WILLOUGHBY, Sir William (c.1515-70), of Minting, Lincs. and Parham, Suff.

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. 1515, s. of Sir Christopher Willoughby of Parham by Elizabeth, da. of Sir George Tailboys, de jure 9th Lord Kyme. educ. ?Oxf. BA 1526. m. (1) by 1536, Elizabeth (d. Dec. 1555 or later), da. of Sir Thomas Heneage of Hainton, Lincs., 1s. 1da.; (2) settlement 20 Aug. 1559, Margaret, da. of Robert Garneys of Kenton, Suff., wid. of Walter Devereux (d. 17 Sept. 1558), 1st Viscount Hereford, s.p. suc. fa. July 1538/Oct. 1540. Kntd. ?16 Jan. 1542; cr. Baron Willoughby of Parham 20 Feb. 1547.1

Offices Held

J.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) 1539-47 or later, q. Lincs. (Holland, Kesteven and Lindsey) by 1558/59-d., Suff. 1561-d.; esquire of the body by 1545; commr. musters, Lincs. 1546, chantries, Lincs., Boston and Lincoln 1546, goods of churches and fraternities Calais 1553; ld. lt. Lincs. 1549, 1557-10 Oct. 1558, jt. (with Sir Edward Dymoke and Sir Robert Tyrwhitt II) May 1559; dep. Calais 6 Oct. 1550-Oct. 1552; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of Mar. 1553, Oct. 1553, ?Apr. 1554, Nov. 1554, 1555, 1559, 1563; chief steward in north parts, duchy of Lancaster 22 Aug. 1553-d.2


Sir William Willoughby’s father was a younger brother of William, 11th Lord Willoughby, who died in 1526 leaving no male heir. Lord Willoughby had settled lands worth 300 marks on his brother at the time of Christopher Willoughby’s marriage to Elizabeth Tailboys but had died before the lands were transferred; his widow contested the transaction and the Duke of Suffolk inherited the dispute when he married Lord Willoughby’s daughter Catherine. It was eventually settled by an Act (27 Hen. VIII, c.40) which divided the lands between the claimants.3

Willoughby was almost certainly the William Willoughby who was serving the Duke of Richmond at the time of Richmond’s death in 1536; his uncle Gilbert Tailboys, 1st Lord Tailboys, had married Richmond’s mother Elizabeth Blount. By that time Willoughby himself had probably married Elizabeth Heneage. He seems to have kept an unblemished record during the rebellion of 1536 and three years later he was put on the Lincolnshire bench. This may have coincided both with the death of his father and with his first election to Parliament, for although the names of the knights for Lincolnshire are known— one of them being John Heneage— those for both Grantham and Grimsby are lost. Three years later three out of those four names are again unknown and with them those of the shire, to which Willoughby could already have laid claim; his knighting in that year would have been an appropriate sequel to election. By the close of 1544, when the next Parliament was summoned, he had added to this royal recognition a place in the Household and, in all probability, service in the Boulogne campaign, for which he was called upon to furnish 10 archers and 40 billmen; his fellow-knight was his kinsman by marriage Sir Robert Tyrwhitt I, and his brother-in-law Edmund Hall sat for Grantham.4

Willoughby had no further opportunity to sit in the Commons, for on 20 Feb. 1547 he was one of the four knights raised to the peerage, ostensibly in accordance with the intentions of the late King. The choice of Willoughby may have been a personal one of Henry VIII’s, although it has been suggested that either or both of his relatives the Duchess of Suffolk and Sir Thomas Heneage could have intervened in his favour. That the duchess did so is hardly to be reconciled with her later complaint to Cecil that ‘her barony was gone from her and her heirs’ through her cousin’s elevation, and the suffix ‘of Parham’ may have been meant to distinguish the new creation from the barony of Eresby, which Willoughby himself is said to have requested. Heneage, for his part, could not but have welcomed the honour: with no son of his own, he evidently looked to his son-in-law to maintain the house, as was shown when in 1553 Willoughby secured the reversion of his office of chief steward (northern parts) to the duchy of Lancaster.5

In 1548 Willoughby’s name was put forward by John Brende as one of those qualified to take command of the army in the north, but the Protector Somerset did not act upon the suggestion. Ket’s rebellion in the following year gave him the chance to display his martial skill, and his service with John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, bore fruit in his appointment as deputy of Calais after Warwick had displaced the Protector. His two-year term at Calais was vexed by a quarrel over jurisdiction with Warwick’s brother Andrew Dudley, who was captain of Guisnes, and ended with the recall of both men. Although he signed the instrument settling the crown on Jane Grey his part in the succession crisis is not clear: on Queen Mary’s entry into London he was placed under house arrest, but at the coronation he escorted the Queen to the ceremony and a year later he greeted Philip of Spain at Southampton. For the remaining 16 years of his life he was active in Lincolnshire and Suffolk and he received several letters of thanks from Mary and Elizabeth, although in 1569, the 3rd Earl of Sussex deplored his inability to stop his men from looting after the northern rising.6

Willoughby was exemplary in his attendance in the House of Lords. Even when he obtained leave of absence during the third session of the Parliament of 1547 he attended two thirds of the sittings, and his duties at Calais did not prevent him from attending almost daily during the final session in 1552, when he secured a proviso preserving his rights in the Act (5 and 6 Edw. VI, no. 37) for the Duke of Somerset’s lands. Early in 1555 he introduced a bill into the Lords confirming his title to the Duchess of Suffolk’s inheritance if she died childless. When on 9 Jan. her advisers asked to see the settlement on which Willoughby’s claims rested, he made an appearance in the Commons, protesting that the ‘duchess’s counsel having no warrant ought not to be heard’. The committee of the House charged with scrutinizing the settlement reported that several of the manors included in the bill were not named in the settlement, and when several days later the bill was read for a third time it was defeated by 120 votes to 73. The manor of Orford could have been one of the properties in question; in spite of his uncertain title and signs of hostility towards him in the town, many of the Members returned for Orford until his death evidently enjoyed his support.7

By his will made at Doncaster on 10 Dec. 1569 Willoughby provided for his wife Margaret, daughter Mary and son Charles, and remembered several relatives. He named Mary executrix, or in case of her refusal his ‘cousin’ Christopher Heydon and Christopher Wray, and if they refused his cousin William Fitzwilliam and Anthony Butler. On 21 July 1570 his brother-in-law Edmund Hall told Cecil that Willoughby was ‘very sick and in great peril of life, much desiring to see me and indisposed to perfect his will until I came’. Willoughby died nine days later at Minting and was buried in accordance with his wishes at Parham on 15 Aug.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from marriage of parents in 1512 and from career. CP; Add. 19155, ff. 203 seq.; PCC 25 Martyn; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 632.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvi, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8 to 1569-72 passim; P. T. J. Morgan, ‘The govt. of Calais, 1485-1558’ (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1966), 294; LJ, i. 430, 447, 464, 492, 513, 542, 581; Somerville, Duchy, i. 424; G. S. Thomson, Lds. Lts. 42, 48; M. L. Bush, Govt. Pol. Somerset, 127 n. 1.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, vii; A. Collins, Procs. Precedents and Arguments ... concerning Baronies by Writ (1734), 4.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xix.
  • 5. Elton, Reform and Reformation, 337; Wealth and Power ed. Ives, Knecht and Scarisbrick, 88-90, 96; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, i. 65, 100; APC, ii. 16, 18, 35; CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 320; Collins, 4.
  • 6. Jordan, i. 290, 489, 491; ii. 125; Bush, 87 n. 25, 94, 127 n. 1; APC, iii. passim; iv. 416; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 108; 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 401; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 87, 88, 91, 161, 177, 178; S. T. Bindoff, Ket’s Rebellion 1549 (Hist. Assoc. gen. ser. xii), 6; B. L. Beer, Northumberland, 128-9; CSP For. 1547-53, pp. 111, 357; 1553-8, p. 107; 1558-9, p. 327.
  • 7. HMC Bath, iv. 335-6, 344; M. A. R. Graves, ‘The Tudor House of Lords, 1547-58’ (Otago Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), 363-6; LJ, i. 290, 665; CJ, i. 41.
  • 8. PCC 25 Martyn; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 307; C142/157/122.