Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kilvert, Richard

KILVERT, RICHARD (d. 1649), lawyer, rose from a subordinate position in the prerogative court at Canterbury to the office of a proctor practising there. When it was proposed to impeach Sir John Bennet [q. v.], judge of the court, in 1621 on the ground of corruption, Kilvert laid an information against Bennet before the House of Lords, and the lords at his request guaranteed him as an informer freedom from arrest (Lords' Journals, iii. 153, 185; State Papers, Dom. 1619, pp. 249, 252). Hacket states that Kilvert was subsequently branded for perjury by order of the parliament of 1621. But he probably gave evidence in the Star-chamber prosecution instigated in 1622 by the crown after that parliament was dissolved. Three years later Kilvert petitioned the privy council for power to levy Sir John Bennet's fine, some part of which was awarded apparently to him as an informer.

Kilvert was subsequently used as a tool in the proceedings in the Star-chamber against Bishop Williams on a frivolous charge of betraying secrets as a privy councillor. He raked up evidence against the moral character of Williams's principal witness, Pregion (1634), and Williams, in his endeavours to rebut it, exposed himself to a charge of subornation of perjury (see State Papers, Dom. 1634, pp. 456–99). Williams foolishly attempted to bribe Kilvert into inactivity, but Kilvert informed Secretary Windebank of the attempt. In the later trial of the bishop in 1637 in the Star-chamber for publishing an unorthodox work on ‘The Holy Table,’ Kilvert acted as solicitor for the prosecution, and was awarded 1,500l. out of the total fine imposed (10,000l.)

In 1637 Kilvert became concerned with Alderman Abell [q. v.] in the promotion of the wine monopoly. Since 1634 the Vintners' Company had been exposed to a Star-chamber prosecution for unauthorised dressing of meat. The crown proposed to compound the offence if the Vintners would agree to an imposition, and Kilvert was introduced to the company by Abell, in that year master, in order to coerce them by threats of prosecution. The Vintners gave way, and agreed to the imposition in return for a grant of the monopoly of wines. Kilvert was paid 1,000l. out of the purse of the Vintners' Company, although without the consent of the ‘generality.’ Immediately on the assembling of the Long parliament he was called into question, along with Alderman Abell, for his share in this transaction. He was arrested on 18 Nov. 1640, and only released on bail 1 Sept. 1641. In the meantime (May 1641) the commons had ordered the bill to be prepared to declare the offence of Alderman Abell and Richard Kilvert ‘to the end that they may be made exemplary.’ What was finally done does not appear. He was at liberty in December 1643, and in 1647 was living in apparently comfortable circumstances at his own house in St. Martin's Lane. He died there suddenly on 16 Dec. 1649. His brother Roger was a wine merchant in London, and also aided in the wine monopoly; he was released 2 May 1645 on payment of 40l.

Kilvert wrote in his own defence ‘A Reply to a most untrue Relation made by certain Vintners,’ 1641. He is also identified by a note in Thomasson's hand as the author of a ‘Discourse concerning the interest England hath in the Siege of Graveling,’ 1644. Some biographical details, together with a portrait, are contained in ‘A Dialogue … betwixt Alderman Abel and Richard Kilvert,’ 1641, and ‘The Vintners' Answer to … Kilver,’ 1641.

[The tracts mentioned above; Commons' Journals, ii. 26–279; Lords' Journals, iii. 153, vi. 127; State Papers, Dom. 1619–41; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. pt. i. p. 172, pt. ii. p. 153, pt. iv. p. 73, 14th Rep. p. 203, pt. vi. p. 472; Harl. MS. 1219, f. 3; State Trials; Rushworth's Collections; Smyth's Obituary (Camden Soc.); Gardiner's Hist. viii. 251, 287.]

W. A. S.