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

Background Information

Number of voters:

perhaps 500 in 1601


 ?Sir Andrew Noell†
 ?Sir Edward Noell†
c. Mar. 1614SIR GUY PALMES
 ?Sir Edward Noell† , 1st bt.
 ?Sir William Bulstrode
c. Dec. 1620SIR GUY PALMES
15 Jan. 1624SIR GUY PALMES

Main Article

Rutland is, by a considerable margin, the smallest county in England. Part of the jointure estate of three late Saxon queens, it acquired shire status only after the Conquest, and returned two knights to Parliament from 1295.1 While the county contains two small market towns, Oakham and Uppingham, neither was ever represented in the Commons, and lesser residents who sought a place in Parliament, such as John Wingfield*, Brian Palmes* and Edward Wymarke*, were obliged to migrate to the neighbouring boroughs of Grantham, Stamford and Peterborough. The poll-books which were prepared for the 1601 by-election do not survive,2 but contemporary testimony indicates that the assembled freeholders were crammed into the castle hall at Oakham, which would suggest an electorate of perhaps 500;3 attendance was almost certainly lower at uncontested elections.

From 1529 the county’s parliamentary representation was dominated by its largest landowners, the Haringtons of Exton and Burley-on-the-Hill. At the end of the century Sir John Harington† habitually shared the county seats with his brother-in-law, Sir Andrew Noell† of Brooke. This amicable arrangement broke down in 1601, when Noell, whose shrievalty disqualified him from standing, nominated his 19-year-old son Edward for the second seat. Harington, who apparently assumed that Noell would propose his son-in-law, Sir Edward Cecil*, publicly spurned this proposal, and the stalemate was only resolved by the temporary expedient of returning Noell himself.4 While Noell was certain to be rejected, the return was probably made on the assumption that he would have been replaced as sheriff by the time a new writ arrived, and thus be eligible for re-election. However, while a fresh writ was moved in the Commons on 4 Nov. 1601, the annual pricking of sheriffs was delayed until 2 December.5 Consequently, Noell revived his son’s candidature and began canvassing the freeholders,6 whereupon Harington put up his brother James and hastily began a rival canvass7 led by his cousin Sir William Bulstrode.8 At the ensuing by-election James Harington was defeated, although he claimed to have received a majority of voices and accused Noell of rejecting Harington supporters at the poll in order to give his own son victory. These allegations may have been true, as one of Noell’s supporters certainly advised Noell to return his son on the cry regardless of numbers.9

The controversy begun at this election far outlasted the Parliament with which it was ostensibly concerned: the Haringtons prosecuted Noell in Star Chamber for electoral malpractice, and the latter responded by accusing his opponents of soliciting for voices, which, though commonplace, was technically illegal.10 Both suits lapsed at the end of 1602, but Noell took depositions from three dozen local witnesses in January 1604,11 which suggests that the two sides were jockeying for position in the forthcoming parliamentary election. No contest is known to have taken place in 1604, but it is unlikely that Noell welcomed the return of Bulstrode and Sir James Harington, his son’s chief opponents in 1601. He remained unhappy with his relatives shortly before his death in 1607, when he declined to serve as deputy lieutenant under Sir John (now Lord) Harington.12

The political situation within the county changed completely in the year before the 1614 general election: Lord Harington died in August 1613, his brother Sir James expired on 4 Feb. 1614,13 and John, 2nd Baron Harington* died of smallpox at the end of February 1614, leaving the bulk of his estates to his mother, who was to pay off his father’s debts of £40,000 and then pass the remaining lands to his sisters Lucy, countess of Bedford and Frances, Lady Chichester.14 By the time of the election the only male member of the family who still held lands in the county was Sir James’s eldest son Sir Edward Harington, who had no known parliamentary ambitions. The most remarkable aspect of the 1614 election was the absence of any contest between the two surviving antagonists of 1601, Bulstrode and (Sir) Edward Noell. This is surprising, as the latter, by then immune from the charges of youth and inexperience levelled at him by the Haringtons in 1601,15 must have been tempted to reverse the result of 1604. Bulstrode too may have considered standing, as he sat for the county throughout the 1620s, but it seems as though his interests had been temporarily diverted to Essex, where his second wife held a substantial jointure estate from her first husband.16 Rather than stand against each other, Bulstrode and Noell may have decided to bury their differences by giving way to their respective supporters, Sir Guy Palmes and Basil Feilding, both of whom were political novices who had only recently succeeded to their estates. Palmes had been a Harington supporter in 1601, and was recommended as a deputy lieutenant by Lord Harington in 1607,17 while Feilding was an executor of Sir Andrew Noell’s will.18

