Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grimston, Harbottle
GRIMSTON, Sir HARBOTTLE (1603–1685), judge and speaker of the House of Commons, was second son of Sir Harbottle Grimston, a puritan gentleman of old family and moderate estate in Essex (created a baronet in 1612), by Elizabeth, daughter of Ralph Coppinger. Sir Harbottle the elder, who was grandson of Edward Grimston [q. v.], represented his county in parliament in 1625-6 and 1627-8, and was imprisoned in 1627 for refusing to contribute to the forced loan of that year. He sat for Harwich in the Long parliament, and died on 19 Feb. 1647-8. The son was born on 27 Jan. 1602-3 at Bradfield Hall, near Manningtree, Essex, and was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he appears as a 'pensioner' in 1619. He subsequently entered Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar, but on the death of his elder brother abandoned the idea of practising. He changed his mind, however, in consequence of Sir George Croke, to whose daughter Mary he had become attached, refusing his consent to their union unless he would devote himself to his profession. The marriage took place on 16 April 1629 at St. Dunstan's-in-the-West. Grimston was returned to parliament at a by-election in 1628 as member for Harwich, and succeeded Coke as recorder of that town in 1634 (Dale, Harwich, p. 222). In August 1638 he was elected recorder of Colchester, which borough he represented in the first parliament of 1640, and also in the Long parliament (Morant, Essex, i. 464-5; Burnet, Own Time, fol. i. 381; Lists of Members of Parliament (Official Return of); Commons' Journal, v. 500; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 417; Rep. on Gawdy MSS. (1884-5), p. 125; Col. Top. et Gen. v. 218 ; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639, p. 57).
In the first parliament of 1640 he opened the debate on grievances (16 April) in a speech of rather verbose and ponderous but not unimpressive oratory. In the Long parliament Grimston spoke in support of Lord Digby's motion for a select committee to frame 'a remonstrance on the deplorable estate of the kingdom' for presentation to the king, and was himself chosen a member of the committee appointed for the purpose (9 Nov.) He was also a member of the committee for preparing resolutions to be submitted to the House of Lords on the subject of the 'new canons' recently framed by convocation,which had been voted (16 Dec.) contrary to the fundamental laws of the realm. The committee was directed to inquire into the part played by Archbishop Laud in connection with the canons. Their report was followed (18 Dec.) by a motion for the impeachment of the archbishop, in support of which Grimston spoke with great vehemence, denouncing Laud, with much variety of metaphor, as 'the sty of all pestilential filth that hath infested the state and government of this commonwealth,' as 'a viper' which should no longer be permitted to 'distil his poison' into the 'sacred ears' of the king. Grimston also sat on a committee appointed on 12 Jan. 1640-1 to examine into the legality of warrants of commitment signed only by officers of state.
The debate on episcopacy of 1 Feb. 1640-1 gave occasion to a curious piece of fencing between Grimston and Selden. On 3 May Grimston signed the 'protestation and vow' 'to defend the protestant religion, the power and privileges of parliament, and the rights and liberties of the subject.' He was also one of the committee which sat at Guildhall and Grocers' Hall after the attempt to arrest the five members in the House of Commons in January 1641-2. Grimston made an elaborate speech on the occasion, which was published in pamphlet form, and will be found in Cobbett's 'Parliamentary History ,'ii. 1020, and 'Somers Tracts,' iv. 342. After the militia ordinance (by which the command of the forces was transferred from the crown to the parliament) he accepted (June) the office of deputy-lieutenant of Essex, but only on the assurance that it was not intended to make war upon the king. In spite, however, of his aversion to strong measures,he took on 22 Aug. the decided step of committing the royalist Sir John Lucas and his lady to prison as traitors, and he does not seem to have resigned office on the outbreak of hostilities. From that date, however, he kept much in the background, being an extremely moderate man. According to Burnet, who was intimate with him for many years, 'when the Long parliament engaged into the league with Scotland he would not swear the covenant,' and 'discontinued sitting in the house till it was laid aside.' His name, however, appears in Rushworth's list of those who took the covenant on 22 Sept. 1643. Probably he did take it, but kept away from the house to escape the necessity of acting up to it (Own Time, fol. i. 381 ; Hist. Coll. iv. 480). In May 1647 he was placed on the standing committee for appeals from the visitors of the university of Oxford, and also was appointed one of the commissioners for the disbanding of the army. In June 1648 his house, Bradfield Hall, was occupied in his absence by a party of troops belonging to the army of the Earl of Warwick, who plundered it, and turned out his wife (Rushworth, Hist. Coll. iii. 1128, 1349, 1354, 1356, iv. 34-7, 122, 142-3, 187, 241, 244; Comm.Journ.ii.52,v.500; Hist.MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. p. 306b, 7th Rep. App. p. 596b ; Nalson, Coll. Affairs of State, i. 319, 321, 691; Parl. Hist. ii. 656, 680; Somers Tracts, iv. 363; Cobbett, State Trials, iv. 317-18; Cal State Papers, Dom. 1640-1, pp. 450-1 ; Clarendon, Rebellion, i. 235,524; Whitelocke, Mem. pp.59,62, 249,312,314).
