COKE, Robert (c.1651-79), of Thorington, Suff. and Holkham, Norf.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1651, o.s. of Richard Coke. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1667. m. 26 Nov. 1674 (with £7,000), Lady Anne Osborne (d. 5 Aug. 1722), da. of Sir Thomas Osborne, 1st Duke of Leeds, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1669, cos. John Coke I 1671.1
Commr. for assessment, Serf. 1673-d., Suff. 1677-d.; j.p. Norf. 1673-d., Suff. 1674-d.; dep. lt. Norf. 1673-d.; freeman, King’s Lynn 1674; sheriff, Norf. 1676-7.2
On succeeding to the vast Holkham estate, Coke embarked on prolonged litigation with Andrew Fountaine, his cousin’s unfaithful steward. He married ‘for perfect love’ in 1674, allowing his father-in-law, the lord treasurer, to name his own terms for the settlement, and consequently imposing on the estate a jointure of £1,500 p.a., more than twice the usual rate for a portion of £7,000. When Sir Francis North was made a judge, thereby creating a vacancy in the family borough of King’s Lynn, Coke at once took out his freedom and stood in the ensuing by-election as a court candidate against Simon Taylor, a prominent local vintner. After an expensive campaign which lasted five months he was elected to the Cavalier Parliament, and Lord Treasurer Danby induced Taylor to drop his petition in return for the reimbursement of his electoral expenses. The double burden, amounting to £10,000, was too much for Coke’s finances, and, according to A Seasonable Argument, he could only evade his creditors by claiming parliamentary privilege. Eventually Danby lent him £5,000 at the standard rate of 6 per cent, and personally supervised the reorganization of his estate.3
Coke naturally appeared as a potential court supporter in the working lists. Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly vile’, but Sir Richard Wiseman found that he needed ‘to be spoke to to attend’, and he was named to only four committees. His estate bill was steered through committee by his colleague, Robert Wright. He was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges in the penultimate session of the Parliament, and was included in both lists of the court party. With his brother-in-law Lord Latimer (Edward Osborne) he acted as teller for the unsuccessful motion of 21 Dec. 1678 to omit the word ‘treacherously’ from the impeachment of Danby. He died of smallpox on 19 Jan. 1679, and was buried at Tittleshall, leaving £4,000 of election bills still unpaid. The next Coke of Holkham to enter Parliament was his grandson, who sat for the county as a Whig from 1722 until raised to the peerage six years later.4