STRODE, William (?1594-1645), of Meavy, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

28 Apr. 1640
Nov. 1640 - 9 Sept. 1645
[1640 (Nov.)]

Family and Education

bap. 6 Nov. 1594?, 2nd s. of Sir William Strode* (d.1637) and his 1st w. Mary, da. of Thomas Southcote of Shillingford St. George and Bovey Tracey, Devon; bro. of Sir Richard*.1 educ. I. Temple 1614; Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1617, aged 18, BA 1619.2 unm. d. 9 Sept. 1645.3

Offices Held

Commr. execution of ordinances, Devon 1644, assessment 1644.4

Member, Westminster Assembly Jan. 1645-d., cttee. for maintenance of New Model Army Mar. 1645-d.5

Biography

Strode must be distinguished from two contemporary namesakes: a cousin who wrote poetry, and became a canon of Oxford cathedral; and a parliamentarian colonel who was elected for Ilchester in 1646.6 Little can be said with certainty about his early life. He is generally described as having been baptized in 1594 at Bovey Tracey, the home of his maternal grandfather, but he may actually have been born around four years later, since the record of his admission to Oxford university in 1617 states that he was then aged 18. Ownership of a substantial estate at Meavy afforded his father, Sir William, control over one seat at Bere Alston, and Strode, who eventually inherited this property, was returned for the borough throughout his parliamentary career.7 He made his Commons’ debut in 1624, and although he barely featured in this session’s proceedings, his maiden speech on 7 May was characteristically controversial. Responding to the claim that lord keeper Williams had corruptly deprived Lady Darcy of an advowson, and citing his youth to justify his unfamiliarity with the precedents, Strode demanded to know whether the House had the power to punish an unjust judge. It is unclear whether he realized that, in doing so, he was siding with a political assault on Williams orchestrated by the duke of Buckingham. He received a single committee nomination, to scrutinize the bill against the receipt of pensions from foreign powers (12 May).8

The Westminster sitting of the 1625 Parliament again brought Strode a solitary bill committee appointment, on 8 July, which concerned the Sackville estates. Four days earlier he defended the actions of Buckingham’s client, Sir John Savile*, during the disputed Yorkshire election, complaining that the charges against him were insufficiently precise. On 9 July he welcomed the king’s offer to adjourn the sitting on account of the plague, but his motion for a unilateral reply by the Commons was rejected in favour of a joint response with the Lords.9

During the Westminster sitting Strode had avoided criticizing the government, a reflection, perhaps, of his father’s close relationship with Buckingham However, Sir William Strode was becoming increasingly sceptical about the Crown’s financial and religious policies, and not surprisingly this was reflected in his son’s performance during the Oxford sitting. On 2 Aug. Strode affirmed that, although the Arminian cleric, Richard Montagu, was a royal servant, it was safe to proceed against him for his contempt of the Commons in publishing Appello Caesarem. He was named on 8 Aug. to the conference with the Lords on the subject of the government’s leniency towards Catholics. His response on 6 Aug. to the Crown’s request for a supplementary grant of supply was na├»ve but scathing; Members should consider ‘how the two subsidies and fifteenths, payable more than one year hence, can supply the navy to go out within 14 days’.10

By the time the next Parliament was summoned, Sir William, fully occupied as a billeting commissioner in Devon, apparently kept his own electoral options open by having his son returned at both Bere Alston and Plympton Erle. Strode finally opted to represent the former borough on 18 Feb. 1626, whereupon his father filled the Plympton vacancy.11 Now attending his third session, Strode took a somewhat fuller part in proceedings than previously, attracting six committee nominations and making 15 speeches. Of the committees, three were concerned with private bills, none of which had obvious relevance to him (18 Mar., 1 and 14 June). However, he was also named on 15 Feb. to the committee for the bill against scandalous clergy, after presumptuously dismissing Sir Dudley Digges’s objections to the measure, and successfully invoking the custom that Members who spoke against a bill should not serve on the committee. He doubtless further offended Digges, a member of High Commission, on 21 Mar., when he called for the naming of the members of that court who had discounted Sir Robert Howard’s* plea of parliamentary privilege during the hearing of his adultery case.12

