Sir Maurice Abbott, MP, Lord Mayor of London

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Maurice Abbott, MP, Lord Mayor of London

Birthplace: Guildford, Surrey, England, (Present UK)
Death: Died in Guildford, Surrey, England, (Present UK)
Place of Burial: St. Stephen's Church, City of London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Maurice Abbott and Alice Abbott
Husband of Margaret Abbott
Father of Maurice Abbott; Edward Abbott; Martha Abbott; Mary Abbott and George Abbott, of Easton
Brother of Robert Abbot, Bishop of Salisbury; George Abbott, Archbishop of Canterbury; Richard Abbott and Anthony Abbott

Occupation: Eminent merchant, governor of East India Co., and Lord Mayor of London, Lord Mayor
Managed by: J. Darlene Scott
Last Updated:

About Sir Maurice Abbott, MP, Lord Mayor of London

Family and Education b. 2 Nov. 1565,1 5th s. of Maurice Abbot (d.1606), clothworker of Guildford, Surr. and Alice March of Guildford. educ. Guildford g.s.; appr. Draper ?1589; G. Inn 1633. m. (1) Joan (bur. 17 Sept. 1597), da. of George Austen* of Shalford, Surr., dep. chamberlain of the Exch., s.p.; (2) 27 May 1598 (with £500), Margaret (d. 5 Sept. 1630), da. of Bartholomew Barnes of Widford, Herts., Mercer and alderman of London, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.).2 kntd. 12 Apr. 1625.3 bur. 7 Dec. 1642.4 sig. Morris Abbott.

Offices Held

Member, Levant Co. 1588,5 husband by 1608-13, asst. by 1611-24, treas. 1614-16, auditor (jt.) 1617;6 freeman, Drapers’ Co. 1596,7 liveryman 1604, asst. 1615-d., renter warden 1615-16, 2nd warden 1620-1, 1st warden 1622-3, master 1625-6, 1638-9;8 member, E.I. Co. 1600, auditor (jt.) 1602, 1607-8, cttee. 1607-9, 1614-41, dep. gov. 1615-24, gov. 1624-38;9 cttee. Virg. Co. 1610,10 auditor (jt.) 1619-20;11 member, French Co. 1611,12 N.W. Passage Co. 1612, Merchant Adventurers’ Co. by 1615,13 Fishing Assoc. 1633-at least 1637;14 asst. Irish Soc. 1613, 1615, auditor (jt.) 1613;15 commr. trade with Dutch 1614-15, 1619, trade 1621-2;16 member, Muscovy Co. by 1624;17 commr. govt. of Virg. 1624.18

Auditor, St. Stephen’s Coleman Street, London 1605-6, 1610-20, 1622-3, gen. vestryman by 1622-at least 1634, select vestryman by 1623-at least 1634, common cllr. (jt.) 1623-5, feoffee 1624-6, 1632-4.19

?Dep. alderman, London by 1612-at least 1614,20 auditor 1615-16, 1617-18,21 alderman, Bridge Without ward 1626-31, Coleman Street ward 1631-d., sheriff 1627-8, mayor 1638-9;22 trustee, Gresham Coll. London 1615-at least 1640;23 ?freeman, Hull, Yorks. by 1621;24 commr. lic. passage overseas, London 1623,25 new buildings 1625, 1630;26 j.p. Surr. 1627-at least 1636;27 commr. sewers, London 1629-at least 1632,28 charitable uses, Surr. 1630,29 St. Paul’s Cathedral repair 1631-6;30 collector (jt.), knighthood fines, London by 1635;31 commr. ltcy. London 1639,32 assessment 1641.33

Commr. bankruptcy 1612-13,34 merchants’ ships, Algiers expedition 1621, French goods 1626,35 Algiers expedition debts 1627-at least 1628,36 debts of Philip Burlamachi 1633.37

Farmer, great customs 1621-5,38 duties on sugar by 1624,39 wines and currants by 1627-32,40 pretermitted customs (except London and Hull) by 1631,41 silks landed in London (jt.) 1638.42

Biography Abbot’s distant ancestors included Sir Robert Abbot, who fought against King John in 1216. His paternal grandfather was a Suffolk clothier, a fact obscured by an inaccurate heraldic visitation of 1623,43 while his father manufactured fine kerseys at Guildford, Surrey.44 Described as being of the ‘second sort’ in 1572/3, the elder Maurice Abbot was reputedly persecuted for protestantism under Mary and was apparently illiterate, though three of his sons, including Abbot himself, were educated at Guildford’s free grammar school.45 Abbot’s elder brothers George (the future archbishop of Canterbury) and Robert (a future bishop of Salisbury) went on to university, while Abbot was apprenticed to the London Draper William Garway.