Burnet (fol. i. 45) tells a strange story, which he says he had from Grimston a few weeks before his death, to the effect that in 1647 or 1648 Grimston charged Cromwell in the House of Commons with designing to coerce the parliament, and that Cromwell fell down on his knees and made a solemn prayer to God attesting his innocence, afterwards in a long speech 'justifying both himself and the rest of the officers, except a few that seemed inclined to return back to Egypt,' and that thus 'he wearied out the house, and wrought so much on his party that what the witnesses had said was so little believed that had it been moved Grimston thought that both he and they would have been sent to the Tower,' and that accordingly the matter was allowed to drop. This story is not corroborated by any independent evidence. Grimston presided over the committee appointed to investigate the escape of the king from Hampton Court in November 1647, was one of the commissioners to whom the conduct of the negotiations with the king during his imprisonment in the Isle of Wight was entrusted in August 1648, and with Hollis appears to have taken a leading part in that matter. Burnet (ib. fol. i. 44) says that he besought the king on his knees to make up his mind with all possible despatch, lest all chance of accommodation should be destroyed by the independents gaining the ascendency. He was among the members of whom the house was purged by Colonel Pride on 6 Dec. 1648, and was thought of sufficient importance to be imprisoned. He was, however, released on 30 Jan. 1648-9, on giving an engagement not to do anything to the disservice of the parliament or army. Accordingly,after signing a remonstrance against the acts of the Rump, he retired into private life, resigning the recordership of Colchester (6 July 1649), and devoting his leisure to the education of his children, with whom he travelled on the continent for a time, and also to the onerous task of translating and editing reports of his father-in-law, Sir George Croke. In 1656, however, he was returned to parliament for Essex, though he was not permitted to take his seat, whereupon he and ninety-seven others who were in like case published a remonstrance and 'appeal unto God and all the good people of England' against their exclusion (Whitelocke, Mem. p. 653).
On the abdication of Richard Cromwell (April 1659) Grimston was placed by Monck on the committee for summoning a new parliament, to which the title of keepers of the liberties of England was given, and on the readmission of the secluded members in the following February he was elected into the council of state. He was chosen speaker of the House of Commons in the Convention parliament on 25 April 1660. In this capacity it fell to him to answer the king's letter of 14 April, to wait on him at Breda, and to deliver an address to him in the banquetting hall, Whitehall, on the 29th. His oratory on the latter occasion was fulsome and servile in the extreme. Charles repaid his compliment by visiting Grimston at his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields on 25 June. In the following October Grimston sat on the commission which tried the regicides, and in November he was appointed master of the rolls. Rumour, ill authenticated, but in itself not improbable, says that he paid Clarendon 8,000l. for the place. He held the office of speaker only during the Convention parliament, but continued to sit for Colchester until the dissolution of 1681. He was appointed chief steward of the borough of St. Albans by the charter granted to the town in 1664. He took as a rule but little part in the debates of the Pensionary parliament; but the so-called bill for preserving the protestant religion of 1677, which was in reality an attempt to relax the laws against papists, excited his vehement opposition. His last recorded speech was on the popular side on the debate on the rejection of the speaker by the king in March 1678-9. He died of apoplexy on 2 Jan. 1684-5, and is said to have been buried in the chancel of St. Michael's Church, St. Albans, where, however, there is no monument to him (Whitelocke, Mem. pp. 334, 700; Parl. Hist. iii. 1240, 1247, 1548, iv. 28, 56, 57, 862, 1096; Bramston, Autobiogr., Camd. Soc., pp. 114, 162; Willis, Not. Parl. iii. 274; Lists of Members of Parliament (Official Return of) ; Ludlow, Mem. p. 359; Comm.Journ. v. 357, viii. 1, 174; Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. App. p. 56, 5th Rep. App. p. 204, 7th Rep. App. p. 462; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659 1660 p. 429, 1660-1 pp. 205, 354; Law Mag. xxxviii. 223; Cobbett, State Trials, v. 986; Vernon, Rep. i. 283).
