JERMYN, Thomas (1633-1703)

JERMYN, Thomas (1633–1703)

suc. uncle (by special remainder) 2 Jan. 1684 as 2nd Bar. JERMYN

First sat 19 May 1685; last sat 7 Dec. 1702

MP Bury St Edmunds 1679 (Mar.), 1679 (Oct.), 1681

bap. 10 Nov. 1633, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Thomas Jermyn of Rushbrooke and Rebecca, da. and coh. of William Rodway, merchant, of London, bro. of Henry Jermyn, later Bar. Dover. educ. ?Bury g.s.1 m. 1659, Mary (d.1713), da. of Henry Merry of Barton Blount, Derbys., 6s. d.v.p. 7da. (3 d.v.p.).2 suc. fa. 11 Nov. 1659.3 d. 1 Apr. 1703; will 19 Jan., pr. 29 Apr. 1703.4

Capt. of ft. Jersey garrison 1661-79; capt. of grens. (later 12 Ft.) 1685-7; lt.-gov. Jersey 1660-79;5 gov. 1684-d.6

Commr. assessment, Suff. 1673-80; j.p. 1674-d., commr. recusants 1675.

Associated with: Rushbrooke, Suff. and Spring Gdns., Westminster.7

The heir to a substantial, if dissipated, East Anglian inheritance, Jermyn’s family were distinguished both as prominent courtiers and Members of the Commons. One of his forebears had sat for the county in 1584, but it was really with the accession of the Stuarts that the Jermyns came into their own. Jermyn’s father and grandfather held court office and sat for Bury St Edmunds in the Long Parliament but it was to his uncle, Henry Jermyn, created Baron Jermyn in 1643 and earl of St Albans in 1660, that Jermyn was indebted for his elevation to the peerage.

Jermyn’s father had accompanied the king to Oxford at the opening of the Civil War and later retreated to France, where he remained until 1648 when he began the lengthy process of reconciliation with Parliament. Already heavily indebted, Thomas Jermyn senior was fined £2,800 (later reduced to £2,750) by the committee for compounding in January 1651.8 Jermyn’s movements during this period are uncertain. In April 1654 he was granted a passport to travel to France, where he presumably joined his uncle (at that time Baron Jermyn) and younger brother, Henry Jermyn, later Baron Dover at the court in exile.9 He returned to England by 1659 when he was present at his father’s deathbed. The same year he married Mary Merry (a report of a previous marriage to a member of the Hervey family is almost certainly mistaken).10

Following the Restoration, Jermyn was rewarded with minor office, in 1660 taking up the post of lieutenant governor of Jersey where his uncle, now promoted in the peerage as earl of St Albans, was absentee governor. On the death of St Albans in January 1684, Jermyn succeeded to the barony of Jermyn of St Edmundsbury by virtue of a special remainder, and in July he was appointed to the governorship of Jersey (a post to which the Jermyns had held the reversion for a number of years). St Albans’ death posed Jermyn and his brother Henry with considerable problems, for while the earl had left a substantial personal estate (estimated at over £60,000) he had left even greater debts, reckoned to exceed £65,000.11 Jermyn departed for his governorship later in the year. He confessed to liking it ‘better than I expected’, but in January 1685 he petitioned for leave to return to England to settle his affairs.12 He seems to have changed his mind the following month, for when some of his friends took it upon themselves to petition for his early recall, Jermyn disassociated himself from the request:

Some of my friends, upon an accident lately happened to my wife and mother, have (unbeknown to me) moved for my leave to come over. This I have received, but thinking it was desired at an improper time, choose to lose this opportunity of seeing them rather than not be here to expect his Majesty’s commands.

