HOWE, Sir Scrope (1648-1713), of Langar, Notts.
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Family and Education
b. Nov. 1648, 1st s. of John Grobham Howe† and bro. of Emanuel Scrope Howe* and John Grobham Howe*. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1665, MA 1665. m. (1) 20 Apr. 1672 (with £10,000), Lady Anne, da. of John Manners†, 8th Earl of Rutland, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) lic. 15 July 1698, Juliana, da. of William Alington†, 3rd Baron Alington of Killard [I], 2s. 3da. Kntd. 11 Mar. 1663; suc. fa. 1679; cr. Visct. Howe [I] 16 May 1701.1
Freeman, Nottingham 1680.2
Commr. inquiry into recusancy fines 1688, Notts.; groom of the bedchamber 1689–1702; comptroller of the excise 1693–1710.3
Howe had been an Exclusionist in 1679, but by 1682 with the threat of treason charges hanging over him he turned towards the Court. Though he had secretly established contact with Dijkfeldt, the Prince of Orange’s confidant, in 1687, the government in 1688 regarded him as a Whig collaborator. In November he declared for the prince, raised a troop of horse and helped to occupy Leicester. His great pride in this act is reflected in its being specifically mentioned on the monumental inscription to him at Langar. In March 1689 the King appointed him a groom of the bedchamber, though this evidently failed to meet his expectations and in August he made apparent his need for other sources of income when he petitioned the Treasury for a moiety of wrecks discovered off the Scottish coast, a request which was none the less refused. In February 1690, shortly before his re-election for Nottinghamshire, he staked a claim for the arrears of hearth money, only to be rebuffed by the excise commissioners who feared that such a grant might prove excessive. At the beginning of the new Parliament Howe was classed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Whig, but despite his being a Household officer the lord president did not mark him as a Court supporter. Howe rarely concerned himself with routine Commons proceedings. He occasionally intervened in debate, and in the later 1690s was in the habit of crying out, whenever his younger brother Jack was about to address the House, ‘now, what is that impudent son of a w___ going to say? If he begin there’s nobody much put a word in but himself.’4
Howe’s claims to a more substantial financial reward were not forgotten, however, and in June 1690 he was paid a ‘royal bounty’ of £2,000 out of the hearth money in consideration of his ‘good and faithful services’. A rumour in October that he was to be given the more substantial post of vice-chamberlain to the Queen proved unfounded; the post in fact went to his brother Jack. He was noted by Robert Harley* as a Court supporter in April 1691. Having failed to appear when the House was called over on 14 Jan. 1692, Howe was ordered to present himself within ten days after a motion to excuse him was defeated. There was a hint of criticism of the government in a letter he penned to his father-in-law Lord Rutland in August: ‘things do not appear to have been managed either here or beyond sea as well as they might have been’. However, in the next session on 15 Nov. he opened the debate on the King’s Speech by moving for the supply, urging ‘there is no man but is sensible of the early preparations of the French’; and when the debate was resumed a week later he seconded the renewal of the supply motion put forward by Lord Winchester (Charles Powlett I). In March 1693 he was appointed comptroller of the excise with a salary of £1,320 for himself and his clerks. His name subsequently appeared on various lists as a Court placeman, and he was also a member of the Whig Rose Club. The author of the satiric verses ‘The Club Men of the House of Commons’, written in 1694, described the effect on his parliamentary conduct of his change of fortune:
Sir Scrope Howe, that blustered more than the North wind
Till the court without reason became very kind
He’s grown into a knave from a clown half refined.
