Survey of London Monograph 13, Swakeleys, Ickenham. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1933.
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SIR EDMUND WRIGHT'S election as LORD MAYOR.
In the year 1640 the attitude of the City of London towards Charles was a matter of great concern to the King's advisers, and the Privy Council was apprehensive of the course events might take when the Common Hall met to elect the lord mayor for the coming year. The senior alderman due for election was Sir William Acton, a man of royalist sympathies, but it was known that there was a proposal to set Acton aside in favour of Thomas Soame, who though low on the list, was a determined supporter of the Parliament. In the event, however, Edmund Wright, whose name stood next in order to Acton's, was elected, probably because his views were not definitely pronounced in either direction. Charles, with good sense and with a desire not to prejudice the loan he was negotiating from the City, accepted the situation.
In the Clarendon MSS. at the Bodleian Library is a series of letters written by Francis Windebank, Secretary of State, to Charles, who was at York, reporting the state of affairs in London and the opinions of the Privy Council thereon. The King's comments are in his own handwriting in the margin and the following extracts make the facts quite clear as regards Wright's election.
Charles defines his attitude when he writes against a dispatch of Windebank's concerning the City's Petition (fn. 1) :—" The Maior now with the Citie, ar to bee flatered, not threatned." Later, Windebank reports the following meeting of the Privy Council (fn. 2):—
The LLss meeting yesterday at Hampton-Court sate a little in Counsell for the dispatche of ordinary busines, but there occurred little of moment. Only the Lo: Tr'er acquainted the Boord Wt a malicious practise of som in the City to putt bye Alderman Acton from being chosen Lo: Maior, who is to succeede in that place the next yeere, though the man be Wtout exception, unlesse it be that he is a true servant to yor M:. It is most true that the Remembrancer of London apprehending som such intention acquainted me Wtit the last weeke, & I com'unicated it to som of my LLss:. But my Lo: Cottington made no greate matter of it, considering that whosoever shalbe chosen, He canot holde or exercise the place, unlesse he be admitted and sworne in the Exchequer, so that if they shall goe a factious way, the Lo: Tr'er hath a power to interrupt them there. Neverthelesse the LLss: thought it much better to prevent it before it shall grow so highe, & therfore have sent for the Recorder to attende the Boorde this day, to aduise upon som course to diuert the City from such an Irregularity.
Among the State Papers (fn. 1) are the following notes by Windebank of the proceedings of the Privy Council on 30 Sept., when it discussed the Recorder's report of the meeting of the citizens in Common Hall on Michaelmas Day, for the election of the next lord mayor:—
A great and tumultuous company. A mutiny. The danger of innovation; and how far it is in the King's power to receive or reject [the new lord mayor], and this according to their charters. A number of young mechanics made such a cry nothing could be heard. They would not hear of [Sir William] Acton; the checks turned out 1,500; Acton 200; [Edmund] Wright more; [Thomas] Soame only named, nine before him. Soame and Wright the most voices, but they earnestly desired they might be spared. Nothing in the charter for Michaelmas Day only. The Lord Mayor (fn. 1) desires to know the King's mind. The Lord Mayor [was] very hearty, and said he is Mayor, and will keep it till the King put him out. He must be new elected. These 300 years none refused but for poverty or infirmity. That the private companies be disposed between this and Tuesday next; that none be admitted by the Lord Mayor to come in but such as ought to give their voices, and that by scrutiny; and none but such as bring tickets from their companies that they have power to give voices. Whether the King shall be advised to give way to him they shall choose. They have no fear nor awe of the Government. They say they have a Mayor, and that is Soame. None will serve after Soame. It is not fit the King give way to this innovation; and if they will not choose Acton, or continue this man, to refuse any other that they shall choose. The King to declare himself before Tuesday next, with all speed, that we may have time to co-operate. To give the Mayor and Recorder a fair testimony to the King. Two yeomen of the guard committed for refusing to pay duties for watching and warding.
Windebank's report to the King on the above is in these words (fn. 1) :—
The Recorder of London made report this day to the Boorde of the tumultuary meeting upon Michaelmas Day in the City at the Election of the Lo: Maior, Wch was so full of disorder & so contrary to the ancient custom & practise of that Corporation, that the grauest Citisens were much scandised at it. The man'er of it being sett downe in writing by Mr Recorder himselfe in the paper that goeth heerwith, I do not hold it a subiect worthy of a further Relation. Only I am com'anded by my LLss: humbly to represent to yor M:, that the present Lo: Maior & the Recorder have used all possible meanes for the preventing of this disorder: that this is a meere inouation, & that these 300: yeeres no one Alderman hath bene reiected or putt out of his order but in case of poverty, or infirmity of age or sicknes. That if this be permitted the gouernment of the City is utterly lost, & if Alderman Some (fn. 1) be chosen, besides his disaffections & dishabilities, all the Aldermen that are his Seniors, wch are: 7: or 8:, will disdaine to com into the place after him: that this man, Alder: Acton, is a man wtout exception, & suffers only for his affections to yor M: service. Wherfore the most humble opinion of my LLss: is, that if the City shall either refuse to chose Acton, or to continue this present Maior for one yeere longer, (to this later the LLss: seeme to incline in case the other can'ot fairely be obteyned), then yor M: shall do well to refuse to admitt any other that shalbe presented in the Exchequer. In the meane time, because Tuesday next is appointed for another meeting in the City, the Lo: Maior is desired by the Boorde, to dispose, by treaty, som of the most discreete of the Companies, to conforme themselves to the ancient course of Election, & to be carefull that none be admitted to give voices but such as shall bring ticketts from their Companies that they have power to vote, & all this to be don by strict scrutiny. This falles out most unhappily now that the State hath so much cause to use the City, wch my LLss: doe take into consideration as a businesse of highest consequence, & wold be most glad to finde som handsom way out of these difficulties. Yor M: may therfore please betwene this and Tuesday next to vouchsafe yor direction, & to lett me know how you like this opinion of my LLss.
and the King's comment, in the margin, is :—" I lyke the opinion of the Lds: well so that there intentions may be executed without hindering my Loane of Monie; but so that wee may get that; let in'ouat, & spare not; it may be a good example for me, to doe the lyke, upon occasion hearafter: & I see not why ye may not use this occasion so, as to make them lende the willinger."
The final extract is from Windebank's report of 6 October (fn. 1) :—
I acquainted my Lo: Marshall only, wt yor M:s Apostile concerning the Election of the Lo: Maior ; & the Remembrancer of London com'ing to me this morning from the present Maior, to understande Whether yor M: had declared any thing concerning that businesse, I went wt him to my Lo: Marshall, where my Lo: of Dorsett likewise came to us, & asseured us, that if som handsom message were sent to the City in yor M: name, intimating that you expected they shold hold their ancient course of Election, & that yor M: wolde take it well in these times of distraction that they shold proceede orderly & quietly to the choice of the senior Alderman, they wolde yet chose Acton. Wherupon we sent Mr. Mewtys to them in yor M: name, instructing him to deliver a message to them to that purpose. But it seeme my Lo: of Dorsett's Intelligence fayled : for notwtstanding anything represented by Mr Mewtys, or the Recorder, or any other, they haue reiected Acton, & chosen Alderman Wright, who is next in Order to Acton, & so though the Election be irregular, yet it is not altogether so disorderly as if they had chosen Some. Whether yor M: will have my Lo: Tr'er admitt this man thus chosen, when he shall com to take his oath in the Exchequer, there is time to consider.