GRAHME (GRAHAM), Sir Richard, 3rd Bt. (1648-95), of Netherby, Cumb.

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



8 June 1675
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. 24 Sept. 1648, 1st s. of Sir George Grahme, 2nd Bt., of Netherby, and bro. of James Grahme. educ. Westminster 1660; Christ Church, Oxf. 1664; I. Temple, entered 1664. m. 2 Aug. 1670, Lady Anne Howard, da. of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. fa. 19 Mar. 1658; cr. Visct. Preston [S] 12 May 1681; suc. gt.-uncle Ranald Grahme in Nunnington estate 1685.1

Offices Held

J.p. Cumb. and Yorks. (N. Riding) 1668-89, Westmld. 1680-9; capt. of militia horse, Cumb. and Westmld. 1672-89; commr. for assessment, N. Riding 1673-80, Cumb. and Westmld. 1677-80; recusants, Cumb. 1675; dep. lt. Cumb. and Westmld. 1675-87, N. Riding 1685-Feb. 1688; freeman, Portsmouth 1676; recorder, Carlisle 1684-Oct. 1688; ld. lt. Cumb. and Westmld. 1687-9.2

Envoy extraordinary to France 1682-5; master of the great wardrobe 1685-Dec. 1688; PC 21 Oct. 1685-Dec. 1688; chancellor to Queen Catherine of Braganza 1685-9; sec. of state (north) Oct.-Dec. 1688.3


Grahme’s grandfather, from an obscure Scottish border family, became master of the horse to the first Duke of Buckingham, acquired the Netherby estate of 5,400 acres in 1624, and sat for Carlisle in two of Charles I’s early Parliaments. He was wounded at the battle of Edgehill, and according to family tradition received a warrant for a peerage which was destroyed when his house was plundered by the forces of Parliament. He was taken prisoner in 1645 and compounded for £2,385. No doubt Grahme’s father was also royalist in sympathy, but he does not seem to have been active.4

Grahme, ‘a close student’ at Oxford, ‘had good learning and tolerable parts’. A firm Anglican, he hoped to succeed Sir Thomas Strickland as MP for Westmorland on the passing of the Test Act, but withdrew with what dignity he could muster on learning that the seat was destined for the youthful (Sir) John Lowther III. But two years later he was returned for Cockermouth at a by-election. He had property in the neighbourhood, and presumably enjoyed the powerful interest of his stepfather, Sir George Fletcher. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 18 committees, including those on the bills to prevent moor-burning and border rapine in his first session. He was noted on the working lists as under the influence of the Speaker (Edward Seymour), and as ‘heir to Mr Ranald Grahme, who can command him’. But his great-uncle was in opposition in 1675, and Grahme himself was marked ‘thrice worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list in 1677. In the spring session of 1678 he distinguished himself as leader of the attack on Lauderdale. He was appointed to the committees for summarizing foreign commitments and drafting the address for the removal of counsellors. When it was proposed to name Lauderdale in the address he acted as teller against a motion to adjourn the debate, and three days later formally moved the resolution against the Scottish minister. But in the final session of the Parliament he was listed as a defaulter; a motion to excuse him was lost on division, and he arrived at Westminster too late to avoid the payment of £30 or £40 to the serjeant-at-arms for his fees.5

Grahme was re-elected for Cockermouth unopposed to the Exclusion Parliaments. A member of the Green Ribbon Club, he was classed as ‘worthy’ by Shaftesbury. He was moderately active in 1679, being appointed to seven committees, including those to state matters undetermined in the previous Parliament and to regulate elections. On 6 May he renewed the attack on Lauderdale:

It was he who was instrumental to break the Triple League, to advise toleration, and to bring in Popery like a stream, and tyranny like a torrent, and who gave opprobrious and nasty terms to the House of Commons. It is he who has brought in arbitrary power on the other side Tweed.

He was again appointed to the committee to draw up an address for the removal of the obnoxious minister, and also to those to inquire into the shipping of artillery from Portsmouth and to consider the continuation of the ban on Irish cattle. But he was absent from the division on the exclusion bill, and on the appointment of his brother to the Duke of York’s household he went over to the Court, refusing to sign the Yorkshire petition for frequent Parliaments. He was again moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament, in which he was named to five committees and made four speeches. He helped to draw up the address for the defence of the Protestant religion on 27 Oct. 1680, but in the debate on exclusion he said:

Before this bill pass, I would consider one thing very weighty; whether it is fit to condemn the Duke before he be heard or cited to appear, to take away his right before he be heard to speak for himself? Next, what will you do with his children, who are Protestant and innocent? ... Through this matter a most dreadful civil war may arise, as in the quarrel between York and Lancaster.

