MILDMAY, Sir Henry (c.1594-1668), of Wanstead, Essex and Twyford, Hants.

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



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.)

Family and Education

b. c.1594,1 2nd surv. s. of Humphrey Mildmay† (d.1613) of Danbury Place, Essex and Mary, da. of Henry Capel of Hadham, Herts.2 educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1610, BA 1612; G. Inn 1620.3 m. (with £3,000) 5 Apr. 1619, Anne (bur. 3 Mar. 1657), da. and coh. of William Halliday, Mercer, alderman of London and gov. of the E.I. Co. 1621-4, 1s. 1da. d.v.p.4 kntd. 9 Aug. 1617; degraded c.Aug. 1661.5 d. by 16 Dec. 1668.6 sig. Henry Mildmay.

Offices Held

Sewer, king’s Household by Aug. 1617, cupbearer by Dec. 1617;7 master of Jewel House 1618-41, ?1641-at least 1652 (parl.);8 commr. jewels 1621-3, govt. of Virg. 1624,9 to determine whether lands have escheated to the king on the death of the earl of Holdernesse 1632,10 abuses of goldworkers 1635-6,11 exacted fees 1637,12 ?archery 1637,13 paying off the Scots 1641,14 settling money on Elector Palatine 1645, foreign plantations 1646, exclusion from sacrament 1646, Church govt. 1648, Army (parl.) 1648-at least 1652, trial of Charles I 1649;15 member, Council of State, 1649-51;16 commr. removal of obstructions, forfeited lands 1651.17

Freeman, ?Maldon, Essex 1620, Southampton, Hants 1626;18 commr. sewers, Chipping Ongar bridge to Ilford bridge, Essex 1620, Havering and Dagenham levels, Essex 1622-at least 1633, Essex and Kent 1642;19 j.p. Essex 1624-42, by 1648 at least 1657 (custos rot. 1650-4),20 Hants by 1629-50; commr. Forced Loan, Essex 1626-7;21 dep. lt. Essex 1628;22 commr. subsidy, Essex 1628, 1641,23 oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1629-at least 1642,24 Essex 1644-60,25 charitable uses, Essex 1632-at least 1641;26 high steward, Maldon 1636-61;27 commr. Poll Tax, Essex 1641, Irish aid 1642,28 assessment 1643-60, Hants 1647-60,29 perambulation of Waltham Forest, Essex 1641,30 array, Essex 1642,31 sequestration of delinquents 1643, levying money 1643, Eastern Assoc. 1643, felling timber in Waltham Forest, Essex 1644,32 gaol delivery 1644-at least 1645, Havering-atte-Bower, Essex by 1655-at least 1658;33 v.-adm. Suff. 1644-50;34 commr. New Model Ordinance, Essex 1645,35 militia 1648-at least 1659, Hants 1648, Westminster 1649,36 fen drainage, E. Anglia and E. Midlands 1649.37

Member, Virg. Co. July 1622, cttee. Nov. 1622;38 member, ?New Eng. Co. 1628.39

Elder, Essex classis 1646-8.40


Mildmay has not been judged kindly by historians who, echoing Clarendon’s (Edward Hyde†) verdict that he was obsequious and ungrateful, have branded him ‘deplorable’, ‘unattractive’ and ‘unreliable’.41 Favoured with office and fortune by the early Stuart kings, Mildmay nevertheless sided with Parliament during the Civil War and achieved notoriety for participating in the trial of Charles I. Though not a signatory to the king’s death warrant, he was vilified by Clarendon as ‘one of the murderers of his master’, a view shared by (Sir) John Bramston†, who thought he should have been executed at the Restoration for his treason.42

Mildmay was the younger son of Humphrey Mildmay, a minor Essex gentleman whose seat at Danbury lay about five miles south-west of Maldon. His family was astonishingly prolific - in Essex alone there were nine branches by the end of James’s reign43 - and its members are easily confused. Mildmay himself should be distinguished from Sir Henry Mildmay of Moulsham, de jure Lord FitzWalter (d.1654), and also from Sir Henry Mildmay of Graces, Little Baddow (d.1639), sheriff of Essex in 1628-9.44 Educated at the Cambridge college founded by his paternal grandfather Sir Walter Mildmay†, he was awarded his BA in 1612. On his father’s death in August 1613 he received an unspecified amount of marshland leased from the Crown in south-western Essex at Dagenham and Barking. Before he could take possession of this small inheritance, however, he was required to find £210 to redeem the mortgage which his father had taken out.45 By the time he was knighted at Kendal, Westmorland, in August 1617, young Mildmay had entered service as a sewer in the king’s Household. Like his near contemporary and friend, George Villiers, he may have been brought to James’s attention in the summer of 1614, when the king stayed at Apethorpe, the Northamptonshire seat of his uncle, Sir Anthony Mildmay†.

