TAYLOR, Richard (c.1580-1641/2), of Grimsbury, Bolnhurst, Beds. and Lincoln's Inn, London; later of Clapham, Beds.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1580,1 2nd s. of Thomas Taylor alias Julyan, yeoman of Grimsbury and Elizabeth, da. of William King of Chelveston, Beds.2 educ. Queen’s, Camb. 1596, Christ’s 1597, BA 1600; L. Inn 1600, called 1607.3 m. 12 Aug. 1613, Elizabeth (d. by 3 July 1649), da. of William Boteler† of Biddenham, Beds. 8s. (?2 d.v.p.), 3da.4 suc. fa. 1592;5 d. 1641/2.6 sig. Richard Taylor.

Offices Held

J.p. Bedford, Beds. 1616-d., Beds. 1619-d.;7 escheator, Beds. and Bucks. 1618-19;8 commr. subsidy, Bedford and Beds. 1621-2, 1624, 1628, 1641, Poll Tax 1641.9

Dep. recorder, Bedford 1616-d.;10 feodary, Hunts. 1619-bef. 1625;11 bencher, L. Inn 1623, reader 1627, kpr. black bk. 1636-7;12 sjt.-at-law 1640-d.13


Taylor claimed that his ancestors had been gentlemen, but his father classed himself as a yeoman in 1579 when he paid £900 for a small farm at Grimsbury, five miles north of Bedford. His father also changed his surname from Julyan, and was thus not connected with the Taylor family of Stevington, Bedfordshire.14 Although Taylor was a second son, his elder brother was a lunatic, and consequently he inherited his father’s estates, which were assigned to trustees during his minority in order to evade wardship.15 Taylor received a legal education, and in 1616 he was appointed deputy to the recorder of Bedford, Oliver, Lord St. John†, probably upon the recommendation of his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Boteler or his predecessor Edward Rolt, a neighbour and friend who made him an overseer of his will.16

Since the 1580s, the recorders of Bedford (or their deputies) had customarily been returned to the Commons by the corporation, and while Rolt had not asserted this right, Taylor represented the borough throughout the 1620s.17 An active Member, although hardly prominent, his most useful role in the House was as a committeeman for bills requiring scrutiny by lawyers. Many of his committee and conference nominations concerned technical issues such as alienations (19 Mar. 1621), limitations of actions (6 Feb. 1621, 30 Apr. 1624), informers (19 Apr. 1621), inferior courts (20 Apr. 1621, 9 Mar. 1624), secret inquisitions post mortem (8 Mar. 1624, 14 Feb. 1626), and the expiring statutes’ continuance bill (13 Mar. 1624).18 His involvement in at least some of these measures was nominal: in 1624 he missed the sole recorded meeting of the committee for the bill to prevent the assignment of private debts to the Exchequer; and he failed to attend eight meetings held to discuss the bill for the customary tenants of Beaminster Second, Dorset.19 However, it seems unlikely that he would have been named to so many committees if he had not been a relatively diligent attender, and he was clearly active on some: he reported Lord Aubigny’s bill for the sale of Temple Newsam manor on 16 May 1621, and probably chaired the concealments’ bill committee of 14 Feb. 1626, as he was ordered to deliver the draft bill to the House on 7 Apr. 1628.20

There is no surviving correspondence between Taylor and his constituents, but he demonstrably promoted the town’s interests at Westminster. For example, Bedford had the shire’s largest grain market, and although not personally named to the committee for the bill to raise the price of grain by prohibiting its importation in times of plenty, Taylor spoke at its meeting on 24 Mar. 1621.21 Bedfordshire grain went to produce large quantities of malt, partly for the London market, which explains Taylor’s complaint of 2 June 1626 about a composition for purveyance imposed on malt in London. He was later named to a committee to scrutinize a petition about portage charges for malt in London (25 June 1628).22 His involvement in the concealments’ bill (14 Feb. 1626) may have been designed to secure a proviso covering advowsons, as this would have forestalled any future quarrels over the advowson of St. John’s hospital, Bedford, which had been claimed as a concealment in 1576 and intermittently disputed until 1610.23 The development of the river Ouse as a navigable waterway in the early 1620s allowed Bedford merchants to import coal as close as Great Barford, only five miles from the town, which possibly explains Taylor’s nomination to the committee for the bill regulating coal measures (20 Feb. 1626).24 In April 1628 the corporation agreed to bear the cost of a bill to assume control of the Ouse navigation as a means of reducing tolls on the river.25 The House was then immersed in the Petition of Right controversy and no such bill was read, but Taylor may have procured a nomination to the Medway navigation bill committee (added 17 May 1628) with hopes of inserting a suitable proviso for Bedford.26

Taylor was included on the committee for privileges in 1626 and 1628, probably because of his legal expertise.27 However, he was not a major figure in the House, and his infrequent speeches rarely concerned important matters. In a speech of 26 Mar. 1621 he complained that ‘the increase of fees for fines and recoveries is an hindrance to the king in his revenue, [and] to the subjects in their security’. His complaint, which may have been intended to sustain the momentum of the alienations’ bill (to the committee for which he had been named on 19 Mar.), received widespread support, but the debate was cut short by a motion from the Lords.28 On 9 July 1625, when the House considered the release of the inmates of the debtors’ prisons for the duration of the plague epidemic, he insisted that ‘justice must be respected as well as mercy. Not to do anything against the law’.29 In the Coventry election debate of 21 Mar. 1628, he argued that the return of Members who were not burgesses was valid, ‘for the law that saith they should be residents is but a direction’; he also quoted precedents in several privilege disputes (8 July 1625; 16 Feb. 1626; 3 May 1626).30 Taylor’s activities in the Commons rarely strayed outside his legal interests. He was named to a committee to consider action against the patentee for pretermitted customs on cloth (19 May 1624) and complained about a patent to licence butchers to dress meat during Lent (21 Mar. 1628), but otherwise played no part in the attacks on monopolists.31 Undoubtedly a godly man, he was the dedicatee of a work by Thomas Gataker, preacher of Lincoln’s Inn, and his private papers contain a number of speeches to the Bedford sessions’ juries encouraging the strict observance of religion and suppression of recusancy, but little he did in the Commons seems to have reflected these concerns.32

Although primarily a lawyer rather than a politician, Taylor was deputed to make a speech to the Bedfordshire subsidymen justifying the Crown’s demand for a Benevolence after the dissolution of the 1626 Parliament. Following the official brief sent by the Privy Council, he detailed the threat from Spain and the king’s needs, pointed to the Commons’ willingness to offer supply in fulfilment of its promise to support a war in 1624, and observed that although a grant of subsidies had been prevented by the Parliament’s dissolution, ‘the king hath made a request, and it is for the general good’.33 His audience raised ‘some question whether this course now holden were not against the law’, complained that the 1614 Benevolence had fallen heavily upon the poorer taxpayers, and claimed that ‘the parliamentary way of giving was most equal’.34 This unusually articulate protest conveniently absolved the magistrates from any blame for failing to comply with orders, and it is possible that the entire confrontation was a piece of public theatre staged with this purpose in mind. Taylor’s patron, the 1st earl of Bolingbroke (Oliver St. John I*) probably endorsed and perhaps even encouraged these objections, as he declined to contribute to the Forced Loan in October 1626. Moreover, two of Bolingbroke’s relatives, Sir Beauchamp St. John* and Sir Oliver Luke*, who had helped to draft Taylor’s speech, were imprisoned as Loan refusers in the following year.35

Taylor does not seem to have refused the Forced Loan, perhaps because he had been chosen as reader at Lincoln’s Inn in the autumn of 1627.36 However, he aired his opinions on arbitrary imprisonment in the Commons on 31 Mar. 1628, when he took issue with the judges’ decision to remand Sir John Heveningham*, one of the Loan refusers: ‘it may be the judges did award according to misinformation, and I think if they had done according to their consciences they would not have done so’. He then quoted precedents for the subjection of the prerogative to the law and insisted that ‘if he [the king] should commit any man without cause it were unjust’.37 Three days later, he opposed to the impressment of humbler Loan refusers for military service, echoing John Selden’s* argument that ‘before tertio of Henry the Eight [3 H.VIII, c.5] there was no ordinary pressing of soldiers’.38 Given the vehemence with which he expressed himself on this subject, it is surprising that he played no discernible part in the formulation of the Petition of Right. He avoided controversy during the 1629 session, although he was named to a committee to consider the technical question of the Exchequer barons’ right to refuse John Rolle* a writ of replevin to recover goods which had been seized for non-payment of Tunnage and Poundage (14 Feb. 1629).39

Taylor became a bencher at Lincoln’s Inn in 1623, a relatively rapid promotion which probably owed much to Bolingbroke’s patronage. He acknowledged the debt at his reading in 1627, when he secured honorary admissions to his Inn for Sir Henry* and Oliver St. John II*.40 His practice clearly prospered, as he was wealthy enough to make an offer in excess of £2,250 for the manor of Oakley, Bedfordshire in 1626. The deal fell through, but in the following year he bought the neighbouring manor of Clapham.41 In 1635 he helped Lincoln’s Inn to victory in a dispute with Bishop Montagu over alleged encroachments on Chichester’s Rents in Chancery Lane, and in the following year, probably at the behest of Cambridge University, he and Thomas Hetley* advised that Archbishop Laud could only hold an ecclesiastical visitation of the University under a royal commission.42 He was recommended for a serjeanty in 1636, but not promoted until June 1640 when, surprisingly, his sponsors were the earls of Bedford and Cleveland rather than Bolingbroke.43 By then Taylor may have fallen out with his patron over the Bedford election to the Short Parliament, at which his nephew (Sir) William Boteler† and Bolingbroke’s nephew Sir Samuel Luke† contended for the seat he had held during the 1620s.44

In his will of 8 May 1641 Taylor provided portions of £600 each for his five younger sons, and a dowry for his only unmarried daughter. On 11 Aug. he added a codicil which was probably designed to allow his widow a veto over his heir’s marriage, and removed Sir William Boteler from the trusteeship of his estates. He was dead by 5 Feb. 1642, when his third son, William, was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn.45 His eldest son Richard, who fought as a royalist in the Civil War, was later returned to the Cavalier Parliament for Bedford, serving until his death in 1667.46

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Age calculated from entry to univ.
  • 2. Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 144-5.
  • 3. Al. Cant.; LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 109.
  • 4. Vis. Beds. 84-5, 145; CCC, 1275.
  • 5. C142/237/113.
  • 6. PROB 11/188, f. 144.
  • 7. C181/2, f. 261v; C231/4, ff. 28, 94.
  • 8. List of Escheators comp. A.C. Wood (L. and I. Soc. lxxii), 11.
  • 9. C212/22/20-23; E179/72/279; SR, v. 60, 81, 107.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 261v; G.D. Gilmore, ‘Pprs. of Richard Taylor of Clapham’, Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxv. 109, n. 9.
  • 11. WARD 9/275, unfol.
  • 12. LI Black Bks. ii. 247, 266, 275, 341.
  • 13. Order of Sjts.-at-Law ed. J.H. Baker (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. v), 187.
  • 14. Beds. RO, FN.87; PROB 11/79, f. 216; Grantees of Arms ed. W.H. Rylands (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 250; Vis. Beds. 144-5.
  • 15. PROB 11/79, f. 216; C142/237/113, 142/254/57.
  • 16. PROB 11/128, ff. 304-5.
  • 17. BEDFORD.
  • 18. CJ, i. 511a, 695a (limitations), 562a (alienations), 582b (informers), 583a, 680b (inferior courts), 679b, 819a (inquisitions), 736b (continuance).
  • 19. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 200, 222.
  • 20. CJ, i. 622a, 880a; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 78.
  • 21. CJ, i. 545a; CD 1621, v. 320.
  • 22. Procs. 1626, iii. 345; CD 1628, iv. 472.
  • 23. CJ, i. 819a; BEDFORD; CPR, 1575-8, pp. 121-5. The 1624 Concealments Act did not cover advowsons: SR, iv. 1210-11.
  • 24. CJ, i. 820a, 822a.
  • 25. Gt. Ouse Navigation ed. T.S. Willan (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxiv), 29-37.
  • 26. CJ, i. 893b.
  • 27. Ibid. 816b, 873a.
  • 28. Ibid. 575b; CD 1621, ii. 267; iv. 199-200.
  • 29. Procs. 1625, pp. 360, 363.
  • 30. Ibid. 348; Procs. 1626, ii. 54, 56-7; iii. 145, 150; CD 1628, ii. 44-5, 50; CJ, i. 873a.
  • 31. CJ, i. 707a; CD 1628, ii. 49-50.
  • 32. W. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 394; Beds. RO, Bedford bor. uncat. box 60, Richard Taylor file pp. ii, 1-21, 26.
  • 33. Beds. RO, Bedford bor. uncat. box 60, Richard Taylor file pp. 43-4.
  • 34. Gilmore, 107-8; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 161-2.
  • 35. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 172-3; SIR BEAUCHAMP ST. JOHN; SIR OLIVER LUKE.
  • 36. LI Black Bks. ii. 274-5.
  • 37. CD 1628, ii. 218, 221, 223; C. Russell, PEP, 334-5.
  • 38. CD 1628, ii. 280-1, 291-2; Cust, 56-8.
  • 39. CJ, i. 930a; C. Thompson, ‘Divided Leadership of the Commons in 1629’, Faction and Parl. ed. K. Sharpe, 263-5.
  • 40. Prest, 136-8; LI Admiss.
  • 41. C2/Chas.I/S108/42; VCH Beds. ii. 130; iii. 150.
  • 42. LI Black Bks. ii. 285, 320-3, 331-8; CSP Dom. 1635, pp. 351, 598; Stowe 799, ff. 65-6.
  • 43. Order of Sjts.-at-Law, 187, 376-7, 387-96.
  • 44. CJ, ii. 17b; Beds. RO, TW.889-94. The identification of William Boteler is not entirely certain: M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 33.
  • 45. PROB 11/188, ff. 143v-4v; LI Admiss.
  • 46. CCC, 1275.