- Social Sciences
- African Studies
- American Studies
- Asian Studies
- Communication Sciences
- Ethnic Studies
- European Studies
- Gender Studies
- Physical Sciences
- Life Sciences
- Animal Communications
- Cell Biology
- Evolutionary Biology
- Food Science and Technology
- Human Anatomy
Patterns of Politics in England, 1558-1625
by Alison Wall
Patterns of Politics in England, 1558-1625
The Historical Journal
Updated: February 5th, 2013
The Historical Journal, 31, 4 (1988), pp. 947-963 Printed in Great Britain
PATTERNS OF POLITICS IN ENGLAND, 1558-1625
University of Sydng
'Mr Wroughton hath gotten together other of the like faction, and he and his complices hath done actes of great force' complained a Wiltshire gentleman in 1589.' This accusation of faction in county politics was certainly well-founded; four years later Thomas Wroughton was listed in Henry Knyvet's faction when Knyvet had 'cause to sounde the dispositions of my Frindes towardes mee, and all such Justices of the peace as pretende soe to be'.' The Wiltshire ruling gentry were then divided between two established factions, and conflict dominated their use of local office. Such endemic struggles also characterised the local politics of other counties, where, the lord chancellor protested in 1608, the justices should 'maintain peace, but they rather make war'.3 But the many county studies now available show that dispute, though quite frequent, was not inevitable, and that in some counties the gentry co-operated peacefully to run local government. Why were some counties faction-ridden, and others calmly co-operative? Did the political structure of counties which experienced conflict differ from that of the peaceful ones? This essay will survey modern studies of county politics in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, in an attempt to establish the contexts which produced conflict. A comparison of troubled counties -such as Wiltshire, Herefordshire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Northumberland, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Worcestershire -does reveal similarities in political circumstances, but it also shows differences. We shall see later that peaceful counties shared some common features, but that they too differed in other respects. There were patterns of politics in English counties -but they were complex.
The Wiltshire disputes involved a struggle for power and prestige in the county, and supporters were sought locally and at the ~entre.~
Each of the factions tried to get 'friends' appointed to office, and to discredit opponents and secure their dismissal. Each alliance contained wealthy and ambitious gentry: one faction linked Henry Knyvet with John Thynne, Walter Long, Thomas Wroughton and others; the other included James Marvin, John Danvers, Edmund Ludlow, Lord Audley, and William
' H. Hall, Society in the Elizabethan age (London, 1888), p. 276. 'Faction' is in this essay taken to mean political alignments seeking ascendancy, as in S. Adams, 'Faction, clientage, and party: English politics 1550--1603', History Today (Dec. 1982), pp. 33-9, esp. 34.
MSS of marquess of Bath, Longleat, Thynne papers, VI, fo. 255, (hereafter cited as T.P.).
I wish to thank the marquess for permission to use the MSS at Longleat.
J. Hawarde, Les reportes del cases in camera stellata, 1593-1609, ed. W. P. Baildon (priv. pr. 1894), pp. 368, 186-7.
A. Wall, 'Faction in local politics I 580-1 620', Wiltshire Archaeological iWagazine, 72/73 (1 g80), 1 19-33,
Darrell. The factional strife went beyond attempts to control the commission of the peace -it involved accusations of murder, and eventually murder itself, between members of the factions. Henry Knyvet and William Darrell tried to prove each other unfit for office; Knyvet triumphed by alleging in 1579 that Darrell had connived at infanticide in his own house. While Darrell suffered disgrace, Knyvet increased in power and status, becoming a deputy lieutenant, and subsidy commissioner, as well as retaining his place among the J.P.s.
Knyvet's victory was no rout, however, and factional competition continued to embitter every activity in the county's government. Open affrays between the factions and their followers at Marlborough quarter sessions and Salisbury assizes in 1589 led to protracted efforts to use the prerogative courts to discredit opponents in the eyes of the privy council. The provocations between the two groups moved from arguments at quarter sessions, through street violence, to murder. In 1594, Sir John Danvers's sons and followers deliberately provoked trouble with the opposing faction -but it got out of hand when Henry Danvers shot and killed Sir Walter Long's brother. This outrage, and the consequent exile of the culprits, further embittered relations between the ruling gentry and made co-operation in running the county impossible. More gentry wanted county office than could achieve it, so intense competition gave a cutting edge to rivalry, especially during Elizabeth's reign. Under James, dispute was less fierce, and it concerned issues of good government as well as pure power. The clumsy pretensions of the earl of Hertford as lord lieutenant united the gentry against him from 1601 to 1606. But continuing antagonism between J.P.s, and conflicts over the choice of sessions towns in 1616-20, show that county politics remained divisive in Wiltshire.
One reason was that the major contending gentry could all secure central backing: they were powerful men with 'friends at Court' who responded to local pleas for favour. Faction leaders cultivated all those courtiers who were in positions to influence the queen, not simply one particular patron. William Darrell called for help from Leicester, Walsingham, Hatton and Popham, while the Danvers family sought aid in the 1590s from the earl of Essex and Robert Cecil. The opposing Wiltshire factions appealed to the same powerful courtiers: both county factions maintained close links with Lord Hunsdon, the queen's cousin. Henry Knyvet and his competitor John Danvers both cultivated the Cecils; John Thynne and his enemy Darrell both solicited aid from Leicester; Henry and Charles Danvers as well as their rival Thynne gained support from Es~ex.~
This suggests either that the Court was less polarized than some historians have supposed, or that Wiltshire gentlemen sensibly sought allies in all parties. The multiplicity of channels available at Court allowed contending county gentry to mobilize support, and so enabled factions to survive the onslaughts of their rivals. Wiltshire remained a factious county, because access to Court favour was so widely distributed: there was no single powerful patron in Court or county who might have secured obedience and good order.
Court connexions were a compelling influence in Herefordshire, which became a factious county about 1580, when Sir Thomas Coningsby challenged Sir James Croft's
Hall, Society in the Elizabethan age, pp. 25~1, 255-8, 276-92; Historical Manuscripts Commission, Salisbury Manuscripts (hereafter H.1M.C. Salis.), IV, 447, 449, 600; XIV, 92; G.E.C., Complete Peerage (hereafter G.E.C.) sub. Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby; Bodleian Library MS Add. 307, fos. 45-6, 83-4; Wilts. Arch. Mag., VIII, 239-40; J. Aubrey, Brieflives (Oxford, 1898), I, 193-4; T.P., v, fos. 136-7; ibid. VII, fo. I. I propose to discuss this question more fully elsewhere.
previous ascendancy in local g~vernment.~Croft had been comptroller of the household and a privy councillor since 1570, and it is surprising that Coningsby was able to make headway against Croft and his allies. But in 1580 Croft had fallen out with Leicester, which weakened his position at Court, and this may explain why Coningsby succeeded in taking the post of recorder of Leominster in 1583 against Croft's nominee. Thereafter, serious affrays between the two sides both in the county and in London attracted the attentions of the privy council, which endeavoured unsuccessfully to stop the vendetta. As in the other troubled counties, the opposing groups used the authority of their offices against enemies and contended publicly over precedence at quarter sessions. Coningsby made the most of support from the earl of Essex, and his own post as a gentleman pensioner from 1589, while the Croft alliance was weakened by the death of Sir James in 1590. But Coningsby's brief ascendancy was soon challenged by Sir Herbert Croft and Sir James Scudamore, who successfully undermined his power after the death of Essex in 1601. For most of the reign of James, the Scudamores controlled county politics: after two decades of factional struggle, Herefordshire had returned to the peaceful state of James Croft's early dominance.
