GREENE, Giles (c.1596-1656), of Weymouth and Afflington, Dorset and London

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



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - 6 Dec. 1648

Family and Education

b. c.1596,1 o.s. of John Greene, merchant, of Dorchester, Dorset.2 educ. M. Temple 1614.3 m. Elizabeth (admon. 24 Oct. 1673),4 2s. 5da.5 suc. fa. c.1615.6 bur. 5 Jan. 1656.7 sig. Giles Grene.

Offices Held

Freeman, Weymouth by 1617,8 bailiff 1620-1, capital burgess from 1621;9 commr. piracy, Dorset 1622,10 inventory of prize goods, Weymouth and Poole, Dorset 1627,11 shipwreck inquiry, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset 1633,12 sewers, Dorset 1638,13 assessment 1641-2, 1644, 1647-8,14 scandalous ministers 1642;15 member, co. cttee. Dorset from 1644;16 commr. appeals, Oxf. Univ. visitation 1647, militia, Dorset 1648.17

Clerk in Crown office, k.b. by 1621-at least 1624;18 commr. Algiers expedition debts 1627-8;19 surveyor of salt-works from 1636;20 commr. customs 1642-3,21 Navy from 1642, Admlty. from 1645,22 regulating excise 1645, excommunication 1646, scandalous offences 1648.23

Cttee. Dorchester New Eng. Co. from 1624.24


Greene’s father was a prosperous Dorchester merchant, who rose to the rank of capital burgess in the borough corporation. His friends included the town’s puritan rector, John White, and the prominent lawyer Francis Ashley*.25 The latter probably helped to arrange Greene’s admission to the Middle Temple in 1614, and this legal training led on to a clerkship in King’s Bench under Thomas Fanshawe I*.26 However, Greene retained strong ties with Dorset. By 1617 he owned a house in Weymouth with the curious name of Hell, and began to undertake business for the corporation there. He procured the enrolment of the new borough charter in the following year, while in November 1621 he was instructed to sue the sheriff of Dorset’s bailiffs for breach of Weymouth’s privileges. In 1622 he was paid for further legal work, and for delivering a letter to the Privy Council about a troublesome recusant.27

Greene was actually serving as one of Weymouth’s bailiffs in December 1620 when he was elected to represent the borough in the 1621 Parliament. Accordingly, he not only signed his own return, but may also have helped secure another seat there for Christopher Earle, his colleague in King’s Bench.28 Unlike Richard Foxton, mayor of Cambridge, who also returned himself, he was not expelled for his offence, which apparently went undetected. Greene received no nominations during this session, but on 25 Apr. he gave evidence to the committee for grievances, explaining how the patentees for licensing alehouses had abused the normal procedures in King’s Bench while enforcing their monopoly.29

In 1623 Greene’s claims to gentility were rejected during the heralds’ visitation of Dorset, perhaps partly because of his mercantile activities.30 Around two years earlier he had added a quay and slipway to his Weymouth property, and he was reportedly on close terms with the town’s customs officials in July 1625. However, later that year they caught him smuggling New England beaver skins while acting as agent for Michael Humfrey*, and prosecuted him in the Exchequer. Greene was also an active partner in John White’s efforts to establish a new puritan colony in New England during the middle of this decade.31

In around 1624 Greene was employed to defend the claim of Sir Thomas Myddelton II* to the royalties of Ruthin, Denbighshire, and presumably he backed Myddelton during the Weymouth by-election in May that year. Myddelton initially retained his seat in 1625, but when he opted to represent Denbighshire instead, Greene filled the Weymouth vacancy. He apparently met with some local objections, for on 4 Aug., prior to his election, he was bound in £100 to do the borough good service without requiring wages.32 Permitted to take his seat in the Commons on 11 Aug. without first receiving communion, he made no other impact on this Parliament before it was dissolved the following day.33

Greene was selected in late 1625 to contribute to the Privy Seal loan, but was then excused payment in the following March.34 Returned for Weymouth to the 1626 Parliament, he delivered eight speeches and received seven appointments. Clearly pursuing his constituency’s agenda, he repeatedly addressed the issues of naval security and cross-Channel commerce. Greene made his mark during the debate on 18 Feb. about the current trade dispute with France, praising the Privy Council’s judgment in this business, and expressing the hope that the king would take its advice. This oblique criticism of the excessive influence exercised by the lord admiral, the duke of Buckingham, provoked a mild protest from a government spokesman, Sir Humphrey May. However, Greene was the first Member named to the committee for preparing a further debate on this subject.35 The French embargo had partly been triggered by Buckingham’s repeated detention of the St. Peter of Le Havre, and Greene pointedly called on 22 Feb. for the principal Admiralty judge, Sir Henry Marten*, to be cleared of blame over this affair. The next day he proposed a petition to the king for the ship to be released, as originally ordered by the Council. On 11 Mar. he again denounced the St. Peter episode as a grievance.36 Meanwhile, on 27 Feb. Greene broadened his attack to naval problems in general, singling out recent military disasters such as the Cadiz expedition, the decay of trade, and the unchecked depredations of Turkish pirates and Dunkirk privateers. He specifically highlighted on 6 Mar. the Navy’s failure to guard the English Channel, and the next day he was appointed to attend the conference with the Lords on national defence.37 On 18 Mar. Greene successfully moved for an inquiry into whether commissions in the armed forces had been granted to unsuitable men. Presumably emboldened by the Commons’ growing hostility towards Buckingham, he openly blamed the duke on 24 Mar. for failing to protect English shipping, noting that both king and Council had tried to alleviate this problem.38 Appropriately for the representative of a cloth-exporting borough, Greene was named on 18 Feb. to scrutinize the bill to punish Edmund Nicholson, projector of the pretermitted customs. He was also nominated to consider a petition from the Levant Company, which opposed the Crown’s nominee for the ambassadorship to Constantinople.39

