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|1558/9||PAUL WENTWORTH 1|
|ROLAND BRACEBRIDGE 2|
|1562/3||THOMAS FARMER alias DRAPER|
|1571||JOHN RUSSELL I|
|ROLAND WITNALL alias ELES|
|1584||JOHN MORLEY I|
|5 Oct. 1588||OWEN OGLETHORPE 3|
|FRANCIS GOODWIN 4|
|THOMAS FORTESCUE II|
|15 Oct. 1597||WILLIAM FORTESCUE|
|20 Oct. 1601||RICHARD BLOUNT III|
Chipping Wycombe had been owned since 1483 by the dean and chapter of Windsor, who, about 1568, leased the fee farm to Robert Christmas, a servant of the Earl of Leicester. Christmas himself came in for the borough in 1571, and within the next three years he conveyed it to one Robert Raunce, who returned his friend Geoffrey Calfield in 1584. The dean and chapter were themselves responsible for John Morley I (1584), a courtier, and the ex-provost of Eton, Thomas Ridley (1586), who had married the daughter of the dean of Windsor, George Day. In 1571 special circumstances prevailed, for the Privy Council asked the 2nd Earl of Bedford to ensure a ‘good choice’ of burgesses in Buckinghamshire, and Bedford obliged by having his own son returned at Wycombe. However, the majority of the Wycombe MPs were local men, either townsmen (Bracebridge, Farmer, Keele, Witnall) or local gentry (Wentworth, the Fleetwoods, Oglethorpe, Goodwin, the Tasburghs, the Fortescues). Perhaps it was too much to expect the borough to support the expense and trouble of sending its own mayors and stewards to Westminster, for the townsmen were returned in the earlier part of the period and the gentry later. Perhaps, on the other hand, the gentry were taking over the representation against a rearguard action by the borough, which is the impression obtained from some surviving documents. Thus in 1563 the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses prohibited canvassing by parliamentary candidates before ‘the day appointed for the election’. Later (21 Mar. 1594) the ledger book records that because of ‘disorder ... committed by such as have reputed themselves burgesses of this borough, inhabiting out of the same’ (probably a reference to Francis Goodwin’s ‘extraordinary labour’ to retain his seat in 1593) such an outsider’s ‘voice shall be accepted’ for ‘the election either of the mayor or for the burgesses of the Parliament’ but his ‘person’ was ‘utterly disannulled and inhibited for the same’. But this was swimming against the tide, and the borough was open for the local gentry to fight over among themselves. The Francis Goodwin story provides evidence that they took advantage of the opportunity. Goodwin had sat for the county in 1586, but next time had to retreat to a seat at Wycombe, which he tried to retain in 1593, threatening to press one voter for military service in the Netherlands unless he ‘would absolutely grant him his voice’ at the election, and persecuting a servant of Henry 5th Baron Windsor who had successfully asked for a nomination to be granted to his master as high steward of the borough. In the event Goodwin was defeated by a combination of the Fortescue and Tasburgh families (Fortescue supported by Windsor), a family combination repeated in 1597. In 1601 Lord Windsor demanded both nominations, to the chagrin of one Edward Lenton, who wrote to Sir Robert Cecil asking him ‘to give that corporation some encouragement in electing me’. Lord Windsor, however, returned his two candidates, one of whom, Fleetwood, was a local man.
Windsor chapter recs. iv. B. 16f. 68; L. J. Ashford, Hist. High Wycombe, passim; First Ledger Bk. ed. Greaves (Bucks. Rec. Soc. ii), passim; St. Ch. 5/G3/19; HMC Hatfield, xi. 400.