In Elizabethan Kent, gentry alliances competed for power as in Wiltshire. But Kent differed from other faction-ridden counties, because so many of the competing local leaders actually became major Court figures themselves. So the chief competitors did not have to rely on distant patrons who might or might not espouse their causes -they were themselves already in the thick of the struggle at the centre. The foremost of these, William Lord Cobham, held advantages through his noble status, his estates in Kent, and the combination of significant central posts with local ones.' He was lord chamberlain, lord warden of the Cinque Ports, and lord lieutenant of Kent when he died in 1597, and his faction sought those offices for his heir Henry Lord Cobham. But the longstanding competition amongst leading landowners meant that the Sidneys, the Sackvilles, the Wottons, Sir Edward Hoby, and Sir John Leveson all aspired to influence, in opposition to the Cobhams and to each other. Most notably, the Sidneys vied with the Cobhams for powerful posts and county control, using friends at Court, and followers in the county. Each side lunged for the dead Lord Cobham's major offices in December 1597, and for parliamentary seats in the 1597 and 1601 elections.
As well as their own influence at the centre, each of the Kentish contenders could call on other courtiers for assistance; hence there were no easy victories. Although alliances shifted, the Cobhams looked to Raleigh and the Cecils; the Sidneys to their kinsmen Leicester and Essex, although Sir Robert Sidney tried to keep the Cecils as friends too, till at least 15g4.' Leveson was important himself as deputy lieutenant, and looked to Cobham, and perhaps Cecil; later he appealed to George Lord Hunsdon too. Sir Thomas Sackville became Lord Buckhurst, earl of Dorset and lord treasurer,
W. J. Tighe, 'Courtiers and politics in Elizabethan Herefordshire: Sir James Croft, his friends and his foes ', forthcoming in Historical Journal, XXXII ( I 989).
' P. W. Hasler (ed.), The house ofcommons, 155&1603 (3 vols., London, 1981)(hereafter H. of C.), I, 180-3;D.N.B. sub Henry Brooke; J. J. McGurk, 'The lieutenancy in Kent, c. 158-1620' (unpublished M.Phil, thesis, University of London, 1971).My explanation differs from P. Clark's in Englishprovincial society from the Reformation to the Revolution (Hassocks, I 977),which does not allow for the local origins and power bases of contenders.
Clark, Englishprovincial society, pp. 136-8, 255-60. However, it was not odd that a Cecil friend
could preserve polite relations with Leicester -the two co-operated from 1570: S. Adams, 'Eliza
enthroned? The Court and its politics' in C. Haigh (ed.), The reign ofElizabeth I (London, 1984),
PP 63, 75.
95O HISTORICAL JOURNAL
maintaining his lethal combination of local and Court-based power in his disputes with Leveson from the 15gos, far into James's reign.
The gentry of Kent struggled for supremacy over any issue which came to hand. There were conflicts between the magistrates of east and west Kent, in which the Westerners prevented the alternate quarter seasons at Canterbury, and used only Maidstone in 1596. There were quarrels over the Medway navigation between 1580 and 1600, and battles for control of manors with important freeholders. There were disputes over the lieutenancy, against Leveson as deputy lieutenant and, between 1603 and 1612, against Sir Edward Wotton as lord lieutenant. But these were simply occasions for the wider conflict, in which the real issues were power and prestige, and major politicians were embroiled. The competing interests appealed for extra Court assistance when their needs became pressing, and Essex's efforts in the 1590s on behalf of the Sidneys probably encouraged Robert Cecil to help the others more.
At least four of the competing figures -Sidney, Cobham, Buckhurst and Hunsdon were doubly embroiled in Kent's county competition; not simply as magnates with Kentish lands and interests, but also as courtiers, with reputation at the centre and clients to maintain. This double dimension partly explains the bitterness of Kentish politics -success was sought both for local prestige, and to demonstrate courtly prowess. No wonder one Kentishman bewailed this 'faction ...I fear we shall soon see it worse than Nottinghamshire'!' Kent had all the usual factors, but the presence of powerful and competing Court interests exacerbated friction. But after the disgrace of Essex in 1601, and especially the fall of Cobham in 1604, Court connexions were less disruptive and the county's political scene became calmer.
If Wiltshire, Herefordshire, and Kent were warring counties which became more peaceful, Elizabethan Norfolk was a peaceful county which turned to war." In the I 560s, the fourth duke of Norfolk's personal power enabled him to dominate his county and control appointments to office. But his execution in 1572 changed the political structure by removing his stabilizing rule; Norfolk county politics were disrupted for the rest of the century as the gentry vied for supremacy. Hassell Smith has vividly shown the results, as each faction fought bitterly for available posts. During the 1580s and I~~OS,every office became a prize in the contest, from which opponents must be excluded by all possible means. Ideological issues intruded too, notably in the conflicts between the conservative Bishop Edmund Freake and the godly gentry, which also affected the distribution of local office. The leading J.P.s' differing views about the correct way to govern a county also caused troubles; this issue was more pronounced in Norfolk than was the Wiltshire J.P.s' argument with Hertford over the lieutenancy. Hassell Smith believes that towards the end of the century the Heveningham group followed a 'court ' line in policies, while the Bacon alliance espoused a 'country' one. But each side intrigued with, and received assistance from, Court contacts: otherwise no gains could be made. So both had been Court parties too.
In Suffolk, the power of the Howards had been less significant than in Norfolk, so the fall of the fourth Duke had a less disruptive effect. Diarmaid MacCulloch is certainly right that Suffolk avoided the sort of conflict which troubled Norfolk's ruling elite." But his own evidence suggests that it does belong in a category of factious shires,
Clark, English prouincial society, p. 264. "Norfolk material from A. Hassell Smith, County and court: gouernment and politics in No'ol-folk 1558-1603(Oxford, 1g74),esp. pp. 18e98, and ch. 14. l1 D. MacCulloch, SUI and the Tudors: politics and religion in an English county 1500--1600 (Oxford, 1986).
compared with truly peaceful counties such as Hertfordshire or Essex. Factional division, as in Wiltshire, hinged on competition for power and its exercise through local office. The power-hungry Lord Keeper Nicholas Bacon tried to challenge the duke of Norfolk's leadership, in the 1560s. Religious cleavage exacerbated the division; Bishop Parkhurst observed 'discention as well for religion as otherwise ' in I 564.12 Conservative families stood with the duke, while the solid Protestants formed a separate force -the 'Wentworth-Wingfield group'. The two alliances were fairly equally matched in the 156os, according to MacCulloch. After the duke's death, some of his clientage merged into the Heveningham-Cornwallis group, later aligning with Bishop Freake. As in Norfolk, the bishop exacerbated the tensions, as he sought to have his own allies made
J.P.s to harass the godly: these conflicts polarized the Suffolk magistracy in the late 1570s and early 1580s. The differing alignments persisted, for a letter of 1592 requested an indifferent jury, 'nott such as stande in fear of Sir Arthur Heveningham or that lyve under anye of the C~rnwallisses'.'~ There were disputes over administrative patents, militia matters and, in 1596-7, the collection of ship money. So although conflict may have been less severe and wide-ranging than in Norfolk, parties of Suffolk gentry did contend for power, and appointments to the commission of the peace were weapons in their battle.
