THROCKMORTON, John I (by 1524-80), of Feckenham, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. by 1524, 7th s. of Sir George Throckmorton, and bro. of Anthony†, Clement, George, Kenelm, Nicholas and Robert. educ. M. Temple. m. Margaret, da. of Robert Puttenham of Sherfield-upon-Loddon, Hants, wid. of one Dockwray, at least 4s. 2da. Kntd. 1565.2
Attorney, council in the marches of Wales 1550-4, member of council 1558-d., v.-pres. 1565-9; steward, manor of Feckenham 1552-d.; under steward of Westminster 1557-d.; master of requests 1553-9; recorder, Coventry 1553-d., Worcester 1559-d., Ludlow, Shrewsbury by 1560; j.p.q. Warws. 1554-79 or later, Welsh and marcher counties 1558/59-79 or later;justice of Chester, Denb. and Mont. 1558-79, of Denb. 1566; commr. eccles. causes, diocese of Chester 1562, piracy, Cheshire 1565.3
John Throckmorton’s mother was an aunt by marriage to Queen Catherine Parr, and several of his brothers, especially Nicholas Throckmorton, were to be involved in affairs of state: thus although he had little material expectation from his father he was not without prospects. He pursued them by going to court, where he may for a time have held a position in Catherine Parr’s household. He also received training at the Middle Temple which was to help him in his official career. When he came to marry, his bride supplied a link with the Grey family, powerful in Leicestershire.4
Any or all of these connexions may have helped to procure Throckmorton’s return to Parliament in 1545. (He had possibly sat for Leicester in 1542, an election for which the name of the second Member is missing.) To judge from the number of her dependants elected, the Queen was an active patron in 1545 and her support of Throckmorton may have been decisive; his youth would have been offset by the economy arising from his London domicile—there is no evidence that either he or his fellow-Member was paid. It was to prove, however, the only occasion on which he sat for Leicester. In the first Parliament of Edward VI he sat for Camelford and in the second for Warwick. At Camelford the Queen’s influence, now shared by her fourth husband Admiral Seymour, was probably again wielded on his behalf, but this support disappeared with their deaths and at Warwick in March 1553 it is to the Throckmorton interest that attention first turns: two of John Throckmorton’s brothers had sat for the borough in the three previous Parliaments and one of them was returned with him on this occasion. Yet his Membership of this Parliament, designed to buttress the Duke of Northumberland’s regime, and for a borough located within the ‘heartland’ of the duke’s territories, raises the question of John Throckmorton’s attitude towards Northumberland and what the duke stood for.
It seems clear that Throckmorton prospered during Northumberland’s years of power, as indeed is implied by his continuing association with Northumberland’s leading supporters, among them his own cousin the Marquess of Northampton: as well as engaging in land transactions with Northumberland, Throckmorton received his first public appointment, as attorney to the council in the marches of Wales. What his role was during the succession crisis would be simply a matter for speculation but for the testimony of two men. Both Sir William Cecil, in his own justification of his behaviour during the crisis, and his servant Roger Alford, in a later report based upon conversations with Cecil, describe Cecil’s refusal to draft the proclamation of Queen Jane, a task which was therefore passed to John Throckmorton, ‘whose conscience’, Cecil himself added ‘I saw was troubled therewith, misliking the matter’. Apart from the anachronism of Throckmorton’s being called master of requests, an appointment which he received only from Queen Mary, there is nothing intrinsically improbable about the episode. If Throckmorton discharged the unwelcome and fruitless task, he must have exculpated himself even more completely than Cecil managed to do. He appears, indeed, to have joined Mary while she was still at Framlingham, a gesture for which he was granted an annuity. This was followed by the mastership of requests in exchange for his surrender of his post with the council in the marches.5
It was not only the memories of 1553 which Throckmorton had to rise above, it was the hazardous doings of kinsmen and friends and the treason of a namesake. As early as August 1553 he interceded with the Queen for the release of Edward Underhill, with whom he had sat in the Parliament of the previous March; six months later his brother Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was arrested for complicity in Wyatt’s rebellion and only escaped conviction by magnificent self-defence at his trial; and in the spring of 1556 John Throckmorton II (with whom he has sometimes been ludicrously confused) was executed for his part in the Dudley conspiracy. None of this appears to have shaken Throckmorton’s position or diminished his activity. As master of requests he had much business referred to him by the Privy Council, including the examination of conspirators; the recordership of both Coventry, where he was expected to reside for part of the year, and Worcester added to the burden; and in 1557 he also heard pleas in the Marshalsea during a vacancy in the stewardship of the Household. It is not surprising that when nominated Autumn reader by the Middle Temple in 1558 he preferred to pay a substantial fine; he could doubtless well afford to do so, especially after the Queen had granted him the manor of Feckenham in fee-farm and had leased him that of Redfern, Warwickshire, valued between them at over £150 a year.6
Throckmorton was returned to four out of the five Marian Parliaments: there is no obvious explanation of his absence from the second, when following his appointment as recorder of Coventry he might have been expected to have sat for that city, as he would do regularly from November 1554. His first Marian appearance, however, had been for Old Sarum, where his fellow-Member was his Protestant brother Sir Nicholas Throckmorton: the brothers presumably owed the nomination to their kinsman William Herbert I, 1st Earl of Pembroke. It appears that John Throckmorton had also been returned to this Parliament for Scarborough but had chosen Old Sarum and been replaced at Scarborough by Sir John Tregonwell; both Tregonwell, who was a master in Chancery, and Throckmorton are likely to have enjoyed government support.7
There are some glimpses of Throckmorton’s part in the business of the House. The first of these, which promises to be the most interesting, is also unfortunately the most puzzling. It is the note set against his name, in the Crown Office list of Members of the Parliament of October 1553, that he voted ‘with the last act and against the first’; since the names marked on this list (including Throckmorton’s) are those of Members who ‘stood for the true religion’, the inference is that he displayed some opposition to the new government’s religious policy. Such an attitude would be difficult to reconcile, however, with his official standing and favour (even though his brother and fellow-member Sir Nicholas was certainly one of the opponents of the policy), and it is possible that the note was intended to apply to his namesake, who appears almost immediately after him in the list and whose tragic career it could well have foreshadowed. This conundrum apart, the evidence of Throckmorton’s parliamentary activity is of a matter-of-fact kind: not surprisingly the list of Members who opposed a government bill in the Parliament of 1555 omits his name, and his nomination on 4 Dec. 1555, during its critical closing days, to carry bills from the Commons to the Lords bespeaks his attachment to the government’s side. In the Parliament of 1558 he was one of four prominent Members deputed to investigate the legal basis of the Westminster sanctuary.8
One of the witnesses of Queen Mary’s will, Throckmorton at first adapted himself without apparent difficulty to the changes which followed her death. From about 1570, however, his fortunes declined by reason of his own shortcomings as a lawyer and administrator and the recusancy of his family, and in 1579 he was heavily fined in the Star Chamber, and for a time kept in the Fleet, for giving a judgment in favour of a relation. He died within a few months of this disgrace. His will reveals heavy indebtedness which made his hoped-for provision for his daughter and younger sons a speculative matter. Four years later came the even worse disaster of his heir’s execution for treason.