DRAKE, Francis (c.1580-1634), of Esher Place and Walton-on-Thames, Surr.

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



1628 - 22 Apr. 1628

Family and Education

b. c.1580, o.s. of Richard Drake† of Esher Place and Ursula, da. of Sir William Stafford† of Chebsey, Staffs.1 educ. New Coll. Oxf. 1593, aged 13; I. Temple 1597.2 m. (1) 3 Mar. 1603, Joan (d. 18 Apr. 1625), da. and coh. of William Tothill of Shardeloes, Bucks., six clerk in Chancery, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) Philadelphia, da. of Sir Edward Davies, 1da.;3 (3) Anne (d.1665), da. of ?John Barlow of Petersfield, Hants and wid. of Josias White, vicar of Hornchurch, Essex, s.p.4 suc. fa. 1603. d. 17 Mar. 1634.5

Offices Held

J.p. Surr. 1608-d.;6 commr. oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1621-d.;7 freeman, Sandwich, Kent 1624;8 commr. martial law, Surr. 1626,9 Forced Loan 1627,10 dep. lt. by 1628,11 commr. badgers 1630,12 sewers 1632.13

Gent. pensioner by 1607-at least 1618;14 gent. of Privy Chamber extraordinary by 1625-?d.15


Drake, the first cousin of John Drake*, was descended from a junior line of the Devon gentry family based at Ash. His father Richard, who sat for Morpeth and Castle Rising in the 1580s, made his fortune at the Elizabethan Court, becoming a groom of the Privy Chamber, and acquiring Esher Place from Lord Howard of Effingham.16 Drake was named after his kinsman and godfather, the famous admiral Sir Francis Drake†, who promised to leave him a significant share of his estate. However, when Sir Francis died in 1596, he bequeathed Drake only one Devon manor, and made this legacy conditional on the payment of £2,000. Richard Drake rejected these terms, whereupon the property was retained by Sir Francis’ executor, brother and direct heir, Thomas. A protracted legal battle ensued, with Richard attempting to extort money from Thomas by bringing an Exchequer suit in which he alleged that Sir Francis had died owing large sums to the Crown. If this strategy proved successful, Richard stood to receive the money in question, but he died in 1603 before the case was settled. Drake continued the fight, offering a share of the anticipated cash to some of James I’s Bedchamber officers, who ensured in return that the king put pressure on the judges to favour their cause. However, no verdict had been reached when Thomas himself died in 1606, leaving as his heir a minor, (Sir) Francis Drake*, and the dispute was then abandoned.17

By 1607 Drake had become a gentleman pensioner, but if he hoped to emulate his father’s impressive Court career, he was to be disappointed. His first marriage also proved to be a mixed blessing. Joan Tothill was heir to a substantial Buckinghamshire estate, but was mentally unstable. Forced by her parents into a loveless match with Drake, her health soon afterwards collapsed through complications arising from a difficult first pregnancy, and she became a virtual invalid, prone to emotional ‘storms and tempests which were in danger to have overthrown her’. At her insistence, the family moved from Esher Place to Walton-on-Thames, where Drake renewed an existing lease of the manor in 1612. He also tried to address her condition by introducing her to a succession of godly clergy, but their ministrations seem merely to have induced in her a form of religious mania.18

Drake stood for Sandwich in the elections for the 1621 Parliament, perhaps hoping that his puritan connections would win him the backing of the town’s ‘schismatical sectaries’, but was unsuccessful. In February 1622 he was summoned before the Privy Council for failing to contribute to the Benevolence. Despite these setbacks, his public career was now finally blossoming. He joined the prestigious oyer and terminer commission for the Home Counties in 1621, and in the closing years of James’s reign he also achieved promotion at Court, becoming a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, albeit not one of the regular attendants.19

In 1624 Drake was returned to the Commons for Sandwich, securing four personal nominations during this session, most of which concerned religious affairs. Named to scrutinize bills to tighten the penalties against recusant wives, and to endow three divinity lectures, he was also appointed to investigate reports of papist schoolmasters and other educational grievances (10 and 28 Apr., 1 May). On a rather different front, he was nominated on 30 Apr. to attend a conference with the Lords on two Exchequer reform bills.20

