EDMONDES, Sir Thomas (1563/6-1639), of Blackfriars, London and Albyns, Stapleford Abbots, Essex

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



1626 - 17 Mar. 1626

Family and Education

b. 1563/6, 5th s. of Thomas Edmondes (d.1604) of Plymouth, Devon and Fowey, Cornw. and 1st w. Joan, da. of Anthony Delabere of Sherborne, Dorset; bro. of John*.1 m. (1) May 1601, Magdalen (d. 31 Dec. 1614), da. and coh. of Sir John Wood, clerk of the signet, of Albyns, Stapleford Abbots, Essex 2s. d.v.p. incl. Henry*, 3da.;2 (2) lic. 11 Sept. 1626, aged 60, Sarah (d.1629), da. of Sir James Harington† of Exton, Rutland, wid. of Francis, Lord Hastings†, Sir George Kingsmill† of Burghclere, Hants and Edward, 11th Lord Zouche, s.p. 3 kntd. 20 May 1603.4 d. 20/28 Sept. 1639.5 sig. Tho[mas] Edmondes.

Offices Held

Sec. to amb. (Sir) Henry Unton† 1591-2, 1595-6; agent in France 1592-5, 1597-9; envoy, Spanish Neths. 1599-1600, France 1601; commr. treaty of Boulogne 1600; amb., Spanish Neths. 1604-9, France 1610-17, 1629-30. 6

Sec. for French tongue 1596-1621;7 clerk of PC (extraordinary) 1599, (ordinary) 1601-14;8 PC 1616-d.;9 comptroller, king’s Household 1616-18, treas. 1618-d.;10 commr. banishment of Jesuits 1618, wine casks 1619-21;11 clerk of the Crown, Chancery 1620-9;12 commr. purveyance compositions 1622, Virg. plantation 1624;13 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1625-d.;14 commr. poor relief 1631, transportation of felons 1633, defective titles 1635, wardrobe inquiry 1635, colonial govt. 1636.15

Freeman, Southampton, Hants 1603, Poole, Dorset 1623, Coventry, Warws. 1624;16 commr. oyer and terminer, the Verge 1604-d., the Marshalsea 1620-d., Home, Midland and Oxf. circuits 1620-d.;17 j.p. Essex 1608-d., Westminster 1618-d., Berks., Glos., Herts., Kent, Northants. and Surr. 1621-d., Slaughter liberty, Glos. 1624-d., Hants 1625-d., custos rot. Mdx. 1619-d.;18 steward, Havering-atte-Bower, Essex 1619;19 lt. Waltham forest, Essex by 1620;20 commr. sewers, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1623-d., new bldgs., Mdx. 1624, annoyances, Mdx. 1625, London 1630;21 dep. lt. Essex 1626-?d.;22 commr. martial law, Mdx. 1627, survey of the Thames 1630-1, repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Mdx. 1631, sewers, Westminster 1634.23

Member, French Co. 1611, E. India Co. 1614.24


Although of relatively obscure origins, Edmondes claimed kinship with the Cecils through his mother, while his father administered the customs at Plymouth on behalf of Sir Francis Walsingham†. It was perhaps through the latter that Edmondes became acquainted with Henry Unton†, who took him to France as secretary on his embassy in 1591-2. Edmondes remained in post as agent after Unton’s departure, and served the next ambassador, Gilbert Talbot†, 7th earl of Shrewsbury. The latter rewarded him with an annuity of £100, in appreciation of which Edmondes named his eldest son Talbot. In 1603-4, following his return to England, Edmondes helped to arrange a match between one of Shrewsbury’s daughters and the 3rd earl of Pembroke; during which negotiations he secured a parliamentary seat at Wilton, presumably on Pembroke’s interest.25

Edmondes played little recorded part in the 1604 session: he made no reported speeches, and the only important committee to which he was named was that appointed to consider the radical agenda for religious reforms proposed by Sir Edward Montagu* at the start of the session (23 March). Nevertheless, Shrewsbury later recalled that he had been ‘wont to be placed amongst the mutineers’ in the Commons, while his notoriously querulous temperament apparently led to a clash with Speaker Phelips which still rankled with him several years later, although the incident went unreported at the time. He was otherwise named to committees for two restitution bills (2, 12 Apr.), and another to prepare for a conference on religion (19 April). He was also named to attend a conference at which the king enlarged upon his initial proposals for the Union with Scotland (added 21 Apr.), and to the committee for the clerical pluralities’ bill (4 June).26 A month after the prorogation, Edmondes was dispatched to Brussels as the first resident ambassador to the archdukes. From there he provided valuable intelligence on the activities of English Catholic exiles, including several implicated in the Gunpowder Plot. On the instructions of Secretary Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) he wrote to the Speaker on 27 Oct. 1605 asking to surrender his seat, but the Commons took no decision on his status during the second session. It was not until November 1606 that the House ruled that Members absent on embassy should retain their seats. Expecting a different outcome, Edmondes had, according to Dudley Carleton*, ‘designed his place’ for their mutual friend John Chamberlain, the newsletter writer.27

