MILDMAY, Thomas (by 1515-66), of Moulsham, Essex and London.
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Family and Education
Auditor, ct. augmentations, Cambs., Essex, Herts., Hunts., London, Mdx., Norf., Suff., 24 Apr. 1536-1 June 1545, jt. (with bro. Walter) 1545-54; jt. auditor, duchy of Cornw. by 1538-c.1556, sole c.1556-d.; j.p. Essex 1541-d., jt. (with bro. Walter) auditor ct. gen. surveyors of the King’s lands by 1545, commr. chantries, London, Mdx., Westminster 1545, relief Essex 1550, assessionable manors, duchy of Cornw. 1563; sheriff, Essex and Herts. 1558-9.3
The distinguished medieval descent claimed by the Mildmays was probably a late 16th century fabrication: the real founder of the family appears to have been a merchant who from small beginnings manning his own stall in Chelmsford market prospered sufficiently to buy ‘Guy Harlings’, the principal house in the town from Richard Rich in 1527. Nothing has been discovered about Thomas Mildmay’s early life and education, but presumably he learnt the rudiments of accountancy at his father’s prompting and obtained his first post in augmentations through his father’s dealings with Rich, the court’s first chancellor. Throughout 1536 and 1537 Mildmay was engaged in the dissolution of the lesser religious houses in East Anglia and by his diligence he soon established himself as one of the court’s leading officials. He used his position to acquire land for himself and his family, and in September 1537 he made his first purchase (in partnership with his father) of some former monastic property in Chelmsford valued at nearly £80. Three years later he bought for over £620 the manor of Moulsham, to the south of Chelmsford, where he made his home, reconstructing the hall in such a grandiose style that it was ‘accounted the greatest esquire’s building within the county of Essex’. His fee on entering the court was £20 a year, but when the court was dissolved by Mary he received a pension of £200 to compensate him for the loss of his office.4
Through Rich and Cromwell, Mildmay met William Gonson, the treasurer for the navy under Henry VIII, and his marriage with Gonson’s daughter suggests the acceptance, if not the approval by his superiors of his early promise in the service of the crown. Mildmay’s reputation as an auditor grew steadily: he obtained the reversion with Robert Heneage of the auditorship of the duchy of Cornwall in 1537, and perhaps with the backing of his brother-in-law, Anthony Bourchier, that of the court of general surveyors. In 1544 he was exempted from military service in France on account of his work, but two years later he was sent to Boulogne to survey the captured town. He visited Calais in 1552 for similar reasons and Ireland after the accession of Elizabeth ‘to take order that the records, both of the crown and of the revenue be better kept’. During the last two decades of his life Mildmay was the most important auditor in the government, and his name figures prominently in its money matters.5
Mildmay’s knowledge would doubtless have been welcome in the Commons, and through his employment in the duchy of Cornwall he procured his return to Parliament on at least six occasions. (Under the aegis of Rich or another patron, maybe Sir Thomas Arundell, he could have gained some experience of the House earlier than 1547 since the returns for the last few Parliaments of Henry VIII are incomplete.) Under Edward VI and Mary he usually sat for Helston but in the autumn of 1553 he sat for Bodmin where his name was inserted over an erasure on the indenture. His absence from either Parliament of 1554 may have reflected official annoyance at his brother’s opposition to the reunion with Rome, but if that was the reason it had ceased to be an obstacle a year later. Both in 1555 and 1558 his name was added to the Helston indenture in a different hand.6
At the accession of Elizabeth, Mildmay was pricked sheriff of Essex and while sheriff he was elected to his last Parliament. Described as ‘indifferent in religion’ in 1564 he remained active in public affairs until his death on 21 Sept. 1566.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: J. J. Goring
- 1. Hatfield 207.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 250-1; C142/147/142; Wright, Essex, i. 79.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, xii-xxi; CPR, 1553, p. 353; Duchy Cornw. RO, 123, m. 3v; 235, m. 5; 501, m. 1; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), 40, 41, 43, 65.
- 4. Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. n.s. xv, 7-9, 12; information from Dr. Mary E. Coyle; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 8, 258; LP Hen. VIII, xi-xxi; CPR, 1547-8 to 1560-3 passim.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xvii-xxi; CPR, 1547-8 to 1563-6 passim; APC, ii-vii passim; Richardson, 209, 263.
- 6. C219/21/27, 24/25, 25/19.
- 7. Cam. Misc. ix (3), 62; PCC 3 Stonard; C142/147/142.