MONCK, Christopher (1653-88)

MONCK, Christopher (1653–88)

styled Ld. Torrington 1661-70; suc. fa. 3 Jan. 1670 (a minor) as 2nd duke of ALBEMARLE

First sat 13 Apr. 1675; last sat 22 Nov. 1686

MP Devon 1667-70

b. 14 Aug. 1653,1 o. surv. s. of George Monck, duke of Albemarle, and Ann (d.1670), da. of John Clarges. educ. privately (Thomas Lisle).2 m. 30 Dec. 1669 (with £20,000), Elizabeth (1654–1734), da. and coh. of Henry Cavendish, styled Ld. Ogle (later 2nd duke of Newcastle), s.p. KG 1670. d. 6 Oct. 1688; will 4 July 1687 (disputed).

Gent. of the bedchamber, 1673–85; PC 1675–d.

Commr. for assessment, Devon 1667–9; freeman Harwich 1674, Exeter 1675, Plymouth 1676, Preston 1682, Portsmouth 1683, Plympton Erle 1685; ld. lt. (jt.) Essex, 1675–d., Devon 1675–85; custos rot. Devon 1675–85; recorder, Colchester 1677–Feb. 1688, Tiverton 1683–Jan. 1688, Sandwich 1684–d., Dover,3 Harwich, Saffron Walden, and Gt. Torrington 1685–d.; high steward, Exeter 1676,4 Reading 1683,5 Dover, South Molton, and Totnes 1684–d., Colchester and Barnstaple Sept. 1688–d.; high constable, Carolina c.1680.

Capt. of ft. 1666–7; col. 1673–4; col. Queen’s Horse 1678–9, 1st Horse Gds. 1679–85.

Chan. Camb. Univ. 1682; founding mbr. Hudson’s Bay Co. 1670.6

Associated with: New Hall, Essex; Albemarle House, Westminster (1675-83); Cockpit, Whitehall (1683); York Buildings, Strand, Westminster (1684); Newcastle House, Clerkenwell, Mdx. (1684-7); Jamaica.

Likenesses: oil on canvas attrib. T. Murray, Old Schools, University of Cambridge; mezzotint, I. Beckett, aft. T. Murray, NPG D304843.

Too rich, too young

The pampered only child of one of the most powerful men in the country, elected to Parliament at the age of 13, and married to a daughter of one of the wealthiest and most powerful noble families in the land, Christopher Monck was clearly intended for a glittering public career. His father’s early death was something of a setback: as a minor the new duke was unlikely to be summoned to the Lords but as a peer he was no longer eligible to sit in the Commons. Even so, his potentially extensive influence was readily recognized by Charles II, who immediately promised to confer his father’s garter on the new duke and also offered him a place as gentleman of the bedchamber when he came of age. The lord lieutenancy of Devon went to his kinsman John Granville, earl of Bath, who was to hold it in trust during Albemarle’s minority.

Little is known of Albemarle’s education, other than that he was taught in the company of his cousin Walter Clarges by Thomas Lisle, a displaced Presbyterian minister.7 The education he thus received may have been somewhat desultory for ‘The dull head of General Monck’, according to Burnet, ‘would have his son instructed no further than to make speeches in Parliament.’8 Albemarle inherited a vast estate, consisting of lands in at least 12 English counties (including Essex, Middlesex, and Devon), as well as over 15,000 acres in Ireland, the Carolinas, and the West Indies that produced an income variously estimated at between £13,000 and £22,000 a year. In addition he inherited more than £70,000 (perhaps as much as £180,000) in ready money from his father and perhaps a further £50,000, plus jewels said to be worth £50,000, from his mother, who died less than two weeks after her husband.9 These estimates of his wealth did not include the £20,000 portion that he acquired from his marriage settlement. It has been suggested that, after members of the royal family, he was probably the third richest man in England. When, during the 1670s, his cousin Elizabeth Pride asked him for £500 to add to her dowry, he replied that as he was living on nothing but the revenue from his estates ‘I can spare nothing from my ordinary expenses’, but this was surely disingenuous for, in his first known will, drawn up in 1675, he was sufficiently confident of his resources to provide an additional £6,000 a year to augment his wife’s jointure of £2,000 a year.10

By his father’s will, ‘the tuition and breeding’ of Albemarle was left to his mother and to his father’s friends and political allies, William Craven, earl of Craven, Sir William Morice, Sir John Maynard, Sir Edward Turner, Sir William Doyley, Robert Scawen, John Howell, and Sir Thomas Stringer. Christopher Monck was appointed sole executor, although as a minor he was incapable of entering into contracts. A private act of Parliament, piloted through by his maternal uncle, Sir Thomas Clarges, was required to regularize the position. The act effectively appointed Albemarle’s father-in-law, Lord Ogle, his wife’s uncle, Charles Cheney, and his kinsmen John Granville, earl of Bath, Sir James Smith, and Sir Thomas Clarges, together with his father’s old friend, Seth Ward, bishop of Salisbury, as trustees of the young duke’s estates.

A later allegation that Albemarle had fallen out with Clarges is supported by the latter’s statement that he had no role in managing the Albemarle estates during the last 15 years of the duke’s life.11 The two men were certainly on difficult terms by 1675 when Albemarle withdrew his support for the candidacy of Clarges’ son, Sir Walter Clarges at Clitheroe in favour of Sir Thomas Stringer. Earlier in the year, Clarges had cautioned Albemarle that ‘honour and estate are very insignificant without esteem and respect’ and warned him of an impending crisis in his finances caused by his ‘unhappy purchase’ of Clarendon House – a criticism that Albemarle clearly resented.12 It was said that their strained relationship resulted from the way in which Clarges had taken advantage of Albemarle’s minority to create a reversionary interest in some of the Albemarle lands for himself and his son. While it is not unlikely that Sir Thomas was guilty of sharp practice, Albemarle seems to have been somewhat naïve financially and provided an easy target for the rapaciousness of those who were supposed to act in his best interests. Some ten years, later Bath’s handling of the sale of Albemarle (formerly Clarendon) House also led to well-substantiated allegations of financial misconduct. A more plausible explanation of the deterioration in their relationship may therefore lie in court politics. Albemarle was a fervent royalist and a close friend of James Scott, duke of Monmouth, so it is likely that he shared Charles II’s displeasure with Clarges over the role that he had played in linking Monmouth to the attack on Sir John Coventry and with Clarges’ subsequent opposition to government policies.

