BOULTER, Edmund (c.1630-1709), of Princes Street, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1698 - Nov. 1701

Family and Education

b. c.1630, ?1st s. of John Boulter of Abingdon by Susanna, da. of Edward Cutler, Salter, of London; sis. of Sir John Cutler, 1st Bt.* unmsuc. Sir John Cutler 1693, cos. Countess of Radnor, 1697.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Haberdashers’ Co. 1656, livery, 1676, asst. 1686–1708; freeman, Boston 1698.2


Unmarried and of relatively humble origins, Boulter has slipped into obscurity and his identity has been the subject of some confusion. He was apprenticed to a London haberdasher on 23 July 1647, when his father was described in the company’s register as a maltster of Abingdon. His father may have been the ‘John Boulter’ who was mayor of Abingdon in 1656 but evidently both he and his wife died while their children were still relatively young, leaving Boulter as head of the family. Boulter fulfilled his duty to his family, later paying the expenses of schooling the children of his three sisters. His care of his widowed sister Susanna and her son, John Fryer, later alderman, sheriff and lord mayor of London, was remembered by the latter with gratitude in his autobiography, written in the 18th century. The Boulters had close relations in the Dissenting community and although there is little evidence regarding Boulter’s own religion, he was probably at least a sympathizer. One of his business partners was a Quaker and his sister Susanna married a man who was ‘reputed . . . a lover of those now called Dissenters’, and took her son to hear Dissenting preachers. Boulter’s brother Robert, moreover, was well known to the authorities during the Restoration, being arrested for dispersing a seditious pamphlet in 1666. He wrote his will some 13 years later, in August 1679, wherein he left a legacy to Boulter, ‘who hath rather been as an indulgent father unto me’, and both he and Edmund signed the petition of December 1679 calling for a Parliament. Robert was again arrested for sedition in 1681 (the year in which he published the poems of Andrew Marvell), and had his house searched for treasonable papers after the Rye House Plot.3

Little is known of Boulter’s activities during James II’s reign, but he was evidently engaged in business as by April 1690 he was so successful as to attract the attention of the Grocers’ Company, which decided on an approach to Boulter ‘(who is a member of the Haberdashers, but an eminent trader in the mystery of grocery) by such members as are acceptable to him’, in order to persuade him to be ‘translated’ to their company. By October 1690, the agreement of the court of aldermen for Boulter’s translation had been obtained and the Company was

very sensible how much it may tend to the benefit and advantage of the Grocers in order to the future improvement of his Majesty’s grace and favour in the privileges lately granted them to have so worthy and leading an example of his translation.

His uncle, Sir John Cutler, an eminent Grocer, was to be asked to influence Boulter in favour of the move, but nothing further came of it. The Boulters’ political affiliations seem to have been in contrast to those of their uncle Cutler, but his influence may have altered Boulter’s views and explain his appointment to the Tory-dominated London lieutenancy in 1690. Surviving the alterations of 1694 which removed many Tories, he was reappointed in 1694, 1704 and 1708. He was also chosen sheriff of London in July 1694 for the ensuing year but fined off.4

Boulter supported the Williamite regime with a loan of £2,000 in 1690 and a further £500 on the poll tax in 1692. Evidently already prosperous, he increased his fortunes considerably in 1693 on the death of Cutler, who named him residuary legatee and sole executor. It was widely reported that Cutler had left his estates in Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire and elsewhere, worth about £6,000 p.a., and half his personal estate, worth £60,000, to his daughter, the Countess of Radnor and her issue. In default of heirs the lands were remaindered to Boulter. Various other legacies were to be paid from the rest of the personal estate, with Boulter inheriting the residue. Some of these arrangements must have been made in earlier settlements, possibly at the time of the Countess’s marriage as well as by a deed of 26 June 1690 mentioned in Cutler’s will. Robert Yard* reported that the Earl of Radnor’s (Charles Bodvile Robartes†) expectations of retaining his wife’s inheritance were high, Boulter being a man ‘of 64 years’, unmarried and likely to leave everything to his cousin the Countess. In the event, however, the Countess predeceased him, dying childless in January 1697, and her share of her father’s estate devolved on Boulter.5

A significant amount of Boulter’s new wealth was in the form of debts owed to Cutler’s estate. One such debt, of £18,000, was secured on the office of marshal of the King’s bench prison, and in February 1697 Boulter successfully petitioned the Lords to protect the debt from provisions in the creditors’ relief bill then passing through that House. Appropriate clauses were inserted on 15 Apr. 1697 to safeguard his interest, but the following year the security for this debt was once again threatened by another bill for the further relief of debtors. Boulter successfully petitioned the Commons for the insertion of protective clauses, but the bill did not complete all its stages before the dissolution.6

