HARBORD, Sir Charles (1596-1679), of Charing Cross, Westminster and Stanninghall, Norf.

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



8 Mar. - 25 May 1679

Family and Education

bap. 2 July 1596, 1st s. of William Harvord of Welton, Midsomer Norton, Som. by Dorothy, da. and h. of Richard Richmond alias Sheppard of Babington, Som., wid. of Edmund Tynte of Wraxall, Som. educ. Staple Inn; M. Temple 1624. m. (1) Anne (d. by 1623), da. and h. of Jasper Tyen, jeweller, of Fenchurch Street, London, s.p.; (2) Mary (d. 5 Sept. 1666), da. of Jan van Aelst of Sandwich, Kent, 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 3da. suc. fa. 1616; kntd. 29 May 1636.1

Offices Held

Surveyor-gen. 1631-42, June 1660- d. ; commr. for inquiry into customs frauds 1632, prohibited exports 1635, Chatham chest 1635, auditor-gen. to the Prince of Wales 1636-42; commr. for revenue and member of council to Queen Henrietta Maria 1638-41, ?June 1660-d., to Queen Catherine of Braganza ?1662-d.; commr. of trade Nov. 1660-8; trustee for sale of fee-farm rents 1670-3; commr. for loyal and indigent officers accounts 1671; chairman, supply committee 19-22 Oct. 1675; commr. for inquiry into the Mint 1677, 1678.2

Commr. for enclosure, Richmond Park 1634; j.p. Herts. and Mdx. 1636-42, Norf. Mar. 1660-d., Mdx. 1667-d.; asst. to saltmakers’co., Gt. Yarmouth 1636; commr. for repairs, Tower of London 1638; keeper of New Lodge walk, Windsor Forest by 1640-2; commr. for assessment, Herts. 1640, Norf. 1661-d., Mdx. and Westminster 1663-d., oyer and terminer, Norf. circuit July 1660, sewers, Lincs. Aug. 1660, Ravensbourne Sept. 1660, pre-emption of tin, Devon and Cornw. 1662, loyal and indigent officers, London and Westminster 1662; conservator, Bedford level 1663-79; commr. for concealments, Mdx. and Surr. 1670, inquiry, Kingswood chase and Richmond Park 1671.3


Harbord’s great-grandfather came out of Wales with Henry VII, or so he had heard. His father leased a farm of some 200 acres in Somerset from the duchy of Cornwall. Harbord described himself to his eldest son as a self-made man. He was said to have begun life as ‘a poor solicitor of Staple Inn’; but he entered the service of Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery, subsequently 4th Earl of Pembroke. He prospered sufficiently to advance £7,000 to the crown in 1629, and two years later became surveyor-general, though he retained chambers in Baynard’s Castle till at least 1635, and acted as principal trustee for the Pembroke manor of Rickmansworth Moor, in Hertfordshire, until it was sold to Sir Richard Franklin in 1655. It was presumably from his patron, who was warden of the stannaries and constable of St. Briavels, that he derived his life-long interest in the duchy of Cornwall and the Forest of Dean. He was involved in a double return at Bossiney in the autumn election of 1640, and as a petitioner witnessed something of the impeachment of Strafford. But his ‘too good husbandry for the King’ had made him enemies, he was too staunch an Anglican to take the Covenant, and on 28 Oct. 1642 he obtained a pass for Holland with his wife, children, servants and goods. His return was thought ‘very uncertain’, and he probably remained there until the outbreak of the first Dutch war. But without losing the esteem of the Royalists he succeeded in winning the good graces of the Protector, who protested to the governor of the Spanish Netherlands when some of Harbord’s goods at Brugge were seized by the exiled Cavalier Sir Richard Grenville. He acquired Stanninghall from the Roman Catholic Waldegraves during the Interregnum, and on the eve of the Restoration Sir Edward Hyde was assured that Harbord would serve him on all occasions, ‘and is generally trusted by the best’.4

