ERNLE (EARNLEY), John (c.1620-97), of Burytown, Blunsdon, Wilts.

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



27 Feb. - 5 Apr. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1620, 2nd but o. surv. s. of John Ernle of Whetham House, Calne by Philadelphia, da. of Sir Arthur Hopton of Witham Friary, Som. m. (1) settlement 1 Mar. 1646, Susan, da. of Sir John Howe, 1st Bt., of Little Compton, Withington, Glos., 2s. d.v.p. 7da.; (2) 19 Sept. 1672, Elizabeth (d.1691), da. of William, 1st Baron Allington of Killard [I], wid. of Charles Seymour, 2nd Baron Seymour of Trowbridge, s.p. Kntd. by 4 Apr. 1664; suc. fa. 1684.1

Offices Held

J.p. Wilts. 1649-52, 1656-89, Essex and Herefs. 1680-?89; commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1657, Jan. 1660-80, 1689-90, Herefs. 1679-80, 1689, militia, Wilts. Mar. 1660, capt. of militia horse, Wilts. Apr. 1660, dep. lt. 1661-83, commr. for corporations 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662, oyer and terminer, Western circuit 1665; sub-commr. for prizes, Bristol 1665-6; commr. for recusants, Essex 1675; freeman, Windsor 1679.2

Comptroller of naval stores 1671-6; commr. for accounts, loyal and indigent officers 1671; chancellor of the Exchequer 1676-89; PC 10 May 1676-Dec. 1688; ld. of Admiralty 1677-9, Treasury 1679-85, 1687-9.3


Ernle’s family migrated about the middle of the 16th century from Sussex, which they had represented in 1324, to Wiltshire, acquiring ex-monastic land and extending their estates by fortunate marriages. Ernle’s grandfather was nominated a commissioner of array, and his great-uncle, the royalist governor of Shrewsbury, was killed in action in 1644; but the junior members of the family maintained neutrality. One of the Dorset branch was a neighbour and henchman of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, with whom Ernle was elected to the Convention for Wiltshire. An inactive Member, he made no recorded speeches, and was appointed to only nine committees, including that for the indemnity bill. On 13 July 1660 he was allowed to petition the House of Lords in support of his claim to the estate of Judge Jenkins, a prominent royalist sufferer. He was added to the committees for restoring the dukedom of Somerset (28 Aug.) and preparing a militia bill (10 Nov.). His petition for the reversion of the clerkship of the pells in association with John Norden bore no fruit, despite his claim to have spent his fortune in promoting the Restoration, and it was probably his father who was proposed for the order of the Royal Oak, with an estate of £1,000 p.a.4

Ernle had to move down to a borough seat in 1661, but was returned unopposed for Cricklade, some five miles from Burytown. He eventually became a moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, serving on 152 committees; but the first of these was on a private bill in April 1662, and he took no part in the Clarendon Code. He was appointed to a committee to bring in a clause to prohibit the sale of titles on 18 May 1663; but he seems to have owed his own knighthood to the ‘costly preparation’ which he made to entertain the King on the progress to Bath a few months later. In 1664 he served on the committees for the estate bills promoted by his neighbours, (Sir) Edward Poole and (Sir) Edward Hungerford, the second of which he carried to the Lords. He was appointed to the prize commission in the second Dutch war, but ‘laid aside’ in 1666, which, with an income of only £800 p.a. and a growing family, must have represented a serious loss. He took no known part in the proceedings against Clarendon, but he was named to the committee for taking public accounts in 1668. His only tellership was against an amendment to the bill to prevent thefts and robberies. In the debate on toleration on 11 Mar., in almost the first of at least 130 recorded speeches, he agreed that the obnoxious ecclesiastical courts should be reformed, but asserted that a few took offence at the authority of the Church itself. He was appointed to the committees for the continuance of the Conventicles Act, and he was also active over the loyal and indigent officers fund. He was noted about this time both as a friend of Ormonde and among the Members to be gained for the Court by the Duke of York. He opposed the bill to allow Lord Roos (John Manners) to marry again as no fit subject for a secular assembly. A frequent speaker on financial matters, he supported the deferment of supply until the bill to punish the assailants of Sir John Coventry had been passed. ‘Nothing will make the people give more cheerfully than doing ourselves right in this business’, he proclaimed on 10 Jan. 1671, adding that he would like the House to ‘sit morning and afternoon till it be done’. He helped to draft the bill to prevent the growth of Popery and to manage a conference, and he also took part in preparing reasons on preventing the export of wool. At the end of the session he was appointed commissioner of the navy, in which his son was serving, and also accounts commissioner for the loyal and indigent officers fund.5

Ernle was summoned to the meeting of the government caucus on 21 Dec. 1672, but took little part in the next two sessions, though his name was on the Paston list. He defended Samuel Pepys in the debate of 10 Feb. 1674 against the charge of delivering valuable naval stores to the French allies. But he was much more active in 1675, warning the House of increasing French strength at sea, and speaking frequently on the naval programme. He was listed as an official Member and a government speaker, and for the next few years identified himself with the following of Lord Treasurer Danby. He helped to draw up reasons on the imprisonment of the Four Lawyers, and was appointed in both sessions to the committee for the appropriation bill. In the debate of 21 Oct. he admitted that it was unfitting for a commissioner of the navy to speak against appropriation; but he feared that ‘if the King be put to necessity, you take away what is not anticipated. The King may

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Leonard Naylor


  • 1. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv), 57; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 200; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 8; CJ, viii. 543.
  • 2. Merc. Pub. 12 Apr. 1660; Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 449; Nat. Maritime Mus. Southwell mss 17, p. 15; HMC 6th Rep. 338; HMC Var. iv. 132.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1671, pp. 288, 324, 1676-7, p. 91; 1677-8, p. 136.
  • 4. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xl. 441; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 447; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 315; HMC 7th Rep. 123.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 264; CJ, viii. 579; ix. 64, 212, 244; Hoare, Repertorium Wiltonense, 16; Grey, i. 110, 252; Milward, 215.