Putting aside concerns for his wife and mother’s condition, Jermyn preferred to delay his return to coincide with the sitting of the new Parliament and instead took the opportunity of reporting the ‘great demonstration of joy and allegiance’ with which the king’s proclamation had been greeted on the island.13 The issue of St Albans’ estate was still unresolved the following year, when Henry Jermyn (by then elevated to the peerage as Baron Dover) brought a case against his brother complaining that he (Dover) had overseen payment of more than £52,000 of the outstanding debt and seeking settlement of the remaining £13,000 and restitution of the amount he had paid out of his own resources. In response Jermyn countered that Dover had complicated matters by ignoring the stipulations of St Albans’ will as to how the debt was to be satisfied.14

Jermyn took his seat in the House at the opening of the new Parliament on 19 May 1685 after which he attended approximately 67 per cent of all sitting days. He was named to the sessional committees for privileges and petitions on 22 May, and to a further 12 committees before the summer adjournment. He was assessed as a likely supporter of the bill introdu ced by William George Richard Stanley, 9th earl of Derby, to secure the restoration of estates that had been sold during the Interregnum.15 He then resumed his seat on 11 Nov. after which he attended on a further seven days, during which he was named to one committee. Unlike his brother (and despite being married to the daughter of a recusant) Jermyn was not a Catholic, and on 1 Jan. 1687 he was listed among those believed to oppose the repeal of the Test Act. His Catholic connections perhaps explain why on 1 May he was inaccurately marked as a Catholic in a grouping of lords according to their expected attitudes to the king’s policies. To muddy the waters further, Jermyn’s attitude may have shifted, for by November he was listed as in favour of repealing the Test. He was absent in January 1688 when a further list was compiled.

Despite his apparently wavering attitude to the king’s policies, on the news of the expected Dutch invasion, Jermyn was among the first to offer his services to King James.16 In October he declared his disappointment that the Dutch invasion still appeared likely despite damage inflicted by the weather, but he was confident ‘that his majesty’s forces are now in such order as will soon make them repent their undertaking.’17

Following the king’s flight, he joined the peers who assembled at the Guildhall on 11 Dec. when he signed the declaration to the Prince of Orange and subscribed the orders constituting Robert Lucas, 3rd Baron Lucas, governor of the Tower, and commanding George Legge, Baron Dartmouth, to dismiss all Catholic officers from their commands in the fleet.18 Jermyn attended the meetings of the provisional government conscientiously for the remainder of the month, and on 13 and 14 Dec. he subscribed his name to orders for ensuring that the forces in London received payment and for requiring the Lord Mayor to provide barges to convey troops under Henry Fitzroy, duke of Grafton, to Tilbury.19 At the elections for the convention, Jermyn’s son-in-law, Sir Robert Davers, was returned for Bury on the Jermyn interest in the face of strong competition from the Herveys.20 Jermyn took his seat at the opening of the Convention on 23 Jan. 1689, when he was named to the sessional committees for privileges and petitions; he was thereafter present on almost 69 per cent of all sitting days. On 29 Jan. he voted in favour of establishing a regency, and on 31 Jan. he voted against inserting the words declaring William and Mary king and queen. On 4 Feb. he voted against agreeing with the Commons’ use of the word ‘abdicated’. Two days later he again voted against employing the words ‘abdicated’ and ‘that the throne is thereby vacant’, entering his dissent when the resolution was passed.

Jermyn’s diligent attendance in the session was reflected in the high number of committees to which he was named. Added to the sessional committee for the Journal on 17 May, he was named to a further 29 committees in the course of the session. On 31 May he voted in favour of reversing the perjury judgments against Titus Oates, and on 15 June he was one of the peers named to the committee for drawing up an address to the king for seeing to the fortification of, among other places, Jersey. Speaking in a committee of the whole on the matter of the address, Jermyn outlined the supplies and reinforcements he thought necessary for the island’s defence, emphasizing that in its present state, ‘the island is not to be kept against 3,000 men, nor the castle without provision.’21 Jermyn dissented to the resolution to proceed with the impeachment of Blair, Vaughan, Mole, Elliott and Gray on 2 July, and on 30 July he was listed as having voted in favour of adhering to the lords’ amendments to the bill for reversing Oates’ conviction (in which division he also acted as one of the tellers). The same month Jermyn was compelled to petition the House to obtain security for a loan of £1,000 he had paid to his brother, Dover, who had been included in the bill of attainder drawn up by the Commons.22

