RIGBY, Edward (1627-86), of Preston, Lancs.

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

Constituency

Dates

7 Aug. 1660
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 15 Apr. 1627, 3rd s. of Alexander Rigby, and bro. of Alexander Rigby. educ. G. Inn, entered 1641, called 1649, ancient 1662; Emmanuel, Camb. 1642. m. (1) c.1650, Alice, da. of Sir Thomas Wilsford of Ileden, Kent, 4s. 2da.; (2) 12 Oct. 1665, Anne, da. of Sir Francis Molyneux, 2nd Bt., of Tevershall, Notts., s.p. (3) lic. 26 June 1671, Sarah, da. of one Wells of Cheshire, wid. of one Skinner, and of John Young, Draper, of Cornhill, London, s.p.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Preston 1642; commr. for defence, Lancs. 1645, assessment 1645, Aug. 1660-80; elder, Preston classis 1646; j.p. Lancs. 1647-8, July 1660-80; v.-chamberlain, county palatine of Chester ?Aug. 1660-2; KC, duchy of Lancaster Nov. 1660-80; steward of borough court, Preston 1662-84; commr. for corporations, Lancs. 1662-3; bencher, G. Inn 1671; commr. for recusants, Lancs. 1675.2

Serjeant-at-law 1675-d.

Biography

Rigby was still under age when named to the county committee and found fit to be a Presbyterian elder, presumably on the strength of his father’s military exploits in the Civil War. As a law student in London, he ran into debt, but managed to escape the worst consequences by securing parliamentary privilege as his father’s menial servant. But the Commons rejected his application to succeed a royalist cousin as clerk of the crown for Lancashire. Rigby was a good enough Presbyterian to abstain from political activity and office during the Interregnum; apart from building up his practice he was chiefly occupied in asserting the rights in Maine which he had inherited from his father. He was unsuccessful, but not before it had been rumoured that he was to be made governor-general of New England.3

At the Restoration, Rigby showed more flexibility than his elder brother, whom he succeeded as Member for Preston in the Convention. He probably owed his seat, like his appointment as vice-chamberlain of Chester, to the Earl of Derby. A moderately active Member, he was named to 15 committees, of which the most important was to bring in a bill for modified episcopacy. His maiden speech was on the Lords’ bill to restore Lord Derby to his estates; he was the only Member to speak in its favour. He also defended the conduct of Lord Derby’s soldiers in Lancashire.4

There was a double return for Preston in 1661, but Rigby’s name was on both indentures and he took his seat, though he was soon to be removed by Lord Derby from his office as vice-chamberlain. This may have been due to the activities of his cousin of the Aspull branch, who was reported to be resisting the remodelling of the Preston corporation ‘merely from a wish to oppose the Earl of Derby’. Listed as a friend by Lord Wharton, Rigby was an active legislator in the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to 287 committees, for nine of which he took the chair, and acted as teller in eight divisions; but he seldom spoke. In the first session his committees included those for the corporations and uniformity bills, the bill of pains and penalties, and the bill for the execution of those under attainder; but he took no part in measures directed against dissent after the additional corporations bill of 1662, though as steward of the borough court he duly repudiated the Covenant. He became something of a specialist on highway laws, acting as chairman of two committees and as teller against the first turnpike bill in 1663. On 30 Apr. he was ordered to bring in a bill to cancel all deeds and securities given by Royalists to the late usurped powers. He was chiefly responsible for steering through the House the estate bills of his neighbours, Richard Kirkby and Viscount Molyneux. Another committee of local interest which he chaired was to consider the bill empowering the chancellor of the duchy to appoint commissioners for affidavit. He opposed the bill to prohibit Irish cattle imports in 1666, acting as teller for the Court for the deletion of the word ‘nuisance’. In the first nine sessions of the Cavalier Parliament he brought no fewer than seven cases of privilege before the House, ranging from encroachment on his office as vice-chamberlain to the utterance of ‘reproachful words tending to the dishonour of this House’ by a hackney coachman.5