Unlike his father, who remained essentially loyal to the government and to Buckingham, Strode increasingly allied himself with the duke’s critics during this session. Immediately after (Sir) John Eliot’s first report on the St. Peter affair on 22 Feb., Strode called for the ship to be released, and the next day he moved for two of the prime witnesses, the lieutenants of the Tower and of Dover Castle, Sir Allen Apsley and Sir John Hippisley* respectively, to be examined separately. When Buckingham’s involvement in the St. Peter’s second arrest became known on 1 Mar., Strode cautiously urged that the duke be heard by his counsel before the matter was adjudged a grievance. However, by 1 May he was openly holding the royal favourite responsible.13 It is difficult to gauge whether Strode actively collaborated with Eliot during this session. On 27 Feb. he reminded the House of its order two days earlier, prompted by Eliot, to identify the nation’s ills, and their causes and remedies, but thereafter he also embraced other lines of attack on the government. He called on Clement Coke to repeat on 15 Mar. his inflammatory remarks about tyranny, ostensibly so that Members could judge whether his statement was seditious. Seven days later he sought to broaden the Commons’ inquiry into the allegations made against Buckingham by Samuel Turner, beyond the simple question of whether it was a parliamentary course to pursue charges based on common fame: ‘first, whether his accusations were by common fame or not ... Second, whether it be a parliamentary way or not. Thirdly, to examine whether his accusations are true or not. Fourthly, how far this may attach or touch upon the duke of Buckingham’. Later that day he was named to the committee of inquiry into the deficiencies of the Navy, which was the duke’s responsibility as lord admiral.14 Nevertheless, Strode was not invariably critical of the favourite, and on 24 Mar. he challenged the allegation that Buckingham had encouraged the growth of popery. Three days later he recommended a relatively substantial grant of supply, of four subsidies and two fifteenths, though when the king requested a larger grant than this he was markedly less positive, acknowledging that the government’s needs must be met, but noting that they arose from policy decisions not agreed to by Parliament (25 April). Although still one of the lesser figures in the Commons, Strode had now made a sufficient mark to be added on 15 June to the select committee to decide on distribution of the Members’ charitable collection.15

The 1628 Parliament saw Strode become even more vocal, with at least 34 recorded speeches, though he still attracted only nine committee nominations. Of the five bills that he was appointed to scrutinize, one concerned the confiscated West Country estates of Sir Walter Ralegh† (23 May). He returned to this topic on 19 June, when he attacked the 2nd earl of Cork’s bid to strengthen his claim to a share of Ralegh’s property by legislation: ‘No reason why any private man should have benefit by the attainder of another. If [the] earl of Cork’s title were good before this bill, then it is still; if bad, why should we make it good?’ This sensitivity to injustice, and an inclination to define complex situations in black-and-white terms, typified much of Strode’s parliamentary performance. He was equally impatient of arguments that Sir Thomas Monson’s patent for making process in the Council in the North was only partially flawed, asserting on 30 May that if one section constituted a grievance, then the whole of it was affected, ‘as a man wanting an arm must needs be said to be an unsound man’.16

True to his puritan background, Strode made religion his initial priority in the 1628 session, calling on 20 Mar. for Members to join in the customary corporate communion and fast. He was subsequently named to bills to reform abuses on the sabbath, increase peace and unity in church and commonwealth, and encourage preaching (1, 7 and 17 April).17 By comparison, he contributed little to the early debates on the liberty of the subject, probably because the legal complexities were beyond his grasp. His few interventions during the opening weeks were mostly prompted by his first-hand experiences of the billeting crisis in the Plymouth region, where his father was one of the commissioners struggling to contain mutinous soldiers. On 24 Mar. he called for curbs to the powers of deputy lieutenants, who were generally prominent in the local implementation of billeting and other unpopular government measures. During the supply debate on 4 Apr. he argued that any grant should be preceded by a Remonstrance to the king, pointing out that billeting was effectively an indirect tax equivalent to five subsidies. Four days later he ventured into more dangerous territory, claiming that although Buckingham had provided £3,000 or more for billeting costs in the Plymouth area, the deputy lieutenants entrusted with this money had paid just one week’s expenses, then pocketed the residue. Pressed to elaborate this charge, he eventually blamed (Sir) James Bagg II*, thereby diverting attention away from his father and his brother-in-law, (Sir) George Chudleigh*, who were also active billeting commissioners but had recently quarrelled with Bagg.18

Strode was well aware of the value of martial law for disciplining soldiers, but he objected strongly on 22 Apr. to the manner in which it was now impinging on the civilian population. ‘If a soldier wrong me, I must complain to a martial court, and am then subject to that court. Moved that all matters between countryman and soldier to be ordered by commission of oyer [and terminer]: and between soldier and soldier by martial law’. He was also considerably exercised by the tactics employed by the Privy Council to enforce unpopular policies at local level, and on 25 Mar. argued that pursuivants should not be paid for bringing alleged offenders up to London. When Sir Humphrey May asserted on 15 May that the Council imposed fees only when a suspect was proved guilty, Strode responded by highlighting a recent case involving the high constable of Roborough hundred, Devon, the administrative district which included Meavy. This officer had recently been summoned before the Council for allegedly disrupting impressment, and, despite being discharged, was made to pay £12 in fees. Accused by (Sir) John Coke of maligning the Council, Strode qualified his comments only so far as to place the blame on subordinate officers. Nevertheless, despite finding fault with the Council’s treatment of this high constable, Strode apparently had few qualms about the Commons’ own decision to send for the gentlemen who had opposed the election of Sir John Eliot and William Coryton as Cornwall’s knights of the shire, since he was added on 9 May to the committee appointed to examine them once they reached Westminster.19

