ELWES, Sir John (1635-1702), of Whitehall and Grove House, Fulham, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



31 Jan. - 6 Feb. 1673
10 Feb. 1673

Family and Education

bap. 1 Nov. 1635, 4th s. of Sir Gervase Elwes, merchant, of London; bro. of Sir Gervase Elwes, and step-bro. of Sir Richard Everard. educ. I. Temple 1653; Queen’s, Oxf. 1654. m. 23 Jan. 1672, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Walter Raleigh of East Horsley, Surr., s.p. Kntd. by 1667; suc. cos. Henry in Fulham estate 1677.1

Offices Held

?Lt. King’s Ft. Gds. (Spanish army) 1658; capt. of ft. regt. of Sir Allen Apsley 1667.2

Gent. of privy chamber June 1660-Nov. 1688, gent. usher by 1692-d.; cup-bearer to Queen Catherine of Braganza 1662, carver by 1669-at least 1679; commr. for excise appeals 1678-9; receiver-gen. duchy of Lancaster 1686-d.3

Commr. for recusants, Wilts. 1675, assessment Mdx. 1677-80, 1689-90; j.p. Mdx. 1680-Feb. 1688, Westminster 1683-Feb. 1688, Mdx. and Westminster Sept. 1688-d.4


Elwes has to be distinguished from his cousin, Sir John Elwes of Barton Court, who acquired a Berkshire estate by marriage in 1657 and was knighted at Oxford in 1665. Elwes was brought up at Marlborough Castle by his aunt, the step-mother of Charles Seymour. Probably one of the English Royalists serving with the Spanish army in Flanders in 1658, he became a courtier at the Restoration, and was granted the reversion of a duchy of Lancaster post. He was returned unopposed for Marlborough on the Seymour interest in 1673, but had to submit himself to the formality of re-election when the writs issued during the recess were invalidated by the House. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was named to 48 committees and thrice acted as teller, but he did not speak. As soon as he took his seat he was added to the committee of elections and privileges and appointed to that considering the bill to prevent corruption and abuses in elections. His name appears on the Paston list of court supporters. In the autumn session of 1675 he was named to the committees on the bills to prevent illegal exactions and to recall British subjects from the French service, and acted as teller for the adjournment of the debate on the naval estimates. His chief interests were probably ecclesiastical, and he was twice appointed to committees on bills for the augmentation of small livings, as well as to another for the repair of churches and chapels. On the working lists he was included among those ‘to be remembered’, and he was duly promised during the long recess the reversion of a seat on the board of excise appeals. In A Seasonable Argument he was described as an admirer of the Court, very poor, but with a place in Ireland worth £300 p.a., which seems to be a mistake. Sir Richard Wiseman included him among the government supporters in the House, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’. In 1677 he was appointed to the committee on the bill for preserving the liberty of the subject, and acted as teller for Henry Herbert, the court candidate in the Bewdley election. But at the end of the year he succeeded to a fine estate in Fulham, which reduced his dependence on the Government, and he was among those Members reported to have gone over to the Opposition over foreign policy in May 1678. On 18 June he acted as teller with John Birch against the adjournment of the debate on corruption. Nevertheless he was on both lists of the court party. He was defeated at Marlborough at the general election, and did not stand again.5

Elwes opposed exclusion, and as a gentleman of the privy chamber thought it his duty to repeat to the Duke of York remarks made in a coffee house by Anthony Rowe tending to discredit Monmouth’s confession after the Rye House Plot. But unlike his brother he could not promise support for the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and was omitted from the Middlesex commission of the peace of February 1688. He seems to have accompanied James II to Salisbury, but thence he made his way to Nottingham to join the northern rebels. Under the new regime he was promoted to gentleman usher and granted 14 houses in the City which had been forfeited under the law against superstitious uses. He greatly improved his estate, and presented communion rails to Fulham church, where he was buried on 6 Mar. 1702.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. (n.s.), iv. 133-4; Westminster City Lib. St. Martin in the Fields par. reg.; C. J. Feret, Fulham Old and New, iii. 279.
  • 2. Clarke, Jas. II, i. 349-50; CSP Dom. 1667, p. 191.
  • 3. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 165, 197; SP29/47/116; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 1053; vi. 46; Sir Robert Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Office Holders, 18-19.
  • 4. Mdx. RO, MJ/SBB 446; MJP/CP5a; WJP, CP 1-3.
  • 5. VCH Berks. iv. 207; Add. 32324, f. 178; CJ, ix. 369, 397; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 123; Feret, iii. 280; Foxcroft, Halifax, i. 129; Mexborough mss, Reresby corresp. 1/50.
  • 6. Ailesbury Mems. 84, 192; Luttrell, v. 148; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 630; Feret, i. 195; iii. 280-1.