He continued to press for further advancement. On the death in May 1694 of the envoy at The Hague, Lord Falkland (Anthony Carey*), Howe immediately put himself forward, but was considered unsuitable. William Blathwayt* wrote to the Duke of Shrewsbury on 4 June,
as for the solicitations of Sir Scrope Howe, his Majesty would have your Grace endeavour to dissuade him from pursuing them, the nature of the business being such (and if the negotiation of peace goes on is like to be much more so) that the employment must needs be too troublesome for Sir Scrope Howe.5
During November 1694 Howe incurred some odium during the Commons’ investigation of the alleged Lancashire Plot. Characteristically, he had seized the opportunity to make money out of the forfeiture of land and property from Catholic institutions and individuals. In February 1693 a semi-official body known as the ‘commissioners for superstitious lands’ obtained an order from the Treasury granting them a third of the lands to which they could establish the crown’s title. For their part in brokering this arrangement, Howe and his brother-in-law Sir John Guise, 2nd Bt.†, were to have a third of this share. However, when the alleged plot came under the eye of the House in November 1694, it became clear that with the connivance of certain ‘witnesses’ prepared to expose various Catholic landowners in the county as Jacobite, they had stood to make considerable personal gain. Though leading Country Whigs such as Robert Harley were at first scandalized and put Howe and Guise ‘under censure for the management’, the mood of the House against them quickly petered out as the investigation became bogged down in other aspects of the supposed plot.6
Howe retained his seat for Nottinghamshire in 1695. On 8 Jan. 1696 he acted as a teller in favour of fixing a date for considering the disputed Gloucestershire election in which his brother-in-law Guise was the petitioner. He was forecast as a probable government supporter in the division on the proposed council of trade in January 1696, signed the Association in February and voted with the Court in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In December 1695 his management of the excise accounts, and in particular his failure to present them punctually, had come under the critical review of the Treasury Board. He was found to have been employing fewer clerks at a reduced rate of pay, enabling him thereby to save on his overall allowance. A staff of nine had cost his predecessor £720, while his own eight clerks were paid only £460. Responding to a formal reprimand from the Treasury commissioners in April 1696, Howe was able to show that blame for allowing the accounts to run into arrears lay not with himself but his predecessor. Although Howe satisfied the Treasury in this respect, he was nevertheless ordered to maintain his office with a correct quota of properly salaried clerks. On 2 Nov. he was once again named as defaulting in his attendance and on the 9th was ordered into the serjeant’s custody. Discharged on the 20th, he voted on 25 Nov. in favour of the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†.7
Howe was defeated in the 1698 election, and was classed in around September as a former member of the Court party. In 1700 he was again in trouble with the Treasury over the continuing slow progress in tying up the excise accounts, and it came to light that with the considerable number of new imposts to administer, Howe, instead of employing extra clerks for which he had received an additional allowance in 1697, had farmed the new work out to private individuals. He was warned by William Lowndes*, the Treasury secretary, that unless he took steps to maintain an adequately staffed and paid office the matter would be referred to the King. After a second defeat, this time at Nottingham, in the January 1701 election, he remained out of Parliament until 1710, a decision apparently dictated by the fact that his office rendered him ineligible under the Act of 1699. In May Howe was elevated to a viscountcy in the Irish peerage though he never appears to have taken his seat in the Irish house of lords. By the time of Queen Anne’s accession the excise accounts had been completed up to 1699 and his patent for the comptrollership was renewed. He was also given a further allowance to recruit more clerks to assist with the increase of business. He remained ever vigilant for other sources of income, and at some point during Harley’s secretaryship, petitioned unsuccessfully for authority to coin copper halfpennies and farthings, reciting that he had raised a regiment of horse ‘in the Protestant interest’ during the Revolution, ‘the charges of which he is still encumbered’.8
In March 1710 Howe sold his excise office to Edward Pauncefort* for £3,500 and in June 1710 decided to stand again for Nottinghamshire, obtaining the support of the Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†) and the Marquess of Dorchester (Evelyn Pierrepont*). Though he was returned as a Whig, the compiler of the ‘Hanover list’ of the 1710 Parliament preferred to note him as ‘doubtful’. Having spent most of his career as a government supporter and official, Howe evidently saw no personal advantage in following his party into opposition and promptly threw in his lot with the Court: during the 1710–11 session he was listed both as a ‘worthy patriot’ who helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration, and as a ‘Tory patriot’ opposed to the continuance of the war, although in the former list his classification as a member of the October Club was probably a mistake. He died on 26 Jan. 1713 at Langar, and was succeeded in the viscountcy by his son, Emanuel Scrope Howe†.9
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Paula Watson / Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. Vis. Eng. and Wales Notes ed. Crisp, xiii. 96–100; HMC Buccleuch, i. 330.
- 2. Notts. RO, freemen card index.
- 3. [Bull.I]HR, clix. 83; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 152; xxiv. 356.
- 4. J. T. Godfrey, Notts. Churches: Hundred of Bingham, 308–9; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 213, 375; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 96–97, 115; Diary of Abraham Pryme (Surtees Soc. liv), 243.
- 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 686, 698; Bodl. Fleming newsletters 4, f. 115; HMC Rutland, ii. 136; Luttrell Diary, 229, 249; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, v. 433; HMC Buccleuch, ii. 70, 76–77.
- 6. HMC Kenyon, 328, 339; Guise Mems. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxviii), 95–96; HMC Portland, iii. 559.
- 7. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 474–5; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1299; xi. 5.
- 8. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 96–97; 1697–1702, p. 419; Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 444; xvii. 49, 270, 330; DNB; HMC Portland, viii. 361.
- 9. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1714–19, p. 29; Huntington Lib. Q. xxxiii. 157; Godfrey, 308.