In December 1617 it was rumoured that Mildmay, then described by a newsletter writer as one of the king’s cupbearers, would buy the mastership of the Jewel House from Sir Henry Carey I* for £2,000 or £3,000.46 Despite his slender financial resources, Mildmay received a grant of this highly lucrative office in the following month with the active support of Villiers, now marquess of Buckingham.47 Over the course of the next 30 years or so, Mildmay netted a fortune by ruthlessly exploiting his position for profit, even cheating departing foreign ambassadors by bestowing on them jewellery and plate worth considerably less than the value awarded to them by the king.48 However, in the wake of his appointment, Mildmay’s financeial situation remained precarious, and consequently he began to cast around for a well-endowed bride. On Buckingham’s advice he rejected the offer of a match with the daughter of Sir Thomas Lake I* in October 1618, and by the beginning of 1619 plans were being laid for him to marry Anne, co-heir to the wealthy London Mercer and East India Company merchant, William Halliday. In order to dispel Halliday’s fears for his daughter’s financial well-being, Mildmay had his cousin, Sir Edward Barrett*, promise to convey to Anne lands worth £500 p.a. as her jointure.49 Mildmay also agreed that Wanstead manor, a magnificent house set in 300 acres of parkland in south-west Essex which had been offered to him for sale by Buckingham, should descend to Anne if she outlived him.50 These arrangements evidently proved satisfactory, for in April 1619 the marriage was celebrated, bringing Mildmay a dowry of £3,000. Two months later, after being valued at £362 p.a.,51 Mildmay formally purchased Wanstead for £7,300.52 Most of the sale price was indirectly provided by the king, who arranged for Sir Lionel Cranfield* to convey the £6,000 he owed for the mastership of the Court of Wards to Halliday.53 Wanstead provided Mildmay with a country estate within easy reach of London and a house sufficiently impressive to enable him to entertain royalty. Indeed, one week after closing the sale with Buckingham, he played host to the king, who stayed overnight.54 James evidently enjoyed spending time at Wanstead, probably because it afforded him the opportunity for good hunting, as he stayed there twice during the summer of 1623.55 Buckingham too, was an occasional guest, visiting Wanstead in June 1622.56

Mildmay was elected to the 1621 Parliament for Maldon, probably at the request of the master of the Rolls, Sir Julius Caesar*, the borough’s high steward.57 Not surprisingly, perhaps, he made little recorded impact on his first Parliament, making no speeches and being appointed to just four legislative committees, one of which concerned Hackney manor (13 Mar.), which lay a few south-west of Wanstead. The three other appointments dealt with the naturalization of a fellow courtier, Sir Walter Stewart (19 Mar.), tobacco consumption (3 May) and the transport of iron ordnance (14 May).58 Mildmay was also named to three joint conferences with the Lords. These dealt with recusancy (15 Feb.), the Sabbath (24 May) and informers (1 December).59 During the winter sitting Mildmay ran messages to the Lords and to the king at Whitehall.60

Following the ending of Parliament Mildmay was scheduled to participate in the forthcoming Accession Day tilt, but in the event the festivities were abandoned.61 In December 1622 he wisely contributed £100 towards the Palatine benevolence.62 Earlier that same year he was admitted to the faction-ridden Virginia Company and appointed one of its unsalaried directors. At a Company meeting held in February 1623, he urged the warring parties to set aside their differences, as the king regarded the continuous feuding with amazement. Challenged to state whether he was delivering a formal message from James, Mildmay explained that he was merely speaking ‘by way of advice and from himself upon a late discourse he had with the king, but no way as a message from His Majesty’. Mildmay claimed to be an honest broker, being ‘neither of the faction nor factions’, but by April 1623 at the latest he had sided with the shareholders led by his Essex neighbour, the 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich*).63

During the summer of 1623 Mildmay attempted to further the interests of his patron Buckingham, who was then in Spain. As lord high admiral, Buckingham, now a duke, claimed a share in the spoils which had been seized by ships of the East India Company at the capture of Hormuz in the previous year. Mildmay, whose father-in-law was then governor of the East India Company, hoped to use his influence to obtain £1,200 for his master, but his optimism proved unfounded, for at the end of July the king wrote to Buckingham that Mildmay had ‘hunted upon so cold a scent as thy best steward was forced to labour in it himself’. By this James meant that he had intervened personally, and as a result the Company was now prepared to let Buckingham have £2,000.64 Mildmay’s failure was a relatively minor setback, however, compared with the crisis which almost overwhelmed him later that year. Towards the end of September he was sequestered from office and confined to his chamber over some ill-chosen words spoken in bitterness against lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield), who had opposed him in a couple of law suits.65 Middlesex, whose money had enabled Mildmay to purchase Wanstead, and thus to marry Anne Halliday, was incensed at Mildmay’s display of ingratitude. In a sharply worded letter, he reminded Mildmay that ‘your obligation to me is great, if your wife be by you esteemed. Consider but like a gentleman what I have done for you and the manner, and withall how I am like to suffer for the doing it if my business be not done’.66 Middlesex’s annoyance was undoubtedly genuine, but the lord treasurer may also have secretly relished the opportunity to chastise one of Buckingham’s clients, for in the duke’s absence he had been secretly intriguing against the favourite.67 At any rate, temporarily bereft of his patron’s protection, Mildmay feared that he would forfeit his lucrative office unless he apologized. In a grovelling letter to Middlesex he therefore acknowledged the ‘many favours which I have formerly received’, admitted that he had given the lord treasurer grounds ‘to suspect the worst’, and claimed that the offending words had been uttered carelessly, without ‘premeditated malice ... which I am now heartily sorry for’. He ended by pleading with Middlesex to intervene on his behalf with the king ‘to restore me to his grace and favour’.68 Fortunately for Mildmay, Middlesex was disposed to be generous, and at the beginning of October he was restored to office.69 Middlesex’s show of leniency earned the praise of the king, who enjoyed magnanimous gestures, but his decision to spare Mildmay further humiliation probably sprang from a desire to avoid an open break with Buckingham, who was on the verge of returning to London, rather than from feelings of kindness.

