HOLLES, John (1595-1666), of Haughton, Notts. and Chaloner House, Clerkenwell, Mdx.; later of Clare House, Drury Lane, Westminster

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



1621 - 7 Feb. 1621

Family and Education

b. 13 June 1595, 1st s. of Sir John Holles* and Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Stanhope† of Shelford, Notts.1 bro. of Denzil*. educ. travelled abroad (Low Countries, France) 1605; Christ’s, Camb. 1611; G. Inn 1612; embassy, Paris 1614.2 m. 4 Sept. 1626, Elizabeth (d. Dec. 1683), da. and coh. of Horace, 1st Bar. Vere of Tilbury, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 14da. (6 d.v.p.) styled Lord Houghton 2 Nov. 1624; suc. fa. as 2nd earl of Clare 7 Oct. 1637. d. 2 Jan. 1666.3

Offices Held

Commr. sewers, Notts. 1626, Yorks., Notts. and Lincs. 1629, Westminster 1660, exacted fees, Notts. 1634;4 j.p. liberty of Southwell and Scrooby, Notts. 1640-1,5 Mdx. 1652-3,6 1660-d., Notts. and Westminster 1660-d, custos rot. Westminster 1660-d;7 commr. perambulation, Sherwood Forest, Notts. 1641, oyer and terminer, Mdx. 1641, 1660-d.; Midland circ. 1660-d.;8 bailiff, Barstelow and honour of Tickhill, Notts. 1642-?;9 recorder, Nottingham, Notts. 1642-d.;10 ld. lt. Notts. 1642; commr. Northern Assoc., Notts. 1645;11 warden, Sherwood Forest 1646-at least 1654;12 commr. assessment, Notts. 1657, militia 1660.13


Holles accompanied his father on Edward, 1st earl of Hertford’s embassy to Brussels in 1605, ‘being between the years of nine and ten’, and drew up observations on the Netherlands.14 In 1620 his father tried to find him a seat at the Nottinghamshire borough of East Retford, about seven miles from the family home at Haughton. However, after finding that the electors were already engaged for other candidates,15 he seems to have turned instead to his friend Sir John Brooke* to recommend Holles to the 1st earl of Nottingham (Charles Howard†) for a seat at Gatton, Nottingham having nominated Brooke for the borough in 1614.16 Holles was subsequently returned, along with Henry Britton, after a private meeting of some of the borough’s inhabitants on 12 December. However, after a public meeting of the freeholders held the following day, two alternative candidates were elected, who petitioned the Commons. The privileges committee found in favour of the petitioners and Holles was unseated on 7 Feb. without taking any recorded part in Parliament.17

In 1624 Holles was returned for both East Retford and Mitchell, the latter borough being close to property owned by his father in Cornwall. He waived Mitchell to provide a seat for his younger brother Denzil.18 Either Holles or his brother was appointed to attend the conference of 22 May 1624 on the effect of the monopolies bill on the wine licences, on which the earl of Nottingham was heavily dependent. He received no other committee appointments and made no recorded speeches.19 For most of the Parliament he kept a journal of the Commons’ proceedings, although after the end of April he only recorded the debates of 7 and 19 May. His journal is a summary of events rather than an exhaustive report of proceedings, and focuses on high politics and foreign affairs. It is particularly valuable for revealing the extent to which Court factions influenced debate.20

Holles was again returned for East Retford to the first Caroline Parliament, but was mentioned only once in the surviving records, being named to attend the conference with the Lords about the general fast (23 June 1625).21 Re-elected the following year he left no trace on the surviving parliamentary records. Writing to his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Wentworth* on 19 May 1627, he announced that he planned to travel to the Low Countries in the autumn. Lamenting the imprisonment of several Forced Loan refusers, among them Sir Harbottle Grimston*, he stated that it had initially been supposed that ‘this humour of committing had been spent’ but that it was now believed that the practice had been revived by Wentworth’s antagonist, Sir John Savile, who hoped to force Wentworth to choose between imprisonment or payment, an option which ‘he hopes will lessen you in the country’.22 Holles was abroad by the time of the elections to the 1628 Parliament, but had returned by July 1628. In the following March he sought access to his brother Denzil who had been imprisoned in the Tower after the dissolution of the Parliament, but was probably refused. He subsequently returned to the Low Countries but was back in England by August 1630.23

Laud heard that Holles was a wise man, ‘not likely to follow any man’s courses to his own prejudice’, and Clarendon described him as ‘not only firm to the principles of monarchy, but of duty to the person of the king’. His Cavalier cousin Gervase Holles† found him ‘very pleasant company, both witty and affable’, but too eager to enlarge his estate to be trustworthy. It was this concern that made him, though a man of honour and courage, very often of both parties in the Civil War, without advantage to either in Mrs. Hutchinson’s opinion.24 Having drawn up his will on 12 Aug. 1659 he died at Haughton and, despite requesting to be interred with his ancestors in Haughton parish church, was buried at St. Mary’s, Nottingham on 23 Jan. 1666. He was succeeded by his son Gilbert, who had represented Nottinghamshire in the Convention Parliament.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. CP, iii. 247-8.
  • 2. HMC Portland, ix. 92; SO3/5; Letters of John Holles ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. Rec. ser. xxxi), 33-35, 51, 136; GI Admiss.
  • 3. CP, iii. 348; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 146; CSP Dom. 1637, p. 463; Nottingham UL, PwV 5, pp. 1, 298-9, Pw2, 320, 322; PROB 11/335, 370v-371.
  • 4. C181/3, f. 199v; 181/4, ff. 16v, 159; 181/7, f. 37.
  • 5. C181/5, ff. 164, 216.
  • 6. C193/13/4, f. 59.
  • 7. Perfect List of all such Persons as by Commission under the Great Seal of Eng. are now Confirmed to be Custos Rotulorum, Justices of Oyer and Terminer, Justices of the Peace and Quorum (1660), pp. 31, 37; C231/7, p. 12; C193/12/3, ff. 63, 79, 129v.
  • 8. C181/5, ff. 210, 213; 181/7, ff. 3, 14, 292, 327.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 261.
  • 10. Recs. of Bor. of Nottingham ed. T. Baker, v. 203, 433.
  • 11. A. and O. i. 2, 707.
  • 12. CP, iii. 246; CSP Dom. 1654, p. 288.
  • 13. A. and O. ii. 1075, 1438.
  • 14. HMC Portland, ix. 92.
  • 15. Letters of John Holles (xxxv), 248.
  • 16. G. Holles, Mems. of Holles Fam. ed. A.C Wood (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lv), 112.
  • 17. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 20; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 341.
  • 18. Holles, 58; CJ, i. 673a.
  • 19. CJ, i. 709a.
  • 20. Holles 1624, preface, 89-91; Kyle thesis, 10; C. Russell, PEP, xx.
  • 21. Procs. 1625, p. 228.
  • 22. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 37-8.
  • 23. Letters of John Holles (xxxv), 373, 405, 413; Strafforde Letters, i. 43-4, 46; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 210, 498; APC, 1629-30, p. 39.
  • 24. Strafforde Letters, ii. 170; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iii. 153; Holles, 67, 191; 96; L. Hutchinson, Mems. of Life of Col. Hutchinson (1806) ed. J. Hutchinson, 96.
  • 25. PROB 11/320, f. 187v; CP, iii. 248.