FORTESCUE, Henry (by 1515-76), of Faulkbourne, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1515, o.s. of John Fortescue of Ponsbourne, Herts. by Philippa, da. and h. of Humphrey Spice of Black Notley, Essex. m. (1) by 1546, Elizabeth, da. of William Stafford of Bradfield Berks., 4s. 5da.; (2) settlement 22 Mar. 1557, Mary, da. of James Daniel of London, wid. of Sir Edward Darrell of Littlecote, Wilts. and of Philip Mansell, 1s. Dudley. suc. fa. 8 Aug. 1517.2

Offices Held

Commr. relief, Essex 1550, sewers 1554; gent. usher by Apr. 1553; esquire of the body by 1559; j.p. Essex 1558/59-d.; duchy of Lancaster steward and receiver Essex 1559-d.; sheriff, Essex and Herts. 1563-4.3


Henry Fortescue inherited extensive lands in Essex and neighbouring counties from his father, who had married a rich heiress and who died when Fortescue was an infant. In 1522 his wardship was acquired by his stepfather Sir Francis Bryan, who also obtained through the marriage a life interest in the Faulkbourne property, which thus passed to Fortescue only on Bryan’s death in 1550. Bryan soon sold the wardship ‘for great sum of money’ to Sir Andrew Windsor. After Fortescue had been in Windsor’s custody for 12 years— by which time he was approaching his majority— he was allowed to see his mother; following a ten-day visit he absconded from Windsor’s house and was sued with his mother and stepfather by Windsor in Chancery, with what result is unknown.4

It may have been Bryan who introduced Fortescue at court, but the young man had other notable kin and connexions. He was a distant cousin of Princess Elizabeth and his uncle Sir Adrian Fortescue’s widow was to marry the princess’s servant Thomas Parry, and her son John Fortescue to be one of Elizabeth’s tutors, while her youngest son Anthony, who adhered to his father’s Catholicism, married Cardinal Pole’s niece and became comptroller of the cardinal’s household. Among Fortescue’s other relatives by marriage was Sir Thomas Wentworth I, 1st Baron Wentworth, who joined with Sir Adrian Fortescue, George Brooke, 9th Lord Cobham and others in standing surety for him in a sum of £5,000 in February 1539. With such diverse patronage to aid him Fortescue’s meagre record of public achievement suggests that he either lacked political ambition or was otherwise inhibited, perhaps by financial troubles: of his extensive landed inheritance he sold more than £2,500 worth between 1538 and 1559, the purchasers including Thomas Audley, Baron Audley, Thomas Mildmay and Richard Rich, Baron Rich.5

Fortescue’s election for Maldon to the Parliament of March 1553 was a last-minute affair occasioned by Anthony Browne II’s decision to sit for Preston after he had been returned for both Maldon and Preston; Faulkbourne, north of Witham, lies within a few miles of Maldon. On Mary’s accession Fortescue sued out a pardon, but his only public employment during her reign was as a sewer commissioner; he was one of the Essex men summoned before the Privy Council in October 1556 to explain their failure to contribute to the forced loan, for which he had been assessed at £100. He was to be more active under Elizabeth as a Member of her first Parliament, justice of the peace and sheriff, and holder of a duchy of Lancaster stewardship. He died on 6 Oct. 1576.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/33/29, 41, 65, 126. Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. xv. 35-59; T. Fortescue, Lord Clermont, Fortescue Fam. 163 seq.; Colchester Oath Bk. ed. Benham, 165; Wilts. Arch. Mag. iv, ped. facing p. 226.
  • 3. CPR, 1553, p. 353; 1554-5, p. 107; APC, iv. 253; Lansd. 3, f. 193; Somerville, Duchy, i. 607, 609.
  • 4. C1/917/57-59.
  • 5. DNB (Fortescue, Sir Anthony); NRA 9467, pp 18-19; Feet of Fines, Essex, iv. ed. Reaney and Fitch, 253; CP25(2)/57/421, no. 24; 70/586, no. 55.
  • 6. CPR, 1553-4, p. 452; APC, vi. 5; C142/177/55.