Sir Thomas MERES Knight (1634-1715)

1. Sir Thomas MERES Knight was born in 1634. He was a Knight, MP for Lincoln. He died in 1715. He married Anne de la FOUNTAIN.

 

Meres, Sir Thomas Meres, politician, was baptized on 17 September 1634 at St Margaret's, Lincoln, the eldest son of Robert Meres DD (1595/6-1652), chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, and Elizabeth (d. 1639), daughter of Hugh Williams of Y Wig, Caernarvonshire, and widow of William Dolben DD, prebendary of Lincoln. He was educated at Sleaford grammar school before being admitted to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, on 23 January 1651; he entered the Inner Temple in 1653. In January 1658 he married Anne (d. 1698), daughter and coheir of Sir Erasmus de la Fountains of Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire. They had three sons and three daughters; only one son and one daughter definitely survived their father.

Meres entered parliament in 1659 for Lincoln, and was re-elected to the Convention in April 1660. On 30 May 1660 he was called to the bar, but there is no evidence that he practised, politics, both local and national, engrossing his attention. He was knighted on 11 June 1660. He was an active justice of the peace in Lindsey and Kesteven, and captain of a company of Lincoln's trained band. He also sat in every parliament for Lincoln before 1688. Nor was he content to play a minor role at Westminster. In the Cavalier Parliament, 1661-79, he delivered more than 500 recorded speeches in addition to his work on committees and tellerships. Not surprisingly, given his ecclesiastical connections, Meres proved a staunch supporter of the established church, although one keen to promote a moderate settlement. In 1661 the presbyterian Baron Wharton considered him a friend. Meres seems to have advocated the comprehension of moderate nonconformists within the church and opposed the toleration of sectaries outside it. On other matters he adopted the stance of a country supporter, conscious of the privileges of the Commons, and evincing a concern for low taxation and honest administration.
Meres was 'very knowing in the order[s] of the House' (Diary of Sir Edward Dering, 90), and as such was seen by many as a potential speaker. He was thought to be the king's preferred choice for speaker in February 1673, but was elected only to chair the committee of elections. In this session he opposed the declaration of indulgence, and fear of popery seems to have softened his attitude towards toleration for protestant nonconformists. During the summer of 1673 he hoped to gain the speaker's chair if Sir Edward Seymour received office, or office himself as he coveted the post of secretary to the new lord treasurer, Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby. Neither came his way and Meres became a more trenchant critic of the court. Danby believed him to be an adherent of the earl of Arlington, and it was Meres who thirded the impeachment of Danby in April 1675.


Although perceived as a potential court adherent as early as 1676, Meres was still an opponent of the court at the time of the Popish Plot, and he again backed the impeachment of Danby. Following the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, Meres retained his seat at Lincoln and was the court candidate for speaker. However, the Commons responded to Meres with shouts of 'away with him, no upstarts' (Crossette). Nevertheless, he retained the chairmanship of the committee of elections, albeit by a narrow margin. The earl of Shaftesbury still considered him 'worthy', and at last on 14 May 1679 he attained office as an Admiralty commissioner at a salary of ?000 p.a. He voted for the committal of the Exclusion Bill and was re-elected for Lincoln in August 1679. In the Oxford Parliament of 1681 he spoke in favour of proposals for a regency, which received scant support. Meres lost his office on 19 May 1684 when the duke of York took over the Admiralty.

Meres was re-elected to the 1685 parliament and was again put forward as speaker; this time he was defeated by the candidate of George Jeffreys, lord chief justice (later first Baron Jeffreys). He remained an active speaker in debate. He lost his local offices in March 1688 'for refusing to be one of the repealers' (Portland MSS, 3.406) of the Test Act and penal laws. He received royal backing in the form of a letter from the earl of Sunderland in the run up to James II's abortive parliament in 1688, but he may not have even stood for election to the convention of 1689. He remained out of parliament for over a decade.

Meres was returned to the Commons for Lincoln in February 1701. He was quickly into his stride as a debater, generally voicing the opinions of a country tory in support of the impeachment of William III's whig ministers and for measures such as reviving the commission of accounts. He did not stand in the election of November 1701, but was returned in the election following the accession in 1702 of Queen Anne. On the major issue of the 1704-5 session he 'sneaked' off rather than vote en the tack of the Occasional Conformity Bill to the Land Tax Bill. He was also somewhat equivocal on the constitutional question raised by the Ashby v. White case, wherein the whigs wished to allow the electors who had been disfranchised to appeal to the law courts, which would have had the effect of challenging the right of the Commons to determine their own membership. He was a frequent speaker on the Regency Bill of 1706, again espousing a country viewpoint. Almost his last parliamentary act was to vote against the impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell in 1710.

Meres retired from parliament at the 1710 election. He died at his house in Bloomsbury Square, London, on 9 July 1715. He was buried on the 23rd at Kirby Bellars in Leicestershire, which he had inherited from his wife, much to the chagrin of her brother, John (d. 1708), who denounced Meres in his will for persuading his father to divide the estate to his own advantage. He was succeeded by his son, Sir John Meres.

Stuart Handley (Oxford DNB)

Both Meres and Whichcot were well-known families in Lincolnshire - both names (especially Meres) appear as Sheriffs of Lincolnshire over the decades.

 

Anne de la FOUNTAIN and Thomas MERES had the following children:

 

Frances MERES (1669-1733). Frances was born in 1669. She was baptised on 2 July 1669 in St. Mary Magdalin, Lincoln. She married George WHICHCOT on 11 November 1699 in London. She was buried on 10 April 1733 in Harpswell, Lincs.. She died in August 1733.