Abbot grew prosperous even before he completed his apprenticeship in 1596, for, while trading to Aleppo in 1592 as a member of the newly formed Levant Company, he lent England’s ambassador to Constantinople 4,600 ducats.46 He nevertheless refused to contribute to a royal loan in 1598, an offence for which he was summoned before the Privy Council.47 It is not clear when Abbot married his first wife, Joan, but the match cemented his family’s ties with their near neighbours, the Austens of Guildford and Shalford.48 Joan’s death in 1597, at a time when Abbot’s fortunes were rising, enabled him to conclude a more prestigious and perhaps more profitable marriage with the daughter of the wealthy London Mercer and alderman, Bartholomew Barnes. Her dowry was £500, and in 1606 she inherited more than six per cent of her father’s estate.49

Abbot lived in London from at least the mid-1580s.50 Initially he may have occupied a tenement next to St. Paul’s, one of several which he sold in 1633 during the rebuilding of the cathedral,51 but at the time of his second marriage he dwelt in St. Michael Bassishaw. From there he moved to a house owned by the Drapers’ Company in Coleman Street, for which he paid an entry fine of £200.52 In 1615 he acquired a further property from the Drapers near London Wall, which he converted into stables. Five years later the Company renewed his leases without raising the rents after acknowledging that he had spent more than £800 on both buildings.53 Abbot played a major role in his local parish church of St. Stephen, Coleman Street. Though he preferred to be fined £6 rather than serve as a churchwarden,54 he frequently helped to audit its accounts, served two years as one of its ‘common councillors’, and joined the inner vestry. In October 1624 he helped install the puritan preacher John Davenport as the parish’s new minister, even though the alternative candidate, Aaron Wilson, was a chaplain to Abbot’s own brother, the archbishop of Canterbury.55

A founder member of the East India Company in 1600, Abbot had to be chivvied to pay his promised contribution to the Company’s joint stock of £240.56 Despite this inauspicious beginning, he was added to the board of directors in July 1607. However, it was in the Levant Company that Abbot first obtained a dominant position, for as the Company’s ‘husband’ he played such a key role in the day-to-day management of affairs that he effectively marginalized the Company’s nominal leaders.57 As early as July 1608 one member observed that Abbot and his fellow director Nicholas Leate ‘do now lead all the Company’, and that the opinions of the governor, Sir Thomas Lowe*, carried ‘little weight’ among the rank and file.58 Abbot’s energy and efficiency was so valued that in 1612 his fellow directors voted to give him a silver basin and ewer.59 In February 1613 Abbot resigned as husband in order to concentrate on his own business interests, but his fellow Company members had other ideas, and elected him treasurer two years running. It was apparently not until mid-March 1616, one month after his second term as treasurer had expired, that Abbot was able to resume trading on his account, being involved in preparing a joint venture with Nicholas Leate and several other London merchants to the Mediterranean.60 Though he never served as an officer of the Levant Company again, Abbot kept his seat on the board until his appointment as governor of the East India Company in 1624.

Reputed ‘a good discerner of differences and an undoubted impartial man’,61 Abbot was one of three commissioners dispatched to The Hague in January 1615 to assist the English ambassador, Sir Henry Wotton*, negotiate a settlement to the growing trade disputes between England and the United Provinces in the Far East. Though he returned empty-handed in May,62 he was elected deputy governor of the East India Company two months later, a post he was to retain until 1624. Reappointed a commissioner to negotiate with a visiting Dutch delegation in 1619, he was a signatory to the trade treaty concluded in June which extracted concessions from the Dutch.63 However, the latter were soon accused of breaking the agreement, and in November 1620 Abbot, together with Sir Dudley Digges*, was again sent to The Hague to secure the return of English goods. Their position was almost immediately undermined by the embarrassing news that a Dutch East Indiaman had been seized at Plymouth. Though Abbot and Digges disowned the seizure, the Dutch used the incident to delay proceedings,64 and in mid-February 1621 the two men returned to London with only vague promises of satisfaction and complaining of Dutch duplicity. Their failure was greeted unsympathetically by various merchants and ‘some great ones’, and in mid-March they were forced to explain their actions before James and the Privy Council. For his part, Abbot laid all the blame on one of the Dutch negotiators, the Middleburg merchant Jacob Boreel.65

During his second mission to the United Provinces, Abbot was returned to Parliament for the borough of Kingston-upon-Hull at the request of his brother the archbishop, who served as the town’s high steward. This was in one sense surprising, for Abbot was probably already a member of the Muscovy Company, and as such represented a rival interest to the Hull fishermen.66 Abbot’s negotiations with the Dutch prevented him from reaching Westminster until 15 Feb. 1621, and he was only permitted to take his seat the following day after it was debated whether he was eligible to sit having been elected while abroad.67 He subsequently played little recorded part in proceedings until the Commons turned its attention to trade. Speaking on 13 Apr., he declared ‘that a great cause of the decay of trade is the interposition of the Hollanders’. He seems to have been referring particularly to trade with the Baltic, a primary concern of his constituents, whose commercial success depended heavily on the export of cloth to that region.68 One week later, at a meeting of the 12-strong sub-committee on trade to which he had been named on 19 Apr.,69 he lambasted the Dutch, who charged cheap freight and paid in cash, for under-cutting England’s Baltic traders by as much as 20 per cent. Abbot also expressed concern at the damage done to the East India Company by its Dutch counterpart. ‘If we had not been hindered in our trade’, he asserted, ‘we might have returned 500,000 sterling per annum’. He warned his listeners that continued Dutch hostility could cause the Company to collapse, leaving the Dutch with a monopoly which they would exploit to raise prices. Clashes between the Muscovy Company and Dutch traders had already caused such severe damage to the former that it had been forced to borrow to stay afloat.70 This was undoubtedly of particular concern to Abbot, for the members of the Muscovy Company were liable for repayment of part of the loan.71