Possessed of a considerable fortune and free of parental control, Albemarle embarked upon a life at court: a life in which horse and greyhound racing, hunting, heavy gambling, and hard drinking played an important role. In 1670 he invoked privilege of peerage to protect Samuel Rich, one of his chaplains, who had been arrested in spite of Albemarle’s written protections.13 In February 1671, together with a group of high-ranking but thuggish friends that included Monmouth, Edward Griffin, later Baron Griffin, Peter Savage, Robert Constable (Viscount Dunbar [S]), and the future Jacobite conspirator Sir John Fenwick, he was involved in a brawl with the local peace officers after a visit to a brothel in Whetstone Park (near Holborn). Faced by a gang of youths with drawn swords all but one of the peace officers fled. The remaining officer, Beadle Peter Virnell or Vernell, ‘defended himself with a quarter staff but was ran through some say in two places some say in 16’ and died of his injuries.14 The authorities quickly took action to protect the perpetrators. In what Andrew Marvell‡ described as ‘an act of great scandal’ all those responsible for the murder were pardoned before a trial could be held.15 The terms of Albemarle’s pardon, together with the fact that it was the first to be issued, suggests that he was the most culpable of the youths involved, and this impression is further confirmed in a contemporary poem,

‘No mercy!’ cries our late great Gen’r’l’s heir,
Who presses on more boldly when he sees
The wretched beadle sinking on his knees
And leaps upon him with that elusive force
(His father ne’er slew Scot with less remorse)…16

Yet Albemarle remained a favourite at court and in 1673 he was made a gentleman of the bedchamber. In the same year he was made colonel of a new regiment and was given confirmation of title to lands in Ireland that had been bestowed on his father during the interregnum. He also began to exert himself on behalf of Thomas Monck, an impoverished Irish soldier who had been recognized as a kinsman by his father and whose precise relationship to the Albemarles would later become the subject of a long-running dispute over the Albemarle fortune.17 Early in 1674 Albemarle was reported to have asked the king for permission to serve with the prince of Orange but was refused.18

The loyal courtier, 1675–85

On attaining his majority Albemarle entered public life in earnest. As early as 1670, during the run-up to the election for his successor as knight of the shire for Devon, his involvement in the contest had been so intense that he threw two glasses of wine in the face of Sir William Courtenay during celebrations for the wedding of Sir James Smith.19 Already in possession of considerable electoral influence by virtue of his landholdings, between 1674 and 1677 he reinforced that influence still further by collecting a series of local offices at borough and county levels. His first known foray into electoral politics was his intervention in the 1675 Clitheroe by-election mentioned above.

In the Lords, as he had been in the Commons, Albemarle was a reliable supporter of the court. As he once explained to Bath, he saw himself as dedicated ‘without any faction or other interest’ to the king ‘being ready to venture my life and fortune as frankly for his majesty as my father did, and would ever have done, as often as his majesty’s service required it’.20 He took his seat on the first day of the 1675 session and was then present for some 85 per cent of sittings. He was named, as he would be in every session that he attended, to the sessional committees for privileges and petitions. Even before he had taken his seat, he was listed by Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby (later marquess of Carmarthen and duke of Leeds), as a probable supporter of the non-resisting Test. On 14 May he indicated his support for the Lords’ assumption of jurisdiction in the case of Sherley v. Fagg when, together with Arthur Annesley, earl of Anglesey, he entered a dissent against the Lords’ compliance with the Commons request for an explanation of the grounds upon which Charles Mohun, 3rd Baron Mohun, had detained the Commons’ warrant against Dr. Sherley.

During the recess in the summer of 1675, Albemarle completed negotiations for the purchase of the palatial Clarendon House for £25,000.21 Occupying the house built by his father’s old enemy may have been intended to convey a message about his own aspirations for public life. It also provided an ostentatious symbol of wealth and status, one that was perhaps all the more necessary because it was already rumoured that he had managed to dissipate most of his father’s fortune: ‘’tis strangely wasted’, wrote Sir Ralph Verney, ‘and hath ever been wasting since he killed the poor beadle in Whetstone’s Park’.22 Sir Thomas Clarges, who was in a position to be even better informed about Albemarle’s finances than Verney, warned his nephew that the purchase was an extravagance that would lead to almost irrevocable financial difficulty, adding for good measure that ‘Young men never see their unhappiness till they feel it.’23

During the short autumn 1675 session Albemarle held the proxy of the elderly Charles Stanhope, 2nd Baron Stanhope of Harrington. While it is tempting to speculate that the proxy was intended for use in connection with the controversy over Sherley v. Fagg, Albemarle’s attendance pattern suggests otherwise. He was present on only half of the 20 sitting days. These included the first five days of the session, when detailed discussion of Sherley v. Fagg was repeatedly postponed, but at a call of the House on 10 Nov. he was listed as having been excused attendance by the king and so was not present when the issue was debated in a committee of the whole or for the debates over the publication of A Letter to a Person of Quality.

