KIRTON, Edward (1585-1654), of Westminster, Almsford Park and Castle Cary, Som.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Education
J.p. Som. 1625-6, 1641-6;9 commr. depopulation, Som. 1635;10 treas. for hospitals, Eastern div. of Som. 1638,11 grand jury, Som. 1638;12 commr. array, Som. 1642,13 sequestrations (roy.) 1643,14 recvr. composition money (roy.) by 1644.15
Dep. gent. of the robes to the prince of Wales ?1641-6.16
The nephew of James Kirton I who, like many other members of his family, was in the service of the Seymours, Kirton was born at Almsford in Somerset, a Seymour manor leased by his grandfather.17 His father died in 1591, when Kirton was still only six, and his mother married Sir Robert Vernon of Mitcham, Surrey, a Household official who rose to become cofferer in 1610.18 Kirton was brought up in his stepfather’s household and his first employment was as Vernon’s clerk.19
Kirton first became involved with the Seymours in June 1610, when he witnessed the illicit marriage of William Seymour* to James I’s cousin, Lady Arbella Stuart.20 On 8 July the Privy Council ordered his arrest,21 but he seems not to have been in custody long, for in the following year he assisted Arbella in her unsuccessful escape. As punishment, Kirton lost his clerkship and was sent to the Tower, where he became one of Arbella’s servants.22 Subsequently transferred to the Gatehouse, he was given the liberty of the prison in June 1613, and one month later was released on bond. However, he was back by August 1614 and not released until the following November, when he resumed his clerical duties. At his mother’s insistence, he retained his office after his stepfather’s resignation of the cofferership to Arthur Ingram* in 1615, but when Ingram was forced from office in July, Kirton finally lost his position.23 In 1617 he was questioned by a sub-committee of the Privy Council over whether Arbella, now dead, had had a child.24 That same year Sir Robert Vernon died, leaving Kirton a mere £5.25 Kirton married soon after, though the identity of his wife is not known.26
Kirton was described as a servant of Seymour’s in 1626, but he had probably entered the latter’s service by 1619, when he joined Seymour in granting a quitclaim to a London citizen.27 The following year James Kirton I died, having appointed Kirton his executor and bequeathed him the bulk of his estate, including the lease of Almsford after the death of James’ mother. Most of the bequest, and the executorship, was conditional on Kirton providing security to three trustees appointed by his uncle. He presumably provided the necessary guarantees, as he proved the will on 7 Nov.; James’s mother was buried two days later.28 He did not immediately move to Somerset, for in 1621 he was described as being of Westminster, but he was living at Almsford by 1623.29 From 1626 he lived at Castle Cary, adjacent to Almsford, which he also leased from the Seymours.30 In 1634 he became trustee of various Seymour properties in Somerset.31
Kirton owed his parliamentary career to Seymour. It was presumably the latter who prompted Robert Devereux, 3rd earl of Essex, to nominate Kirton at Newcastle-under-Lyme in December, since Essex was Seymour’s brother-in-law. In return, Seymour undoubtedly arranged for Sir Walter Devereux’s return at Marlborough, for which borough Seymour himself had been elected but was now ineligible, having been called to the Upper House.32 Kirton played no recorded part in the 1621 Parliament, but his status undoubtedly rose when Seymour became 2nd earl of Hertford in April of that year.33
In 1624 Kirton was elected for the Wiltshire borough of Ludgershall, which his uncle had previously represented. Kirton’s only appointments were to consider bills to enable Hertford to sell lands (10 Mar.), to enfranchise county Durham (25 Mar.) and to settle the estate of Sir William Somervyle, to which committee he was added on 8 May. He attended at least one meeting of the Durham enfranchisement committee.34 He made only one recorded speech, on 14 May, following the report of the subsidy bill by the solicitor general, Sir Robert Heath. During the subsequent debate, Heath suddenly produced three alterations to the preamble, ‘saying generally it was desired to be amended’. Kirton responded by ‘very fondly and idly’ demanding ‘twice or thrice, "who desired, who desire?"’. Heath was forced to admit that his direction had come from James I and Prince Charles. Several Members, including Sir Francis Seymour, the brother of Kirton’s patron, attacked Heath’s attempt to change the bill at the last possible moment without proper debate, and the amendments were rejected.35
