MORGAN, Richard (by 1510-56), of Skenfrith, Mon. and London.

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

Constituency

Dates

Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1510, 2nd s. of Philip ap Morgan Watkin of Llanfair Cilgoed, and bro. of John Philip Morgan. educ. L. Inn, adm. 31 July 1524. m. by Jan. 1540, Mary, da. of Sir Robert Bailey, 3s. 3da. Kntd. 2 Oct. 1553.3

Offices Held

Auditor, L. Inn 1534-7, 1538-9, 1541-2, butler 1538-9, keeper, Black Bk. 1544-5, Autumn reader 1542, 1546, treasurer 1545-6.

Custos rot. Mon. 1543; recorder, Gloucester by Jan. 1547-53; serjeant-at-law 3 Feb. 1547-Aug. 1553 (simultaneously retained by duchy of Lancaster); j.p. Glos., Mon. 1547-55; commr. of Admiralty in Nov. 1547, relief, Glos., Mon. 1550; PC 16 Aug. 1553; c.j.c.p. 23 Aug. 1553-8 Oct. 1555; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlt. of Oct. 1553.4

Biography

Richard Morgan, who came from a lesser Monmouthshire family, appears, despite some youthful indiscretions at Lincoln’s Inn, to have shown early promise as a lawyer. During the late 1530s his services were retained by the deputy of Calais, Viscount Lisle, with whom he corresponded. His business letters reveal that Morgan divided his time between his practice in London, his duties at his inn and affairs in his native shire.5

Two constituencies returned Morgan to the Parliament of 1545, the date on the indenture for Gloucester being 6 Jan. and on that for Monmouth Boroughs 14 Jan. Morgan’s preference is not known, but his election at Gloucester was not only the earlier but also the more prestigious of the two. He may already have been the city’s recorder although no reference to his holding the office is known earlier than January 1547. His predecessor, Thomas Lane, who had belonged to the same inn and who may have introduced him to the corporation, died on 2 Dec. 1544 only a month before the parliamentary elections. That Morgan was to be chosen twice more during his recordership creates a strong presumption that he sat for the city in 1545 and that another replaced him for Monmouth Boroughs.6

As a serjeant-at-law Morgan perhaps favoured the bill to reform the law which failed after a debate in the first session of the Parliament of 1547. In the second session (1548-9) he had committed to him the bill for fee-farms of cities and towns. There is more evidence of his activity in the last session (1552): he shared with Robert Broke the scrutiny of a bill for leases; he was ordered by the House to make out a warrant on the complaint of (Sir) Robert Brandling; he was appointed to the committees to examine an action of William Ward I and the return of John Blundell; and on 14 Mar. 1552 the notes made by him and others on the treasons bill were submitted to the House. In the next Parliament a bill for fugitives and outlaws was committed to Morgan, and he was also ordered with Broke to peruse Maidstone’s charter to ascertain whether the town could return Members.7

The choice of two Catholics to advise the House on the Maidstone case is an interesting one. Morgan’s religious position was clear enough. He had been moving in Catholic circles and had become a friend of Princess Mary, in whose private chapel he had heard mass; for this he was arrested and on 24 Mar. 1551 committed to the Fleet, where he remained until the following 4 May when he submitted to the Council and was set free. A local repercussion of his non-conformism was his discharge from the commission for the survey of church ornaments in his own city.8

It was no surprise, therefore, that on Edward VI’s death Morgan rallied to Mary and joined her at Kenninghall; his loyalty was to be rewarded by a chief justiceship, a Privy Councillorship and a knighthood. His legal abilities were used by the new government against the rebels and he was appointed general examiner of all prisoners sent before the Council; he also sat on the commission to hear the appeal of Tunstall, bishop of Durham, against the sentence of deprivation passed under Edward VI. Morgan served on the four-man committee for the hearing and ordering of all those who had any claims at Mary’s coronation. He took part in the trial and condemnation of Lady Jane Grey, and he also attended the burning of Bishop Hooper at Gloucester. As chief justice he had received a writ of assistance to the Parliaments of October 1553 and April 1554, and was among those rewarded for their labours and pains in those Parliaments. In 1554 he became an executor of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk.9

Morgan’s unexplained removal from the bench early in October 1555 was presumably due to incapacity. Holinshed’s story that he was driven mad by remorse at the fate of Jane Grey may be part invention, but it was at about this time that he was detained by his brother John Philip Morgan, a situation scarcely to be explained save in terms of illness. He had made two wills, the first on 18 July 1552, and the second, which bears no date, after he had been made chief justice of common pleas in August 1553. In the earlier will made three months after the passing of the second Act of Uniformity (5 and 6 Edw. VI, c.1) he had asked for the ‘sacraments of the true and Catholic Church to be ministered unto me according to the just and true institutions of the same’, and in both he required a Catholic burial. His goods and chattels were to be divided into three parts, one for his wife, another to be shared equally among his six children, and the last for himself to dispose of as he thought fit. His books were to be divided among his sons, Thomas, John and Polydore. Thomas, his heir, was to receive all his leases of lands in Monmouthshire, including his share of the family home at Skenfrith, while John and Polydore shared the lease of Grosmont, held from the duchy of Lancaster. His London house, in the parish of St. Magnus the Martyr, he left to his wife, with a reversion to Polydore. A ring of fine gold was to be made for his sister-in-law, the wife of John Philip Morgan; according to the first will this was for kindness shown him during an illness. Morgan was buried on 2 June 1556, at his chosen church of St. Magnus the Martyr, London, and a sermon was preached by Dr. Derbyshire.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards

Notes