STAPLETON, William (c.1495-1544), of Wighill, Yorks. 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. c.1495, 5th s. of Sir Brian Stapleton of Wighill by Jane, da. of Sir Lancelot Threlkeld of Threlkeld, Cumb. m. Margaret, at least 1s.1

Offices Held

Feodary, lands in Yorks. of Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland 1533.2


William Stapleton was a lawyer, but where he trained for the profession is not known: his distant cousin Anthony Stapleton was to attain prominence at the Inner Temple and his nephew Brian Stapleton entered Gray’s Inn. In 1533 he was appointed attorney, at a fee of £10, to the 5th Earl of Northumberland and later in the same year he became the earl’s feodary in Yorkshire, but his career was also influenced by his kinship with Thomas Wharton I, who married his sister by 1518: in August 1531 Wharton sought Cromwell’s goodwill in certain causes which Stapleton would lay before him. It was as ‘Master Stapleton of London, brother-in-law to Sir Thomas Wharton’ that Stapleton provided John Leland with information about the north. His relationship to Wharton doubtless told in Stapleton’s favour when he appeared before the council at York after his involvement in the northern rebellion of 1536. On his own confession he had been forced by a rebel multitude at Beverley, Yorkshire, where he was visiting his bedridden brother Christopher, to become their captain and as such to join Robert Aske and to preside over the siege of Hull, returning to Wighill when the King’s conciliatory attitude led Aske to disband his forces. In his defence he maintained that he had acted under duress, had saved property by preserving discipline and had tried to aid Wharton to escape danger in Westmorland by procuring him a safe-conduct into Yorkshire, of which, however, Wharton made no use. (How far his conduct had reflected his brother Christopher’s marriage-connexion with Aske is a matter of conjecture.) Stapleton’s explanation was accepted and he was to benefit by Wharton’s speedy advancement. In the winter of 1537-8 he persuaded Cromwell to accept the claim of his nephew Robert Stapleton, whose father Christopher had succumbed to his illness, to be of age and to receive livery of the inheritance. Wharton may have procured Stapleton’s return for Carlisle to the Parliament of 1539, the names of the Members being lost, and must certainly have done so at the next election held after he had become governor of the town. On this occasion Wharton and his son were themselves probably returned for Cumberland, and Stapleton’s election would have been convenient alike to his brother-in-law, himself and the town, which was presumably not called upon to reimburse Stapleton, a practicing lawyer, for his residence in London.3

Stapleton barely saw out the Parliament, for it was as a sick man that he made his will on 30 Mar. 1544, two days after it ended, and he was dead by the following 7 May, when the will was proved. He besought ‘the holy Church to p/ray for me as God hath appointed it after the manner as it is set forth by the King’s book to God’s glory’, left his son (still a minor) one third of his goods and the rest to his wife Margaret, and asked his ‘very good lord my lord Wharton’ (who had been elevated a few weeks earlier) and his ‘cousin’ Thomas Wharton II to join with his nephew Robert Stapleton in caring for them. One of the witnesses, John Stokes, may have been the groom of the chamber of that name and perhaps the Member for Westbury in 1547.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from that of eldest brother Christopher (b.c.1485). Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. ed. Clay, i. 170-1.
  • 2. M. E. James, Change and Continuity in Tudor North (Borthwick Pprs. xxvii), 13 and n; R. B. Smith, Land and Politics, 141.
  • 3. James, 13n; LP Hen. VIII, v, viii, ix, xi-xiii; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, v. 2; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. passim; Trans. E. Yorks. Antiq. Soc. x. 80-106; H. E. Chetwynd-Stapleton, Chron. Yorks. Fam. of Stapleton, 24-27; Smith, 182-3.
  • 4. PCC 6 Pynnyng.