ARNOLD, John (c.1635-1702), of Llanvihangel Crucorney, Mon.

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



26 Nov. 1680

Family and Education

b. c.1635, 1st s. of Nicholas Arnold of Llanvihangel Crucorney by Lettice, da. and h. of Sir Edward Moore of Drogheda, co. Louth. m. Margaret, da. of William Cooke of Highnam, Glos., 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1665.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Mon. 1664-80, Herefs. 1677-80, Herefs., Mon. and Surr. 1689-90; j.p. Mon. 1667-77, 1679-?83, Mon. and Surr. 1689-d., Mdx. and Westminster 1690-d., sheriff, Mon. 1668-9; dep. lt. Mon. aft. 1670-?77, 1689-d., Mdx. and Westminster by 1701-d.; capt. of militia horse, Mon. to 1677, maj. by 1697-?d., receiver, duchy of Lancaster estates 1697-d.2


Arnold’s family was established at Llanthony Abbey by the end of the 16th century and his grandfather represented the county in 1597. But his father ran into serious financial difficulties and was compelled to lease Llanthony and other properties to the Hoptons. Arnold was born and educated in Southwark, ‘his father being for some years in the King’s bench, and dying there to defeat his creditors’.3

Although the Marquess of Worcester (Henry Somerset) had made Arnold ‘a deputy lieutenant, captain of the county troops, and justice of the peace, and showed him, for his wife’s relations’ sake, all manner of kindness’, in 1677 there began a life-long feud between them, and Worcester had him turned out of the commission of the peace for opposing his candidate at a by-election and generally ‘affronting’ him. He came into the national limelight in March 1678 when he gave evidence at the bar of the House of Commons about the activities of Roman Catholics in Monmouthshire, of mass being celebrated in private and in public, of a Jesuit college in Herefordshire, and of the steward of the Marquess of Worcester ‘an undoubted Papist’ being made a justice of the peace. The House voted public thanks to Arnold and next month ordered some of its Members ‘to inquire by what means and at whose instance’ Arnold had been put out of the commission. In the winter of 1678-9, having been restored to the bench at the request of Worcester’s own son (Charles Somerset), William Morgan, and the bishop of Llandaff, he led an onslaught against Roman Catholics in his county, offering £200 of his own money for the capture of each priest, leading an expedition of his servants to assist in capturing, and triumphantly bringing back to Monmouth, Lewis, the unfortunate Jesuit whom Titus Oates had named as prospective bishop of Llandaff, and causing the dispersal and the seizure of the books of a college of Jesuits at Combe in Herefordshire. At the second general election of 1679, he stood for Monmouth in opposition to Worcester’s son, but was defeated. In November he was admitted to the Green Ribbon Club. While his petition awaited the meeting of Parliament, he came up to London to complain about the failure of the Monmouthshire justices to enforce the Penal Laws, and made himself a national hero in April 1680 and a second Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey as the victim of an attack by a Papist to avenge the execution of the Monmouthshire priests. In the light of the evidence it would appear that the affair was trumped up by Arnold himself, henceforth known to his enemies as ‘cut-throat Arnold’, probably in collusion with Shaftesbury to revive the flagging Popish Plot. In October 1680 a Portuguese Jew, Francesco de Feria, gave evidence to the Plot committee of the House of Lords, headed by Shaftesbury, that the former Portuguese ambassador at London had offered him money to kill Shaftesbury, Oates, Bedloe and Arnold. Shaftesbury also reported from the committee evidence supplied by Arnold about the activities of Roman Catholics in Monmouthshire.4

When the second Exclusion Parliament met, the country majority seated Arnold on petition. Thomas Bruce described Arnold and John Dutton Colt as ‘the most noisy, impudent and ignorant’ Members of the Parliament, and the busiest in hunting down Abhorrers. He was appointed to 12 committees and made five recorded speeches. On 27 Nov. 1680 he was added to the committee on a bill for regulating elections, and on the report stage (3 Jan. 1681) spoke for the bill, saying he served ‘for a borough that’s governed by an arbitrary Lord who pricks mayors as the King pricks sheriffs’. On 4 Dec. the Speaker issued warrants to the serjeant-at-arms to apprehend the persons named by Arnold as involved in the Popish Plot in Ireland. Seven days later he acted as teller for the noes on a motion to unseat Algernon Sidney. He was among those ordered to bring in bills for security against arbitrary power. In January 1681 he supported the motion for the removal of Halifax and carried resolutions for the removal of Laurence Hyde and of Worcester from the King’s presence and counsels. He was re-elected in 1681, taking a large armed guard with him to Oxford to safeguard him from Papist attacks, and being reported as encouraging the Monmouth mob to destroy all Papists should there be any disturbance there. He was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges and to those to inspect the entries in the Journal on Danby’s impeachment, and to recommend a more convenient place for the Commons to meet. After the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, Sir Leoline Jenkins instituted secret inquiries into Arnold’s activities. In September 1681 Feria deposed that Arnold had offered him £300 down to testify that he had seen the Marquess of Worcester at mass at the Portuguese Embassy. According to the same informant he had called the King a Papist, adding:

you shall see great alterations, you shall see this kingdom brought into a republic, for we shall bring the King’s head to the block, as the fool, the ass, his father’s was, and then you shall see us play football with the bastards he leaves.

