CARLETON, Sir John, 1st Bt. (c.1594-1637), of the Mews, Whitehall; Cheveley, Cambs. and Holcombe, Oxon.

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.1594,1 o. s. of George Carleton of Holcombe, surveyor of the stables (jt.), and his 1st w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir John Brocket† of Brocket Hall, Hatfield, Herts.2 educ. BA Christ Church, Oxf. 1610; ?MA King’s Coll. Camb. 1629;3 travelled abroad (Italy) 1612.4 m. 21 July 1623, Anne (d. 17 May 1671), da. of Sir Richard Houghton*, 1st bt. of Hoghton Tower, Lancs., wid. of (Sir) John Cotton† (d. 1621) of Landwade and Cheveley, Cambs. 1s. 2da.5 cr. bt. 28 May 1627;6 suc. fa. 1628. d. 7 Nov. 1637.7 sig. John Carleton.

Offices Held

Equerry, king’s Household 1612-29,8 Queen Henrietta Maria by 1629;9 gent. of the privy chamber, extraordinary by 1633,10 ordinary 1634-?d.11

Dep. lt. Cambs. 1625-d.,12 j.p. 1625-d.;13 commr. Forced Loan, Cambs. 1626-7,14 sewers, Cambs. and I. of Ely 1627, R. Gleane 1629-at least 1635,15 charitable uses, Cambs. 1629-d.;16 master of the Game, Newmarket, Cambs. and Suff. by 1630-at least 1636;17 ?commr. knighthood fines, Cambs. c.1631,18 swans, Cambs. and Hunts. 1633;19 sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1636-7.20


Carleton could trace his ancestry back to late-thirteenth-century Yorkshire, but his immediate roots lay in Surrey and Oxfordshire. His paternal grandfather, Anthony Carleton†, a minor official in the queen’s Household, leased the Oxfordshire manor of Baldwin Brightwell from the Crown until the later sixteenth century, when Anthony’s eldest surviving son and heir, George, took up residence at neighbouring Holcombe. At the beginning of James’s reign, George was one of the three surveyors of the Stable,21 a position he had undoubtedly obtained through Thomas Harrison (d. 1602), a previous holder of the office and the father of George’s second wife.22 Carleton himself was the product of George’s first marriage, to Elizabeth Brocket, one of the coheirs of a well-heeled south Hertfordshire gentleman. His mother’s early death, followed soon after by that of her father Sir John Brocket, brought Carleton into money at an early age, even though his father was still alive.

Following a university education which culminated in the award of his BA, Carleton embarked upon a tour of the Continent. From Naples he travelled to Venice, which he reached in February 1612. There he paid a call on his uncle Sir Dudley Carleton*, the English ambassador, who remarked on his nephew’s capacity for parting with the contents of his purse that ‘if he hold on as he hath begun he will spend as fast as his father will save’.23 On returning to England later that year, Carleton reportedly paid £600 to buy out one of the king’s equerries, a sum precisely equal to the cash legacy that would fall due to him from the estate of his maternal grandfather on reaching his majority.24 The sale was doubtless brokered by George, who lavished £100 on fitting his son out to make him ‘fine and neat’, but Carleton, a born idler who held his father in some contempt, was far from enthusiastic about performing the duties attached to his office. Indeed, he evidently attended so infrequently that ‘when the king reproves any man for ill waiting he tells him he will prove a Carleton’.25 Yet, for all his idleness, Carleton represented an important source of information to his absentee uncle Sir Dudley. In 1618 the latter was keen to exchange his office as English ambassador at The Hague for that of secretary of state, and therefore relied upon his nephew, whose departmental superior was none other than the king’s favourite, George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham, to keep him briefed. In November Carleton advised his kinsman that it would be wise to offer £3,000 for the position rather than rely solely upon the admiration of both Buckingham and the marquess of Hamilton to secure it. However, Sir Dudley was pipped to the post by Sir George Calvert*, leaving Carleton to counsel his disappointed uncle to show more patience, ‘and suffer your affairs to go quietly, and not force them so upon the king’.26

