria from her mother, whom he had met on his way back from visiting Spa in the Spanish Netherlands.61 As the holder of an Irish peerage, he unsuccessfully claimed exemption from the shrievalty in 1638. As sheriff of Nottinghamshire he collected £700 Ship Money, but his duties were interrupted when a long-standing urological disorder compelled him to take the waters at Bath. He died there in July 1639 and was buried a fortnight later with his ancestors at Langar in Nottinghamshire,62 although in his will, dated 24 Apr. 1639, he had expressed himself as unwilling ‘to put the ordinance touching my carcase thither upon record or upon any’s conscience’. He named his wife, ‘my dear and only contentment of this world’, executrix, or, failing her, his brother Richard. He provided £150 each to Southwell and Nottingham for a stock to buy hemp or wool for the poor to work on, but not those ‘who can do nothing or will not put their endeavours for their own livelihood’. Beneficiaries were to hear service every St. George’s day, ‘after the manner of the English church’. He left 200 crowns to ‘my companion M. Prudent du Boys’, who had been his secretary and his children’s tutor, and a gold ring to Arundel’s son Henry Frederick Howard*, ‘whom I really loved ... with my desires to his lordship that he will love and cherish his poorest kinsman, my son, for my sake’. He had begun with a brief invocation of the Trinity, and he closed with praise of God
for His blessings and His corrections laid on me and mine, ... and chiefly and above all for those inestimable and numberless ones by the holiest, blessedest and best of creatures, Mary the mother of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ, by whose means, merits and mediation I am most confident I do change this my most wicked and wretched life for a better and more certain, even for eternity.63
His brother Richard was involved in a double return at Midhurst in the autumn of 1640. His son, the 2nd viscount, took up arms for the king in the Civil War. No later member of the family sat in Parliament.64
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Alan Davidson
- 1. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 128; Add. 6705, f. 29.
- 2. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1639, p. 364; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 138; CB, iii. 155; J.T. Godfrey, Notes on Churches of Notts.: Hundred of Bingham, 315-16.
- 4. E.T. Bradley, Life of Lady Arabella Stuart, ii. 165, 186.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 73.
- 6. E179/70/122; REQ 2/409/34.
- 7. Loseley Mss ed. A.J. Kempe, 422, 437.
- 8. C78/307/1.
- 9. C66/1748; 66/2047; C231/4, f. 31; 231/5, p. 13; C181/2, f. 79; 181/4, f. 9.
- 10. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 228, 360.
- 11. C212/22/20-1, 23.
- 12. C181/3, f. 162; 181/4, f. 23v.
- 13. APC, 1619-21, p. 368; E401/2586, pp. 203-5.
- 14. Notts. Co. Recs. comp. H.H. Copnall, 111.
- 15. C181/3, f. 227.
- 16. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 105.
- 17. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 595-6.
- 18. PRO 31/3/37 (12 Oct. 1621).
- 19. Add. 72264, f. 134.
- 20. Add. 72362, f. 73; Loseley Mss, 468; Oxford DNB sub Chaworth [de Cadurcis] family.
- 21. Thorton, Notts. (1790), i. 199-200, 208.
- 22. Index of Wills in York Registry (Yorks. Arch. Soc. Rec. Ser. xxvi), 23; J. Hunter, Hallamshire, 122; Illustrations of Brit. Hist. ed. E. Lodge, iii. 215, 250-1; HMC Rutland, i. 408, 426; C78/146/3.
- 23. Loseley Mss, 467.
- 24. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 360.
- 25. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 210.
- 26. C78/307/1; Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, vi. 285-6; HMC 4th Rep. 286; 305; M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 357.
- 27. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, iii. 542.
- 28. CJ, i. 518a; CD 1621, ii. 61-2.
- 29. CJ, i. 524b.
- 30. CD 1621, ii. 131; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 84. An ale-knight was ‘a votary of the ale-house, a tippler’. OED.
- 31. CJ, i. 558a.
- 32. Ibid. 567a.
- 33. Ibid. 563b; HMC 4th Rep. 121.
- 34. CJ, i. 598a; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, pp. 118-19.
- 35. Ibid. 602b.
- 36. Ibid. 612b, CD 1621, iii. 191.
- 37. CJ, i. 631a.
- 38. Ibid. 636b-7a.
- 39. Loseley Mss, 420-1, 435-6, 446, 449, 469.
- 40. Nicholas, ii. 244.
- 41. CJ, i. 657b.
- 42. Ibid. 660b.
- 43. Add. 72363, ff. 15v-16.
- 44. Add. 72360, ff. 23-4.
- 45. C78/307/1; HMC 4th Rep. 286.
- 46. Loseley Mss, 469-73.
- 47. Recs. of Bor. of Nottingham ed. W.H. Stevenson, iv. 387.
- 48. Add. 72368, f. 11.
- 49. Add. 72367, f. 30.
- 50. Ibid. f. 95v.
- 51. Loseley Mss, 477-8, 480-1; Add. 72368, f. 11v.
- 52. Loseley Mss, 477-80; Add. 72367, ff. 143-4; CJ, i. 742a; Holles 1624, p. 43; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 132; ‘Pym 1624’, i. f. 34.
- 53. Ibid. f. 34.
- 54. Add. 72368, ff. 11v-12; Loseley Mss, 480-1.
- 55. CJ, i. 746a.
- 56. Loseley Mss, 481-2; CJ, i. 748a; K. Sharpe, ‘Earl of Arundel, his Circle and the Opposition to the Duke of Buckingham, 1618-1628’, Faction and Parl. ed. K. Sharpe, 222-4.
- 57. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 199; Loseley Mss, 481.
- 58. Nichols, iii. 1046; Notts. RO, CA3399, f. 60.
- 59. Loseley Mss, 484-5.
- 60. APC, 1627, p. 361; C78/307/1; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 234.
- 61. CSP Dom. 1631-3, pp. 163-4, 272; HMC Cowper, ii. 81, 233; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. of Eng. from Accession of Jas. I, vii. 185-7.
- 62. CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 535; 1638-9, p. 135; 1639, pp. 150-1, 364.
- 63. PROB 11/181, ff. 310-11.
- 64. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 131; CCC, 1351.