Mildmay’s brief fall from grace undoubtedly tarnished his reputation: John Chamberlain was probably not alone in revising his opinion of Mildmay as ‘a proper fine gentleman’.70 His incautious words revealed not only poor judgment but an unedifying tendency towards ingratitude. However, for the time being Mildmay proved careful to avoid giving further cause for offence. At the beginning of 1624, following the announcement that there was to be a new Parliament, Mildmay was again nominated by Sir Julius Caesar for a seat at Maldon. However, the borough’s bailiffs warned that the independent-minded townsmen were likely to choose another candidate.71 Mildmay decided to stand anyway, and in the ensuing contest for the junior seat he was defeated by 47 votes to 42 by Sir William Masham.72 The closeness of the result suggests that Mildmay’s Calvinist views were acceptable to many of Maldon’s puritan-inclined voters, but this was no consolation to Mildmay, who was forced to cast around for another seat. Early in February he was returned for the Wiltshire constituency of Westbury, probably with the assistance of its patron Sir James Ley*, lord chief justice of King’s Bench and a fellow Buckingham client. Caesar’s help was not forgotten, however, for during the Parliament Mildmay was named to a committee to consider a bill to allow the master of the Rolls to lease out certain houses (22 March).73

Mildmay achieved a greater prominence in the 1624 Parliament than he had in 1621, contributing to several debates on breaking the treaty negotiations for a Spanish match and financing a war against Spain. Although he played only a minor role in the first of these (1-2 Mar.),74 the king’s subsequent announcement that he was willing to entertain offers of financial assistance from the Commons before deciding whether to sever negotiations with Spain prompted Mildmay to urge the House to seize the opportunity. In a widely reported speech, delivered on 11 Mar., he declared that ‘if we fail now, we shall be but spectacles of ruin and desolation’. Had the previous Parliament received the same offer, he suggested, it would have been accepted ‘with tears of joy’.75 He therefore advised his colleagues to promise to provide war funds, which would be voted after James made a formal assurance that he was breaking with Spain.76 This general motion was subsequently supported by several influential speakers, among them Sir Robert Phelips and Sir Dudley Digges,77 and by the end of the day Mildmay was evidently pleased with the direction in which the Commons was moving. When Phelips ventured to propose the punishment of any Member who revealed the contents of their debate to outsiders, Mildmay replied that, rather than attempt to conceal their proceedings, Members should seek to publicise them, as the unanimity with which they had resolved to pursue a war with Spain would cause despair among those who had earlier revelled in reports of their divisions.78

Mildmay returned to the question of financing a war with Spain on 19 March. The House was then reeling from the shock of the size of the king’s demand, which, even in its revised form, was for six subsidies and 12 fifteenths, around three-quarters of a million pounds. Mildmay, too, was staggered by the amount requested. ‘The name of so many subsidies’, he declared, was ‘enough to affright anybody that know[s] the want of the poor people’.79 However, he reminded the House that James required these sums, not for his own use, ‘but for the safety of the king, religion and state’. If this was properly understood, he felt sure that ‘the name of the subsidies cannot affright the poor country’. Those who were worried that voting so many subsidies would set a dangerous precedent were urged by Mildmay to set their fears to one side, for if there was any question of this happening he would oppose the granting of supply himself, ‘notwithstanding his dependency’ on Buckingham. Moreover, he pledged that if it could be shown that a lesser sum would suffice, ‘his voice shall go with that’. To decide how much should be voted, Mildmay proposed that a committee of the whole House should sit that afternoon. In the event the House decided to resolve the matter the next day.80

When the House reassembled on the 20th, Mildmay supported the recorder of London, Sir Heneage Finch, who pressed the House to vote three subsidies and three fifteenths, although Mildmay, according to most accounts, wanted to grant an additional three fifteenths. He assumed, incorrectly, that this would enable the king to assist the Dutch, unite the German Protestant princes, secure Ireland from the threat of invasion, strengthen the Navy and provide a sizeable arsenal of weaponry and munitions. In order to reassure his colleagues, many of whom clearly regarded him as little more than a spokesman for Buckingham, Mildmay again affirmed that he was speaking ‘not as a courtier, or in regard of his dependency, but as a lover of his country’.81 This claim was not entirely hollow, as Mildmay did not always follow the lead given by Buckingham. When, 12 days later, the duke invited the Commons to promise to vote supply in order to allow money to be raised in the City,82 Mildmay conspicuously failed to second the suggestion, unlike another of Buckingham’s clients, (Sir) John Eliot.83 Instead, he supported Phelips and Sir Robert Harley, among others, who were anxious to discuss the existence of an alleged Catholic fifth column in their midst. On 2 Apr. he informed the House that he had seen ‘letters from a grave divine’ living in ‘the western parts’ that ‘the popish party are making military preparations’. Like Phelips, he believed that ‘this state can never receive prejudice by a foreign enemy except he be backed at home’, and therefore it was essential to disarm the papists and banish them to the countryside, ‘for while we sit here duly called, they sit every day unduly called, to mar what we do’.84 Mildmay’s belief in the existence of a Catholic conspiracy underscored much of his comment in the Lower House during 1624, and not just his contribution to the debate of 2 April. On 11 Mar. he urged the Commons ‘to cut off the malignant hopes of all the popish party in this land’, while eight days later he called for the papists to be forced to contribute towards the cost of war with Spain, ‘who are as the ivy to the oak and will as the ivy eat out the heart of the oak’.85 On 3 Apr. he was appointed to attend a joint conference with the Lords on recusancy, while on the 29th he was added to the committee charged with compiling a list of recusant officeholders in each county.86

