FOX, Somerset (1618-89), of Caynham, nr. Ludlow, Salop.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Cornet (royalist) ?1642-4; col. of ft. 1644-5.2
Commr. for assessment, Salop 1661-80, 1689-d., Herefs. 1673-80; dep. lt. Salop 1662-?87; freeman, Ludlow 1669, alderman by 1671; commr. for recusants, Salop 1675.3
Fox’s ancestors were prominent in the affairs of Ludlow from the early 15th century, and regularly represented the borough, three miles from Caynham, in Tudor times. During the Civil War Fox’s father served on the commission of array, while Fox himself returned from the Continent in 1642 with Prince Rupert, under whom he served in the Bristol garrison. His services to the parliamentary cause in securing the surrender of Ludlow Castle to John Birch in 1646 were so highly valued that he was not required to compound for his delinquency, though he apparently went into exile. In 1648 he was ordered by the Prince of Wales to take charge of the munitions at Le Havre intended for the use of the Royalists in the second Civil War, and six years later he was involved with a cousin, a brother of Gilbert Gerard II, in a plot to assassinate the Protector. The death sentence was commuted to transportation in view of his full confession, and he was ordered to be sent to Barbados with Edward Grey and others. But he was still in England in 1656.4
At the Restoration Fox was granted a pension of £300 p.a. as compensation ‘for his losses in the cause of the late King’, and payment continued even during the 1666 freeze on the ground that he was ‘in treaty for a marriage that may repair his fortune; but the chief obstacle thereto is the stop to his pension’. The match did not materialize however, and he seems to have died a bachelor. In 1670 he was returned to the Cavalier Parliament at a by-election for Ludlow, where he retained a strong interest as principal trustee of the family charity, patron of the living, and owner of a large town house. An inactive Member, he was added to the committee of elections and privileges in three sessions, and appointed to 11 others, including those for the relief of loyal and indigent officers (19 Dec. 1670) and to recommend measures for preventing the export of wool (21 Feb. 1671). His name appeared on the opposition list of the court party and on the Paston list of 1673-4. During the debate on recalling British subjects from the French service on 10 May 1675 ‘some warm expressions’ passed between (Sir) Robert Thomas and Fox, who ‘upon command of the House [said that] he would give his honour to proceed no farther thereupon’. In the same session he was added to the committee on the bill for preservation of the Forest of Dean. He received the government whip in the autumn in the shape of a personal letter from Secretary Coventry, and on 3 Nov. contradicted Birch’s assertion that there were plentiful supplies of timber in the Forest of Dean, having ‘been told by credible persons in the country that there is not timber in all that forest to build two second-rate ships and two third-rates’. His name appeared on the list of dependants, on the working lists, and on the list of government supporters drawn up by Sir Richard Wiseman during the recess. Shaftesbury classed him as ‘thrice vile’, and in Flagellum Parliamentarium he was described as ‘a privy chamber man’, though this cannot be confirmed from the official lists, and ‘a court cully’, which underestimates him, for he was given an additional secret service pension of £200 p.a. on 6 Apr. 1678, though he made no more speeches and served on no committees after 1675. He was on both lists of the court party at this time.5
Fox was re-elected at the first general election of 1679, when he was marked ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. He voted against the first exclusion bill, but took no other known part in this Parliament. Blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’, he was replaced by Thomas Walcot in the autumn, and probably ever stood again. In December 1680 he was chosenas town clerk by the corporation, to whom he gave a silver tankard. But this appointment was probably regarded as inimical to the Charlton interest, and was quashed by the Privy Council, which ‘did not think fit that Col. Somerset Fox ... should undergo the burden thereof, as well in regard of his age and infirmity as that he hath formerly served his Majesty in employments of greater dignity’. He was buried at Ludlow on 11 Oct. 1689, the last of his family, leaving a personal estate of £6,000. The land was divided among his four sisters.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Salop Par. Reg. Hereford Dioc. xiii. 155, 419; Mont. Colls. xxvii. 92-94.
- 2. Information from Brig. Peter Young; Royalist Ordnance Pprs. (Oxf. Rec. Soc. xlix), 329; Symonds Diary (Cam. Soc. lxxiv), 271.
- 3. Ludlow ledger bk. 1648-80, f. 259; Trans. Salop Arch. and Nat. Hist. Soc. (ser. 4), ii. 32-33.
- 4. Ibid. 10; Mont. Colls. xxvii. 103; E. Warburton, Mems. Prince Rupert, i. 112; HMC 6th Rep. 172; HMC Pepys, 213; D. Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 101-2; Thurloe, iii. 453-4; CSP Dom. 1656-7, p. 584.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 338; 1665-6, p. 326; Grey, iii. 129-30, 390.
- 6. Trans. Salop Arch. and Nat. Hist. Soc. (ser. 4), ii. 33; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 158; PC2/69/181; Salop Par. Reg. xiii. 541; C8/416/97; Mont. Colls. xxvii. 106-8.