Constituencies 1558-1603

Published in 1981

The House of Commons elected in 1559 contained 402 Members, 78 sitting for the 39 English counties, 12 for the 12 Welsh counties, 12 for the 12 Welsh boroughs and the remaining 300 sitting for English boroughs. By the 1601 Parliament, at the end of the period, although the representation of the English and Welsh counties and the Welsh boroughs had not changed, the number elected for boroughs had grown considerably: there were 372 Members representing boroughs in that Parliament.

These pages contain 241 constituency articles, including the new boroughs enfranchised in the period. The growth can be seen for example in Cornwall, where Fowey first sent Members to Parliament in 1571; East Looe claimed that it had sent Members previously, but it had not done so for a long time when the practice was asserted in 1571; and Callington was the last Cornish borough to start to return Members, in 1584.

In a number of cases of enfranchisement, the reason can be traced to powerful local individuals, and the relationship between such men and local corporations is a theme of many of the borough articles: Exeter, for example, refused to accept the Earl of Bedford’s nominee in 1562; but a smaller town like Denbigh had to back down when faced with the Earl of Leicester’s anger at itsfailure to appoint his recommended candidate.