CLINTON, alias FIENNES, Thomas, Lord Clinton (c.1568-1619), of Tattershall, Lincs.

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



1604 - 8 Feb. 1610

Family and Education

b. c.1568, 1st s. of Sir Henry Clinton†, 2nd earl of Lincoln, and 1st w. Catherine, da. of Francis Hastings, 2nd earl of Huntingdon.1 educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1582, aged 14, MA 1588.2 m. aft. 21 Sept. 1584, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Henry Knyvet† of Charlton, Wilts., 8s. (5 d.v.p.) 9da. (3 d.v.p.).3 styled Lord Clinton 1585-1610; summ. to Lords in his fa.’s barony as Lord Clinton de Say 8 Feb. 1610;4 suc. fa. as 3rd earl of Lincoln 29 Sept. 1616.5 d. 15 Jan. 1619.6 sig. Th:[omas] Clynton.

Offices Held

J.p. Lincs. (Lindsey, Kesteven and Holland) by 1595-d.;7 commr. sewers, Lincs. 1600, Fenland 1604, river Gleane, Lincs. and Notts. 1607-d., Lincoln, Lincs. 1608, Newark, Notts. 1610,8 musters, Lincs. 1601-3,9 preservation of ditches, Fenland 1605,10 subsidy Lincs. (Lindsey) 1608,11 oyer and terminer, Midlands circ. 1616-d., navigation of river Welland, Lincs. 1618.12

Gent. pens. by 1599;13 commr. Union with Scotland 1604.14


Clinton’s ancestors, established in Warwickshire since the reign of Henry I, were raised to the peerage in 1299, and first represented that county in Parliament in 1301. His grandfather acquired property in Lincolnshire by marriage in 1531, becoming one of the county magnates with electoral influence at Boston and Grimsby.15 Clinton’s father sat for Lincolnshire in 1571, but following his succession as 2nd earl of Lincoln in 1585 he became a figure of controversy in the county as a result of a feud with Sir Edward Dymoke†. Indeed, Lincoln, whom many considered to be insane, escalated his dispute with the Dymokes into a private war that fractured the local gentry for the next three decades. He also ran up mountainous debts, and was repeatedly reprimanded by the Privy Council and the queen for abuses such as the appropriation of much of Clinton’s wife’s marriage portion.16

Returned to the first Jacobean Parliament for Lincolnshire, Clinton, a strong puritan, was appointed on the opening day of business to both committees for grievances raised by Sir Robert Wroth I* and Sir Edward Montagu* (23 Mar. 1604), and to another to confirm the liberties of the subject (29 March).17 He was named to manage a conference on the Union with Scotland (14 Apr.), and to prepare for a conference with the Lords on religion (21 April).18 He carried a message to the Lords on 16 May, requesting them to join in the Commons’ petition on wardship, and was subsequently appointed to a conference with the Lords on the same subject (22 May).19 His legislative committees included bills to abolish benefit of clergy for stabbing (25 Apr.) and to restrict clerical pluralism (4 June).20 He left Westminster for the Whitsun recess, unwittingly carrying in his baggage a valuable item from the library of Sir Robert Cotton* among his own books. Returning the volume with an apology on 10 June, he requested Cotton to lend him ‘some other rare treatise fitting these times to accompany me in my solitary summer life’, and to acquaint him with ‘the occurrences of Parliament also since Whitsuntide’.21

At the summer assizes of 1605 Clinton was accused by the father of Sir Edward Tyrwhitt* of malversation of coat and conduct money and the arbitrary dismissal of a high constable, allegedly in order ‘to make himself great and powerful, to sway matters according to his own will and mind and, if he might, to bear rule himself alone in the said county’. The judges ordered the high constable’s re-instatement; but proceedings against Clinton in Star Chamber came to nothing.22 He does not appear to have attended the abortive opening of the second session, but was clearly alarmed by the Gunpowder Plot, as he wrote on 13 Nov. 1605 protesting to the 1st earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) that ‘if the papists should grow to a head to attempt anything in treasonable or tumultuous manner ... your honour in your infinite wisdom well knows how weak one poor justice of peace unarmed is upon such an occasion without more ample authority’.23 When the session resumed Clinton was one of the messengers sent to ask the Lords for a conference on grievances (12 Feb. 1606).24 He was named to committees for the subsidy bill (10 Feb.) and a bill for the better execution of ecclesiastical government (25 February).25 He took no known part in the third session, and was called to the Upper House ahead of the fourth session. Claiming that his elevation had been arranged only in order to make an opening for his enemy Dymoke’s nephew, Sir Valentine Browne, who was returned at a hasty by-election, Clinton initially ignored the summons and tried to retain his seat in the Commons.26 The case was referred to the privileges committee, and on the motion of Sir Francis Hastings* on 18 May 1610 Clinton was allowed a fortnight’s respite before Browne could be admitted. He finally took his place in the Lords on 2 June.27 Later in 1610 he applied for a place in Prince Henry’s Household, writing that ‘my fortunes ... hath hitherto debarred me from attending [at Court], in so much as it is scarce known to your highness whether there be such a man’; however, no position appropriate to one of his rank was available.28

