Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Strode, William (1599?-1645)

STRODE, WILLIAM (1599?–1645), politician, born about 1599, was the second son of Sir William Strode, knt., of Newnham, Devonshire, by Mary, daughter of Thomas Southcote of Bovey Tracey in the same county (Chester, Westminster Abbey Registers, p. 522). Strode matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, 9 May 1617, at the age of eighteen, and graduated B.A. 20 June 1619. In 1614 he was admitted a student of the Inner Temple (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, p. 1438). In the last parliament of James I and in the earliest three parliaments called by Charles I, Strode represented Beeralston. On 2 March 1629, when the speaker tried to adjourn the house and refused to put Eliot's resolutions to the vote, Strode played a great part in the disorderly scene which followed. He did not content himself with pointedly reminding the speaker that he was only the servant of the house, but called on all those who desired Eliot's declaration to be read to signify their assent by standing up. ‘I desire the same,’ he explained, ‘that we may not be turned off like scattered sheep, as we were at the end of the last session, and have a scorn put on us in print; but that we may leave something behind us’ (Gardiner, History of England, vii. 69). The next day Strode was summoned before the council. As he declined to come, he was arrested in the country, and committed first to the king's bench prison, then to the Tower, and thence to the Marshalsea. When he was proceeded against in the Star-chamber he repudiated the jurisdiction of that court, and refused to answer outside parliament for words spoken within it. As he also refused to be bound over to good behaviour, he remained a prisoner until January 1640 (ib. vii. 90, 115; Forster, Life of Eliot, ii. 460, 521, 544, 563; Green, William Strode, p. 11). The Long parliament voted the proceedings against him a breach of privilege, and ordered him 500l. compensation for his sufferings (Verney, Notes of the Long Parliament, p. 102; Commons' Journals, ii. 203, iv. 189).

Strode was returned for Beeralston to the two parliaments elected in 1640. His sufferings gave him a position in the popular party which his abilities would not have entitled him to claim, and his boldness and freedom of speech soon made him notorious. Clarendon terms him ‘one of the fiercest men of the party,’ and ‘one of those Ephori who most avowed the curbing and suppressing of majesty’ (Rebellion, ii. 86, iv. 32). D'Ewes describes him as a ‘firebrand,’ a ‘notable profaner of the scriptures,’ and one with ‘too hot a tongue’ (Forster, Arrest of the Five Members, p. 220). Strode was one of the managers of Strafford's impeachment, and was so bitter that he proposed that the earl should not be allowed counsel to speak for him (


, Letters, i. 309, 330, 339). He spoke against Lord-keeper Finch, and was zealous for the protestation, but his most important act was the introduction of the bill for annual parliaments (Notebook of Sir John Northcote, ed. H. A. Hamilton, 1877, pp. 95, 112; Verney, Notes, p. 67). In the second session of the Long parliament he was still bolder. On 28 Oct. 1641 he demanded that parliament should have a negative voice in all ministerial appointments, and a month later moved that the kingdom should be put in a posture of defence, thus foreshadowing the militia bill (Gardiner, ix. 253, x. 41, 86; cf. Sanford, Studies of the Great Rebellion, pp. 446, 453). To his activity rather than his influence with the popular party Strode's inclusion among the five members impeached by Charles I was due: Clarendon describes both him and Hesilrige as ‘persons of too low an account and esteem’ to be joined with Pym and Hampden (Rebellion, iv. 192). The articles of impeachment were presented on 3 June 1642, and on the following day the king came to the house in person to arrest the members. A pamphlet printed at the time gives a speech which Strode is said to have delivered in his vindication on 3 Jan., but there can be little doubt that it is a forgery (Old Parliamentary History, x. 157, 163, 182; Gardiner, x. 135). According to D'Ewes, it was difficult to persuade him to leave the house even when the king's approach was announced. ‘Mr. William Strode, the last of the five, being a young man and unmarried, could not be persuaded by his friends for a pretty while to go out; but said that, knowing himself to be innocent, he would stay in the house, though he sealed his innocency with his blood at the door … nay when no persuasions could prevail with the said Mr. Strode, Sir Walter Erle, his entire friend, was fain to take him by the cloak and pull him out of his place and so get him out of the House’ (Sanford, p. 464).

After his impeachment Strode was naturally the more embittered against the king, and when the civil war began became one of the chief opponents of attempts at accommodation with Charles (ib. pp. 497, 529, 540, 544, 562, 567). He was present at the battle of Edgehill, and was sent up by Essex to give a narrative of it to parliament. In the speech which he made to the corporation of the city on 27 Oct. 1642, Strode gave a short account of the fight, specially praising the regiments ‘that were ignominously reproached by the name of Roundheads,’ whose courage had restored the fortune of the day (Old Parliamentary History, xi. 479; Clarendon, vi. 101). In 1643 his house in Devonshire was plundered by Sir Ralph Hopton's troops, and the commons introduced an ordinance for indemnifying him out of Hopton's estate (Commons' Journals, ii. 977). When Pym was buried in Westminster Abbey, Strode was one of his bearers (13 Dec. 1643). Strode was active against Archbishop Laud, and on 28 Nov. 1644 was employed by the commons to press the lords to agree to the ordinance for the archbishop's execution. He is said to have threatened the peers that the mob of the city would force them to pass it if they delayed (Laud, Works, v. 414, 427). ‘Mercurius Aulicus,’ commenting on the incident, terms Strode ‘he that makes all the bloody motions’ (Green, p. 16). On 31 Jan. 1645 he was added to the assembly of divines (Commons' Journals, iv. 38).

Strode died of a fever at Tottenham early in September 1645. On 10 Sept. the house ordered that he should have a public funeral and be buried in Westminster Abbey (ib. iv. 268). Whitelocke, who attended the funeral, describes him as a constant servant to the parliament, just and courteous (Memorials, i. 513, ed. 1853). Gaspar Hickes, who preached the funeral sermon, dwells on the disinterestedness of Strode, states that he spent or lost all he had in the public service, and asserts that his speeches were characterised by a ‘solid vehemence and a piercing acuteness’ (The Life and Death of David, a sermon preached at the funeral of William Strode, &c., 1645, 4to). At the Restoration his remains were disinterred by a warrant dated 9 Sept. 1661 (Chester, Westminster Abbey Registers, p. 522).

The identity of the Strode who was imprisoned in 1629 with the Strode who was impeached in 1642 has been denied (Forster, Arrest of the Five Members, p. 198; Grand Remonstrance, p. 175; Life of Sir John Eliot, ii. 445). It is satisfactorily established by Mr. Sanford (Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, p. 397) and by Mr. Gardiner (History of England, ix. 223). Strode is also sometimes confused with William Strode (1589?–1666) of Barrington, near Ilchester, who distinguished himself by his opposition to the king's commission of array in Somerset, was one of the parliamentary deputy-lieutenants of that county in 1642, and became a colonel in the parliament's service. In 1646 he was returned to the Long parliament for Ilchester, and, being a strong presbyterian, was expelled from the house by ‘Pride's purge’ in 1648. In 1661 he was imprisoned and obliged to make a humble submission for disobeying the orders of the king's deputy-lieutenants in Somerset. He died in 1666, aged 77. His portrait, by William Dobson, which was in 1866 exhibited at South Kensington (No. 597) as that of the other William Strode, was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in December 1897.

[An Historic Doubt solved: William Strode one of the Five Members, William Strode colonel in the Parliament Army. By Emmanuel Green, Taunton, 1885, reprinted from the Proceedings of the Somerset Archæological Society for 1884; other authorities mentioned in the article.]

C. H. F.