In 1625 Kirton informed Seymour that Hertford and William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, had agreed to back the election of Sir Francis and Sir Henry Ley as knights of the shire for Wiltshire.36 He himself was elected for Marlborough and was appointed to the committee for privileges on 21 June, but played no other recorded part in the first Caroline Parliament.37
Elected for both Marlborough and Ilchester in 1626, Kirton chose to represent the former borough again.38 He was much more active than he had been before, perhaps because he was acting as understudy for Sir Francis Seymour who, having been pricked as sheriff of Wiltshire, was ineligible to sit in the Commons.39 He received 22 committee appointments and made over 40 recorded contributions to debate. Early in the session he joined in the criticism of the management of the war. During the debate on the Dunkirkers on 16 Feb. he declared that in the previous Parliament there had been ‘no speech but of our invincible Navy’, but ‘now he is sure it gives no content to be thus managed’.40 Two days later he was appointed to the committee to consider the arrest of English shipping and goods in France.41 When it reported on 22 Feb., Kirton placed the blame on the Council for failing to release the St. Peter, which he considered a great injustice.42 Two days later he said ‘we have given money, men. Ships - all miscarried’. Yet he urged the Commons not to focus on external enemies, and thus supply, but to investigate instead the causes of these miscarriages.43 Not surprisingly he was an active member of the committee of ‘causes of causes’.44 Kirton described Secretary Coke’s warning of imminent invasion as ‘a party of diversions’,45 and felt little urgency about the king’s demands for money. When Sir George More moved on 15 Apr. that the subsidies voted by the Commons should be increased, Kirton responded that ‘I think we have given enough now for the present occasions’, and he opposed voting money to pay the Navy’s debts.46 He constantly reminded the House of its resolution to redress grievances before granting supply.47
In 1625 Sir Francis Seymour had been the first to attack Buckingham openly in the Commons, and it is therefore unsurprising that Kirton supported Dr. Turner’s articles against the duke of Buckingham in 1626. On 18 and 22 Mar. he cited precedents for making accusations based on common fame, including the duke of Suffolk’s impeachment in 1450.48 Determined to make maximum trouble for Buckingham, he told on 25 Mar. how the duke had profited from the fall of Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), and he was instrumental on 19 Apr. in bringing the earl of Bristol’s (Sir John Digby*) accusations against Buckingham to the attention of the Commons, saying that he had heard Bristol’s secretary claim that the loss of the Palatinate was due to the duke. In the debate concerning the death of James I on 28 Apr., Kirton said he would like to hear the testimony of Dr. Ramsey, but feared he was imprisoned.49 Appointed Selden’s assistant to prepare the articles against Buckingham on 3 May,50 he returned the next day to Bristol’s accusations, and moved that Buckingham be sequestered from the Lords and the Court until he had cleared himself.51 On 6 May he proposed that the appointment as president of Munster of Buckingham’s half-brother, Sir Edward Villiers*, be added to the charge.52 Two days later he moved that on presenting the charges to the Lords they should request that the duke be sequestered, while the following day he moved for his committal.53 In the debate concerning the petition from the merchants trading to France on 1 June, he returned to the question of the St. Peter, and moved that they should add the petition to the complaint against Buckingham.54 On 3 June he seconded Sir John Strangways, who criticized Cambridge University for electing Buckingham as its chancellor in the full knowledge that the Commons had accused him of holding an excessive number of offices.55 On the 10 June Kirton reminded the Commons that the duke had received £20,0000 from the earl of Manchester (Sir Henry Montagu*) for the lord treasurership.56 The accusation that Buckingham encouraged Catholicism, however, seems not to have interested Kirton. Indeed, on 4 May he argued that Buckingham had made himself hated by both Papists and Protestants alike for his religion, and he urged the House to move on to consider Digby’s accusations.57