In the summer of 1609 Edmondes returned to England amid rumours that Salisbury, now also lord treasurer, might delegate some of his duties as secretary of state. Edmondes hoped that he would be appointed to the new office of under-secretary on the grounds that he had ‘more reason than any other to pretend to the charge of foreign affairs, if there be any such division’. Were this to happen he would require a London residence, but during his absence in France his apartment in the Blackfriars had been let to Sir Edward Hoby*. He now rejected an alternative lodging above a shop, ‘because I may be visited by the ambassadors’. Having been nominated to succeed Sir George Carew II* as ambassador in Paris, he was finally offered the post of under-secretary in the autumn, but shortly afterwards the plan to delegate some of Salisbury’s duties was abandoned because, according to Edmondes, Salisbury was afraid that he and his colleague Sir Thomas Lake I* would thereby obtain ‘a kind of investiture into the secretary’s place’. The temporary hiatus in his career meant, however, that Edmondes was able to attend the fourth session of the Parliament.28

Initially ‘an assiduous attendant in the House’, Edmondes was present at the conference at which Salisbury outlined his proposals for the Great Contract (15 February). He informed William Trumbull*, his successor in Brussels, that MPs were ‘very careful, seeing there is a necessity that they must yield to so great an enlargement, not to engage themselves in the promise thereof till His Majesty shall consent to grant some equivalent benefits on the behalf of the subjects’. Edmondes acted as teller against the Hugh Platt estate bill (10 Mar.), and was named to seven bill committees before Easter, including those concerned with the export of ordnance (16 Mar.), the import of wine (22 Mar.) and the reform of the Marshalsea Court (29 March). After Easter he became involved in diplomatic negotiations which obliged him ‘almost to forsake the Parliament’, although he found time to promote a bill to naturalize ‘all children that shall be born to men in the King’s service and pay’, including his own. Soon after he was named to the bill committee (added 14 May), he left for Paris as ambassador, whereupon Nicholas Fuller* took charge of the bill. In early June Carleton reported that the measure ‘hath been smothered in the clerk’s pocket ever since your departure’, and two weeks later the bill was still stalled during the impositions debates, ‘an order being made that all other businesses should be laid apart [sic]’. Edmondes’ bill was ‘generally’ opposed by the lawyers, and ‘laid asleep for this session’.29

Edmondes served as ambassador in France until 1616, during which time he helped in the arrangements for Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to the Elector Palatine, and was an ardent proponent of a French Match for the king’s sons. On Salisbury’s death he became a contender for the secretaryship, the Huguenot duc de Bouillon being ‘an earnest solicitor in his behalf’, but the king chose to leave the post vacant. Edmondes concluded a marriage agreement for Prince Charles in January 1614, and hastened to England with the news, where opponents of the Match attacked him for deserting his post; he was defended by the francophile duke of Lennox. While in England he sold his clerkship of the Privy Council to Trumbull, rejecting a higher offer of £500 from Pembroke’s secretary, Edward Leech*, and he was also spoken of as a contender for the secretaryship, which went to Sir Ralph Winwood*. He remained in England throughout the Addled Parliament, but is not known to have sought election. Tipped as a possible successor to Sir Thomas Parry*, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, who had been disgraced over the Stockbridge election dispute, Edmondes hoped at least for a seat on the Privy Council, but returned to France late in July without even obtaining full payment of the arrears of his ambassadorial expenses.30

Edmondes eventually acquired the post of comptroller of the Household in December 1616, towards the end of the major redistribution of Court office which followed the rise of a new favourite, George, Lord Villiers. Edmondes’ preferment was widely noted by newsletter-writers, none of whom cited a patron however, although his new departmental chief, lord steward Lennox, doubtless welcomed his appointment. He exercised his authority as comptroller ‘with courage and authority enough; but they say he doth somewhat too much flourish and fence with his staves, whereof he hath broken two already, not at tilt, but stickling at the plays this Christmas’. Sent to France in 1617 to congratulate Louis XIII on the murder of the Maréchal d’Ancre, on Winwood’s death later the same year he was once more tipped for the secretaryship, although he told Chamberlain he would not accept it even if it was offered. Instead, he purchased the treasurership of the Household in 1618.31 In the following year he shared the farm of the greenwax fines with Lennox, a patent he ultimately surrendered in exchange for an annuity of £750. Shortly thereafter he succeeded to the clerkship of the Crown in Chancery, a post he had acquired in reversion in 1604. The duties of this sinecure, worth £700 or £800 p.a., included the receiving of election returns and the reading of statutes at the end of each session, all of which he performed by deputy.32