Though the Dutch posed a serious threat, Abbot did not lay the blame for the decay of English trade entirely on their shoulders. Imports worth £10,000 per annum from the Barbary states had largely ceased due to civil wars whose combatants were armed, ironically enough, by London dealers. Moreover cloth sales to France were depressed partly because the French were imitating English manufacture so badly that they were bringing English cloth into disrepute. However, the English also had themselves to blame for falling demand owing to poor workmanship, the overstretching of fabric, the sale of English, Irish and Welsh wool to the French and an additional duty on cloth exports known as the pretermitted customs.72

Although a member of numerous monopolistic trading companies, Abbot spoke against a bill which proposed to prohibit the import of corn, arguing that it was contrary to free trade (18 Mar. 1621). Enacting the bill, he warned, would merely invite retaliation by other countries.73 When the measure was again debated two months later, Abbot proposed to reject the first part altogether, and to add instead a clause to require the establishment of a stockpile of corn for use in time of dearth (17 May).74 As well as this bill, Abbot also spoke on a measure concerning merchants’ factors. Both he and the treasurer of the East India Company, Robert Bateman, concurred with Sir Thomas Roe that it was sometimes impossible to call factors to account for six years (25 May).75

Abbot played no known part in the Parliament’s winter sitting, perhaps because he was then busily securing his admission to the great farm of the customs as its chief financier.76 Early in the following year he was again involved in attempts to secure restoration of goods seized by the Dutch from English merchants in the Far East, penning a ‘Memorial’ with Sir Dudley Digges to the English ambassador at The Hague, (Sir) Dudley Carleton*, setting out English demands.77 At around the same time he was summoned by the Privy Council for failing to contribute towards the Palatinate Benevolence, but subsequently gave £50.78

Abbot was again returned to Parliament for Hull in 1624, even though an initial letter of recommendation by Archbishop Abbot failed to reach the corporation before the election. Once at Westminster, Abbot helped to expedite the writ for a by-election after his fellow Hull Member (Sir) John Suckling plumped for Middlesex, where he had also been returned.79 Throughout the Parliament Abbot acted almost exclusively as a spokesman for the East India Company, which he several times defended from attack. On 1 Mar. Sir Edward Seymour accused the Company of denuding the country of ships and mariners at a time when England was contemplating war with Spain, and proposed that five of the Company’s ships manned by 1,000 mariners be prevented from leaving the Thames. Abbot responded that there were only four Company ships in the Thames carrying just 600 seamen, and that they were needed to defend English interests in the Far East against the Spaniards, who were preparing to retaliate against the Company for having assisted the Persians in taking Ormuz in 1622.80 Abbot also pointed out that, despite the threat to its own interests, the Company had held back two of its ships ‘ready for the command of the state’.81 Were the four ships to be prevented from sailing it would cause ‘great prejudice to the kingdom’, he warned, but added that the Company would nevertheless submit itself to the House’s orders.82

Abbot again leapt to the Company’s defence five days later after Sir Thomas Estcourt also proposed to detain the ships in the Thames, this time because they were suspected of carrying 40 chests of bullion. Estcourt’s motion attracted widespread support as the Company’s bullion exports were frequently cited as a major reason for the shortage of coin. Few were persuaded when Robert Bateman pointed out that the sums involved on this occasion amounted to less than £40,000, and there were calls for the Company’s books to be inspected. ‘Hearing the motion grow hot’, Abbot, who was now effectively the head of the East India Company following the sudden death of its governor, Alderman Halliday, agreed to submit the Company’s books for inspection and confirmed that the ships in the Thames were carrying less than £40,000. He also admitted that the Company imported about £100,000 in bullion each year, and that it annually imported commodities worth £400,000 in years when its activities were not interrupted. However, only about £100,000 of these imports were for home consumption, the rest being re-exported ‘to balance trade and save so much money going out of the kingdom’. Far from denuding the country of coin, the Company actually imported specie. Indeed, in the previous year he had personally taken 60lb in gold to the Mint, being his payment for oriental goods sold abroad.83

