MICHEL, John II (1660-1739), of Richmond, Surr.
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Family and Education
bap. 29 Aug. 1660, o. s. of John Michel of Richmond by Bennett, da. and coh. of Matthew Read of Folkestone, Kent. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1676. m. by 12 July 1710, Mary, da. of James Grahme*, s.p. suc. fa. 1661, uncle 1696.1
?Commr. charitable uses, Southwark 1685; gov. Christ’s Hosp.2
Freeman, Sandwich 1690; sheriff, Surr. 1711–12.3
Michel’s great-grandfather Humphrey (d. 1598), who sat in five Elizabethan Parliaments, acquired substantial property in Old Windsor which he bequeathed to the family. Michel himself was only a year old when he succeeded his father, but fortunately his grandmother, mother and uncle were all on hand to pledge to look after the infant, his uncle Humphrey being sole executor of the will and undertaking responsibility for his education. Michel clearly owed a great debt to Humphrey, who guided him to Queen’s College, Oxford, the alma mater he was to honour in his own will. Politically, Michel first entered the fray at the 1690 election for Sandwich, where he was narrowly defeated. He petitioned but, according to William Rooke, a leading Kentish Tory, Michel lost because ‘he was very ill-used, being represented as a very disaffected person to the present government, as one that kept company with Lord Griffin, Sir John Fenwick†, etc.’ In the same letter Rooke gossiped about Michel’s association with a woman who had claimed to be Michel’s wife, ending with the remark that Michel ‘was much to blame if ever he owned her again, whether wife or mistress’. The early 1690s saw Michel determined to extend his crown leases on some lands in Old Windsor, and then to secure a favourable exchange with the King when his freehold lands in the parish were required to enlarge the royal park.4
Michel unsuccessfully contested the Sandwich by-election of April 1698 against John Thurbarne. Three months later the two men were returned at the general election. The compiler of a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments confused him with Admiral Sir David Mitchell, and thus marked him as a Court placeman. More accurate was the forecast which listed him as likely to oppose the standing army. Owing to the presence in the House of Robert Michel*, one cannot identify Michel’s activities from the Journals. One issue of pressing concern in which Michel was certainly engaged was the campaign to prevent Deal, a rival port to Sandwich, from having its own charter. This involved Michel in considerable cost and attendance at the various offices of state, all of which failed to block the promulgation of Deal’s charter later in 1699, although his efforts to find a means of nullifying its effects went on until well into 1700. Michel cautioned Sandwich corporation in January 1700 about the difficulties of applying for a bill or clause to counter Deal’s charter, particularly that the Commons was ‘so full of public business’. However, he did consider it feasible to legislate by means of a clause in either the Rye or Dover harbour bill for a ‘droit’ of 4d. per quarter on all corn shipped off from Sandwich. On 8 Feb. he informed the corporation that the report on the Dover bill was being continually put off owing to the pressure of public business.5
Possibly because of the failure of Michel and Thurbarne to prevent Deal acquiring a charter, neither man was returned at the general election of January 1701. Michel had, however, offered himself as a candidate, and petitioned on 14 Feb. 1701 against the return of Sir Henry Furnese. With Furnese’s right to sit being in question (he was expelled on 19 Feb.), Michel withdrew his petition on 29 Mar. in order to contest and win the resultant by-election on 7 Apr. During the campaign, a supporter of David Polhill*, the Whig candidate, noted that Michel, ‘when in the House, never gave one right vote’, again confirming his Tory proclivities. Michel may have had personal reasons for wanting to sit in this Parliament since on 21 Mar. he had petitioned the Commons, in company with John Powney, Charles Aldworth*, William Smith and Richard Topham*, to try to prevent the English forfeitures resumption bill (which was subsequently lost) from extending to the grants they themselves had received from the crown in lieu of lands exchanged with the King to facilitate the extension of the royal park at Windsor. Michel lost his seat at the general election of November 1701, but with doubts raised once more about Furnese’s eligibility, Michel’s friends wrote to sound out Thurbarne as to his intention of standing in the event of a by-election, a sign perhaps of a rapprochement between two old antagonists to oppose Furnese and the Oxendens. In the event, the King’s death overtook proceedings and at the general election of 1702 Michel was returned with Furnese.6
