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|1558/9||SIR WILLIAM FITZWILLIAM I 1|
|SIR HENRY NEVILLE I 2|
|1562/3||SIR HENRY NEVILLE I|
|1571||SIR HENRY NEVILLE I|
|Sir Edward Unton|
|14 Apr. 1572||SIR EDWARD UNTON|
|3 Feb. 1576||WILLIAM NORRIS vice Forster, deceased|
|2 June 1580||?EDWARD HOBY vice Norris, deceased|
|9 Nov. 1584||SIR HENRY NEVILLE I|
|10 Oct. 1586||EDWARD UNTON|
|Oct. 1588||SIR HENRY NORRIS II|
|(SIR) EDWARD HOBY|
|1593||(SIR) HENRY UNTON|
|SIR HUMPHREY FORSTER|
|26 Sept. 1597||SIR HENRY NORRIS II|
|1601||SIR RICHARD LOVELACE|
In Mary’s last Parliament the senior county Member was Sir Francis Englefield, a Catholic, one of the Queen’s Privy Councillors and master of her court of wards, who withdrew to the Continent as a religious exile in 1559. He had entered Parliament as Member for Berkshire in Mary’s first Parliament and sat for the county in four of the five Parliaments of the reign. Before that, in Edward VI’s last Parliament, the two county Members had been Sir Henry Neville I and Sir William Fitzwilliam I, in that order of precedence. Both were protestants, both withdrew from Parliament at Mary’s accession, and both returned there with Queen Elizabeth, not an unusual pattern. The senior seat in 1559 was held by Fitzwilliam, who came of an Irish family, to which country he had withdrawn for part of Mary’s reign. He had been made lieutenant of Windsor castle under Edward VI, and on Elizabeth’s accession it was probably this office which placed him in a position to oust Sir Francis Englefield from control of the 1559 Berkshire election. Perhaps it was Fitzwilliam who secured the election of his fellow lord lieutenant Neville as junior colleague. Neville was for a time an exile in Mary’s reign, and was classified in 1564 as ‘a furtherer, earnest’ in religion. He was to be the senior county Member in 1563, 1571 and 1584.
Three names remained outstanding in Berkshire after Fitzwilliam’s death in 1559 without a son to succeed him. They were Neville, Unton and Norris.
Sir Edward Unton was established in the county hierarchy by his marriage to Anne Seymour, daughter of the Duke of Somerset and widow of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. He was made KB at Elizabeth’s coronation. He owned property, including the borough of Burford, in Oxfordshire, and in 1566 at a by-election was chosen knight of that shire. In 1571, however, a seat was not available in Oxfordshire because Sir Henry Norris I, back from his embassy in France, wanted one and the senior seat was pre-empted by Sir Francis Knollys, who sat for the county without intermission from 1568 to 1593. Unton therefore turned to Berkshire where he had been sheriff in 1567-8. He can have had no thought of standing for the senior seat, which Sir Henry Neville had filled in 1563. His ambition therefore brought him into conflict with the junior candidate, Richard Ward, cofferer of the Household, a minor Berkshire gentleman who, as a Windsor castle official, had represented Windsor on seven occasions between 1542 and 1555. He evidently wished to mark the climax of a prudent official career, begun about 40 years before, by representing his county instead of a borough. The cofferership in itself hardly warranted such lofty aims, and to Unton he must have seemed a man of minor status. Moreover, in contrast with Unton’s radicalism he was tepid in religion, classified in 1564 ‘as it is supposed, no hinderer’ of the established protestant religion.
Ward’s chances in a contest with Unton might seem slim, but Sir Henry Norris gave Ward his support. In this Parliament Norris himself sat as junior knight for Oxfordshire, where Rycote, his principal residence, was situated, but before his marriage he had lived in Berkshire and he remained a considerable landowner there. He had already, it may be supposed, used his influence there in 1563, when the junior knight of the shire was John Cheyney, whose mother being a Norris was his best claim to a county seat. Be this as it may, Norris now, in 1571, employed his Berkshire tenants, including, according to Unton, a number of non-freeholders, against Unton. Perhaps there was personal antipathy between Norris and Unton; perhaps Ward had court backing. The Earl of Leicester, who had succeeded Sir William Fitzwilliam as lieutenant of Windsor castle, was charged with supervising the elections in Berkshire and, in carrying out this duty, may have lent support to Ward, his subordinate official. In the event Unton was defeated and subsequently cut Norris publicly. At the October quarter sessions an affray developed between the servants of the two factions in which a man was killed. Norris then brought a case in the Star Chamber against Unton.3
When the 1572 general election took place, again under the supervision of Leicester, Norris was about to be made a peer and presumably was not present at the county court. Also, Sir Henry Neville was taking a respite from Parliament. The way was thus clear for Sir Edward Unton, who obtained the senior seat, while the second went to a country gentleman, William Forster, who died in 1574. A by-election in 1576 gave Unton Norris’s son William as colleague, but William Norris in turn died before the third and final session of 1581. A balance of probabilities suggests that the vacancy was filled by Edward Hoby of Bisham, nephew of Lord Burghley. By 1584 Unton himself was dead. Sir Henry Neville now resumed the senior seat, while the junior went to Unton’s son, namesake and successor, who was again elected in 1586, this time in the senior place, Neville having at last retired from Parliament. Unton went on the Portugal voyage with the Earl of Essex in 1589, and died at Plymouth on his return. In the three following Parliaments the senior seat was held twice by Sir Henry Norris II (1589, 1597) and once by an Unton, Henry, brother of Edward (1593). The second seat in 1586 was taken by a local gentleman with court connexions, and in 1589 by Edward Hoby, already knighted. Hoby subsequently became constable of Queenborough castle, and so primarily a Kent man, and it was for Kent he sat in 1593, the second Berkshire seat going to Sir Humphrey Forster, the son of the 1572 Member. The junior Berkshire knight of the shire in 1597 was Francis Knollys of Reading Abbey, who had just been made deputy lieutenant. The two 1601 Berkshire MPs were Sir Richard Lovelace, who had just come into Hurley, and his stepson George Hyde of South Denchworth.
Acknowledgment is made to the version of this article drafted by Sir John Neale.