Nevertheless in 1682 he was still on the Monmouthshire commission, when he was listed as ‘Whig’. Presumably in the following year he renewed his acquaintance with the King’s Bench prison, after £10,000 damages had been awarded against him in an action of scandalum magnatum for having said:

the Marquess of Worcester is a Papist and as deeply concerned in the Popish Plot and as guilty of endeavouring to introduce Popery and the subversion of the Protestant religion as any of the Jesuits that justly suffered for it, and I doubt not but to make the said Marquess and his crooked-back son to suffer for it in time.

He remained in prison until 1686, and in the following year was listed by Danby among the Opposition.5

At the general election of 1689 Arnold was returned for both Monmouth and Southwark, choosing to sit for the latter, where he seems to have formed an electoral alliance with the Tory (Sir) Peter Rich. A very active Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 91 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges in both sessions. He acted as teller in four divisions and made seven recorded speeches. On 28 Jan. he seconded the motion of Gilbert Dolben to declare the throne vacant. He was among those instructed to inquire into the authors and advisers of recent grievances and both spoke and divided in favour of a motion for printing the resolutions of the House. He was appointed to the committees to bring in a comprehension bill and to prepare reasons for enforcing the new oath of allegiance on the clergy. When (Sir) Henry Monson refused to take the oath Arnold wished to make an example of him as a criminal, but found no seconders. Two days later he was appointed to the committee for the toleration bill. When the conduct of Bishop Sprat on the ecclesiastical commission was under discussion, he wondered that any Member should defend the historian of the Rye House Plot. He was named to the committees to consider the Lords’ proviso to the bill of settlement, and to draw up reasons for a conference on Titus Oates. On 15 July he informed the House of ‘a false and scandalous report’ accusing his colleague (Sir) Peter Rich of Popery. A member of the committee to inquire into charges of malversation against William Harbord, he nevertheless acted as teller against the report delivered by Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt. on 29 July. Before the session closed he was appointed to the committee to prepare reasons for a conference on tithe.6

After the recess Arnold was appointed to the committees to inquire into the miscarriages and expenditure of the war. He was teller for the second reading of the bill to reverse Walcot’s attainder, and together with Sir William Williams, Thomas Christie and Sir Matthew Andrews he was ordered to inspect the papers seized from Brent, the Popish solicitor and regular. He was teller for exempting the Quakers from double taxation, despite their refusal to take the oath. He supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations and acted as teller for the more moderate amendment devised by William Sacheverell. He was appointed to the committee for imposing a general oath of allegiance, but on the same day Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey) complained of some remarks of his about Tory MPs who, he said, ‘had always given ill votes ... from the abdication of King James to the pardoning those rogues that gave up the charters’. Arnold rather lamely explained that he was referring to Members, not of the House of Commons, but of the club that met at the Devil tavern. On 24 Jan. Christie reported a bill to debar the claims of Worcester, now Duke of Beaufort, against Arnold, Colt and Sir Trevor Williams for scandalum magnatum. Colt and Williams were now satisfied and the bill was made to relate to Arnold only. In this form it passed the Commons, but failed to each the Lords before the prorogation.7

Arnold remained a court Whig under William III. He was replaced by his son on the Monmouthshire taxation commission of 1702, and his widow married his old associate Colt. No later member of the family entered Parliament, and the estates were sold in 1726.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Bradney, Mon. i. 219.
  • 2. Bodl. Carte 39, f. 129; Surr. RO, QS2/1/6; CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 537; Sir Robert Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 231; Eg. 1626, f. 59.
  • 3. Bradney, 215-19; Cal. Comm. Comp. 2203; NLW mss 1461, ff. 148-50; Survey of London, Bankside, III; HMC Dartmouth, iii. 282; Orange Gazette, 21 Jan. 1689.
  • 4. Haley, Shaftesbury, 445-6, 594; HMC Finch, ii. 44; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, ii. 222; J. Pollock, Popish Plot, 273-4 and App. D; HMC Lords, i. 89, 207-8; Ailesbury Mems. 30; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 461; HMC 7th Rep. 479.
  • 5. Ailesbury Mems. 46; HMC 12th Rep. App. ix, pp. 101, 103, 106, 114, 115; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 462, 559; 1682, p. 288; Add. 1660-85, pp. 481-2; HMC 10th Rep. iv. 172; Luttrell, i. 291; HMC Lords, iii. 208-9; n.s. vii. 348-9.
  • 6. Hardwicke SP, ii. 401; Grey, ix. 145, 243, 384; CJ, x. 45.
  • 7. CJ, x. 291, 303, 329, 342; Grey, ix. 546.
  • 8. Bradney, 215.