Available from Boydell and Brewer
|16 Jan. 1559||SIR JOHN ATHERTON|
|SIR ROBERT WORSLEY|
|1562/3||SIR THOMAS GERARD|
|SIR JOHN SOUTHWORTH|
|EDMUND TRAFFORD I|
|16 Nov. 1584||SIR GILBERT GERARD|
|RICHARD MOLYNEUX II|
|11 Jan. 1585||RICHARD BOLD vice Gerard, called to the Upper House1|
|17 Oct. 1586||JOHN ATHERTON|
|14 Oct. 1588||THOMAS GERARD I|
|7 Feb. 1589 (new writ )||unknown vice Gerard, chose to sit for Staffordshire|
|1593||(SIR) RICHARD MOLYNEUX II|
|(SIR) THOMAS GERARD I|
|28 Nov. 1597||(SIR) THOMAS GERARD I|
|1601||SIR RICHARD HOUGHTON|
The earls of Derby held the lord lieutenancy of Lancashire without a break from 1559 to 1594. The county election writ, instead of being sent direct to the sheriff, went via the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. Thus both the earls of Derby and the chancellors of the duchy had the opportunity to influence Lancashire elections. In practice neither exerted much patronage, though consultation was expected. Without exception the Lancashire MPs were landed gentry resident in the county. Many of them were Catholics or at least conservative in religion: Sir John Atherton (1559) of Atherton Hall, a j.p. and duchy of Lancaster official; Sir Thomas Gerard (1563) of Bryn, who was probably removed from the commission of the peace in 1571; Sir John Southworth (1563) of Samlesbury, many times imprisoned for his recusancy; John Ratcliffe (1571, 1572) of Ordsall, j.p. and deputy lieutenant, a duchy official and follower of the 3rd Earl of Derby, who nevertheless in 1586 was described as a ‘dangerous temporiser’ in religion; Richard Bold of Bold, who replaced Sir Gilbert Gerard at a by-election in January 1585, and Thomas Walmesley (1589) of Dunkenhalgh, a duchy of Lancaster lawyer, who, despite being elevated to the bench after the 1589 Parliament, was also suspect in religion. Most of the remaining county MPs came from families tinged with Catholicism.
Only one MP, Richard Holland of Denton Hall, owed his seat directly to the 4th Earl of Derby, whose servant he was. However, Holland was eligible as knight of the shire in his own right, being a j.p. in the county and having already served two terms as sheriff. Robert Hesketh of Rufford (1597) had connexions with the Stanleys, having married into the family. Sir Gilbert Gerard, vice-chancellor at Lancaster, was returned senior knight in 1584 despite being master of the rolls; he was replaced in the following January. His eldest son, Thomas Gerard I, sat as senior knight in 1593, the year he succeeded his father, and also sat again in 1597. He had been elected as senior knight in 1589, but had chosen to sit for Staffordshire, where his wife’s estates were. A new writ was ordered but no evidence of a by-election to replace him has been found. Sir Robert Worsley (1559) of Booths, Thomas Butler (1571) of Bewsey, Edmund Trafford I (1572) of Trafford, John Atherton (1586), eldest son of the 1559 MP and heir to Atherton Hall, but, unlike his father, a protestant, Sir Richard Houghton (1601) of Houghton and Thomas Hesketh (1601) of Whitehill (no apparent relation to the 1597 MP) were all Lancashire country gentlemen taking their turns as knight of the shire.
The only electoral disturbance in the county during this period was caused in 1593 by (Sir) Richard Molyneux II. The Molyneux of Sefton were one of the great county families and Richard Molyneux II took the junior county seat in 1584. Sefton was close to Liverpool and the Molyneux rivalled the earls of Derby, their neighbours, for influence in that borough. By January 1593, when Molyneux decided to sit for Parliament again, he was at feud with the 4th Earl of Derby and his son Lord Strange. The Queen and Privy Council had intervened in the quarrel in December 1592, ordering him to make his submission to the Earl. Instead of obeying, he kept ‘an extraordinary Christmas’ at one of his houses, close to the Earl’s, presumably turning it into a demonstration against the Stanleys. And then, in the following month, he added to his insults by organizing an election campaign for himself, without informing the Earl or ‘seeking his Lordship’s good will and favour’. Possibly—though not necessarily—the Earl of Derby was backing a candidate of his own, and there was a contested election. In any case, Molyneux’s candidature—or the method of it—was regarded as a defiance of authority. The Earl of Derby was not only lord lieutenant of Lancashire; he was a Privy Councillor, and such flagrant contempt for his place and authority, coupled with his disobedience to the Council’s order, was not likely to be tolerated. After Parliament ended, Molyneux was charged before the Star Chamber with his several misdemeanours, including the election, was committed to the Fleet prison, and on 25 May duly made a humble submission and presumably was released. Perhaps this humiliation was behind an incident that occurred in 1597, when Molyneux was sheriff. He sent the writ for the election that year back on the grounds that it ‘was received at Sefton 14 Oct. and the next county day was 31 Oct. "post diem retorn’ brevis predicti et non ante" wherefore he could do nothing’.2
Acknowledgment is made to the version of this article drafted by Sir John Neale.