In Elizabethan Northumberland, conflict began for reasons similar to those in Norfolk: alteration of the policital structure.14 The Percies, earls of Northumberland, had traditionally ruled the county. The queen and Cecil distrusted his power on the border, and backed Sir John Forster from 1560 as warden of the middle march. This crucial post gave its holder control over military organization; but it also created a focus of crown power in opposition to the traditional noble leadership of the Percies a factor which propelled the earl into the unsuccessful northern rising of 1569. The consequent eclipse of Percy prestige opened the way for Forster and other gentry parties to compete more vigorously. Forster's chief opponents were Sir Cuthbert Collingwood and his friends, and from the mid-1580s to the early 15gos, murderous affrays between their factions took gentry lives. The queen and privy council allowed this violent factionalism to continue, although it damaged security in a vital area.
The situation in Northumberland was more complicated than a local two-party fight: the earl of Huntingdon, lord president of the council in the North, and Lord Hunsdon, governor of Berwick, also took sides, with Collingwood and Forster respectively. So the border offices brought extra Court interference, at the same time as producing additional local power for Forster and his successors. That made the local gentry try harder to reduce the warden's authority. A potent reason why no victor emerged in Northumberland for three decades, while local government and the people's safety suffered grievously, was that each competitor had Court favour. Elizabeth and Robert Cecil backed Forster, in spite of his extreme age, greed, and incompetence. Collingwood's faction relied on Walsingham and Huntingdon. But this does not necessarily mean that it was courtiers who fomented faction in the counties. There was trouble in Northumberland before and after the severe Court rivalries of the 1590s-the competing interests in the county sought strength where they could find it, and appealed for support to courtiers engaged in their own struggles.
In counties such as Wiltshire and Kent, ferocious competition for power eased in
l2 Ibid. pp. 95-100, 192-205. l3 Ibid, p. loo.
l4 S.J. & S. Watts, From border to mzddle shire: Northumberland 15861625 (Leicester, 1975) ;C. Cross, Thepuritan earl: the life of Heny Hastings, third earl ofHuntingdon (London, 1966), pp. 159-66, 223-4; D.N.B. sub Henry Carey.
95* HISTORICAL JOURNAL
James's reign, but in other shires there was serious conflict after 1603. Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Worcestershire belong in this category. In the Lincolnshire quarrels, factions formed behind Sir Richard Williamson and Sir William Hickman, each side prosecuting its opponents and protecting its allies.15 The J.P.s of one side would call a private sessions, empanel a carefully chosen jury, and enter judgement against their rivals. The earl of Lincoln also used such chicanery in efforts to conquer his enemy Sir Edward Dymock. Undersheriffs and bailiffs helped to pervert the course ofjustice, and tenants took sides too. High passions led to a major riot in I 604, involving rival factions ofjustices and their partisans. This is a familiar story in factious counties, and only the occasions of conflict varied from area to area. From 1609 the Lincolnshire troubles centred on the repair of the Boston sluice, which remained in disrepair during twenty years of dispute. As in Wiltshire and Norfolk, good government mattered less than advantage to gentry 'ambitious of honour and reputation'.
Yorkshire likewise saw factions seeking to use local government and law courts to try to win the prestige and domination they sought. County elections provoked fierce contests involving some of the families prominent in other northern faction-fighting: Stanhopes, Saviles and Talbots.16 In the West Riding from 1597 to 1610, Sir Stephen Proctor and Sir Timothy Whittingham led one side. They contended against established neighbouring gentry whose recusant sympathies provided ammunition to discredit and preferably dismiss them from local office. Each side succeeded in having some of its enemies imprisoned, for a time. Eventually, despite initial successes, it was Proctor who failed and had to quit political life -an illustration of the perils of unsuccessful contention. But his departure failed to produce peace.
The competition between Sir John Savile and Sir Thomas Wentworth in the West Riding embittered local politics from at least 1614 to the 1630s.'~ Simple lust for power propelled the leaders, although issues such as catholicism and resistance to government taxation intruded in the 1620s. But these served as further fuel for existing fires. As Savile 'maketh use of his authority to satisfy his own ends', so did Wentworth. Both relentlessly lobbied Buckingham.la Fortunes fluctuated, and Savile ousted Wentworth from the custos-ship in 1626, while three major Wentworth allies suffered dismissal as
J.P.s. Wentworth's revenge came in 1628 when he became lord president of the council in the North. J. T. Cliffe's analysis of these struggles stresses the differences in terms of Savile leading a Court party, while Wentworth's was a country party. But as in other counties, both sides needed influence at Court for the gains made: Wentworth's support was from Weston and Buckingham; Savile's was mainly from Buckingham, whose death reduced Savile's power.
Religion ranked higher in Worcestershire than in Yorkshire as an overt divisive
l5 C. Holmes, Seventeenth centuy Lincolnshire (History of Lincolnshire, VII, Lincoln, 1980), pp.
79-104. Holmes, pp. 99-101, suggests such disputes disrupted good government, and the Wilts.
and Northumberland evidence confirms this, but cf. A. Fletcher, Rdorm in the provinces: the
government of Stuart England (London, 1986), p. 145.
l6 H. ofC., I, 280--84; G. C. F. Forster, 'Faction and county government in Stuart Yorkshire', Northern Histoy, XI (1976 for 1g7j), esp 72-3. Yorkshire in I 587 had suffered more dismissals of
J.P.s than any other county, reflecting political trouble as well as Burghley's clean-up policy: notables like Sir Edward Dymock, Fairfax, and Savile were dismissed, B. L. Lansd. MS IZI/IO, esp. fo. 70.
l7 J. T. Cliff'e, The Yorkshire genty from the Reformati to the Civil War (London, 1969), ch. '3. ls Ibid. p. 282 ;R. Lockyer, Buckingham :the life and career ofGeorge Villiers,frst duke ofBuckingham (London, 1984), PP. 40-1, 332.
issue; prestige and geography also provoked conflict.'' At the close of Elizabeth's reign, leading protestant families were prominent, but conservative or catholic sympathizers desired office too. In the 1601 election, the council supported the protestant Sir Thomas Leighton's candidature for parliament, although he met with 'opposition made out of faction'- the conservative faction." In 1604, there was another bitter dispute, when Sir John Pakington drew electoral support from the catholic faction, while the Protestants searched for a counter-candidate. Robin Silcock considers that a North-South split within Worcestershire also affected competition for office and power, though less vitally. The council knew well enough that trouble threatened among the gentry, for in 1620 it issued a prohibition against carrying weapons at the county court. There are hints of the kind of political contention which can be more clearly exposed for other counties, but the court connexions are not clear.
