Leicestershire

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 1510-15

Elections

DateCandidate
1523?SIR RICHARD SACHEVERELL 1
 (not known)
1529SIR RICHARD SACHEVERELL
 (d. 14 Apr. 1534)
 SIR WILLIAM SKEFFINGTON
 (d. 31 Dec. 1535)
by 1536?WILLIAM ASHBY 2
1536?WILLIAM ASHBY 3
 (not known)
1539SIR JOHN VILLERS 4
 JOHN DIGBY 5
1542SIR RICHARD MANNERS
 ?THOMAS BROKESBY
1545SIR AMBROSE CAVE
 ROBERT BURDETT
1547(SIR) EDWARD HASTINGS
 SIR AMBROSE CAVE
1553 (Mar.)(SIR) EDWARD HASTINGS
 SIR AMBROSE CAVE
1553 (Oct.)ROBERT STRELLEY
 SIR THOMAS HASTINGS
1554 (Apr.)SIR THOMAS HASTINGS
 HENRY POOLE II
1554 (Nov.)SIR THOMAS HASTINGS
 GEORGE TURPIN
1555WILLIAM FAUNT 6
 WILLIAM SKEFFINGTON
1558GEORGE VINCENT
 GEORGE SHERARD

Main Article

Tudor Leicestershire was a predominantly agricultural county where the yeomen profited sufficiently from rising prices to buy land extensively. There was little economic or religious disturbance, and despite the local influence of the Grey family Leicestershire men played no significant part in the succession crisis of 1553. Leland’s picture of the county, with a number of minor landed gentry ‘of reputation’ and two leading houses of magnates, the families of Hastings led by the Earl of Huntingdon and of Grey under the Marquess of Dorset, remained a true one until the Dissolution, when a third nobleman, Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, became the greatest Leicestershire landowner among the peerage; Rutland held over 35 manors, compared with 16 held by the Greys and 11 by the Hastings.7

None of these families was able to monopolize electoral influence. Intervention from the Hastings side was the most consistently effective; even during the worst period of its political fortunes from 1538 to 1545, following the destruction of the allied Pole family, Edward Hastings remained a trusted court official. The 1st Earl of Rutland probably influenced the elections to that and the previous Parliament, but on his death in 1543 he was succeeded by a son still under age, and by the end of the minority in 1547 the Hastings power had been restored. Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset, created Duke of Suffolk in 1551, was executed after Wyatt’s rebellion, and his family’s influence was not again an important factor in Leicestershire elections until 1559. Throughout the varying fortunes of the magnates an inter-related group of gentry carried on the administration of the shire; their names recur constantly on election indentures, and although many of them were attached to the Grey, Hastings or Manners factions others appear to have avoided clientage. It may have been to support William Ashby as a replacement for Sir Richard Sacheverell or Sir William Skeffington that in the 1530s Cromwell wrote to the Earl of Huntingdon and others.8

An unusually large number of election indentures survives, eight from 1542 to 1558. The elections were held at Leicester castle. The Latin indentures list between 24 and 42 electors; once only, in December 1544, are two coroners named after the sheriff and before the electors, who in this case consisted of one knight (Sir William Turvile), four esquires, nine gentlemen and 13 persons unstyled. In September 1553 the final seven or eight electors were described as liberi homines. In January 1558, when the election was held only a week before Parliament was to meet, none of the electors (about 24, the indenture being torn and discoloured) was styled higher than gentleman.9

Since much of the county lay within the duchy of Lancaster’s honor of Leicester, the crown was able to influence parliamentary elections through its officials. By 1509 George, 3rd Lord Hastings, later 1st Earl of Huntingdon, was steward of the honor, and the sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire at the election of 1529, Roger Radcliffe, had recently held the stewardship; in that year and in 1542 the senior knight of the shire was at the same time steward. (Sir) Edward Hastings became receiver of the honor in November 1553; he had already taken the senior knighthood twice, and his new appointment, together with his family’s local prominence, strengthened