Although Mildmay had perhaps disregarded the wishes of his patron during the debate of 2 Apr., he was not always so unmindful of the duke. On 27 Feb. he was appointed to the committee to defend Buckingham from the complaints of the Spanish ambassadors concerning the duke’s speech to both Houses three days earlier. Mildmay’s status as a dependant of Buckingham presumably also explains why, on 22 Apr., he drew his colleagues’ attention to a law suit in the Court of Wards involving a fellow Member, Sir George Manners*, a relative of the duke’s by marriage.87 However, Buckingham was not the only senior political figure whose interests Mildmay sought to serve during the Parliament. By 1623 the property he leased at Barking had become part of the estate of Prince Charles,88 to whom Mildmay was also connected through Sir James Ley, a member of the Prince’s Council. It was probably no coincidence, therefore, that on 23 Mar. he was named to the committee for the bill to confirm the conveyance of Kenilworth manor in Warwickshire to Charles.89

Personal and professional considerations coloured many of Mildmay’s committee appointments. As master of the Jewel House he was naturally ordered to help draft a message to the Lords regarding gold exports (12 Mar.), while his membership of the Company explains his nomination to the committee for examining a petition regarding the Virginia colony (26 April).90 Mildmay’s religious sympathies were also reflected in some of his committee appointments. One was concerned with clerical leases (22 Mar.), while another dealt with the establishment of three lectureships in divinity (10 April).91 On 3 May Mildmay participated in the debate concerning the quality of preaching in Norwich and the complaints directed at the city’s anti-Calvinist bishop, Samuel Harsnett.92 Mildmay may have been familiar with Harsnett, as the latter had formerly been rector of Shenfield, which lay about 15 miles from Wanstead. Mildmay’s appointment to the committee for the bill regarding the well-ordering of inns on 1 Apr. probably reflected a concern, typical among the godly, for the reformation of manners.93

It is not known why Mildmay was named to committees concerned with confirming the foundation of the Charterhouse hospital (13 Mar.), draining Erith and Plumstead marshes in Kent (10 Apr.), the sale of university offices (12 Apr.), a decree in the Court of Requests (16 Apr.), increased fees in the Subpoena Office (22 Apr.) and the proposed enfranchisement of county Durham (25 March).94 The nature of his interest in the bill to restore the free trade of the Merchants of the Staple (24 Mar.) is equally unclear,95 but he presumably disapproved of the measure, for on 10 May he spoke at length in defence of the monopoly to export dyed and dressed cloths exercised by the Merchant Adventurers at a meeting of the committee for trade. His principal argument was that, if the Company lost its monopoly, ‘trade will be thereby cast out of government, and so being carried to all places and not kept to one mart town, will be vilified and not carry the price it now doth’.96

Following the end of the session, Mildmay was accused of having performed a disservice to the king in the House.97 This was probably a reference to his conduct on 2 Apr., when he had failed to support Buckingham’s proposal to anticipate supply. However, it may also be that Buckingham was offended that Mildmay had played no part in the impeachment of lord treasurer Middlesex. Whereas other members of the duke’s circle had eagerly joined in the attack, Mildmay had restricted himself to urging the House to allow Sir Philip Carey to testify against Middlesex in the Lords (28 April).98 This relative silence is all the more striking as it had been Middlesex who had previously been instrumental in getting Mildmay suspended from office. However, any evidence of a rift between Mildmay and Buckingham was quickly smoothed over. In July Mildmay permitted the duke to feast the French ambassador at Wanstead,99 and that same month he again threw open his doors to the king.100 Despite this display of hospitality and friendship, Mildmay remained unsure how far he had alienated Buckingham, writing to Secretary Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*) to inquire whether the duke intended to employ ‘faithful adherents’ such as himself in future or ‘other people’s creatures’.101

Mildmay’s outspoken attack in the Commons on England’s Catholic community may have been well received at Maldon where, supported by another letter of nomination from Sir Julius Caesar, he proved the popular choice for the second seat at the parliamentary election there in April 1625.102 Before the Commons assembled, however, Mildmay served as a banner bearer at the funeral of James I.103 Soon afterwards he travelled to Canterbury to greet the new queen and sought permission to go to Amiens to see the French Court.104 When Parliament finally gathered he played only a minor role in its proceedings. On 23 June he was named to the committee to confer with the Lords regarding a general fast, and on 5 July he persuaded the House to refuse Sir Henry Anderson’s request to postpone the debate on the disputed Yorkshire election to the following day. During the Westminster sitting he was named to five legislative committees. These dealt with the assignment of debts (23 June), tippling (24 June), the pleading of alienations (25 June), excommunication and subscription (both 27 June).105 Sometime during the sitting Mildmay received an official visit from Maldon’s serjeant-of-the mace, but to what purpose is unknown.106

Mildmay was more active when Parliament reassembled at Oxford in August. There the king’s request for additional supply to set out the fleet (4 Aug.) ran into the objections of Sir Edward Coke and Sir Robert Phelips, who spearheaded an oblique attack on Buckingham (5 August). The privy councillors in the House, and those Members with other official posts or Court connections, attempted to head off the trouble on 6 August. Mildmay led the way, declaring that if the House was unwilling to vote additional subsidies it should find some other means of to satisfy the king’s wants, for the king of Spain had, through his money and arms, not only ‘deprived the king’s children’ of the Palatinate, but had fomented ‘a faction of papists and Arminians in this state little less dangerous than a foreign invasion’. Mildmay also attempted to persuade his colleagues to abandon their attack on Buckingham. While acknowledging that the duke was ‘faulty in some things’, he urged the House not to ‘object the worst’ but to remember the sterling work Buckingham had performed in both Spain and the last Parliament. Four days later, on 10 Aug., Mildmay responded to John Rolle’s criticism of the duke as lord admiral. Rolle claimed that there was little point in voting further money for the navy when ‘it cannot keep our own coasts from being infected by Turkish pirates’, but Mildmay retorted that this was unjustified, as ships had been assigned to protection duty.107

