Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 18:15 UK

17th Century Speaker's downfall

Sir John Trevor
Sir John Trevor's was well known for having a turn in his eye

The last Speaker of the Commons forced from office was more than 300 years ago.

Sir John Trevor was a Welsh judge and lawyer, who was found guilty of "a high crime and misdemeanour" for accepting a bribe in 1695.

Known as a staunch Protestant, Sir John was one of the Trevor family, and represented his ancestral seat in Denbighshire in Parliament.

He became Speaker in 1685, briefly losing it before being reappointed in 1690. He was also Master of the Rolls.

Sir John was severely cross eyed and it was said to affect his ability at times to identify people on the floor of the House. It has led to the modern tradition of the Speaker naming the MP before he speaks.

In the 17th Century, the Speaker had control over the House of Commons agenda and could authorise private member's bills.

But his downfall came when the City of London asked Sir John if he could put through a bill on their behalf, and he agreed to do it for 1,000 guineas.

Michael Martin
Current Speaker Michael Martin has announced he is stepping down

But he was found out and efforts were launched to remove him from the post for bribery.

Sir John initially resisted the moves to throw him out but he finally had to go in March 1695.

Despite this damage to his reputation in Commons, he remained a well respected judge and benefactor to good causes in north Wales until he died aged 69 in 1717.

But he got off more lightly than some of his predecessors. In the years before 1560, seven speakers were beheaded and one was murdered.

The office of Speaker was first held by Sir Peter de la Mare, knight for Herefordshire, in 1376's "Good Parliament", so-called because the Commons refused to grant the Crown any new taxes until its grievances had been addressed.

In 1642, Speaker William Lenthall faced off King Charles I, who entered the House to arrest five members for high treason.

When asked if he knew where these members were, Lenthall replied: "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."

Whenever a new Speaker is chosen, he shows a reluctance to accept the job and has to be dragged to the chair by his supporters.

'Right reasons'

This is because of the dire fate that has befallen some speakers down the centuries.

Back in Denbighshire, Sir John Trevor's name was back in public consciousness at the house named after him in Ruthin.

Sir John Trevor House was once used by boarders at Ruthin School and is now a hotel.

Owner Stuart Jones admitted the phone "hadn't stopped ringing" with interest today.

"Sir John Trevor never lived here, but he had a lot of local connections and let the house to Ruthin School as a boarding house for the boys.

"There are a lot of beams in the house and you can see where the boys have carved their initials in the wood because they had nothing else to do."

Mr Jones said it was impossible to say exactly how old the house was, but it is thought to be about 500 years old, and would have been a "very grand" house centuries ago.

Over the years it has been used as a veterinary surgery and a tea house and was now a 16-room hotel.

Mr Jones and his wife Jackie have lived there for 26 years, but have no family connections to Sir John Trevor.

He said: "He was very cross eyed. Rumour has it that when he nominated someone to speak from the floor, he saw two or three of them standing there."

Mr Jones said Sir John Trevor's name did not usually bring flocks of visitors, but added: "It may do now. Let's hope so - for the right reasons."



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