1626, the Barons of the Cinque Ports ask to join Charles I’s coronation ceremony

The barons of the Cinque Ports, two ancient towns and their members. SP 16/18 f. 42 (1626)

To the right honourable Lord George Duke of Buckingham Lord High Admirall of England and Warden of his majesties Cincque Portes.

The joynt and humble peticion of the [com?] barons of the Cincque Portes, two auncient townes and their members. Sheweth that.

Whereas diverse priveledges have beene graunted aunciently graunted to the said portes in consideracion of service done and to be performed. And the same confermed by charter and continued by presedente and longe practice.

Amongst which one of the most principall of honour and esteeme, hath beene the service done by the saide [com?] barons att the coronacion of the kinges and queenes of this kingdome.

Humbly beseecheth your majestie grace wouldbe pleased to afford them your gracious assistance, and be a meanes that they maie enjoy att this his majesties coronacion, and be admitted to performe that service which of auncient tyme hath beene done by their predecessors, and that letteres or summons maie be sent accordingly

Report by Barbara Prynn

As summarised in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic, this petition is from ‘the Combarons of the Cinque Ports to the Duke of Buckingham, that, by his assistance, they might, at his Majesty’s coronation, be admitted to perform the service which of ancient time had been done by their predecessors’.

The Cinque Ports and its Lord Warden

The Confederation of Cinque Ports is a historic series of coastal towns in Kent, Sussex and Essex. It was originally formed for military and trade purposes but is now entirely ceremonial. The ports lie at the eastern end of the English Channel where the crossing to the continent is narrowest, and they return members of parliament.[1]

The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports is a ceremonial official in the United Kingdom. The post dates from at least the 12th century when the title was Keeper of the Coast. The Lord Warden was  in charge of the Cinque Ports, a group of (initially) five port towns on the south-east coast of England that was formed to collectively supply ships for The Crown in the absence at the time of a navy. By 1628 there were ten Cinque Ports. The title is one of the higher honours bestowed by the Sovereign.

Edward Zouche

On 20 July 1615 Edward Zouche, 11th Lord Zouche, was appointed Warden of the Cinque Ports.  Zouche became the most effective electoral manager of the period perhaps because he held no other major office and was able to reside for considerable periods at Dover Castle. He remained the Warden until November 1624 when George Villiers (1592-1628) was appointed. He was the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Knight of the Garter. He was a courtier, statesman and patron of the arts. He was also favourite and possibly a lover of King James I of England.[2]

All Freemen of the ports, termed ‘portsmen’, were deemed in the middle ages to be barons, and thus members of the baronage entitled to attend the king’s parliament. Termed ‘Barons of the Cinque Ports’, they reflected an early concept that military service at sea constituted land tenure per baroniam, making them quasi feudal barons. The early-14th-century treatise Modus Tenendi Parliamentu stated the Barons of the Cinque Ports to hold a place of precedence below the lay magnates (Lords Temporal) but above the representatives of the shires and boroughs (Knights of the Shire and burgesses). Writs of summons to parliament were sent to the Warden, following which representative barons of the Cinque Ports were selected to attend parliament. Thus the Warden’s duty in this respect was similar to that of the sheriff who  received the writs for distribution to the barons in the shires. The existence of common (i.e. communal) seals of the barons of the individual ports suggests they formed a corporation, as the seal was designed to be affixed to charters and legal documents which would bind them as a single body. This no doubt related to their privileges as monopolies. The Warden and barons often experienced clashes of jurisdiction.[3]

Although the Cinque Ports enjoyed many valuable privileges, the most picturesque were honours at court. The Ports claimed the right to bear the canopy over the heads of the Kings and Queens at their coronations and to sit at the Chief Table for dinner afterwards in the Great Hall at the right hand of the King. The canopy, silver staves and bells which were provided by the Lord High Steward or Treasurer were ‘retained by the Barons as their fee’. The coronation of Charles I took place on 2 February 1626. The Queen refused to participate.[4]

An example of a Baron of the Cinque Ports was Thomas Fotherley, who married the sister of the Duke of Northumberland’s Gentleman of the Horse, Sir John Hippisley, in 1617. Fotherley followed Hippisley into the service of the Duke of Buckingham. At the general election of 1625, with Buckingham Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Hippisley his lieutenant of Dover Castle, Fotherley was nominated for the East Sussex port of Rye and was sworn in as a freeman.[5]


[1] ‘Cinque Ports’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinque_Ports

[2] ‘George Villiers’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Villiers,_1st_Duke_of_Buckingham

[3] ‘Cinque Ports’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe (1993), http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1386-1421/constituencies/cinque-ports; see also the article on the Jacobean Cinque Ports: http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1604-1629/constituencies/cinque-ports

[4] Ken Clarke, ‘The Cinque Ports Coronation Privileges’ (2016), https://ryesown.co.uk/the-cinque-ports-coronation-privileges/

[5] ‘FOTHERLEY, Thomas (c.1580-1649/50), of Rickmansworth, Herts. and St. Margaret’s, Westminster; later of The Mews, Westminster’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010, https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/fotherley-thomas-1580-164950

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.