MORISON, Richard (by 1514-56), of London and Cassiobury, Herts.

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 1514, s. of Thomas Morison of Herts. by da. of Thomas Merry of Hatfield, Herts. educ. Cardinal, Oxf. BA 1528. m. lic. 13 Nov. 1546, Bridget, da. of Sir John Hussey, Lord Hussey, 1s. Sir Charles 2da.; 1 or 2s. illegit., 2 or 3 da. illegit. by Lucy, da. of Thomas Peckham, w. of George Harper of Sutton Valence, Kent and London. Kntd. by 27 July 1550.3

Offices Held

Gent. of the privy chamber 1539; collector, petty customs London 26 Nov. 1545-50; ambassador to Denmark and the Hanse towns 1546-7, to the Emperor 1550-3; j.p. Mdx. 1547; commr. chantries London, Mdx., Westminster 1548, visit Winchester Coll., Oxf. Univ. 1548, relief Mdx. 1550; King’s Councillor 1550.4


Richard Morison’s career began under the aegis of Cardinal Wolsey, as a petty canon at his foundation at Oxford. On graduation Morison left Wolsey’s service to visit Latimer at Cambridge; this break was probably meant only to be temporary as he returned to Oxford in 1529 to complete his degree by ‘determining’, but Wolsey’s fall made it permanent and left Morison’s prospects bleak. He may then have gone with others from Cardinal College to Paris to live in the household of Wolsey’s son, Thomas Winter, but soon he moved to Italy where he lived for several years, learning Italian and studying the Greek classics. Although he had a pension from Winter and was helped by Reginald Pole, these were poverty-stricken times for Morison and in 1533 he sought aid at home, applying to Cranmer for assistance. Apparently nothing came of this and in the following year Morison wrote to Cromwell pointing out the lasting fame to be won by the liberal support of learning. He followed this up with a series of appeals to his friend Thomas Starkey and a reminder to Cromwell that Wolsey, had he been living, would not have allowed him to remain in such mean circumstances; at last Cromwell invited him into his household and in May 1536 Morison set off for England.5

Morison had offered to stock a library with books in return for Cromwell’s help and his first tasks were to write an answer to John Cochlaeus’s attack on Bishop Sampson for defending the royal supremacy and to make an abstract of Pole’s treatise on the divorce— ‘Mr. Traitor Pole’s book’ as Morison described it, probably anxious to dissociate himself from his former benefactor. In the autumn of 1536 attention was diverted to rebellion in England, and Morison in quick succession wrote two tracts, A Lamentation in whiche is shewed what Ruyne and destruction cometh of seditious rebellyon and A Remedy for Sedition, both in print before the end of the year. Although the author’s name did not appear on either, they were a personal triumph for Morison, and established his reputation as a government propagandist. During the next three years he wrote a discourse on the commonwealth and a treatise on the seven sacraments, drafted a statement of English views on a general council, published his answer to Cochlaeus under the title Apomaxis and a translation of the Epistle of Sturmius and, after the execution of the Marquess of Exeter, justified the King’s action in An Invective against the great and detestable vice, treason printed by Thomas Berthelet, the royal printer, early in 1539.6

Morison’s talents were also employed in the House of Commons. Cromwell, preparing a ‘tractable’ Parliament in 1539, told Henry VIII that he had nominated Morison for election, probably for a borough. Before the Parliament met in April Morison completed An Exhortation to styrre all Englyshemen to the defence of theyr countreye, and during the session (his draft amended by Cromwell) he urged a generous grant of money to save England from the enemies of God and the King. A fortnight before it opened he became a gentleman of the privy chamber; he had earlier been embarrassed by the receipt of congratulatory letters following a premature rumour of this appointment. He attended the reception of Anne of Cleves at Calais and Blackheath. But the new marriage and the German alliance it was supposed to cement proved the downfall of its devisor, Cromwell, and Morison was once again left without a patron.7

Now, however, Morison was better able to surmount the crisis. The demand for his services as a propagandist ceased, but he was a royal servant and on his way to becoming a wealthy man. In April 1540 he had been granted houses and lands in London; in May 1540, as master of the hospitals of St. James, Northallerton, Yorkshire, and St. Wulfstan, Worcester, he surrendered these houses to the crown, receiving them back into his private possession in the following month; in March 1541 he was granted property within the precinct of the White Friars in Fleet Street which became his London residence, and in August 1545, besides other lands, the lordship of Cassiobury, Hertfordshire, which he made his home. Some of his new possessions he resold, including part of the priory of St. Mary without Bishopsgate to his friend, John Hales. In September 1546 he was licensed to alienate the manor of Snitterfield, Warwickshire, to Hales, who was to return it to him for one month, with remainder thereafter to Lucy Harper and her children: in this way Morison provided (a few weeks before his marriage to Bridget Hussey) for his illegitimate son, known as Marcellus Harper, another son, presumably his, two daughters, and their mother, the wife of George Harper.8

