Clare had a leaning to the cause of the King, but his actions showed that whichever party he favoured for any length of time must be in the ascendant. When summoned by Charles I. to fulfil his feudal service in the war against Scotland he expressed his willingness, but complained of poverty and the charges of a large family.

Clare was so far trusted by the popular party that the Commons nominated him Lord-Lieutenant of Nottingham. Notwithstanding this action, he followed the King to York, and was one of those who signed the agreement of June 13, 1642, promising to defend the King’s person and prerogative, and the declaration of June 15th, protesting that Charles had no intention of making war on the Parliament. He then obtained the King's leave to go to London to look after his private affairs, when he again took his seat in the House of Lords.

It is stated in the Life of Colonel Hutchinson that “during the civil war he was very often of both parties, and never advantaged either.”

When the peace propositions brought forward by the Lords in 1643 were rejected by the Commons, and the King’s successes seemed to prognosticate his speedy triumph, Clare deserted the Parliament and made his way to Oxford. The King received him with great favour; he was present at the siege of Gloucester, charged at Newbury, and took part with other peers at councils of war.

In March, 1644, he again changed sides, protesting to the House of Lords that “the cause only and no other particular by-respects had brought him back," and that what he had observed at Oxford had” opened his eyes to understand the goodness of the cause." During his absence an order had been given by the Parliament for the sequestration of his estate, but he was discharged from his delinquency in July, 1644. In spite, however, of the repeated efforts of his friends, he was not admitted to his seat in the House of Lords. Henceforth he took no part in public affairs.1 Clare died on the 2nd of January, 1666(?). By his Countess, who survived him, he had two sons: John, who died in infancy, Gilbert, his successor, and fourteen daughters.

The Right Honorable Denzil Holles of Ifield. Aged 78 in 1676.
The Right Honorable Denzil Holles of Ifield. Aged 78 in 1676.

Denzil Holles, the second son of the first Earl of Clare, was undoubtedly one of the most talented members of this great family. In the history of that troubled time his figure always comes prominently forward. He was a politician of whom Burnet says: “He was faithful and firm to his side, and never changed through the whole of his life, was a man of great courage, and as great pride. ... He had the soul of an old stubborn Roman in him. . . . He was a faithful but a rough friend, and a severe but a fair enemy. He had a true sense of religioun, and was a man of an unblamable course of life, and of a sound judgment when it was not biassed by passion.”

Holles sat in Parliament for the borough of St. Michael’s in Cornwall and afterwards for Dorchester. But his career is so well known that it need not be related at any length, especially as, after his marriage in 1626 to the daughter of Sir Francis Ashley, of Dorchester, he settled at Winter-bourne St. Mary’s in Dorset, and had little connection with Haughton.

Holles was in perfect agreement with those great statesmen (who at that period were the guiding spirits of the House of Commons) as to the necessity for resisting to the utmost the encroachment of the King on the privileges of Parliament, and one of the first incidents that brought him into prominent notice took place in relation to “the ever memorable scene of English history” when, on the 2nd of March, 1629, notwithstanding his Majesty’s order for the immediate adjournment of the House, Holles, with the help of another member, compelled the Speaker to remain at his post until the business in hand was concluded.3 Some days afterwards, for this offence, he and several others were arrested and committed to the Tower. Eventually Holles was fined a thousand marks in February, 1630, and ordered to be imprisoned during his Majesty’s pleasure. To avoid this unfortunate event he wrote: “I made my escape and lived a banished man for seven or eight years, and then at last was glad to pay my fine. I can with confidence say that my imprisonment and my suits cost me £3,000, and that I am ten thousand pounds the worse in my estates on that account.” Afterwards, by the Long Parliament, Holles was allowed £5,000 as compensation, together with the amount of his fine.4

On the King’s return from Scotland in 1641, he was waited upon at Hampton Court by a committee of the House of Commons who delivered a remonstrance to his Majesty on the state of the kingdom; containing, says Clarendon, “All the illegal things that had been done from the first hour of the King’s corning to the crown; and within one or two days after the King had promised that the security of every one of them should be as much his care as the preservation of his own children, the Attorney-General was sent to the House of Lords to impeach one of their number, and five members of the other House—Pym, Hampden, Holles, Haselrig, and Strode. And not content with this, went himself to seize the obnoxious members.”5

The five members received secret notice from a great Court lady, their friend, who overheard some discourse of this intended action, “whereby,” says Whitelock, “they got out of the house just before the King came, retired to the city, and returned in triumph to Westminster eight days afterwards.”

On the commencement of hostilities between the King and Parliament Holles was thoroughly at one with his party. His regiment greatly distinguished itself at Edgehill and Brentford. But finding afterwards that designs had arisen far different from those originally intended during the course of the war, he omitted no opportunity of seeking to come to terms with the King, and made no secret of his antipathy to the “Independent” section of the Commonwealth. It is thought, too, that his political career was in some measure influenced by the marriage of his sister to Lord Strafford. Holles made strenuous, though unavailing, efforts to save the Earl’s life.

1 Dictionary of National Biography
2 Collins’ Historical Account of the Holles Family.
3 “Speaker Finch, though he is on the wrong side, is a man one could pity this March morning. . . . Speaker Finch’s face is distressed with many cares. Hot Denzil Holles is seated on his right hand and Walter Long on his left this morning ; there they have taken places, above his Majesty’s official servants, who sit on the lower stage in front. For what end? Denzil’s face, too, is loaded with a certain gloom. What face is not so loaded? First business, order of the day, is that we put the question concerning Mr. Rolle. The Speaker answers on the contrary, that he has a message from his Majesty to adjourn the house until the loth instant. ‘That question, put that question,’ cries the body of the house, in sorrow, in anger, in a whirl of manifold emotions. . . . Speaker cannot, . . . Speaker dare not. . . . Speaker grieves to say he must withdraw, and rises to his feet for that purpose. What ho, Mr. Speaker ! Denzil Holles, Walter Long, the resolute honourable gentlemen are upon him each by a shoulder: ‘By the eternal God, you shall not go, Mr. Speaker. You shall sit there till the house give you leave.’”—Carlyle’s Historical Sketches.
4 Dictionary of National Biography.
5 The King, attended only by his usual guard and some few gentlemen who put themselves into their company in the way, came to the House of Commons; and commanding all his attendants to wait at the door and give offence to no man, himself, with his nephew, the Prince Elector, went into the house, to the great amazement of all; and, the Speaker leaving the chair, the King went into it; and told the House “he was sorry for the occasion of coming to them . . . but that in cases of treason no man had privilege; and therefore he came to see if any of those persons whom he had accused were there, for he was resolved to have them wherever he should find them. And looking about, asking the Speaker whether they were in the House, he made no answer, as asserted by the Earl of Clarendon : but says Whitelock, ‘The Speaker, much surprised, yet with much prudence, falling on his knee, answered the King to this purpose, “May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here, and humbly beg your Majesty’s pardon that I cannot now give any other answer than this, to what your Majesty is pleased to demand of me.”’”—Collins’ Historical Account of the Holles Family.