MORE, William II (1520-1600), of Loseley, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 30 Jan. 1520, 5th but o. surv. s. of Sir Christopher More of Loselev by 1st w. Margaret, da. of Walter Mugge of Guildford. m. (1) settlement 12 June 1545, Mabel, da. of Mark Digneley of Wolverton, I.o.W., s.p.; (2) settlement 1551, Margaret, da. of Ralph Daniell of Swaffham, Norf., 1s. George† 2da. suc. fa. 16 Aug. 1549. Kntd. 14 May 1576.2
Alnager, Surr. and Suss. 1549; commr. relief, Surr. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, musters 1557, 1558, 1569, 1580, eccles. causes 1572, subsidy 1573, 1587, 1594; other commissions 1557-d.; provost marshal, Surr. 1552; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1558-9, 1579-80; j.p.q. Surr. 1558/59-d.; dep. lt. 1569, 1580, 1588; v.-adm. Suss. 1559-94; verderer, Windsor forest by 1561; constable, Farnham castle 1565; treasurer for lottery, Surr. 1567; collector of loan 1589; master of swans, Surr. 1593; dep. custos rot. by 1594; chamberlain of the Exchequer at d.3
William More’s career is outstanding for the part he played in the administration of local affairs and for the number of times he represented his shire or neighbouring borough of Guildford in Parliament. His activities are amply documented in the Loseley collection which reflects the high esteem in which he was generally held, provides a wealth of domestic detail and shows how public business was conducted by local authorities.
Unlike his father More is not known to have had a legal training, but that his political education began at the earliest possible moment is apparent from a letter of April 1593, which reminded him
of that honourable princely message sent by that redoubted and mighty prince, Henry VIII, her majesty’s father, by the two dukes unto the Common House, the third estate in Parliament, requiring their aid for the granting of a subsidy, whereat you were then present and one of the said third estate, and so hath continued ever since until this last of the 35th of her majesty’s, which I am assured never a man alive now can say. And of this I have often heard you speak most favourably, and Sir Henry Coate also whilst he lived being of the same, as myself heard him say. But he now being dead, there remaineth none alive but yourself, good Sir William, that was an eye witness of this most excellent precedent.
This episode, which is not recorded in the principal contemporary sources, can only have occurred in the Parliament of 1539. Subsidies were granted in 1534, 1540 and 1545, and in 1543 the King obtained a relief: More would have been too young to have sat in the Commons in 1534, and of the two dukes mentioned, Norfolk and Suffolk, the 1st Duke of Suffolk died in August 1545 and was succeeded by a nine year-old who could not have been employed to cajole the Commons in the following Parliament.4
More must have owed his first seat to his father, who was himself by Cromwell’s favour junior knight of the shire for Surrey and was to be pricked sheriff in the autumn of 1539, but whether he was returned before the Parliament opened or at a by-election, perhaps held during the father’s shrievalty, it is impossible to say: of the Surrey representatives of this Parliament only the knights of the shire and the Members for Southwark are known. If his correspondent’s further statement that More had been a Member ever since is to be taken literally he can be thought of as having served for a Surrey borough, Bletchingley, Reigate or even Southwark, in the Parliament of 1545 or for Guildford in that of March 1553, but if he was returned to those of 1542, April 1554 and 1558 (the last two being Parliaments for which nearly all the Members are known) he must have found a seat further afield, as he is known to have done in 1559.5
In 1545 Sir Christopher More settled on his son and daughter-in-law the remainder of a portion of the family’s lands. Both father and son were returned to the Parliament of 1547, Sir Christopher again as junior knight of the shire and William as junior Member for Reigate. The 3rd Duke of Norfolk was then in the Tower and his property in Reigate had been leased to John Skinner II. The patronage may have been exercised in 1547 by the Council or by the duke’s half-brother, Lord William Howard, but in the circumstances both father and son may have benefited by their connexion with the sheriff, John Sackville I, who was Sir Christopher More’s brother-in-law. Guildford, a more obvious choice for a member of the family, was then under the sway of Sir Anthony Browne, senior knight of the shire from 1539 to 1547, and to the Parliaments of 1542 and 1547 it returned his son and namesake and his servant Thomas Elyot.6
In Edward VI’s reign More became closely associated with the Marquess of Northampton, a powerful figure at court, who in 1551 was appointed keeper of Guildford park and lord lieutenant of Surrey. In some of his letters Northampton describes More as his servant. He delegated some of his local duties to More and on 30 June 1552 he appointed him his provost marshal in Surrey, ‘considering as well your continual readiness and goodwill towards the service of his Majesty as also your wisdom, modesty and circumspection’, and added, significantly, ‘I shall be glad from time to time to set forth by due relation to his Highness for your furtherance and advancement accordingly’. When the Guildford corporation wished to enlarge the endowment of their grammar school with proceeds from the dissolved chantries they secured the good services of the marquess. According to the school’s Elizabethan historian he was ‘kept in remembrance of the same by Sir William More, now of Loseley, then attending upon the same lord marquess’. More’s attachment to Northampton is the first indication of his Protestant convictions, but he appears to have avoided the political entanglements of the reign. He had, however, among his papers a tract ‘against Edward Duke of Somerset falsely usurping the name of Protector’.7
Returned for Guildford to the first Parliament of Mary’s reign, More was among those in the Commons who ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, Protestantism. His attitude may explain why he was not included in the commission of the peace issued in February 1554. It is likely, although not certain, that he had been on the commission before Mary’s accession, for he was active in local government from 1550 and after his father’s death in 1549 his kinsman Henry Polsted had written to Cecil recommending More as a suitable recruit to the Surrey bench. Although he was not among the Members who departed without leave from the Parliament of November 1554, More opposed the government in that of 1555 and this perhaps explains his apparent failure to secure a seat in the last Parliament of the reign. He continued to serve in local affairs and was pricked sheriff six days after Elizabeth’s accession. His friendship with such men as (Sir) Thomas Cawarden, who could have secured his return for Bletchingley in 1545 and who was to appoint him an executor of his will, also reflects More’s radical leanings. In 1564 he was reported by his bishop to be a ‘favourer of religion’, and in 1569 Dr. Roger Goad, then master of the Guildford grammar school, in dedicating a ‘Treatise concerning the Sacrament’ to More, explained that he did not presume to instruct one ‘whose judgement I know to have been long since soundly settled’. It is not surprising that a man credited with such Protestant virtues should have enjoyed increasing prestige during the remainder of his long public career.8
More continued his father’s policy of adding to the family estate. In 1548 he was a joint-purchaser with Henry Polsted of ex-chantry property in Surrey, a transaction which, by depriving the inhabitants of Oakwood of their traditional place of worship, caused deep local resentment and resulted in a commission of inquiry from the court of augmentations. Among the lands near Loseley which More acquired were the manors of Catteshall, Piccards and Polsted. Like his father, he kept a close scrutiny of the values and profits of his estate: he took several inventories of all his movables in London and at Loseley, kept precise accounts of his income from rents, listed in one book all the land transactions of which he had the separate deeds, and itemized the charges, totalling £1,661, of building a new house at Loseley between 1561 and 1569. There is a portrait at Loseley of More and his wife. He died in July 1600 at the age of 80, and was buried in the family chapel in St. Nicholas’s, Guildford.9