Government policy veered once more towards the Protestant alliance and in the winter of 1546 Morison, who had entertained several foreign envoys earlier in the decade, was sent on embassy to the King of Denmark and the Hanse towns. His credentials were renewed after the death of Henry VIII but by February 1547 he was on his way home, his mission accomplished. The accession of Edward VI saw the blossoming of his career as a trusted agent of the crown. He was chosen once more for Parliament (he had possibly served in the last two Parliaments of Henry VIII’s reign), his election at Wareham being in all likelihood requested by the Privy Council on Paget’s recommendation. Nothing is known of Morison’s contribution to the affairs of the House during the first three sessions of this Parliament, and he was absent abroad during its fourth and final session: on the list of Members in use during 1552 his name was initially struck through and marked ‘extra Regnum’ although it was subsequently allowed to remain and superscribed ‘stet’. In 1550 he had replaced Sir Philip Hoby as ambassador to Charles V: shortly before his departure in the autumn he was referred to as the King’s Councillor, although he never attended a Privy Council meeting: during the summer, maybe in anticipation of his ambassadorial appointment, he was knighted. Although his religious views were not well received at the imperial court (the Emperor came to think him an apostle, a doctor, a preacher, rather than an ambassador) Morison continued in his post until after the death of Edward, but an injudicious reference to Guildford Dudley as King led to his recall by Mary.9

Morison arrived home and on 3 Sept. at Richmond had an audience of the Queen, apparently amicable. On 29 Oct. 1553 he sued out the general pardon customarily offered at the start of a new reign. By May 1554 he was back on the Continent, this time as a refugee at Strasbourg; at first undecided, he made up his mind eventually to spend his ‘voluntary exile’ there, and on 7 Sept. 1555 he applied to the city council for a temporary residence permit, which was granted. Morison died at Strasbourg on 20 Mar. 1556, leaving a young son, Charles, as his heir. He had made his will on 22 Sept. 1550, ‘intending to pass over the seas in the King’s my master’s service’, leaving the statutory third of his inheritance to the crown during the minority of the heir, and asking that the wardship might go to Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk. To his wife he left Cassiobury and all his property in London for life, with remainder in turn to their son Charles and Morison’s illegitimate children; she and John Hales were to be the executors and the Duchess of Suffolk overseer of the will. In a codicil, added on 15 Mar. 1556 and witnessed by (Sir) John Cheke and (Sir) Thomas Wroth, Morison declared the ‘zeal, love and affection which he bare to his wellbeloved wife’ and emphasized that he gave her all his movable goods unconditionally, ‘saying that he had liever she should frustrate his expectation or deceive him after his death than that he would seem to distrust her in his life’. His widow had returned to England by May 1559 and married successively Henry, 2nd Earl of Rutland, and Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Merriman, Letters Thomas Cromwell, ii. 298; LP Hen. VIII, xiv(1), 869.
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from education. Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 238; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 405; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 8; PCC 28 Wrastley; London IPMs (Brit. Rec. Soc. xv), 195-6; APC, iii. 94.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 86; 1548-9, pp. 137, 251; 1550-3, pp. 156, 196; APC, ii. 23-24; iii. 94; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 175.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, vi, vii, ix-xi, xiii; W. G. Zeeveld, Foundations of Tudor Policy, 44-45, 72, 94-95; Elton, Reform and Renewal, 25, 55-58;
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, x-xiv; Zeeveld, 174-5, 179; Elton, 58-59; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 304-8, 530-1.
  • 7. Merriman, ii. 298; Zeeveld, 230-1; Elton, 59, 68, 159; LP Hen. VIII, xiii-xv.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xiv-xvi, xviii, xx; PCC 28 Wrastley; London IPMs, 195-6.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; APC, ii. 23-24; iii. 45; 94; CSP For. 1547-53, pp. 2, 5, 216; Hatfield 207; CPR, 1550-3, p. 196; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary, 108, 175.
  • 10. Cam. Misc. x(2), 96; CPR, 1549-51, p. 207; 1553-4, p. 454; 1558-60, p. 246; Strype, Cranmer, i. 477; Orig. Letters Ref. (Parker Soc.), 148-50; C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 366; C142/110/170, 118/165; PCC 28 Wrastley.