George Evelyn, MP (1617 - 1699)

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Death: Died
Managed by: Woodman Mark Lowes Dickinson, OBE
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Immediate Family

About George Evelyn, MP

Family and Education b. 18 June 1617, 1st s. of Richard Evelyn of Wotton by Eleanor, da. and h. of John Stansfield of The Cliff, Lewes, Suss. educ. Guildford g.s.; Trinity, Oxf. 1634-7; M. Temple 1637. m. 28 May 1640, Mary (d.15 May 1644), da. and coh. of Daniel Caldwell of Horndon on the Hill, Essex, 5s. d.v.p.; (2) bef. Oct. 1647, Mary (d. 8 Aug. 1664), da. of Sir Robert Offley of Dalby, Leics., wid. of Sir John Cotton of Eltham, Kent, 5s. d.v.p. 4da. suc. fa. 1640.2

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Surr. 1643-8, Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90, sequestrations 1643, levying of money 1643, defence 1643, 1645, execution of ordinances 1644, new model ordinance 1645, militia 1648, Mar. 1660, j.p. Mar. 1660-6, 1681-7, by 1690-?d., dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-75, by 1694-d.; freeman, Guildford 1662; commr. for recusants, Surr. 1675, rebuilding of Southwark 1677.3

Gent. of the privy chamber (extraordinary) June 1660-?85.4

Biography Evelyn, the elder brother of the well-known diarist, succeeded to an estate of £4,000 p.a. on the eve of the Civil War. Though he showed no alacrity to contribute to the advance of money for the parliamentary cause, he served on the county committee and was returned as a recruiter to the Long Parliament, surviving an allegation ‘that he did raise and send horse to the King’, only to be removed at Pride’s Purge. After the execution of the King he was reported as sympathetic towards a royalist uprising, but he spent most of the Interregnum politically inactive, with his noted garden and fountains.5

Evelyn was involved in a double return for Haslemere in 1661 and seated on the merits of the election. In the Cavalier Parliament he was inactive, being named to only 37 committees. It is not known why his name does not appear in the 1666 commission of the peace, particularly since he was listed as a friend of Ormonde. But he may have been reluctant to enforce the Clarendon Code, for he voted to make it more acceptable by fining instead of imprisoning conventiclers. He was appointed to the committee on the bill to hinder Papists from sitting in Parliament in the spring session of 1675. He was assigned to Sir Adam Browne’s management on the working lists, but without effect, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice worthy’ in 1677.6

At the first general election of 1679 Evelyn was ‘invited by the country’ to stand for the county with Arthur Onslow against Browne and Lord Longford (Francis Aungier), the court candidates, and in the words of the diarist

the country coming in to give their suffrages for my brother were so many that I believe they ate and drank him out near £2,000 by a most abominable custom. He was again considered ‘worthy’ by Shaftesbury, and was probably moderately active in the first Exclusion Parliament. He may have served on four committees, none of which was of political importance, but he voted for the bill. Opposition was expected in August but failed to develop, and the sitting Members were re-elected, the crowd ‘taking Esquire Evelyn on their shoulders and carried him to the Crown door’ and, in contrast to the previous election, the freeholders ‘were so far from putting the elected knights to any charge that they invited them to the White Hart to dinner’. Evelyn was probably more active in the second Exclusion Parliament, in which either he or his cousin was named to ten committees, including those to inquire into the conduct of the judges, to take the disbandment accounts and to repeal the Corporations Act. It was probably he who feared ‘lest the House should suffer in making good the articles’ against Edward Seymour, and supported the address for the removal of Laurence Hyde with the exclamation: ‘Is not the Duke of York the public enemy of the kingdom? ... [I] would not have him under a temptation’. He was re-elected unopposed, but at Oxford he was appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges.7

At the accession of James II in 1685 Evelyn wrote to his brother complaining that he had been misrepresented at Court:

But you and all men that know me must witness that I was always loyal to his late Majesty (of blessed memory) and am now to his present Majesty, and shall so continue to my life’s end, praying for his long life and the happiness of his government. With an election imminent the diarist urged Evelyn to transfer his interest to his cousin Sir Edward Evelyn, since the Court did not wish him to stand, and

I had observed by the account we had weekly, what very mean and slight persons (some of them gentlemen’s servants, clerks, persons neither of reputation nor interest) were set up. Evelyn, however, despite his disfavour at Court, claimed that ‘the country would choose him, whether he would or no’, and wrote back:

To show you how unwillingly I am persuaded to stand again, I have not solicited one voice either for myself or friend, but leave the freeholders to their own choice at the day of the election. There have been many of my neighbours and countrymen with me to desire I would serve them in this ensuing Parliament. I have desired their excuse, but when I could not prevail with them to let me be at home and in quiet, I told them that, if they did choose me and Mr Onslow, we would both serve them, because we are obliged to do it if once chosen. Nevertheless, with the sheriff and lord lieutenant actively against them, the country candidates were defeated in a snap election after their party had gone to seek lodging.8

Evelyn was dropped from the commission of the peace in 1687, but considered a likely candidate for Surrey in the abortive elections of 1688. He was returned for the last time to the Convention, being then 71 years of age, and was named only to the committee on the bill to restore the London charter on 13 July 1689. In the bill to restore corporations, he supported the disabling clause. Evelyn died on 4 Oct. 1699 and was buried at Wotton. Over 2,000 mourners attended the funeral of ‘a most worthy gentleman, religious, sober and temperate, [and] noted for keeping a good house after the ancient English way of hospitality’. His daughter Mary married Sir Cyril Wyche, but the estate was inherited by his brother the diarist, whose grandson was returned for Helston in 1709.9

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690 Author: J. S. Crossette Notes 1. Did not sit after Pride’s Purge, 6 Dec. 1648, readmitted 21 Feb. 1660. 2. Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 2), iv. 202-3; H. Evelyn, Hist. Evelyn Fam. 45. 3. Evelyn Diary, v. 170; Surr. RO, QS2/1/6/325; Add. 6167, f. 208. 4. LC3/2. 5. Aubrey, Surr. iv. 116; Underdown, Royalist Conspiracy, 38; Hist. Evelyn Fam. 30, 42. 6. Eg. 2539, f. 208v. 7. HMC Ormonde n.s. iv. 317, 341; Evelyn Diary, iv. 165; True Dom. Intell. 29 Aug. 1679; Grey, viii. 90-91; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 114. 8. Hist. Evelyn Fam. 49; Evelyn Diary, iv. 433. 9. Luttrell, iv. 569; Evelyn Diary, v. 357-6

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