Sir Edward Noell was ruled out of contention in subsequent elections following his acquisition of a peerage in 1617, and it was not until 1640 that his son, Baptist Noell, was old enough to stand for election. The unexpected inheritor of the Haringtons’ electoral interest was their cousin, Henry, 5th earl of Huntingdon, appointed lord lieutenant of Rutland a few months after the death of the 2nd Baron Harington.19 However, his political authority was diminished by the fact that he did not hold any significant estates within the shire. Although he recommended Bulstrode and Palmes, two of his deputy lieutenants, to the freeholders at the 1624 election,20 their background as local residents, Harington associates and former Members makes it likely that Huntingdon was merely reinforcing their natural claim to the seats. The repeated election of the pair probably also owed much to the influence of Huntingdon’s mother, a sister of the 1st Baron Harington. She certainly interceded with her third husband, lord warden Zouche, to secure Palmes a second nomination at Hythe in December 1620.21

If Huntingdon’s electoral influence within the shire was limited, that of the king’s favourite, the marquess of Buckingham, who purchased the Harington manor of Burley in 1621, was negligible.22 One of the few actions of his which had any repercussions within the county was his procurement of a viscountcy for his brother-in-law, William Feilding, on the eve of the 1621 Parliament. The latter’s father, the 1614 MP, did not stand for election again: without Noell’s active support his return for the shire was unlikely, but his unusual status as the father of a peer may also have helped to rule him out of contention.23 The only occasion on which Buckingham intervened directly in county politics was in November 1625, when he had Palmes pricked as sheriff to exclude him from Parliament in the following spring.24

Palmes may have wished to see his son Brian* elected in his stead in 1626, but the uproar caused by the election of Edward Noell in 1601 probably dissuaded him from attempting the substitution. Instead, he arranged a deal with Sir Francis Bodenham, a minor landowner whose mother had been a Harington, and whose father had been spoken of as an alternative candidate to Sir James Harington at the 1601 by-election.25 Thus in 1626 Palmes backed Bodenham for the knighthood of the shire, in return for which the latter’s cousin John Balguy used his influence at Stamford, where he was deputy recorder, to secure the return of Brian Palmes.26

Rutland’s Members were generally not very active on their constituents’ behalf, but the notion that they should represent local interests retained some significance. Sir James Harington appealed to this theory at the 1601 by-election, when he advised the freeholders that his brother, then their sole representative at Westminster, ‘was [advanced] in years, and then so sickly as by means thereof yet [sic it] might so happen he could not come to speak and do that good for his country in the said Parliament House as he desired’.27 This invited the freeholders to make the inference that Edward Noell, if elected, would not be sufficiently experienced to raise local issues in the House. The only specific item of legislation which owed something to the shire’s MPs was the 1625 bill to naturalize the nearby landowner Sir Daniel Deligne of Harlaxton, Lincolnshire. Apparently sponsored by Palmes and Bulstrode, who were the first Members named to the committee on 11 Aug., this bill eventually found its way onto the statute book in 1628 without further help from the pair.28 At a less formal level, Palmes’s support for bills to increase the price of corn and wool in 1621 was undoubtedly welcomed by the shire’s gentry farmers,29 and Bulstrode considered the needs of poorer taxpayers in the supply debates of 1626, when he proposed that the final subsidy should fall due in September 1627, as ‘the husbandman then has his corn and wool come in’.30 Harington, Bulstrode and Palmes also took an interest in religious affairs which reflected the godly ethos of their county. Bulstrode, for instance, presented a petition against the chancellor of Peterborough diocese in May 1621. This reportedly originated in Northamptonshire but it probably also included signatures from Rutland, which was part of the same see.31 He also presented the Rutland j.p. Sir Henry Mynne as a recusant during the compilation of the petition against Catholic officials in April 1624, and was presumably responsible for Mynne’s inclusion in a similar petition in 1626.32