Jermyn’s careful balancing act between acceptance of the new regime and continued involvement with his brother’s affairs was threatened in July by a local dispute over the nomination to the living at his brother’s manor of Cheveley in Cambridgeshire. On his brother’s behalf, Jermyn nominated Thomas Warren to succeed the former incumbent, Hugh Lloyd, precipitating a challenge from two churchwardens who accused Warren of Catholic tendencies and of having been present at mass with Dover.23 Dover’s adherence to King James caused Jermyn greater concerns than a mere parish dispute. He was later compelled to request that his own affairs would be unaffected by his brother’s inclusion in the abortive attainder of July 1689 which was resubmitted the following year.24 Although the attainder was shelved, Dover was then outlawed, a process that amounted to attainder and led to attempts to confiscate his estates, again raising questions about Jermyn’s rights to his brother’s property.

In advance of the new session, Jermyn responded to the request for a self-assessment of his personal estate, wishing ‘it were such a one as might contribute to their majesties’ service’ but regretting that much of what he had was encumbered by annuities. Even so, he acknowledged a personal estate of £2,000 and submitted himself ‘to the judgment of the Lords commissioners and if the £2,000 aforementioned be to be paid, notwithstanding the annuities I pay, upon the first notice it shall be willingly complied with.’25 Jermyn resumed his seat for the second session of the Convention on 28 Oct. 1689, after which he was present on approximately 73 per cent of all sitting days, during which he was named to a dozen committees. Thomas Osborne, marquess of Carmarthen (and later duke of Leeds), classed him as an opponent of the court on a list compiled between October 1689 and February 1690, adding that he was to be approached by ‘Mr Folkes’, presumably Martin Folkes with whom both he and Carmarthen had many dealings. Following the dissolution, he along with Grafton and reputedly most of the gentry of the county lent his interest to Davers and Sir John Playters at the election for Suffolk in March 1690. They were defeated by candidates supported by the Whig lord lieutenant, Charles Cornwallis, 3rd Baron Cornwallis.26

Taking his seat in the new Parliament on 21 Mar. 1690, Jermyn was nominated to the sessional committees for privileges, petitions and the journal and to a further 15 committees in the course of the session, of which he attended almost 93 per cent of all sitting days. On 8 Apr. he subscribed the protest at the resolution to pass the bill recognizing William and Mary as rightful and lawful sovereigns, and two days later he protested again at the resolution to expunge the reasons for the former protest from the Journal.

The shade of Jermyn’s exiled brother made its presence felt again in September when Dover appealed to Jermyn (and others) to make use of their interest to procure his return to England. Jermyn professed great pleasure at his brother’s resolution and promised to use ‘all the interest I have to effect it’. He sent a copy of his brother’s letter to Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, in order to be advised of ‘the method of proceeding.’27 Jermyn resumed his seat at the opening of the 1690-1 sessions. His rate of attendance declined slightly, with him being present on just 55 per cent of all sitting days, but he was still named to a substantial series of committees (15 in addition to the sessional committees), and on 17 Dec. he was nominated one of the managers of a conference concerning the mutiny bill. Another attempt to attaint individuals in exile with King James prompted Jermyn to try once again to protect his rights to those parts of St Albans’ estates that had been settled on Dover.28

Jermyn took his seat for the 1691-2 session on 10 Nov. when he was nominated to the committee considering Stydolph’s bill. Named to a further seven committees in the session, he was present for a little over 42 per cent of all sitting days. On 23 Feb. 1692 he entered his protest at the resolution to pass the supply bill. The same day he entered a further protest at the resolution to make an entry in the Journal concerning the Commons’ addition to the bill of a clause establishing a commission of accounts.