Harbord was promptly reappointed to the surveyorship, with a reversion to his son William, who also became auditor to the duchy of Cornwall. At the general election of 1661 he was returned on the duchy interest for Launceston and also for Hindon, which he gave up to Edward Seymour. One of the most active Members of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 694 committees and delivered 65 reports, 15 of them from grand committee. He acted as teller in five divisions and as messenger from the Commons on 12 occasions, and made 123 recorded speeches. In the first session his committees included those to consider the security, corporations, and uniformity bills, against tumultuous petitioning, and the bill of pains and penalties. He took part in the inquiry into the shortfall in the revenue, and on 23 July was among those ordered to bring in an imposition upon sealed paper and parchment. Two days later he accompanied Sir Baynham Throckmorton and others to Lord Treasurer Southampton with proposals for improving the Forest of Dean. A member of the committee on the bill to restore the bishops to the House of Lords, he was sent to inform the Upper House that the Commons agreed to their proviso on ecclesiastical jurisdictions. After the autumn recess he was named to the committee on the bill for the execution of those under attainder. On behalf of the House he asked Dr Samuel Bolton, one of the canons of Westminster, to preach for the fast day of 15 Jan. 1662. As one of the committee for preventing mischief from Quakers, he helped to prepare reasons for a conference. He took the chair for the bill to regulate the pilchard fishery in the west of England, and before the prorogation he helped to redraft the Lords’ expedient to the militia bill.5

Harbord’s activity increased in the 1663 session. On 7 Mar. he recommended from the committee appointed to examine the working of the Corporations Act that the commissioners’ powers should be extended for another year. Two days later he was given leave to bring in a bill to abolish concurrent leases of ecclesiastical property. He took the chair for a bill to punish the unlawful cutting and spoiling of woods, and he was later among those sent to ask the lord treasurer to name those responsible for damage to the Forest of Dean. He was also named to the committees to hear a petition from the loyal and indigent officers and to provide remedies against sectaries’ meetings. But his most important work was done as chairman of the revenue committee from which he presented 12 reports. With Richard Kirkby and William Yorke he obtained from the King an order for the Exchequer to deliver deeds concerning impropriate rectories. He took the chair for the bills against pluralities and profanity, and he was the first Member named to the committee to consider the ecclesiastical leases bill which he had drafted. He was teller against a bill to prevent the sale of offices, and on 26 June he reported two more bills, one to legalize the transfer of bonds and the other to prevent butchers from selling live cattle. He had not been named to the latter committee, but was presumably co-opted in view of his concern over the practice as a Middlesex j.p. before the Civil War. Before the session ended he was able to carry the pluralities bill to the Upper House.6

Harbord was listed as a court dependant in 1664, when he was named to the committee to consider the conventicles bill, and given special responsibility for bringing in a bill to prevent licentiousness and restrain excessive expenditure. He set an excellent example himself when summoned to London to assist in the retrenchment of the Household by performing the journey from Norwich by public transport. He succeeded in steering his ecclesiastical leases bill through committee in this session, and also took the chair for a Gloucestershire estate bill. He was added to the committee for a Cornish canal bill on 16 Jan. 1655, and reported it in the following month. He does not seem to have attended the Oxford session. As a Norfolk landlord, he opposed the bill to prohibit the import of Irish cattle, and he supported an inquiry into the Fire of London so vigorously that he was the first Member named to the committee. He was also among those appointed to receive information about the insolence of Popish priests. He took the chair for a private bill on behalf of the Earl of Cleveland, and on 31 Oct. 1666 seconded the proposal of (Sir) Thomas Clifford ‘for a general excise of all inland goods, which was much disliked’. Nevertheless he was approved as a member of the abortive parliamentary accounts commission. He took part in hearing a petition against the Canary Company, tabled estimates of the yield of a poll-tax, and helped to prepare reasons for conferences on both subjects. He was teller against hearing the petition from the merchants trading to France on 17 Jan. 1667. During the recess he was among those commissioned with (Sir) John Denham to prepare plans for rebuilding the London Customs House.7