In the spring of 1625, Drake’s wife felt her death approaching, and returned to her father’s Buckinghamshire seat, Shardeloes. There, after nearly a fortnight of alternating fits and ecstatic ravings, she finally expired on Easter Monday. While undoubtedly traumatized by these events, Drake immediately won election to Parliament at the newly enfranchised borough of Amersham, on his father-in-law’s interest.21 He cannot always be clearly distinguished in the 1625 sittings from his cousin John Drake, but he attracted at least nine nominations, again mainly on religious topics. These included bill committees dealing with Sabbath observance, the mitigation of excommunication, patronage rights over benefices, and clerical subscription to the Articles of Religion (22, 24 and 27 June). As a patron himself, and indeed one who presented a Nonconformist minister to Esher parish, the latter two issues will have been of particular interest to him. On 23 June he was named to attend the conference with the Lords on the petition for a general fast, and the next day he was appointed to help draft the heads of a further petition to the king about religion. One of the first Members to take the rise of Arminianism seriously, he was added on 1 July to the committee to consider Archbishop Abbot’s admission that he was unable to block the provocative publications of Richard Montagu. On 7 July he was also nominated to prepare formal charges against the latter.22

During the Oxford sitting Drake spelt out his position on Arminianism in some detail. As he explained on 2 Aug., Montagu’s book, A New Gagg for an Old Goose,

‘comes out cum privilegio [i.e. with official sanction], which makes it accounted the doctrine of the Church of England, and so the opposers [are] schismatics. ... Arminianism [is] more dangerous than popery, because ... it is hardlier to be distinguished, and there is no law against it, though it be not only contrary to the articles of the Church of England, but of all other reformed churches.

On 6 Aug. he opened the day’s business by requesting a further report on Abbot’s dealings with Montagu, prompting an order for a new deputation to the archbishop. According to a later tract against Arminianism, a bill was introduced in 1625 to outlaw it by incorporating the Calvinist resolutions of the 1619 Synod of Dort into the official teachings of the Church of England. No trace of this measure survives in the records of this session, but it has been suggested that Drake might well have been behind such an initiative.23 In late 1625, he was employed by the government to investigate the growing numbers of recusants in Surrey.24

Drake retained his seat at Amersham in 1626. Once again, there is scope for confusing him with John Drake, but he received at least 11 committee nominations, many of them as usual with religious themes. The bill topics included ecclesiastical patronage, the punishment of scandalous clergy, mitigation of excommunication, and clerical subscription (14-15 Feb., 2 and 6 May). He was appointed on 6 Mar. to help prepare for a conference with the Lords on Montagu’s books. On a different issue, he moved on 4 May for a committee to explore ways to increase the strength of the kingdom by improving the Crown’s revenues, and he was duly named to the committee to prepare proposals for presentation to the king. Although critical in this speech of the drain on the royal purse caused by excessive pensions and grants, he did not otherwise engage in the Commons’ attack on Buckingham, perhaps mindful that his cousin, Sir John Drake*, had married into the duke’s family.25

Drake’s first wife’s father died in 1627, and although he inherited the Shardeloes estate, he was unable to maintain his electoral interest at Amersham in 1628. Instead, he found a seat at Bridport. Drake’s connection with this borough is unclear, but he owned some property nearby at Lyme Regis, and may have drawn on John Drake’s local standing in west Dorset. Alternatively, through his third marriage, the date of which is uncertain, he enjoyed kinship ties with John White, the leader of Dorchester’s puritans, which may have enabled him to seek support from Dorset’s godly community.26 Drake was elected on a narrow franchise, prompting an appeal to the Commons by his opponents at Bridport. However, as only one return was made to Westminster for the borough, there was no immediate bar to him taking his seat. Indeed, when the Commons assembled he secured a place on the committee for privileges, the better to monitor developments in his own case. Drake emerged unscathed when a complaint was made on 28 Mar. that Surrey’s deputy lieutenants had been deliberately billeting soldiers with householders who refused to contribute to the costs of this operation. After denying that he personally had authorized any such actions, he was named to the committee of inquiry. His only other appointment, on 1 Apr., was to scrutinize the bill on sabbath observance. On 12 Apr., William Hakewill, who had replaced him at Amersham, reported from the committee for privileges that the Bridport election should be declared void. The Commons concurred, and in the ensuing by-election Drake’s rivals emerged victorious.27