In the course of 1676 it was believed, probably correctly, that Albemarle’s influence might be sufficient to secure the support of Sir Richard Everard for the court.24 Meanwhile, in the autumn of that year he was busy with his new local government responsibilities in Devon. The gentry and aristocracy of Devon turned out in force to meet him as he made a grand progress through the county that culminated in a magnificent entrance into Plymouth, where he was greeted by members of the corporation and admitted to the freedom of the borough.25 Over the winter of 1676–7 he was in contact with Dr. Thomas Skinner, whose desire to ingratiate himself with those capable of promoting his preferment had led to the suggestion that he write a biography of Albemarle’s father. Albemarle, who took considerable pride in his father’s reputation, made his family papers available to Skinner and also provided ‘a very honourable testimony of his bounty’.26

Albemarle attended the 1677–8 session for some 76 per cent of sitting days, with most of his absences concentrated in February, March, and April 1678, when he was away, presumably on military duties. He held the proxy of his friend Philip Herbert, 7th earl of Pembroke, from the beginning of the session in February 1677 to 5 Feb. 1678. The proxy was vacated on that date by Pembroke’s attendance to answer a complaint made against him; it was re-registered on 23 February. During the course of the session Albemarle was named to only two select committees. In May he joined with Bath in recommending that the king bestow a mark of favour on Sir Edward Seymour.27 His role in the dispute in Colchester between the recorder Sir John Shawand the corporation is unclear. In May Shaw had hopes that Albemarle would support him, then in November resigned the recordership in his favour.28

In the meantime (in August 1677) Albemarle travelled to Holland, ostensibly to join the Dutch forces but possibly on a mission connected with the marriage of Princess Mary to William of Orange or the negotiations for a peace between France and Holland. He was at Harwich to greet William on his arrival and appears to have remained on good terms with him thereafter. From 14 Jan. 1678 he held the proxy of his father-in-law, Henry Cavendish, now 2nd duke of Newcastle, who was anxious to avoid his parliamentary duties, considering ‘the times and businesses … now on foot’.29 On 29 Jan. Albemarle delivered a petition to the House from Pembroke, who had been imprisoned by the king for blasphemous words.30 On 4 Apr. he voted Pembroke guilty only of manslaughter. His friendship for Pembroke survived that lord’s increasingly bizarre behaviour; three years later, in May 1681, he was one of the signatories to a petition that Pembroke be pardoned for murder.31

The military duties that distracted Albemarle from his parliamentary ones were clearly very important to his sense of self-worth. Admiring observers of a muster held on Hounslow Heath in June 1678 noted that ‘The commanders were gloriously fine, but above all the duke of Albemarle for splendour and the great number of rare lead horses which he had’.32 Splendid he may have been, but his military abilities were not highly rated and there were rumours in September 1678 that he would resign rather than serve under Louis de Duras, 2nd earl of Feversham.33

During the ensuing short session Albemarle attended only 16 per cent of sitting days and was named to just one select committee. His attendance rose again for the autumn 1678 session, reaching some 76 per cent. During this session he again held the proxies of Newcastle and Pembroke. On 26 Nov. he voted in favour of including the declaration against transubstantiation in the Test bill. His attendance record would have been higher but for an absence in December. On 17 Dec. he asked and was granted the permission of the House to

have leave to go into the country for ten days, in order to public service of his majesty, by some further discovery (his grace hopes to make) of the plot; and that in the mean time he will be ready to attend the House at a day’s warning, whenever he shall have notice thereof.

Such information as is available suggests that the alarm in the west country related not so much to the Popish Plot as such but to reports of a French landing in or near Purbeck.34 Albemarle’s December absence meant that he was not called upon to divide on contentious issues relating to the disbanding of the army or the related question of payment of money into the exchequer. His political allegiances were nevertheless clear. Throughout this period he continued to be strongly associated with Danby, voting against his commitment on 27 Dec. 1678. Not surprisingly, Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, listed him as doubly vile.

Although an infrequent attender at meetings of the privy council, Albemarle remained a member even after it was remodelled early in 1679; he also served as one of the lords of trade and plantations, probably because of his interests as one of the lords proprietors of Carolina and as a founder member of the Hudson’s Bay Company.35 He was actively involved on behalf of the court in the elections to the Exclusion Parliaments. In February 1679 he was in correspondence with Danby about the impending electoral contest for Essex but his influence was insufficient to secure the return of the court candidates for the county constituency.36 He was also active in the elections for the Essex boroughs. As high steward for Colchester he was well placed to secure the return of his cousin, the anti-exclusionist Sir Walter Clarges. At Maldon, he initially supported the candidature of Sir Richard Wisemanbut, when Wiseman decided not to stand James, duke of York, ordered him to support William Scroggs, son of the lord chief justice.37 In the event Scroggs did not stand and Sir John Bramston was elected on the court interest instead. At Harwich it seems likely that he supported the election of York’s admiralty candidates, Samuel Pepys and Sir Anthony Deane, although there is no documentary evidence to confirm this.

Albemarle’s pro-court sympathies, so clearly demonstrated in his activities in the House and in the Essex elections were somewhat diluted in Devon. The infrequency of his visits there meant that his role in the county was a more distant and difficult one, requiring the active support and co-operation of his deputy lieutenants. His support did, however, help to re-elect Danby’s enemy, the Speaker, Edward Seymour. Albemarle’s role in the Devon borough elections is unclear, possibly because he was able to rely on Bath, but perhaps also because of his extensive kinship network there and because of his father’s complex religious and political legacy. In Exeter, for example, he was instrumental in securing the council’s condemnation of the ‘seditious and factious proceedings’ during the election of the nonconformist sympathizer William Glyde in 1679; Glyde had been elected to the Exeter corporation on the recommendation of Albemarle’s father.38 What little survives of Albemarle’s correspondence amply demonstrates his active interest in electoral issues, including as it does letters from Samuel Rolleexplaining his conduct at the 1679 Exeter election; a letter from the ‘Loyal Party of Tiverton’ in 1680 requesting a new charter to help them cope with ‘conventicles, faction and disorder’; and one from William Glyde defending himself against allegations made by the aldermen of Exeter in 1683.39