The presence of a namesake in the new Parliament again makes Michel’s activities difficult to distinguish, although evidence from the Sandwich archives suggests that he was taking seriously his duties as a constituency representative, reporting to the corporation on a local dispute over the pressing of seamen, the land tax commissioners, and a matter involving ‘public money’, possibly concerning the harbour. He may have been a teller on two occasions in January and February 1703. Having served as a j.p. in Kent since the Revolution of 1689, he was appointed in January 1703, along with several other Tories, to the deputy-lieutenancy of the county, an honour which had been accorded to him in Surrey the previous August. In the next session, he was forecast in March 1704 by the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) as a supporter of the government’s actions over the Scotch Plot. In the 1704–5 session his churchmanship came to the fore. On 25 Oct. 1704 he was one of three Members ordered to invite the Tory divine, Dr William Bincks, dean of Lichfield, to preach to the Commons on 5 Nov., and was then deputed on the 6th to thank him. He was forecast as a probable supporter of the Tack, duly voting for it on 28 Nov. No doubt as a consequence of his stance on occasional conformity, he lost his seat at the 1705 general election.7
Michel declined to contest the by-election held in March 1708 on Josiah Burchett’s appointment to office, but two months later challenged the outgoing Members at the general election, only to lose in the poll. At some point before the next election he married one of the co-heiresses of James Grahme. It seems unlikely that the wedding occurred before Grahme’s eldest daughter married Henry Bowes, Earl of Berkshire, in March 1709, but it had certainly taken place before July 1710. Michel contested the 1710 election at Sandwich, but was well beaten into third place. He was also thought to be trying his interest at Haslemere, Surrey, for in September 1710 Lady Oglethorpe informed Robert Harley*, ‘they are already playing tricks with Mr Michel’, and at one point Harley was informed that Oglethorpe and Michel would carry the election. Michel’s chance to re-enter Parliament eventually came with the death of Furnese. In April 1713 he won the resultant by-election and then sat for most of the last session of the 1710 Parliament, voting on 18 June 1713 in favour of the French commerce bill. In preparation for the 1713 general election, he wrote in June to Harley (now Earl of Oxford), concerning Burchett’s qualification to stand, ‘that I may either take proper measures to secure the election with him, or for some other person that may be acceptable to your Lordship’. To the corporation he stressed his small part in the business of the preceding Parliament and referred to the ‘long knowledge and experience you have had of my behaviour and the constant readiness I have showed to do you all the best service that lies in my power’. In the event, he was returned unopposed with Sir Henry Oxenden, 4th Bt.8
Michel was listed as a Tory on the Worsley list. The emphasis in his letter to Sandwich of 2 Aug. 1714 on the peacefulness of the succession precludes the possibility that he supported the Jacobites. Indeed, the same letter referred to the fact that
the highest asserters of the rights of the monarchy and Church of England have showed themselves most eminently zealous for his present Majesty’s succession, which loyal behaviour of theirs, at this important juncture, ought for ever to silence the tongues of those who have laid it to their charge that they had views the other way.
In September, Michel attended a meeting of Surrey gentry called to draw up an address, and used the occasion to remind Sandwich that they should follow suit. He was defeated narrowly at the January 1715 election and removed from the Kentish bench in July of that year. Subsequently, he fought and lost Sandwich four times. Although he had indicated in his election address to the comporation in 1722 that he was unlikely to live to see another election, he did not in fact die until 29 Aug. 1739. Indeed, in 1733 Viscount Perceval (John†) could refer to him as ‘Mr Mitchel [sic], lord of the manor [of Plumstead], a rich gentleman at Richmond’. Without an heir, he left bequests to the poor of Richmond and Old Windsor, £100 each to Bethlehem, Bridewell and Christ’s Hospitals (the last of which he had been a governor ‘for many years’), and lands worth £700 p.a. to complete the building of Queen’s College, Oxford, and then to fund eight fellows at £50 p.a. and eight scholars at £25 p.a.9
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Stuart Handley
- 1. IGI, Surr.; Berks. Arch. Jnl. xlii. 153; Add. 19819, ff. 1–2; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Edward Harvey* to Grahme, 12 July 1710.
- 2. Ashmole Diary ed. Josten, iv. 1819; PCC 199 Henchman.
- 3. Centre Kentish Stud. Sandwich bor. recs. Sa/Ac8, f. 279.
- 4. PCC 202 May; CJ, x. 457; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, p. 218; Trinity, Dublin, Clarke mss 749/3/284, Rooke to George Clarke, 11 Nov. 1690; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 965, 1233, 1275, 1417; xiv. 132, 230, 257, 317, 358.
- 5. Add. 33512, ff. 163–4, 167–74.
- 6. Sevenoaks Pub. Lib. Polhill-Drabble mss U1007/c13/4, John Macky to [–], 24 Feb. 1700–1; Add. 33512, f. 182.
- 7. Sandwich bor. recs. Sa/ZB2/156–8, Michel to Sandwich corp. 20 Nov., 22, 24 Dec. 1702; info. from Prof. N. Landau; CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 280; 1702–3, p. 393.
- 8. Bagot mss, Harvey to Grahme, 12 July 1710; HMC Portland, iv. 591; Bath mss at Longleat House, Portland misc. pprs. [–] to Harley, n.d. ; Add. 70203, Michel to Oxford, 27 June 1713; 33521, f. 195.
- 9. Add. 33512, ff. 199, 201, 215; info. from Prof. Landau; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 306; PCC 199 Henchman; J. Pointer, Oxoniensis Academia, 41.