One of the customary functions of the treasurer of the Household was to provide official leadership in the Commons. At the start of each Parliament it fell to Edmondes to nominate the Speaker.33 In addition, he was regularly involved in carrying bills and messages to the Lords, and in liaising with the king about points of detail, such as the timing of audiences and answers to petitions. However, lacking a legal training, he was less involved in the minutiae of drafting and passing legislation, although he reported naturalization bills for the children of Sir Horatio Vere (24 Nov. 1621) and the 1st marquess of Hamilton (15 Apr. 1624). His diplomatic experience added weight to his speeches on war finance, but rarely surfaced in other contexts, although in a debate of 13 Mar. 1621 on trade, he recalled that ‘my chief labour when I was ambassador in France was to keep them from draperies’.34 Household finance was not a pressing issue during the 1620s, but where necessary Edmondes defended his departmental interests. In May 1621, for instance, he objected to a purveyance bill which abolished the benefits the Crown derived from cart-taking, while on 30 Nov. 1621, when the London Brewers petitioned against an imposition levied on malt in lieu of purveyance, he was quick to protest ‘that this is in the same nature of a composition, and that you may as well undo all the compositions in England’. In May 1624 complaints were made against Sir Simon Harvey, clerk comptroller, when Edmondes vainly sought to have the investigation referred to the senior Household officers.35 For all the authority his position conferred, Edmondes embarrassed himself on 9 Mar. 1624, when, attending a crowded sitting of the committee for privileges in the Exchequer chamber, he moved to transfer to the House. At this, the committee chairman, John Glanville, told him ‘he had no voice, nor was of the committee’, whereupon Edmondes replied, ‘the chair hath made you forget yourself’. Edmondes, ‘having retired himself and advised with his friends’, explained that he had believed himself to be a member of the committee (the question of whether to open it to all Members had been debated two weeks earlier), and that he had spoken as he did ‘because he would not his place should lose any of its dignity whilst he holdeth it’. However, he then waived his claim for the sake of ‘the great affairs now there in hand’.36

Edmondes’ modest estates afforded him no significant electoral influence, forcing him to look to official patronage for a seat in the Commons. In December 1620 he and Sir Julius Caesar* were rejected by the freeholders of Middlesex because ‘they could not have access to such great persons as privy councillors’, and despite a letter from the Prince’s Council and support from the corporation, he was also unsuccessful at Chester. The ambitious lawyer Sir Francis Ashley* made over his Dorchester seat to the treasurer, but Edmondes opted instead to sit for Bewdley, where he was returned on the prince’s interest.37 Nominating the Speaker on 30 Jan. 1621, Edmondes acknowledged the ‘need to reconcile king and the people’ following the angry dissolution of 1614, and declared his confidence that the difficulties of that session ‘neither proceeded from want of duty in subjects, or love in Prince’. The scars of this breach emerged on 5 Feb., when Sir Edward Giles received enthusiastic support for his motion to confirm the Commons’ privilege of free speech. Secretary Calvert reminded the House that this privilege had already been conceded in the king’s opening speech, and moved for an early grant of supply for relief of the Palatinate; Edmondes seconded him, offering assurances ‘that their affection to the king being seen would gain from him so great a retribution of grace as in reason they could desire’.38 This plea was studiously ignored, and on 13 Feb. James’s anti-Habsburg credentials were questioned following a report that 100 English cannon lay ready for shipment to Spain. Edmondes was dispatched to the king, who declared that he had given his personal undertaking to supply these guns for use against the Barbary pirates, but gave the House leave to draft a bill regulating exports of ordnance for the future. The free speech quarrel was resolved on 15 Feb., whereupon the Crown’s spokesmen renewed their pleas for a grant of supply, with Edmondes suggesting that ‘to give liberally will procure more frequent parliaments’. A vote of two subsidies ensued, for which the king sent his thanks via Sir Edward Coke and Edmondes, who reported that James had promised ‘that he will do more than meet them halfway’.39

In exchange for its generosity, the Commons expected to be allowed a free hand in proceeding against corruption and abuses of monopoly patents. James and his ministers were inclined to accept this arrangement, within certain limits, and looking back on the session, Edmondes claimed that monopolies had grown to such a height that the kingdom would have been undone but for the calling of Parliament. Thus when Sir Edward Coke reported complaints against the alehouse licensing patent on 22 Feb., Edmondes moved that those who had paid extortionate sums should be compensated. However, his attempt to exempt the favourite’s brother, Christopher Villiers, from this investigation came to nothing. On 28 Feb., during a debate on (Sir) Giles Mompesson’s* patents for inns and concealed lands, Edmondes complained that such patents served ‘merely to vex the subjects, without profit to the king’, and urged an investigation of the chief concealment hunter, William Tipper. Two days later, when the bill to prevent recusants avoiding seizure of their lands by means of fraudulent leases received its second reading, Edmondes moved for a proviso against fraud in the taking of inquisitions post mortem for Catholic landowners, whereupon a separate bill was ordered to be drafted. At the second reading of the monopolies bill on 14 Mar., it was apparently Edmondes who moved ‘that it might extend to agency whereby monopolies were countenanced’, a warning to any future sponsor of a patent. Finally, as the House prepared to adjourn for Easter, Edmondes promised that the king would take care to suppress inns licensed by Mompesson.40

