KINGSTON, Sir William (by 1476-1540), of the Blackfriars, London and Elmore and Painswick, Glos.

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 1476. m. (1 or 2) by 1517, Anne, wid. of Sir John Guise (d.1501) of Elmore; (2 or 1) Elizabeth; (3) by 1534, Mary, da. of Richard Scrope, wid. of Edward Jerningham (d.1515) of Somerleyton, Suff.; 1s. Anthony 1 or 2da. Kntd. 1513. KG nom. 24 Apr., inst. 18 May 1539.2

Offices Held

Yeoman, the chamber 1497, gent. usher 1504; j.p. Glos. 1506- d.; yeoman of the guard 1509; esquire of the body 1510; sheriff, Glos. 1514-15; jt. sewer and harbinger 1514; knight of the body 1519; carver l521; steward, duchy of Lancaster, Glos. and Herefs. 20 Mar. 1521-d., chief steward, south parts of the duchy and Wales 29 Sept. 1525-d.; constable, Thornbury castle. Glos. 29 Jan. 1522, the Tower 28 May 1524-d.; capt, of the guard 1523; commr. subsidy, Glos. 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities 1535; Councillor by 1533; v.-chamberlain, the Household 1536-9, comptroller 12 Mar. 1539-d.3


The parentage of William Kingston has not been discovered. He cannot be placed among the Kingstons of Chilney and Kingston Bagpuze, Berkshire, who owned land in Somerset and Wiltshire, nor in the family of Kingston of Wendover, Buckinghamshire, in whose early 16th-century pedigree, however, the names William and George—Kingston was to mention a ‘brother’ George in his will—both occur. It is more likely that Kingston was a Gloucestershire man and that he was related to the Lords Berkeley of Berkeley Castle and Thornbury, for he had a ‘cousin’ John Berkeley for whom he wrote a letter of support in 1533. He had an early connexion with Gloucestershire, either territorially or as one of the entourage of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham: he attended with three or four servants the Christmas celebrations at the duke’s manor of Thornbury in 1507. All his local commissions from 1506 onwards also related to Gloucestershire, and in a deed of 1517 he was described as of Elmore in that county. Although he was to acquire a number of keeperships and grants of property there, he did not buy the manor of Painswick from Cromwell until May 1540.4

With Henry VIII on the throne Kingston progressed in the Household, attended the principal state occasions, and served with increasing responsibility in many of the campaigns after 1512. He fought at Flodden, perhaps under Thomas Berkeley, and was engaged in the most dangerous sector of the border fighting with the 2nd Lord Dacre during 1523. He became a friend of Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, with whom in 1510 he had a licence to export 2,000 kerseys from Southampton and London free of duty. In the reshuffle of courtiers in 1519 Kingston was one of those brought into residence. He also had a domicile at Blackfriars.5

In 1521 Kingston served on the grand jury which indicted Buckingham of treason, and he was to be a principal beneficiary by the duke’s fall. In the following year the King bestowed upon him the offices of steward and bailiff of Bedminster, Somerset, and all the duke’s possessions in Gloucestershire; of constable of Thornbury castle and master of all the hunts in the county: his enjoyment of all these was safeguarded in the Act of attainder (14 and 15 Hen. VIII, c.20) subsequently passed against the dead duke. To them were soon added important stewardships of duchy of Lancaster lands in the west and further promotion. As captain of the guard Kingston was sent to apprehend Wolsey in November 1529 and as constable of the Tower he became custodian of the series of state prisoners there. He was one of the signatories to the petition to the pope for the King’s divorce, yet in 1535 Chapuys was to observe to the Emperor that if war came and Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary were put in the Tower, Kingston would be ‘a good servant to your majesty and the ladies’.6

Kingston had been returned to the Parliament of 1529 with the Gloucestershire knight Sir John Brydges to whom he was linked by his marriage with Anne Guise. Between the fourth and fifth sessions he accompanied the King to Calais, after which journey he took an interest in the affairs of the pale. During the final session Kingston kept the deputy, Lisle, informed about the passage of the new ordinances, observing:

We of the Commons house have a good book for Calais and it has been read and will shortly pass, but at the reading there was one that would have had it committed, as the manner is, and then, if it should be committed, it be committed to some blind men, for it is far from our knowledge.

Kingston’s name appears on a list of Members prepared by Cromwell on the dorse of a letter of December 1534 and thought to contain the names of those having a particular, though undetermined, connexion with the treasons bill then before the House. About the time that Cromwell made the list, he encouraged Kingston and Sir Thomas Denys to read Bracton on the subject of the King’s dominion over the Church.7

By the autumn of 1536 Kingston had become one of the King’s inner council, and his name constantly appears in instructions and correspondence during the northern rebellion. He played an active part by leading in person, with his own band of 500 men, a large force of Gloucestershire landowners. After presumably sitting in the Parliament of 1536, to which the King asked that the previous Members should be re-elected, Kingston appears to have been one of the more prominent Members, if not a leader, of the Commons in its successor of 1539. On nine occasions during the first two sessions he bore bills from the Lower to the Upper House. He also shared in the discussion leading to the Act of Six Articles: after Thomas Broke had spoken at length about the sacrament, Kingston taunted him, saying that if he still doubted after 12 July, when the Act would take effect, he should bring the matter before the Council, where he would receive an answer to every article. Speaker Hare considered that Kingston rather than Broke, who had reverently spoken his mind as was lawful, ‘had done contrary to the order of the House’.8

Kingston attended his last Privy Council meeting on 1 Sept. 1540 and died at Painswick 13 days later. In his short will, drawn up on 26 June 1539, soon after his brush with Broke, he made bequests to Sir John Dauntesey, Sir John St. Loe, Richard Cromwell alias Williams*, and John and Thomas Guise, who were probably his stepsons. Apart from Painswick, he mentioned only the manors of Clopton and Rush in Berkshire. The will was proved on 5 July 1541 on behalf of his executors, who were his wife Mary, Sir William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton, and Sir Anthony Browne. Kingston was succeeded by his son Anthony, then aged 21 and more.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: L. M. Kirk / M. K. Dale


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. DNB; C142/83/274; E36/150, f. 21; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. vi. 284-7; LP Hen. VIII, vii; D. Verey, Glos: the Cotswolds, 358; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 157.
  • 3. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 109, 354, 641; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. vi. 285; LP Hen. VIII, i-xiv; G. R. Elton, Tudor Rev. in Govt. 339, 348; Somerville, Duchy, i. 430, 637.
  • 4. PCC 32 Alenger, 3 Adeane, 34 Fetiplace; The Gen. vii. 180-1; CFR, 1485-1509, no. 562: LP Hen. VIII, ii, iv, vi, xv; CP, ii. 136-7, 390; Staffs. RO, D1721/1/5, ff. 48-60; Archaeologia, xxv. 323.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, i, iii, vii, xii.
  • 6. Ibid. iii-v, viii; Somerville, i. 430, 637; A. F. Pollard, Wolsey, 298-301.
  • 7. HMC Bath, iv. 2, 5; LP Hen. VIII, vii, 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v; x.
  • 8. Elton, 337-9, 348; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xiv; LJ, i. 107, 109, 112, 121-4, 153; Foxe, Acts and Mons. v. 505.
  • 9. PPC, vii. 24; PCC 32 Alenger; C142/83/274.