Burnet (for many years his chaplain at the Rolls) descants at some length on Grimston's charity and piety, his judicial impartiality, his bitterness against popery, and his tenderness to the protestant dissenters (Own Time, fol. i. 381). Sir Henry Chauncy, also a contemporary, ascribes to him 'a nimble fancy, a quick apprehension, memory, an eloquent tongue, and a sound judgment.' He was 'of free access, sociable in company, sincere to his friend, hospitable in his house, charitable to the poor, and an excellent master to his servants' (Hertfordshire, p. 465). A curious case affecting Grimston is reported by Siderfin. One Nathaniel Bacon thought himself aggrieved by one of Grimston's decrees, and attempted to procure his assassination by a bribe of 100l. He was indicted for this offence in 1664, and punished by a fine of one hundred marks, with three months' imprisonment, and bound over to be of good behaviour during life (Siderfin, Rep. i. 230; Seventh Rep. of Dep.-Keeper of the Public Records, App. ii. 72).
By his wife, Mary, daughter of Sir George Croke [q. v.], Grimston had issue six sons and two daughters. This lady dying in his lifetime, he married Anne, daughter of Sir Nathaniel Bacon, a niece of Lord-chancellor Bacon, and relict of Sir Thomas Meautys, by whom he had issue one daughter only. Of his second wife Burnet says that 'she had all the high notions for the church and crown in which she had been bred, but was the humblest, the devoutest, and best tempered person I ever knew of that sort.' He adds that she made a practice of visiting the gaols and comforting the prisoners (Own Time, fol. i. 382). She had a life estate in the manor of Gorhambury, which Grimston made his principal seat, and of which he purchased the reversion. Only one son, Samuel [q. v.], survived him. His eldest daughter, Mary, married Sir Capel Luckyn, whose grandson, Sir William, was adopted by Sir Samuel Grimston as his heir, assumed the name of Grimston, and was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Viscount Grimston and Baron of Dunboyne in 1719 [see Grimston, William Luckyn]. His grandson, Sir James Bucknall, third Viscount Grimston, was created Baron Verulam of Gorhambury, Hertfordshire, on 6 July 1790, and his son, Sir James Walter, succeeded to the Scotch barony of Forrester in October 1808, was created Viscount Grimston and Earl of Verulam on 24 Nov. 1815
The first volume of Grimston's translation of Croke's reports, containing cases belonging to the reign of Charles I, was published, with a life of the author, in 1657, when the copyright was vested in Grimston by the House of Commons; a volume of cases decided in the reign of James I appeared in 1658, and the third part, covering the reign of Elizabeth, in 1661. A second edition of the whole appeared in 1669 in three volumes fol.; a third in 1683-5, also in three volumes fol.; the fourth and last, with marginal and other notes by Thomas Leach, in 1790-2, in four volumes royal 8vo. There is also a very inaccurate edition of early but uncertain date. The authentic reports are of high authority. Seven of Grimston's speeches in parliament, delivered in 1640-1-2, were published as separate pamphlets. Grimston was also author of Strena Christiana' (London, 1644,24mo), a religious work in Latin, which was reissued in 1645 and 1828, and appeared in English, Cambridge, 1644, 16mo, and with the Latin, London, 1872, 16mo.
A portrait of Grimston by Sir Peter Lely was presented to the National Portrait Gallery by the Earl of Verulam in 1873.[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 27-8 (very inaccurate); Biog. Brit.; Croke's Hist. of the Croke Family, i. 606-13; Cussans's Hertfordshire, Hundred of Cashio, pp. 245, 247-8; Collins's Peerage (Brydges), viii. 218; Nicolas's Hist. Peerage (Courthope); Burke's Peerage; Foss's Lives of the Judges; Bridgman's Legal Bibliography.]