Sir Richard Newdigate of Arbury (1602-1678) was a lawyer and politician. He owned Arbury Hall in Warwickshire and Harefield in Middlesex, served as a judge under Oliver Cromwell and was created a baronet by Charles II. Some of his papers survive and have been deposited at Warwickshire County Record Office.
The future Charles I
Richard Newdigate wrote to his brother from Grays Inn on 13th January 1623/1624:
Yesterday the Duke of Guise came hither to London with a present of hawks to the Prince (they say) very nere a hundred some of all sorts and it is reported that he came hawking all the way from France to London what his purpose was therin many wonder. 1
The Prince was the future Charles I, and the letter also refers to Lord Kensington’s embassy to France: ‘it is thought to treat about another match’. The presents and the trip were clearly successful because Charles married Princess Henrietta Maria of France the following year.
Oliver Cromwell enjoyed field sports throughout his life and this clearly included falconry. He borrowed a hawk from the Newdigate family and wrote a letter from Huntingdon in April 1631 about it. At that time he was Member of Parliament for Huntington, where he was born and lived until 1636. Cromwell apologises for not returning the hawk before, his excuse being that he had kept the bird until the present messenger was available:
Being utterly destitute of a falconer att this present and not having any man whom I durst venture to carrie a hawke of that kinde’. Cromwell also says: ‘if ever it fall in my way, I shal be ready to doe you service, in the like, or any other kinde. 2
The letter is not addressed, but there is a note on the back as follows:
1 April 1631 Oliver Cromwell That Wicked Successful Rebell his letter to my Uncle J.N. No Busnesse but a Hawke but I keep it to show his hand and Stile.
J.N. would be John Newdigate (1600-1642) who died without children and was succeeded at Arbury by his younger brother Sir Richard Newdigate, the first baronet. The note would have been written by Richard junior, Sir Richard’s son and heir.
The material in this article was originally written as part of exhibitions held by Warwickshire County Record Office in 1977 and 1981.
1 Newdigate collection, Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR136 /B344
2 Newdigate collection, Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR136/B3