DUKE, Richard (1652-1733), of Otterton, Devon.

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



Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701

Family and Education

b. 2 May 1652, 1st s. of Richard Duke of Otterton by Frances, da. of George Southcote of Buckland Tout Saints. educ. Colyton sch. 1660; Powderham, Martock, Exeter and Ottery schs.; Exeter, Oxf. 1669-70; I. Temple 1670-1; travelled abroad 1671-2, 1673-5. m. (1) 17 May 1673, Isabella, da. of (Sir) Walter Yonge, 2nd Bt., of Colyton, 2da. d.v.p.; (2) 28 Feb. 1705, Elizabeth, da. of John Cholwich of Farringdon, 1s. 1da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1716.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Devon 1679-80, 1689, j.p. 1705-d.2


Duke’s family owed its fortune to a clerk in the augmentations office who bought Otterton Priory in 1539, and sat for Dartmouth in the Parliament of 1547. Duke’s father was in arms for Parliament in the Civil War, but his name appears on the list of proposed knights of the Royal Oak, with an estate of £1,000 p.a.; he was described as ‘a busy fanatic ... a common runner up and down on factious errands’, who when the judges of assize lodged at his house, insisted on reading prayers himself in the Presbyterian way. Even by the country party he was regarded as inexcusably indiscreet. It was probably he, rather than Duke, who joined the Green Ribbon Club.3

Duke himself, while still a student at the Temple, applied for government employment, but without success. His extended honeymoon in 1673-5 was spent principally at Montpellier. He first stood for Ashburton in February 1679, when he was described by Shaftesbury as ‘honest’, but he was defeated by William Stawell and his petition was never heard. He was successful in September, however, and became a moderately active Member of the second Exclusion Parliament. He was named to the committees to consider the proceedings of the judges in Westminster Hall, the regulation of parliamentary elections, and the export of beer, ale and mum, but he did not speak. He was again defeated by Stawell in 1681, but went to Oxford for his petition to be presented. A few months later Duke’s father, at the ‘commanding persuasion’ of Sir William Courtenay, bought a moiety of the manor and borough of Ashburton from Lewis Watson, but this was not sufficient to secure his election in 1685.4

Duke was reported to have been arrested with his kinsmen Sir Walter Yonge and Thomas Reynell and other leading west country Whigs immediately before Monmouth’s landing. On his release he embarked on another continental tour, this time to Germany and the Low Countries, where he visited Locke. He returned to England at the end of 1686; but it was probably his father who followed Reynell’s lead in answering with a qualified affirmative the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. James II’s electoral agents were nevertheless assured that Duke was ‘right’ on the subject, and approved him as court candidate for Ashburton. He made no move to assist William of Orange in 1688, and probably stood down at the ensuing general election in favour of his brother-in-law Yonge, who had lost his seat at Honiton. When he regained the seat he voted consistently Whig. He was buried at Otterton on 27 Feb. 1733. All his children predeceased him without issue, and he left his estate to a distant cousin. The family became extinct in the male line shortly afterwards without further parliamentary honours.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Trans. Devon Assoc. 1. 493-4; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 4), iii. 31; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. x. 196.
  • 2. Trans. Devon Assoc. 1. 494, 500.
  • 3. W. G. Hoskins, Devon, 448; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xviii. 316; North, Lives, i. 151.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1671, p. 158; Trans. Devon Assoc. xciv. 453; HMC Portland, iv. 122.
  • 5. Luttrell, i. 342; M. Cranston, John Locke, 257; Trans. Devon Assoc. 1. 494.