After Easter some MPs began using corruption charges as a pretext to settle private scores, while official spokesmen tried vainly to bring the session to a swift conclusion. Inquiries into the patentees broadened to include their chief patron, Villiers, now marquess of Buckingham, which the king halted on 30 Apr., advising the House against investigating the favourite’s role in the Irish administration. Edmondes reinforced this warning: ‘seeing the king hath already begun this business, fit to leave it all to the king’. On the following day Members censured the Catholic barrister Edward Floyd for insulting Princess Elizabeth. James challenged the Commons’ claim to jurisdiction in this case, but on 4 May he left the House to decide whether to punish him or whether to join with the Lords in an impeachment. Edmondes and other privy councillors present moved to leave the punishment to the king, but the Commons stood their ground; speaking to this issue several times thereafter, Edmondes consistently aimed to bring the dispute to a swift conclusion.41 Conciliar intervention had a more immediate impact, however, following a brawl between the MPs Sir Charles Morrison and Clement Coke, as Edmondes and Sir Richard Weston consigned Morrison to the custody of his father-in-law, Sir Baptist Hickes*. On 14 May, when yet another corruption allegation surfaced, Edmondes reminded the House that ‘we cannot sit long together now, therefore let us not admit these particulars to interrupt the general business’. However, when the king announced his intention to end the sitting at the beginning of June, little had been accomplished; facing the choice between an immediate adjournment or two weeks to prepare legislation against a prorogation, an offer Edmondes confirmed was genuine, the House opted for an adjournment.42

When the session reconvened in November, Edmondes tabled a bill for the naturalization of the daughters of Sir Horatio Vere, commander of English forces in the Palatinate. Amid a crowded agenda, he claimed this private bill was ‘for one so worthily deserving ... that it deserves the reading’, and after waiving his own fees as clerk of the crown he urged the Speaker to do likewise; the bill was committed, and reported by Edmondes later the same day (24 November). With Habsburg forces now occupying much of the Palatinate, supply took centre stage, yet many advocated a potentially lucrative naval war against Spain in preference to a costly land war in Germany. On 27 Nov., the second day of the debate, Edmondes opened for the government:

I will not be so uncharitable as to think that those which moved that there should be a suspending of our resolutions for the present succouring of the Palatinate had any purpose thereby to divert the question, but ... if we should admit of delays, let us consider in what desperate state we shall leave things there, by suffering that brave army to perish for want of relief.

He advised those who sought a breach with Spain to wait ‘till he shall see how the king of Spain, who professeth such inward friendship to him, will avow these last proceedings of the Emperor’, and assured the House that further supply would ensure a favourable reception for both legislation and grievances. Despite similar assurances from other official spokesmen, the House could only be persuaded to grant a single subsidy. Six days later, the Commons’ petition for a Protestant bride for Prince Charles drew an angry response from the king, who, having been warned of its contents by the prince, refused to read it.43 On 7 Dec. Sir Julius Caesar and Edmondes belatedly moved to ban Members from distributing copies of either the Commons’ petition or the king’s answer, but by then the House was declining to transact any other business until this dispute was resolved, raising the stakes and ultimately leading to a fruitless dissolution two weeks later. Edmondes subsequently participated in several attempts to break the deadlock: on 10 Dec. Edmondes tried to smooth over a disagreement between Secretary Calvert and Edward Alford, recalling that Calvert had mistaken Alford’s meaning, and hoping ‘all men are satisfied’. On 13 Dec. the king offered a crumb of hope to the Commons by permitting the House to proceed with its investigation of two courtiers, Lepton and Goldsmith, who had tried to defame Sir Edward Coke. Edmondes promptly moved ‘that we give thanks to His Majesty that giveth us liberty to maintain our liberties and leave our liberties to us’. However, James’s patience had run out, and on 14 Dec. he ordered the Commons to prepare the subsidy bill and the pardon for an early end to the session. The resulting debate produced a sharp division between Members wishing to oblige the king and those who aimed to justify their actions by means of a Protestation. Edmondes was naturally among the former: ‘let us rest upon His Majesty’s assurance of religion and our privileges, and not prejudice religion, our state nor the king’s children abroad. To proceed with bills’. However, despite the best efforts of Edmondes and his colleagues, no legislation received the royal assent at the prorogation on 19 December.44

Prince Charles and Buckingham (now a duke) pressed for another Parliament in 1624 to secure supply for war in order to persuade a reluctant James to break off the Spanish Match. Edmondes was unsuccessfully recommended for seats at Coventry and St. Albans by the Prince’s Council, but Pembroke’s brother-in-law Thomas, earl of Arundel, used his position as corporation high steward to find Edmondes a seat at Chichester. On 19 Feb., after nominating Thomas Crewe as Speaker, Edmondes set an optimistic tone, ‘remembering our grief for our last parting thence, and congratulating for the joy in our now meeting’. Four days later, when the Lords sent to arrange the conference at which Buckingham made his keynote address on the failure of the Spanish Match, Edmondes brushed aside those who attempted to delay the meeting. On 1 Mar. the Commons voted unanimously for a breach with Spain; Edmondes was one of those appointed to manage a conference with the Lords about how to carry this motion into effect (2 Mar.), and when this was reported on 4 Mar., he was among those who stoked anti-Spanish feeling by recalling how Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, had boasted to him that Spain ‘matched not for to amend their blood nor any other respect, but only to advance the Catholic cause’.45

