GRAHME (GRAHAM), James (1650-1730), of Bagshot, Surr. and Levens, Westmld.

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

Family and Education

b. Mar. 1650, 2nd s. of Sir George Grahme, 2nd Bt., of Netherby, Cumb. by Lady Mary Johnston, da. of James, 1st Earl of Hartfell [S]; bro. of Sir Richard Grahme. educ. Westminster; Christ Church, Oxf. 1666; I. Temple, entered 1666. m. (1) lic. 23 Nov. 1675, Dorothy (d.1700), da. of the Hon. William Howard of Rivensby, Lincs., 3s. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) lic. 4 Mar. 1702, Elizabeth (d.1709), da. of Isaac Barton, merchant, of London, wid. of George Bromley of the Middle Temple, s.p.

Offices Held

Capt. Douglas’s Ft. (French army) 1671-3, R. English regt. 1673-4; capt. of ft. to the 1st Earl of Carlisle (Charles Howard) Mar.-Nov. 1673, Admiralty Regt. Jan.-Oct. 1675, Coldstream Gds. 1675-8; lt.-col. of ft. to Lord Morpeth (Edward Howard) 1678-9.

Commr. for assessment, Westminster 1677-9; freeman, Portsmouth 1678, Edinburgh 1679, Stirling and Linlithgow 1681; keeper of Pirbright Walk, Windsor Forest 1680-2, Bagshot Park 1682-9; dep. lt. Windsor Castle and Forest 1685-9; freeman, New Windsor 1685, alderman 1685-Oct. 1688, mayor 1686-7; j.p. Westmld. by 1701-d.; mayor, Appleby 1717-18; dep. lt. Westmld. by 1722-d.1

Keeper of the privy purse to the Duchess of York c.1677, to the Duke of York by 1679, (as King) 1685-Dec. 1688; master of the buckhounds 1685-9.


Grahme was first commissioned in one of the Scottish regiments in the French service and fought in the Netherlands under Turenne and Monmouth. He fell in love with a granddaughter of the 1st Earl of Berkshire, and married her despite family opposition and ‘great inequalities’. Although one of the notorious maids of honour at the Restoration Court, she became ‘an excellent housewife [and] a prudent and virtuous lady’, and it was no doubt through her that Grahme attained a post in the household of the Duke of York. He was sent to France in 1682 with Lord Feversham on a mission of compliment to Louis XIV, who presented him with his portrait set in diamonds.2

At the outset of the new reign Grahme was appointed privy purse and master of the buckhounds in succession to Baptist May and John Carey and was elected for Carlisle, where his elder brother, Lord Preston, had been nominated recorder under the new charter. He does not appear to have used his rank after leaving the army, and hence there is the possibility of confusion between his record in James II’s Parliament and that of Richard Graham. He was probably moderately active, however. He may have served on the committee of elections and privileges, helped to consider the bill to provide carriages for the navy and ordnance, and acted as teller against the bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees. He fortified his interest at Carlisle by presenting the corporation with a mace, and bought Levens for £24,200. The famous topiary gardens there were laid out by Beaumont, the royal gardener.3

Grahme was approved as court candidate at Carlisle in 1688, but was rejected ‘with great contempt’ by the corporation. He accompanied James on his flight to Rochester and lent him 6,000 ducats on the security of his shares in the East India and Royal Africa Companies. In the following spring Grahme and his brother were sent to the Tower on suspicion of treason. Though he submitted to the new regime in 1690, ostensibly for patriotic reasons, and gave information to Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch) about Jacobite activities, he was implicated in Preston’s confession in the following year. He was obliged to give up the shares he had acquired from James, and received a royal pardon in February 1692. He returned to the Commons under Queen Anne, representing first Appleby and then Westmorland. After some years’ wavering he went over to the Whigs in 1722. He died on 26 Jan. 1730 and was buried with his first wife at Charlton (Wiltshire), where his epitaph described him as a faithful servant both to King Charles and King James II. His heir was his daughter, who married her cousin, the 4th Earl of Berkshire.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


Except where otherwise stated this biography is based on J. Bagot, Col. James Grahme of Levens.

  • 1. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 363; First Hall Bk. (Windsor Hist. Recs. i), 51, 169.
  • 2. HMC 7th Rep. 347, 350; Evelyn Diary, iv. 69, 467-8.
  • 3. R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 456; CJ, ix. 738; HMC Lords, n.s. i. 365.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 273; HMC Lonsdale, 98; HMC Finch, ii. 360, 391-2; iii. 149, 355; Luttrell, ii. 356.