If the consequence of the bill were to divide England from Scotland, he believed that he would be one of the first sufferers. It was necessary that a successor should be named and expedients offered, which could be freely debated only in committee. On 4 Nov. he was among those ordered to bring in a bill to prohibit imports of Scottish cattle, and he still believed in the Popish Plot. But he played no known part in the Oxford Parliament. Shortly afterwards he was raised to the Scottish peerage as Viscount Preston. He took his seat in the House of Lords at Edinburgh, and in 1682 he was sent as ambassador to France.6

Preston was recalled in 1685 to share with the inexperienced Lord Middleton (Charles Middleton) in the management of James II’s Parliament. He was elected knight of the shire for Cumberland unopposed, and became a very active Member, being appointed to 18 committees, including that to recommend expunctions from the Journals. He was the first to be appointed to the committee on the border bill on 6 June, and he helped to draft the loyal address on Monmouth’s invasion and to prepare a bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees. On 22 June he was sent to thank the King for news of the capture of the Scottish rebel, Argyll. With Middleton he was given leave to bring in a bill for the relief of London widows and orphans, and on 25 June he returned to the Lords the bill to prohibit imports of gunpowder. He reminded the House, when Parliament met again after the recess, that ‘we have lately had an unfortunate proof how little we are to depend upon the militia’, and urged supply for an increase in the standing army. He was among those ordered to draw up the address against Roman Catholic officers on 14 Nov., but he argued strongly for supply, and demanded that John Coke II should be sent to the Tower for describing the King’s message as ‘a few high words’ designed to frighten Members out of their duty. He was given the office of master of the great wardrobe, although Ralph Montagu had a life patent, and succeeded Lord Halifax (Sir George Savile) as chancellor to the dowager queen.7

Preston supported James II’s religious policy, and as lord lieutenant sought to extract favourable replies from the Cumberland and Westmorland magistrates with very little success. Nevertheless he apparently expected an English peerage for his efforts, and drafted a superb patent of creation for a barony of Liddel. On 25 Aug. 1688, with the arrangements for James’s abortive Parliament under way, Sir John Lowther II wrote: ‘My Lord Preston was just now with me, and says he quits the county to Sir George and me’. He was now a formidable rival to Lord Sunderland, who endeavoured to check his aspirations to a seat in the Lords by writing on 13 Sept. that the King believed that Preston would secure his own election for Cumberland. But in the following month Preston took over the seals. He was one of the council of five left in London when the King joined the army in the west, and was summoned to the meeting of the peers at the Guildhall on 11 Dec., but refused to concur with their proceedings. The Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde) presented him to William on 19 Dec., but he made little attempt to ingratiate himself with the new regime, and was dismissed from all his offices. He did not stand for the Convention, and on 8 Jan. 1689 James wrote to him from Versailles:

I approve of what you have resolved as to yourself in staying in town till the Convention and the Parliament, as they call it, be over, and I think you can do me much more service by staying in England than in coming hither to me, at least at present. ... I need not recommend to you doing me what service you can, I am sure you will do it, and you that are acquainted with Members of both Houses may do me very much by speaking and consulting with such of them as you can trust.

A fortnight later he was awarded a Jacobite peerage. An imprudent demonstration outside Carlisle led to his arrest in March on a charge of fomenting disturbances, but he was released seven months later. When Montagu threatened to sue him for the profits of the great wardrobe during his intrusion, he claimed privilege as an English peer on the grounds that his patent was dated before the resolutions of Parliament had declared the throne to be vacant. But he was compelled to withdraw his claim and apologize, and on 28 Nov. 1690 Montagu was awarded £1,300 damages. An active plotter, Preston was arrested on his way to France on 1 Jan. 1691, and condemned to death later in the same month. By now a confirmed alcoholic, he saved his life by a full confession, involving not only Clarendon and Seymour, but Lord Dartmouth (George Legge), Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne I), and even his own brother. He was allowed to retire to the Yorkshire estate which he had inherited from his great-uncle. He died on 22 Dec. 1695, and was buried at Nunnington. ‘An honest man, but no knower of men’, was the verdict of a fellow Jacobite. ‘Plausible to all to an equality ... he was thought more flattering than sincere. ... [He was] given so much to the bottle that it dulled much the good understanding that God had endowed him with.’ None of his descendants sat in Parliament.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Scots Peerage, vii. 99.
  • 2. H. R. Moulton, Cat. (1930), 317; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 470; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 362; SP44/164/247; Westmld. RO, D/Ry 2832; Ellis Corresp. i. 338.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 402; Luttrell, i. 361; Reresby Mems. 568.
  • 4. Royalist Comp. Pprs. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xv), 128-34; HMC 6th Rep. 321.
  • 5. HMC Le Fleming, 102-3, 152; Ailesbury Mems. 278; Lauderdale Pprs. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxxviii), 144; Grey, v. 381; CJ, ix. 477, 558.
  • 6. Westmld. RO, D/Ry 2142, Fleming to Lamplugh, 22 Feb. 1679; Grey, vii. 188-9, 408-9; viii. 35; HMC 6th Rep. 321; Exact Coll. Debates, 43.
  • 7. Burnet ed. Routh, iii. 40; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 199; CJ, ix. 746; Grey, viii. 354-5, 364, 370.
  • 8. HMC 12th Rep. IX, 91; HMC 6th Rep. 321; Westmld. RO, D/Ry 3250; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 273, 379; 1689-90, p. 40; Clarke, Jas. II, ii. 260, 441-3; Clarendon Corresp. ii. 231; HMC 7th Rep. 263; Luttrell, i. 509, 610; ii. 48, 152, 161, 220, 244; iii. 567; Ailesbury Mems. 278.