ROUS, Sir William (by 1471-1538/39), of Dennington, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. by 1471, 1st s. of Henry Rous of Dennington by Agnes, da. of one Denton of Oxon. m. Alice, da. of Sir John Sulyard of Wetherden, Suff., 3s. inc. Anthony and Sir Edmund 2da. suc. fa. 21 Sept. 1492. Kntd. 9 Sept. 1513.1
Commr. subsidy, Suff. 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities 1535; j.p. 1531-d.2
The Crown Office list for the Parliament of 1529 gives Sir Robert Rous as the first Member for Dunwich, but no knight of this name has been traced. Several Robert Rouses were living at that time in East Anglia; one of them, a mercer of Colchester, witnessed to the treason of Abbot Marshall in 1539; another, a prosperous clothier of Nayland who died between 1535 and 1538, was linked by marriage with a group of London merchants; and a third was the Robert Rice (Royse) of Preston, a gentleman of modest means, who for the last seven years before his death in 1544 served on the Suffolk bench. As none of these men was of sufficient standing to take precedence over so well-established a lawyer as Christopher Jenney, it is concluded that the list is in error here and that the Member was Sir William Rous, a Suffolk gentleman who owned property in Dunwich and whose family supplied the borough with one of its representatives through at least five generations.3
The family can be traced back to the early 14th century, when it was already settled at Dennington. Several of its members had been in the service of the Mowbray dukes of Norfolk, whose castle of Framlingham lay only two miles from Dennington, and William Rous may have begun his career under the Mowbrays’ successors in the dukedom, the Howards: his only brother was in Howard service and two, or perhaps all three, of his sons belonged to the 3rd Duke’s household, Anthony becoming his treasurer. If he received a legal education it was probably at Lincoln’s Inn where his father-in-law had been a leading light, but nothing has been discovered about his life before 1513 when he fought at Flodden under Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, and was knighted; a year later he accompanied Princess Mary to France for her marriage to Louis XII. His appointment to the commissions to supervise the collection of the subsidy of 1523 suggests that he may have sat in the Parliament which granted it, as indeed he is likely to have done in one or more of the earlier ones of the century. His election in 1529 anticipated his appointment as a justice of the peace, but his own standing may have sufficed to procure it: if he needed he could have looked in more than one direction, to his old patron, now Duke of Norfolk and a power in the land, to Princess Mary’s second husband the Duke of Suffolk, or perhaps to the locally influential Willoughby family. Of his role in the proceedings of this Parliament nothing is known: his designation to take the oaths of his Suffolk neighbours to the succession, in accordance with the Act of 1534 (25 Hen. VIII, c.22), was no more than a logical consequence of his Membership, and the ‘Mr. Ruse’ whose name appears on the back of the Act for and hemp passed during the previous session was probably not Rous, but Thomas Rush. Rous may have sat for Dunwich again in the Parliament of June 1536, in compliance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members, but if he did it was to be his last spell in the House, for by the time following Parliament met he was almost certainly dead. The date of his death has not been established, as neither will nor inquisition survives, but whereas in the course of 1538 he was appointed to several commissions in Suffolk, by May 1539 his name had been removed from the county bench, and he may thus be thought to have died earlier in that year.4