STRANGWAYS, Giles (1615-75), of Stinsford Melbury Sampford, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. 3 June 1615, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Sir John Strangways. educ. Wadham, Oxf. 1629-32; travelled abroad (France) 1632-3. m. 1635 (with £10,000), Susanna, da. and coh. of Thomas Edwards, Mercer, of London and Wadhurst, Suss., 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. suc. fa. 1666.1
Freeman, Weymouth 1640, Poole Nov. 1660, Lyme Regis 1662; j.p. Dorset by 1640-5, July 1660-d., commr. for assessment 1640, Aug. 1660-d., array 1642, oyer and terminer, Western circuit July 1660, corporations, Dorset 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662, foreshore 1662-3, dep. lt. 1663-d.; high steward, Bridport ?1666-d.; steward, manors of Fordington and Ryme 1667- d.; commr. for recusants, Dorset 1675.2
Col. of horse (royalist) c.1643-5.
PC 23 June 1675-d.
Strangways liked to excuse his blunt language by virtue of his being an old Parliament man and a Cavalier veteran. With his father, he compounded at the maximum of £10,000, and by his participation in royalist plots, as well as a ‘most seasonable’ gift to Charles II during his flight after Worcester, he earned his place among the proposed knights of the Royal Oak as heir to an estate of £5,000 p.a.3
Strangways’s chief interests in the opening sessions of the Cavalier Parliament seem to have been the plight of his former comrades in arms and the defence of the Established Church, although, with his father and son, he had been reckoned by Lord Wharton as a friend. He served on all the committees for the Clarendon Code, and made his first recorded speech (described by a fellow Anglican as excellent) on the renewal of the Conventicles Act on 13 Mar. 1668. He was sorry, he said, to hear anything of toleration countenanced in the House, though on a later occasion he was to describe himself as valuing those churches which had charity, and damned not all opinions different from their own. He proclaimed himself indifferent to ceremonies, while considering that ‘it becomes every man to conform to the custom of the church he was born in’. He was equally prominent in measures to check the growth of Popery, with a story of ‘two deer that were always fighting, and a rascal deer behind a tree came upon them when they were weary and beat them both’. As Strangways declared in 1673, he would not have it in the power of Papists to do mischief, though he was tender of their persons, as well he might be, since his recusant great-aunt had helped him financially with his composition.4
Strangways was an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to 173 committees and acted as a teller in 28 divisions. As early as 6 July 1661, he was chosen to consider pending bills. He was among those charged with a message to the King (10 July 1663) urging him to recall dispensations from the Navigation Act. He was one of the three Members who carried a message of thanks to the loyal University of Oxford, of which his family had been notable benefactors, and on that occasion received an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law. He participated in six conferences with the Lords, including such important subjects as the taking of public accounts in 1667. In 1666 he had been given the task of examining a proviso in a supply bill, and to him Marvell ascribes the credit of a filibustering speech in committee which frustrated a government attempt to rush through the excise before the Opposition could muster their forces. Another indication of his alienation from the Court was his appointment as one of the managers of Mordaunt’s impeachment (18 Dec. 1666).5
Two bills in this period with which Strangways is closely associated in the Journals seem to reflect his personal interests. The bill for settling marshlands, which had passed the Commons in February 1665, is likely to have been promoted by Strangways, who acted as teller on the first reading. It was probably intended to secure his title to salvage on the wreck-strewn foreshore of his Abbotsbury property, which had been challenged in the previous year by Bullen Reymes in his capacity as vice-admiral. Reymes and his colleague (Sir) Winston Churchill were tellers for the noes on the first reading. It is a reasonable conjecture that the failure of this bill to make progress in the Lords was due to Lord Ashley (Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper) under whom Reymes was serving in another capacity, as deputy treasurer of prizes.6
Another abortive piece of legislation with which Strangways was closely concerned was the bill against imports of cattle, which he doubtless connected with the fall of rents on the family estate. His was the first name on the committee and he carried it to the Lords on 27 Oct. 1665. Strangways was again among those appointed to manage a conference with the Lords on this and other legislation (2 Jan. 1667); but next day, on the news of his father’s death, he asked leave to go down into the country. The value put upon his parliamentary services is shown by the strong opposition to his application; nevertheless, for the next six years he took little part in Parliament, being no doubt chiefly concerned in modernizing the estate. In September 1669 he was listed by Sir Thomas Osborne among the Members to be engaged for the Court by the Duke of Buckingham, but there is no evidence that this was attempted. So indifferent had he become that in 1671 he did not deign to put in an appearance for over five weeks after defaulting on a call of the House.7