In Wiltshire, Herefordshire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Northumberland, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Worcestershire, groups of gentry contended in the sphere of county government. Competition embittered political and social life in these counties, and in some created long-lasting cleavages -although in others victory for one side apparently allowed harmony to follow. Since appointment to office depended partly on some central government agency, all the factions sought support there too, and it is this that makes the skein of inter-dependent county conflicts and Court favour hard to unravel. Penry Williams's warning, that county division only dimly reflected that of the Court until the 15gos,~l applies to the counties we have so far considered. And even in the I~~OS,
gentry in the shires often sought other patrons at the same time as reaching for the help of Cecil or Essex at the height of their own competition. Essex in particular tried to establish a clientage in the localities, but mainly in Wales, Staffordshire, Kent, and perhaps Norfolk. So although Court splits may have encouraged factionalism, it was because they provided avenues of influence for gentry alliances who wanted to compete anyway.
Competition for control of office between parties of gentry characterized the counties discussed so far. They differed in detail -in access to Court favour, in the size of the groups, and in the specific local problems -but they were similar in essentials. It is noticeable that these were all counties which lacked a dominating local magnate, and in Norfolk, Suffolk and Northumberland troubles among the gentry followed the collapse of a powerful noble family. But the presence of a peer did not guarantee peace: in some counties it provoked a different type of party warfare. The earls of Derby lorded it over Cheshire and Lancashire, while by contrast, the marquis of Winchester and his allies met well-organized resistance from Hampshire gentry. There were similar fights between nobles and gentry in Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan. For a peer could find his desire for dominance challenged by gentry alliances, using all the usual tactics of faction both locally and in the central government and law courts.
In Hampshire the clash of Elizabethan protestantism against religious conservatism was a factor in the opposition to the claims of William Paulet, marquis of Winchester; but so was power.22 Ronald Fritze has shown how the marquis formed a conservative
lo R. H. Silcock, 'County government in Worcestershire, 1603-1660' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1974). 20 H. of C., I, 278-80; J. W. Willis-Bund, 'Political history ', Victoria County History (hereafter V.C.H.), Worcestershire,11, 2 I 2-1 7.
P. Williams, 'The crown and the counties' in Haigh (ed.) Reign ofElizabeth, p. 141.
22 R. H. Fritze, 'The role of family and religion in the local politics of early Elizabethan England: the case of Hampshire in the 156o's', Historical Journal, xxv, 2 (1982), 267-87.
954 HISTORICAL JOURNAL
faction in attempts to rule the county in the 1560s. But a cohesive faction of zealous Protestants, led by the Kingsmill, Gifford, Wallop and Norton kinship alliance, thwarted his ambitions. Fritze's analysis of the electoral manoeuvring of 1566 suggests that a secular struggle for dominance occurred alongside that to establish protestantism. But the committed Protestants won both, with the decline of the Paulet faction by about 1570. The protestant alliance had won greater support from the government, in spite of the marquis's high national office.
The notoriously factious county of Nottinghamshire shared some features with Hamp~hire.'~
The religious conservatism of the aristocratic claimant to authority, and zeal for the protestant faith among the opponents, was a factor in the acrimonious struggles against the seventh earl of Shrewsbury and his supporters. Further, some of the great county families, led by the Stanhopes, bitterly resented his pretensions to the former Talbot supremacy. From 1590, the Stanhope faction used all the offices of the county in efforts to block the earl's interest. Disorders probably were not planned, but sprang from the passions of the contest, especially after the 1593 ele~tion.'~
One reason why the Stanhope faction could keep up its momentum lies in Sir John Stanhope's office at Co~rt.'~
Another was royal distrust of the Talbots: Elizabeth and James were reluctant to favour Shrewsbury, so gentlemen felt free to fight him. After his death in 1616, however, the county apparently accepted Cavendish supremacy. But the political complexion differed. As new men, dependent on Court influence, the Cavendishes' ability to help the gentry through patronage outweighed the desires of those gentry for untrammelled control of local government. Shrewsbury, like Hertford in Wiltshire, had lacked Court favour, and therefore the county's forbearance. But this cannot be the whole story, for, as we shall see, Shrewsbury successfully held sway in Derbyshire.
A magnate family facing some gentry opposition was also the pattern in Glamorgan, where an alliance of local families used the law and violence against the earls of Pembroke and their friends. The faction's excuse was the supposed usurpation of the monarch's rights by the earls; they insisted that the county did not need a 'great and mighty lord to terrify '.26 But Penry Williams's elegant analysis shows that the gentry nevertheless wished to exploit Pembroke patronage: fear and favour conflicted as motives. The second earl's position grew difficult when Essex, the new rival star, tried to build up a following in Welsh offices. But both stars waned together: Essex's disgrace, and the Herberts' humiliation in Star Chamber in 1598, calmed Glamorgan politics thereafter.
The Herberts' position in Wiltshire forms a contrast with their Welsh brawls. One would expect the earls to attempt to dominate Wiltshire local government too, but Herbert influence was limited largely to Salisbury, and to parliamentary seats. A large proportion of the Herbert parliamentary nominees sat in other counties." The second
23 J. R. Dias, 'Politics and administration in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, 159~-1640' (unpublished D.Phil, thesis, University of Oxford, 1973); Clark, English prouincial society, p. 264. Disputes were not as deadly as in Wiltshire or Northumberland, where gentry were killed as a result.
24 W. T. MacCaffrey, 'Talbot and Stanhope: an episode in Elizabethan politics', Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research (hereafter B.I.H.R.), xxxrrr (rg60), 73-85. 25 Stanhope was Treasurer of the Chamber: D. Loades, The Tudor Court (London, 1986),p.