Clinton neither attended nor gave a proxy for the Addled Parliament in 1614, though he was one of the peers who signed a petition against the creation of baronets.29 On his father’s death in 1616 he succeeded as 3rd earl of Lincoln, inheriting Tattershall Castle, extensive estates in Lincolnshire, and a house in Chelsea, purchased from Salisbury, on which considerable sums were still owed.30 Perhaps in an effort to raise the money, he sold various pieces of ordnance to the East India Company at this time.31 Nevertheless, before he had satisfied all his father’s creditors, he died suddenly on 15 Jan. 1619, and was buried at Tattershall.32 In his will, dated four days before his death, he left six manors to his heir, Theophilus, on condition that all debts were paid within five years. To five of his surviving daughters he gave £2,000 apiece as marriage portions, provided they did not marry without the consent of their mother. The sixth daughter, Elizabeth, forfeited her inheritance by marrying her father’s manservant.33 In her widowhood the countess of Lincoln, the mother of 17 children, published a book advocating breast-feeding, and regretted that she had not followed the practice herself.34 Theophilus’s son Edward represented Callington in the Long Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Paula Watson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. CP, vii. 695.
  • 2. Al. Ox.
  • 3. The Gen. n.s. xiii. 237-8.
  • 4. CP, iii. 317-8; vii. 695.
  • 5. C142/392/66.
  • 6. C142/397/67.
  • 7. C66/1435; 66/1988.
  • 8. APC, 1600-1, p. 46; C181/1, f. 74v; 181/2, ff. 47v, 74v, 118v, 326v.
  • 9. APC, 1600-1, p. 133; G.A.J. Hodgett, Tudor Lincs. 117.
  • 10. C181/1, f. 117v.
  • 11. SP14/31/1.
  • 12. C181/2, ff. 259, 316v, 330.
  • 13. E179/70/113.
  • 14. CJ, i. 208b, 318b.
  • 15. Hodgett, 34, 50-51, 111, 151.
  • 16. Ibid. 67, 91; HMC Hatfield, xxi. 254; xiii. 556-7; xii. 234, 344-5, 410-12; xvi. 70; A. Austin, Hist. of Clinton Barony, 52-60.
  • 17. CJ, i. 151a, b, 157a.
  • 18. Ibid. 172a, 178a.
  • 19. Ibid. 173b, 222a; HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 135.
  • 20. CJ, i. 184a, 231b.
  • 21. Cott. Vespasian F.XIII, f. 322.
  • 22. STAC 8/279/27.
  • 23. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 496.
  • 24. CJ, i. 267a.
  • 25. Ibid. 266b, 274a.
  • 26. HMC Hatfield, xx. 257, 279.
  • 27. CJ, i. 424b, 429a; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, i. 94-5, ii. 5-6.
  • 28. Harl. 7007, f. 445; T. Birch, Henry, Prince of Wales, 210.
  • 29. HMC Hastings, iv. 285; HMC Var. v. 119-20.
  • 30. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 315, 344; APC, 1618-19, pp. 140-1.
  • 31. CSP Col. E.I. 1617-21, pp. 85, 102, 244, 296, 408.
  • 32. Gent. Mag. xlii. 163.
  • 33. W.J. Monson, Lincs. Church Notes (Lincoln Rec. Soc. xxxi), 232; PROB 11/134, f. 139.
  • 34. The countesse of Lincolnes nurserie (1622), STC 5432.