Rigby played no known role in the attack on Clarendon after his dismissal in 1667; but in the same session he was appointed to several committees of political importance, including those to consider restraints on juries, the impeachment of Lord Mordaunt, and the taking of public accounts. In 1668 he was named to the habeas corpus committee, and was one of the Members entrusted with amending the articles of impeachment of Henry Brouncker. Sir Thomas Osborne listed him among those who usually voted for supply. He helped to draw up reasons for a conference with the Lords on the jury bill on 16 Nov. 1670. He was one of the committee for the general test bill in 1674, and henceforward was named to most of the important anti-Papal committees till the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament. In 1675 he was prominent in the dispute between the Houses over Shirley v. Fagg, taking part in two conferences, and acting as teller against the motion to send Sir John Churchill to the Tower. He was also appointed to committees for the appropriation of the customs, the recall of British subjects from French service, and the better preservation of the liberty of the subject. Osborne, now Lord Treasurer Danby, noted in his working lists about this time that the King was to speak to the lord chancellor about him, and presumably as a consequence Rigby was made serjeant-at-law. It was hoped to recruit him as a government speaker, but in 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman reported: ‘Serjeant Rigby expresseth himself downright that he is not taken notice of. My lord chancellor, if your lordship pleases, may know so much.’ Although he was one of the three Lancashire Members who Sir Richard Wiseman recommended should not be summoned to attend in 1677, he was regarded by Shaftesbury as ‘doubly vile’. The author of A Seasonable Argument alleged that he had been promised a Welsh judgeship. On 15 Feb. 1678 he acted as teller with Evan Seys for the Lords’ bill to reduce the penalties for recusancy, which was indignantly rejected by the House. During the autumn session in one of his rare speeches, he attacked Lord Chancellor Finch (who never came up to expectations in the matter of the Welsh judgeship) for delays in issuing commissions to take the oaths. He helped to draft the address for the apprehension of Papists in towns on 28 Nov., but a fortnight later was found to have departed the service of the House without leave (which he was usually most punctilious about seeking).6

Although included in the opposition list of the ‘unanimous club’, Rigby was re-elected for Lancaster in both elections of 1679. He was chiefly responsible for marshalling the country interest in the hotly contested county election in February. Nevertheless Shaftesbury marked him as ‘vile’. In the first Exclusion Parliament he was again active, with 17 committees, but the nearest he came to involvement in the Popish Plot was to take the chair of the committee to investigate fires in London. In this capacity he seems to have obliged Shaftesbury by letting him have an advance copy of his report. He was also chairman of the committee on fish and cattle imports. He voted for the exclusion bill, and on the allegations of bribery in the last Parliament demanded the names of the guilty Members.7

In the second Exclusion Parliament Rigby was very active, being named to 18 committees; he took part in drawing up the reply to the King’s message of 9 Nov 1680 and acted as chairman of the inquiry into abhorring. He was also one of the Members who drew up the address for a fast and the articles of impeachment against Edward Seymour. On the second exclusion bill he said: ‘True Protestants will not go from their religion because of a Popish prince, and therefore I am against the preamble’. Rigby probably stood down in 1681 to provide a safe seat for Sir Robert Carr, though he was so familiar a figure in Parliament that his name was automatically put down to prepare for a conference.8

Rigby and Sir Charles Hoghton were the only gentlemen to appear for the Hon. Charles Gerard at the county election of 1685, though he typically hedged his bets by backing court candidates at Wigan where his family had some influence. Nevertheless he was himself defeated at Preston, and on Monmouth’s invasion he was arrested and imprisoned in Chester Castle, probably to ensure the return of Andrew Newport at the by-election of 11 June. He died of apoplexy in July 1686 and was buried at Goosnargh. His grandson, unsuccessful at Preston in 1689, sat for the borough in 1701 and from 1705 till his death in 1706.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Irene Cassidy

Notes