COTTON, Sir John (1512/13-93), of Cheveley and Landwade, Cambs.
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Family and Education
b. 1512/13, and but 1st surv. s. of Sir Robert Cotton of Landwade. m. Isabel (d.1578), da. of Sir William Spencer of Althorp, Northants., 8s. inc. John† 5da. suc. bro. 30 Mar. 1526. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553.1
J.p. Cambs. 1547-61, q. 1562-4; sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1549-50, 1556-7; commr. relief, Cambs. 1550, oyer and terminer, Cambs., Hunts., Beds., Bucks., Norf., Suff. 1554-64, inquiry into lands of bpric. of Ely 1559.2
The Cotton family had acquired the manor of Landwade early in the 15th century. John Cotton, a boy of four at his father’s death, became heir to this manor and five others in Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk (valued at over £115 a year) on the death of his elder brother in 1526. In the following November Bishop West of Ely paid £300 for Cotton’s wardship, and in 1533 when West made his will he arranged for Cotton to marry a daughter of West’s nephew, a marriage which, so far as is known, never took place.3
Cotton’s early career is difficult to disentangle from that of his uncle and namesake, a former servant of the 3rd Duke of Buckingham, whom in 1538 the nephew sued for 20 years’ income from his family’s lands at Exning, Suffolk, and Fordham, Cambridgeshire, and for the return of deeds. Thus it may have been either of them who was listed among the Cambridgeshire gentlemen summoned to raise troops in 1544, who in 1546 received an annuity of £20 for his war service in France two years before, and who three years later travelled to Scotland on Privy Council business. It was doubtless the nephew, however, who attended the reception at court of the Admiral of France in 1546, and more probably the uncle who as ‘John Cotton of Cheveley’ was sued by (Sir) Edward North in the Star Chamber in the early 1550s. As the uncle is unlikely to have become a justice of the peace, most later references are probably to the nephew.4
John Cotton’s name appears on the list, ascribed to Cecil, naming those who might be hoped to keep order in various counties on behalf of Queen Jane’s government; there is, however, nothing to suggest that Cotton was a supporter of the Duke of Northumberland, and his early knighting by Queen Mary implies the contrary. So does the negative evidence that in the two Parliaments in which he was to sit he was not a ‘marked man’, either as a supporter of the ‘true religion’ in October 1553 or as a ‘seceder’ in November 1554. On both occasions his fellow-Member was a