204. 28 P. Williams, 'County government', Glamorgan County History, rv (Cardiff, rg74), 143-201,
esp. p. 186. 27 Wiltshire had 34 seats, an exceptional number -Wilton, and sometimes Downton and Old
and third earls of Pembroke apparently influenced few appointments of Wiltshire J.P.s, and the men they placed in parliament were rarely leading Wiltshire gentry. The Thynnes, who had risen on Seymour influence, were often on bad terms with the second earl, who in 1598 asked Cecil to favour a Herbert servant against John Thynne. During 1593, Pembroke had been an ally of the Thynne-Knyvet-Long faction; he was not viewed as a tyrannical magnate to be cut down to size as he was in Glamorgan. The Wiltshire gentry accepted the second earl because he did not seek domination: as lord lieutenant, his relations with deputies were amiable, and he left them to do the work. 'By reason of his far absence' from the county, the gentry had free play for their own power struggles up till his death in 1601. His son utterly despised county politics, and spent his time and his enthusiasm in London, the Court, and parliament; so the third earl provoked no county confli~ts.~~
Noble attempts to control a county became most noticeable, and most conflict- ridden, in transition. An effort to achieve noble domination, or a decline in a magnate's power, created tensions. When the earl of Hertford sought rule of Wiltshire after the death of the second earl of Pembroke in 1601, he reckoned without the gentry's implacable resistance. The earl of Shrewsbury's efforts to dominate Nottinghamshire were undermined by royal disfavour and effectively frustrated by the resistance of a faction which combined significant local support with Court succour. Determined gentry factions, with Court backing, could make such domination impossible to achieve or maintain. All the troubled counties we have considered had ambitious and power-hungry gentry, willing to spend energy and legal costs, seeking local prominence, and hence Court notice. The specific issues in contention varied: the pretensions of a peer; party dominance of the commission of the peace and of appointments to subsidy or militia office; differences in religion; and particular local problems, such as Medway navigation rights, counted in varying degree. The occasions of conflict differed, but in all these counties there was factionalism among the magistrates and competition for local power.
Not all counties suffered such struggles, however. Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Durham, Cheshire, Lancashire, Sussex and Essex were much more peaceful. But counties might be peaceful for different reasons. Hertfordshire is a special case, for, as Julie Calnan observes, the Cecil presence created a striking contrast with Wilt~hire.~'
What gentleman would dare to challenge the mighty Cecils on their own ground? Burghley's views on the dangers posed by gentry rivalry probably influenced any Hertfordshire hotheads, for there were smouldering brushfire disputes, which
Sarum returned Pembroke nominees but the remaining boroughs did not: V. A. Rowe, 'The influence of the earls of Pembroke on parliamentary elections 1625-41 ', English Historical Reuiew, LX (1935); S. T. Bindoff, 'Parliamentary history', V.C.H. Wilts, v, I 17-19; H. ofC., 1, 266-7, 272, 277; J. K. Gruenfelder, Injuence in early Stuart elections (Columbus, 1981), esp. pp. 124-30, 241 ;
M. Brennan, 'William 3rd earl of Pembroke and the M.P.s for Wilton', Wilts. Arch. Mag., LXXVIII (1984).
H.M.C. Salis., XI, 340, 361 ;T.P., rv, fo. 266; Wall, 'Faction in local politics', pp. 127-8; Acts of the priuy council 1597-8, p. 91; J. R. Briley, 'A biography of William Herbert, third earl of Pembroke ' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University ofBirmingham, 1961), passim. The 3rd earl was nearly always at London, or royal palaces. The second and third earls did not dominate Wiltshire as sometimes asserted, e.g. in J. Hurstfield, 'County government c. 153o-1660', V.C.H. Wilts., v,
29 J. Calnan, 'County society and local government in the county ofHertford c. 158o-c. 1630' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1978), esp. pp. 5, 34, 55, 165.
956 HISTORICAL JOURNAL
might have flared into conflagration elsewhere. Burghley wanted very small commissions of the peace because they were more efficient: the high proportion of hard-working J.P.s in Hertfordshire suggests he could be right. By contrast, in factious counties competition for office meant more justices, but often fewer who worked hard once appointed. Egerton was corect when he complained of many 'who came only ... to maintain and bear out causes and did nothing all year before nor after'.30
The absence of the bishops, who rarely resided in Hertfordshire, removed another possible source of friction. No Freake of Norwich or Curteys of Chichester troubled the Hertfordshire gentry. Even the earl of Essex's ambitions gained only one local post directly for his nominee. On this, the Cecils' home territory, Cecil and Essex seem to have co-operated: there was little point in Essex starting battles he could not win. In notable contrast with Norfolk in 1572, no wide-scale competition disturbed Hertfordshire on the death of its leading figure, in 1612. The Cecil heir was a nonentity, with little weight at Court, yet the habit of co-operation continued for two decades.
In Elizabeth's reign, aristocratic power also successfully ruled Lei~estershire.~' Henry Hastings, earl of Huntingdon, cousin of the queen and exponent of godly protestantism, secured co-operation in elections and in county government. The gentry readily accepted Hastings' monopoly of the lord lieutenancy, in contrast to the earl of Hertford's problems in Wiltshire and Pembroke's in Glamorgan. It may not be surprising that Hertfordshire and Leicestershire each willingly accepted domination by a very powerful magnate who had Court influence to offer incentives, or to browbeat opponents. But other magnates ruled successfully without such strong central support.
Queen Elizabeth disapproved of Gilbert Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury. Yet in spite of this, his failure in Nottinghamshire, and his Catholic sympathies, he controlled Derbyshire from 1590 to 1616.~' His relatives and friends monopolized the most craved-for posts -custos, deputy lieutenant, J.P. -and his sway went relatively unchallenged. He obtained the lord lieutenancy after James's accession, and his ascendancy lasted till his death in 1616. It is true that he had Robert Cecil's friendship to help him from about 1596, but this apparently assisted him only in Derbyshire, not Nottinghamshire. Jill Dias sees one reason for Shrewsbury's success in Derbyshire stemming from the seigneurial patronage from his extensive estates. If there were no gentry with sufficient landed power and an alternative route to the Court to challenge him, then even a relatively unpopular peer might prevail.
Other counties where a single powerful figure procured peace include Durham, Cheshire, Lancashire and, to some extent, Sussex. After the failure of the Northern rebellion had drastically reduced noble power in the region, the bishop was able to dominate county Durham. Bishops of Durham held the palatinate jurisdiction and landed endowments, with large revenues from coal and extensive opportunities for patronage.33 Aspiring gentry were understandably reluctant to oppose the source of such unusual manna. So, Mervyn James suggests, bishops Matthew Hutton and Toby Matthew could influence politics successfully, as long as no strong magnates remained outside their circle of influence to challenge them.
30 H.M.C. Salis., x, 182-3; see also Hawarde, Reportes, pp. I 59-60, 186-7, 368.
31 Cross, Puritan earl, esp. pp. I I 5-29, 159-65 ;J. C. Sainty, Lieutenants of counties, 1585-1642, B.I.H.R., special supplement no. 8 (1970), p. 26; H. Of C., I, 192.
3' Dias, 'Politics and admin. ', esp. ch. 5.
33 M. E. James, Family, lineage, and civil society: a study ofsociety, politics and mentality in the Durham region, 1500-1640(Oxford, 1974).
