POWLE, Henry - Archontology

Henry Powle

baptized 18 Oct 1630, Shottesbrook, Berkshire
d. 21 Nov 1692, Quenington, Gloucestershire

Title: Speaker of the House of Commons
Term: 22 Jan 1689 - 6 Feb 1690
Chronology: 22 Jan 1689, elected Speaker by the House of Commons
  6 Feb 1690, Parliament dissolved

Henry Powle was the second son of Henry Powle of Shottesbrook, Berkshire, who was sheriff for Berkshire. Henry matriculated from Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1646. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on 11 May 1647, and became a barrister in 1654 and bencher in 1659. Powle first entered public life on 3 Jan 1671, when he was returned for Cirencester to the Pensioner's parliament. He opposed the Declaration of Indulgence, though he was not anxious to extirpate papists. Powle identified himself with the opponents of the court in the time of Charles II. He specially denounced the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, and had a large share in driving him from office. Powle again represented Cirencester in the Parliaments of 1679-1680. Although returned for East Grimstead to Charles's Oxford parliament (1681), Powle thenceforth took little share in politics till the "Glorious Revolution".

When on 26 Dec 1688 William of Orange called together at St. James's Palace a number of members of Charles II's parliaments and common councilmen, Powle attended at the head of 160 former members of the House of Commons. On their return to Westminster to consider the best method of calling a free parliament, he was chosen chairman. He bluntly asserted that "the wish of the prince is sufficient warrant for our assembling"; and on the following morning (27 Dec 1688) he read addresses to William, praying that he would assume the administration and call a convention. To the Convention parliament Powle was returned for the borough of New Windsor. Upon the opening of the Convention (22 Jan 1689) Powle was elected Speaker on the motion of the Earl of Wiltshire. Powle's speech exercised much influence on the subsequent debates. As speaker, he congratulated William and Mary on their coronation, 13 Apr 1689, and presented to William the Bill of Rights on 16 Dec 1689. Powle was summoned to William's first privy council, and, on the remodeling of the judicial bench, Powle received the patent of master of the rolls (13 Mar 1690). So long as the convention sat, William constantly relied on Powle's advice. When he laid down his office at the dissolution of February 1690, Powle was allowed to have kept order excellently well. Powle was returned for Cirencester for William's first parliament, which met on 20 Mar 1690, but was unseated on petition. Powle thereupon devoted himself to his duties as master of the rolls, and successfully claimed, in accordance with precedent, a writ of summons to attend parliament as an assistant to the House of Lords. He spoke in the upper house in favor of the Abjuration Bill on 24 Apr 1690, yet wished the oath imposed sparingly and only on officeholders. Biography source: [1; 2]

[1] "Dictionary of National Biography" (Smith, Elder, London 1900).
[2] "History of the Parliament: The House of Commons 1660-1690", ed. by Basil Duke Henning (Secker & Warburg, London, 1983).