Though Abbot endeavoured to allay the genuine fears of many Members concerning the Company’s activities, he was well aware that in order to counter the attack which had been led by Seymour on 1 Mar. he would need to satisfy an altogether different interest. Seymour was closely associated with the lord admiral, the duke of Buckingham, who was determined to extract from the Company a considerable sum for its failure to pay him a tenth share of the spoils from its seizure of Ormuz two years earlier. When the House of Lords ordered a stay of the Company’s ships in the Thames, Abbot and his colleagues approached the duke to secure their release. Buckingham naturally denied that he was behind the order staying the ships, but on 16 Mar. the Admiralty Court threatened Abbot and his fellow directors with imprisonment if they failed to pay immediately a fine of £15,000. After holding negotiations with Buckingham, the Company resolved to give the duke £10,000 by way of compensation rather than ‘lose more than was demanded by unloading their ships, besides their voyage’. Buckingham accepted this sum, which was paid in April, whereupon the ships in the Thames were permitted to proceed in their voyage.84

Though the Company had successfully satisfied the duke, it still had to pacify the Commons. On 16 Apr. Abbot, who had hastily been elected governor of the Company, informed his fellow directors that he had been instructed to present for examination the Company’s patent to the committee for trade. Predicting that the committee would be most concerned with the amount of money the Company was permitted to export each year – he considered that other matters such as the Company’s supposed destruction of timber ‘are already blown away’ – he then rehearsed the arguments he had already deployed, ending with the observation that the Dutch, Venetians and Genoese were not ‘so curious to forbid exportation of money as the English are’.85 It is not known whether he and his colleagues succeeded in satisfying the committee.

Shortly before the committee for trade began to investigate the scale of the Company’s bullion exports, a further, if less serious, attack developed in Parliament which necessarily demanded Abbot’s attention. The widow of Sir Thomas Dale, a seaman who had died in 1619 in the Company’s service, alleged that the Company had withheld money and goods belonging to her late husband.86 The Commons promised an investigation, and on 7 Apr. Abbot reported to his fellow directors ‘that himself and others had attended at Parliament House to answer the complaint of Lady Dale, but could not be heard’.87 Nine days later Abbot was instructed to attend the investigating committee that afternoon, but he subsequently reported that of the five Members named to the committee only three had attended, ‘and those of near allegiance or inward correspondency with the Lady Dale and her friends’. Moreover, those present were so hostile that the Company’s representatives were subjected to ‘coarse usage’, despite their willingness to furnish documentary evidence to help the committee in its investigation.88 Following a subsequent hearing, Abbot complained not only that the proceedings of the committee were ‘very partial, wholly prejudicating the actions of the Company and laying unjust aspersions upon them’, but that it had threatened to report back to the House if an acceptable settlement was not reached.89 The refusal by Abbot and his colleagues to bow to such pressure soon paid dividends, not least because an attempt by Lady Dale’s brother to enlist the sympathy of the Lords backfired. Refusing to become involved, the peers referred the matter to the navy commissioners, to whom the issue had originally been referred by the king in July 1623.90 Faced with this decision, and the description of Lady Dale’s petition by one peer as ‘scandalous’, the Commons’ committee appears to have abandoned its investigation. On 28 May a triumphant Abbot was congratulated by his fellow directors for having ‘maintained the reputation of the Company against the scandalous information exhibited against them by Lady Dale, who has received … more than by any right she could claim’. The only sour note was struck by Abbot himself, who relayed a request by the Lords to pay additional compensation to the widow of another former servant of the Company, Capt. Bonner, who had been killed in the Indies. Though the Company reluctantly agreed to pay out an extra 40 marks, no blame was attached by the directors to Abbot for forcing them to agree to this concession.91

Abbot’s robust and largely successful defence of the East India Company’s interests undoubtedly helped contributed to his re-election as governor in July 1624, though Abbot himself believed that he owed his reappointment to the Amboyna Massacre of February 1623.92 News of the ‘massacre’ of Company employees by the Dutch reached England in May 1624. Abbot’s long experience in dealing with the Dutch made him the ideal choice as governor, and one of his first acts was to advise the king ‘that all the treaties with the Dutch are but so many treacheries, for they hold nothing’.93 However, attempts to secure reparation proved ultimately fruitless.

In the summer of 1624 Abbot’s friend, the East India Company merchant and London alderman Sir Nicholas Kemp, died. Before his death, Kemp appointed Abbot as his sole executor, to whom his stock worth £2,400 was transferred in January 1625.94 Most, if not all of the money raised from the sale of Kemp’s shares was put to charitable use. Donations included £500 to Trinity hospital in Guildford, which had been founded in 1619 by Abbot’s brother, the archbishop.95 Following the latter’s own death in 1633, Abbot also acted as his brother’s executor, from whose estate he received a ‘great silver hour glass with the case where it is kept’.96 He also erected an elaborate monument in memory of the archbishop in Trinity church, Guildford.97

Abbot was the first man to be knighted following the accession of Charles I,98 to whom he subsequently sold a diamond ‘cut in facets and set in a collet’ for £8,000.99 In May 1625 he was again returned to Parliament for Hull but left no trace on its records. In the following month he was considered for election as master of the Drapers’ Company after the sudden death of the former incumbent, but was passed over until August, when he was elected for a full year.100 In December he lost his lucrative position in the great farm of the customs when the syndicate to which he belonged offered the king an annual rent £12,000 lower than the one they had previously been paying.101

