REDE, Edward (by 1476-1544), of Norwich, Norf.

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 1476, 3rd s. of John Rede of Norwich by Joan Ludlowe. m. (1) Elizabeth Lyston alias London; (2) a da. of William Stanley, prob. of Beccles, Suff., 3s. 2da.; (3) Isold Woodles (d. 13 Sept. 1523), wid. of Thomas Wemble of Harwich, Essex, 1da.; (4) Anne Cranmer, 1s.1

Offices Held

Common councilman, Norwich 1502-8, keeper of the keys 1503-5, chamberlain’s council 1503, 1506, 1520, 1533-6, chamberlain 1505, alderman 1508-d., sheriff 1508-9, auditor 1513, 1522, 1525-9, 1531, 1534, 1537-9, 1541-3, mayor 1521-2, 1531-2, 1543-4, coroner 1524; commr. subsidy 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, gaol delivery 1515, musters 1539.2


Edward Rede, mercer, was admitted a freeman of Norwich on 3 May 1497, during his father’s mayoralty, and elected to the common council five years later. In the year before his death he served for the third time as mayor and in the intervening 40 years he had filled nearly every office in the city, some of them repeatedly. In 1516 he was threatened with expulsion for his ‘monstrous contumelies’ if he did not submit to the mayor; he evidently did so and in 1519 9 was himself a candidate for the mayoralty. Two years later he achieved the office and found himself responsible for the city’s affairs at a critical point in its dispute with the prior of the cathedral. Between October 1520 and May 1521 he rode four times to London on this business and in 1524 he was one of those who bound the city to submit to Wolsey’s judgment.3

Rede may well have sat in the Parliament of 1523, for which the names of the Norwich Members are lost: when he did so in that of 1529 he was clearly one of the ‘city fathers’. Nothing is known of his part in the proceedings of the Commons, but when after the close of the second session he was again elected mayor he was brought into prominence by the outstanding event of his year of office, the trial and execution for heresy of Thomas Bilney in August 1531. On the following 1 Oct. Rede called some of the aldermen who had been present to a meeting at the council house. He told them that he would shortly be going up to Parliament (which, in the event, was further prorogued until January 1532) and that since he expected to be questioned on the affair he wished to take a true account of it, signed by all and sealed with the city seal. He then read his own version which was approved by everyone except Alderman John Curatt, who complained that Rede had not mentioned Bilney’s reading of a bill of revocation at the stake. On 9 Nov. Curatt testified before the King’s Council as to Bilney’s death and its aftermath, and on 1 Dec. Rede himself admitted that he had seen a bill of revocation drawn up but could not tell if it was the one read by Bilney, whose subsequent words to the people did not agree with it. He had refused to exemplify the bill brought to him after the execution because many had objected that it was not what Bilney said. He had himself drawn up the account which he had handed to the clerk of the Council but there were two other versions by Norwich citizens. On further examination Rede admitted to having been present at Bilney’s trial and said that when Bilney had appealed to the King and charged Rede, as mayor, to take him into custody, he had referred this invocation of the Supreme Headship to the ecclesiastical judge for decision. He further testified that Bilney ad asked for absolution at his execution but did not recall that he had submitted to the Church or revoked his errors. The tenor of Rede’s evidence implies sympathy with the martyr’s views and a determination, clearly shared by some of his fellow citizens, to deprive the Church of the benefit of a recantation. He was doubtless one of those who, as Sir Thomas More admitted, wrote from Norwich that Bilney had not forsworn his opinions and who, when forced to agree with most of the official version, watered it down with their own additions. More, who examined the witnesses, believed Curatt’s story and—although fiercely attacked by Foxe on the matter—was probably right to do so.4

Although Rede’s will shows no sign of religious fervour it is likely that he was anti-clerical, especially after his experience of disputes with the cathedral. He probably supported the