Although he lived in London, Boulter had some long-standing connexions with Boston. Corporation minutes record a gift from him in 1681 of books to the free school and it seems likely that he was the ‘Mr Boulter’ who had a warehouse in the town. His links with Boston stood him in good stead in 1698 when he was returned for the borough. His candidacy may have been motivated less by political interest than by the desire to evade a suit against him begun by the Earl of Radnor, who possessed large claims on Cutler’s estate. On 17 Feb. 1699 Radnor petitioned the Commons to order Boulter to waive his parliamentary privilege, stating that before the election he had promised to

comply with the petitioner’s demands; but being since chosen a Member of this House, he insists on his privilege; refusing to give it under his hand that he waives it, though he promised not to insist on privilege, before several witnesses.

After being referred to a committee on 20 Feb., the case was subsequently settled out of court and Radnor withdrew his petition on 18 Mar.7

Boulter was listed as a supporter of the Country party in an analysis of the new Parliament compiled about September 1698, forecast in October as likely to oppose a standing army and does not appear on the list naming those who voted against disbanding the army on 18 Jan. 1699. His name is found on a blacklist of Tories as having opposed preparations for war with France during the 1701 Parliament. Whether his age or the expectation of defeat influenced him, Boulter did not stand again. In his retirement he became more active in the Haberdashers’ Company, frequently attending the meetings of the court of assistants, lending the Company £200 in 1707 and petitioning, though failing, to become clerk of the company in 1708. He was a benefactor to the poor, contributing £100 to the corporation for the poor of the city of London in 1702, and to the less agile riders of Lincolnshire, paying for the instalment of ‘a great number of horsing-stones, each of three steps, inscribed E. B. 1708’ on the road to Stamford. In 1703, he petitioned for and was granted the right to realize a large mortgage, previously owned by Cutler, on lands in Oxfordshire. Boulter died on 15 Feb. 1709. He left most of his property (estimated to be worth at least £150,000), which included extensive estates in Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, London, Oxfordshire and Somerset, to be divided between his surviving brother, William, and three nephews.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne


  • 1. Guildhall Lib. ms. 12017, p. 25; Soc. of Geneal. index of Berks. and Oxon. archdeaconry m. bonds and affidavits 1616–38, 1669–1710, i. unfol. bond, John Boulter and Susanna Cutler, 1633; Guildhall Lib. mss 15860/5, unfol.; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/059/2, Robert Yard to Alexander Stanhope, [Apr. 1693]; PCC 42 Coker.
  • 2. Guildhall Lib. mss 15858/1, unfol; 15842/3, p. 142; 15842/4; Boston Corp. Minutes ed. Bailey, iv. 471.
  • 3. Lincs. Past and Present, vii. 4–16; Guildhall Lib. ms 12017, pp. 8–11, 15, 17; 15860/5, unfol.; Municipal Chronicles of Abingdon ed. B. Challenor, 145; De Krey thesis, 536; CSP. Dom. 1665–6, p. 569; 1671, p. 565; 1680–1, pp. 382, 386; PCC 27 Hare; info. from Dr M. J. Knights; The Term Catalogues, 1668–1700 ed. E. Arber, i. 166.
  • 4. Guildhall Lib. Cal. of Grocers’ Co. Minutes, v. 915, 943; CSP. Dom. 1689–90, p. 502; 1694–5, p. 21; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 343, 345.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1997; CJ, x. 724; PCC 42 Coker; Luttrell, iii. 81; HMC Ancaster, 433; Stanhope mss U1590/059/2, Yard to Stanhope, [Apr. 1693]; Harley mss at Brampton Bryan, bdle. 117, Robert Harley* to [–], 18, 25 Apr. 1693; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 18 Apr. 1693.
  • 6. HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 396–9, 406; 8 and 9 Gul. III, c. 27, sect. xix, xxii; Reasons Humbly Offered . . . why the Bill . . . Should Pass; without the Clause Proposed by Edmund Boulter. . .
  • 7. Boston Corp. Minutes, 207, 314; The Case of Edmond Boulter, Esq; in Answer to the Petition of the Earl of Radnor.
  • 8. Guildhall Lib. mss 12017, p. 25; 15842/4, pp. 83, 95 et seq.; E. Hatton, New View of London, 752–5; Thoresby Diary, ii. 13; CSP Dom. 1703–4, pp. 396, 455; Luttrell, vi. 408; PCC 1 Lane.