Harbord probably welcomed the dismissal of Clarendon, helping to draft the address of thanks, to reduce the charges against him into heads, and to consider the banishment bill, though he agreed with John Vaughan that it was necessary ‘to prepare some precedents and reasons to justify their proceedings’. Though he was not prominent in debate in this session, his committee activity attained another peak. On 6 Nov. 1667 he reported the proposals of the Duke of Albemarle (George Monck) for improving security against highwaymen, and three days later he and Denham were recommended by a resolution of the House to put the laws into execution against hackney coachmen. He took the chair for the bills for the repair of highways and the relief of poor prisoners, and also for the public accounts bill. In this capacity he produced twenty names from which the House was to select nine commissioners; but ‘the panel was very much disliked (and very justly) because many villains and enemies to the late King were nominated, especially Colonel [Edward] King and Major [John] Wildman [I]’. Before the Christmas recess he carried up the bill to naturalize prize ships. On 12 Feb. 1668 he was given special responsibility for bringing in a bill to protect the Forest of Dean. In a debate on the miscarriages of the war he said: ‘The counsels were either weak or treacherous, ... and if we declare them so he [the King] will know how to lay them aside and not use them for the future’. On 26 Feb. he reported on the receipts from the poll-tax. He excused himself from taking the chair of the supply committee, but declared:

If this House had not been, the necessity of money had not been. If you give him not now, you are never likely to aid him more. Weakening of ourselves and our allies is strengthening of our enemies. ... What he can propose is only from observation and experience, being not a man of invention.

There was a strong inclination to vote him into the chair, but he was allowed to excuse himself in favour of Robert Steward. Under his guidance the grand committee of grievances sent for Joseph Williamson to give evidence against Ormonde; but eventually they could only agree on presenting the misconduct of a hearth-tax collector in Lincolnshire and the erection of a lighthouse at Milford Haven. He was named to the committees for extending the Conventicles Act and preventing the refusal of habeas corpus. As chairman of the trade committee he investigated the export of wool, and reported an address for wearing English manufactures. He was sent to the Lords to desire their concurrence, subsequently serving on the joint committee to present the address. After helping to manage a conference on taxing the newly drained lands in the fens and to superintend the engrossment of the bill against thefts and robberies, he carried both bills to the Lords on 15 Apr. His proposal for charging interest on receivers who detained public moneys for over two months was referred to a committee, in which he took the chair and produced a bill before the session closed. More important, after repeated and rather unreasonable reminders from the House, he tabled on 6 May a list of grants and long leases of crown land made since 1640.8

In the next session Harbord and (Sir) John Berkenhead were recommended to bring in a bill imposing the penalties of felony for kidnapping. He was among those sent to thank the dying Albemarle for his care in preserving the peace of the kingdom. A debate on his alienations report was ordered, but never took place. He was appointed to a committee to prepare reasons for a conference on a highways bill on 2 Apr. 1670, and a week later carried up a bill enabling the King to lease out duchy of Cornwall lands. In the winter session of 1670-1 he chaired the Boston navigation bill and no less than six private bills, including one to enable Christopher Monck to re-convey several manors mortgaged to his late father. But despite his unrivalled reputation as a surveyor his computation of the total area of England at 76 million acres was wildly out. He was named to the committee on the bill to punish the assailants of Sir John Coventry, although he opposed as unprecedented the resolution that no other bills should pass until it had gone through the Upper House. He opposed taxing offices at 2s. in the pound believing that ‘you are not to look how a man is worth a thing, but that he is worth it, and has a share in the proportion of the government, and so must have his part in the tax’. Similarly he opposed a tax on mines: ‘tin mines are not farmed, most cannot be farmed, and it will be a discouragement to the commodity’. With Sir Thomas Meres he was ordered to bring in a bill to recover moneys due to the loyal and indigent officers, and he also helped to draft a bill to prevent the profanation of the Lord’s day by arrests. He was the first Member named to the committee to consider this bill, took the chair, and carried it up. Harbord and Meres were ordered to hasten the clauses in the subsidy bill imposing double taxation on absent Members. It was resolved that defaulters should not take their seats until they had been heard at the bar of the House; but an exception was then made for Richard Norton, to which

it was well said by Sir Charles Harbord that we are masters of our orders indeed, but we are servants of our honour, and obliged to preserve that, which we should not do if we make such solemn orders one day and revoke them another, especially after we had put them in execution against some persons and then lay them aside as unreasonable against others in the very same case.