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. VCH Rutland, i. 134-6; ii. p. xxviii.
  • 2. STAC 5/H9/34, depositions of Walter Nebon, Peter Martin, John Barnes and Thomas Conande, answer 8; STAC 5/H46/9, deposition of Sir Andrew Noell, answer 10; STAC 5/N6/11, depositions of Thomas Exton, Edward Harbottle and John Campion, answer 7.
  • 3. STAC 8/220/32, depositions of Clement Smith, John Butler, William Dalby, Sir Guy Palmes and William Shortred, answer 13.
  • 4. STAC 5/H57/26, H46/9; J.E. Neale, ‘Rutland election of 1601’, EHR, lxi. 29-41.
  • 5. Neale, 37; C227/20B.
  • 6. For which STAC 5/H2/7 and 5/H9/34 provide ample evidence.
  • 7. STAC 5/N1/32, f. 3; 5/N6/11, deposition of George Botelar, and Thomas Exton, answers 6-7; 5/N12/25, deposition of James Harington, answer 5; STAC 8/220/32, deposition of Thomas Hunte and Jasper Burneby, answer 4.
  • 8. Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 13, 148-9, as corrected by Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 26-7.
  • 9. STAC 5/H57/26, f. 3; STAC 8/220/32, depositions of Clement Smith, William Dalby and John Butler, answer 12. For a denial, see STAC 5/H9/34, deposition of Walter Nebon, answer 17.
  • 10. STAC 5/H57/26; 5/N1/32.
  • 11. STAC 8/220/32.
  • 12. HMC Hatfield, xix. 124.
  • 13. C142/342/105; 142/356/116.
  • 14. C142/356/117; PROB 11/123, ff. 257-8; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 516.
  • 15. STAC 5/N12/25, deposition of (Sir) James Harington, answer 9.
  • 16. PROB 11/96, ff. 24v-26v; Liber Famelicus, 26-7.
  • 17. STAC 5/N12/25, deposition of James Harington, answer 11; STAC 8/220/32, deposition of Sir Guy Palmes; HMC Hatfield, xix. 124.
  • 18. PROB 11/111, f. 356.
  • 19. HMC Hastings, iv. 201; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 242.
  • 20. HEHL, HA5480.
  • 21. Vis. Rutland (Harl. Soc. iii), 38-9; SP14/118/26.
  • 22. I. Grimble, Harington Fam. 169-70; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 63.
  • 23. CP sub Baron Noel; Viscount Feilding; earl of Denbigh.
  • 24. Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 240; Procs. 1625, p. 451; J.J. Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, 11-12.
  • 25. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 461-3; Vis. Rutland (Harl. Soc. iii), 38-9; STAC 5/N6/11, deposition of Thomas Exton, answer 7; STAC 8/220/32, depositions of Richard Tampion and Thomas Hunte, answers 30-31.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 321; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. l), 72-3; PROB 11/110, f. 396v.
  • 27. STAC 5/N12/25, deposition of (Sir) James Harington, answer 9.
  • 28. Procs. 1625, p. 457; Lords Procs. 1628, v. 531.
  • 29. CJ, i. 545a, 583b, 625a; CD 1621, iii. 29, 289; iv. 362; v. 83, 340; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 91.
  • 30. Procs. 1626, iii. 147.
  • 31. CD 1621, ii. 370; iii. 264; iv. 348.
  • 32. CJ, i. 776b; DCO, ‘Parl. Procs. Charles I, 1625-6’, unfol. (June 1626).