Albemarle’s attendance during the 61-day session of the first Exclusion Parliament in 1679 rose to 85 per cent. On 18 Mar. 1679, together with Charles Powlett, 6th marquess of Winchester (later duke of Bolton), he secured an order from the House permitting the Catholic Bernard Howard to return to London for a month despite the king’s proclamation. On 15 Apr. he delivered a box of papers belonging to Sir William Andrewes, who had been arrested in connection with the Popish Plot. He also exerted his influence (unsuccessfully) on the Commons committee on elections, in an attempt to secure Sir John Reresby’s seat at Aldborough.40 Although Danby consistently listed Albemarle as an opponent of the proceedings against him, in April 1679 he included Albemarle on the ‘additional’ list of those who had voted him guilty. Presumably this was an error, for in May Danby reported that Albemarle had defended him in an exchange involving ‘hot words’ with Sir Thomas Armstrong.41 On 27 May Albemarle probably voted for the right of the bishops to stay in the House during capital cases. Over the summer Albemarle again exerted himself in the election for Essex, organizing a splendid cavalcade of gentry and clergy in support of the court candidates, who were nevertheless trounced.42 He did, however, secure the election of one of the failed court candidates, Sir Thomas Middleton, for Harwich.43

In the summer of 1680 Albemarle was disappointed when the king refused to permit him to go as a volunteer to Tangier.44 He also had hopes of succeeding to the command vacated by the death of Thomas Butler, earl of Ossory [I] and Baron Butler of Moore Park, but despite assurances of his devotion to York’s service he was again thwarted.45 Discussions about offering him the government of Portsmouth similarly foundered, although rumours to that effect persisted until at least December.46 When Parliament finally reconvened for the 1680–1 session, he was present for 78 per cent of sittings. In November 1680 he opposed attempts to exclude York from the succession and voted against the creation of a committee to consider the state of the kingdom. In December 1680 he found William Howard, Viscount Stafford, guilty of treason. The same month he also had some involvement in settling disputes within the corporation of Dover.47 The following March he was listed as a supporter of the motion to bail Danby.

Throughout 1680 Albemarle continued to exert his influence against exclusion, ensuring that the Essex assizes did not endorse the county’s petition for the continued sitting of Parliament, and promoting instead an address of abhorrence.48 With the exception of Sir Walter Clarges, the sitting members for all four borough constituencies were again returned in 1681. The emotions roused by fears of a Popish Plot still ran high and Clarges was defeated when Titus Oates smeared Albemarle and his fellow lord lieutenant, Aubrey de Vere, 20th earl of Oxford, as Catholic sympathizers.

Albemarle also exerted influence in Lancashire, where his interest was probably managed by his steward (and cousin by marriage), Curwen Rawlinson. As in Devon, local politics were complicated by kinship and local allegiances. Despite his dependence on Albemarle’s patronage, Rawlinson supported ‘country’ candidates in 1679. In 1681 he was instrumental in presenting a loyal address from the Lancaster sessions, referring to Albemarle in the process as a great ‘promoter of loyal endeavours’, but he earned the enmity of William Stanley, 9th earl of Derby, for alleged sharp practice as a lawyer and justice of the peace and for his reluctance to prosecute Dissenters.49 In 1685 Rawlinson was a potential candidate for Lancaster but stood down in favour of the Whig Charles Gerard, (later 2nd earl of Macclesfield). Albemarle’s support helped elect his father’s old friend, Sir Thomas Stringer, for Clitheroe in 1675 and to re-elect him in 1679 and 1681, even though Stringer had become increasingly associated with exclusionists.

Although close to York and a determined opponent of exclusion, Albemarle was a committed Anglican.50 He was said to have used his new post as commander of the Life Guards to purge it of papists; he also backed the campaign against Dissenters.51 Military matters occupied much of his time. In the summer of 1680, as high constable, he was appointing all military officers in Carolina.52 As lord lieutenant of Devon, he was also concerned to ensure that the militia – the county’s frontline defence against both internal and external enemies – should be in good order, ‘especially in these times when loyal men ought frequently to meet and join together to disappoint the wicked designs of rebellious and seditious people for the preservation of the peace of the government as it is established in church and state by law preserved’.53

Although anxious to reassure his deputy lieutenants that the king intended to rule according to law, he was clearly associated with a somewhat heavy-handed attempt to stamp out local opposition to the court, including the dismissal of ‘country’ sympathizer Samuel Rolle from almost all his local appointments because of his failure to sign the loyal address approving the dissolution of Parliament in 1681. Rolle somewhat pathetically complained that he had been unable to sign the address as it had been sent off before he even knew of it.54 The suggestion that Albemarle was appointed joint lord lieutenant of Wiltshire at about this time appears to be erroneous. A warrant for a commission, mentioning the incapacity through absence of Pembroke,], was issued in January 1681 but no letters patent have been traced.55

Albemarle’s key role in the promotion of popular Toryism was underlined by his election in April 1682 as one of the stewards for the feast of the Artillery Company, at which York was besieged by a crowd of supporters.56 He also attended the Tory feast for loyal young men and apprentices held in the Merchant Tailors’ Hall on 9 Aug. 1682, at which he was elected as a steward for the following year’s entertainment.57 Meanwhile his support for Danby was shown by his presence in court in June 1682 to support Danby’s request for release. It was further shown by his activity as a member of the court of delegates empowered to hear and determine the validity of the Hyde–Emerton marriage and his decision in April 1683 to return a verdict in favour of Danby’s son.58

