Leicestershire

County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Elections

DateCandidate
12 Jan. 1559ADRIAN STOKES
 FRANCIS CAVE
1562/3NICHOLAS BEAUMONT
 GEORGE TURPIN
1571FRANCIS HASTINGS I
 ADRIAN STOKES
17 Apr. 1572(SIR) GEORGE TURPIN
 NICHOLAS BEAUMONT
1584SIR GEORGE HASTINGS 1
 FRANCIS HASTINGS I 2
13 Oct. 1586SIR GEORGE HASTINGS
 FRANCIS HASTINGS I
10 Oct. 1588HENRY BEAUMONT II
 WILLIAM TURPIN
1593FRANCIS HASTINGS II
 THOMAS SKEFFINGTON
29 Sept 1597SIR EDWARD HASTINGS
 (SIR) FRANCIS HASTINGS I
16 Oct. 1601HENRY HASTINGS
 WILLIAM SKIPWITH II
 Sir John Grey

Main Article

Leicestershire was an English county dominated to a degree unparalleled in this period by one family. Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon (1560-95) was lord lieutenant and his two brothers, Sir George Hastings and Francis Hastings I, his deputies. Nine out of the available 20 seats were taken by members of the Hastings family, which thrice (1584, 1586, 1597) monopolized the county representation. This supremacy was challenged only once, at the last election in this period, in the following circumstances.

Sir Henry Grey and Sir John Grey of Pirgo, Essex, were trying to re-establish themselves on their ancestral Leicestershire estates. Both were gentlemen pensioners at court, both were on the commission of the peace in Leicestershire. By 1601 Sir John Grey had made himself unpopular with the Leicester corporation, on whom he threatened to ‘be revenged one way or another’. But on the other hand he was owed a favour by the 5th Earl of Rutland, recently released from the Tower and heavily fined, with his brothers, who had been in Grey’s custody, for complicity in the Essex rebellion. Rutland’s own writ of summons was ‘stayed’ in the lord keeper’s hands when the other writs for this Parliament were sent out on or about 16 Sept. 1601. Rutland’s agent Thomas Screven wrote to him on 30 Sept.:

Sir John Grey, who stands to be one of the knights [of the shire] for Leicestershire, prays that those who are yours in that county [i.e. Rutland’s tenants] may stand for him, and that you will give speedy order therein if the election be not past. He deserves well of you for his kindness and care of your brothers.3

There is nothing to show that Rutland co-operated with Grey or the tenants with Rutland, and Grey was returned for the Cornish borough of Grampound on 3 Oct., either to insure himself against failure in Leicestershire, or because he had already resigned any hope of being elected there, and it was as Member for Grampound that he finally appeared in Parliament. The two Leicestershire Members were a Henry Hastings (of uncertain identity but in any case of the Earl of Huntingdon’s family) and William Skipwith II, of Cotes, Leicestershire, a fellow gentleman pensioner of the Greys. The absence of any record of a contested poll indicates that Grey withdrew, but the nature of any compromise can only be guessed at. The freeholders may be assumed to have preferred Skipwith as a Leicestershire man; the 4th Earl of Huntingdon (mistakenly as it turned out) regarded him as a follower; perhaps even Grey, by now resigned to his own failure, was not averse to him as a fellow-courtier. It is even possible that the 4th Earl of Huntingdon provided Grey with his seat at Grampound as part of these election negotiations, or perhaps this was arranged by Sir Robert Cecil. The remaining Leicestershire members were country gentlemen such as Francis Cave of Baggrave (1559) and Thomas Skeffington of Skeffington (1593), substantial landowners, holding the customary county offices. Adrian Stokes of Beaumanor (1559, 1571) was the husband of the Duchess of Suffolk. Nicholas Beaumont of Coleorton, and his eldest son, Henry Beaumont II, were relatives of the Hastings. On e