Although Mildmay did his best to secure both the extra funding demanded by the king and to safeguard the reputation of his master, his speeches reveal an undercurrent of criticism and dissatisfaction. His admission that Buckingham was ‘faulty in some things’, coupled with his reference to the English Arminians, indicated a growing disenchantment, not with the direction of foreign affairs, but with the government’s religious policy. Indeed, on 6 Aug. he blamed the recent outbreak of plague on ‘our coldness in religion’. Furthermore, the king’s marriage to a French Catholic prompted him to suggest that the House should append to its earlier petition the demand that Charles ‘will, upon no instance, give any connivance to the papists’. Mildmay’s concerns led him to attend a joint conference with the Lords in the Painted Chamber on 9 Aug., at which Charles’s answers to the petition on religion were read out. These evidently reassured him, at least for the time being, as during the following day’s subsidy debate he argued that the king’s additional financial needs should now be met as he had ‘shown himself protector of the Gospel’.108

Parliament was dissolved without granting further supply, however, prompting Charles and Buckingham to try to raise the money they needed by offering to pawn some of the Crown jewels to the Dutch. Mildmay, whose relations with the duke had apparently warmed after his most recent parliamentary performance, cautioned his master against ordering the jewels to be conveyed abroad without first seeking the advice of the Privy Council or a warrant under the Great Seal, as such irregular proceedings would serve to fuel the suspicions of Buckingham’s many enemies.109 His advice and expertise was clearly valued, for in November 1625 Mildmay accompanied Buckingham to Holland to help reach an agreement with the States-General over the jewels.110 Buckingham also contemplated sending Mildmay to the courts of some of the Protestant German princes in order to strengthen the great anti-Spanish alliance that he was piecing together.111 In the event, though, Mildmay returned to England ahead of Buckingham. In December Mildmay was ordered to travel to France, but he fell sick at Dover and may never have taken ship.112

There is no evidence that Mildmay tried to obtain a seat at the 1626 general election. After Parliament met, however, he secured a letter of nomination from Buckingham, after the Member for Norwich, (Sir) John Suckling, plumped for Norfolk.113 As this proved unproductive Mildmay was obliged to watch from the sidelines while the Commons set about marshalling the evidence needed to impeach the duke. However, on 21 Apr. the Commons asked him whether the money paid for the mastership of the Court of Wards by the earl of Middlesex in 1619 had been pocketed by the duke or handed to someone else at his request. Mildmay replied that Buckingham had ‘had nothing to do with this business’, but the Commons chose not to believe him, and on 15 May articles of impeachment were drafted which included the charge that the duke had obtained £6,000 ‘to his own use, or to the use of some other person by him appointed’. Nevertheless, Mildmay’s testimony reinforced Buckingham’s subsequent, if somewhat implausible claim that the money had been bestowed on Mildmay without his knowledge.114

While Buckingham was battling for his political survival Mildmay was engaged in a lesser struggle of his own with the countess of Warwick regarding his wife’s inheritance. Following the death in 1624 of his father-in-law, William Halliday, Mildmay’s mother-in-law Susan had married Mildmay’s former ally in the Virginia Company, the earl of Warwick. By the terms of Halliday’s will, Susan was required to spend £14,000 on property for her eldest daughter Anne, Mildmay’s wife. To persuade her to act promptly she was subject to a penalty of £600 for the first year of non-payment and £800 for the second. However, although the Mildmays obtained numerous offers of suitable property Susan refused to accept them, ‘protracting the time and keeping the money in her hands, and taking causeless exception to the purchases so offered unto her, though they were lands of clear title and offered upon reasonable values’. She also declined to pay the penalties for which she was liable. By the time Mildmay left for Holland with Buckingham in November 1625 his patience was exhausted. After he preferred a bill in Chancery, the earl and countess were instructed in June 1626 to purchase for the Mildmays the Hampshire manors of Twyford and Marwell, worth £700 p.a., which had been offered for sale by Sir Francis Seymour*. Six months later the borough of Southampton welcomed their new neighbour, Mildmay, by admitting him to their freedom.115

Mildmay was appointed a commissioner for the Forced Loan for Essex in October 1626, but either his duties at Court or a lack of enthusiasm meant that he proved inactive.116 At the end of February 1628 he was re-elected to Parliament for Maldon, this time as the borough’s senior Member. His promotion was undoubtedly precipitated by a desire to exploit his Court connections as Maldon was then desperate to rid itself of a company of Irish soldiers which had been billeted upon its inhabitants. This was a shrewd move by the borough, for shortly after his election Mildmay had his servant deliver a letter from the Privy Council and lord lieutenant ordering the troops to leave.117

Once in Parliament, Mildmay proved equally useful to his colleagues. On 20 June he deployed his knowledge of Court gossip to devastating effect when he joined in the attack on (Sir) Edmund Sawyer, Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who was accused of devising two new Books of Rates. Sawyer claimed that he had acted on the king’s command, but Mildmay retorted: ‘I see every projector fathers himself upon the king’s command. We at the Court believed that Sir Edmund Sawyer was the projector of this. We know the king cannot think of these things himself, but must be informed by such as these’.118 Despite its hearsay nature, Mildmay’s testimony undoubtedly contributed to the hardening of the mood against Sawyer, who was barred from ever sitting again.