Edmondes attended the conference of 11 Mar. at which Prince Charles delivered his narrative of the failure of the Spanish Match, and on the following morning he opened the debate with a paean of praise to the prince, moving to give Charles ‘a more particular assurance of our tenderness’, although Sir Robert Phelips quashed any suggestion that this might involve an immediate decision on supply. The resulting vote of thanks to the prince, which Edmondes helped to draft (12 Mar.), reflected the optimistic tone of his speech, but the king dampened this euphoria by setting his price for war at six subsidies and 12 fifteenths, about £780,000.46 The subsidy debate of 19-20 Mar. was carefully constructed to reduce this figure to a politically acceptable sum: Pembroke’s spokesman Sir Benjamin Rudyard opened with a motion to vote supply for defensive preparations alone, and the aspiring Buckingham client (Sir) John Eliot rhapsodized about plundering the Indies. Edmondes then put a figure of £300,000 on Rudyard’s proposal, with promise of ‘an annual contribution’ once the war began, and Sir Miles Fleetwood and Sir George More suggested this be assessed as two subsidies and four fifteenths. The debate went awry when Sir John Savile moved to discuss the particulars of Rudyard’s proposals, and carried over to the following day, when Edmondes pronounced himself ‘glad the particulars of war are declined’ and proposed a vote on a grant of three subsidies and three fifteenths. This motion, while a little premature, was eventually carried, and Edmondes was named to the committee for drafting a message to the king informing him of this resolution (20 March). He thereafter confined himself to more routine business, joining other privy councillors to carry the recusancy petition and subsidy bill up to the Lords (14 Apr., 24 May), to emphasise their importance.47

A few days before the 1625 Parliament convened, the French ambassador in London, describing Edmondes as ‘tout Français’, advised Louis XIII to support the treasurer of the Household in pursuit of an English peerage. However, nothing came of this advice, nor was there any truth in later rumours of his ennoblement. Edmondes was returned for Oxford University on the nomination of Pembroke, the university’s chancellor, who recommended ‘his very good friend’ to convocation as ‘a personage of worth and quality’. While Edmondes was not himself a university man, Pembroke admitted, he had demonstrated ‘his particular affection unto the university of Oxford by disposing his only son to receive his education from thence’. The session opened with a conspicuous failure of management on 30 June, when Sir Francis Seymour initiated a supply debate in the absence of the privy councillors, which produced a grant of two subsidies, a hopelessly inadequate sum for a war against Spain. Edmondes played no recorded part in (Sir) John Coke’s attempt to secure an increase in this sum on 8 July, either because he shared the disapproval of the plan voiced by (Sir) Humphrey May*, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, or because he had not been briefed about an initiative which had been arranged at the last moment by Buckingham. He was almost certainly present in the House, however, as he was later sent to deliver the recusancy petition to the king.48

By the time Parliament reconvened at Oxford, unity of purpose had been restored among the government’s chief spokesmen. On 1 Aug., when Sir Edward Giles raised a complaint about pardons granted to Catholic priests, Edmondes explained that these had been allowed as a courtesy to the French ambassadors who had come over with Henrietta Maria, and that the reprieve was conditional upon the priests’ going into exile. On 5 August, following official overtures for further supply, chancellor May broached the subject in the Commons; Edmondes backed him, reminding the House of Charles’s efforts to secure a breach with Spain in 1624, and passing ‘from the general to a particular, by moving for the addition of two subsidies and two fifteenths’. Despite additional support from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Richard Weston, this overture produced no response. On 8 Aug. the king offered a strict enforcement of the recusancy laws in return for cash, and once this had been reported to the Commons the following morning, Edmondes, ‘drawing his suasory from the answer in religion’, moved ‘to descend speedily to a supply, not of His Majesty’s own wants but those of the kingdom’; the eventual rejection of this offer brought about a swift dissolution.49

In 1626 Pembroke once again recommended Edmondes to the Oxford University Convocation, and was supported by Archbishop Abbot, who recalled Edmondes’ services ‘in the petitioning of His Majesty for those timber trees which were graciously given to the advancement of your waterworks, for the opening of the Thames, and in such other good offices’. Despite these endorsements, there were misgivings about the re-election of a man with no personal connection to the university: Sir Francis Stewart*, another Pembroke adherent, was put up to provoke a contest; and Edmondes was only returned amid vociferous protests. The opening weeks of the session were dominated by the developing attack on Buckingham, to which Pembroke was giving covert encouragement: Edmondes, beholden to the earl but required to defend the Privy Council’s actions, which had been guided by the duke, was thus placed in an awkward position.50