Kirton took exception to Secretary Coke’s speech of 18 Mar. defending the loan of ships to France, and on 24 Mar. he attacked Sir Humphrey May for criticizing the committee for the causes of causes. On 4 Apr. he moved for a response to lord keeper Coventry’s speech of 29 Mar., which accused Members of the Commons of being ‘willingly faulty’, asserting that he knew of none who deserved this description except those who informed the king of their proceedings. However, this proposal was not adopted.58 Kirton was very ready to defend Eliot and Digges when they were imprisoned by the king for their speeches at the presentment of the charge against Buckingham to the Lords. He claimed that they had acted on the command of the House and that, until the reason for their imprisonment was known, the entire House was imprisoned with them.59 Kirton accused Sir Dudley Carleton of responsibility for the arrests, and when May denied that this was the case Kirton made his excuses, to which Carleton replied ‘thank you for nothing’. Carleton was only saved from being brought to the bar by the intervention of Sir Robert Mansell.60 On 3 June Kirton ridiculed Carleton’s elevation to the peerage, saying that he had nowhere to be baron of. That same day he also attempted to revive the complaint against Carleton’s ‘New Counsels’ speech, but was not seconded.61
Charles I clearly thought that Kirton was part of a conspiracy led by the earl of Bristol to attack Buckingham. On 28 June, shortly after the dissolution, he ordered Kirton, Sir John Strangways*, Sir Lewes Dyve*, and others to be examined on suspicion of being Bristol’s ‘instruments’ in ‘stirring up the dissatisfaction of divers of the Members of both Houses for the furtherance of their own private ends’.62 Kirton’s support of Bristol was undoubtedly encouraged by Hertford, who on 30 Mar. reported from the Lords’ committee for privileges in favour of Bristol’s right to sit in their House.63 On 8 July Kirton and other enemies of Buckingham were removed from the Somerset commission of the peace.
In 1628 Kirton was elected for Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, another Seymour borough. He retained the prominence he had attained in 1626, even though Sir Francis Seymour, for whom he had previously understudied, was now sitting. During the 1628 session he was named to 25 committees, including one to consider a bill to confirm letters patent issued by James I to the earl of Bristol (23 May),64 and made at least 41 contributions to debates. He seems generally to have sat in the gallery, at the time considered ‘the resort of mutineers’, from where he spoke on 5 June and on 26 March. (John Newdegate referred to Kirton as ‘a gentleman above’).65 Once again, Kirton was more concerned with grievances than with the war, arguing that the dangers at home were as great as those abroad.66 And as in 1626, he constantly reiterated the need to obtain redress of their grievances before supply.67 He seems to have been particularly concerned with the abuses of deputy lieutenants and was appointed to a committee to examine billeting on 28 March.68 On 2 Apr. he questioned the necessity of billeting and suggested that if it continued any subsidies voted would not be paid.69 In the debate on supply (4 Apr.), Kirton stated that he could see no reason to give more than four subsidies, unlike Sir Francis Seymour, who supported five. He finally consented to five with such bad grace that Sir Robert Phelips had to excuse his remarks.70 Kirton’s statement on 7 May that enough money had been voted to pay for the fleet in 1625 suggests that, at heart, he opposed the war, but it may merely indicate that he had an unrealistic understanding of the true cost of military action.71
Kirton’s reluctance to follow Seymour in offering five subsidies indicates that he could not always be trusted to follow the lead of his patron’s brother. Indeed, he may have resented his subordinate status. During the debate on the timing of the subsidies (8 May), he announced that ‘Seymour, being knight of the shire, and understanding more than myself, has altered me to his opinion; therefore I agree with him’, to which Seymour responded, doubtless sarcastically, ‘I am glad to see for my own country Mr. Kirton agrees with me’.72 It may be that Hertford was willing to allow Kirton considerable freedom of action in the Commons, or possibly Kirton went his own way regardless. At any rate, it is striking that Kirton played a much smaller role in the passage of the Petition of Right than Hertford and Seymour, suggesting that he regarded the Petition as less important than they did. Although appointed to the committee to draw up a bill for the liberty of the subject on 28 Apr., he made only a brief contribution to the debate concerning the bill the following day. He does not seem to have spoken about the Petition until the Commons discussed the Lords’ amendments on the 20 May.73
