Bedfordshire

County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

No names known for 1510-23

Elections

DateCandidate
1529SIR WILLIAM GASCOIGNE
 GEORGE ACWORTH
aft. 1532?SIR JOHN ST. JOHN vice Acworth, deceased1
1536SIR WILLIAM GASCOIGNE 2
 (not known)
1539SIR JOHN ST. JOHN 3
 JOHN GOSTWICK 4
1542SIR JOHN ST. JOHN
 SIR JOHN GASCOIGNE
1545(not known)
 EDMUND CONQUEST
1547OLIVER ST. JOHN
 LEWIS DYVE
1553 (Mar.)SIR HUMPHREY RADCLIFFE
 LEWIS DYVE
1553 (Oct.)SIR JOHN MORDAUNT
 SIR JOHN GASCOIGNE
1554 (Apr.)SIR JOHN MORDAUNT
 SIR HUMPHREY RADCLIFFE
1554 (Nov.)SIR JOHN MORDAUNT
 SIR HUMPHREY RADCLIFFE
1555SIR JOHN MORDAUNT 5
 SIR HUMPHREY RADCLIFFE 6
1558SIR HUMPHREY RADCLIFFE
 SIR JOHN GASCOIGNE

Main Article

Near enough to London for government servants to have their chief residences there, Bedfordshire was controlled by three or four inter-related families; some of them, like the Mordaunts, were long-established in the county and others, like the Gascoignes and the St. Johns, more recent arrivals. Eight of the ten known knights could be included in one family tree. All ten held land in Bedfordshire, nine served on the commission of the peace there and seven were sheriffs of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Sir William Gascoigne and George Acworth, the two knights returned in 1529, may have been crown nominees, for the Bedfordshire writ was one of those called for from Chancery by Henry VIII. Following Acworth’s death in 1530, the names of Sir John St. John and John Gostwick appear against Bedfordshire in Cromwell’s list of vacancies of late 1532 or early 1533, with the preference being given to St. John. If St. John was by-elected, as his second shrievalty in 1534-5 suggests, he and Gascoigne were presumably returned again in 1536 in accordance with the King’s general request for the reelection of the previous Members. Gostwick secured the junior knighthood in 1539 and the senior one in December 1544, but his death in the following spring, seven months before the Parliament met, must have occasioned a by-election of which no trace has been found.7

Sir John St. John, who had sat in 1539 and 1542, was nominated by the Duke of Northumberland, in Edward VI’s name, for election to the Parliament of March 1553; his daughter was married to Francis Russell, whose father the 1st Earl of Bedford was a leading Councillor and who was himself summoned to the Lords in his father’s barony. Nominated with St. John was Lewis Dyve, who was elected, whereas St. John was not, the second place going to Sir Humphrey Radcliffe, a younger son of the 1st Earl of Sussex married into a Bedfordshire family. Local resentment at government intervention, which might have explained St. John’s rejection, evidently did not extend to Dyve, and it may be that St. John, who had stood down in favour of his son at the last election, did not wish to sit again. The house of Radcliffe was in favour under Mary, and Sir Humphrey, who retained his office at court, was re-elected for Bedfordshire to all but the first of her Parliaments; his senior partner in three of them, Sir John Mordaunt, was a Privy Councillor.8

Election indentures, all in Latin, survive for all the Parliaments from 1542 to 1558 except those of 1545 and 1555 (when the name of the senior Member is supplied from the dorse of the writ), although several are in poor condition. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and between about eight and