MUSGRAVE, Sir William (by 1506-44), of Hartley, Westmld.; Edenhall, Cumb. and London.

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 1506, 1st s. of Sir Edward Musgrave of Hartley and Edenhall by Jane, da. and coh. of Sir Christopher Ward of Grindale, Yorks. m. (1) by 1524, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Curwen of Workington, Cumb., 1s. Richard; (2) Elizabeth, da. and h. of Philip Denkaring, wid. of Thomas Tamworth (d. Jan. 1533) of Essex and Lincs.; ?(3) 1540, a da. of Thomas, 3rd Lord Burgh. Kntd. 25 Sept. 1523; suc. fa. 23 May 1542.1

Offices Held

Under sheriff, Cumb. 1527-8; sheriff 1532-3, 1541-2; knight of the body by 1529; marshal, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 18 Dec. 1529; j.p. Cumb. 1530-d.; constable or keeper, Bewcastle, Cumb. and chief forester, Nichol forest 29 Apr. 1531; assistant in west marches to dep. warden of marches 1537.2


The Musgraves had lived at Musgrave itself until their acquisition of Hartley in the reign of Edward III. As a Westmorland family, they were tenants and followers of the Cliffords, but in the latter half of the 15th century the marriage of Thomas Musgrave to the heiress of the Stapletons of Edenhall brought them into Cumberland, where the Cliffords were less powerful than the Dacres. Although their Cumberland estates were mostly held of the crown in chief, it may have been to avoid the prospect of their passing out of Clifford sphere of influence that, in the next generation, Sir Richard Musgrave was married to Joan, daughter of Thomas, 8th Lord Clifford.3

Although the son of this marriage, Sir Edward Musgrave, remained a Dacre man, his son William strongly opposed the Dacres and while looking to the crown for advancement was, in border terms, a Clifford supporter. His election in 1529, while still a young man, as knight of the shire for Westmorland must be ascribed to the patronage of Henry Clifford, 1st Earl of Cumberland; the earl was hereditary sheriff of that county and Musgrave’s fellow-knight, Blenkinsop, was one of his servants. In the course of the Parliament the two were to forge their own alliance, Blenkinsop’s son marrying Musgrave’s sister. Both were probably returned to the Parliament of June 1536, in accordance with the King’s general request for the re-election of the previous Members, and may have been again to that of 1539, for which the names of knights of the shire for Westmorland are unknown. That Musgrave had needed the earl’s help in obtaining the knighthood of the shire is borne out by the fact that, although his dubbing at Jedburgh in 1523 was a memento of his military service, his only civilian employment had been as under sheriff of Cumberland during his father’s year as sheriff. This was the time of his first known clash with the Dacres. Put in charge of one Richie Grahame, who had been accused of warning the Scots of a projected Dacre raid (in which Musgrave was to have taken part), he had allowed his charge considerable freedom and Grahame had escaped: the Dacres accused him of negligence, but could not make the charge stick.4

On 18 Dec. 1529, the morrow of the close of the first session of the Parliament, Musgrave was appointed marshal of Berwick, being described in the grant as a knight of the body; 11 months later he was granted an annuity of 20 marks out of Penrith mills, Cumberland, during his father’s lifetime, and in April 1531 he was made constable of Bewcastle, with a further annuity of £20. This last appointment provoked fresh trouble with the Dacres, as the office was one which William, 3rd Lord Dacre had wanted for himself, and during the next three years disputes became endemic. Then in 1534 Musgrave struck at the Dacre power in the west marches. He accused Lord Dacre and Sir Christopher Dacre of conspiring with the Scots both against the realm and against himself: Lord Dacre, he claimed, had ‘sought traitorously to deceive the King, and machinated to the extent that Sir Will Musgrave, constable of Bow Castle, or Both Castle, and all his tenants might be slain by the Scots, and their house and chattels destroyed’. That Musgrave had acted with the approval, if not indeed at the behest, of the government is shown both by the make-up of the commission which considered the charges and by his own letter of 12 June to Cromwell. ‘This service to the King’, he wrote, ‘will, however, be chargeable to me, and you and I shall especially bear the blame in this matter touching the Lord Dacre and Sir Christopher his uncle. Therefore stand stiffly upon it, that I may have your aid’; he closed on a personal note, asking Cromwell to be good to his mother-in-law, ‘for she has been good to me in setting me forth for the King’s service’. Personal enmity apart, Musgrave was undoubtedly encouraged to attack the Dacres by his relationship with the court and government and by his alliance, through his Curwen marriage, with that group of border gentry, led by (Sir) Thomas Wharton I, who were challenging the dominance of the magnates, whether Clifford, Dacre or Percy. Musgrave’s son Richard would later introduce a bill to deprive the Cliffords of their hereditary shrievalty of Westmorland, but he himself was able to reconcile his loyalties, to the crown and to the Cliffords.5