In February 1627 Greene was appointed to help record prize goods brought into Weymouth, while seven months later he was selected to inquire into the funds originally raised for the Algiers expedition of 1620-1. That suggests that his criticism of Buckingham had not caused lasting offence. At this juncture Greene was still occasionally trading at Weymouth.40 However, since at least 1620 he had been acquiring property in the Isle of Purbeck, including a house at Afflington, which probably became his main home. He also became an agent for Lady Hatton, the occupant of Corfe Castle.41 In 1628 he was returned to Parliament as Member for the borough of Corfe Castle, presumably on Lady Hatton’s interest. He made no known speeches, but was almost certainly the ‘Mr. Greene’ who received two nominations during the first session, one to examine the new book of rates allegedly prepared by (Sir) Edmund Sawyer*, the other to help plan the Commons’ next moves on Tunnage and Poundage (17 May and 13 June). Either he or Richard Greene obtained a fortnight’s leave of absence on 9 Feb. 1629.42

In the aftermath of the 1629 session, Greene visited the Tower in the hope of taking a message from Denzil Holles* to the latter’s wife, the daughter of Francis Ashley. Despite this apparent show of sympathy for a prominent opponent of the Crown, Greene was on friendly terms in the early 1630s with Edward Nicholas*, Buckingham’s former secretary, and he successfully obtained a surveyorship in the new salt manufacturing monopoly granted in 1636.43 By now he had resettled in Dorchester, having found that the Isle of Purbeck’s climate damaged his health. Despite his long absence from the town, he had maintained ties there, presenting the works of the Lutheran divine Melanchthon to the municipal library prior to 1631.44 Greene defaulted on a Ship Money payment in 1636. Sitting for Corfe Castle in the Short and Long Parliaments, he again turned against the Crown, and became a prominent naval administrator until secluded from the Commons during Pride’s Purge. Thereafter, he lived in retirement. When Greene drew up his will on 21 Dec. 1655, he gave his main residence as Motcombe, a north Dorset estate that he had purchased a year earlier from the heir of Sir John Croke*. However, he died in London two weeks later, and was buried at St. Benet Fink. No subsequent members of his family are known to have entered Parliament.45

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Age estimated from date of admiss. to M. Temple.
  • 2. PROB 11/125, f. 151r-v.
  • 3. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. PROB 11/343, f. 118; London Mar. Lics. ed. J. Foster, 1493.
  • 5. Som. and Dorset N and Q, iii. 78; London Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. xcii), 36; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 840.
  • 6. PROB 11/125, f. 151v.
  • 7. Som. and Dorset N and Q, ii. 288.
  • 8. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 451.
  • 9. Dorset RO, Weymouth corp. order bk. ff. 68, 72.
  • 10. C181/3, f. 73.
  • 11. APC, 1627, p. 87.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1631-3, pp. 531-2.
  • 13. C181/5, f. 113v.
  • 14. SR, v. 83, 150; A. and O. i. 544, 964, 1081.
  • 15. CJ, ii. 516a.
  • 16. A. and O. i. 460.
  • 17. Ibid. i. 927, 1236.
  • 18. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 321; STAC 8/295/30.
  • 19. APC, 1627-8, p. 34; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 567.
  • 20. CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 360.
  • 21. CJ, ii. 806b; iv. 322b.
  • 22. A. and O. i. 27, 669.
  • 23. Ibid. 691, 853, 1209.
  • 24. William Whiteway of Dorchester: his Diary (Dorset Rec. Soc. xii), 61.
  • 25. Municipal Recs. of Dorchester ed. C.H. Mayo, 41, 365; PROB 11/125, f. 151.
  • 26. STAC 8/295/30.
  • 27. H.J. Moule, Docs. of Bor. of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, 107, 110, 140; Dorset RO, Weymouth corp. order bk. f. 39.
  • 28. C219/37/91; STAC 8/295/30.
  • 29. Nicholas, i. 321.
  • 30. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 4.
  • 31. Moule, 140; SP16/4/95; E134/1Chas.I/Hil.1.
  • 32. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 427; Weymouth and Melcombe Regis Min. Bk. ed. M. Weinstock (Dorset Rec. Soc. i), 9.
  • 33. Procs. 1625, p. 459.
  • 34. APC, 1625-6, p. 372.
  • 35. Procs. 1626, ii. 68, 70.
  • 36. Ibid. ii. 97, 105, 108, 260.
  • 37. Ibid. 137, 142-3, 204, 216.
  • 38. Ibid. 315, 361.
  • 39. Ibid. 69, 272.
  • 40. E190/874/4.
  • 41. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 527; Dorset RO, Bankes (Kingston Lacy) ms 7/7; Mansell (Smedmore) ms T12/12; CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 564.
  • 42. CD 1628, iii. 448; iv. 289; CJ, i. 927b.
  • 43. HMC Cowper, i. 383; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 320; 1635-6, p. 360.
  • 44. Whiteway Diary, 150; Municipal Recs. of Dorchester, 581.
  • 45. CSP Dom. 1635-6, p. 395; PROB 11/252, ff. 236v-8; Som. and Dorset N and Q, ii. 288.