Similarly in Cheshire, the Stanleys, earls of Derby and by far the greatest landlords in the north-west, excited loyalty and dependence, rather than opposition, for nearly all of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.34 In 1612 John Ogle explained that for seventeen years he had been 'towardes the Right Honourable and Earles of Derby att all tymes upon comand request or warning'.35 As lord lieutenant, Derby quietly allowed his Cheshire deputies to do most of the work; clearly they accepted his direction without dispute. So he had no need for officious interference, and they probably had no other route to the Court, even if they had wished to disagree. The Stanleys monopolized the lieutenancy of Cheshire and Lancashire, which gave them direct patronage as well as a~thority.~~
In neighbouring Lancashire the Stanleys ruled successfully, too -perhaps more surprisingly, because it was a religiously divided county.37 The earls trod a tricky path, attracting convinced catholic as well as protestant followers. The difficult choice of men to be J.P.s lay partly in the earls' hands: some catholics remained on the commission, since their local power made them useful to good government. Although a new protestant oligarchy confronted the Stanleys about 1600, peace through Derby hegemony allowed only small fissures, not violent chasms. A period of acute religious violence may help to explain the exclusion of twenty-three J.P.s between 1601 and 1606, followed by some reinstatements. After the Gunpowder plot of 1605, however, catholics withdrew into political quiescence, removing one source of friction. This unrest had occurred during a period of temporary weakness in Stanley rule from 1593, as a result of inheritance problems -which points up their effectiveness at other times. The palatinate structures of Durham, Cheshire and Lancashire gave exceptional patronage to influential magnates, and so enhanced obedience to them. Much could be gained by co-operation: more might be lost by confrontation.
Sussex exemplifies the effectiveness of county rule by magnates with very strong Court links. For the county experienced two long calm phases, but an interim phase of contention when no noble ruled. As a county with wealthy gentry; with extremely severe religious divisions; and with an unusually large number of noble families likely to seek supremacy, it had all the factors which elsewhere led to bitter dispute over the personnel and control of office. However, from 1559 to 1569, Henry Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, lord lieutenant, privy councillor, and one-time suitor of Elizabeth, maintained contr01.~' But his loss of royal favour in 1570 allowed the county's potential for political
34 Evidence for the following two paras. is drawn from: B. Coward, The Stanleys, lords Stanley and earls ofDerby 1385-1672, (Chetham Soc., 30, 3rd ser., 1983) ; G. P. Higgins, 'The government of early Stuart Cheshire', ~V0~hern
Hist., XII (1g76), 32-52; G. P. Higgins, 'County government and society in Cheshire, c. 159~1640'(unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Liverpool, 1973), esp. pp. 29-30; R. B. Manning, 'The making of a protestant aristocracy: the ecclesiastical commissioners of the diocese of Chester, 155~98, B.I.H.R., XLIX (1976), 60-79.
35 Coward, The Stanleys, pp. I 18-20. 36 Higgins's view that Stanley influence mattered little in Cheshire politics seems disproved by Coward's and Manning's evidence: there was certainly no resistance to the earls' authority.
'' Coward, The Stanleys; Manning, 'Making of a protestant aristocracy'; B. W. Quintrell, 'Government in perspective: Lancashire and the privy council, 1570-1640', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, cxxx~(I g82), 35-62 ; C. Haigh, Reformation and resistance in Tudor Lancashire (Cambridge, 1975) ;D. J. Wilkinson, 'The justices of the peace and their work in Lancashire, 1603-42' (unpublished M.Litt. thesis, University of Oxford, 1982).
38 J. E. Mousley, 'Sussex county gentry in the reign of Elizabeth' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1956), esp. pp. 230-8; R. B. Manning, Religion and society in Elizabethan Sussex (Leicester, 1969), esp. ch. I I.
958 HISTORICAL JOURNAL
faction to be realized. Bishop Richard Curteys sought power, but met bitter gentry resistance in the I~~OS,
focusing on his use of ecclesiastical and also of secular power; he alienated the religious conservatives as well as the puritans and gained little support: his attempt failed.39
A major reason for the bishop's failure was the rise to control in Sussex of Thomas Sackville, a cousin of the queen. Sackville, created Lord Buckhurst, and later earl of Dorset, became lord lieutenant after Arundel's dismissal, jointly with the Catholic viscount Montag~.~OBuckhurst's Court prominence, in friendly alliance with Montagu's appeal to the conservative gentry, must have formed an invincible combination. For gentry attached to the earl of Northumberland or to Philip Howard, thirteenth earl of Arundel, lacked Court influence: those two nobles were politically suspect and went to prison for treason in 1584 and 1585. Buckhurst faced minor challenge from the Pelhams and Gorings after 1570 and especially in the 1584 election, but he increased his force by becoming a privy councillor through Burghley's influence in 1~86.~~
In 1588 his importance at Court was so great that Leicester was advised to seek reconciliation with Buckhurst to keep the queen's favour!42 Buckhurst's sphere of interest moved more to the Court, and to Kent when he moved to Knole in 1603. However, his influence on Sussex elections, and presumably other aspects of county government, seems to have remained strong enough to prevent the outbreak of factionalism. The Sackville Court influence ensured loyalty in Sussex, in the same way as the Cecils did in Hertfordshire.
The county seems to have remained reasonably calm in James's reign, despite less active control by Buckhurst. And Thomas Howard, restored to the Arundel title in 1604, exercised court and cultural interests rather than county and factious ones.43 He preferred a good painting to a good political confrontation, like the third earl of Pembroke who disdained county life and its petty politics. Surprisingly, the gentry worked together, until the mid 16nos, when the Pelhams renewed their attempt of 1571-84 and contested for a degree of local leadership with the Lunsfords and others.44 So a county which might perhaps have seen faction 'worse than Nottinghamshire' was instead one of the more peaceful in its local government.
These seven counties -Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Durham, Cheshire, Lancashire and Sussex -owed their comparative peace to effective magnate rule. But it needed special features for such rule to succeed. Exceptional Court influence, or unusual local power, mark out the successful magnates from the ones who tried, but failed, to dominate their counties and instead provoked factional warfare. But magnate rule, though the more frequent road to county peace, was not the only one.
The political peace of Essex is surprising, since it apparently shared some charac-
39 Manning, Religion and society, deals extensively with Curteys and his bitter contests. See also
E. A. W. Barnard, 'Lewis Bayly, bishop of Bangor (d. 1613), and Thomas Bayly (d. 1657) his son', Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1928-29 (1g30), I 12-11 for Bayly's quarrels with J.P.s 1616--1630.
40 Leicester complained that Hunsdon and Buckhurst 'were of the tribe of Dan and were noli me tangere', R. Naunton, Fragmenta Regalia (London, 1641), p. 7. Mousley, 'Sussex county gentry ', pp. 239-63; H. of C., I, 255-62; Adams, 'Eliza Enthroned', pp. 61,63,68, 70; D.N.B. sub Thomas Sackville; G.E.C. sub Anthony Browne, viscount Montagu.
41 H. of C., I, 255; Mousley, 'Sussex county gentry', pp. 263-8.
42 Mousley, pp. 243-9.
43 D.N.B. sub Thomas Howard (1585-1646).
44 A. Fletcher, A county communiu in peace and war: Sussex, 1600-1660 (London, 1g75), ch. 12.
teristics with factious counties.45 It was a county of prosperous gentry, and its
proximity to London might have tempted courtiers to build up factions there. But the
privy council exercised strong pressure to avoid any friction, with overt council
intervention in the elections of 1559, 1563, and 1588. In I 563 the council insisted that
Lord Rich agree to the election of the two county members from the previous
parliament, 'whom we all here thought meetest '. In 1584,Sir Thomas Heneage moved
to Essex, and his significant place at Court probably helped gentry acquiescence.