Abbot severed his parliamentary connection with Hull in 1626, for though again elected to serve in the Commons by the borough, he opted to sit for London, where he had also been returned.102 Matters of concern to the trading community once more dominated his parliamentary agenda. Following Eliot’s report from the committee for trade (22 Feb.) on the French seizure of the wine fleet at Bordeaux, he observed that the English could expect little justice from the French. Twelve years earlier a ship in which he owned a share, the Tiger of London, had been seized in Tunis Road with a cargo worth £10,000, and though he had subsequently enlisted the support of the king, and spent £700 or £800 in prosecuting the case in France, the trial court had allegedly refused to give judgment in his favour because the culprit was both impoverished and a gentleman of the chamber to Louis XIII.103 On 25 May Abbot was named to a 12-strong committee to consider drafting a bill to regulate the activities of the deputy alnager, a key figure in the cloth trade, responsible for checking the quality of cloth prior to its export.104 He subsequently defended the monopoly on purchasing white cloths at Leadenhall enjoyed by London’s freemen when he attacked a bill which sought to permit the ‘better venting’ of white cloths on the grounds that it took away the inheritance of the Londoners and ‘trenches upon the Merchant Adventurers obliquely’ (5 June).105 The interests of the Levant Company undoubtedly explain why, on 13 Mar., Abbot was named to the select committee appointed to consider a general release procured by Sir John Eyre*, the allegedly corrupt and incompetent former ambassador to Constantinople.106 The introduction in the Commons of a bill in support of Lady Dale’s claims against the East India Company naturally attracted Abbot’s attention, but although he reported its progress to the Company he failed to gain membership of the bill committee which was established on 3 May.107

Abbot’s mercantile expertise helps to explain his appointment to the committee for considering a proposal to create a joint-stock Company to pay for a naval war against Spain in the West Indies (14 March). There is no direct evidence that Abbot supported this scheme, but its author was Sir Dudley Digges, with whom he continued to be associated. Indeed, in the recent struggle for control of the Virginia Company, Abbot had supported Digges and Sir Thomas Smythe* against Sir Edwin Sandys* and Nicholas* and John Ferrar*.108 If Abbot did support Digges’s proposal it would suggest that he had been drawn into the anti-Buckingham camp, whose leaders included Digges’s patron and Abbot’s brother, the archbishop of Canterbury.109 Abbot’s earlier dealings with the duke are unlikely to have left him favourably disposed towards Buckingham, and it seems probable that it was he who furnished the Commons with the details concerning Buckingham’s ‘extortion’ of £10,000 from the East India Company two years earlier, which was included in the articles of impeachment drawn up against the duke.110 A close association with Buckingham’s enemies would help to explain why Abbot was among those singled out for payment of a Privy Seal loan following the collapse of the 1626 Parliament.111

Several of Abbot’s committee appointments in 1626 reflected his personal interests or connections. On 16 Feb. he was nominated to consider a bill concerning the lease of a manor which had allegedly been obtained improperly from Merton College, where his son George had obtained a fellowship in 1622.112 His subsequent nomination to, and attendance of, the committee for a bill to naturalize Thomas Southern (27 Mar.), suggests a concern to favour his fellow East India Company director and former colleague in the great farm of the customs, Henry Garway, for in 1635 Southern was described as one of Garway’s former servants.113 Abbot’s association with Garway, the son of the man under whom he had served his apprenticeship, proved enduring. In 1627-8 he and Garway shared the shrievalty of London and Middlesex, while in 1633 they and Garway’s younger brother William together borrowed £4,000 from the corporation of London, presumably to finance a joint trading venture.114

Abbot’s election as sheriff towards the end of 1627, less than a year after his appointment as a London alderman, disabled him from standing for Parliament in 1628. Nevertheless, as governor of the East India Company he and several of his colleagues were summoned to the House of Lords in June 1628 to answer the complaint of the 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich*), who sought damages from the Company amounting to £28,000 for the seizure of two of his ships at Surat some years earlier. Led by Abbot, the Company’s representatives initially refused to offer more than £2,000 when they appeared before the Lords’ investigating committee on 17 June, for which ‘stout carriage’ they were commended by their fellow directors. However, continued pressure from the Lords led Abbot to settle the dispute one week later by persuading the Company to double its offer.115

In September 1628 Abbot was one of 12 London merchants who broke into the London Customs House and removed currants which had been confiscated. He had refused to pay a newly imposed additional duty on these goods,116 regarding it as a major threat to his Levantine trade, which by then largely centred on the import of currants.117 This radical action had the effect of inducing other merchants to withhold payment of Tunnage and Poundage, but Abbot himself subsequently advised the East India Company not to join in the protest for fear of jeopardizing the trade with Persia and because of ‘the many occasions they have now with the king, from whom the Company cannot expect any favour if herein they show themselves refractory’.118

