Thomas Chaloner, 1595-1660

Republican MP and regicide who advocated war with the Dutch to promote England's trade interests

Portrait of Thomas ChalonerThe third son of Sir Thomas Chaloner of Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire, Thomas Chaloner was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, and the Inner Temple. In 1637, he fled abroad when Archbishop Laud ordered his arrest on suspicion of writing a subversive pamphlet. He returned to England during the First Civil War and was called as a witness at Laud's trial in 1644.

In October 1645, Chaloner was elected to the Long Parliament as recruiter MP for Richmond, Yorkshire. He became a leading member of the Independent faction and was one of the first parliamentarians openly to assert the authority of the House of Commons over the King. Chaloner actively supported the interests of the Army against the Presbyterians in 1647. After the Second Civil War, he opposed Parliament's negotiations with the King at Newport and played a leading role in bringing the King to trial in January 1649. He sat as a member of the High Court of Justice and was a signatory of the King's death warrant.

During the Commonwealth (1649-53), Chaloner was associated with Henry Marten and the republican faction. He shared Marten's reputation for debauchery, and was denounced as irreligious by Cromwell, Vane and others. However, Chaloner was a member of the Council of State and took a keen interest in Commonwealth trade and foreign policy. He regarded the Dutch as England's main rivals rather than the Catholic powers of Europe, and supported the Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-4. Chaloner and his associates Marten and Henry Neville gained control of the Navy Committee after the temporary withdrawal of their principal rival Sir Henry Vane. However, the committee was discredited when the English fleet was defeated at the battle of Dungeness in November 1652. The following month, the committee was replaced by six commissioners headed by Vane. The reform of naval administration brought Chaloner's pre-eminence in Parliament to an end. He withdrew from public life after Cromwell's dissolution of the Rump Parliament in April 1653.

Chaloner returned to Westminster in 1659 when he was elected MP for Scarborough in the Third Protectorate Parliament. He joined the republicans in working for the overthrow of Richard Cromwell and the Protectorate, and supported Sir Arthur Hesilrige's attempts to re-establish the Commonwealth. With the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Chaloner was excluded from pardon for his role as a regicide and fled abroad. He died at Middelburg in the Netherlands in August 1660.


David Scott, Thomas Chaloner, Oxford DNB, 2004

Blair Worden, The Rump Parliament, (Cambridge 1974)