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Cranfield, Lionel, 1st earl of Middlesex

Cranfield, Lionel, 1st earl of Middlesex (1575–1645). Cranfield, of relatively humble origins, competent and industrious, became lord treasurer under James I. He was a successful Merchant Venturer and when in 1613 he was appointed surveyor-general of the customs, it was a case of poacher turned gamekeeper. In 1614 he became a member of Parliament, and attached himself to the royal favourite, George Villiers, later duke of Buckingham. Under this patronage, Cranfield was appointed to various royal offices, which he performed with great efficiency. In 1621, when he became lord treasurer, he found that reform was needed in ‘every particular’. As James I's expenditures exceeded his income, Cranfield made spending cuts, and courtiers lost their pensions and allowances. This was the beginning, though set-back followed, of ‘Treasury control’. Cranfield soon fell, brought down by Buckingham, his former patron, and the enemies he had made in the king's service. He was impeached, found guilty of maladministration and corruption, deprived of his offices, fined, and briefly imprisoned in the Tower. He was pardoned in 1625, and for the rest of his life lived in retirement.

Margaret Wilkinson

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