MILDMAY, Walter (by 1523-89), of Apethorpe, Northants. and London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1523, 4th s. of Thomas Mildmay of Chelmsford, Essex by Agnes Read; bro. of Thomas. educ.Christ’s Camb. 1537. m. 25 May 1546, Mary, da. of William Walsingham of Footscray, Kent, 2s. Anthony† and Humphrey† 3da. Kntd. 22 Feb. 1547.1
Dep. receiver, ct. augmentations by 1540, jt. (with bro. Thomas) auditor, Cambs., Essex, Herts., Hunts., London, Mdx., Norf., Suff. 1545-50, gen. surveyor 1547-54; jt. (with Francis Southwell) auditor, prests, ct. gen. surveyors of the King’s lands May 1543, (with bro. Thomas) duchy of Cornw. 1546-54; auditor, duchy of Lancaster, northern parts 1546-86; j.p. Essex 1547, Mdx. 1558/59-d.; Northants. 1558/59-d., Hunts. 1564-d.; chancellor of the Exchequer 5 Feb. 1559-d.; PC 1566; under treasurer 1567-d.; jt. ld. lt. Hunts. 1569, ld. lt. 1587-d.2
Walter Mildmay followed in his elder brother’s footsteps and after a period at Cambridge he entered the royal service, almost certainly under the patronage of Sir Richard Rich, chancellor of augmentations. By the summer of 1540 he was employed in a minor capacity in augmentations, and over the next few years he gained there the administrative experience, skill and insight which were to assist his meteoric rise as a financial adviser to the crown. His brother exerted his influence in 1542 with two of the royal favourites to obtain a further appointment on his behalf from Henry VIII, but it was not until the following year that he received the joint auditorship of prests in the recently reorganized court of general surveyors. In 1544 he accompanied Rich to France as assistant treasurer for the war, and in this capacity he was concerned a year later with the dismantling of the armaments and their return to London. His outstanding ability earned him the respect of those with access to Henry VIII, and with their support Mildmay was to enjoy a series of appointments in different offices before the end of the King’s reign.3
In 1545 he was chosen as the second Member for Lostwithiel, one of the coinage towns in Cornwall. Since Henry VIII summoned his last Parliament to ask for taxation to meet the expenses of the French war, Mildmay’s presence in the Commons as the assistant treasurer for the war was doubtless favoured by the King and Council. He had no personal link with the borough and his election anticipated his auditorship in the duchy of Cornwall, but his brother was already a prominent duchy official: Mildmay’s Membership in 1545, however, probably owed more to Anthony Bourchier, his brother-in-law and a councillor to Queen Catherine Parr, to whose charge the King had left the initial arrangements for the Parliament and whose household accounts Mildmay was soon to audit. Two years later, having been admitted to Gray’s Inn and knighted at the coronation of Edward VI, he entered the next Parliament for a Sussex borough with the support of Admiral Seymour, who had married Catherine Parr several months after Henry VIII’s death.4
In the reorganized court of augmentations Mildmay became one of the general surveyors and thus one of the most powerful officials of the institution. He was appointed to the commissions for sale of crown lands and was kept busy throughout the reign of Edward VI with the day-to-day business of certifying accounts, delivering money and hearing causes. Much of the business was transacted in his London house but his presence was from time to time called for elsewhere, as when in 1551 he was much occupied with the establishment of the mint at York. His experience made him a valuable member of the inquiry of 1552 into the financial departments: the report of this commission, on which the reorganization at the beginning of Mary’s reign was based, bears traces of Mildmay’s influence. His services were rewarded by the crown in grants of land, and around this nucleus he purchased a series of estates in Essex and Northamptonshire.5
Mildmay’s association with Seymour did not disadvantage him with the Duke of Northumberland. In the spring of 1553 he was returned for Lancaster with the help of his neighbour and the duke’s confidant, (Sir) John Gates, then the chancellor of the duchy, and also for Maldon where he himself owned the nearby manor of Danbury. On his deciding to sit for Maldon he was replaced at Lancaster by John Caryll. For the following Parliament that year, the first of Mary’s reign, he was returned for Peterborough. Here his growing position in Northamptonshire undoubtedly stood him in good stead, while his connexion with the 1st Earl of Bedford, who was steward for the crown of Mildmay’s lordship of Apethorpe, may also have helped. Mildmay and his fellow-Member, Sir William Fitzwilliam II (whose heir later married one of Mildmay’s daughters) opposed the first steps towards the restoration of Catholicism, and perhaps because this defiance did not commend him to Mary he was not to sit again until the last Parliament of the reign, when for the first time he was elected a knight of the shire for Northamptonshire, an honour which was to be his for the rest of his life. But his official career was uninterrupted: he continued to be appointed to financial commissions, including those set up to dissolve augmentations and to transfer its functions to the Exchequer, and the subsequent Exchequer commissions to lease and control crown lands. Towards the end of the reign he was employed more frequently, and in 1558 was appointed treasurer of the expedition to recover Calais.6
With Elizabeth’s accession Mildmay came immediately into prominence and was soon, on the Marquess of Winchester’s recommendation, appointed chancellor of the Exchequer. For the remaining 30 years of his life he was one of Elizabeth’s chief advisers. He died on 31 May 1589 and was buried at Apethorpe.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Authors: S. M. Thorpe / R. J.W. Swales
- 1. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 11, 452-4; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 7; PCC 51 Leicester; DNB.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, xviii-xxi; Somerville, Duchy, i. 437; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 97; Northants. RO, Westmorland mss (Apethorpe), box 1, bdle. 1, no. 16; box 2, bdle, 15, no. 2; CPR 1547-8 to 1569-72 passim; Duchy Cornw. RO, 224/7v; 225/4v; 226/3v; 227/3; VCH Hunts. ii. 24 seq.; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), 75, 102, 103, 166.
- 3. LP