With the threat of French invasion looming, Jermyn was ordered back to Jersey in April; he remained there for less than six months before petitioning for leave to return to England.29 Having taken his seat for the 1692-3 session on 4 Nov. 1692, Jermyn was present on approximately 56 per cent of all sitting days and was named to eight committees. On 21 Nov., although missing from the attendance list, he was not among those listed as absent at a call of the House. In December tragedy struck the family, when his only remaining son, also Thomas Jermyn, was accidentally killed.30 Jermyn’s attendance, nevertheless, remained relatively unaffected. He sat on 16 days during that month, and in February 1693 he presented the loyal address from Jersey to the king.31 On 4 Feb. he joined with the majority in finding Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, not guilty of the murder of William Mountford.

Jermyn’s continuing association with his brother gave rise to doubts about his suitability for the Jersey posting and during the summer complaints were raised about his government of the island. These ranged from misgivings about his overly friendly behaviour to French captives to specific charges against his officials, notably his secretary and the lieutenant governor, Edward Harris, who was described as being ‘almost always in bed’ and guilty of keeping up ‘open communications with France.’32 Despite such rumblings, Jermyn retained his place. He resumed his seat in the House at the opening of the new session on 7 Nov. 1693, after which he was present on 52 per cent of all sitting days. Midway through the session (in January 1694) he was again despatched to Jersey in anticipation of a French invasion, and in February he waited on the king with details of the French forces’ preparations.33

Although Jermyn was again granted leave to return to England in September 1694 for the forthcoming session of Parliament, he was absent at its opening and excused at a call on 26 November.34 He took his seat on 8 Jan. 1695, after which he attended some 41 per cent of the whole and was named to nine committees. Jermyn does not appear to have been active in the elections for the new Parliament, and his attendance declined markedly in the first (1695-6) session. Present for just under a quarter of all sitting days, he was named to just three committees. Rallying in the 1696-7 session, he was named to 20 committees. He consistently opposed the attainder of Sir John Fenwick. He entered dissents against the proceedings on 15 and 18 Dec. and voted against the third reading on 23 Dec., registering another dissent at its passage. Jermyn received the proxy of Edward Devereux, 8th Viscount Hereford, on 27 Feb. 1697, which was vacated by the close of the session. On 15 Apr. he entered his protest at the resolution not to agree with the committee’s amendment to the bill for restraining stock-jobbers.

While attending the lord mayor of London’s procession through the city on 28 Oct. 1697, and in spite of an order of 13 Oct. of the mayor and aldermen charging the beadles to arrest anyone involved in such activities, Jermyn was struck by a ‘squib’ hurled from the crowd.35 Reports varied as to the seriousness of the injury, but it seems clear that he lost at least one eye in the attack and narrowly avoided being carried off by a subsequent fever.36 It was presumably in response to this kind of accident that Sir Henry Dutton Colt introduced a bill into the Commons on 15 Dec. to prohibit the use of such fireworks. Colt’s bill was brought up to the Lords on 17 Jan. 1698, heard in committee on 29 Jan. and reported without amendment by Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester, on 3 February.37 Jermyn’s injuries presumably explain the dramatic decline in his attendance in the final session of the 1695 Parliament which he attended on just 17 of its 138 days. He had recovered sufficiently to resume his seat in the House on 7 Mar. 1698 when he was named one of the managers of a conference with the Commons concerning amendments to the bill explaining poor relief. On 15 Mar. he voted against committing the bill for punishing Charles Duncombe.

Jermyn took his seat in the first (1698-9) session of the new Parliament on 29 Nov. 1698, after which he was present on approximately half of all sitting days. In December he suffered a further bereavement with the death of his daughter, Henrietta Maria Bond.38 On 28 Jan. 1699 he was nominated one of the managers of the conference concerning amendments to the bill prohibiting the exportation of corn, and on 20 Apr, although he was missing from the attendance list that day, he was nominated to the committee for Conway and Seymour’s bill. On 3 May he was named a manager of the conference concerning the bill for duty on paper. Jermyn attended just one day of the second session on 7 Feb. 1700. Although he was reported to be ‘very ill’ that September, he had recovered from this sickness by the middle of the month and was able to resume his seat in the new Parliament the following year on 13 Feb. 1701.39 Although present on just 17 per cent of all sitting days, on 17 June he subscribed two protests, first at the resolution to adjourn to Westminster Hall to proceed with the trial of John Somers, Baron Somers, and second at the resolution to put the question to acquit. The same day he voted against acquitting Somers. Jermyn was marked indisposed at a call of the House on 5 Jan. 1702, but he resumed his seat in Queen Anne’s first Parliament on 23 Feb. and on 23 Mar. he was named one of the managers of the conference considering the queen’s accession. Having attended for just 20 per cent of all sitting days, he retired from the House for the final time on 20 May.

