Chute, Chaloner (DNB00)

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CHUTE, CHALONER (d. 1659), speaker of the House of Commons, was the son of Chaloner Chute of the Middle Temple, by his wife Ursula, daughter of John Chaloner of Fulham in the county of Middlesex. He was admitted a member of the Middle Temple and called to the bar. In 1656 he was returned as one of the knights of the shire for Middlesex, and, on not being allowed to take his seat, he, with a number of other members who had been similarly treated, published a remonstrance. To the following parliament of 1658-9 he was returned by the same constituency, and on the meeting of this parliament on 27 Jan. 1658-9 was chosen speaker, ‘although he besought the house to think of some other person more worthy and of better health and ability to supply that place’ (House of Commons’ Journals, 59-1). On 9 March 1658-9, in consequence of his failing health, Chute begged the house that ‘he might be totally discharged,’ or have leave of absence for a time, whereupon Sir Lislebone Long, knt., recorder of London, was chosen speaker during Chute's absence. On 21 March the members who were appointed by the house to visit him at his home in the count found him ‘very infirm and weak.’ He died on 14 April 1659, and on the following day Thomas Bamfield [q. v.], who, upon Long becoming ill, had) been chosen deputy-speaker, was elected to the chair. Chute acquired a great reputation at the bar and was employed in the defence of Sir Edward Herbert (the king’s attorney-general), Archbishop Laud, the eleven members of the House of Commons charged by Fairfax and his army as delinquents, and James, duke of Hamilton. He was one of the counsel retained to defend the bishops when they were impeached for making canons in 1641. Two only of their counsel a peered, Serjeant Jermin, who declined to plead unless a warrant was first rocured from the House of Commons, and Chute, ‘who, being demanded of the lords whether he would plead for the bishops, "Yea," said he, "so long as I have a tongue to plead with." Soon after this he drew up a demurrer on their behalf, that their offence in making canons could not amount to a præmunire (Fuller, Church History, ed. Brewer, vi. 211), and the further prosecution of the charge was abandoned. For his courageous conduct of this case he was presented with a piece of plate, which is still in possession or the family at the Vyne, bearing the following inscription : 'Viro venerabili Chalonero Chute armiga votivum Johna Episc. Roffensis ob Prudentiam ejus singularem, fortitudinem heroicam, et sinceram firem, præstitas episco' Angliæ mire perictatis, Ano 1641. It is related of Cnute that 'if he had a fancy not to have the fatigue of business, but to pass his time in pleasures after his own humour, he would say to his clerk, "Tell the people I will not practise this term;" and was as good as his word; and then no one durst come near him with business. But when his clerks signified he would take business he was in the same advanced post at the bar, fully redintegrated, as before; and his practice nothing shrunk by the discontinuance. I guess that no eminent chancery practiser ever did, or will do, the like; and it shows a transcendent genius, superior to the slavery of a gainful profession' (North, Lives, 1742, p. 13). In 1646 the commons twice approved of his name as one of the commissioners of the great seal, but, as the lords were unable to agree as to the names, the appointment was not made.

In 1649 he appears to have taken part in framing 'new rules for reformation of the proceedings in chancery' (Whitelook, p. 421). The same authority says that he was 'an excellent orator, a man of great parts and generosity, whom many doubted that he would not join with the Protector's party, but he did heartily; 'while Lord-chancellor Hyde, in a letter to Mordaunt, dated 9 May 1669, writes: 'I am very heartily sorry for the death of the speaker, whom I have known well, and am persuaded he would never have subjected himself to that place if he had not entertained some hope of being able to serve the king' (Clarendon, State Papers, 1786, pp. 464-5). In 1653 Chute purchased the ancient family mansion and estate of the Vyne, near Basingstoke, from William, sixth Lord Sandys of the Vyne. Chute married twice. His first wife was Anne, daughter and coheiress of Sir John Skory, by whom he had one son and two dauffhters. He married, secondly, Dorothy, daugnter of Dudley, third lord North, and widow of Richard, thirteenth lord Dacre, by whom he had no children. His son Chaloner, M.P. for Devizes in Richard Cromwell's parliament, married Catherine Lennard, daughter of his step-mother by her first marriage. The speakers great-grandson, John Chute, whose name is familiar to the readers of Walpole's letters, was the last of the male line. Upon his death in 1776 the Vyne passed through the female line to Thomas Lobb Chute, another great-grandson of the speaker. After the death of T. L. Chute's sons it passed out of the Chute blood to William Lyde Wiggett, their second cousin, who assumed the additional name of Chute, and whose eldest son, Chaloner William Chute, is the present owner. From the churchwardens' accounts it appears that the speaker was buried at Chiswick, in which parish he had a residence at Little Sutton. On the rebuilding of the church in 1882 the vaults were inspected, but his coffin could not be identified. The tomb-room adjoining the chapel at the Vyne contains an altar-tomb with his effigy sculptured by Banks, after the portrait attributed to Vandyck, which was exhibited in the loan collection of 1866, and numbered 810 in the catalogue.

[Manning's Lives of the Speakers (1851), pp. 334-6; Whitelock's Memorials of the English Affaire (1732), pp. 77, 234, 240, 258, 381, 421, 651-3, 676-7; Journals of the House of Commons, vii. 593-4, 612, 616, 640; Parliamentary Papers (1878), vol. ii. pt.i.; Warner's Hampshire (1795), pp. 206-12; Woodward's Hampshire, ii. 78, iii. 264-5.]

G. F. R. B.