Further government influence late in the century saw Leicester imposed as lord
lieutenant in 1585-8, then Burghley until 1598From the end of the sixteenth century
onwards, however, the strongest impetus for peace moved from outside the county to
interests within it. Privy council pressure gave way to a one-party rule by the
Yet the gentry accepted that party, and neither they nor greater magnates contested for control. B. W. Quintrell suggests that the indolence of Robert Radcliffe, earl of Sussex, the lord lieutenant, combined with the indifference of Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, spared Essex from factional division in the early seventeenth century. In James's reign, the absence of factional conflict was partly related to the primacy of a county alliance so strong, and peddling policies so generally acceptable, that the rest did not oppose them. The chief magnate, Robert Rich, from 1618earl of Warwick, allied with the Barringtons and other leading godly gentry, families of the type who in other counties opposed peers. But Rich did not seek outright domination -he was never 'the deus ex machina of Essex politics'. Rich's group, with its strong protestantism, had a popular base too, and the Court took notice of the Rich family. Buckingham was friendly, for a time,46 but that does not sufficiently explain the county's apparent unity. Both local and Court interests did not compete in Essex, because the Rich-Barrington group was strong enough to keep them out, as well as popular enough to satisfy the county, and keep it from faction.
No simple factor explains why some counties were peaceful, while others experienced
prolonged political warfare. Both the geographical distribution and chronological
variation of faction in the shires depended on central policies as well as local
personalities and issues. One of the key factors in a county was the relationship between
the power of a resident peer, if any, and the independence of the local gentry. Magnate
rule in Derbyshire, Durham, Cheshire and Lancashire owed its success partly to the
magnates' extensive local patronage, partly to the relative poverty of many northern
gentry. This combination made it worth while for the gentry to co-operate, and seek
office and prestige through their magnate's Court links. In Norfolk, the duke of
Norfolk's own invincible patronage had offered sufficient inducement to richer gentry,
but when he died in 1572, ferocious competition broke out. And in three southern
counties, peers with unchallengeable central importance could impose peace by Court-
based domination, even upon wealthy and ambitious gentry. In Leicestershire, the earl
of Huntingdon's influence was stronger because he was related to the queen and known
45 Evidence for these paras. from Sainty, Lieutenants of counties, p. 20; H. of C., I, I 58, for privy council control; B. W. Quintrell, 'The government of the county of Essex, 1603-1642' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1965), who emphasizes harmony and achievement in Essex. W. Hunt, The Puritan moment: the coming of revolution in an English county (London, 1983), chs. 7 & 8, stresses the local popularity of the Rich-Barrington group. Perhaps caution is needed, however: the ejection of 40 J.P.s over a few years (Quintrell, pp. 42-3) may indicate greater political instability than Quintrell and Hunt suggest, B. L. Lansd. MS 53/84.
46 Lockyer, Buckingham, p. 261.
gGO HISTORICAL JOURNAL
to be a reliable royal servant. In Hertfordshire the Cecils were far too powerful to challenge. In Sussex, the earl of Arundel, the queen's suitor, ruled till 1569, and Buckhurst, the queen's cousin, from at least the late I~~OS,
in co-operation with Viscount Montagu. Gentry in these counties submitted fairly readily.
But in other counties the attempts of magnates to dominate met resistance. Rich independent-minded gentry could marshal1 sufficient local and Court influence to counter that of a local aristocrat. With such support, gentry could engineer the appointments and dismissals in county office which a faction needed to maintain itself against a magnate. The Hampshire coalition against the marquis of Winchester was aided by Bishop Horne's influence with the privy council, to dismiss opponents in 1564, and refuse appointment to others in 1569. The Stanhopes could succeed against the earl of Shrewsbury because of Sir John Stanhope's Court post as treasurer of the chamber from 1595-161 7. The Wiltshire gentry curtailing Seymour pretensions from 1601 combined all the Court allies of both factions. In the mid 1590s groups of Wiltshire and of Somerset gentry were sufficiently confident of their influence to ask the lord keeper to reinstate justices, and in one case at least they succeeded.47
Influence at Court was an equally vital factor in counties with warring gentry factions. For each side needed its avenues to influence at the centre, and had to be, in a sense, a Court party. So 'Court versus country' models of county conflict do not provide adequate explanations. Moreover, the Court influence itself was more complex than a simple division suggests. Until Buckingham's monopoly in the I~~OS,
faction leaders in the counties avoided hitching their local waggons to one specific Court star, even in the late 1590s As we have seen, both Wiltshire factions cultivated as many Elizabethan courtiers as they could. Likewise in Kent, Sir Robert Sidney received support from the earl of Essex, but in 1596 tried hard to retain Cecil's help too; in James's reign, Cecil remained a magnet to Kentish gentry.48 Elsewhere factions sought support from 'Skottyshe gentlemen' and especially from the H~wards.~"o Court rivalries themselves did not spawn county faction, though they might have nourished it. Essex's challenge to the Cecils in the 1590s possibly exacerbated some county tensions. But in most of the counties which saw bitter leadership struggles then, the contention had already started by the 1570s This was the case in Wiltshire, Kent, Norfolk, Northumberland and Glamorgan. In Hampshire, Sussex and Suffolk, contention had been more severe well before the 15gos, and they had then become relatively peaceful.
Given a sufficient level of Court assistance for county factions, the occasions they chose for conflict depended on current concerns. They fought over whatever spoils offered -but the major aim was always victory in the battle. Religious differences added to the struggles in Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and Nottinghamshire certainly. War created more scope for aspiring county leaders, from 1585 to 1604 and again in the 1620s. The consequent competition for deputy lieutenancies and lesser militia offices required patronage from local or central sources.50 So did the war subsidies, for faction leaders wanted to become subsidy commissioners; allegations of partiality to their allies and over-assessment of opponents' friends and tenants probably
47 B. L. Harl. MS 6996154; 6997169, fo. 135; P.R.O. Index 4208, p. 16.
48 Clark, English provincial society, p. 260; H.M.C. Salis., VI, 246, see also p. 31 I.
49 C. Holmes, Seventeenth century Lincolnshire, pp. 102-3; L. L. Peck, Northampton: patronage ana
policy at the Court ofs7ames I (London, 1982), esp. ch. 3.
D. Hirst, 'Court, country, and politics before 1629' in K. Sharpe, Faction and parliament: essays on early Stuart history (Oxford, 1978), pp 118-19.
reflected their use of that office. There were always the other prizes to be won through central patronage: surveyorships, keeperships of royal forests, and office in the central government itself, so faction leaders intrigued for these as well.