Though Abbot remained governor of the East India Company, his actions, and those of his fellow directors, came under increasing attack from 1628. The board was accused by one disgruntled member of concealing the state of the Company’s affairs from the ordinary membership, of thwarting reform and of trying to monopolize the entire Indian and Persian trades.119 In 1631 criticism of the large allowances afforded to the Company’s officers prompted Abbot to point out that his annual ‘gratification’, which in 1619 had amounted to £450, was less than half the sum enjoyed by some of his predecessors, and to warn that he would no longer sacrifice his own business interests to those of the Company if it was stopped.120 The following year Abbot’s position as governor was challenged by Sir Edward Wardour*, who asserted that the Company’s charter permitted the governor to remain in office for one year only. He was seconded by Viscount Saye and Sele, who questioned whether it was wise to preserve power in the hands of one man so that he became a ‘perpetual dictator’. However, Abbot brushed aside these attacks, pointing out that his power was in reality limited to a casting vote.121 He continued to enjoy the confidence of the Company at large, despite resisting calls to allow ordinary members to inspect the Company’s accounts, as a motion to unseat him on the grounds that ‘a change may bring better success to the Company’s affairs’ was defeated in July 1636.122 The precise circumstances of his eventual replacement as governor in 1638 are unclear, since the Company’s court minutes for the period 1637-9 are lost. However, it seems unlikely that he was ousted, as his successor, the former deputy governor Sir Christopher Clitherow*, had been no less a target of hostile criticism during Abbot’s period of governorship than Abbot himself had been. Instead, it is probable that Abbot went voluntarily, for he was now 73 and had recently been elected both master of the Drapers’ Company (for the second time) and lord mayor of London.

In 1633 Abbot joined the newly formed Society of the Fishery of Great Britain and Ireland, whose aim to create a fishing fleet to rival that of the Dutch clearly echoed his own anti-Dutch opinions. However, the Society was so under-capitalized that he withheld his £60 subscription.123 During his mayoralty, Abbot found it difficult to persuade London’s leading citizens to contribute towards the king’s naval and military costs. In April 1639 he borrowed £1,000 after the aldermen and livery companies refused to hire a ship for the fifth Ship Money fleet themselves. Not surprisingly he proved anxious to recoup this outlay, and sent three citizens to Newgate for refusing to enter into bond to appear before the Privy Council to explain their non-payment of Ship Money.124 It was also as mayor that Abbot, along with his fellow aldermen, earned a commendation from the Council for speedily suppressing a seditious pamphlet by John Lilburne, who was then in the Fleet prison. Lilburne urged the aldermanic bench to use the powers of martial law they had been granted during the king’s absence in the north to release him, and incited London’s apprentices to storm the prison if they did not.125

Abbot was also among a group of aldermen who refused to lend to the Crown in June 1639.126 However, he contributed £400 towards the City’s loan to the king of £50,000 for paying off the English army in the north in November 1640.127 In July 1641, aged almost 76, he finally retired from the board of the East India Company. He died in early December 1642 (and not on 10 June 1640 as one contemporary recorded)128 and was buried at St. Stephen Coleman Street. In his will, drawn up on 22 Nov. 1642, he left the disposal of his personal property to his son-in-law, Thomas Marsh.129 Most of his landed estate had probably already been transferred to his surviving children, including his house in Coleman Street, which was apparently handed to his son Edward as early as 1636.130 It seems unlikely that Abbot died very wealthy, as he was obliged to settle the debts of Edward, who went bankrupt in 1641 owing the East India Company almost £3,000.131 No other member of Abbot’s family subsequently sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629 Author: Andrew Thrush Notes

Eg. 2086, f. 78v.