The turning point in Strangways’s parliamentary career was the long recess from April 1671 to February 1673. For this there were personal as well as public reasons. The manipulation of the writs for by-elections by Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury (as Ashley had now become) had exposed Strangways to the humiliation of hawking his second son Thomas unsuccessfully round the boroughs of Dorset, only to see him rejected in favour of Shaftesbury’s henchman John Man at Weymouth and his brother George Cooper at Poole. ‘The loyal colonel’, as Roger North describes him, came up to town in ‘a great rage’, and the winter session of 1673 accordingly opened with a discussion, not of the Declaration of Indulgence or the Dutch war, but of the electoral misfortunes of Thomas Strangways. Having gained his point, Strangways turned his attention to the danger to the Church, and henceforth spoke in practically every debate. He moved unsuccessfully that the former lord keeper, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, should be summoned to give evidence, and served on the committee that produced the test bill, but he was anxious that zeal against Popery should not induce undue leniency towards dissent, and strongly denounced the Covenant, while reminding those whose past record was less unimpeachable than his own that, if the King could suspend the laws, he could cancel the Act of Indemnity. In October he was appointed to the committee to draw up an address against the Duke of York’s marriage. Although he had seconded the motion on supply, he was anxious that the third reading should be delayed until the lords had passed the test bill; and when Henry Coventry spoke of Government’s necessities, bluntly asked who was responsible for them. He took part in conferences with the Lords on the test bill and the bill for relief for dissenters, and sat on the committees to consider the Declaration of Indulgence and the King’s reply to the address.8
In the next session, Strangways began by supporting his fellow west-countryman, Edward Seymour, as Speaker. When foreign policy came up for debate, he soon showed that he was well-informed. ‘France has entangled us’, he proclaimed. ‘The public articles are ill enough; what are the private articles?’ There had been something like a reconciliation between Shaftesbury and Strangways during the summer; in the new elections Thomas Strangways had been returned for Poole and Shaftesbury’s candidate for Weymouth, both unopposed. It seems possible that the lord chancellor, himself duped by the secret treaty of Dover, may have been the source of Strangways’s suspicions.9
When Parliament reassembled in January 1674, Shaftesbury had fallen, and Strangways joined in the call for the removal of the remaining ministers of the Cabal, though without pressing matters to extremes. Sir William Temple defined the aims of his group (comprising also Henry Powle) as ‘to secure the business of religion [and] break the war with Holland, with all the good measures that can be to the King, and no violent ones to the Ministers’. Accordingly, Strangways declared that there were no adequate grounds for the impeachment of Arlington. He was appointed to ask Dr Cradock to preach on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution, and later gave him the thanks of the House for the sermon. He was named to the committees on the standing army and the general test, and took part in a conference with the Lords on the King’s speech (3 Feb.), He probably enjoyed sitting on a committee to examine a breach of privilege by the Board of Green Cloth, for which his old antagonist Churchill was responsible. A more serious threat to the government was his demand for the naming of Members in receipt of pensions, so that they might purge themselves. In foreign policy, as Temple had predicted, he came out in favour of a separate peace, and was prepared to accept the Dutch terms as a basis for negotiation. It must have been in this session that Strangways defended Essex’s administration in Ireland, thereby earning the gratitude of the upright lord deputy and his brother, Sir Henry Capel, with whose family he was now connected by the marriage of his eldest son (John Strangways). The good understanding with Shaftesbury continued, and Strangways was teller on 6 Feb. 1674 for accepting the report of the committee against the election of Samuel Pepys.10
During the long recess which followed the 1674 session, Strangways had the satisfaction of seeing for the first time since the fall of Clarendon the establishment (under Osborne, now Lord Danby) of a ministry of which he could approve both in policy and personnel. When Parliament reassembled, he was able to point to the advantages of the neutrality which he had advocated and Danby achieved: ‘all the world trades in our bottoms’. But his concern over pensions and places was increasing. Few of those in office, he observed, had formerly served the King. He developed the theme by pressing his own claim to office. In other respects his speeches were uniformly helpful to the Government. He reflected acidly on ‘the difference between a pension and no pension in the case of Edmund Waller I, while he was warm in defence both of Sir Leoline Jenkins and of Danby. His language over the attempted impeachment of Danby was so violent that he was called to the bar of the House, and he acted as teller in the vital division. He wished to adjourn debate on the dispute with the Lords till cooler weather brought calmer tempers: by which time, according to Shaftesbury, it was expected that he would himself have been called to the Upper House. ‘We ought to thank God and the King’, he declared, ‘for being on our side, in moving both Houses to conferences’. And he wound up his last speech in the House with the warning: ‘Whoever goes about to dissolve this Parliament, goes about to ruin both Church and State’.11
It was believed that ‘the lord treasurer had not come off from the accusation brought in Parliament against him but by Giles Strangways’, and Danby was swift to show his gratitude. At the cost of only £2,500 Strangways was enabled to buy from Sir Robert Holmes the reversion of the clerkship of the pells for his two younger sons, and on 23 June 1675 he achieved his ambition by being sworn in as Privy Councillor. But Danby was not to enjoy the advantage of his support for long. Strangways’s accounts for sack and sherry had long been Falstaffian, especially when there was matter for celebration; in contemporary memoirs he is invariably encountered either puffing on a pipe or drinking somebody’s health— usually in the company of (Sir) John Robinson. His sudden death from a stroke on 20 July 1675 ought not to have surprised anyone, least of all a valetudinarian like Shaftesbury, though apparently it did.12