CRAWFORD, Robert (c.1657-1706), of Duke Street, Westminster

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



1689 - 1705

Family and Education

b. c.1657.  m. (lic.) 27 July 1687, aged about 30, Frances (d. 1693), da. and coh. of Henry Sandford of Bobbing, Kent, wid. of Sir George Moore, 1st Bt., of Maids Moreton, Bucks. and Col. Edward Digges of Chilham Castle, Kent, s.p.1

Offices Held

Lt. of ft. Admiralty regt. 1673, capt.-lt. 1684, capt. 1686–9; storekeeper, Sheerness 1683–d.; lt. gov. Sheerness 1684–Dec. 1690, gov. Dec. 1690–d.; brevet col. 1694.2

Jurat, Queenborough June 1688–?d.; freeman, Portsmouth 1699.3


Crawford’s origins are obscure. In his will both Hugh Corry and Hugh Montgomery, 2nd Earl of Mount-Alexander [I] are described as his ‘kinsmen’, suggesting a Scots–Irish connexion. The description was reciprocated by Mount-Alexander in August 1706 when writing to the Duke of Ormond. One of the leading participants in the funeral of the 1st Earl of Mount-Alexander in 1663 had been an Alexander Crawford. The marriage of Crawford’s sister to the Reverend Alexander Delgarno of county Meath may also be a significant pointer to his origins. He had at least two brothers: William, a hearth tax collector in London and Middlesex, who fled to Flanders, joined William’s invasion fleet and was killed at Killiecrankie; and David, who may have been the long-serving deputy commissary of the musters with whom historians have confused this Member. Crawford’s commission in the Duke of York’s regiment, under the colonelcy of Sir Charles Lyttleton, 3rd Bt.†, and in a company captained by Richard Bagot, suggests a Staffordshire link. The association certainly proved enduring, for Crawford served under Lyttleton as lieutenant-governor of Sheerness. Loyalty to James II in 1687–8 seems to have brought him local office as both a justice and deputy-lieutenant, plus the likelihood of entering Parliament in the elections scheduled for 1688. At some point Crawford must have switched sides, for the Revolution saw him keep his post and secure a seat at Queenborough in the Convention of 1689, which he continued to hold until 1705.4

No sooner had Crawford been re-elected in 1690 than he was confronted by a Jacobite intrigue designed to secure the surrender of Sheerness to James II. William Fuller visited Crawford with a letter from Mary of Modena hidden inside a hollow key. Crawford arrested the messenger, who thereupon produced a protection from Secretary of State Shrewsbury and was sent up to London. The event caused considerable alarm among the jurats of Queenborough, forcing Shrewsbury to reassure them that Crawford had acted correctly and had received the King’s ‘good opinion of his loyalty to his service’. In return Shrewsbury hoped that the corporation would ‘increase the esteem they have for him’. The Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) classed Crawford as a Court supporter on a list of the new Parliament, and his alertness in Sheerness cannot have harmed his prospects for promotion. Indeed, a memorandum, probably written in September 1690, before the second session of the Parliament, suggested that Crawford wished to succeed Lyttleton as governor. On 31 Oct. 1690 Crawford was granted leave to go to his command, and by early December he had succeeded Lyttelton as governor. Carmarthen felt able to include him on a list later in December, of likely supporters in case of an attack in the Commons against his ministerial position. Paradoxically, Crawford was classed by Robert Harley* as a Country party supporter in April 1691. The 1691–2 session saw his name resurface in connexion with Jacobite intrigues when the Preston Plot was examined by the House, but nothing came of it. Crawford was clearly perceived to be a placeman, classified as such on no fewer than six lists in 1692 and 1693. On 19 Jan. 1694 he was given leave of absence for health reasons, the only time such an order occurs after 1690, although there is plenty of evidence that he spent time in Kent on military business while the House was sitting.5