They fought over the choice of sessions town too, in Wiltshire, Kent, North- amptonshire, Westmorland and probably el~ewhere.~~ some For gentry a nearby town obviously held advantages, in the choice of jurymen and by reducing the attendance of rivals. One might expect the counties in which quarter sessions always met at a centralized town to suffer more strife, since justices encountered each other more frequently, giving additional opportunities to fall out. In Kent and the East Riding of Yorkshire this factor perhaps increased dispute, but not in Essex. The sessions rotated between towns in Wiltshire, the North Riding, Derbyshire and Cheshire which might have reduced conflict -but the first two experienced bitter faction, with riots at the quarter sessions in 1589 in Wiltshire. Cheshire may have been calmer both because of the earl of Derby's control, and the greater distances so that all gentry did not attend all sessions. Two out of seven counties where the sessions split into separate meetings were peaceful: Sussex and Lancashire. The latter's geographical area and the hard- ships of travel did mean that J.P.s usually attended only the session nearest them. But other factors provoking faction were stronger in Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and the West Riding, where decentralized sessions were usual, but faction reigned.
Though the incidence of political conflict was always governed by local circumstance, it seems that Elizabethan England was more disturbed by widespread county faction than were the following three decades. The main reason was that Elizabethan policy towards commissions of the peace differed from that of James. The lord keepers' complaints about pressure among the gentry to become J.P.s points up a paradoxical flaw in policy. For William Cecil firmly believed that small county commissions were more efficient and less factious than large ones.52 So between 1561 and the close of the reign, the government made at least seven efforts to dismiss justices in order to secure a small, hardworking, loyal, protestant, peaceable magistracy. Religion caused problems, as in 1564 when the bishops reported, and many justices were dismissed: in Sussex a quarter were removed.53 The I 587 purge to improve peace on the commissions led to dismissals in counties where faction raged : twelve in Wiltshire including a faction leader (Walter Long), nine or more in Norfolk.54 During the worst period of faction in Wiltshire (1592-3) twelve new justices were made; but about a dozen were dismissed in June 1593, yet all reappeared the following year.55 In 1595, the lord keeper announced the removal of all county J.P.s whom the queen or the assize justices
51 Clark, English provincial society, pp. I 14, 145-6; Fletcher, Reform in the provinces, pp. 100-5;
M. J. Leppard, 'Quarter sessions in Elizabethan Sussex', Sussex Archeological Collections, cxvlll (19801, 388-9.
H.M.L. Salis., x, 182-3; Hawarde, Reportes, pp. 106, 159-60, 186-7, 368; Calnan, County society ...Hertford' ;Hassell Smith, County and court, pp. 83-6. M. Bateson, 'A collection oforiginal letters from the bishops to the privy council, 1564, in Camden Miscellany, IX(Camden Soc., n.s. LIII, 1895). B. L. Lansd. MS 53 & Lansd. MS I~I/IOdemonstrate government concern about the number and suitability ofjustices in 1587 Some hundreds had too many J.P.s, others too few 'which breedeth many tymes a faction in the one, and Tyrannie in the other', Lansd. 53/85.
53 Mousley, 'Sussex county gentry', pp. 250-3.
54 B. L. Lansd. MS I 2 1/10, fos. 6S7 ; Hassell Smith, County and court, p. 84.
55 B.L. microfilm of Salisbury MS 278; Kent Record Office U. 350.03; P.R.O. C66/1421,
143.5; E372/438, 439, 440.
gG2 HISTORICAL JOURNAL
thought 'not meete'.56 Nearly a quarter were put off in Norfolk, twenty-six in Kent, twenty-one in Suffolk, and about a dozen in Wilt~hire.~~
But nearly all were soon reappointed -Court intervention on grounds 0fJ.P.s' fitness for office was manipulated for county ends by factional interests. The suitability of Thomas Snell, who was twice dismissed and twice reinstated, did not change four times in three years, but the influences on the lord keeper did.
The unintended result of Cecil's policy was to increase, rather than reduce, tension and competition. The intention to have small commissions inevitably led to contests: large numbers of gentry were pressing for restricted numbers of places, while purges gave opportunities for the removal of enemies. It was essential for gentry wishing to exercise power to keep their own supporters in office, especially if a purge threatened: Heveningham, Knyvet, Stanhope and Savile understood their own interests correctly. So every post to 'friends' was a triumph, but everyone to the opposition a disaster. The prospect of dismissals increased bitterness: both the fear of losing supporters, and the hope of ejecting enemies, compelled frantic lobbying, and led to the dramatic swings in political fortune.
Under James this changed. The lord chancellor continued to rail, as in 1608, that numbers increased although many did nothing, only 'pressing for place, countenaunce, and e~timacyon'.'~ But the Elizabethan efforts to keep the numbers down did not continue. In 1607 and 1622 rumours of impending dismissals of puritan J.P.s proved unfounded, and the magistracy continued to expand.59 In Wiltshire, the number of local justices grew from about 34 after the purges of 1593 and 1595, to 54 in 161 3, and 61 in 1618-2 I ; and sons of existing J.P.s were no longer excluded. There were similar increases in other counties. In consequence, the most bitter pressure to get supporters into restricted local office subsided: lax Jacobean policy allowed larger numbers of justices, but it provoked less disruption of county government than had the more careful Elizabethan approach. Pride and precedence still caused local strife, for ambitious domineering men sought power through local office -men like Dymock and Proctor, Savile and Wentworth. The persistence of county struggles for supremacy during the reign of James shows that conflict originated in the counties. It sprang from the desire of the gentry for advancement, rather than from the designs of the courtiers for allies in the shires.
Peace in county politics depended on an uneven distribution of patronage, where no one alliance commanded supremacy. If competing groups of gentlemen could each command local following and Court favour, factional warfare could last for decades. Similarly, gentry could successfully oppose noble aspirations for domination only where there was an alternative access to Court. But if the balance of patronage tipped heavily toward one peer or one party, the competitors gave up an unequal struggle. Gentlemen who wanted seats on the bench, places in the lieutenancy, the rewards
56 Hawarde, Reportes, p. 20.
57 Hassell Smith, County and court, p. 85; Clark, Englishprouincial sociep, p. 261 (Clark identifies at least 4 Essex supporters and suggests that the other 22 probably reflect some factional pressures); MacCulloch, Suffolk, Appendices I & III; for Wilts: P.R.O. C6611435, 1468; SP 13 Case F no. I I ;E372/440,441; B. L. Harl, MS 6997169, fo. 135 (Nov. 1595) ; P.R.O. Index 4208,
p. 16 (23 Dec. 1595), p. 100 (5th July 1598). 58 Hawarde, Reportes, p. 368. 59 C.S.P.D. 1603-10, p. 368; Diay qf Walter Yonge, Esquire, 1604-28,Camden Sac. (1847), p.
which influence could bring -and almost all of them did -joined a winning alliance. In the battle for power and place, there was no future on a losing side, and only malcontents chose wilful exclusion. The ambitions of the gentry were uniform: it was the pattern of county politics which determined how disruptive those ambitions would be.