BURDETT, Robert (by 1510-49), of Bramcote, Warws.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1510, 1st s. of Thomas Burdett of Bramcote by Mary, da. of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton. m. 1533, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Cokayne of Ashbourne, Derbys., 3s. suc. fa. 1536.2

Offices Held

Steward, household of Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset c.1540-d.; j.p. Warws. 1542-d.3


Burdett’s elections to Parliament were a by-product of his service with the 3rd Marquess of Dorset. Some light is thrown on them by a letter from Henry Willoughby to his uncle Sir John Willoughby of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire, conveying Dorset’s request to Willoughby to support Burdett in the forthcoming Warwickshire election and adding that Sir George Throckmorton (who was Burdett’s uncle) had promised his help. Written on 20 Dec. in a year not stated, the letter could relate to the Parliament of 1542 or its successor of 1545, but in either case it failed of its object, for although Burdett sat on both occasions he did not do so for Warwickshire. If Dorset intervened on the earlier one it could only have been to procure Burdett a knighthood of the shire instead of the seat for the borough of Leicester to which he had been elected on 8 Dec., and although the names of those returned for Warwickshire are lost Burdett is not likely to have been one of them, there being no trace of a by-election to replace him at Leicester. His rejection for Warwickshire on that occasion, although not out of the question, is less easy to credit than the alternative possibility three years later, when he was chosen for Leicestershire on 1 Jan., 12 days after the date of the letter and four days before the Warwickshire election. With Burdett’s home at Bramcote lying near the border between the two counties, and with the same sheriff, in this case Reginald Digby, responsible for both, Dorset’s canvassing in Warwickshire can be viewed as an initial effort which he abandoned in favour of Leicestershire. It was only in 1547, when Dorset was beginning to ride high, that Burdett was successful in Warwickshire; he then joined Sir Fulke Greville in place of Sir Marmaduke Constable II, whom as his ‘singular good friend’ he would appoint a year later to supervise his will and who was in turn to replace him as knight of the shire. As Burdett was ailing when he made his will five weeks before the opening of the second session, and died half way through it, it is doubtful whether he attended it at all.4

Burdett occupies a small and somewhat insecure place in the literary history of the time. Of the education which fitted him to do so there is no trace, but he could have preceded his brother Clement at Oxford and have gone on to Gray’s Inn before marrying in 1533, succeeding his father in 1536 and entering Dorset’s household after the marquess came of age two years later; his leasing of tithes at Polesworth in August 1538 may mark the last of these developments. It was in 1542, that is, between the meeting of the Parliament of that year and the middle of its second session in the following one, that there appeared the Dyalogue defensyve for women agaynst malycyous detractoures, a poem which has been attributed to Burdett, instead of to Robert Vaughan (perhaps Robert Vaughan II) who wrote its prologue and epilogue, chiefly on the ground that his name appears twice as an acrostic in Vaughan’s prefatory matter. Why Burdett should have written the piece, and having done so should have cloaked it in semi-anonymity, are questions as yet unanswered. The family which he served took an enlightened view of women, but no link has been found between him and either of the women named by Vaughan, the ‘Mistress Arthur Hardberde’ to whom the poem was offered or the Margaret Vernon whose name appears in another acrostic. If the Dyalogue was a reply to The Scholehouse of Women it must have been published within a year or so of its composition, and Burdett’s sojourn in London while attending Parliament could have furnished the occasion. His only other known piece of writing, the short religious poem entitled ‘The Refuge of a Sinner’, was not printed until 1565; Protestant in tone, it appeared with a six-line addition more markedly anti-Catholic and probably from another hand.5

Burdett’s other contribution to literature was a vicarious one. Among the servants mentioned in his will was Raphael Holinshed, to whom he left 33s.4d., the second highest of his gifts to his six manservants. Holinshed, who may have joined Burdett’s household after coming down from Cambridge, was still in the family’s service 30 years later; when he made his own will on 1 Oct. 1578 he described himself as steward to Thomas Burdett, Robert’s son and successor, and on his death at Bramcote late in 1580 all his property went to his master. What part either Robert or Thomas Burdett played in Holinshed’s recruitment to historical study is not known, but his connexion with the family is reflected in the Chronicles in the references to two of its earlier members, Sir Nicholas who was killed at Pontoise in 1439 and his son Thomas who was executed for treason in 1477. It is even possible that the detailed description of the murder of Thomas Ardern which Holinshed inserted into his account of the reign of Edward VI owes something to his service with Robert Burdett, who sat with Ardern in the early sessions of the Parliament of 1547.6

At the time of his death on 11 Jan. 1549 Burdett held Bramcote and two other Warwickshire manors which were encumbered by provision for his younger children and dependants. His will, made on the previous 17 Oct. when he was ‘somewhat diseased in body’, opens with a long preamble on the inevitability of death and the saving merits of Christ’s passion, in a style reminiscent of his poem on the subject. He gave his 16 year-old son Thomas a life interest from the age of 22 in the household goods at Bramcote, which were valued at £145. He appointed William Sheldon his chief executor, and Sir Marmaduke Constable and Henry Williams supervisors. In February 1553 Thomas Burdett became the ward of his father’s master, by then Duke of Suffolk, but in the following November he had livery. His son Robert sat for Tamworth in 1601 and his best-known descendant was the political reformer Sir Francis Burdett.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/60/21. Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 24; Vis. Warws. (ibid. xii), 101; The Gen. n.s. vii. 70-71; Dugdale, Warws. ii. 845-50; VCH Warws. iv. 190.
  • 3. Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xxiv. 63-64; LP Hen. VIII, xvii, xix, xx; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 20, 90; Quorndon Recs. ed. Farnham, 204.
  • 4. Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. loc. cit.
  • 5. Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 84; Bodl. Quarterly Rec. viii. 47-54; CPR, 1563-6, p. 95; HL Bull. ii. 165-72; F. L. Utley, The Crooked Rib, 255-6, 272-3; N. and Q. ccxxi. 537-9; The Arundel-Harington Ms, ed. Hughey, i. 302-3; ii. 411-12; information from Dr. Mary L. Robertson of the Huntington Lib.
  • 6. DNB (Holinshed, Raphael); Holinshed, Chron. iii. 145-6, 345, 1024-31.
  • 7. C142/92/115; Lichfield consist. ct. wills 1549, no. 5; CPR, 1553, p. 3; 1553-4, p. 376.