Isaac Penington, c.1584-1661

Militant Puritan and Lord Mayor of London, he was imprisoned for life at the Restoration for his part in the regicide.

Portrait of Isaac PeningtonIsaac Penington was the eldest son of Robert Penington, a London merchant with estates in East Anglia, and second cousin of John Penington, who became an admiral in Charles I's navy. Penington made his fortune through trading in cloth and French wine. From 1626, he acted as financial agent to Admiral Penington. Through his second wife, Mary Wilkinson, whom he married in 1629, he extended his commercial interests to include a partnership in her family's brewery business. Penington and his wife were zealous Puritans and members of the congregation of St Stephen's in Coleman Street.

Penington became involved in politics in 1638 when he was elected as a London sheriff. In 1639, he became an alderman, and in 1640 was elected as a London MP to both the Short and Long Parliaments. He led demands for the abolition of Episcopacy and was active in enforcing the destruction of idolatrous images in London churches. During the early 1640s, he worked with fellow militant Puritan John Venn to mobilise support against the King's unpopular advisers Strafford and Laud. Penington used his influence in the City of London to raise funds for Parliament, and in January 1642, may have sheltered the Five Members after the King's failed attempt to arrest them.

When Parliament removed the Royalist Sir Richard Gurney from office in August 1642, Penington was appointed lord mayor in his place. He became a member of the City militia committee in September 1642 and exhorted the citizens to build fortifications for the defence of London. He was appointed lieutenant of the Tower of London in July 1643. Penington was uncompromising in his hostility to the King's cause. He was replaced as lord mayor by the more moderate Sir John Wollaston in October 1643, but continued in his role as an intermediary between Parliament and the City.

In January 1649, Penington was appointed a commissioner of the High Court of Justice. He attended the King's trial, but did not sign the death warrant. However, he assisted Mayor Thomas Andrews in proclaiming the abolition of monarchy in the City, and was a member of the Council of State from 1649-52. Penington's fortunes declined during the 1650s. He was obliged to resign from his office as alderman in 1657 because of financial difficulties. His eldest son Isaac Penington junior (1616-79) became a Quaker, while another son became a Catholic priest.

Penington surrendered at the Restoration, hoping for leniency because he had not signed the King's death warrant. His remaining lands were confiscated and he was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Tower, where he died in December 1661.


Keith Lindley, Isaac Penington, Oxford DNB, 2004