Crawford sold the manor of Bobbing, presumably after the death of his wife in 1693. This did not affect his political interest at Queenborough which was based on his military office, not landownership. It would seem that Westminster was now his main residence. Early in 1696 the vestry minutes of St. James’s record him as being particularly involved in a bill to enable the parish to pay off the debts arising from the construction of the church, although he was not responsible for managing the bill through the House. Indeed, Crawford was generally inactive as a Member. He was forecast in January 1696 as likely to support the Court in the divisions over the proposed council of trade. He also signed the Association in February. But he was absent in late March from the division concerning the price of guineas. The by-election at Queenborough in October 1696, caused by the demise of Caleb Banks*, saw Crawford active on behalf of Sir George Rooke*, but in the event the admiral withdrew from the contest. Of greater concern to Crawford were the revelations of Sir John Fenwick†, which again brought to light the Jacobites’ expectations that Crawford would surrender Sheerness to them. When on 6 Nov. Admiral Edward Russell* ‘opened the matter’ of Fenwick’s confession and demanded an inquiry, Crawford was one of the Members who also felt constrained to defend themselves by asking that Fenwick prove his allegations. It may have been this intervention (or a similar one) that the historian John Oldmixon counted as a speech in favour of the attainder bill. Crawford was not listed as voting on 25 Nov. 1696 on the third reading of the bill.6

Crawford was classified in September 1698 as a placeman, and on a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments he was also grouped with Court adherents. On 18 Jan. 1699 he voted against the third reading of the disbanding bill. In May, he wrote to John Ellis* requesting a letter of recommendation to the bishop of Down on behalf of his brother-in-law Delgarno. On an analysis of the Commons into interests made early in 1700 he was listed as a placeman. He was also listed in February 1701 as likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. Crawford appears to have been ill late in 1702, because he wrote on 16 Dec. that he could only go out for an hour or so into Hyde Park. In March 1704 he asked that Delgarno be made an army chaplain, to one of the new regiments being raised, a request he repeated in January 1705 for any of the regiments intended for Ireland. Although Crawford was forecast on 30 Oct. 1704 as a probable opponent of the Tack, and his name was included on Robert Harley’s lobbying list, he voted for it on 28 Nov.; a surprising departure, given his previous adherence to the Court. The vote was used against him at Queenborough in the 1705 election, when he was defeated. However, even then he was not removed from the governorship, evidently to the surprise of many, including Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*). By May 1706 moves were afoot to replace him, but in June correspondence suggests that this was because of illness rather than for political misdemeanours. On 28 June the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) wrote that it was ‘apprehended that Mr Crawford could not recover’, but he was not reported dead until 19 Nov. His will, made in June and July 1706, ordered his body to be buried next to his wife, ‘Lady Moore’, in the chancel of Bobbing church, unless he died a long way from London. Tantalizingly, he left £5 to the poor of the parish of his birth, without mentioning this by name. Bequests were made, among others, to his brother David and kinsmen the Earl of Mount-Alexander and Hugh Corry, the chief beneficiary being Crawford’s sister, Jane who, with her husband, was named as an executor.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxi), 7; Canterbury Mar. Lic. iv. 169.
  • 2. H. Tomlinson, Guns and Govt. 233.
  • 3. Centre Kentish Stud. Qb/RPp/1; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 372.
  • 4. PCC 5 Poley; HMC Ormonde, n.s. viii. 253; Montgomery Mss ed. G. Hill, 248; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 168–9; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 305, 1093, 1193; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 365.
  • 5. Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 20; Hatton Corresp. (Camden Soc. n.s. xxiii), 172–3; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 503, 553, 555; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 2724, memo. [?Sept. 1690]; Luttrell Diary, 73, 203.
  • 6. Hasted, Kent, vi. 197–8; Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss EL 9902, St. James’s vestry mins.; HMC Downshire, i. 629; Add. 28880, f. 70; BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. Crawford to Mq. of Halifax (William Savile*), 22 Aug., 19 Sept., 1, 10 Oct. 1696; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 47; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/5, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 17 Nov. 1696; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1051; Oldmixon, Hist. Eng. 152.
  • 7. Add. 28884, f. 37; 28889, f. 473; 61298, ff. 145, 147; 61458, ff. 160–1; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 548, 574; Marlborough Despatches ed. Murray, ii. 648; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 19 Nov. 1706; PCC 5 Poley.