Jermyn was estimated as being in favour of the occasional conformity bill in January 1703, but he played no further part in the House’s affairs. Reports of his death began to circulate from the end of March; he died at his house in Westminster on 1 April.40 In his will he made provision for a portion of £3,000 for his daughter, Penelope Grove, and bequeathed the value of a number of tallies to his widow (amounting to £1,600). He divided the arrears of rents from his Suffolk estates between his four surviving daughters and the children of Henrietta Bond; he also bequeathed all arrears out of his governorship of Jersey to the poor of the island’s 12 parishes. Bequests to his brother, Dover, other members of his family and servants amounted to a further £380. Following Jermyn’s death, an act of Parliament was passed to allow his son-in-law, Sir Robert Davers, to purchase Rushbrooke and a number of other estates from the co-heirs for £33,000.41 Jermyn was buried at Rushbrooke and was succeeded in the peerage by his brother, Dover.


  • 1 Rushbrook Par. Regs. 303.
  • 2 Ibid. 308-10.
  • 3 Ibid. 303.
  • 4 TNA, PROB 11/469.
  • 5 Bulletin Annuel (de la) Société Jersiaise, iv (26) 384.
  • 6 CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 88.
  • 7 TNA, PROB 11/469.
  • 8 HP Commons, 1640-60, draft biography of Thomas Jermyn by Andrew Barclay.
  • 9 Bodl. Rawl. A328, f. 21.
  • 10 Rushbrook Par. Regs. 303.
  • 11 TNA, C10/214/50; C33/267, ff. 1155-6.
  • 12 CSP Dom. 1684-5, pp. 175, 279.
  • 13 CSP Dom. 1685, p. 41.
  • 14 TNA, C33/267, ff. 1156-61.
  • 15 Lancs. RO, DDK 1615/9.
  • 16 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 464.
  • 17 Add. 5841, ff. 5-6.
  • 18 Kingdom without a King, 67, 69-70.
  • 19 Ibid. 74, 85, 92, 98, 105, 109, 115, 124, 153, 158, 165.
  • 20 HP Commons, 1660-90, i. 398.
  • 21 HMC Lords, ii. 136.
  • 22 Ibid. 235.
  • 23 Add. 22067, ff. 6, 13.
  • 24 HMC Lords, iii. 246.
  • 25 Chatsworth, Halifax collection B.66.
  • 26 Bodl. Tanner 27, f. 110.
  • 27 HMC Finch, iii. 448, 454.
  • 28 HMC Lords, iii. 246.
  • 29 CSP Dom. 1691-2, pp. 229-30, 446; HMC Finch, iv. 67.
  • 30 Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 650-1.
  • 31 Ibid. iii. 33.
  • 32 HMC Finch, v. 808-9; CSP Dom. 1695, p. 230-1.
  • 33 Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 260, 275.
  • 34 CSP Dom. 1694-5, p. 304.
  • 35 LMA, COL/SJ/27/005.
  • 36 Verney ms mic. M636/50, A. Nicholas to Sir J. Verney, 3 Nov. 1697; C. Gardiner to Sir J. Verney, 9 Nov. 1697; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 299.
  • 37 PA, HL/PO/CO/1/5, 490.
  • 38 Rushbrook Par. Regs. 63.
  • 39 Longleat, Bath mss Prior pprs. 12, ff. 430, 434.
  • 40 Add. 61133, ff. 34-35; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 284.
  • 41 PA, HL/PO/PB/1/1703/2.