ARUNDELL, Matthew (c.1534-98), of Shaftesbury, Dorset; Southampton House, London and Wardour, Wilts.

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



Family and Education

b. c.1534, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Arundell of Shaftesbury by Margaret, da. of Lord Edmund Howard. m. 1559, Margaret, da. of Henry Willoughby of Wollaton, Notts., 2s. suc. fa. 1552. Kntd. 1574.

Offices Held

Customer, Poole 1565-75; j.p. Dorset from c.1573, Wilts. from 1582; sheriff, Dorset 1575-6, custos rot. by 1584, dep. lt. 1589-d. 2


Arundell’s father was attainted in 1552 as a result of the support he had given the Duke of Somerset in the previous year. Queen Mary restored Arundell in blood, and re-granted him the greater part of the extensive estates which Sir Thomas had accumulated largely through the purchase of monastic lands. But this generosity did not lead Arundell to align himself with Marian policy, and he opposed a government bill in the Parliament of 1555. His wife was educated in Elizabeth’s own household and remained in attendance at court, where Arundell himself was often to be found until, on his wife’s death some 26 years later, he retired to his estates. His return to Parliament for a Welsh county at a by-election in 1566 is surprising, for he had no estate in Wales. Presumably the seat was obtained through a contact at court, perhaps Blanche Parry, the Queen’s gentlewoman, through her relatives the Vaughans of Talgarth.3

Arundell’s brother Charles was a well-known Catholic and his own elder son was imprisoned in 1580 for his religion, but he himself must have conformed. Having retired to his country estates, he was active in local government. He was one of 12 knights listed in 1588 as of ‘great possessions’ able to sustain a peerage. In September 1589 an informant charged him with ‘some slack dealing in her Majesty’s public service’, but on investigation the Privy Council found the allegation to be groundless, and three months later he was made a deputy lieutenant. Subsequently he was at loggerheads with the lord lieutenant, the Marquess of Winchester, and another leading gentleman, Sir Henry Ashley, and frequently wrote to Sir Robert Cecil giving details of their actions. These letters may not always have been appreciated by Cecil: Edward Hoby in August 1596 threatened to become ‘such another evil spirit unto you in haunting you with tediousness as Sir Matthew Arundell was wont to be’. In 1592 Arundell was one of the four leading men of the county appointed to see the oath of supremacy publicly taken by all justices of the peace. His local government activity was limited to Dorset, although his chief residence was Wardour castle in Wiltshire, which he had repurchased in 1570, it having gone to the Earl of Pembroke on his father’s attainder.4

In 1595 Arundell arranged with Cecil for his son to go to Hungary to join the armies fighting the Turks, to fit him for her Majesty’s service and to remove him from the solitary life of Southampton House. But his son’s wife soon wanted him back. The young man complained that if he returned quickly it would be suggested that either he had been afraid to stay, or that he had undertaken the journey to get his father’s horses and money. When the son was made a peer of the Empire for his services in Hungary, Sir Matthew said that he should seek solely to please the Queen, ‘the true touch of every English subject’, and that for his own part he would reckon it worth more to be her vassal, to her liking, than the earl of an Emperor to her dislike. Because of his Catholic views the son was ordered, in June 1597, to reside with his father. Sir Matthew