Albemarle’s military career was extremely important to him but just how efficient a military officer he was remains a matter for debate. Monmouth, who had good reason to decry the achievements of his successor, claimed that the discipline of the guards had deteriorated under Albemarle’s command and found himself challenged to a duel as a result of his remarks. Monmouth may well have been right, for a description of Albemarle’s guards at an inspection in Hyde Park three years later was far from complimentary.59 Monmouth’s resentment was fuelled still further when Albemarle replaced him as chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Albemarle’s subsequent installation, in May 1682, was a major social occasion, involving hundreds of students and alumni, as well as an elaborate (and extremely expensive) entertainment. Political enmities between Albemarle and Monmouth led to the escalation of a number of trivial incidents in June 1682. These included a duel between Albemarle and Monmouth’s ally, Ford Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Warke (later earl of Tankerville), and a brawl between Albemarle’s and Monmouth’s servants.60

Albemarle was clearly still very much a favourite at court, involved in various wagers with the king, accompanying him hunting and to the races, and often entertaining him at New Hall. He was entrusted with diplomatic tasks, such as the entertainment of William of Orange in 1681 and of the Moroccan ambassador in 1682, and in the winter of that year was tipped to become ambassador to the court of Fez.61 He was also active in factional politics at court, involving himself, probably as an ally of York, in the rivalry between George Savile, marquess of Halifax, and Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester.62 In 1683, he and his guardsmen were present at the execution of William Russell‡, Lord Russell; according to one account, Albemarle was so horrified at the botching of the execution that he drew his pistol, intending to end Russell’s sufferings, but was prevented by the crowd, who chanted ‘Murder, murder.’63 Early the following year he was one of the signatories to the petition to the crown for Danby’s release and when the petition was granted stood bail for him in the sum of £5,000.64

By the early 1680s Albemarle’s way of life had severely damaged both his fortune and his health. As Sir Thomas Clarges had predicted, the cost of buying Clarendon House was simply too much for his finances to bear, especially given his extravagance and his habitual gambling. In 1682 he was bargaining the sale of lands in Yorkshire to Danby and at the same time he was negotiating to buy the Cockpit in Whitehall from him.65 He was in need of a new London house as he was having to sell Albemarle House (as he had renamed Clarendon House) to rectify the ‘prodigious waste’ that he had made of his inheritance.66 In 1683 the property was sold for £36,000 and Albemarle moved into the Cockpit.

His sojourn there proved to be a temporary one; in 1684 he was ‘hurried’ into selling it and forced to look for temporary lodgings before accepting his father-in-law’s hospitality and moving into Newcastle House in Clerkenwell.67 The proceeds of the sale were used to pay Albemarle’s debts. At the same time Albemarle was coping with his wife’s fragile mental health. His own health was also poor, so much so that in the summer of 1683 Sir Ralph Verney reported a rumour that ‘the duke of Albemarle is dead, or very like to die’.68 Notes made by his physician, Hans Sloane, suggest that he was an alcoholic; he ate little other than crusts of bread, was prone to prolonged bouts of heavy drinking, and exhibited symptoms suggestive of cirrhosis of the liver.69

Out of favour, 1685–8

The accession of James II brought expectations of fresh parliamentary elections and Albemarle was deeply involved in the ensuing preparations, working closely with Oxford, publicizing the names of his preferred candidates, and even threatening prosecution against an Essex clergyman whose behaviour in the pulpit had led the king to regard him as ‘obnoxious’. At the same time he was orchestrating the surrender and regranting of borough charters.70 In Essex he secured the return of his candidates Sir William Maynard and Sir Thomas Fanshawe with the aid of an impressive cavalcade of local gentlemen, including the Catholic Thomas Petre, 6th Baron Petre. Remodelled charters at Colchester and Harwich helped Albemarle to secure the return of Sir Walter Clarges and Samuel Pepys.71 At Maldon, where the contest was closer than initially expected, the electorate were nevertheless ‘caressed’ by Albemarle into voting for the two court candidates, Sir John Bramston and Sir Thomas Darcy.72 Although he expected Cambridge University to accept his nomination to one of their seats, he was unable to persuade them to do so. His candidate, Arthur Farewell (who acted as his secretary and was married to a cousin), was elected for Dartmouth instead.73 Finally, he was successful in securing the return of court candidates for Sandwich, although the election was then disputed.74

The poor survival of sources makes it difficult to assess Albemarle’s role in the Devon elections and charter campaign but a letter from his deputy lieutenants complimenting themselves on having the ‘most reformed’ county in the kingdom, where ‘The most stubborn of the sectaries do conform either for fear or conscience sake’, certainly suggests that it was considerable, and he was kept informed of the success of the Tory candidates there.75 The charter campaign in Devon was spearheaded by Bath but Albemarle’s involvement is suggested by his inclusion as a burgess in several of the new charters (including Plymouth, Exeter, and Plympton).76 The Exeter connections were particularly strong: Albemarle was related to Robert, James, and Thomas Walker, who all served in the Commons for Exeter. James Walker was later appointed governor of Port Royal, Jamaica, by the duke. Kinship also linked him to another former Exeter Member, Sir James Smith. Moreover he had influence in Dover and Dartmouth.77

Despite these electoral successes Albemarle’s reputation at court was low, partly because of his problems with alcohol; he was reputed to have earned the displeasure of James II by being drunk in the presence of the queen.78 When news of Monmouth’s intended invasion broke in the spring of 1685, Albemarle saw his chance to redeem his reputation and to live up to that of his father. He immediately went to Exeter to take command, alongside Bath, of the militia there. Things did not go well from the start. At least two of his officers suddenly discovered themselves to be unfit for duty.79 His instructions, according to Bramston, were to stay there and to secure the county; Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland certainly told him to ‘forbear to attempt anything … except upon great advantages’.80 In command of a force of some 4,000 men and facing an enemy who had landed with less than 100, he followed his instructions to the letter, thus allowing Monmouth time to establish himself.