Kirton was perhaps a dangerous friend to have. On 14 Apr. he told the Commons that a peer had said that a Member of the House deserved to be hanged for erasing a record. On being commanded to provide details, he stated that his informant was Sir John Strangways, and that the 2nd earl of Suffolk (Theophilus Howard, Lord Walden*) had made the remark about John Selden. Strangways at first refused to confirm the story, but subsequently admitted that Kirton was correct, adding that he had told Kirton that he did not want to be called as a witness.74
As the session continued, Kirton’s language became increasingly extreme. On 3 June he argued that the king would be in personal danger unless grievances were redressed.75 In the debate on the king’s message of 5 June, reiterating Charles’s intention to end the session in six days time and instructing the Commons not to undertake any new business, Kirton blamed ‘enemies of the kingdom’ for this and hoped that they would find ‘hearts, hands and swords to cut the throat of the enemies thereof’.76 Later in the debate he supported Sir Edward Coke’s attack on Buckingham, whom Kirton blamed for the message. He described Buckingham as ‘too great for a subject, keeps all in hands, and truth from the king; casts the king into all kinds of war, and enslaves his subjects’. He proposed that the duke should be named an enemy of the kingdom and, according to one account, stated that ‘I hope every good subject will before long draw his sword against the enemies of the king and kingdom’.77 Kirton’s remarks were widely reported, presumably because of the implied threat to Buckingham, but though it was said their author was called to the bar this seems to have been inaccurate.78 The following day Eliot moved to clear Kirton of having cast any aspersions during his speech, and stated that he had only been expressing his duty to the king and kingdom. The House accordingly resolved that Kirton had said ‘nothing beyond the bounds of duty and allegiance, and that therein we all concur with him’.79 That afternoon Kirton resumed his attack, accusing Buckingham of appointing inexperienced naval captains. He also expressed alarm at the recruitment of German cavalry and warned of proposals to introduce an excise, a subject to which he returned on 7 June.80 On 11 June Kirton criticized Sir Benjamin Rudyard for his reluctance to name Buckingham in the Remonstrance for fear of offending Charles, arguing that Spain could not do more than Buckingham had already done.81 Kirton’s continued attacks on Buckingham suggest that considerable distance had now opened up between him and Seymour, who became increasingly reluctant to attack the duke as the session continued.
Kirton was evidently intent on delaying the grant of subsidies. On 11 June he complained that the subsidy bill had been brought in too suddenly and that nothing had yet been said about the collection of Tunnage and Poundage, which, he claimed, contravened the Petition of Right. On 16 June he argued that the subsidy bill should be delayed until Parliament was satisfied concerning the pardon.82 Two days before the end of the session, Kirton complained that although the Commons had asked for a recess the king had announced a prorogation. He also grumbled that ‘the seas are not guarded, yet we see £30,000 for horses. We see soldiers kept without necessity’.83
In the 1629 session Kirton was appointed to seven committees and made 15 recorded contributions to debate. Perhaps the most striking aspect of his behaviour was his new-found interest in religion, in particular the rise of the anti-Calvinists. On 26 Jan. he argued that ‘it is apparent to every man that new opinions are brought in by some of our Churchmen to disturb the peace of our Church ... to bring in the Romish religion’. Kirton attributed this to the ambition of some clergymen, ‘for it is well known that at first the Church of Rome, and that which we now profess were one, and then the ambition of the clergy begot and brought in all those differences that are betwixt us’.84 On 3 Feb. Kirton argued that Laud and Richard Montagu were the ‘main and great roots’.85 On 11 Feb. he called for an investigation into Bishop Neile, whom he accused of leaving ‘a style of popery’ in the dioceses he had held.86 Kirton’s pursuit of the anti-Calvinists may have been prompted by Seymour, who now focused on the threat of Arminianism.