He helped to prepare reasons for a conference on the subsidy bill and the additional excise. He tried to stifle on a technicality the bill to transfer the Cornish assizes from his constituency to Bodmin, and later acted as teller with (Sir) John Coryton I for an unsuccessful motion to appoint a further day for hearing witnesses in committee. He was reckoned a friend to Ormonde and a court dependant on both lists, while an opposition writer with old-fashioned tastes in drama called him ‘the old Volpone ... worth above £100,000, besides a most plentiful provision for his numerous family’. In fact only two of his sons held remunerative office.9

When Parliament met again during the third Dutch war Harbord warmly commended the proposal for a general naturalization bill, only regretting that it should be restricted to Protestants, and he was appointed to the drafting committee. On the Declaration of Indulgence he said that statute law could only be altered in Parliament, and that it had done the King ‘more hurt among his father’s friends than good to those indulged’. Nevertheless he showed himself conciliatory towards the dissenters. Admitting that there were many good things in the Covenant, and blaming the severity of the churchmen, he ‘would have a bill for ease of tender consciences in matters of religion’. He was chairman of the committee to prevent the growth of Popery that brought in the test bill, and carried it up to the Lords; but of the Queen he observed: ‘she is a person of the most inoffensive carriage that ever was’. He also took the chair for the bills to rebuild the Navy Office, and to confirm the marriage settlement of Sir William Rich. In the autumn session he was named to the committees to prepare the address against the Modena marriage and a general test bill. As chairman of the grand committee on the speech from the throne, it fell to him to recommend the refusal of supply. He showed himself hostile to Buckingham in the debates on the Cabal in 1674, though he thought he should be allowed to sell his mastership of the horse, which had cost ‘a great sum of money’, and on 26 Jan. he was added to the committee to consider the charges against his son’s patron, Lord Arlington. He took the chair in grand committee to consider the announcement in the speech from the throne that overtures had been received from the Dutch ‘in a more decent style than before’. He believed that ‘the peace is of great use as proffered’, and helped to prepare reasons for two conferences. Having been formerly engaged in ‘contests with the judges’, he was ‘against making their places for life’, but he was named to the committee. As chairman of the committee of grievances he reported that ‘any standing force in this nation, other than the militia, is a great grievance and vexation to the people’, and recommended that the Scottish army law and the powers of commitment by the Privy Council should be further investigated. He was appointed to both committees, and also took the chair in grand committee on the condition of Ireland. During the recess, at his son’s suggestion, he very humbly petitioned for the reversion of four manors held in jointure by the Queen in East Anglia.10

Together with Meres and Robert Sawyer Harbord was given special responsibility on 21 Apr. 1675 for drawing up a bill to expedite the conviction of popish recusants. He was one of Danby’s most effective champions in the impeachment proceedings:

He has had the honour to serve the King under seven or eight lord treasurers, and by the duty of his place he is to advise with all things relating to the revenue. ... So far as he has been acquainted with the lord treasurer he has not found his understanding defective in it; and has wondered at it, that a young man and a country gentleman should understand it so soon. In this business would go as faithfully and as truly as any man. ... He can disprove many of these things alleged.

