FOXE, Charles (by 1516-90), of Bromfield, Salop. and the Inner Temple, London.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. by 1516, 2nd s. of William Foxe, and bro. of Edmund. educ. I. Temple. m. (1) by 1542, Elizabeth (d.1575), da. of Miles Crosby of Bury St. Edmunds, Suff., 2s. 3da.; (2) Catherine, da. of (Sir) Edward Leighton of Wattlesborough, Salop, 3s.; 1s. illegit.3
Constable, I. Temple 1545, marshal 1561, steward 1564.
Clerk of the signet to council in the marches of Wales 1540-d. jtly., first with bro. Edmund, then with John Dudley from 1565-80, then with Fulke Greville† to 1590; sec. 1558-d., member 1560, clerk from c.1565-d.; j.p. marcher and Welsh counties 1558/59-d.; recorder, Ludlow 1576; sheriff, Salop 1582-3.4
As the second son of William Foxe, who was to build up the fortunes of his family by the extensive acquisition of monastic property, Charles Foxe had to make his own way in the world. Trained in the law, he found his niche in the council in the marches of Wales, which often met at Ludlow. Later events suggest that it was his initiative which in 1537 procured for himself and his elder brother the reversion in survivorship of the two most lucrative offices in the council, its clerkship and the clerkship of the signet. It was he who also succeeded his father in the House of Commons from 1539. He sat for Ludlow in four out of the next five Parliaments, being joined by his brother only in 1542 and even then taking precedence on the return: the Ludlow bailiffs’ accounts for 1540-1 record the payment to him of 13s.4d. ‘for the last prorogation of the Parliament’. When in 1539 he became master of the hospital of St. John in the town his brother seems to have played a subordinate part in the administration.5
When in 1540 the clerkship of the signet reverted to the brothers, Charles Foxe sought to exploit a situation in which the offices in the council were as yet ill-defined by grasping at the secretaryship; the resulting suit confirmed the office in the hands of Sir John Price, but Foxe was not prepared to accept this verdict and the methods by which he pursued his object were sometimes unscrupulous. He and his brother laid before the Privy Council a series of allegations against the president of the council in the marches, and during the first session of the Parliament of 1542 Bishop Lee was summoned to answer their charges. When nothing was adduced in support of these ‘heinous articles’ save ‘surmises, conjectures and allegations of reports’, ‘it was thought an evil example that any man should have liberty upon no ground so maliciously to accuse any high minister of the King’s justice’, and the brothers were ordered to the Fleet prison. They straightway claimed privilege of Parliament and the Privy Council, recognizing ‘herein their just request’, allowed them to give recognizances to appear before it once a week while Parliament was sitting and thereafter from time to time until they should be licensed to depart: on 16 July they were ordered to appear every Sunday. All this did them no good in respect of their offices in the marches, for ‘in the absence of the said Foxes’ the signet was given to John Price and a deputy appointed to do the necessary writing. Thus discredited, the brothers did not obtain the clerkship of the council when Thomas Hakluyt died in 1544.6
Edmund Fox died in 1550 but Charles had many years left in which to redeem his fortunes. In January 1541 he had been granted a 99-year lease of the priory of Bromfield and its lands in Herefordshire and Shropshire, and in February 1558 he purchased the freehold from the crown for some £450. He incorporated the chancel of the priory church in the house which he built there. His marriage to an heiress from Bury St. Edmunds must have taken place by 1542, for between 1544 and 1547 he sued his mother-in-law’s executors for the jewels and two dozen silver spoons bequeathed to his three daughters; in this connexion he complained of the difficulties of litigating in counties as far apart as Shropshire and Suffolk. He was not returned to the Parliament of 1545, perhaps because of the repercussions of his attack on Lee, but he sat again in both Parliaments of Edward VI, although his name then stood second on the returns. The borough spent 2s.6d. on seeing him off to London on 7 Jan. 1553, a month before the second of these elections, and later paid him a further 9s. His absence from Parliament in Mary’s reign probably owed something to his loss of paternal support after his father’s death in the spring of 1554, for neither he nor his elder brother had ever held office in the borough.7
There is no indication that Foxe had Protestant sympathies, and in 1564 the bishop of Hereford judged him ‘neuter in religion’ while the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield thought him ‘meet to continue in office.’ His appearance on the commission of the peace at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign reflected the eventual realization of his ambition to improve upon his clerkship of the signet: in May 1558, on the death of Sir John Price’s successor and three months after his own purchase of the freehold of Bromfield, he secured a life grant of the secretaryship of the marches. Later, ‘with the skill of a gifted pluralist’ he obtained the clerkship of the council as well. His career during Elizabeth’s reign was that of a highly successful and hardworking, if somewhat corrupt, official. He died in December 1590.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Alan Harding
- 1. Salop RO, Ludlow bailiffs’ accts. 1540-1.
- 2. Hatfield 207.
- 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 191-3; C1/1122/42; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), xii. 137-41; PCC 59 Sainberbe.
- 4. P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 159-61, 333, 348-9; CPR, 1557-8, p. 305; 1563-6, p. 319; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 2), xi. 316.