However, Kirton remained concerned with the issue of Tunnage and Poundage, and did not share Seymour’s reluctance to pursue the case of John Rolle*. On 22 Jan. he was appointed to the committee to examine Rolle’s complaints,87 and six days later he argued that the Tunnage and Poundage bill could not be read until it was settled whether or not the king collected this duty by right.88 On 7 Feb. he moved for a time to be appointed to consider the question.89 On 10 Feb., when William Acton, one of London’s sheriffs, was brought before the Commons, Kirton revealed that he had been asked to speak for Acton as he entered the House. He added that he had ‘promised to do whatsoever I could’, but had also remarked that ‘if he were my brother he would go to the Tower’.90 On the following day he complained that although the king had said he did not claim Tunnage and Poundage by right, yet his officials proceeded as though he did.91 He returned to the question on 14 Feb., questioning the proceedings of the Court of Exchequer, and he attacked the officers of the customs on 19 and 20 February.92 On 21 Feb. he called for the warrant for the seizure of Rolle’s goods to be read.93 On 2 Mar. Kirton returned to a familiar theme, that of Members who informed the king of the Commons’ proceedings. Although the king had promised to believe only what the House as a whole told him, he complained that Charles had nevertheless, been misinformed by individual Members.94
On 10 Mar., the day the Parliament was finally dissolved, Kirton was appointed a trustee of the estates of Walter Long II*.95 In the early 1630s he refused to compound for knighthood, the legality of which he questioned. When summoned by the Somerset commissioners he returned answer that although he was ‘willing to serve His Majesty in anything’, but ‘thinks he cannot serve him better than to be obedient to his laws’.96 In July 1638 Kirton was a member of the grand jury for the Somerset assizes, whose presentments included ‘the great and heavy taxations by new invented ways upon the county’, a reference, presumably, to Ship Money. Kirton and his fellow jurors also complained of the Book of Sports and the saltpetremen.97 Kirton was elected for Milborne Port for the Short and Long Parliaments. Like Hertford and Sir Francis Seymour, he increasingly distanced himself from Charles I’s critics during 1641 and was a royalist in the Civil War. He was buried at Easton in Wiltshire on 30 Jan. 1654, when he was described as Hertford’s ‘officer’. No will or grant of administration of Kirton’s estate has been found, but a contemporary index to grants of administration and probate includes a reference to Edward Kirton dated October 1654. Kirton, who was survived by his wife, evidently died childless.98
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Ben Coates
- 1. Som. RO, Almsford Par. Reg.; F. Brown, Abstracts of Som. Wills ed. F.A. Crisp, i. 44.
- 2. Al. Ox.
- 3. C2/Chas.I/D58/46; Som. Incumbents ed. F.W. Weaver, 434.
- 4. PROB 6/4, f. 156v.
- 5. Coll. Top. et Gen. v. 39.
- 6. E.T. Bradley, Life of Lady Arabella Stuart, ii. 269; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 613; C2/Jas.I/D12/77.
- 7. APC, 1616-17, p. 134.
- 8. C2/Chas.I/D58/46; Coll. Top. et Gen. v. 39.
- 9. C231/4, f. 193, 231/5, f. 479; Som. RO, DD/PH 219/66.
- 10. C181/5, f. 1.
- 11. Som. Q. Sess. Recs. Charles I ed E.H. Bates-Harbin (Som. Rec. Soc. xxiv), 296.
- 12. Som. Assize Orders ed. T.G. Barnes (Som. Rec. Soc. lxv), 61.
- 13. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 14. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 55.
- 15. CSP Dom. 1644, p. 108.
- 16. HMC Portland, ii. 133; CSP Dom. 1644-5, p. 260.
- 17. Heraldic Cases in Ct. of Chivalry ed. G.D. Squibb (Harl. Soc. cvii), 129.
- 18. C2/Jas.I/D12/77.
- 19. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 613; C54/2224/35; 54/2240/30.
- 20. Bradley, ii. 282.
- 21. Add. 11402, f. 155.
