Humphrey Edwards, 1582-1658

A minor courtier who changed sides to support Parliament and was instrumental in organising the King's trial.

Born in Shrewsbury, Humphrey Edwards was educated at Shrewsbury School and trained as a lawyer at Gray's Inn, but was not called to the bar. He became a minor official at the King's court, and is said to have attended King Charles in his attempt to arrest the Five Members in January 1642. With his friend Sir Gregory Norton, Edwards came over to Parliament on the outbreak of the First Civil War, which earned him a lasting reputation as a turncoat.

Edwards sat on local committees in Shropshire, Middlesex and London. In 1646, he was elected recruiter MP for Shropshire, though the propriety of the election was later disputed by his enemies. Edwards emerged as a firm supporter of the Independents. He remained in the House of Commons after Pride's Purge in December 1648 and was sent to question the imprisoned MP William Prynne over his violent condemnations of the Army's actions. Edwards was active in setting up the High Court of Justice for the trial of the King and was a signatory of the death warrant.

During the Commonwealth, Edwards profited from the sale of Church and Crown lands, and became involved in an acrimonious public dispute with Clement Walker over a position at the Exchequer in 1650. Edwards lost his seat in Parliament with Cromwell's dissolution of the Rump Parliament in 1653, then lived quietly until his death in 1658.


Gordon Goodwin, revised by J. T. Peacey, Humphrey Edwards, Oxford DNB, 2004

David Underdown, Pride's Purge (Oxford 1971)