DUDLEY, alias SUTTON, Robert (1471/72-1539), of Shrewsbury, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. 1471/72, yr. s. of Sir Edmund Dudley of Dudley, Staffs. by 2nd w. Maud, da. of Thomas, 8th Lord Clifford, wid. of Sir John Harington (d. 30 Dec. 1460) of Hornby, Lincs.; poss. bro. of Richard. m. (1) Elizabeth, (2) Catherine (d.1549/50), da. and coh. of Robert Knight of Shrewsbury and Baschurch, Salop, wid. of David Ireland of Shrewsbury, s.p.2
Burgess (common councilman), Shrewsbury in 1512, bailiff 1515-16, 1522-3, 1526-7, 1531-2, coroner 1521-2, alderman by 6 Mar. 1525-d.; warden, mercers’ guild 1523-4, 1530-1; commr. subsidy 1523, 1524.3
Robert Dudley alias Sutton was remembered at Shrewsbury as an ‘alderman of good calling’. Styled ‘esquire’ or sometimes ‘gentleman’, he was of noble origin, and he could count among his kinsmen several of the leading noble and gentle families in the west midlands and the north. Nothing has come to light about his upbringing or early manhood before his admission, on 8 Oct. 1510, simultaneously to the freedom of Shrewsbury and its guild merchant. Within two years he had been chosen to serve for a term as a burgess on the town council, and thereafter he played a role of increasing prominence, holding in turn each of the town’s leading offices and frequently travelling to London on its behalf. In May 1520 he joined the mercers’ guild, which was entering on a period of keen rivalry for the monopoly of the local cloth trade with the drapers’ company, and he soon cut an equally influential figure there.4
Dudley’s return to the Parliament of 1529 was a natural extension of his municipal career. His half-brother Edward, 2nd Lord Dudley, a figure of some authority in Shropshire, doubtless favoured his election, but his precedence over his partner Adam Mytton, who unlike Dudley had sat in the previous Parliament, is probably to be attributed to his seniority and greater municipal experience: he was presumably the mercers’ nominee and Mytton the drapers’. The two men may have been already related through Dudley’s marriage into the Knight family: during the 1530s they were associated in local matters and in 1531-2 they jointly held the bailiwick of Shrewsbury. The 2nd Lord Dudley’s death deprived Dudley of that family’s support, for the new peer was a man of weak understanding, incapable of wielding any influence. No assistance would have been needed, however, to procure Dudley’s re-election in the spring of 1536, for it was the King himself who on this occasion asked for the return of the previous Members. A memorandum records payment of expenses of 9s.6d. incurred by Dudley on the town’s behalf during ‘Parliament time’, perhaps during the first session of the Parliament of 1529, and in June 1537 a letter was sent to him to stay his suit for parliamentary wages.5
Dudley made his will on 20 May 1538, asking to be buried at St. Alkmund’s church, Shrewsbury, beside his first wife. After making several small bequests to the mercers’ guild and churches, he remembered some friends and his ‘cousins’ Richard Trentham and Edward Onslow. He gave his second wife a life interest in the lands which he held from his ‘brother’, the 3rd Lord Dudley, and made her his residuary legatee and sole executrix, referring her for help to Thomas Bromley I. Dudley must have died shortly after attending a meeting of the Shrewsbury town council on 14 Mar. 1539, as his name is marked ‘dead’ on the council’s register for the following month.6