STOURTON, Sir William (by 1505-48), of Stourton, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. by 1505, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Edward Stourton, 6th Baron Stourton, by Agnes, da. of John Fauntleroy of Marsh, nr. Sherborne, Dorset; bro. of Roger. m. by 1524, Elizabeth, da. of Edmund Dudley of Atherington, Suss., 7s. inc. William and Arthur 2da.; 1da illegit. Kntd. 1 Nov. 1523; suc. fa. as 7th Baron Stourton 13 Dec. 1535.2
Servant of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk by 1520; j.p. Dorset 1528-d., Som., Wilts. 1529-d.; commr. benevolence, Som., Wilts. 1544/45, musters Wilts. 1546; lt. army in Scotland Oct. 1545; dep. Newhaven (Ambleteuse) June 1546-d.3
William Stourton began his career in the household of the Duke of Suffolk and his wife, ‘the French Queen’. In 1523 he went with Suffolk’s army to France and was knighted at Roye. When in 1524 his father succeeded as 6th Baron Stourton, he became heir to estates in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. Made a justice in these three counties in 1528-9, in the autumn of 1529 he was a natural choice as one of the knights of the shire for Somerset. His Membership was, however, to prove a heavy commitment, and on 31 Dec. 1531 he wrote to Cromwell asking that both his father, an aged and feeble man, and he should be excused attendance at the third session. Four years later he succeeded to the barony and took his seat in the Lords for the last session of this protracted Parliament. Whether he was replaced in the Commons is not known.4
Beyond leading 200 men against the northern rebels in 1536, bearing the towel at the christening of Prince Edward and giving regular attendance in the Lords, he is not known to have taken much part in public affairs during the late 1530s and 40s. He was probably a conservative in religion, for he was a friend of Viscount Lisle and in July 1539 he wrote in favour of the abbot of Glastonbury before his execution. He seems to have been foremost a soldier. On the outbreak of the war with Scotland in 1544 he joined the Earl of Hertford with the Wiltshire levies and fought in the Border campaigns of that and the following year. Commended for his good service by the commander, in 1546 he followed Hertford to France, where he was soon appointed deputy of Newhaven. His letters reflect his diligence and thoughtfulness in this office, which he was still holding when he died there on 16 Sept. 1548.5
The Stourtons were not among the wealthiest or most powerful of noble families but they loomed large in their own country. Between 1541 and 1545 the 7th Baron made large purchases of lands in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire, for which he paid some £4,500 to the crown and the 3rd Lord Ferrers. He was not on good terms with either his wife or his eldest son, whom in 1539 he angrily described to Cromwell as a ‘false hypocrite’ and worthy of the King’s Bench or Marshalsea, a verdict which fell short of the 8th Baron’s eventual fate. By his will of 8 Sept. 1548 he left nothing to his wife or to his younger sons, and little to his eldest, whom none the less he named executor. The greater part of his goods and household stuff he bequeathed to his mistress Agnes Rice, daughter of Catherine, Lady Bridgewater, by her first husband: Agnes, who bore him a daughter, claimed that a legal marriage had taken place between them, even though Stourton’s wife was living, but this was rejected in several legal actions and the will itself was quashed by probate act of 1548. Administration of his father’s goods was then granted to Charles, the new Baron Stourton.