- 22. Bradley, ii. 269; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 613.
- 23. C2/Jas.I/D12/77.
- 24. APC, 1613-14, pp. 106, 142, 539, 618; APC, 1616-17, p. 134.
- 25. PROB 11/130, f. 282v.
- 26. C2/Chas.I/D58/46; CJ, v. 496.
- 27. C2/Chas.I/D58/46; Cat. of Thornhill Coll. ed. J. Brown (NRA 16298), 253.
- 28. PROB 11/136, f. 277-80; Almsford par. reg. (Soc. Gen. transcript).
- 29. C54/2480/20; C2/Jas.I/K5/4; C3/407/37.
- 30. Heraldic Cases in Ct. of Chivalry, 129; SP23/194, p. 491.
- 31. Som. RO, DD/AB 54.
- 32. T. Pape, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 259; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. of Eng. from Accession of Jas. I, iii. 388.
- 33. Wilts. IPMs ed. G.S. and A.E. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 30-1.
- 34. CJ, i. 681a, 700b, 749a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 210.
- 35. ‘Hawarde 1624’, pp. 290-1; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 184r-v.
- 36. Procs. 1626, iv. 397.
- 37. Procs. 1625, p. 205.
- 38. OR; Procs. 1626, ii. 69.
- 39. C. Russell, PEP, 268.
- 40. Procs. 1626, ii. 56.
- 41. Ibid. 68.
- 42. Ibid. 90.
- 43. Ibid. 122.
- 44. Ibid. 336, 371.
- 45. Ibid. iii. 426.
- 46. Ibid. 63.
- 47. Ibid. 18, 169, 354, 429.
- 48. Ibid. ii. 315, 343, 344; Procs. 1625, p. 563.
- 49. Procs. 1626, ii. 371; iii. 25, 91.
- 50. Ibid. iii. 140.
- 51. Ibid. 157.
- 52. Ibid. 184.
- 53. Ibid. 192, 207.
- 54. Ibid. 342.
- 55. Ibid. 362.
- 56. Ibid. 418.
- 57. Ibid. 157.
- 58. Ibid. ii. 314, 361, 428.
- 59. Ibid. iii. 257.
- 60. Ibid, 242, 258.
- 61. Ibid. 364.
- 62. Eg. 2978, f. 18.
- 63. Procs. 1626, i. 225.
- 64. CD 1628, iii. 558.
- 65. Ibid. ii. 133; iv. 154; Diary of Bulstrode Whitelocke ed. R. Spalding, 53.
- 66. CD 1628, ii. 122.
- 67. Ibid. 89, 251; iii. 245; vi. 61-2.
- 68. Ibid. ii. 67, 168; iii. 388, 424.
- 69. Ibid. ii. 253.
- 70. Ibid. 309.
- 71. Ibid. iii. 309.
- 72. Ibid. ii. 312; iii. 328.
- 73. Lords Procs. 1628, v. 313, 321, 453, 484, 598; CD 1628, iii. 124, 158, 500.
- 74. Ibid. ii. 453, 454; vi. 96.
- 75. Ibid. iv. 67.
- 76. Ibid. 86, 113, 123-4.
- 77. Ibid. 119-20, 130.
- 78. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 153.
- 79. CD 1628, iv. 138, 142, 154-5.
- 80. Ibid. 146, 148, 188.
- 81. Ibid. 247.
- 82. Ibid. 284, 333.
- 83. Ibid. 450.
- 84. Ibid. 14-15.
- 85. Ibid. 34.
- 86. Ibid. 193.
- 87. CJ, i. 921a.
- 88. CD 1629, p. 34.
- 89. Ibid. 47.
- 90. Ibid. 57.
- 91. Ibid. 137-8.
- 92. Ibid. 74, 222, 229.
- 93. Ibid. 92.
- 94. Ibid. 254.
- 95. E44/333.
- 96. E178/7154, rot. 167.
- 97. Som. Assize Orders, 60-1.
- 98. PROB 13/57, unfol.; Som. Incumbents, 434.