DARCY, Sir Francis (by 1560-1641), of Little Sion, Brentford, Mdx.

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. by 1560, 10th but 7th surv. s. of Sir Arthur Darcy (d.1561) of Brimham, Yorks. and Mary, da. of Sir Nicholas Carew† of Beddington, Surr.1 educ. MA Oxon. 1588; G. Inn 1600;2 m. (1) Katherine (bur. 29 May 1625), da. of Sir Edward Legh† of Rushall, Staffs. and Shawell, Leics., 3da. (1 d.v.p.);3 (2) Abigail,4 ?s.p. kntd. 1591;5 bur. 29 Nov. 1641.

Offices Held

Capt. of ft., Low Countries 1585-9,6 France 1591,7 Ire. 1599,8 horse 1601.9

Equerry of the Stables by 1589-at least 1613;10 commr. arrears, Algiers expedition 1628.11

J.p. Mdx. 1596-1616, 1622-d.,12 Yorks. (W. Riding) 1618,13 Westminster 1619-at least 1620,14 Derbys. 1630-7;15 commr. musters, Mdx. 1598-1622;16 provost marshal, Mdx. 1601;17 commr. oyer and terminer, London 1601-at least 1630, 1632-?,18 the Verge 1607-at least 1627, Mdx. 1607-16, 1617-at least 1627,19 trial of rioters at Spanish amb.’s house, 1618,20 gaol delivery, London 1602-at least 1620, Newgate 1603-at least 1634,21 charitable uses, Mdx. 1605,22 sewers, Lea valley, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1607-at least 1609, Coln valley, Bucks., Herts. and Mdx. 1609,23 subsidy, Mdx. 1608, 1621, 1624, 1628,24 highways, Mdx. 1609;25 auditor Mdx. bench (jt.) 1613-14;26 commr. inquiry, goods of Alexander Bradshawe 1612;27 commr. Privy Seal loan, Mdx. 1625-6;28 dep. lt. Mdx. by 1626.29


A veteran of campaigns in the Low Countries, France and Ireland during the 1580s and 1590s, Darcy vigorously helped to suppress the 2nd earl of Essex’s uprising in 1601. Following the accession of James I, Darcy served as foreman of the jury in the treason trial at Winchester of Sir Griffin Markham, Sir Edward Parham and their co-conspirators, and was ‘excellently commended’ by the judges for his ‘carriage and behaviour’.30 As an equerry of the Stables he was dispatched to Denmark in 1604 with a present of horses for Christian IV.31 He attended the fleet review at Chatham two years later when Christian visited England, on which occasion he fell into the Medway following the discharge of a cannon.32

Although the youngest of ten sons, Darcy inherited the Yorkshire forest and manor of Gisburn, together with some lands in Lincolnshire.33 During the early years of James’s reign he fended off a rival claim to part of his Yorkshire estate.34 In 1611 Darcy also acquired the Surrey manor of Walton-on-the-Hill from his childless uncle, Sir Francis Carew, who had taken ‘great comfort and great pleasure’ in his ‘conversation and company’.35 However, Darcy, who subsequently styled himself ‘Carew alias Darcy’,36 was dismayed that most of Carew’s Surrey property, including the palatial Beddington House, went to his cousin Sir Nicholas Carew*, and therefore tried to overturn Sir Francis’ will. When this proved unsuccessful, Darcy sold Walton manor to Sir Nicholas,37 but by now he had antagonized the latter beyond endurance. When, in 1616, Darcy proffered Carew one of his daughters in marriage in an attempt ‘to remove all jealousy of me from you’,38 Carew responded by marrying the widow of a London Draper instead.