On 22 Feb. there were calls to suspend of Sir Henry Marten* as judge of the Admiralty Court over his detention of a French ship, the St. Peter of Le Havre, although the real target of the investigation was Buckingham. Edmondes exonerated Marten and urged that the Privy Council be allowed to see the dispute through to a conclusion, something the duke’s enemies were determined should not happen. The Commons over-reached themselves with a summons to Buckingham to answer for his actions, whereupon Edmondes was one of those ordered to redraft the request in a more conciliatory form (4 March). Four days later, a petition was received from French merchants whose goods had been seized by the English fleet in an escalation of this dispute. Edmondes explained the circumstances of these seizures, and as they provided no obvious angle of attack against Buckingham, the issue was referred to the committee for grievances.51 Alongside this investigation, the Commons mounted a wide-ranging examination of the Crown’s failure to prosecute the war against Spain effectively: on 6 Mar. Sir Thomas Hoby complained of the inadequacy of coastal defence. In a co-ordinated response, Secretary of State Sir John Coke, Chancellor Weston and Edmondes retorted that the problem was lack of money, which placed the onus upon the Commons to do something to rectify the situation. Edmondes attended the conference of 7 Mar. at which Abbot and Pembroke underlined the pressing need for supply, and was named to the committee to consider Sir Dudley Digges’s* proposal for a West India Company to license privateering ventures to the Spanish colonies (14 March). His time in the Commons ended abruptly on 17 Mar., when his election was declared void following a challenge from his rival, Stewart. The latter, while already sitting for Liskeard, was nevertheless returned at the second university election, leaving Edmondes without a seat, and (in the words of James Palmer*) ‘never a white staff in the House to beat a dog with’. While this hampered the Crown’s faltering attempts to manage an unruly session, Edmondes thereby escaped from a delicate situation which could only have become more awkward, as the duke’s impeachment would have forced him into a public declaration of his sympathies.52

One of the privy councillors who privately regretted the necessity for the Forced Loan, Edmondes’s extensive knowledge of French affairs makes him the likely author of a speech at the Council board which observed that the English Crown’s revenues came to less than those of the French province of Normandy, but warned that attempts at reform would be ill-advised ‘without either the consent of a Parliament, or the hope of gaining the conformity and submission of the people thereunto’. However, he joined the Council delegations sent to promote the implementation of the loan in Berkshire and Norfolk. When a fresh Parliament was summoned in January 1628, Edmondes and (Sir) Thomas Fanshawe I gained custody of the election writ for Essex and had the county court convened at Stratford, away from its usual location but conveniently close to their own estates; ‘but the country, having intelligence from London, came in so fast that they durst not trust them, and so were dismissed without doing anything’. Edmondes may have sought a nomination at Tavistock, but was eventually returned at Penryn on the Killigrew interest.53

With some understatement, Edmondes’s nomination of the Speaker on 17 Mar. 1628 referred to ‘the misfortunes which have fallen out upon the unhappy dissolution of the last Parliament’. Throughout the session, the Crown’s spokesmen in the Commons faced a hostile audience composed of Members who were determined not to provide an Exchequer on the edge of bankruptcy with a penny until they had received adequate confirmation of the liberties denied them during the collection of the Forced Loan. Ominously, on 22 Mar. the question of supply was broached not by the Crown’s spokesmen, but by Robert Goodwin and Sir Francis Seymour, who complained loudly about billeting and the Forced Loan. Edmondes stepped into the breach with a remarkably emollient speech:

we have had too much experience of late miserable distraction of parliaments ... Here let us bury all former ill passages ... and offer such a present to His Majesty as may invite him to meet us half way. The sympathies are yet good; let not doubts arise, for as this Parliament succeeds all our allies are either blessed or broken.

Sir Humphrey May seconded him in similar vein, but Eliot returned to Seymour’s themes, and it was only then that Sir Benjamin Rudyard, who normally opened supply debates, rose to speak; unsurprisingly, nothing was achieved. Three days later Secretary Coke delivered a plea from the king for speedy supply, but a phalanx of speakers demanded that supply and grievances go hand in hand; Edmondes, attempting to retrieve something from the disaster, persuaded the House to begin the substantive debate, but this dealt only with grievances.54 On 2 Apr. the king attempted to focus the debate around a list of 14 items of military expenditure for which he required parliamentary supply. These propositions afforded endless opportunity for delay, as speakers vied to debate the merits of each, leaving Edmondes vainly pleading with the House ‘to lay aside all asperity of words and gall. Not to meddle with particulars, but to think of some good round sum to give His Majesty’. When informed of the House’s disregard of his necessities the same evening the king’s patience snapped, and Buckingham was said to have called for an immediate dissolution. The following morning Secretary Coke denied the duke had called for an end to the Parliament, while Edmondes insisted that the king had been delighted, merely asking ‘that in those declarations of our grievances he would have you proceed modestly, but trust his love and favour’. Few can have believed these fictions, but the incident served as a warning that the king required some form of incentive to keep the session in being. When the subsidy debate finally opened on 4 Apr., several speakers, including John Selden and Sir John Eliot, sought to use the financial propositions to impose further delay; Edmondes urged ‘that the king said he thought it would not be fit at this time to take them into consideration’, and a successful vote to consider supply before the propositions finally led to an offer of five subsidies.55