Like Eliot, Strode supported Sir Thomas Wentworth’s proposal on 28 Apr. for drafting a bill to enshrine the liberties of the subject, and on 1 May emphasized the importance of using this measure to curb arbitrary imprisonment. Later that day the king made clear his opposition to this strategy, by demanding to know whether the Commons would rely wholly upon his royal word to protect and uphold the subjects’ liberties. In response, Strode backed calls on 2 May for a Remonstrance justifying the Commons’ actions. He showed no obvious interest in the Petition of Right until 20 May, when he produced a neat critique of one of the Lords’ proposed amendments to its text: ‘That it is a difference when a man does a thing contrary to my command and when he does it without my command: he thinks "not warrantable by law" is not of so much force as "unlawful". However, most Members concurred with Sir Edward Coke’s view that the two word forms amounted to the same thing.20 During the debate on 31 May over which university should take precedence in the subsidy bill, Strode dismissed Cambridge’s claims by reminding the House of how Buckingham had been elected chancellor there shortly after the 1626 impeachment, a clear sign that he was becoming more confrontational. Two days later, the king’s first unsatisfactory answer to the Petition of Right further increased political tensions. Strode almost certainly took part in the private discussions which preceded Eliot’s proposal on 3 June for a Remonstrance concerning the nation’s ills, effectively a fresh attack on Buckingham. When some Members criticized Sir John for resorting to ‘private counsels and conference’, Strode responded with withering sarcasm: ‘I hope there is no new oath, like the oath for loans, amongst us to forbid us to confer. I know private conference is not only fit but necessary to the service of this House and has advanced much the business of it’. Eliot, in his opinion, was saying nothing that Strode had not been thinking since the opening of the session, and he urged Members to embrace this strategy.21 Aware of the risks, on 5 June he twice called for the Lords to be informed of the Commons’ discussions, in the belief that the involvement of the Upper House would fend off the danger of a premature dissolution. As the pressure mounted, he became yet more outspoken. On 6 June he insisted that the shortfall in government finance used to justify billeting and other problems arose from the Crown’s failure to work with Parliament. Despite the king’s second and entirely satisfactory answer to the Petition of Right, a note of desperation crept in on 11 June, when Strode urged: ‘let us proceed so that if we cannot win friends we may weaken enemies’. Following Sir Robert Phelips’ proposal later that day that the Remonstrance should specifically name Buckingham, Strode all but accused the duke of causing the dissolution of the 1626 Parliament, and of seeking to wreck the current session.22

On 13 June Strode picked up on John Selden’s concerns that the details of the general pardon were being withheld from the Commons for some underhand reason, and advised that if the attorney-general (Sir Robert Heath*) would not produce them, the king should be approached instead. His suspicions about the government’s attitude to revenue collection had presumably not been eased by reports of covert moves towards a revised book of customs tariffs, a topic which he had been appointed to help investigate on 17 May. Predictably, on 24 June he gave his backing to the proposal for a separate Remonstrance against the unparliamentary collection of Tunnage and Poundage, asserting that this would help to ‘strike a terror into them that would infringe our liberties’.23

Strode was remarkably quiet during the opening weeks of the 1629 session. Indeed, he is not known to have spoken until 12 Feb., when he backed Eliot and Selden’s confrontational strategy in the Tunnage and Poundage dispute, arguing that the Commons should give priority to recovering the goods confiscated from merchants such as John Rolle*. He may, however, have developed doubts about this approach by 23 Feb., when he apparently questioned the value of trying to punish the customs farmers responsible for impounding Rolle’s merchandise. Overall, he seems to have been rather more vexed by reports that the Crown was flouting anti-Catholic legislation, and on 16 Feb. he moved that the lord chief justice, Nicholas Hyde*, should be called to account for reprieving a condemned priest ‘upon the king’s bare word’.24 However, Strode more than made up for this comparative reticence by playing a very vocal role during Eliot’s staged protest in the House on 2 March. Evidently well aware of his friend’s intention to present yet another Remonstrance, he intervened as soon as the Speaker refused to co-operate, calling for Eliot’s paper to be read, ‘that we may not be turned off like scattered sheep, as we were at the end of the last session, and have a scorn put upon us in print’. He then called on other Members to show their support by standing up, and when the Speaker still resisted, he rounded on him fiercely: ‘You have protested yourself to be our servant, and if you do not what we command you that protestation of yours is but a compliment. If you be our servant you must obey us for the scripture saith: "His servant you are whom you obey".’25