Perhaps the main reason Darcy had been anxious to obtain the whole of Sir Francis Carew’s estate was that he was in severe financial difficulty. Although his Yorkshire lands were worth £800 a year, he had been forced to turn to Sir Francis for assistance, who subsequently wrote off the debt. In 1612 Darcy was so impoverished that he was unable to muster the relatively small sum of £100 from his own resources, but was instead obliged to borrow it from one Andrew Knight of Hampshire.39 He subsequently proved unable to make repayment on time, and therefore Knight, who had secured the loan on a bond of £200, obtained a court order which permitted him to extend Darcy’s Yorkshire estate.40 This order was only lifted in December 1615, when Darcy agreed to become bound to the master of the Rolls for 200 marks, even though Knight had succeeded in recovering both his debt, plus interest, and part of his costs. By the terms of this new bond, Darcy promised to pay the remainder of Knight’s costs.41

Darcy experienced further financial difficulties a few years later when he attempted to arrange a marriage between one of his daughters and the newly knighted courtier (Sir) Richard Wynn*. The latter’s father, Sir John Wynn†, insisted on a dowry of £3,000, which Darcy could only raise by selling his Yorkshire estate. This proved extremely difficult, for although Darcy offered his tenants first refusal they declined his offer, partly because they had only recently paid their entry fines but also because ‘of the scarcity of money in those parts’. In January 1618 Darcy wrote to Sir John Wynn that, although he would continue to try to sell up, there were ‘not many furnished to undertake a matter of this value’.42 Nevertheless, Darcy ultimately succeeded, for eight months later Darcy’s daughter Anne married Sir Richard Wynn, but in doing so he permanently crippled his finances. Shortly before the marriage, Sir John Wynn observed that he thought that the value of what was left of Darcy’s estate ‘will prove in the end but small’.43

Although Darcy was in straitened circumstances from at least 1610, this made little impact on his sense of his own standing in Middlesex, where he had lived since buying a house on the edge of Syon Park since about 1592. In 1614 he tried to stand for election to Parliament for the county, but was prevented by the Privy Council, which had earmarked the two county seats for Sir Julius Caesar* and Sir Thomas Lake I*. Aggrieved at this treatment, Darcy sent his servant to Uxbridge, where the election was being held,

who getting up upon a table told the assembly that his master meant to have stood but was forbidden by the king, whereupon he desired all his well willers to give their voices to master chancellor [Caesar], and for the second place to do as God should put in their minds.

In response to this calculated insult of Lake, the servant was arrested and Darcy was ‘called in question’.44 Darcy found himself in further hot water in 1621, when he was one of the Middlesex subsidy commissioners investigated by the Privy Council on suspicion of having reduced their subsidy assessment without authorization.45

Darcy, who had last sat in the Commons in 1601, was eventually returned to Parliament for Middlesex twice during the 1620s, once in 1621 and again in 1628. It seems likely that he owed his election in 1628 to his opposition to the Forced Loan of 1626-7. There is no direct evidence for this, but the Middlesex election, like others elsewhere, was dominated by hostility to the Loan, and on 31 May 1628 Darcy was ordered by the Commons to help draw up charges against Dr. Roger Mainwaring, who, in a sermon preached before the king in July 1627, had justified the raising of the Loan.46 The Lords subsequently summoned him to give evidence against Mainwaring after hearing the latter preach on 4 May 1628. Although unable to recount the exact words spoken by Mainwaring, Darcy remembered that, in general, ‘he did dislike somewhat which was then said’.47

In both 1621 and 1628 Darcy was named to the committee for privileges.48 Although on the brink of old age and prone to memory lapses,49 he was a far from inactive Member. An old soldier with long experience of fighting Catholics abroad, one of his chief concerns was the threat posed by Catholicism in England. In 1628 he was twice named to committees for bills which sought to suppress recusancy, while in February 1621 he was named to attend a conference with the Lords on the same subject.50 As a result of information provided by Darcy in February 1629, the House investigated two Catholic priests who had been released on bail at the Middlesex assizes.51 Darcy’s antipathy towards Catholics was such that on 1 May 1621 he joined in the calls to visit severe punishment on the Catholic barrister Edward Floyd for words spoken against the dispossessed Elector Palatine.52 Darcy may also have had little sympathy for Arminian clergy, many of whom were regarded as crypto-Catholics, for on 7 Apr. 1628 he was named to a committee for a bill to impose unity of belief on the Anglican church.53

