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|7 Jan. 1559||RICHARD HODGES|
|WILLIAM BOWYER II|
|1571||SIR WILLIAM CORDELL|
|1576||JOHN OSBORNE vice Wilbraham, deceased|
|1584||ROBERT CECIL 1|
|THOMAS KNYVET I 2|
|THOMAS KNYVET I|
|20 Dec. 1588||THOMAS KNYVET I|
|27 Sept. 1597||THOMAS KNYVET I|
|Jan. 1598||ANTHONY MILDMAY vice Cole, deceased|
|26 Sept. 1601||(SIR) THOMAS KNYVET I|
|WILLIAM COOKE II|
The city of Westminster, composed of the parishes of St. Margaret and St. Martin-in-the-Fields, was beginning to lose its separate identity in the Elizabethan period: a continuous line of buildings along the Strand connected it with London. Many of its inhabitants were employed in the royal services or in various government offices. Municipal development had been limited, the dean and chapter of the collegiate church of St. Peter having inherited from the abbots the civil as well as ecclesiastical government of the city and its liberties. The dean appointed a high steward, who with him chose other officials, including a bailiff, a town clerk and a high constable. In 1585 an Act of Parliament set up a burgess court of 12 burgesses and an equal number of assistants, all nominated by the dean and high steward. The court met weekly, presided over by the steward’s deputy, though the dean is known to have attended occasionally. The Act required the burgesses to be either
merchants, artificers, or persons using any trade of buying or selling within the said city or borough, or such other persons as shall be willing thereunto and inhabiting within the said city or borough and the liberties of the same.
Each year two of them held the title of chief burgess, one for the city and one for the liberties.
During the 1559 Parliament Queen Mary’s abbot of Westminster was still in the Lords, and his bailiff was the returning officer. The return was made out between him and 16 named citizens, who, together with
the freeholders and borough masters, as also the citizens and householders
meeting in Westminster Hall, elected two local men. However, before the next election Sir William Cecil (Lord Burghley from 1571) had become high steward. His father had been buried in St. Margaret’s and he himself was to live in Exeter House in the Strand. Thenceforth all the Westminster MPs were either nominated or approved by him, perhaps in co-operation with his friend Gabriel Goodman, dean 156l-1601. The surviving returns for this period—those for the Parliaments of 1589 and 1597 and for January 1598 by-election—are made out between Burghley and the dean on the one hand and a large number of named citizens on the other. The bailiff, to whom the precept was normally sent, is not mentioned. Interestingly enough, William Bowyer II, made bailiff by Cecil, was himself returned in 1563. Most of the men elected were either Burghley’s relatives, or officials in the government departments with which he was most concerned, the court of wards and the Exchequer.
Cecil’s son Robert, the future secretary of state, gained his early parliamentary experience as Member for the city in 1584 and 1586, and Cecil’s grandson Richard was returned in 1593. Robert Nowell (1563) and Thomas Wilbraham (1572) each held the office of attorney in the court of wards at the time of his election: Nowell, like his brothers Alexander and Laurence, was a personal friend of Cecil. William Staunton (1571) and John Dodington (1572), both nominated by Burghley, were minor Exchequer officials and local residents, named among the burgesses in the 1585 Act. Another, but more important, Exchequer official, Peter Osborne, ended a long parliamentary career at Westminster in 1589; he was related to the Cecils through his mother, Elizabeth Cooke. His son John, who succeeded him as lord treasurer’s remembrancer, had already been returned lot Westminster at a by-election caused by Wilbraham’s death. Thomas Cole (1593, 1597) was keeper of the ponds at Westminster, in receipt of an Exchequer annuity and doubtless a Burghley nominee. Two more distinguished Burghley nominees were Sir William Cordell (1571), master of the rolls and Speaker in Mary’s last Parliament, and Anthony Mildmay, returned at a by-election in January 1598. The courtier Thomas Knyvet I must also have owed his first return for Westminster to Cecil influence; he represented Westminster in every Parliament but one from 1584 until his elevation to the peerage 23 years later. Robert Cecil succeeded his father as high steward and returned his relation William Cooke II in 1601.3