Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

over 3,000 in 17011


  Henry Somerset, Lord Herbert of Raglan
 Henry Somerset, Lord Herbert of Raglan
21 Dec. 1664SIR BAYNHAM THROCKMORTON, 3rd Bt. vice Throckmorton, deceased
26 Feb. 1679SIR JOHN GUISE, Bt.
13 Aug. 1679SIR JOHN GUISE, Bt.
 Edward Smyth
Mar. 1681SIR JOHN GUISE, Bt.
 (Sir) Robert Atkyns
 Edward Smyth
18 Mar. 1685CHARLES SOMERSET, Mq. of Worcester
 Sir John Guise, Bt.
18 Jan. 1689SIR JOHN GUISE, Bt.
 Sir Charles Berkeley III, Visct. Dursley

Main Article

The frequent contests in Gloucestershire elections in this period were due less to political principles than to interest and personalities. Covert rivalry may be suspected between the two leading noblemen of the county, Lord Herbert of Raglan (later Marquess of Worcester and Duke of Beaufort) and Lord Berkeley of Berkeley Castle. In 1660 the successful candidates were both of Presbyterian Royalist views. No opposition to Stephens, a minor country gentleman, is known, but the junior seat was contested by the eminent lawyer, Matthew Hale, and another, probably Lord Herbert, who ‘spent near a thousand pounds to procure voices’. As Burnet remarked, this was ‘a great sum to be employed that way in those days’. Hale could not compete either in land or wealth, and would have preferred to sit for Oxford University, but

he was brought thither almost by violence by the Lord (now Earl of) Berkeley, who bore all the charge of the entertainments on the day of his election, which was considerable, and had engaged all his friends and interest for him. ... As soon as ever he came into the field, he was chosen by much the greater number, though the poll continued for three or four days.

Although Hale was made a judge in November, no by-election was ordered.3

Four candidates were named in 1661. Sir Thomas Overbury soon abandoned the contest, leaving the field apparently clear for Howe and Lord Herbert, now lord lieutenant. But Herbert’s henchman Sir Baynham Throckmorton disliked ‘the thought of Howe coming in, because he thinks himself above all men’, though he was understandably deterred by the cost of a contested election. Howe and Throckmorton were returned, and after a petition, presumably from Herbert, the elections committee found that they had a majority of votes, and their election was confirmed on 19 Apr. 1662. On Throckmorton’s death, his son was elected unopposed,

which, let me tell you, is no small matter, considering the divisions we have formerly had among us. There was no opposition at all in the case, our noble lord lieutenant only declaring himself for the worthy person now chosen, and the whole company resting withal satisfied that they could not make a better choice. So you may see the world is well altered with us since the beginning of the late war.

Herbert himself claimed that it was the first un-contested election in Gloucestershire within living memory, except during the Interregnum.4

Neither Throckmorton, a pensioner, nor Howe, who had probably ceased to attend Parliament, stood at the Exclusion elections. Sir John Guise and Sir Ralph Dutton represented the county in all three Parliaments. Both were country Members, though Guise voted against the first exclusion bill. There seems to have been no opposition in the first election of 1679, but in August Edward Smyth, the eldest son of a family long associated with the Berkeleys, who had made himself very useful to Oates since the discovery of the Popish Plot, was set up against Guise ‘by the malice of some others ... so that the poll lasted three days when they did not expect an hour’s work’. Before the next election Lady Harley received a rather breathless letter from one of her female correspondents:

I hear we are like to have great disputes in Gloucestershire. Old (Sir) Robert Atkyns and Mr Smyth intend to join. A great many were for the old [Members], but how it may go [I] know not. ... Just now I hear for certain Lord Berkeley does what he can for Smyth, and his son [is] concerned at it. But they say it is Lord Shaftesbury who desires Smyth; he is a mighty man with Dr Oates and that club. Sure if he carry it they will not want hate; he is Lord Shaftesbury’s lawyer.

Again there seems to have been little divergence in political outlook between the candidates, for Guise, who ‘of all things loved popularity’, had clearly abandoned his opposition to exclusion. He was again returned with Dutton, but by December Lord Worcester was informed that ‘anybody that will stand may carry it against Sir John Guise’. He was in fact defeated in 1685 by the lord lieutenant’s son and the younger Sir Robert Atkyns, standing in the court interest. Guise presented a petition on 27 May, but withdrew it after the recess and fled abroad.5

It was, however, a very different story when canvassing began for James II’s abortive Parliament in 1688. As early as 14 Feb. Sir Robert Southwell wrote to Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne I), who hoped to persuade the county to accept his brother James Thynne, a courtier:

I asked the Duke of Beaufort if the Marquess would stand for our county. He said if he did stand for this, or even Monmouth, he could not help him, it being his Majesty’s pleasure that all his lieutenants should serve him for those of another mind, how hard soever the task laid upon them. He said that the general vogue was for Sir John Guise and Sir Duncombe Colchester; but if Mr Thynne would stand, he would take off a great part of Sir Duncombe’s interest, for he was a very honest gentleman and came with his brother-in-law to Bristol to him in the time of Monmouth.

On 13 July Beaufort was ordered to support the candidature of Sir Samuel Astry; but at the county court in September Richard Howe found the county ‘unanimous for Guise’. Very few were ready to vote for the elder Atkyns for the other seat. The exclusionist Dutton appeared for Thynne, whose adherents were so evenly balanced with Colchester’s that Bishop Frampton was asked to find an expedient to save ‘a great deal of trouble and charge’. The results of the popular bishop’s mediation are unknown. After the Revolution Guise, Dutton and Lord Dursley stood. The election was begun at Painswick by the four coroners on 16 Jan. 1689 and immediately adjourned to Gloucester. Polling continued until 18 Jan. when Guise and Dutton were declared elected, and the indenture was made out accordingly.6

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. HMC Portland, iv. 29.
  • 2. Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xix), 313.
  • 3. Burnet, Life of Hale (1806), 37-38; BL, M636/17, Denton to Verney, 29 Mar. 1660.
  • 4. HMC 5th Rep. 345 (letter misdated 1660), The Newes, 22 Dec. 1664; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 174.
  • 5. Spencer (Althorp) mss, Sir William Coventry to Lord Halifax, 17 Aug. 1679; BL Loan 29/86, Anne Stephens to Lady Harley, n.d.; Bodl. Carte 228, f. 134; Raymond and Guise Mems. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxviii), 137; Beaufort mss, Ld. to Lady Worcester, 11 Dec. 1681; Glos. RO, D1844/C4, Player to Newton, 16 Feb. 1685; CJ, ix. 759.
  • 6. Beth mss, Thynne pprs. 13, f. 263v; 15, ff. 109-10; 18, f. 192; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 24.