As a former soldier, Darcy was named to help draft a bill prevent the export of ordnance in March 1621.54 Moreover, during the debate of 6 June 1628 on the failure of the 1625 Cadiz expedition, he sought to deflect Kirton’s and Seymour’s criticisms of the expedition’s commander, Sir Edward Cecil*, by placing the blame on the king. ‘For the insufficiency and infidelity of generals,’ he observed, ‘let us consider who names generals but the king’. Kirton alleged that many of the expedition’s officers consisted of ‘pages and such things’, and that many capable commanders had been overlooked. Darcy replied that ‘as for captains and commanders who are made of pages and such like, there may be a mistake’, but it is not clear from this whether he was referring to Kirton or the selection of officers.55

Two of Darcy’s committee appointments in 1628 related to family affairs. The first, on 4 June, concerned a bill to restore Carew Ralegh to his estates. Ralegh was Darcy’s second cousin and the son of Sir Walter Ralegh†, who had been attainted of treason and executed. In 1610, Darcy and his first cousin, Sir Nicholas Carew, had been granted an annuity of £400 during the lifetime of Lady Ralegh, presumably as trustees for young Carew Ralegh.56 The second committee appointment (7 May) concerned Dutton, Lord Gerard, a relative of Sir John Wynn.57 Members of Gerard’s family had provided a venue for the marriage negotiations between Darcy and Wynn ten years earlier, and had acted as intermediaries.58 In addition to these family matters, Darcy expressed an interest in legal reform. On 3 May 1621 he was named to a committee for a bill which aimed to eradicate extortionate legal fees. Darcy’s interest in this matter may have stemmed from his own experience of litigation, for during his legal dispute with Andrew Knight he had been represented by Serjeant Francis Moore*, whose services cannot have come cheap.59 Darcy’s lack of success in the courts may have left him with a low opinion of lawyers, for in April 1621, when the House came to debate who was fit to serve as a magistrate, he piped up: ‘no attorneys’. Bitter personal experience would also explain why Darcy was named to consider bills concerned with forfeited estates (28 Apr. 1621) and reducing usury (7 May 1621).60

Darcy represented the views of his constituents in both 1621 and 1628. On the latter occasion, of course, he joined in the attack on the unpopular Forced Loan, but in 1621 he was named to a bill introduced by ‘Middlesex men’ to regulate the purveyance of carts by the royal Household (21 April). Eleven days later, during the debate concerning a measure on the provision of poor relief in London and its immediate environs (2 May), Darcy again spoke for his constituents, asking ‘to have this bill general for Middlesex at least’. Though resident in Middlesex, Darcy did not forget his Yorkshire connections, for on 3 May 1621 he was named to consider a bill to improve navigation along the Ouse.61

Little is known about Darcy during the 1630s. He died intestate in 1641, and was buried on 29 Nov. in Isleworth church.62 Letters of administration were granted to his second wife on 18 Dec. 1641.63 No other member of the family subsequently sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


VCH Mdx. ix. 90, n. 96.

