CROKE, John (1508/9-49/51), of London.
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Family and Education
b. 1508/9, s. of one Croke of Winchester, Hants. educ.Winchester coll. adm. 1519; New Coll. Oxf. adm. 11 May 1526, fellow 11 May 1528, BCL 12 July 1534, DCL 11 July 1543; Coll. of Advocates, adm. 7 Oct. 1543. m. by 1547, Dorothy, da. of John Theobald of Seal, Kent.2
Proctor, archdeaconry of Oxford ct. by 1540; notary public 6 Sept. 1543; vicar-gen. diocese of London 1543-d.; canon of St. Paul’s, London and prebendary of Ealdstreet 20 June 1544-30 Apr. 1547; dep. subsidy collector to Bp. Bonner of London 1545; adv. ct. arches by 1546, adv.-gen. by d.3
John Croke’s Membership of the Parliament of 1547 has to be inferred from the entry in the Commons Journal recording that on 13 Dec. 1548 a bill for the union of the parishes of Ongar and Greenstead in Essex was committed after its second reading to ‘Mr. Croke’. The case for identifying this Member with John Croke rests both on the fact that he was dead by the end of 1551, when his name would otherwise have been included in the revised list of Members, and on the probability that he had the legal expertise which was the customary qualification of Members to whom bills were committed. Of two contemporary John Crokes connected with the law the first, one of the six clerks in Chancery, is ruled out of consideration because he did not die until 2 Sept. 1554, whereas the second, although the date of his death has not been established, left a widow who in November 1553 was occupying a house owned by the dean and chapter of St. Paul’s. His career as canon of the cathedral, vicar-general of the diocese and advocate-general of the court of arches leaves little doubt that it was this John Croke to whom the bill for the two parishes within the diocese was, appropriately enough, committed.4
Croke was born and spent his childhood in the parish of St. Peter in Winchester. From Winchester college he went up to its sister foundation at Oxford, where he graduated in civil law. Licensed as a notary public before proceeding to the doctorate, he joined the college of advocates in London and was appointed vicar-general of the diocese by Bishop Bonner, himself an Oxford-trained canonist and civilian: he was not, however, to become chancellor as has been claimed. As vicar-general he helped to preside at the trial of Anne Askew, but he appears to have stood well with Archbishop Cranmer: it was Cranmer who headed the commission of April 1547 which heard and rejected Robert Huick’s appeal against Croke’s sentence in divorce proceedings. Croke’s own marriage briefly soured his relations with Bonner, a champion of celibacy, but the two were evidently reconciled after Croke’s resignation of his prebend in St. Paul’s. Although he was not replaced as vicar-general until after Bonner’s restoration in 1553, Croke does not appear to have discharged his duties under Ridley: until 1549 or later they were performed by the chancellor and other officials.5
Under whose auspices Croke came to be elected in 1547, and for what constituency, are matters largely for speculation. The antiquarian Browne Willis listed him as one of the Members for Chippenham, but the probabilities tell heavily against this suggestion. In 1547 Chippenham formed part of the dower of Catherine Parr, and as the two men who were sitting for the borough in the final session of the Parliament, John Astley and Francis Goldsmith, were both dependants of the ex-Queen their election may be presumed to have occurred before her death in September 1548, when Croke was still a Member. Catherine may in any case be considered an unlikely patron for Croke at any of her Wiltshire boroughs: it was her physician Robert Huick whose divorce he had blocked and her brother the Marquess of Northampton was in a similar matrimonial difficulty. A stronger possibility is that Croke was returned for one of the bishop of Winchester’s boroughs in Wiltshire, Downton or Hindon. Bishop Gardiner was in the Fleet prison when the elections were held, but if, as seems to have been the case, this did not eliminate his influence, he may have nominated Croke, perhaps on the recommendation of Cranmer; alternatively Cranmer could have acted alone, as he probably did on behalf of his servant William Morice, who was returned for Downton and was to be one of the movers of the bill committted to Croke. While Croke could have been Morice’s first fellow-Member, to be replaced by William Green whose name appears for Downton on the later list of Members, there is a hint that Croke sat for Hindon. On the list of Members as revised in 1551 the names originally entered for Hindon are both struck through, that of John Story being marked ‘extra regnum’ and replaced by the name of John Zouche, while John Sturgeon is suffixed ‘mortuus’. In Story’s case the additions tally with the facts, but in Sturgeon’s there is clearly error, for he was to survive for another 20 years. It is tempting to see in the mistake a clue to the problem of Croke’s constituency: if Sturgeon’s name had been confused with his, he can be thought of as Story’s original fellow-Member for Hindon whom Sturgeon replaced probably before or during the third session in the autumn of 1549. As two near-contemporaries at Oxford and leading civilians, Story and Croke would have made a well-assorted pair of Members, although their time in the House was to be terminated by fatalities of different kinds. Both, it is safe to say, would have been interested in two bills introduced into the Lords during the first session, for the executing of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and for erecting a new court of chancery for spiritual causes, each of which failed after having been committed to Bonner.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Authors: P. S. Edwards / A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Unknown constituency but probably Hindon; CJ, i. 5.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from age on admission to Winchester college. Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 151; C. Coote, Civilians, 36; CPR, 1553-4, p. 2; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxv), 136; W. Boys, Sandwich (1792) 246.
- 3. Emden, 151; Le Neve, Fasti 1541-1857, i (1969), 32; G. M. V. Alexander, ‘The life and career of Edmund Bonner, bp. of London, until his deprivation in 1549’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1960), 280, 357 n. 15; LP Hen. VIII, xx.
- 4. CJ, i. 5; Hatfield 207; A. Croke, Croke Fam. ii. 393-407; DNB, which identifies the Member with the six clerk in Chancery.
- 5. Emden, 151; Alexander, 280, 357 n. 15, 370, 396; CPR, 1547-8, p. 138.
- 6. Browne Willis, Notitia Parliamentaria (1750), iii(2), 14-15; Hatfield 207; C. G. Ericson, ‘Parlt. as a legislative institution in the reigns of Edw. VI and Mary’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1973), 324, 325; M. A. R. Graves, ‘The House of Lords 1547-58’ (Otago Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), ii. 182.
- 7. DNB (Croke, Sir John).