Strode’s part in this demonstration was far too conspicuous for him to avoid retribution. A warrant for his arrest was issued the following day, though he evaded the king’s despised pursuivants for nearly a month. Accused of sedition and riot in the Commons’ chamber, he refused to answer for his actions to any court except Parliament itself, and applied persistently for bail. In June 1629 he ‘was so bold as to ask the judges whether they would ... bail a seditious priest, though not seditious Parliament-men, as they were charged to be’. However, when he was finally offered bail, he refused to be bound over for his good behaviour, on the grounds that this would constitute an admission of guilt, and he remained in prison until January 1640. In reality, the terms of his detention were not particularly harsh, and he was able to prove his father’s will in February 1638.26

Freed as part of the preparations for the Short Parliament, Strode with some difficulty once again secured a seat at Bere Alston, and was also returned there in the following autumn. Now a close ally of John Pym*, whose daughter married Strode’s nephew, Sir Francis Drake†, in January 1641, he emerged as an uncompromising opponent of the Crown. Clarendon (Edward Hyde†) described him as ‘one of those ephori [magistrates] who most avowed the curbing and suppressing of majesty’. A leading protagonist of both Strafford (Sir Thomas Wentworth*) and Archbishop Laud, he achieved notoriety as one of the Five Members whose attempted arrest by the king in January 1642 helped to precipitate the Civil War.27 He drew up his will on 4 July 1644, bequeathing the bulk of his property, including the Meavy estate, to his friend Sir Edward Barkham*, with whom he had apparently lived for some time. Strode died of a ‘pestilential fever’ in September 1645, and was buried close to Pym in Westminster Abbey. The preacher at his funeral praised ‘the solid vehemency, the piercing acuteness of his speeches’, as well as

his indefatigable industry, his fervent and zealous intention upon the businesses of state. He was none of those that peep now and then into the House to inquire, ‘What news?’; that sit there sometimes for recreation, that are present mainly to help a friend, or promote an interest: but he set his heart and shoulders to the work, and stretched all his sinews about it.

The Restoration regime took a less generous approach to Strode’s career. His body was exhumed in September 1661, and thrown into a pit in St. Margaret’s churchyard, Westminster.28

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball

Notes

  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 719.
  • 2. I. Temple database of admiss.; Al. Ox.
  • 3. Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. F.A. Crisp, xii. 124.
  • 4. A. and O. i. 460, 545.
  • 5. CJ, iv. 38a; A. and O. i. 658.
  • 6. Oxford DNB, liii. 95-6; D. Underdown, Som. in Civil War and Interregnum, 46, 132.
  • 7. C142/192/12; PROB 11/176, f. 137v.
  • 8. CJ, i. 703a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 167v; Holles 1624, p. 90.
  • 9. Procs. 1625, pp. 301, 349, 358.
  • 10. Ibid. 379, 412-14, 422.
  • 11. Procs. 1626, ii. 69.
  • 12. Ibid. ii. 44, 46, 48, 312, 332-3; iii. 340, 444.
  • 13. Ibid. ii. 94, 107, 165; iii. 114.
  • 14. Ibid. ii. 142, 290, 340, 343.
  • 15. Ibid. 358-9, 380; iii. 62, 65, 448.
  • 16. CD 1628, iii. 558; iv. 32, 379.
  • 17. Ibid. ii. 32, 36, 227, 323, 510.
  • 18. Ibid. 90, 318, 361, 365, 370; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 36, 38.
  • 19. CD 1628, ii. 108; iii. 32, 336, 421, 425-6.
  • 20. Ibid. iii. 142, 200, 219, 508.
  • 21. Ibid. iv. 49, 66, 70.
  • 22. Ibid. 124, 128, 147, 159, 249, 254, 266.
  • 23. Ibid. iii. 448; iv. 302, 450.
  • 24. CD 1629, pp. 61, 80, 197, 214, 236.
  • 25. Ibid. 240-1, 256, 258.
  • 26. APC, 1628-9, pp. 351, 389; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 540; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii. 18, 31; Bodl., Bankes 37, ff. 108-9; PROB 11/176, f. 138v.
  • 27. CJ, ii. 14b; Vivian, 301, 719; Som. AS and RO, DD/BR/ely/1/3; J.H. Hexter, Reign of King Pym, 51, 56-7; Clarendon, History of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, i. 188; HMC Var. Coll. ii. 261, 264; CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 236.
  • 28. PROB 11/194, ff. 18-19; Ath. Ox. iii. 178; CJ, iv. 268b; G. Hickes, Life and Death of David (1645), dedicatory epistle, 20.