Perhaps the most significant speech made by Mildmay during the 1628 session concerned the growth of recusancy and the rise of Arminianism. Delivered on 24 Mar., it suggests that Mildmay’s relationship with Buckingham had finally reached breaking point. Although Mildmay did not explicitly name the duke, his audience can have been left in little doubt about the intended target of his criticism. He started, innocently enough, by supporting Sir Nathaniel Rich, who observed that popery would not have grown so much had the petition presented to the king in 1625 been acted upon. He then delivered a coded attack on the lord admiral which began, perhaps somewhat pointedly, with a nautical metaphor: ‘Religion is the anchor of government, and the stay of kingdoms. If there be a new faction [of Arminians] they must have a head, and if they have a head, that head is like in times to have a great part of the kingdom’. He advised the House to consider ‘the temporal danger’ faced by the king,119 thereby repeating a similar warning he had issued two days earlier, when he had called for supply to be voted on condition that Parliament be empowered to regulate the king’s finances.120 Following this speech Mildmay was ‘persuaded to union’ with his fellow courtiers, as one newsletter writer put it,121 but any such reconciliation with Buckingham and his allies may have been at best half-hearted. When, in early June, Sir John Eliot and various other Members renewed their onslaught on the duke, Mildmay conspicuously failed to defend his old master.

Although no longer enamoured of Buckingham, Mildmay was haunted by the spectre of Protestant defeats on the Continent. Consequently he, like the duke, was anxious that the king should be given the wherewithal to pay for the wars against France and Spain. On 4 Apr. he urged the House to emulate its enemies, who had ‘joined hand and heart together’, by voting ‘real subsidies’ which would enable the king to provide sufficient naval forces to guard the Narrow Seas, guarantee English access to the Baltic and relieve the Huguenots of La Rochelle. He was especially concerned that failure to secure the seaways for commercial vessels would spell economic disaster. However, like many of his colleagues, Mildmay pulled his punches. He stressed the inability of the country to bear the full costs of war, and claimed that several of the king’s military aims were ‘not in our power’ to fund. Members were advised only to ‘insist on such a gift in general as may enable the king in some measure’, as this would satisfy Charles but not prove ‘burdensome to the country’.122 Mildmay appears not to have grasped that these were incompatible objectives.

Just as Mildmay found himself pulled in opposite directions when faced with the issue of war-funding, so too he was torn by the competing demands of the king for instant supply and the subject for redress of grievances. On 4 Apr. he seemed to make it clear which of these demands should take precedence when he recounted a story he had heard regarding the king of Sweden, who advised his Parliament ‘to consider the misery of their neighbour country, lest while the king struggled for his prerogative, and people for their liberties, both lose all’.123 Twelve days later he underscored this message when he accused the Lords of slackness.124 However, after the king attempted to head off the debates on the subjects’ liberties by warning that these would ‘take more time than the affairs of Christendom can well permit’ (28 Apr.), Mildmay changed tack. Far from restating his earlier position, Mildmay announced (1 May) that the proposed bill of rights was ‘a great business’ which ‘reaches to that which concerns the happiness or unhappiness of this Parliament’.125 When he returned to the question of urgency two days later, he blamed Charles for delaying the House’s proceedings by sending it messages.126 Clearly, when push came to shove, Mildmay was unprepared to accept his own earlier advice about putting supply ahead of grievances. Instead, he now believed that grievances should go hand in hand with supply. On 3 May he rebuked his colleagues for allowing the two questions to become separated, remarking that the failure to discuss supply in over a fortnight had ‘given the enemies of this state occasion to misreport the resolutions and debates of this House’.127

Mildmay paid little attention to legislation in 1628, and those committees to which he was nominated dealt mostly with issues which evidently concerned neither him nor his constituents. Their subjects were the lands of the 2nd earl of Devonshire (Sir William Cavendish I*, 21 Apr.); the naturalization of James Freese and the creation of a jointure by an under-age Lord Gerard (both 7 May); a decree in a Chancery case involving (Sir) Arnold Herbert* (10 May); and the debts of Lord Bergavenny (Sir Henry Neville II*, 17 May).128 However, his appointment to consider the bill regarding the petition against the levying of metage and portage by London (25 June) may have reflected the economic interests of his constituents, as Maldon was an important distribution point for coal landed at its hythe.129 As well as these bill appointments, Mildmay was instructed to attend a joint conference with the Lords regarding a general fast (21 March).130 He was also employed as a messenger to the king, twice to obtain permission for the Speaker to gain access to Charles (16 and 21 June) and twice to present petitions (both 20 June).131 During a debate on electoral misconduct in Cornwall (13 May), Mildmay pleaded for clemency on behalf of those accused of malpractice and helped to defeat a motion requiring them to acknowledge their offence publicly at the next assizes, serving as a teller for the noes.132

Mildmay received 20s. in 1628 from Maldon’s chamberlain for presenting the town with ‘a book which (amongst others) much concerned the good of this borough’, and at the start of the New Year he and his fellow Maldon burgess, Sir Arthur Herrys, were presented with gifts of sugar loaves and oysters.133 By the time Parliament reconvened, in January 1629, Mildmay’s patron, Buckingham, was dead. Mildmay played a less active role than he had previously, perhaps because he did not wish to jeopardize his position at Court. Whereas in 1628 he had been one of eight speakers who had openly attacked Arminianism,134 he now left the task of driving home the assault to others. He made his only public contribution to the debates on Arminianism on 6 Feb., when he advised the House to delay investigation of the attorney-general (Sir) Robert Heath* for allegedly drawing pardons for the Arminians until after it had passed judgment on John Cosin, one of the bishop of Durham’s chaplains, who had reportedly denied the royal supremacy.135 Mildmay also avoided participation in the debates on Tunnage and Poundage, although he was named to consider the case of his fellow MP John Rolle, whose goods had been seized for refusing to pay this duty (22 January).136 It was as a member of this body that he spoke during the debate on Sir William Acton, the sheriff of London who had prevaricated while giving evidence to the committee (10 February). Many Members wanted to imprison Acton for his contempt, but Mildmay favoured calling him before the committee again. Were Acton to be punished, he warned, some would inevitably say that it was ‘for other secret causes concerning his carriage in the other great business’, by which Mildmay meant Acton’s role in seizing Rolle’s goods.137

