UNDERHILL, Edward (1512-76 or later), of Hunningham and Baginton, Warws. and Limehouse, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. 1512, 1st s. of Thomas Underhill (d. Sept. 1518/June 1520) of Hunningham by Anne, da. of Robert Winter of Huddington, Worcs. m.lic. 17 Nov. 1546, Joan, da. of Thomas Peryns or Speryn of London, wid. of Richard Downes (d.1545) of Greenwich, Kent, 5s. 7da. suc. ?gdfa. 29 Nov. 1518.1

Offices Held

Gent.-at-arms 1544-54, 1558-?d.2


Man-at-arms and ‘hot gospeller’, Edward Underhill achieved earthly immortality by leaving a sparkling account of the most hazardous phase of his career. That he emerged so little damaged was due in no small part to his advantages of birth and connexion. The uncle who in 1527 obtained his wardship was William Underhill, a former clerk of the Commons, and his mother’s father took as his second wife a daughter of Sir George Throckmorton. When Underhill was before the Privy Council he could remind Secretary Bourne that Bourne’s father ‘was beholden unto my uncle Winter’; his cousin Gilbert Winter was a gentleman usher to Princess Elizabeth; and he owed his release from Newgate to another cousin, John Throckmorton I.3

Gravitating to the court, Underhill at first led a dissolute life as one of the gambling set which included Sir Ralph Bagnall; this probably explains the sale of much of his inheritance, although he denied Bourne’s accusation to that effect, ascribing his impoverishment to the cost of his service with the crown. He was not, as he himelf claimed, one of the original band of gentlemen pensioners formed in 1540, nor did he ever achieve that prestigious status; he was one of the gentlemen-at-arms added to the corps during the French war. It was on the recommendation of (Sir) Richard Cromwell alias Williams*, with whom he served in 1543, that in the following year Underhill joined the King’s personal troop and took part in the Boulogne campaign. He was to return to that town in 1549, when he was comptroller of ordnance in the 2nd Earl of Huntingdon’s expedition for its relief.4

Underhill’s description of his lute-playing for Huntingdon at Calais, interspersed with religious argumentation with the earl’s brother Sir Edward Hastings, shows that he was by then imbued with both the radical views and the proselytizing zeal for which he became notorious. ‘Even in King Edward’s time’, he was afterwards to write, ‘I became odious unto most men, and many times in danger of my life amongst them’, but until 1553 not only was the religious tide with him but he had powerful protectors from the Duke of Northumberland downwards. Among these were Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, and his son Francis, Lord Russell, whom, from his home at Limehouse, Underhill had helped to save from drowning in the Thames. It was without doubt the Russells who procured Underhill a seat for Tavistock in the Parliament of March 1553, although the fact that Sir Edward Rogers, who preceded him there, had been his commanding officer in 1544 must also have told in his favour. Regrettably, Underhill has nothing to say of his brief Membership of the Commons, in which it is hard to believe that he held his tongue.

Underhill stood close to Northumberland—the Earl of Arundel said that he was ‘always tutting’ in the duke’s ear—and it was during her brief reign that Jane Grey was one of the godparents of his ne