FAUNT, William (1495/96-1559), of Foston, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. 1495/96, 2nd s. of William Faunt of Wistow, Hunts. by Isabel, da. of John Sayer. educ. I. Temple. m. 1546, Jane, da. of George Vincent of Peckleton, Leics., wid. of Nicholas Purefoy of Drayton, Leics. 4s. 4da.2
J.p. Rutland 1542-d., Leics. 1543-d.3
William Faunt was the son and grandson of men who, bred in the law, became counsellors and servants of the aristocracy. William Burton describes him as ‘attorney at law and fellow of the Inner Temple ... one who ever carried himself just and upright, a learned man’. Although there is no reason to question Faunt’s legal affiliation, Burton’s other statement that he was twice knight of the shire in Parliament cannot be corroborated: he did, indeed, sit twice in the Commons, but only once for the shire. A younger son, Faunt succeeded his father after his elder brother had been disinherited; but the estate was probably inconsiderable and there is no trace of it in his own inquisition post mortem. He continued to act as a lawyer for the Leicestershire gentry, for his name appears as attorney in land transactions in the late 1520s and early 1530s.4
As did so many of his sort, Faunt owed his introduction to public affairs to Cromwell, who employed him as agent and watchdog in Leicestershire. It may have been by Cromwell’s procurement that he was receiving an annuity from Kenilworth priory at the Dissolution. The minister’s fall did not harm his position in the county, where in 1543 he was brought on to the bench: he had been placed on the Rutland commission a year earlier. His assessment of £6 13s.4d. on goods for the subsidy of 1542 reflects his increasing prosperity. A few years later he married a daughter of George Vincent and thus joined the group of gentlemen who supported the 2nd Earl of Huntingdon. From the later 1540s he began the series of purchases by which he built up a considerable estate; he also bought a number of small parcels for each of the sons as they were born. Under Edward VI he began to serve on the midland circuit, of which he remained a member until his death.5
As a Catholic Faunt cannot have welcomed the rise of the Earl of Warwick any more than as a Hastings man he can have favoured the ascendancy of the Greys: it must have been with mixed feelings, therefore, that he found himself called on in 1551, with his father-in-law Vincent and his stepson Nicholas Purefoy, to repress any movement against the earl in Leicestershire. The accession of Mary relaxed his strained loyalty, and he and his kinsmen are known to have obeyed her order to take similar action against her enemies. With the new Queen he had a personal link through Frideswide, wife of Robert Strelley, one of her favourite ladies-in-waiting: Faunt was to appoint Frideswide executor of his will and he named one of his daughters after her. She may have helped him to purchase from the crown the manor of Cold Newton, in Newton Burdett, where he had formerly lived, at a time when the Queen wished the commission of sale to part with as little as possible.6
The connexion probably had much to do with Faunt’s return for Leicester when Strelley was a knight of the shire. A Hastings supporter who had nothing to fear from the tottering Duke of Suffolk, Faunt also offered the capital advantage of court favour. That his Catholicism was hardly a sine qua non is shown by the election as his partner of Thomas Farnham who ‘stood for the true religion’ by voting against one of the government’s bills. Two years later Faunt outmatched his first achievement, and his first colleague, by attaining the senior knighthood of the shire. On this occasion his orthodoxy may have had more to do with his election, and not surprisingly his name is absent from the roll of Members of this Parliament who voted against one of the government’s bills. This was to be Faunt’s last appearance in the House: whether he stood any chance of nomination in 1558 we do not know, but in the event it was his father-in-law Vincent who replaced him.7
Faunt died on 4 Sept. 1559. By his will, proved two months later, he left a considerable landed estate in trust for his heir and his other sons, and lands to his executors for a certain number of years to provide dowries for his daughters. His will confirms Burton’s judgment of his character; although he left instructions about the administration of the estate, the auditing of accounts and the preservation of titles to the property, he was clearly loath to cause his executors trouble, for he directed that they should not be bound for his considerable stock of goods. Moreover, he charged his heirs ‘neither to enclose nor improve the pastures and commons in Newton Burdett from the poor inhabitants as they should answer before God’, and stipulated that all his tenants were to have their farms without fine or increase of rent. Believing that he left sufficient provision for all his sons, he yet commanded his wife that should they all survive the second should be trained as a lawyer and the two younger apprenticed to friends in London. It is a testimony to his many friendships that, on the event of his wife’s death or re-marriage, almost every leading personage in the county was to have one of his children to educate and instruct. As it turned out, his brother-in-law Edward Vincent obtained the wardship of the heir, and his widow seems to have fulfilled most of his intentions for the upbringing of the younger children.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Patricia Hyde
- 1. C219/24/92, although almost illegible, appears to give the name of the senior knight as ‘Will’mo ffo[?] .. [tt?]’; OR gives ‘Willielmus ... ’.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from age at death given in Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 28; Burton, Leics. 105; J. H. Hill, Langton, 26; E150/1157/5.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, xvii, xx; CPR, 1553-4, pp. 21, 23.
- 4. Quorndon Recs. ed. Farnham, 189, 200.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiii, xvi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 76, 77; 1550-3, p. 344; 1553, p. 356.
- 6. APC, iii. 466; iv. 371; CPR, 1553-4, pp. 169, 381.
- 7. Bodl. e Museo 17.
- 8. PCC 53 Chaynay; CPR, 1558-60, p. 340.