As in 1628 Mildmay’s legislative interests were limited. An abiding concern for recusancy presumably explains Mildmay’s appointment to consider a bill to explain a clause in the 1606 Recusancy Act (28 Jan.), while the presence of several Members with estates in Essex on the committee for the bill to confirm the letters patent of the Somers’ Island Company (10 Feb.) perhaps explains his own inclusion. His only other legislative appointment concerned corruption, both in the presentation of ministers to benefices and in elections to university positions (23 February). His remaining committee nominations were to present the king with the petition of both Houses for a general fast (27 Jan.), and to consider two other petitions - one from a group of London merchants (9 Feb.) and the other directed against Lord Savile (Sir John Savile*, 16 February).138

Following the dissolution Mildmay maintained close connections with Maldon, where by now he owned some property, intervening on its behalf in 1635 to obtain the support of the attorney-general, (Sir) John Bankes*, in a dispute with neighbouring Heybridge.139 In 1636 he became the borough’s high steward. During the mid-1630s Mildmay evidently suffered from poor health, and in 1637 he travelled to the Continent, probably in search of a cure; a rumour that he journeyed to Rome with permission from the king appears to have been unfounded.140 He represented Maldon in both the Short and Long Parliaments, proved an enthusiastic parliamentarian during the Civil War and served on the Council of State following the king’s execution. At the Restoration he was stripped of his lands, offices and title for having served as a judge during the trial of Charles I.141 Initially sentenced to life imprisonment in the Tower, he was ordered, in 1664, to be transferred to Tangiers,142 where he apparently died four years later. The claim that he expired at Wanstead, which was settled on his son-in-law (Sir) Robert Brooke†,143 is based on a mis-transcription in an early edition of Samuel Pepys’s† diary.144