He took the chair in the committee of the whole House to consider the King’s answer to the address for the recall of British subjects in the French service, and was among those ordered to prepare a further address. In the case of Shirley v. Fagg he helped to draw up reasons for the Speaker’s warrant to arrest the plaintiff and for the committal of the Four Lawyers. In the autumn session he was one of five Members sent to Colonel Thomas Howard to ask him whether he admitted responsibility for a paper describing Meres and William Cavendish, Lord Cavendish, as ‘bold and busy Members’ and ‘barbarous incendiaries’. As chairman of the grand committee on religion he proposed a committee of inquiry into dangerous books, and another to bring in a Lord’s day observance bill, and was the first Member named to both committees. But his conduct in the chair over the government demand for supply to take off the anticipations in the revenue was more controversial. Burnet described him at this juncture as

a very rich and covetous man, who knew England well; and his parts were very quick about him in that great age, being past eighty. ... He had said the right way of dealing with the King and of gaining him to them was to lay their hands on their purses and to deal roundly with him. So his son said he seconded the motion, he meant that they should lay their hands on their purses, as he himself did, and hold them well shut.

During the debate in committee of the whole House on anticipations, Cavendish moved the previous question. The result was a tie, and Harbord, who had taken the trouble to obtain accurate information about the history of this device, correctly gave his casting vote for the Government so that business could proceed. But before the main question could be put several opposition Members entered the chamber, and the government programme was defeated by 172 votes to 165. Neither Burnet, who censured Harbord for his rashness, nor Lord Conway, who thought that he ‘gave it against the King’, seems to have understood the procedure. Danby, who had sat in the Commons for so many years, was not so easily misled; but he was probably incensed by Harbord’s attack on the Stop of the Exchequer in the debate on appropriations and his declaration that the chamber of London afforded the best security, and replaced him as chairman of the supply committee by Sir John Trevor. Nevertheless Harbord opposed penny-pinching by the opposition over the naval estimates. One of his sons had been killed at Sole Bay, and he told the House: ‘If he sent a servant or son to sea, would send them in a ship safe for them to go in’. On a list of government servants in the House he was marked ‘bad’, and Sir Richard Wiseman apparently thought that he should be reminded of his duty.11

Harbord dismissed the opposition contention that Parliament had been automatically dissolved by the long recess. ‘All Parliaments are in being’, he told the House on 15 Feb. 1677, ‘till dissolved by the death of the King, or word of his mouth. There have been several prorogations of fifteen months.’ Shaftesbury classed him as ‘doubly vile’, but he was appointed to the committees to consider the bills for recall from French service, better preservation of the liberty of the subject, and the Protestant education of the royal children, and helped to draft the address on the danger from French power. He took the chair for the bill to provide for the maintenance of the Northampton clergy, for the bill for the repair of Yarmouth pier, and for the frauds bill, perhaps the most important legal reform of the period. He helped to manage a conference on building warships and to draft an address promising a credit of £200,000 for the safety of the kingdom. In 1678 he was reckoned a government speaker and a court supporter. Although he declared that ‘I have always been for the Church of England, and I will die in it’, he supported a bill from the Lords to relax the Tests. Together with Meres, Sir Edward Dering and Sir Francis Winnington he was ordered to bring in a supply bill. When he was accused by Henry Goring II of benefiting from the alienation of crown lands, he replied:

The King has granted me four manors of £400 p.a. each, not a farthing profit to me as long as the queen lives. As I have saved the crown £80,000 at a time, I desired only a mark of my service, and that is all.

On 27 Mar. he was given leave to bring in a bill for better regulating of the poor, but he does not seem to have done so. He hoped to prepare reasons for a conference on the danger from Popery and to summarize England’s alliances. He was named to the committee of inquiry into the Popish Plot and helped to prepare reasons for a conference. He was also among those ordered to investigate noises in Old Palace Yard, to prepare the impeachment of Lord Arundell of Wardour, and to examine the French translation of the Gazette. He helped to consider the bill to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament, but warmly supported the Lords proviso to except the Duke of York. He was among those ordered to prepare reasons for disagreeing with the Upper House on further amendments relating to the servants of the Queen and the Duchess of York and to bring in a series of anti-Papal bills. He was still sufficiently trusted by the majority of the Commons to be included in the committee to devise means of surmounting the royal veto on the militia bill, and to be given custody of Coleman’s papers. In the debate on Danby’s impeachment he called on William Williams to explain why the unusual venue of the drafting committee had not been communicated to several of its members.12

Harbord was re-elected to the first Exclusion Parliament and marked ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list. A moderately active Member, he was named to six committees and made two recorded speeches. On 22 Mar. 1679 he criticized the validity of Danby’s pardon, asking:

Did the King ever pardon anyone after an impeachment was against them? This way of pardoning, an impeachment depending, is one of the most dangerous consequence in the world, both to King and people.