Carleton probably helped to finance his life of leisure by selling off the lands in Hertfordshire left to him by his maternal grandfather.27 He was nearly 30 when he finally married, and, on the face of it, he made a fortunate match. His wife, Lady Anne Cotton, was the widow of a prominent and well-endowed east Cambridgeshire gentleman, Sir John Cotton. Through Lady Anne, Carleton gained almost immediate entry into the upper echelons of Cambridgeshire’s gentry. This was in stark contrast to his position in Oxfordshire where, because his father was still living, he held no local office at all. In February 1625 he was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Cambridgeshire at the request of the county’s lord lieutenant, the 1st earl of Suffolk, while a couple of months later he was admitted to the Cambridgeshire bench. However, if Carleton’s choice of bride accounts for his rapid social advancement it was also helped to plunge him into debt. Following the death of her first husband, Lady Anne had bought the wardship of her five-year-old son for £600,28 and on her marriage to Carleton in 1623 she passed on the cost to her new husband, who also assumed liability for the debts of Sir John Cotton, amounting to £2,700.29 Carleton’s decision to purchase a baronetcy in 1627 (at which time he was described as being of Holcombe)30 must have placed additional strain on his already weakened finances, although it undoubtedly enhanced his status in county society. This received a further fillip in February 1628, when he was returned to Parliament as junior knight of the shire for Cambridgeshire after it transpired that neither his cousin Sir John Cutts, nor Sir Edward Peyton, both of whom had hitherto monopolized the county seats, would stand. Carleton evidently enjoyed cordial relations with Cutts, his fellow deputy lieutenant, from whom he borrowed two volumes of Purchas’ Voyages,31 and in October 1627 he had joined Cutts in subscribing a letter to the Privy Council excusing the failure of the county’s Loan commissioners to send in their contribution more speedily owing to ‘the busy time of the harvest and the slackness of some of the poorer sort’.32

No sooner had Parliament assembled than Carleton’s father died.33 Execution of the latter’s will was settled on Carleton’s sister Bridget, as George clearly distrusted his son in financial matters. Carleton was permitted to assume the executorship only if he pledged to settle his father’s debts and advance his sister her jointure. He apparently did not make the required promises, as it was Bridget who proved the will in April 1628. In consequence, Carleton was barred from enjoying the revenues derived from his patrimony for three years.34 Carleton received only one mention in the records of the 1628-9 Parliament. This was in connection with the committee for the bill to enable Dutton, Lord Gerrard, to make a jointure, to which he was appointed on 7 May 1628.35

Carleton helped to compile a report on Cambridgeshire’s militia in November 1628.36 In the following year he transferred to the queen’s Household, surrendering to his son Thomas his position as equerry in the king’s stables, from which he may have been sequestered.37 He remained on good terms with his uncle after Sir Dudley, now Viscount Dorchester, was promoted secretary of state, lending him horses and advising him to purchase 3,000 acres of fenland before they were drained. It was presumably through Dorchester that Carleton was appointed master of the Game within the verge of Newmarket Palace sometime before May 1630. The office brought him into regular contact with the king, but put him to a great deal of trouble.38 When Dorchester died in February 1632 without producing a son and heir, Carleton was assigned the family’s original seat at Baldwin Brightwell, which Dorchester had recovered by purchase, in return for the payment of £6,000 to Dorchester’s daughter. However, Carleton never succeeded to this manor, though it descended to his heirs, as he was outlived by Dorchester’s widow, who held a jointure interest.39

