1655, Lady Margaret Livingston and three other royalist widows petition Oliver Cromwell for their overdue pensions

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1650s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Lady Margaret Levingston, Mistress Bridgett Bray, Mistress Judeth Hobson, and Mistress Frances Blundew. SP 18/94 f. 5 (1655)

To his highnesse Oliver Lord Protector of England Scotland and Ireland.

The humble peticion of the Lady Margarett Levingston, Mistress Bridgett Bray, Mistress Judeth Hobson, and Mistress Frances [Blundew?].

Sheweth, that your petioners allowances of fower powndes per weeke from your highnesse, and the right honourable the councell, beinge neere expired, they beinge aged, much indebted, and every way fully within the charity of your highnesse speach to the right honourable the councill, who [desi?] red them to act for God, and perticulerly remembred them to consider to releive the distres ses of the poore and needy, and of whose goodnesse accordingly they have had some experience

They humbly implore your highnesse, not to take the breade from them, you have of late fed them with, but that you will be pleased gratiously to under write this there peticon, that Master Gualter Frost continue to pay them on accordinge to theire warrant from the date of the expiration thereof untill further order, that soe they may goe to theire graves in peace with blessinges for you in theire mouths, for chosinge rather to be theire good Joseph, in seasonably dispencinge foode to them, in theire greate famine (they haveinge neare fower thousand pounds in arreare) then like the unfaithfull steward in the gospell, while there is plenty in his masters house: and who knowes, but for these very endes, your highnesse is come in [illegible]

And they shall pray

Report by Sheila Douglas

Lady Margaret Livingston, Mistress Bridget Bray, Mistress Judith Hobson, and Mistress Frances Blunden had all been receiving small pensions through a warrant from Cromwell at £4 per week. In their petition they claimed that they were elderly, indebted and their allowances were £4,000 in arrears.

Lady Margaret Livingston (or Levingston)

Although with a degree of uncertainty, Lady Margaret was probably the daughter of Alexander Livingstone (d. 1648), 2nd Earl of Linlithgow, and Lady Mary Douglas. Lady Margaret’s first marriage was to Sir Thomas Nicolson of Carnock, 1st Baronet, and she was his widow at the time of the petition. After his death in 1646, she married twice more (1666 and 1668) and had one child. She died in 1674.[1] A small possibility the petitioner is another Lady Margaret Livingston, namely the daughter of the 1st Earl of Linlithgow who married John Fleming, 2nd Earl of Wigtown, but this Lady Margaret is reputed to have died in 1651, so it is unlikely.

Judith (or Judeth) Hobson

Judith Hobson was married to Edward Hobson and was also a Royalist widow.[2] There are severalpayments that are shown as being made to her into the 1660s.  In 1661 as Edward’s relict (widow) she received 20l. ‘in respect of his services and her necessities’. In 1663 she received a further 20l. ‘for his bounty and her necessities’.[3]

Bridget Bray

Bridget Bray was the wife of Thomas Bray who was a Groom of the Prince’s Bedchamber. An earlier Petition by Bridget in 1648 seeking arrears of pay due to her husband was supported by the Lord General (Thomas Lord Fairfax) in a letter to the Earl of Manchester.[4]

The petition

The petition from Lady Margaret and others was allowed and on 16 February 1655 a warrant was issued by Gaulter (Walter) Frost for the £4 weekly allowance, to be paid out of the ‘council’s contingencies’.[5]

Perhaps Cromwell paid these pensions to Royalist widows due to his deep admiration for Duke Ernest the Pious of Gotha, a Protestant prince who in 1645 created a fund to support the widows of clergymen. In the 17th century and later, pensions in the form of annuities would become more common across Europe, largely granted as compensation for the loss of spouses, not only but especially for men of rank killed in action.  Additionally, it could be paid also for loss of limbs, again mainly those wounded in action, or for merit in military or civil action.[6] Petitions to veterans and war widows became extremely common during the civil wars of the 1640s.[7]


[1] ‘Linlithgow, Earl of (S, 1600 – forfeited 1716)’, Cracroft’s Peerage, http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/online/content/linlithgow1600.htm#LINLITHGOW_1600_1.

[2] Hobson and Livingston are both mentioned as ‘servants [or widows thereof] of the late king’ in a warrant for payment dating to 17 October 1649: Manuscripts, Upon Papyrus, Vellum, and Paper, in Various Languages (1843), p. 33, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=pddAAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA33.

[3] ‘Entry Book: December 1661’, in William A Shaw (ed.), Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 1, 1660-1667 (1904), pp. 311-320. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol1/pp311-320;  ‘Entry Book: March 1663’, in William A Shaw (ed.), Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 1, 1660-1667 (1904), pp. 505-512. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-treasury-books/vol1/pp505-512.

[4] ‘House of Lords: Journal Office: Main Papers 1509-1700’, UK Parliament Parliamentary Archives, https://archives.parliament.uk/collections/getrecord/GB61_HL_PO_JO_10_1_265; ‘House of Lords Journal Volume 10: 10 July 1648’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 10, 1648-1649 (1767-1830), pp. 372-374. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol10/pp372-374.

[5] ‘Warrants of the Protector and Council for Payment of Money.’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1655 (1881), pp. 601-608. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1655/pp601-608.

[6] ‘A Brief History of Pensions’, DAM Making Pensions Personal, http://www.damgoodpensions.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-pensions/.

[7] Civil War Petitions, https://www.civilwarpetitions.ac.uk/