He was among those ordered to inspect the profanity laws and to consider the bill to remove Papists from the London area. Still an indefatigable legislator, he was ordered to prepare bills to regulate the silver manufactory and to provide for the easier administration of oaths for burial in woollen. He was called up by John Maynard I to give an account of the procedure in the trial of Strafford, apparently in the mistaken belief that he had served on the secret committee. He was absent from the division on the exclusion bill, though on the following day he was named to the committee on the bill for appointing certain times for the coinage of tin in Cornwall. But he died three days later, on 25 May, and was buried on his eldest son’s estate at Besthorpe.13

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Information from Dr R. W. Dunning; Survey of London, xvi. 114; Som. Wills, vi. 100; G. S. Master, Colls. Par. Hist. Wraxall, 64; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 113; Add. 12225, f. 50v; Blomefield, Norf. i. 495.
  • 2. Foedera, viii. pt. 3, p. 222; ix. pt. 2, pp. 86, 187; Grantees of Arms, 113; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 253; 1635, pp. 514, 543; 1660-1, p. 572; 1671, p. 255; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 414; iv. 61; v. 751, 986.
  • 3. Foedera, viii. (4), 98; ix. (2), 157; CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 336; 1639-40, p. 419; 1641-2, p. 279; Sel. Charters(Selden Soc. xxviii), 149; C181/7/51; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 411; iii. 607, 911, 1107; S. Wells, Drainage of the Bedford Level, i. 456-9.
  • 4. Information from Dr R. W. Dunning; R. M. Bacon, Mems. of Edward, Lord Suffield, 1-2; Harl. 7020, f. 34v; Grantees of Arms, 112-13; CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 17; 1634-5, p. 499; 1640-1, p. 297; Chauncy, Herts. ii. 344; Grey, ii. 101; vii. 203; N. and Q. cc. 193; HMC 5th Rep. 70; Cromwell’s Writings and Speeches ed. Abbott, iii. 377-8; Blomefield, x. 466; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 661.
  • 5. CJ, viii. 246, 314, 343, 397.
  • 6. CJ, viii. 448, 461, 471, 474, 516, 525, 527; CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 336; 1663-4, pp. 103, 137.
  • 7. CJ, viii. 545, 552, 554, 635, 661, 662; Cal. Cl. SP, v. 270; Milward, 3, 7, 35; CSP Dom. 1666-7, pp. 525-6.
  • 8. Milward, 129, 164; CJ, ix. 23, 27, 39, 42, 48, 74, 77, 80, 90, 92; Grey, i. 75, 94, 100, 122; CSP Dom. 1667-8, pp. 44, 233; Bodl. Carte 36, f. 269; LJ, xii. 223.
  • 9. CJ, ix. 100, 112, 166, 170, 189, 194, 210, 224, 225, 234; HMC Hastings, ii. 315; Grey, i. 323, 341, 360, 366; Dering, 40, 90; Harl. 7020, ff. 34v, 43.
  • 10. Dering, 112; CJ, ix. 250, 266, 268, 272, 278, 285, 299, 305, 307, 309, 312; Grey, ii. 25, 31, 101, 118, 141, 266, 346, 419; CSP Dom. 1673-5, p. 214.
  • 11. Grey, iii. 46, 358, 384, 416; CJ, ix. 334, 360, 362; Burnet, ii. 87-88; HMC Hastings, ii. 383.
  • 12. Grey, iv. 70-71; v. 195-6; vi. 246, 372; CJ, ix. 402, 416, 418, 419, 564.
  • 13. Grey, vii. 22, 203; CJ, ix. 607, 608; HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 116; Blomefield, i. 495.