An attempt to head off Monmouth’s march out of Lyme went disastrously wrong and demonstrated the unreliability of the militia. John Churchill, Baron Churchill (later duke of Marlborough), reported that many of them ‘threw down their arms and fled … half, if not the greatest part, are gone to the rebels’.81 The Somerset militia were equally unhappy about opposing Monmouth. The confusion of leadership was resolved with the appointment of Louis de Duras*, earl of Feversham, as commander of the forces over Albemarle’s head, while the problems created by the divided loyalties of members of the militia were overcome by the arrival of the guards. Ironically, given the criticism that he subsequently faced, it was Albemarle’s own troops (led by Feversham) who defeated the rebels at Sedgemoor, while Albemarle and the Devon militia occupied themselves by tearing down handbills left behind by Monmouth’s supporters in Taunton. Observing from a distance, James Butler, duke of Ormond, expressed a widespread belief when he condemned Albemarle’s handling of the military operation, declaring that there had been ‘time enough to have suppressed that rebellion with the bare militia, if tolerable conduct and courage had been employed in it. Now it will cost more time and some lives.’82

Albemarle’s firm Anglicanism had probably already brought him into some disfavour at court. Now his indecisiveness, his inability to act on his own initiative, and his reluctance to hang rebels without trial all combined to convince James that he was dispensable.83 Perhaps James even suspected Albemarle’s loyalty; Albemarle certainly thought it worthwhile to circulate multiple copies of an exchange of letters between himself and Monmouth, in which Albemarle declared ‘that I never was and never will be a rebel to my lawful king, who is James the Second, brother to my late dear master, King Charles the Second’.84 Albemarle himself was convinced that his activities had been unjustly represented, but was unable to persuade the king of this. On 30 July 1685, Sir John Bramston was in another room while the king reproved Albemarle ‘so that the tears stood in his eyes’. Later that evening Albemarle protested about Feversham’s promotion, reminding the king of his own commission to command all the forces, only to be told that his commission had expired with Charles II’s life. The next day he resigned his military commands and his lord lieutenancies. He also wrote to Cambridge announcing his retirement from court and recommending the university to the care of William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury.85 Bath succeeded Albemarle as lord lieutenant of Devon. Anxious to preserve his relationship with Albemarle, whose estate he hoped to inherit, he protested to Sunderland that Albemarle’s influence over the Devon militia was invaluable and assured Albemarle that his interest would be protected and that the Devon militia would continue to march under his name and colours.86 According to his wife, Albemarle was not impressed by Bath’s intervention, believing that far greater efforts could have been made on his behalf.87

In January 1686 Albemarle was summoned as one of the triers for the trial of Henry Booth*, 2nd Baron Delamer (later earl of Warrington) in the court of the lord high steward but failed to appear.88 The king continued to visit Albemarle at New Hall but a letter written by the duke in or about 1687 in response to the threat of a quo warranto against the lord proprietors of Carolina reveals that he was still very conscious of being under the king’s displeasure.89 In the meantime, in the spring of 1686, Albemarle was appointed governor of Jamaica.90 The appointment caused considerable surprise for, as one observer put it, ‘most as goes to those parts are men of desperate fortunes’.91 One of Albemarle’s acolytes even went so far as to draw up a schedule of ‘Reasons humbly offered to the Duke of Albemarle against his going governor to Jamaica’.92

Within a few months he had become the talk of the town for another reason. By investing £800 in an operation to salvage treasure from a shipwreck near Hispaniola he had secured a return variously reputed to be between £40,000 and £75,000.93 According to one account he had been on the point of selling New Hall but the huge profit from the salvage operation not only prevented this but encouraged him to look for yet another home in Wiltshire.94 Albemarle still had not left England when, in the following year, the University of Cambridge sought his assistance in dealing with the king’s request that Alban Francis, a Benedictine monk, be admitted to the degree of Master of Arts without taking the oaths of supremacy and obedience. Knowing that to do so would invoke the king’s further displeasure, Albemarle nevertheless interposed on their behalf, albeit unsuccessfully.

Throughout 1686 and 1687, Albemarle was negotiating the terms under which he would serve as governor in Jamaica. At least one of his advisers, presumably drawing on the experience of the duke’s inability to defend himself against his enemies at court during Monmouth’s rebellion, advised him to insist that the council for foreign plantations be prevented from discussing matters relating to the government of Jamaica unless Albemarle were actually present.95

The returns on Albemarle’s salvage operation may have given him useful bargaining power since the king was keen to share in them. Additional letters patent were issued in March 1687 granting him mining and mineral rights in all the American colonies, and when he left England for Jamaica in September he took a contingent of Devon miners with him.96 Further concessions followed; they included the power to confer up to six knighthoods and a dispensation from the rule preventing governors from returning to England without express permission to do so.97 In return he was offered an opportunity to rebuild James II’s confidence in his political abilities. It was perhaps to be expected that he was ‘to give all protection, countenance and encouragement’ to Catholics, but more importantly he was to bring the Jamaican assembly under control. A long-running constitutional dispute about the respective powers of the crown/governor and of the Jamaican assembly to make laws and raise supplies had ended in 1680 with what was in effect a capitulation by the king and his council. Nevertheless, the crown still sought to limit the assembly’s ability to exercise its powers and to prevent it from infringing the royal prerogative. In particular it sought to persuade the assembly to grant a perpetual revenue.98

The assembly was initially unwilling to co-operate, fearing that the crown’s objective was to dispense with an elected assembly altogether. They were so suspicious of the crown’s motives that they even refused to grant a revenue for a seven-year term. In 1683, Governor Thomas Lynch had managed to overcome ingrained opposition to crown policies and had obtained a revenue act for 21 years. Albemarle, either on his own initiative or, more probably, acting on unwritten instructions, was determined to turn this into the perpetual revenue that the crown so much desired. Early in 1688 he summoned an assembly but when, after six weeks, it had refused to pass the perpetual revenue act that he demanded, it was dissolved.

