COPE, John (by 1513-58), of Canons Ashby, Northants.

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 1513, 2nd s. of William Cope (d.1513) of Banbury, Oxon. by 2nd w. Joan, da. of John Spencer of Hodnell, Warws. m. (1) Bridget, da. of Edward Raleigh of Farnborough, Warws., 3s. inc. George 2da.; (2) Mary, da. of Nicholas Mallory, wid, of one Cave, s.p.; (3) by June 1542, Margaret, da. and coh. of Sir Edward Tame, wid. of Humphrey Stafford. s.p. Kntd. May 1549/Mar. 1550.1

Offices Held

Escheator, Northants. and Rutland 1540-1; j.p. Northants. 1543-d.; sheriff 1545-6; commr. relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553.2


John Cope did not follow the traditional calling of his family and enter the service of the crown. He settled in Northamptonshire where his ancestors had once lived, became a grazier and wool-producer, occasionally visiting Calais to transact business with the staple, and cut a figure in local administration. Surviving letters written by him create the impression of a hard-working man devoted to his family, but with little time for other matters. Notwithstanding his avowed distaste for public life he held in turn the escheatorship and shrievalty of Northamptonshire, and for 15 years he served on the county bench. Although his inheritance and the jointure of his second wife involved him in a series of lawsuits he seems to have prospered, for he bought property regularly from 1537 until his death, his most important acquisition being that of Canons Ashby from Sir Francis Bryan in 1538, but towards the end of his life he became burdened with debt. By his death he had disposed of his inheritance in the locality of Banbury.3

As the recipient of several favours from Cromwell, Cope may have gained experience of the Commons before the minister’s fall, and it is possible that he also sat in one or both of the last two Henrician Parliaments. In 1544 he served in the French campaign which ended with the fall of Boulogne. This military experience may have brought him into contact with the future Protector, but although he perhaps enjoyed official support through his elder brother, vice-chamberlain to Queen Catherine Parr, Cope’s election to Edward VI’s first Parliament was a natural extension of his local career. The Journal throws no light upon his activity in the House, but the timing of his knighthood suggests that he sympathized with the Protector Somerset’s rival the Earl of Warwick. He is not known to have sat in the second Parliament of the reign, when (Sir) Nicholas Throckmorton and Robert Lane were chosen as the knights for Northamptonshire, but he could have been elected for Peterborough.4

Cope made his will on 2 July 1557. His current financial problems obliged him to ask his wife to forbear taking all her due. He had sold part of his surviving son’s inheritance and to recompense George Cope he settled upon him property elsewhere. He appointed his wife and son executors and Sir Edward Griffin, the attorney-general, overseer. His careful provision ensured the preservation of his property and its eventual descent to his grandson Edward, who was six years old at Cope’s death on 21 Jan. 1558; among his gifts to his grandson was the gilt standing-cup presented to his own father by King James IV of Scotland. Creditors were insistent, but proceedings were evidently delayed by the minority of Edward Cope and his death not long after he came of age. The outcome of these proceedings is not known, but the will was proved on 20 May 1558.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from father’s death. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 15; LP Hen. VIII, xvii, NRA 10665, items 1024-5; CPR, 1550-3, p. 1; Req.2/27/89.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1553, pp. 349, 414.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xxi; C1/54/292, 56/228, 75/2; Bridges, Northants. i. 224; St.Ch.2/10/193-9, 17/105.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xix; E315/340, f. 52.
  • 5. PCC 25 Noodes; CPR, 1554-5, p. 138; 1558-60, p. 20; C142/112/126, 116/3; Bridges, i. 227; Req.2/27/89.