Unfortunately for Musgrave, Lord Dacre was acquitted, and the next surviving letter to Cromwell was a recital of his troubles, especially monetary ones. He asked the minister to remind the 3rd Duke of Norfolk of the 100 marks a year which his father Sir Edward had promised to give him at the time of his knighting by Norfolk (then Earl of Surrey), and added, ‘Hitherto I have had only 40 marks of my feoffment’. Norfolk, he knew, ‘does not favour me for the Lord Dacre’s matter ...’ and had ‘desired me to marry my son to the Lord Dacre’s daughter, for if I did not it would ruin me’. During the Pilgrimage of Grace some of the Dacre following seem to have staged a brief rising solely to attack Musgrave, who with John Musgrave, his deputy at Bewcastle, had refused to take the insurgents’ oath. Musgrave then went to help Lord Clifford defend Carlisle but the rebels optimistically named both him and Wharton among their deputies for the York conference. At one point Musgrave was with Cumberland at Skipton, having apparently by then taken the rebel oath in order to move about more freely. In January 1537 Cumberland sent his son Clifford to the King in company with Musgrave and Wharton, while Sir John Neville I, 3rd Lord Latimer, a brother-in-law of Musgrave’s, sought his help to clear himself of suspicion. Although Musgrave should have had little to fear from his own reception, he was so ‘pensive’ on his return to his London house in St. Botolph’s without Aldersgate that his wife feared he had ‘fallen in displeasure’. In this she was proved wrong, for after he had sat on a Carlisle jury to try some of the rebels, the border reshuffle of 1537 saw Musgrave made Wharton’s assistant in the west marches at a salary of £10 a year.6

Elizabeth Musgrave seems to have been nearer the mark in her view that after his stand against the rebels her husband could never again live in Westmorland. In July 1537 Norfolk reported to Cromwell that Bewcastle was not properly held as Musgrave ‘who has the rule lives in London’ (where he had been admitted to the freedom of the City at the request of Cromwell on 19 Jan. 1535) and his deputy ‘Jack of Musgrave’ was an unsuitable commander. Old enmities may have been at work here, although the fact that the duke recommended Wharton, another opponent of the Dacres, for the place suggests that he meant what he said: unlike Wharton, Musgrave was not a dedicated borderer. Norfolk repeated his criticism a month later when there was further trouble at Bewcastle, this time with both Musgrave and his deputy absent in London: the duke’s comment that Wharton was one ‘whom the Musgraves love not’ is a surprising one unless it refers to Sir Edward Musgrave’s quarrel with the Whartons. Musgrave himself remained at loggerheads with the Dacres: in April 1539 Lord Dacre told Cromwell that he was sending up Sir Christopher Dacre in the hope that a settlement could be reached while Cumberland and Musgrave were both in London, Cumberland presumably for the Parliament which opened on 28 Apr. and which Musgrave may also have attended.7

Musgrave could certainly have done with the financial protection which Membership afforded. In March 1540 he was writing about his parlous state to Cromwell, who had had an inventory taken of Musgrave’s goods at Putney: pointing to his service against Dacre and during the rebellion he observed tartly, ‘Others of that country have been advanced for less’. His second wife’s death had made matters worse, and both Cromwell and, less directly, Archbishop Cranmer, a kinsman of the Tamworths, got involved in them. One possible solution, another marriage, Musgrave certainly contemplated and may have tried: one of the grounds on which Thomas 3rd Lord Burgh asked Cromwell on 30 Mar. 1540 to be excused attendance at Parliament was that he was busy with the marriage of his daughter to Musgrave, although there seems to be no certainty that the marriage took place. Several years earlier, Musgrave’s brother-in-law Latimer had taken as his third wife the widow of Sir Edward Burgh and a future Queen, Catherine Parr: this marriage may have contributed to an easing of border tensions, for in 1537 it was recorded in instructions given to Sir Anthony Browne that the King had reconciled Lord Clifford and Musgrave on the one part, and Lord Dacre and the Parrs on the other.8

In 1542 Musgrave fought at Solway Moss. In the following year he was ordered overseas with 100 borderers and in April 1544 the forces under his and Thomas Dacre’s command were given as 200 out of the west marches, but as Wharton noted a month later that Musgrave was not owed any conduct money ‘because he is attendant in court’ he may not have served overseas. His father had died two years before and on 1 July 1544 he had livery of his landed inheritance; he was to enjoy it for less than four months, his own death following on 18 Oct. 1544. No will has been discovered but the wardship of his son Richard was granted to Wharton.9

Musgrave has been numbered among the borderers who ‘were given opportunities not unlike those offered Wharton, but shied away from the hard duties which rule in the marches involved’. Yet alongside any such personal shortcoming must be set his lifelong wait for his inheritance from a father whom he came to oppose even while remaining dependent on him: if like Wharton he had both come early into his patrimony and been liberally endowed by his noble patron he might have made more of a name for himself in border history.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa’s i.p.m., C142/69/148. Vis. Westmld. ed. Bridges, 9; Vis. N. Counties (Surtees Soc. xli), 53; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 947-8; J. F. Curwen, House of Curwen, 102, 112.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v, xi, xii, xvi.
  • 3. Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 593-4; Fleming-Senhouse Pprs. (Cumb. rec. ser. ii), 20; CIPM Hen. VII, i. 693, 695; Northern Hist. i. 44, 50, 51; M. E. James, Change and Continuity in Tudor North (Borthwick Pprs. xxvii), passim.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 5. Ibid. iv, vii; St.Ch.2/19/27.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, vii, viii, xi, xii; James, 25.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiv; City of London RO, Guildhall, jnl. 13, f. 435.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xii-xv; CPR, 1549-51, p. 195.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, xvii-xix, xxi; HMC Hatfield, i. 28; C142/73/16.
  • 10. James, 30.