CHUDLEIGH, Thomas (b.c.1649), of Golden Square, Westminster.

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



3 May 1685

Family and Education

b. c.1649, 1st s. of Thomas Chudleigh, surgeon, of Castle Close, Exeter, Devon by Agnes Vaughan. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. matric. 7 Apr. 1666, aged 16; M. Temple 1668. m. lic. 10 July 1671, his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Gregory Cole of the Middle Temple and Buckish Mills, Devon, s.p. suc. fa. 1668.1

Offices Held

Sec. of embassy, Madrid 1671, Paris 1672-3, Köln 1673, The Hague 1673-4, Nymwegen 1675-8; surveyor-gen. of customs 1679-82; ambassador extraordinary, The Hague 1682-5; commr. of customs 1684-Feb. 1688.2

Dep. lt. London 1687-Oct. 1688.


Chudleigh came of a Devon family which had first represented the county in the 14th century. In the Civil War his grandfather Sir George Chudleigh, 1st Bt., originally fought for Parliament, but resigned his commission in 1643 and took up arms for the King. Chudleigh’s father, a younger son, served under Sir Charles Vavasour first in Ireland and then in England against the parliamentary forces. He compounded in 1648, his fine being only £30, and became a surgeon in Exeter.3

Chudleigh inherited little in the way of wealth or prospects, but his cousin Thomas Clifford was able to launch him on an official career, though he still needed financial assistance. He served under Lord Sunderland and Sir Leoline Jenkins, who found in him ‘all the accomplishments that can be desired in a gentleman for business’. As ambassador at The Hague, he succeeded in apprehending and extraditing Sir Thomas Armstrong, but in his more strictly diplomatic functions he was a failure. He infuriated William of Orange by tampering with the English regiments in the Dutch service to induce them to refuse the normal courtesies to the Duke of Monmouth. William complained that Chudleigh had ‘behaved, on several occasions, very impertinently with regard to me, being a very foolish and impertinent man’, and he had to be recalled.4

As early as December 1683 Chudleigh had sought a seat in Parliament through the Trelawny interest. He was not successful at the general election of 1685, but James II nominated him to fill the vacancy at New Romney caused by the decision of Sir Benjamin Bathurst to sit for Bere Alston. Although a stranger, he took the opportunity of urging the corporation to surrender their charter. A moderately active Member, he was named to five committees of secondary importance, and summoned to the meeting of the court caucus in the autumn session. In April 1687 it was reported (probably accurately) that Chudleigh had become a Roman Catholic. In February of the next year he lost his place in the customs, though he was given a pension of £1,200 p.a. in lieu of his salary, and in the same month was considered for the position of envoy to Portugal. He did not receive the post and in September left England ‘in discontent’. Perhaps his knowledge of foreign affairs prompted his departure; he may have foreseen the outbreak of hostilities and anticipated William’s intentions sooner than James. It was said that he was ‘going to France to be a Carthusian monk’ together with his secretary. The date of his death is not known.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. H. C. Hardwick, Chudleigh Mems. 9; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 215.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1671, p. 503; 1673, pp. 105, 212; 1675-6, p. 448; 1680-1, p. 53; 1682, p. 454; HMC Buccleuch, i. 506; Clarendon Corresp. i. 624; Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 53, 294; vii. 1464; viii. 1689.
  • 3. Cal. Comm. Comp. 1879; Hardwick, 9.
  • 4. C. H. Hartmann, Clifford of the Cabal, 8, 43; Despatches of Plott and Chudleigh ed. Middlebush, 118; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 53; Dalrymple, Mems. i. app. 123-4.
  • 5. Add. 28894, f. 280; Kent AO, NR/JB, f. 115; NR/AC2, f. 637; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 430; Luttrell, i. 398; Ellis Corresp. i. 251; ii. 152, 162, 193; BL, M636/43, John to Sir Ralph Verney, 30 Aug. 1688.