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. IGI, Essex.
  • 2. C142/335/4; P. Morant, Hist. and Antiqs. of Essex (1768), ii. 4.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, ii. 152; C78/289/9; St. Lawrence Jewry (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxx), 154, 161.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 164; SR, v. 317-18.
  • 6. Sloane 3510, ff. 31, 38.
  • 7. Shaw, ii. 164; HMC Downshire, vi. 352.
  • 8. C66/2133/23; HMC Laing, i. 271; LC3/1, unfol.
  • 9. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 252; pt. 4, pp. 144, 746.
  • 10. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts, pt. 1 (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 37.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1635, p. 71; 1635-6, p. 178.
  • 12. G. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 201; CSP Dom. 1637-8, p. 77.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1637, p. 66.
  • 14. SR, v. 123.
  • 15. A. and O. i. 785, 840, 854, 1209, 1254; ii. 64, 689.
  • 16. Ibid. ii. 2, 335; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, vi. 609.
  • 17. A. and O. ii. 523.
  • 18. HMC 11th Rep. iii, 24.
  • 19. C181/3, ff. 18, 43; 181/4, 136v; 181/5, p. 454.
  • 20. C231/4, f. 160; 231/5, f. 530; HMC 10th Rep. iv. 510; C193/13/4, 5; Essex Q. Sess. Order Bks. 1652-61 ed. D.H. Allen, xxxviii.
  • 21. Bodl. Firth C4, p. 257; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 22. Maynard Ltcy. Bk. ed. B.W. Quintrell, 230.
  • 23. E115/80/29; SR, v. 62, 84.
  • 24. C181/4, f. 13v; 181/5, p. 443.
  • 25. C181/5, pp. 474, 507.
  • 26. C192/1, unfol.
  • 27. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/217/23; Sloane 856, f. 26v. B.W. Quintrell’s assertion that he was dep. steward of Maldon in 1628 appears to be unfounded: ‘Gentry Factions and the Witham Affray 1628’, Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. (ser. 3), x. 122.
  • 28. SR, v. 107, 141.
  • 29. A. and O. i. 90, 974; ii. 1368, 1378.
  • 30. C181/5, p. 415.
  • 31. Northants. RO, FH 133.
  • 32. A. and O. i. 112, 147, 292, 422.
  • 33. C181/5, pp. 475, 507; 181/6, pp. 104, 272.
  • 34. HCA 30/820/55; CSP Dom. 1649-50, p. 564.
  • 35. A. and O. i. 621.
  • 36. Ibid. 1236, 1242; ii. 20, 1332.
  • 37. Ibid. ii. 139.
  • 38. Virg. Co. Recs. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, ii. 76, 155.
  • 39. CSP Col. 1574-1660, p. 90.
  • 40. H. Smith, ‘Presbyterian Organisation of Essex’, Essex Review, xxviii. 16.
  • 41. Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iv. 487; C.V. Wedgwood, Trial of Chas. I, 122; G. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 130; W. Addison, Essex Worthies, 131.
  • 42. Autobiog. of Sir John Bramston ed. P. Braybrooke (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 28.
  • 43. Morant, ii. 4.
  • 44. For an e.g. of such confusion, see W.J. Petchey, A Prospect of Maldon, 256.
  • 45. PROB 11/122, f. 240.
  • 46. HMC Downshire, vi. 352.
  • 47. SO3/6, unfol. Jan. 1618.
  • 48. Ceremonies of Chas. I: The Note Bks. of John Finet ed. A.J. Loomie, 38, 103. His rapacity was derided by royalist propagandists during the Civil War: Making the News ed. J. Raymond, 137.
  • 49. C2/Chas.I/F27/46; Les Reportes de Sir William Jones (1675), p. 415. He appears not to have honoured his promise.
  • 50. C78/289/9; W.R. Fisher, Forests of Essex, 319.
  • 51. VCH Essex, vi. 324.
  • 52. C54/2397/28. We are grateful to Roger Lockyer for this ref.
  • 53. Procs. 1626, iii. 43.
  • 54. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 247.
  • 55. CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 613-17; 1623-5, pp. 14-15.
  • 56. Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/OE108.
  • 57. J.K. Gruenfelder’s statement that this office was held by Mildmay himself is false: Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 157-8.
  • 58. CJ, i. 551b, 563a, 605b, 621b.
  • 59. Ibid. 522b, 626a, 654b.
  • 60. Ibid. 657b, 668b; CD 1621, ii. 498, 540; vii. 622.
  • 61. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, iv. 754.
  • 62. SP14/156/15.
  • 63. Virg. Co. Recs. ii. 216-17; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 492.
  • 64. Letters of Jas. VI and I ed. G.P.V. Akrigg, 418-19; CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, p. 124.
  • 65. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 87; Birch, ii. 419.
  • 66. Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/Oo155.
  • 67. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 176.
  • 68. Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/OE494.
  • 69. Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/OE208.
  • 70. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 517.
  • 71. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/392/67.
  • 72. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/392/18.
  • 73. CJ, i. 744b.
  • 74. Ibid. 723a, 725a.
  • 75. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 68.
  • 76. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 102.
  • 77. T. Cogswell, Blessed Revolution, 192.
  • 78. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 108.
  • 79. CJ, i. 742a; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 96.
  • 80. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 133; CJ, i. 742b.
  • 81. ‘Spring 1624’, p. 143 suggests that he wanted three 15ths, but see ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 66v; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 97; Holles 1624, p. 47.
  • 82. Lockyer, 189.
  • 83. CJ, i. 752a.
  • 84. ‘Earle 1624’, f. 113v; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 77; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 169; Holles 1624, p. 59.
  • 85. Ibid. 732b; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 66v.
  • 86. CJ, i. 694a, 754a.
  • 87. Ibid. 722a, 773a.
  • 88. DCO, ‘Letters and Warrants, 1621-3’, f. 175.
  • 89. CJ, i. 747a.
  • 90. Ibid. 684a, 691a.
  • 91. Ibid. 744a, 762b.
  • 92. ‘Holland 1624’, ii. f. 75.
  • 93. CJ, i. 751b.
  • 94. Ibid. 685b, 750a, 762a-b, 768a, 773a.
  • 95. Ibid. 747b.
  • 96. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 199.
  • 97. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 271.
  • 98. ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 267. However, after the impeachment Mildmay was added to the cttee. for the bill to make Middlesex’s lands liable for his debts: CJ, i. 714a.
  • 99. Eg. 2596, f. 14. We are grateful to Roger Lockyer for this ref.
  • 100. Two letters by Sec. Conway were penned at Wanstead that month: CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 297-99.
  • 101. Ibid. 307.
  • 102. Add. 12496, f. 106.
  • 103. Lansd. 885, f. 121v.
  • 104. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 35.
  • 105. Procs. 1625, pp. 228, 230, 239, 246, 253, 315.
  • 106. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/294.
  • 107. Procs. 1625, pp. 416, 445, 451.
  • 108. Ibid. 412, 414, 416, 422, 451.
  • 109. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 123.
  • 110. CSP Ven. 1625-6, p. 234; HMC Mar and Kellie Suppl. 235.
  • 111. C115/108/8632.
  • 112. HMC Cowper, i. 239.
  • 113. Add. 37819, f. 19v.
  • 114. Procs. 1626, i. 470, 577; iii. 43.
  • 115. C78/289/9; C2/Chas.I/M14/16; 2/Chas.I/R40/35.
  • 116. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 281. He proved similarly inactive as a dep. lt.: Maynard Ltcy. Bk. 401.
  • 117. APC, 1627-8, pp. 335-6; Essex RO, D/B 3/3/297, rot. 11.
  • 118. CD 1628, iv. 393, 395, 399.
  • 119. Ibid. ii. 85-6, 95.
  • 120. Ibid. 298, 310, 314.
  • 121. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 43.
  • 122. CD 1628, ii. 297-8, 314.
  • 123. Ibid. 297-8.
  • 124. Ibid. 484.
  • 125. Ibid. iii. 194.
  • 126. Ibid. 241.
  • 127. Ibid. ii. 66, 481; iii. 238.
  • 128. Ibid. iii. 3, 300, 355, 446.
  • 129. Ibid. iv. 467; MALDON.
  • 130. CD 1628, ii. 42.
  • 131. Ibid. iv. 331, 388, 396, 403.
  • 132. Ibid. iii. 386, 393.
  • 133. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/297, rot. 10; 3/3/298, rot. 8.
  • 134. N. Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists, 133.
  • 135. CD 1629, p. 176.
  • 136. CJ, i. 921a.
  • 137. CD 1629, p. 188.
  • 138. CJ, i. 923b, 927b, 928a, 930b, 932b.
  • 139. Essex RO, D/B 3/3/149/6; Cal. of Doquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry 1625-40, pt. 3 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxvi), 599.
  • 140. HMC Cowper, ii. 197; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, vi. 131, 140; Bodl. Firth C4, f. 40; Works of Abp. Laud ed. J. Bliss, iv. 245. No mention of a visit to Rome is made in G. Albion, Chas. I and the Ct. of Rome.
  • 141. SR, v. 317-18.
  • 142. CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 536, 561.
  • 143. VCH Essex, vi. 324.
  • 144. Cf. Pepys Diary ed. H.B. Wheatley, iv. 386 and Pepys Diary ed. R.C. Latham and W. Matthews, vi. 102.