Shortly after his uncle’s death, Carleton petitioned the king for a grant of 2,000 acres of drained fenland, which had previously been promised to Dorchester. He claimed that he had given 20 years’ service to the Crown and yet had not been compensated for the loss of an office, by which he may have been referring to his earlier position as one of the king’s equerries.40 It is not known whether his request was granted. A gentleman of the privy chamber extraordinary by 1633, Carleton was admitted in ordinary in March 1634. As sheriff of Cambridgeshire in 1636-7 he encountered difficulties in collecting Ship Money, though no outright resistance.41 He died, after suffering several years of ill health,42 at Dean’s Yard, Westminster, just one week after the end of his shrievalty. In his will, drawn up on 21 Sept. 1635, he declared that he was still indebted as a result of the financial obligations he had assumed on his marriage. He therefore asked his stepson John Cotton to contribute £1,500 towards payment of his debts ‘in respect of the free and liberal manner of education I have allowed him’. A codicil of 1 Nov. 1637 suggests that he owed at least £600 in the week before he died. Carleton requested burial at Baldwin Brightwell ‘amongst my ancestors’, but may actually have been interred at Landwade.43 The wardship of his 12-year-old son, Sir George, was subsequently sold for £500 to his widow, Lady Anne,44 whose lands were extended in 1645 after she failed to pay a further £100, which became due in 1641 on Sir George’s marriage.45 The latter died in 1650, whereupon the baronetcy became extinct.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to univ. His father’s i.p.m., which suggests that he was 24 in 1628, is clearly incorrect: C142/439/45.
  • 2. Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 124.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 513.
  • 4. Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 120.
  • 5. Vis. Oxon. 125; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 511; C142/385/44; 142/439/45; CB.
  • 6. 47th DKR, 131.
  • 7. C142/571/163.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 160; Chamberlain Letters, i. 471; E115/112/75.
  • 9. SP16/154, f. 117v.
  • 10. N. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 135.
  • 11. LC5/132, p. 359.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 484; 1629-31, p. 46; Harl. 4014, f. 24v.
  • 13. C231/4, f. 183; C193/13/2, f. 7v.
  • 14. C193/12/2, f. 5.
  • 15. C181/3, f. 220v; 181/4, f. 19v; 181/5, f. 9v.
  • 16. C192/1, unfol.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 274, 381; 1635-6, p. 366.
  • 18. Ibid. 1631-3, p. 228.
  • 19. C181/4, f. 153v.
  • 20. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 14.
  • 21. LC2/4/4, f. 57a.
  • 22. Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 124.
  • 23. Carleton to Chamberlain, 120.
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 160; PROB 11/92, f. 152.
  • 25. Chamberlain Letters, i. 471-2; ii. 103.
  • 26. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 592; SP14/109/116; J.H. Barcroft, ‘Carleton and Buckingham’, in Early Stuart Studies ed. H.S. Reinmuth, 123-4.
  • 27. HALS, Garrard ms 27004.
  • 28. WARD 9/162, f. 380.
  • 29. PROB 11/175, f. 186v.
  • 30. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry 1625-40 ed J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv), 25.
  • 31. W.M. Palmer, John Layer (1586-1640) of Shepreth, Cambs. (Camb. Antiq. Soc. liii), 9. The note is undated.
  • 32. SP16/81/31.
  • 33. C142/439/45.
  • 34. PROB 11/153, ff. 253v-4v.
  • 35. CJ, i. 893a.
  • 36. Harl. 4014, f. 4r-v.
  • 37. SP16/154, f. 110v. For the possibility that he was sequestered, see CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 369.
  • 38. CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 46, 48, 67, 92, 340, 381; J.P. Hore, Sporting and Rural Recs. of the Cheveley Estate, 23-4.
  • 39. PROB 11/161, ff. 356-7.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 369.
  • 41. Ibid. 1636-7, p. 487.
  • 42. Ibid. 1629-31, pp. 92, 528.
  • 43. PROB 11/175, ff. 186-7; Mems. of the Carletons comp. P.A. Carleton, 29.
  • 44. C142/571/163; WARD 9/163, f. 88v; C66/2800/8.
  • 45. WARD 9/594, unfol., 6 Mar. 1645.