picture: Queen Elizabeth I opening Parliament (detail)

Members, 1558-1603

Published in 1981

These volumes include 2,668 articles on the members who sat in the House of Commons during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, although because of difficulties encountered in the identification of borough MPs (almost all the county Members have been identified) the precise number of men who sat in the House of Commons during this period cannot be stated. In 14 instances for example the MP must have been one of a number of namesakes, none of whom has a better claim than the rest to have represented a particular constituency or constituencies at the relevant date or dates, and in 51 others nothing whatsoever is known about the MP except his name. These cases are discussed in each individual case. There is further discussion of the general issues concerned with sorting out the MPs of the period in the 'Method' section of P.W. Hasler's Introductory Survey.

Among the MPs who have been identified are many of the most powerful political figures of Elizabeth's reign such as Sir William Cecil, Sir Robert Dudley, Sir Amias Paulet, Thomas Sackville and Sir Christopher Hatton; but they also include a range of politicians, and ordinary and extraordinary men: the energetic parliamentarians (or “parliament men”) Thomas Norton and William Fleetwood; a handful of Catholics who managed to retain their seats in the House after the requirements of the oath of supremacy were extended to MPs in 1563; rather more determined Protestant MPs, including the firebrand Peter Wentworth, whose forthright opinions and determination on articulating them in the House made him famous as a defender of the freedom of speech, but incurred the severe displeasure of the Queen and resulted in his imprisonment from 1593 until his death.

See the 'Men' and 'Members' section of the Introductory Survey for an analysis and discussion of the membership of the Elizabethan House of Commons.