Albemarle then embarked on a campaign to purge the opposition and to secure a new and more compliant assembly, adopting similar tactics to those used by James II to secure a compliant Parliament. Lynch’s enemies, Roger Elletson and the buccaneer Henry Morgan, were restored to favour. Albemarle suspended councillors, dismissed militia officers and appointed new justices of the peace, provoking complaints that ‘men of the best estates and qualifications … have been turned out of all authority and command, and their places, as well civil and military, filled up with needy and mechanic men, such as tapsters, barbers and the like’.99 In the summer of 1688 fresh assembly elections were called, which Albemarle, declaring that it was his ‘chiefest care, how to render his majesty my best service in this place’, hoped would provide ‘a true and satisfactory demonstration’ of his devotion. Determined electoral management, including voting by ‘sham’ freeholders and the imprisonment of several of those ‘who factiously and tumultuously opposed the Government’, provoked serious rioting.100 According to Albemarle’s successor, scarcely five members of the assembly of 1688 were elected legally.101 Early in August, Albemarle wrote triumphantly that,

his majesty need not in the least doubt, but that his commands here shall at all times (at least I hope during my stay) meet with no opposition as has been heretofore but with a steady obedience as becomes his most dutiful and loyal subjects. … The assembly have not sat many days, but the business they have dispatched will plainly demonstrate that they are met truly to serve their king and country … it is not in the least to be doubted but that this good beginning will have a good ending, for I am very certain that whatsoever shall be offered for the service of his majesty will not now meet with any manner of opposition, so that since I have the good fortune to do with such good men, I shall not very easily part with them.102

Among the bills passed was the much-desired perpetual revenue act.

Albemarle’s formal letters to the Privy Council were supplemented by private letters to Bath, on whose influence and ability to counter any hostile reports he counted. At home, his achievement met with much approval, until the king and his council began to realize the extent of the opposition he had stirred up and lost their nerve. One of the last orders of James II, made in December 1688, was that all councillors or officers dismissed by Albemarle should be reinstated. William III confirmed the order and, although he was as desirous of a perpetual revenue act as his predecessor, refused either to confirm or to disallow the 1688 act.103

Albemarle died in October 1688 as a result of illness brought on by three days’ heavy drinking, for which the ostensible excuse was a celebration of the birth of the prince of Wales. A list of his debtors drawn up at or about the time of his death reveals that he had lent sums of money to a large number of individuals. His debtors included the one-time lord mayor of London, Sir Robert Vyner; Robert Leke, 3rd earl of Scarsdale; Sir Anthony Abdy; Aubrey de Vere, 20th earl of Oxford; Charles Fane, 3rd earl of Westmorland; Thomas Windsor, earl of Plymouth; and William Paston, 2nd earl of Yarmouth. The sums involved ranged from 50 to over 3,000 guineas. His largest single debtor was Henry Hyde, 2nd earl of Clarendon, who owed him £15,000.104

Although Albemarle’s wealth was much diminished, it was nevertheless still considerable – and worth fighting over. He had no children, his wife was mentally unstable, and he was determined to prevent his fortune from going to his common-law heir, his cousin Elizabeth Sherwin, a direct descendant of the regicide Thomas Pride. During his lifetime he made many promises about his intended bequests and seems to have made several wills. His last will, made shortly before his departure for Jamaica, provided generously for his widow and for a monument to his parents, leaving the residue of his estate to his namesake, Christopher Monck. Christopher Monck’s deceased father, Colonel Thomas Monck, had been something of a protégé of both dukes of Albemarle, who referred to him as a kinsman. The precise relationship is unclear and, if it existed at all, was probably a very distant one.

Albemarle’s will was disputed by Bath, who had been named in an earlier one as residuary legatee. He contested it through several courts, including the House of Lords, using privilege of peerage to delay and intimidate his opponents. The duchess of Albemarle’s case (including her claim to an income of £8,000 a year from the Albemarle estates) was taken up by her second husband, Ralph Montagu, earl (later duke) of Montagu. Further litigation resulted from claims that the 2nd duke was illegitimate and therefore had no right either to inherit his father’s estate or to dispose of it. Bath and Montagu apparently believed that, despite her comparative youth, the duchess of Albemarle’s mental frailty meant that they would outlive her. They were mistaken, and the estate was not finally settled until her death in 1734.


