HAKLUYT, Richard (by 1531-91), of the Middle Temple, London and Eyton in Leominster, Herefs.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1531, 1st s. of Thomas Hakluyt of Eyton by Mary; poss. half-bro. of Thomas Hakluyt. educ. M. Temple, adm. 4 June 1555. prob. unm. suc. fa. 1544.1

Offices Held

Associate bencher, M. Temple 12 May 1585.

Commr. for customs 1571.


Richard Hakluyt was a cousin of his celebrated namesake, whom he introduced to the study of cosmography. His father was Thomas Hakluyt, clerk of the council in the marches of Wales, while the geographer’s father was a younger brother Richard, who had settled in London. It was Thomas Hakluyt who established his family at Eyton, on land conveyed to him by his kinsman John Hakluyt of Eyton.

On his father’s death while he was still a minor Hakluyt came under the guardianship of his stepmother Catherine and her new husband Nicholas Depden, against whom and one Ralph Leighton he was to bring a chancery suit in 1552 alleging wrongful detention of deeds and occupancy of 20 acres of land at Eyton which had passed to him from his father. He had perhaps already begun the study of law although it was only in 1555 that he entered the Middle Temple. His election for Leominster to the Parliament of 1558 must therefore have suited both Hakluyt himself, as conducing to his professional advancement, and the borough as giving it a Member of local origin who would not need to be paid. The suggestion that Hakluyt may have played some part in the passing of the Act of 1558 regulating the manufacture of woollen cloth (4 and 5 Phil. and Mary, c.5) is unsupported by evidence and is hardly consonant with his youth and inexperience of the House.2

Hakluyt’s association with his younger cousin the geographer had begun with the death of Richard Hakluyt in 1557. As overseer of his uncle’s will Hakluyt was charged with assisting the widow and children, and his responsibility increased when she died soon afterwards. Twenty years later, in his dedicatory epistle to Walsingham, the author of The principal navigations was to recall how as a scholar at Westminster

it was my hap to visit the chamber of Mr. Richard Hakluyt my cousin, a gentleman of the Middle Temple, well known unto you, at a time when I found lying open upon his board certain books of cosmography, with a universal map: he, seeing me somewhat curious in the view thereof, began to instruct my ignorance by showing me the division of the earth into three parts after the old account, and then according to the latter and better distribution into more: he pointed with his wand to all the known seas, gulfs, bays, straits, capes, rivers, empires, kingdoms, dukedoms and territories of each part, with declaration also of their special commodities and particular wants, which by benefit of traffic and intercourse of merchants are plentifully supplied.

The enthusiasm which he thus transmitted the elder Hakluyt was to retain throughout his life. He became interested and involved in Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s attempt to discover a north-west passage to Cathay, and it was this which in part prompted his letter of 1568 to Ortelius exhorting him to make a map of the world. He was in close contact with the English merchant community in Spain and in February 1571 he sent Burghley secret news of the preparation of an armed force there. In 1578 he was commissioned by a group headed by Gilbert to write a pamphlet on colonisation and the choice of a plantation site: although the voyage in question came to nothing Hakluyt had the work published to encourage discussion. When in the following year the Dyers’ Company sent one of their number to Persia to study methods of manufacture Hakluyt drew up the instructions; in 1580 the Russia Company asked him to brief a mission for the discovery of the north-east passage; and in 1582 he compiled for the Levant Company’s factor at Constantinople remembrances ‘of some things in England, and after of some things in Turkey, to the great profit of the common weal of this country’. The thesis of the last work was that unemployment and poverty at home could best be alleviated, not by the increase of charity, but by the expansion of industry; as this involved the export of high-quality finished cloth instead of half-finished goods and raw materials, England must acquire and employ all the best foreign techniques of dyeing and finishing. His last extant pamphlet, Inducements to the liking of the voyage intended towards Virginia, written in 1585 but not published until 1602, was a handbook for intending colonists.

Hakluyt made his will on 13 Sept. 1587, ‘considering the mortal state of man and the pestilent fevers so commonly reigning’, although apparently not himself a sick man. He did not specify a burial place but asked for a simple funeral. He mentioned no wife or children and his lands were to go in succession to the brothers Oliver Hakluyt of Christ Church, Oxford, Edmund and Richard Hakluyt, and his own sister Winifred, wife of Roger Bruton. Winifred, his ‘eldest and best beloved sister’, was bequeathed a silver goblet, and Barbara, the youngest, £6 in money and a silver salt-cellar. The will was proved on 4 Mar. 1591.

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from chancery suit of 1552. This biography rests on E. G. R. Taylor, Original Writings and Corresp. of the Two Richard Hakluyts (Hakluyt Soc. ser. 2. lxxvi).
  • 2. C1/1302/3-7. Taylor, mentions a similar case in Chancery of about the same date brought by Hakluyt against Nicholas and Catherine Depden, and also Thomas Hakluyt on the same complaint; but the reference (E.C. bdle. 82, no. 12) is inaccurate, and a search for the case has proved fruitless.