Having helped to secure the keenly desired vote of supply, Edmondes faded from the records of debate for the remainder of the session. This was doubtless partly because he lacked the necessary legal expertise to comment extensively on the Petition of Right, but perhaps also because he was not prepared to argue for the prerogative at the expense of the subjects’ liberties. When the use of martial law commissions was raised on 11 Apr., Edmondes, who had attended the Council when these were discussed, insisted ‘they were only and solely granted at the request of the gentlemen of the country’ to be used as a last resort in case of disorder; he also denied that the Council had sent letters forbidding justices of the peace to exercise jurisdiction over soldiers, save for ‘one letter which was only that justices should not meddle with billeting of soldiers’. Other than this, his remaining concern was to expedite the subsidy bill: on 11 Apr. he and May supported Secretary Coke’s successful motion for the House to sit over Easter; five days later, when the king called for progress on the subsidy bill to enable the fleet to sail, he reminded the House ‘it is not the particular ends of the king, but the pressing occasions of the state’ which were at stake. When the Commons debated their response to the Lords’ proposal to add a saving clause for the prerogative to the Petition of Right on 23 May, Edmondes growled that ‘the Lords expected us yesterday. Much time is already spent’. The Commons had no intention of allowing the subsidy bill to complete even its first reading before receiving a satisfactory answer to the Petition, to which end they staged a protracted filibuster on the precedency of Oxford and Cambridge Universities on 31 May; when Sir Nathaniel Rich led the Cambridge men out of the House, Edmondes, his patience exhausted, snapped ‘I think he deserves reprehension, for there is no man that purposely ought to avoid a question’.56

The 1629 session was dominated by disputes over the customs and religion, two areas in which Edmondes had no particular expertise, and he played a relatively modest part in its proceedings. On 28 Jan. he regretted that the House had ‘given occasion of so many messages from His Majesty about Tunnage and Poundage’, and warned of the danger of alienating the king’s heart from Parliament. He subsequently urged the House not to use the Petition of Right ‘to an excessive liberty’ in the case of John Rolle*: pressed to explain this inflammatory phrase by Sir John Stanhope II, he said that he meant ‘the unnecessary stirring of this question’. During the debâcle of 2 Mar. he was one of the councillors who tried to free Speaker Finch from his enforced restraint in the chair.57

After one last diplomatic mission to France in 1629-30, Edmondes sold his Chancery post to provide portions for his two unmarried daughters. The sale price was £6,000, but he discovered his lawyer, John Wright, clerk of the Commons, had cheated him of part of this sum. His sons both predeceased him without heirs, and his youngest daughter subsequently eloped with a servant; he therefore settled his estates on her eldest sister, the widow of Henry, 4th Lord de la Warr. He remained treasurer of the Household until his death in September 1639; no will or administration has been found.58