Drake drew up his will on 13 Mar. 1634. Already ‘weak in body’, but confident that his soul would ‘presently be received into the kingdom of glory’, he requested that his body be ‘decently interred without any vain expense’. To his third wife, in addition to her jointure, he left a house in Fetter Lane, London, and a selection of household goods. Having already made provision for his eldest son, William, who stood to inherit his principal estates, he now merely assigned him ‘half the pictures which are in the gallery at Esher, ... together with the great hangings of the great chamber there’, and other lesser furnishings. He reserved his greatest largesse for his younger children, bequeathing £1,500 and 1,000 marks respectively to his two daughters, while his second son Francis was to inherit Walton-on-Thames rectory, and the residue of his goods and chattels. However, he also provided £30 for the ‘godly poor’ of three local parishes, and £10 a year for the upkeep of the school that he had founded at Walton-on-Thames. In addition, he left sums of £10 to four clergy, including John Dodd, who had long ministered to his first wife, and two well-known puritans, William Gouge and Richard Sibbes. As his executors, he appointed his son Francis, and his cousin John White. Drake died four days later, and was buried at Walton-on-Thames. His son William presumably objected to the terms of the will, as he rushed to obtain administration of his father’s estate on the very day of Drake’s death, alleging intestacy. However, this move was successfully challenged by Francis, who proved the will on 7 May. Both sons later sat in Parliament, William for Amersham in the 1640s and 1660s, Francis first for Amersham in the Long Parliament, and then for Surrey during the Protectorate.28

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 293.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Vivian, 293.
  • 4. F.R. Troup, John White, 406; Hants Lay Subsidy Rolls, 1586 ed. C.R. Davey (Hants Rec. Ser. iv), 19.
  • 5. Vivian, 293; PROB 11/165, f. 340v.
  • 6. Cal. Assize Recs.: Surr. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 42; SP16/212, f. 61v.
  • 7. C181/3, f. 32; 181/4, f. 167.
  • 8. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 115.
  • 9. C66/2384/3.
  • 10. C193/12/2, f. 58.
  • 11. CD 1628, ii. 168.
  • 12. APC, 1630-1, p. 132.
  • 13. C181/4, f. 121v.
  • 14. E407/1/38; Coll. Top. et Gen. vi. 193.
  • 15. LC2/6; LC3/1.
  • 16. Vivian, 293; HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 55; O. Manning and W. Bray, Hist. and Antiqs. of Surr. ii. 746.
  • 17. J. Sugden, Sir Francis Drake, 244, 288-9, 313, 316-17; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 167, 192.
  • 18. J. Hart, Trodden Down Strength (1646), pp. 9-10, 19, 98; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 120; HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 55.
  • 19. CD1621, vii. 567-8; SP14/127/80.
  • 20. CJ, i. 692b, 695a, 696a, 762b.
  • 21. Hart, 133, 135-6, 148-63.
  • 22. Procs. 1625, pp. 215, 228, 238, 241, 253, 284, 335; Hart, 117.
  • 23. Procs. 1625, pp. 383, 411; N. Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists, 152.
  • 24. APC, 1625-6, pp. 246-7; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 168.
  • 25. Procs. 1626, ii. 34, 44, 206; iii. 120, 155-6, 180; Vivian, 297.
  • 26. Lipscomb, Hist. and Antiqs. of Bucks. iii. 153-4; HMC 4th Rep. 22; Troup, 406.
  • 27. CD 1628, ii. 29, 168, 170, 227, 429-30.
  • 28. PROB 11/165, ff. 340-1; Hart, 19; Vivian, 293; PROB 6/15, p. 13.