  • 1 E.F. Ward, Christopher Monck, Duke of Albemarle, 9.
  • 2 E. Calamy, The Non-conformist’s Memorial, i. 383–4.
  • 3 Staffs. RO, D(W)1778/I/i/1148.
  • 4 HMC Exeter, 78.
  • 5 HMC Lords, i. 195.
  • 6 HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 11.
  • 7 TNA, C 9/273/1, Answer of Sir Walter Clarges, 7 May 1691.
  • 8 HP Commons, 1660–90, iii. 73.
  • 9 Restoration Ireland: Always Settling and Never Settled ed. C. Dennehy, 48; M. Ashley, General Monck, 253–4; Wood, Life and Times, ii. 184; Mapperton, Sandwich Journal, x. 99–101; Verney ms mic. M636/23, Sir R. Verney to E. Verney, 5 Jan. 1670; NAS, GD 157/2667/2.
  • 10 Ward, Christopher Monck, 46, 51.
  • 11 TNA, C 9/273/1.
  • 12 HMC Buccleuch, i. 322.
  • 13 HMC 8th Rep. i. 151.
  • 14 Bodl. Carte 81, f. 315.
  • 15 Marvell, ed. Margoliouth, ii. 308; CSP Dom. 1671, pp. 142, 183.
  • 16 POAS, i. 176.
  • 17 Stowe 202, ff. 99, 196, 203, 214, 207.
  • 18 TNA, PRO 31/3/130 ff. 118–20.
  • 19 The Commons, 1660–90, i. 191.
  • 20 TNA, PROB 36/5, Albemarle to Bath, 29 Sept. [?1677].
  • 21 HMC 7th Rep. 465.
  • 22 Verney ms mic. M636/28, Sir R. Verney to E. Verney, 27 May 1675.
  • 23 HMC Buccleuch, i. 322.
  • 24 HP Commons, 1660–90, ii. 282, iii. 74.
  • 25 CSP Dom. 1676–7, pp. 350–1.
  • 26 Ibid. pp. 525–6.
  • 27 HMC Somerset, 105.
  • 28 Verney ms mic. M636/30, J. to Sir R. Verney, 28 May 1677; HP Commons, 1660–90, iii. 429.
  • 29 HMC Buccleuch, i. 329–30.
  • 30 Add. 33278, f. 52.
  • 31 TNA, SP 29/415/192.
  • 32 Verney ms mic. M636/31, J. to E. Verney, 4 June 1678.
  • 33 Bodl. Carte 103, f. 225.
  • 34 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 7, 12.
  • 35 HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 11.
  • 36 Eg. 3331, f. 96.
  • 37 Ibid.
  • 38 HP Commons, 1660–90, i. 199.
  • 39 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 15, 21, 45.
  • 40 Reresby Mems. 176.
  • 41 HMC 9th Rep. ii. 456.
  • 42 Add. 29569, ff. 233–4; HMC Lindsey Supp. 26; HP Commons, 1660–90, i. 229.
  • 43 HMC Lindsey Suppl. 27–28; HP Commons, 1660–90, i. 233.
  • 44 HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 331.
  • 45 HMC Montagu, 176.
  • 46 HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 481; HMC Dartmouth, i. 54; Verney ms mic. M636/35, J. to Sir R. Verney, 9 Dec. 1680.
  • 47 Add. 41804, f. 231.
  • 48 Knights, Pols and Opinion, 235, 267.
  • 49 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 20–21; HMC Ormonde, n.s. vii. 229–30.
  • 50 HMC Dartmouth, i. 54, 70.
  • 51 Ward, Christopher Monck, 119–20; CSP Dom. 1682, p. 20.
  • 52 Ward, Christopher Monck, 116.
  • 53 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, f. 17.
  • 54 Ibid. f. 22.
  • 55 CSP Dom. 1680–1, p. 149.
  • 56 Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 179; CSP Dom. 1682, p. 173.
  • 57 Verney ms mic. M636/37, J. Stewkeley to Sir R. Verney, 10 Aug. 1682; HMC 7th Rep. 356.
  • 58 Eg. 3384, ff.18–19, 90, 93–98; Add. 28051, ff. 133–4.
  • 59 Hatton Corresp. ii. 12; HMC Montagu, 189.
  • 60 HMC 7th Rep. 353, 479; Bodl. Carte 216, f. 67; Verney ms mic. M636/36, J. to E. Verney, 5 June 1682; Ward, Christopher Monck, 145–6.
  • 61 Ward, Christopher Monck, 148.
  • 62 Reresby Mems. 323–4.
  • 63 Ward, Christopher Monck, 168.
  • 64 Eg. 3358 F, Danby’s petition (c. Feb. 1684); Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 300–1.
  • 65 Eg. 3334, ff. 28–29, 94–95.
  • 66 Evelyn Diary, iv. 339.
  • 67 HMC 5th Rep. 186; HMC Buccleuch, i. 340.
  • 68 Verney ms mic. M636/37, Sir R. Verney to J. Verney, 6 June 1683.
  • 69 Sloane 3984, ff. 282–5.
  • 70 HMC Buccleuch, i. 344; Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 51, 61.
  • 71 VCH Essex, ii. 98; Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, f. 97.
  • 72 VCH Essex, ii. 250–1.
  • 73 Wood, Life and Times, iii. 136.
  • 74 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, f. 87; HMC Buccleuch, i. 341.
  • 75 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 57, 107.
  • 76 HMC 9th Rep. i. 281; Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 54, 111; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 363.
  • 77 HMC Buccleuch, i. 341.
  • 78 Ward, Christopher Monck, 180.
  • 79 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 63–64.
  • 80 Bramston Autobiog. 184; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 196.
  • 81 HMC 3rd Rep. 97.
  • 82 Bodl. Carte 70, f. 565.
  • 83 CSP Dom. 1685, p. 239.
  • 84 HMC Laing, i. 441–2; HMC Bath, ii. 171–2; Add. 71448, ff. 86–87.
  • 85 Bramston Autobiog. 205–6; Bodl. Tanner 158, ff. 59, 79.
  • 86 CSP Dom. 1685, p. 313; HMC Buccleuch, i. 345.
  • 87 TNA, C 10/279/3.
  • 88 Bodl. Carte 8, f. 773.
  • 89 Add. 75360, Reresby to Halifax, 27 Apr. 1686; Add. 72523, ff. 155–6; HMC Downshire, i. 161; Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 91, 121.
  • 90 CSP Dom. 1686–7, f. 610.
  • 91 Verney ms mic. M636/40, C. Gardiner to Sir R. Verney, 21 Apr. 1686.
  • 92 HMC 5th Rep. 372–3.
  • 93 Hatton Corresp. ii. 167; Evelyn Diary, iv. 552; HMC Downshire, i. 252, 255–6; Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 42, f. 212.
  • 94 Thynne pprs. 42, ff. 244–5.
  • 95 Northants. RO, Montagu letters 21, ff. 105, 108.
  • 96 TNA, C 66/3292/5; HMC Downshire, i. 262.
  • 97 APC Col. ii. 235; CSP Dom. 1687–9, pp. 193, 234; Ward, Christopher Monck, 267.
  • 98 A.M. Whitson, The Constitutional Development of Jamaica, 1660–1729, 70–110.
  • 99 CSP Col. 1689–92, p. 50.
  • 100 TNA, PROB 36/5, Albemarle to Bath, 4 July and 6 Aug. 1688.
  • 101 CSP Col. 1689–92, p. 1698.
  • 102 TNA, PROB, 36/5, Albemarle to Bath, 6 Aug. 1688.
  • 103 Whitson, Jamaica, 131.
  • 104 TNA, C 107/25; C 107/29.