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Simon Healy


  • 1. C142/613/47; London Mar. Lics. (Harl. Soc. xxvi), 175; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 327.
  • 2. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiv), 620; J. Morant, Essex, i. 177.
  • 3. London Mar. Lics. 175; CP (Zouche).
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 109.
  • 5. Smyth’s Obit. ed. H. Ellis (Cam. Soc. xliv), 16; C142/613/47.
  • 6. Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives comp. G.M. Bell, 22, 98-104, 265.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 218.
  • 8. APC, 1598-9, p. 740; C66/1559.
  • 9. Ibid. 1616-17, p. 98.
  • 10. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 47, 136.
  • 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 65.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 407, 417; 1628-9, p. 572; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 293.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 360; C66/2463; Rymer, vii. pt. 4, p. 145.
  • 14. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 326;
  • 15. APC, 1630-1, p. 4; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 474; 1631-3, p. 547; 1635-6, p. 363; Rymer, ix. pt. 1, p. 7.
  • 16. HMC 11th Rep. III, 23; Hutchins, Dorset, i. 32; Coventry Archives, BA H/C/17/1, f. 268.
  • 17. C181/1, f. 93v; 181/3, ff. 1, 5-7.
  • 18. C181/2, f. 331; 181/3, f. 104v; C231/4, p. 81.
  • 19. E315/ 310, f. 80.
  • 20. VCH Essex, ii. 619; APC, 1619-21, p. 279;
  • 21. C181/3, ff. 91v, 157r; Rymer, vii. pt. 4, p. 96; viii. pt. 3, p. 114.
  • 22. Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), x. 120.
  • 23. APC, 1627-8, p. 237; C181/3, f. 219; CSP Dom. 1631-3, pp. 6, 133; C181/4, p. 191.
  • 24. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 285.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 215; 1598-1601, p. 427; CSP For. 1591-2, p. 374; HMC Portland, ix. 31; Cal. Shrewsbury Pprs. ed. E.G.W. Bill (Derbys. Rec. ser. i), 8; Chamberlain Letters, i. 156; Cal. Talbot Pprs. ed. G.R. Batho (Derbys. Rec. ser. iv), 230-2, 234.
  • 26. CJ, i. 151b, 162a, 169b, 178a, 232a, 954b.
  • 27. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 146, 482; xviii. 161; Stowe 168, ff. 181, 199; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 52; CJ, 324a; HMC Downshire, ii. 450.
  • 28. E. Lodge, Illustrations of Brit. Hist. iii. 188; HMC Downshire, ii. 56, 61, 105, 111, 177, 191, 235, 307.
  • 29. HMC Downshire, ii. 226, 257, 269, 271, 284, 343; CJ, i. 408b, 412b, 414a, 428a; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, iii. 129, 135, 153; HMC Buccleuch, i. 87; Birch, i. 113, 116, 117, 124, 129.
  • 30. Chamberlain Letters, i. 342, 401, 483, 500, 504, 506, 521, 532, 543; HMC Downshire, iii. 133, 151, 338; iv. 27, 193, 198, 208, 254, 310, 318-19, 385-6; Add. 32023B, f. 185; A. Thrush, ‘French Marriage and the Origins of the 1614 Parl.’, Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parl. ed. S. Clucas and R. Davies, 27-9.
  • 31. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 47, 110, 116-17, 125, 134, 136; Winwood’s Memorials, iii. 492.
  • 32. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 105, 187; 1619-23, p. 61; 1623-5, p. 314; W.J. Jones, Eliz. Ct. of Chancery, 131-2.
  • 33. CJ, i. 507, 670-1; Procs. 1625, pp. 35-6; Procs. 1626, ii. 2; CD 1628, ii. 2, 8.
  • 34. CD 1621, ii. 433; v. 37; CJ, i. 644a; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 245.
  • 35. CJ, i. 619a, 627a, 652b, 787b; CD 1621, ii. 476; iii. 234-5, 305-7.
  • 36. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 61; ‘Hawarde 1624’, pp. 189; T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 220.
  • 37. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 200; D.H. Willson, Privy Councillors in the Commons, 71; Egerton 784, ff. 16-17; CJ, i. 513a.
  • 38. CJ, i. 507a, 509a; CD 1621, ii. 20.
  • 39. CJ, i. 519-20, 523b; CD 1621, ii. 86, 92-3; iv. 60; R. Zaller, Parl. of 1621, pp. 37-49.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 264; CJ, i. 532a, 534a, 553b, 576b; CD 1621, ii. 118-23, 149, 219; iv. 116, 153; C. Russell, PEP, 99-111.
  • 41. CJ, i. 598a, 614, 624b; CD 1621, iii. 187-8, 240; Russell, 108-9; Zaller, 104-15.
  • 42. CJ, i. 611-13; CD 1621, iii. 251; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 158.
  • 43. CJ, i. 644a, 647-9; CD 1621, ii. 443; SP14/123/128; Russell, 138-41.
  • 44. CJ, i. 659b, 664b; CD 1621, ii. 523; vi. 227-8, 238; Nicholas, ii. 300-5, 333; Zaller, 157-70.
  • 45. DCO, Prince Charles in Spain, ff. 34v, 37; CJ, i. 670b, 716b, 725b; Rich 1624, p. 39; Russell, 158-9; Cogswell, 174-81.
  • 46. CJ, i. 683a; ‘Pym 1624’, ff. 26v-7; ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 109; Russell, 171-6; Cogswell, 194-6.
  • 47. CJ, i. 710b, 741, 744b, 766b; Russell, 187-9; Cogswell, 203-18; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 60v; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 32v; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 147.
  • 48. PRO 31/3/62 (6 May 1625); Oxf. Univ. Archives, N23, ff. 203v, 215; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii. 19; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 246-7; Procs. 1625, p. 349.
  • 49. Procs. 1625, pp. 375, 391-5, 407, 430, 507, 553-4; Russell, 225-7, 239-50.
  • 50. Oxf. Univ. Archives, N23, ff. 214-5; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 630.
  • 51. Procs. 1626, ii. 91-2, 95-7, 194, 228.
  • 52. Ibid. ii. 208, 216, 280; Russell, 287-8.
  • 53. Russell, 338; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 44-5, 76-7, 112-16, 310-11; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 323-4.
  • 54. CD 1628, ii. 10, 57, 67, 98, 121.
  • 55. Ibid. ii. 245-7, 271, 277-8, 282, 317-18.
  • 56. Ibid. ii. 398, 413-17, 559-60; iv. 44; Russell, 372-6.
  • 57. CD 1629, pp. 22, 61, 104, 198.
  • 58. HMC Cowper, iii. 142; Birch, Chas. I, ii. 16, 196; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 523; VCH Essex, iv. 225; Smyth’s Obit. 16; C142/613/47.