1. IGI, ‘Surr.’ 2. Surr. Arch. Colls. iii. 257, 266; O. Manning and W. Bray, Hist. and Antiqs. of Surr. i. 80; Drapers’ Hall, London, freedom list 1567-1656, p. 86; GI Admiss.; Mar. Lic. 1520 to 1610 ed. G.J. Armytage (Harl. Soc. xxv), 250; PROB 11/108, f. 169; Oxford DNB. The ped. in Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 90, is inaccurate. 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 188. 4. GL, ms 4449/2, f. 122. 5. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 31. 6. SP105/147, ff. 1v, 29, 48v, 58, 72, 89v; SP105/148, f. 113v. 7. P. Boyd, Roll of Drapers’ Co. of London, 1. 8. Drapers’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1603-40, ff. 10, 115, 157, 172, 194v, 323v. 9. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, pp. 116, 155, 176, 179, 303, 416; 1617-21, pp. 173, 283, 435; 1622-4, pp. 120, 299; 1640-3, pp. 61, 177; Dawn of Brit. Trade to E. Indies comp. H. Stevens, 218. 10. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 233. 11. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, i. 225, 219, 386. 12. Select Charters of Trading Cos. 65. 13. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, pp. 239, 368. 14. CUL, ms Dd. xi. 71, f. 32. 15. CLRO, Jors. 29, ff. 16v-17, 118v; letter bk. FF, f. 80v. 16. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 362; 1617-21, p. 233; APC, 1621-3, pp. 80, 208. 17. APC, 1623-5, p. 402. 18. Recs. Virg. Co. iv. 491. 19. GL, ms 4458/1, pp. 3, 5, 12, 19, 21, 79, 89; 4457/2, ff. 90, 107, 108, 121, 130, 138(2), 146, 155, 162v, 170, 179v, 190v, 214; Letters of John Davenport ed. I.M. Calder, 19. 20. GL, ms 4457/2, ff. 121, 130, 138(2). 21. CLRO, Jors. 30, ff. 69, 199. The dates A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 60, are incorrect. 22. Beaven, i. 65; ii. 60; List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 205. 23. Mercers’ Hall, London, Gresham Repertories, i. 1596-1625, p. 208; ii. 1626-69, p. 68. 24. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 5, f. 60v. 25. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 4, p. 51. 26. Ibid. viii. pt. 3, p. 115; C193/8/58. 27. C231/4, f. 219; C193/13/2, f. 66. 28. C181/3, f. 256; C181/4, f. 129. 29. C192/1, unfol. 30. CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 7; GL, ms 25475/1, f. 75v. 31. E198/4/32, f. 2v. 32. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 541; PC2/50, p. 159. 33. SR, v. 153. 34. C54/2148/26; 54/2149/1. 35. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 511. 36. APC, 1627-8, pp. 34-5; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 301; 1627-8, p. 567. 37. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 55. 38. F.C. Dietz, Eng. Public Finance, 333-4. 39. LJ, iii. 365a. 40. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 443; E214/990. 41. SO3/10, unfol. May 1631. 42. CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 153. 43. Guildford Mus. ped. comp. in 1859, ex inf. Mr. Reginald Abbott. 44. VCH Surr. ii. 345. 45. Surr. Musters (Surr. Rec. Soc. iii), 162; A. Onslow, Life of Dr. George Abbot (1777), p. 1; PROB 11/54, f. 147v 46. Add. 12497, f. 324. 47. APC, 1598-9, pp. 433, 444. 48. Abbot’s father witnessed the will of John Austen† in 1570: PROB 11/54, f. 147v. 49. Ibid. 108, f. 169. 50. HCA 13/37, f. 244. 51. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 115v. 52. Drapers’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1603-40, f. 37. He was paying tithe in St. Stephen Coleman Street by 1601/2: GL, ms 4457/2, f. 59v. 53. Drapers’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1603-40, ff. 114, 154; mss A1/68, 69. 54. GL, ms 4457/2, f. 95v. 55. A. Kirby, ‘Radicals of St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street, 1624-42’, Guildhall Misc. (1971), p. 100; Works of Abp. Laud ed. J. Bliss, iv. 260; Davenport Letters, 19. 56. Dawn of Brit. Trade, 63, 256. 57. For e.g., SP105/147, ff. 3, 6r-v, 8, 17, 18v, 22v. 58. Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant ed. W. Foster (Hakluyt Soc. ser. 2. lxvii), 252, 270. 59. SP105/147, f. 15. 60. HCA 14/43, f. 593. 61. Travels of John Sanderson, 270. 62. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, pp. 362, 366, 369, 406, 409. 63. Ibid. 1617-21, p. 277. For a more detailed analysis, see J.D. Benson, Co-operation to Competition, 155-7. 64. CSP Col. E.I. 1617-21, pp. 400-1, 410. 65. Ibid. 420-1. 66. Hull RO, L166-7. 67. CJ, i. 522a-b, 523a; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 49-50. 68. CD 1621, iv. 229. 69. CJ, i. 582b. 70. CD 1621, iii. 48-9. 71. APC, 1623-5, p. 402. 72. CD 1621, pp. 48-9. 73. CJ, i. 545a. 74. CD 1621, iii. 282. 75. Ibid. 304; CJ, i. 627a. 76. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 408; R. Ashton, Crown and the Money Market, 92, 96-7. 77. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, p. 6. 78. SP14/127/48; 14/156/15. 79. Hull RO, L204. 80. ‘Earle 1624’, f. 38; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 37v. 81. ‘Pym 1624’, ff. 12v-13. 82. CJ, i. 723b; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 52. 83. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, pp. 256-7; ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 55; ‘Earle 1624’, ff. 56r-v; ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 91-2; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 20v; CJ, i. 730b; APC, 1615-16, p. 272; 1619-21, pp. 181, 393. Earle says imports sold in England amounted to £140,000 p.a. 84. Procs. 1626, i. 467-8; CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, pp. 259, 271. 85. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, p. 267. 86. Ibid. 174. For Dale, see ibid. 1617-21, pp. xix-xxv. 87. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, p. 265. 88. Ibid. 266, 277. 89. Ibid. 278. 90. Ibid. 278-9; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 2. 91. CSP Col. E.I. 1622-4, pp. 281-2. 92. Ibid. 332. 93. Ibid. 321. 94. PROB 11/144, f. 70; CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, p. 136. 95. Manning and Bray, i. 71. See also GL, ms 25475/1, f. 5v. 96. Onslow, 66. 97. VCH Surr. iii. 567. 98. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 612. 99. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 53; F. Devon, Issues of the Exchequer, Jas. I (1836), p. 351. 100. Drapers’ Hall, London, min. bk. 1603-40, f. 193. 101. Dietz, 334; R. Brenner, Merchants and Rev. 282. 102. CJ, i. 816b. 103. Procs. 1626, ii. 88, 94. For the background to the case, see Stowe 175, f. 176; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 195; APC, 1619-21, pp. 213, 320. 104. CJ, i. 864b. 105. Procs. 1626, iii. 369. 106. Ibid. ii. 272. 107. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, pp. 193, 195, 199; Procs. 1626, iii. 107. 108. CJ, i. 836a; Sir Thomas Smith’s Misgovt. of Virg. Co. ed. D.R. Ransome, xvii. For evidence that the two men continued to be linked as late as March 1626, see N and Q (ser. 4), x. 326. Digges and Abbot may have discussed the creation of a W.I. Co. with the Dutch in 1620: CSP Ven. 1619-21, pp. 487-8. 109. Brenner, 223-5. 110. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 305, asserts that Abbot was responsible. 111. E401/2586, p. 404. 112. CJ, i. 820a; Al. Ox. 113. CJ, i. 842a; HLRO, main pprs. 27 Apr. 1626; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. 1635-9, p. 63. 114. CLRO, City Cash Acct. 1/1, ff. 33v, 126, 217. 115. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, pp. 512-13, 516, 518-19. 116. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 330. 117. SP105/158, f. 7v. 118. Brenner, 236; CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, p. 643. 119. CSP Col. E.I. 1625-9, pp. 522-3. 120. Ibid. 1630-4, p. 171. 121. Ibid. 265. 122. Ibid. 608-9, 613; Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. 1635-9, pp. 15-18, 184. 123. CUL, ms Dd. xi. 71, f. 34. 124. CSP Dom. 1639, pp. 51-2. 125. Add. 11045, ff.27, 29v; V. Pearl, London and Outbreak of Puritan Rev. 287. 126. Pearl, 97, 287. 127. SP28/162, unnumb. acct. by Robert Bateman, p. 1. 128. Smyth’s Obit. ed. H. Ellis (Cam. Soc. xliv), 17. 129. Suss. Arch. Colls. iii. 260-1. 130. GL, ms 4457/2, ff. 335v, 354v. 131. Cal. Ct. Mins. E.I. Co. 1640-3, pp. 188, 216.