  • 1. Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 93.
  • 2. GI Admiss.; Al. Ox.
  • 3. Vis. Staffs. ed. H.S. Grazebrook, 201; G.J. Aungier, Hist. and Antiqs. of Syon Monastery, 146-7.
  • 4. Index to Admons. in PCC ed. M. Fitch, vi. 113.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 88.
  • 6. CSP For. 1584, p. 636; 1585-6, p. 84; 1586-7, p. 110; 1588, pp. 3, 343, 440, 490; 1589, p. 262.
  • 7. Beds. Muster Rolls 1539-1831 ed. N. Lutt (Beds. Hist. Soc. lxxi), 46-7; ‘Jnl. of Siege of Rouen’, in Cam. Miscellany I (Cam. Soc. xxxix), 24; HMC Hatfield, iv. 140.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, ix. 146-7, 330; CSP Ire. 1599-1600, pp. 37, 41-2, 60, 65, 79.
  • 9. CSP Carew, 1601-3, p. 93.
  • 10. E101/107/33; E115/126/96; E115/132/100; LC2/4/4, f. 57v; LC2/4/5, p. 56; C2/Jas.1/D12/1.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 567.
  • 12. C231/1, f. 20v; 231/4, f. 19; 231/5, f. 533.
  • 13. C231/4, f. 69.
  • 14. C181/2, f. 331v; 181/3, f. 15v.
  • 15. C231/5, ff. 36, 251.
  • 16. APC, 1597-8, p. 359; 1613-14, p. 566; Add. 11402, f. 142; C66/2234.
  • 17. APC, 1600-1, pp. 164, 188.
  • 18. C181/1, f. 11; 181/4, ff. 66v, 107v.
  • 19. C181/2, ff. 55, 57, 241v, 251v, 278v; 181/3, f. 219v.
  • 20. C181/2, f. 319.
  • 21. C181/1, ff. 35, 42v; 181/2, ff. 345v, 351v; 181/3, ff. 23, 243; 181/4, f. 188.
  • 22. C93/2/15.
  • 23. C181/2, ff. 50, 90, 94.
  • 24. SP14/31/1; APC, 1621-3, p. 52; C212/22/20-1, 23; E115/100/57.
  • 25. C193/6/188.
  • 26. Cal. Sess. Recs. Mdx. ed. W. le Hardy, n.s. i. 76, 447.
  • 27. C181/2, f. 167.
  • 28. E401/2586, p. 456.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 438.
  • 30. State Trials ed. T.B. Howell, ii. 65.
  • 31. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 119, 126-7, 148-9, 370; SP75/4, f. 24.
  • 32. Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 88.
  • 33. PROB 11/44, f. 136.
  • 34. C2/Jas.I/D7/65; 2/Jas.I/T2/28.
  • 35. Surr. Arch. Colls. xxxv. 38.
  • 36. LC4/197, f. 390v; Berks. RO, D/ELL/C1/88.
  • 37. VCH Surr. iii. 317.
  • 38. Berks. RO, D/ELL/C1/88.
  • 39. LC4/197, f. 390v.
  • 40. C2/Jas.1/D12/1.
  • 41. C33/130, ff. 201v-2, 258, 309; C54/2282/58.
  • 42. NLW, 9056E/814.
  • 43. NLW, 12404E/14.
  • 44. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 517-18; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 10.
  • 45. APC, 1621-3, pp. 52, 59; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 295.
  • 46. CD 1628, iv. 36.
  • 47. Ibid. 220, 223, 238, 230; v. 609, 616.
  • 48. CJ, i. 507b; CD 1628, ii. 29.
  • 49. CD 1629, pp. 154, 219.
  • 50. CD 1628, ii. 41; iii. 43; CJ, i. 523a.
  • 51. CD 1629, pp. 145-6.
  • 52. CD 1621, iii. 124; v. 360; CJ, i. 601b.
  • 53. CD 1628, ii. 323.
  • 54. CJ, i. 572b.
  • 55. CD 1628, iv. 148.
  • 56. Ibid. 83; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 581; C66/1801.
  • 57. CD 1628, iii. 301.
  • 58. NLW, 9056E/792, 795, 806.
  • 59. CJ, i. 606a; C33/130, f. 201v.
  • 60. CJ, i. 590b, 595b, 611a.
  • 61. Ibid. 585b, 602b, 605b.
  • 62. Aungier, 147.
  • 63. Index to Admons. vi. 113.