Royalist Composition

I have been doing some work with the Royalist Composition Papers lately, so I thought I would discuss what I’ve learned so far.  I haven’t found a guide beyond what is in the introduction in the fifth volume of the Calendar of the Proceedings of the Committee for Compounding, which is better than anything I’ll give here, but I thought I’d do it anyway.

The general practice, fairly well established by 1645, was for the properties of known recusants or delinquents (royalists) to be seized by commissioners in the counties.  There were two committees in London, the Committee for Sequestrations and the Committee for Compounding, though these were eventually merged into the latter.

The potential compounder was expected to take the Covenant and the Negative Oath and submit a particular of his estate, including the yearly value of each property.  If he misrepresented his property, by an order of the House of Commons, the compounder would have to pay four times the property’s value and lose the advantage of compounding.  The commissioners in the counties would do their own examination to verify the particular.  I could be mistaken on this; it seems that the compounder may have been allowed to reconcile the particulars without being fined extra.  It may have been only if a property was discovered after he had already been fined.

Upon petitioning to compound, the clerks of the committee would be ordered to examine what records they could find to determine the level of the fine.  The fines ranged from a tenth to two-thirds of the estates’ value.  The difference between a tenth and two thirds was large, but somewhat diluted by the calculation, the tenth was calculate for 20 years’ purchase, and the two thirds at 12 years.  The fines in the middle were progressively rated between the two extremes.  The wealthier or worse offenders were charged more, those less active or poorer less.  From what I have seen, most of the fines were set around one third.  The compounder would also be allowed to make deductions from the fine for debts owed, jointures to be paid, or other holds in their properties.

There were two acts for sale of sequestered properties that had not been compounded.  There were, apparently, a great deal of problems with these acts.  Some of the cases I have looked at involve the reclamation of the lands by the heirs of a dead delinquent, who had only been seised for life in a particular property.  While, most often, the claimant was simply handed the rents from the land in question, it could get stickier on occasion.

All of the cases I have looked at have required at least a year if not two or three to see a person go from delinquent to compounded and pardoned.

As to the Calendars themselves, I have run into several errors.  I am not trying to fault too greatly the work that went into compiling them.  However, the compilers generally neglected the depositions in many of these cases, and have thus misidentified persons, types of sequestration, or misnarrated the case more generally.  In fact, they seemed to have relied entirely on the persons name and home town to identify them, which turns out can be rather problematic though certainly practical from their point of view.  On a side note, I was astounded at the number of Lancelots running around in Civil War England.  I never thought of it as a common name.

So if you want to be certain about a particular case, you need to look up the materials at Kew yourself.  The depositions are tedious, but chalk full of goodies.  There are a few indexes available.  I got started by looking at the suggestions on the inside cover of the first volume of the Calendar in the Maps and Large Documents Room at Kew, so I guess I would recommend that for others, too.  Of course, the Calendars have references as well, but I found much more in the National Archives than what was listed in the them.

Anyway, that’s my post for now.  Hope it helps someone.  Actually, I really hope that someone helps me.  Anyone seen anything on the Committee for Compounding anywhere else?

PS. Thank you to everyone for your comments and submissions for my turn hosting Carnivalesque.  It was a surprisingly rewarding experience.  As well, thank you to everyone who drummed up my blog stats by stopping to take a look at it.


Filed under Long Parliament

2 responses to “Royalist Composition

  1. Rachel Weil’s article ‘Thinking About Allegiance’ in History Workshop Journal has some interesting stuff on compounding. She analyzed the narratives that people told to the committee to find out about contemporary ideas of allegiance, and concluded that it was often seen as something external and contingent rather than a true underlying feeling.

    There’s related material in some other classes in the NA. There are some sequestration inventories in SP28, and lots of indemnity cases in SP24 relate to rents or debts due to sequestrated estates. Unfortunately these aren’t very well catalogued.

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