Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Finch, Heneage (d.1631)

FINCH, Sir HENEAGE (d. 1631), speaker of the House of Commons, was the fourth son of Sir Moyle Finch of Eastwell, Kent, and grandson of Sir Thomas Finch [q. v.] His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Heneage of Copt Hall, Essex, and granddaughter on the mother's side of Thomas, lord Berkeley of Berkeley Castle. Admitted a member of the Inner Temple in November 1597, he was called to the bar in 1606. At a by-election in 1607 he was returned to parliament for Rye. He spoke in July 1610 in the debate on 'impositions,' maintaining the following positions : (1) 'that the king, though upon a restraint for a time, may impose for a time, much more for ever;' (2) 'that he may dispense with a law for ever, because the law is for ever ;' (3) 'that he may make a bulwark in any land, but not take money not to do it ;' (4) 'that the king hath power only to make war. If all the subjects will make war without the king, it is no war' (Parl. Debates, 1610, Camden Soc., p. 116). He was one of the lawyers who argued before the king and council on 6 April 1612 the moot point 'whether baronets and bannerets were the same promiscuously ;' and desiring to give dignity to the argument, opened 'with a philosophical preamble, omne principium motus est intrinsecum,' at which the king, being much displeased, said : 'Though I am a king of men, yet I am no king of time, for I grow old with this ;' and therefore, if he had anything to speak to the matter, bade him utter it. Whereupon Finch, with great boldness, undertook to prove much, but did nothing (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. pt. iv. 9). In 1616 he was employed in conjunction with Bacon in an attempt to reduce the statute law to some sort of consistency with itself Spedding, Letters and Life of Bacon, vi. 71). In 1620-1 he was returned to parliament for West Looe, otherwise Portpighan, Cornwall. He took part in the debate of 3 Dec. 1621 on the Spanish match, supporting the proposal to petition the king against it (Parl. Hist. i. 1320). In the preceding February he had been appointed recorder of London (Index to Remembrancia, p. 295), and he represented the city in parliament between 1623 and 1626. On 22 June 1623 he was knighted at Wanstead, and three days later he was called to the degree of serjeant-at-law. On 8 July following he was further honoured by the elevation of his mother, then a widow, to the peerage as Viscountess Maidstone, with remainder to her heirs male. This honour was procured through the interest of Sir Arthur Ingram at the price of a capital sum of 13,000l. and an annuity of 500l., to secure which Copt Hall manor and park were mortgaged. She was afterwards, viz. on 12 July 1628, created Countess of Winchilsea, also with remainder to her heirs male. She died in 1633, and was buried at Eastwell under a splendid monument. Sir Heneage's eldest brother, Thomas, succeeded her as first earl of Winchilsea (cf. art. Finch, Sir Thomas ; Nichols, Progr. James I, iii. 768, 875, 878; Dugdale, Chron. Ser. 105; Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, iii. 387 ; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1619-23, pp. 223, 623; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th. Rep. App. 283 b, 290 a). On 7 July 1625 Finch read the report of a committee of the House of Commons to which had been referred the consideration of two works recently published by Richard Montagu, afterwards bishop of Chichester, viz. 'A New Gag for an Old Goose' and 'Appello Cæsarem,' which were thought to savour somewhat rankly of Arminianism and popery. The result of the report was that the publication of the books was treated as a breach of privilege and Montagu arrested. The plague then raging severely, the debtors in the Fleet petitioned the House of Commons for a habeas corpus. Finch on 9 July spoke in favour of granting a release, but so as to save the rights of the creditors. On 9 Aug. he was present at a conference with the lords touching certain pardons illegally granted by the king to some Jesuits, but is not recorded to have done more than read the lord keeper's speech. On 10 Aug. he spoke in favour of granting the subsidies in reversion demanded by the king, but advised that the grant should be accompanied with a protestation never to do the like upon any necessity hereafter (Commons' Debates, 1625, Camden Soc., pp. 47, 51, 65, 94, 113 ; Commons' Journ. i. 805 ; Parl. Hist. ii. 18-19, 35). On 6 Feb. 1625-6 he was elected to the speaker's chair (Commons' Journ. i. 816). His speech at the opening of parliament was divided between the conventional self-abasement, praise of the 'temperate' character of the laws, 'yielding a due observance to the prerogative royal, and yet preserving the right and liberty of the subject,' fulsome flattery of the king, and denunciation of popery and Spain. In 1628 he was elected to the bench of his inn. On 10 April 1631 he was nominated one of the commissioners for the repair of St. Paul's Cathedral. He died on 5 Dec. following and was buried at Ravenstone in Buckinghamshire (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1625-6 p. 248, 1631-3 pp. 6, 207; Nichols, Progr. James I, iii. 768; Parl. Hist. ii. 41). Finch married twice. His first wife was Frances, daughter of Sir Edmund Bell of Beaupré Hall, Norfolk, and granddaughter of Sir Robert Bell [q. v.], chief baron of the exchequer and speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Elizabeth. She died on 11 April 1627, and on 16 April 1629 Finch married, at St. Dunstan's in the West, Elizabeth, daughter of William Cradock of Staffordshire, relict of Richard Bennett, mercer and alderman of London, an ancestor of the Earls of Arlington. By his first wife Finch had issue seven sons and four daughters. His eldest son, Heneage [q. v.], was lord keeper and first earl of Nottingham. Another son, Sir John [q. v.], was a physician. For the hand of Mrs. Bennett, who brought Finch a fortune, he had several rivals, among them Sir Sackville Crow and Dr. Raven, a conjunction which afforded much amusement to the town. Another suitor was Sir Edward Dering(Coll. Top. et Gen. v. 218; Proceedings in Kent, 1640, Camden Soc.) By this lady Finch had issue two daughters only, viz. (1) Elizabeth, who married Edward Madison, and (2) Anne, who married Edward, viscount and earl of Conway.

Finch compiled 'A Brief Collection touching the Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops,' which remains in manuscript (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. 353).

[Morant's Essex, i. 47; Berry's County Genealogies (Kent), p. 207; Hasted's Kent, iii. 199, 387; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament; Inner Temple Books; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, iii. 387; Manning's Lives of the Speakers.]

J. M. R.