From the English Wikipedia page on Maurice Abbott:

The Right Honourable Maurice Abbot MP

Member of the United Kingdom Parliament for Kingston upon Hull

  • In office 1621–1622
  • Serving with John Lister
  • Preceded by Unknown
  • Succeeded by John Lister, Sir John Suckling

Member of the United Kingdom Parliament for Kingston upon Hull

  • In office 1624–1625
  • Serving with John Lister
  • Preceded by John Lister, Sir John Suckling
  • Succeeded by John Lister, Lancelot Roper

Member of the United Kingdom Parliament for City of London

  • In office 1626–1626
  • Serving with Sir Thomas Middleton, Heneage Finch, Robert Bateman
  • Preceded by Sir Thomas Middleton, Heneage Finch, Robert Bateman, Martin Bond
  • Succeeded by Thomas Moulson, Christopher Clitherow, Henry Waller, James Bunce

Lord Mayor of the City of London

  • In office 1638–1638
  • Preceded by Sir Edward Bromfield
  • Succeeded by Sir Henry Garraway

Personal details

  • Born 1565
  • Died 1642
  • Nationality English

Sir Maurice Abbot (Morris) (1565–1642) was an English merchant and politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1621 and 1626. He was Lord Mayor of London in 1638.

Abbot was the son of Maurice Abbot a cloth-worker of Guildford who died in 1606, and was the youngest brother of Archbishop George Abbot. He was an original member of the East India Company.[1] He was involved in the settling of the colony in Virginia in 1624.

In 1621, Abbot was elected Member of Parliament for Hull. He was chosen as a replacement for another member at Hull in 1624 and was re-elected for the seat in 1625. In 1626 he was elected MP for City of London.[2]

He was appointed a Sheriff of London in 1628. He was appointed governor of the East India Company in 1633 , and elected Lord Mayor of London in 1638.[3]


  • 1.^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  • 2.^ Browne Willis Notitia parliamentaria, or, An history of the counties, cities, and boroughs in England and Wales: ... The whole extracted from mss. and printed evidences 1750 pp229-239
  • 3.^ 'Chronological list of aldermen: 1601-1650', The Aldermen of the City of London: Temp. Henry III - 1912 (1908), pp. 47-75. Date accessed: 16 July 2011
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Sir Maurice Abbott, MP, Lord Mayor of London's Timeline

October 2, 1565
Guildford, Surrey, England, (Present UK)
May 27, 1598
Age 32
London, Middlesex, England, (Present UK)
April 17, 1601
Age 35
London, Greater London, United Kingdom
Age 37
London, Greater London, UK
Age 39
London, Greater London, UK
Age 41
Kent, England
January 10, 1641
Age 75
Guildford, Surrey, England, (Present UK)
Age 75
City of London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom