WOTTON, William (by 1532-56), of London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1532, 2nd s. of Sir Edward Wotton of Boughton Place, Boughton Malherbe, Kent, and bro. of Thomas. educ. L. Inn, adm. 17 Dec. 1547. m. Mary, da. of Sir John Dannett of Merstham, Surr., prob. s.p.1
William Wotton received only £20 a year under his father’s will in 1551, and that on condition of his renouncing any claim to the family lands, which the reform of gavelkind in 1539 (31 Hen. VIII, c.3) had enabled his father to preserve from division. Unlike his elder brother’s, Wotton’s admission to Lincoln’s Inn was thus doubtless seen as the prelude to a career in law or government and his youthful entry to the Commons as a step in his progress. The opportunity was—or appeared to be—presented by the enfranchisement of Maidstone. The borough had been incorporated in July 1549, and although the charter then granted made no mention of its parliamentary representation Maidstone elected and the sheriff returned two Members to the Parliament of March 1553. The initiative could have come from the town itself, in the belief that it was entitled to them, from the sheriff Sir John Guildford or someone close to the Duke of Northumberland, or even from Northumberland himself, and any one of these could have nominated Wotton to one of the seats, Maidstone because of his local standing, Guildford by reason of a marriage connexion, and Northumberland in recognition of the support he had received from Wotton’s father; Wotton was also related to Jane Grey through an aunt who had married the 2nd Marquess of Dorset. The fact that the second Member John Salveyn belonged to Lincoln’s Inn but lacked any known connexion with Kent suggests that he was brought in under Wotton’s wing.2
The election did not go unchallenged. On 21 Mar., three weeks after the opening of Parliament, the Commons deputed two Members, Robert Broke and Richard Morgan, to examine the Maidstone charter and ordered Salveyn and Wotton to withdraw pending the result of their inquiry. There is no evidence that they reported during the remaining ten days of the Parliament, but when Guildford made his second return as sheriff six months later Maidstone was omitted; it was not represented again until 1563. Wotton, unlike Salveyn, was to be re-elected. His seat for Gatton in November 1554 he owed to Lady Copley, who herself returned him and her son Thomas, and whose preference for relatives he exemplified by being not only her first cousin once removed but also the husband, or husband-to-be, of another cousin of both in Mary Dannett, sister of a recent Member for Gatton.3
In his will of 28 Sept. 1556 Wotton described himself as of London, but as one of the witnesses was the parson of Boughton Malherbe it was probably there that he died. He left all his possessions to his wife, with a remainder in the lands to his brother Thomas, in return for the surrender of her jointure of £30 a year; he named her executrix and his brother supervisor; there is no mention of children. The will was proved on the following 1 Dec.4