HOLLES, Francis (1627-92)

HOLLES, Francis (1627–92)

suc. fa. 17 Feb. 1680 as 2nd Bar. HOLLES

First sat 20 Nov. 1680; last sat 12 Apr. 1690

MP, Lostwithiel 20 Jan. 1647, Wiltshire 1654, Dorchester 1679 (Mar.), 1679 (Oct.)-17 Feb. 1680

b. 19 Aug. 1627, o. surv. s. of Denzil Holles, later Bar. Holles, and 1st w. Dorothy (d.1640), da. of Sir Francis Ashley. educ. travelled abroad (France) 1645-8;1 M. Temple 1648, called 1661; Clare, Camb. 1651. m. (1) 22 Aug. 1661 (with £6,000), Lucy (d. 15 Sept. 1667), da. of Sir Robert Carr, 2nd bt., of Sleaford, Lincs., 2da.( d.v.p.); (2) 9 June 1670, Anne (d. 8 Mar. 1682), da. of Sir Francis Pile, 2nd bt., of Compton Beauchamp, Berks. 1s. 1da. (d.v.p.)2 cr. bt. 27 June 1660. d. c. 28 June 1692;3 will 3 Sept. 1680, pr. 4 Mar. 1695.4

J.p., Dorset 1647-8, 1650-?53, Mar. 1660-80, 1682-5, Wilts. 1653-80; commr. assessment, Dorset and Wilts. 1648, 1657, Dorset Aug. 1660-80, Westminster 1673-80, militia, Dorset and Wilts. 1648, 1660.5

Associated with: Aldenham, Herts.

The obscurity and inactivity of Francis Holles stand in marked contrast to the fame and industry of his father; perhaps he decided from early in his career that it was not worth competing on the public stage with his energetic father. In the midst of the elder Holles’s struggles as leader of the Presbyterians in the Long Parliament, Francis was given a pass to travel in France in 1645, and he appears to have been there, with his cousin Gilbert Holles, later 3rd earl of Clare, in 1646. He was elected as a recruiter for Lostwithiel in 1647 but did not return from France to take his seat until a year later, in January 1648, and was excluded at Pride’s Purge at the end of the year.6 He sat again, this time for Wiltshire, in the first Protectorate Parliament in 1654 and resumed his seat in the Long Parliament at the readmission of members in February 1660. In June 1660 he stood for the Yorkshire constituency of Northallerton after Francis Lascelles had been deprived of his seat because of his involvement in the trial of Charles I. Holles had no known connection with Yorkshire and may have been put forward because of his connection with his father, at that point the leading Presbyterian in the Commons. He was involved in a double return with the local squire George Marwood. No proceedings on this case in the elections committee are recorded in the Commons Journals, and neither candidate appears to have taken his seat.7

He was created a baronet of Winterbourne St Martin in Dorset on 27 June 1660, property he had inherited from his grandfather Sir Francis Ashley in 1648, although he had mortgaged it heavily by the time of his baronetcy.8 This honour was perhaps a prelude to the eventual elevation of his father to a barony less than a year later. In August 1661, Sir Francis married Lucy Carr, daughter of Sir Robert Carr. Baron Holles did not approve of his son’s marriage at first, presumably because of Carr’s shaky financial affairs and the known dissension within his family. The bride’s portion of £6,000 was not firmly secured before the marriage, which prevented Baron Holles from finalizing his part of the settlement. ‘It was Sir Edward Rossiter [Denzil Holles’s nephew by marriage and Lucy Carr’s cousin] that first proposed the match, who did manage the treaty of it and perfect it’, Holles later complained. ‘And if my son would have been ruled by me, and followed my advice, he had not been married before he had received his portion, and then all the trouble that hath since followed would have been prevented’.9 The ‘trouble’ really arose after Sir Robert and Lucy Carr’s deaths within about a month of each other in late 1667, after which the 3rd baronet, also Sir Robert, who had long been at war with his parents over the estate, effectively stopped the payment of the portion. From 1671 the Holleses, father and son, launched a number of suits in chancery to force payment of the £6,000 and the interest due on it.10 In May 1682 chancery ordered Carr and his heirs to pay Holles £10,360 as arrears of the original portion with the interest due and further ordered that the estate was to be sold to pay these debts. In February 1686 Lord Chancellor George Jeffreys, Baron Jeffreys, decreed that Carr’s heirs and trustees (Isabella, his only surviving child, being at that time a minor) had to pay additional interest on the existing debt of £10,360, amounting to a new sum of over £16,000.11

Sir Francis seems to have acted as his father’s agent in England during Lord Holles’s embassy in France and earned himself stinging rebukes from his father for his shortcomings, especially for his tardiness in sending on the bills of exchange which were to serve as the ambassador’s salary.12 He was elected for the first two Exclusion Parliaments for Dorchester, although he had long ceased to have any local connections with the borough. Shaftesbury considered him ‘honest’ but he appears to have been largely inactive.13 He did not sit in the Commons during the second Exclusion Parliament, as his father’s death in February 1680 propelled him into the Lords before the Parliament actually sat. He first appears in the House’s attendance list on 20 Nov. 1680, but he did not take the oaths until six days later. Having conveniently missed the controversial vote on exclusion, he proceeded to sit only a further seven times during the first week of December. On his penultimate day in the House he found William Howard, Viscount Stafford, not guilty. Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby (later Duke of Leeds), considered him one of ‘such as I conceive if they vote not for me will be neuters’ during his attempt to win bail from the Tower in March 1681, but Holles did not attend the Oxford Parliament.

Similarly, he only attended the very first day of James II’s Parliament and never came to the House again during that reign. It is not immediately clear whether this was caused by opposition to the new king’s policies. His loyalty appears to have been suspected, at least locally, for one of his country houses was searched and his arms seized by the deputy lieutenants in Dorset during Monmouth’s rebellion.14 In the spring of 1687 one political observer suggested that Holles was a possible supporter of James’s attempts to repeal the Test Act. This may have been due to Holles’s known Presbyterian sympathies, inherited from his father and characteristic of the extended Holles clan. Holles allied with an equally Presbyterian family in his second marriage, and Roger Morrice, his father’s former chaplain, described his second wife, Anne Pile, at her death in 1682 as ‘a most prudent and serious lady’.15 Holles may also have been deemed sympathetic to James’s policies at first because of the favour recently shown Holles by Jeffreys’s punishing ruling against the Carr estate. Later lists of late 1687 and early 1688 alter this view though, and regarded Holles as an opponent of the king’s policies.

He did not take an active part in the Revolution nor in political life after the change of the regime. When he was summoned to attend the House in late January 1689 he responded with a letter explaining that he was unable to come as he was ‘under several infirmities, accompanied with old age, being about sixty years’.16 He later thanked George Savile, marquess of Halifax, for being the means of procuring his dispensation from attendance on the House.17 In the end he only attended two days of the Convention, on 16 and 18 Mar. 1689, well after the most contentious votes on the disposition of the crown were over. Although absent during that session, he was involved in a piece of business. On 28 Mar. 1689 John Hervey, later earl of Bristol, and his wife Isabella, only daughter and heir of Sir Robert Carr, submitted their petition against the chancery decrees levelled against them in 1682 and 1686. The petitioners argued, among other points, that the first Baron Holles had never performed the conditions of the marriage settlement and had not provided Lucy Carr with a jointure.18 The House considered the arguments of both sides in early May. On 9 May it upheld the original 1682 decree but reversed that of the now reviled Jeffreys, whose punitive judgment may have amounted to an act of posthumous revenge against the active Whig and Exclusionist Sir Robert Carr.

Holles was not present for any of the proceedings of his case and appears to have only come to the House once more, on 12 Apr. 1690. He lived in obscurity, and most likely ill health, at his manor house in Aldenham in Hertfordshire, which the first Baron Holles had purchased in 1664. He died in late June 1692. His long, detailed and pious will placed a number of charges on his estate to provide for diverse charitable and religious bequests as well as to build and adorn monuments for various family members. What he did not take into consideration when composing this will in 1680 were the many debts which he and his father had accumulated and which remained outstanding at the time of his death. An act was passed in 1697 which allowed his eventual heir John Holles, duke of Newcastle, to bypass the terms of his will and devote the estate’s income to the payment of debts, but as late as 1715 creditors were still petitioning Parliament to introduce measures to satisfy their claims.19


  • 1 P. Crawford, Denzil Holles, 1598-1680, 26n, 165-7.
  • 2 TNA, PROB 11/429.
  • 3 Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 496; Verney ms mic. 636/46, J. to Sir R. Verney, 2 July 1692. This corrects the death date given in CP.
  • 4 TNA, PROB 11/429.
  • 5 A. and O. i. 1081, 1095, 1236, 1244; ii. 1066, 1083, 1430, 1445; SR.
  • 6 Crawford, 26n, 165-7; HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 563.
  • 7 HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 480; ii. 563.
  • 8 Notts. Archives, DD 4P 8/36-47.
  • 9 The Lord Holles his Vindication of Himself and his Son Sir Francis Holles (1676), 17-18.
  • 10 TNA, C10/162/42, 10/188/30, 10/165/49.
  • 11 HMC Lords, ii. 73-74.
  • 12 Add. 32679, ff. 11-14.
  • 13 HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 563.
  • 14 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. i. 548; ii. 14.
  • 15 Ibid. i. 329; Eg. 3330, ff. 16-18.
  • 16 HMC Lords, ii. 13.
  • 17 HMC Pepys, 269.
  • 18 HMC Lords, iii. 73-4; The Lord Holles his Vindication.
  • 19 UNL, NeD 91, 570; HMC Lords, n.s. xii. 231.