ASHBY, William (d.1593), of Clerkenwell, Mdx.

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

2nd s. of Everard Ashby of Loseby, Leics. by Mary, da. of Robert Baud of Somerby, Leics., wid. of William Berkley of Wymondham, Leics. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1551, MA 1566; G. Inn 1556; incorp. Christ Church, Oxf. 1566; studied in Paris. unm.

Offices Held

?J.p. Mdx. by 1580; ambassador to Scotland 1588-90.


Ashby came of an old Leicestershire family. In 1567 he received valuable leases in Leicestershire and Yorkshire from the Crown in satisfaction of a debt of over £240 owed to his father by the attainted Duke of Suffolk. He may have been the Mr. Ashby, one of certain Middlesex justices of the peace to whom the Privy Council wrote in July 1580; if so, he must have been settled in the county for some time. His foreign service had begun by 1576, when he was taking letters from Walsingham to the Continent. Between that date and 1588 he was often employed in Europe as a confidential messenger to and from English agents at Brussels, Frankfurt, Augsburg and other cities. In July 1578 he sent Walsingham a long report from Dunkirk, and in 1582 and the following year there are references to him at Antwerp and Cologne. About this time he sent Walsingham several letters from Augsburg, whence in August 1582 he set off for England with despatches for the Queen. Early in Edward Stafford II, writing from Paris to Walsingham, described Ashby, who was about to bring the ambassador’s ‘packet’ to England, as ‘Mr. Vice-Chamberlain’s man’. If this means that he was working for (Sir) Christopher Hatton I, it is the only instance that has come to light.

In June 1588 he was appointed ambassador to the Scottish court. According to one of James VI’s courtiers, this surprised the King

whom I found not looking ... to see any gentleman upon a sudden sent unto him ... except he had been a man of great calling, and one who should have come fully instructed to satisfy him in all points.

The writer said he had told the King that Ashby, who may have visited Scotland with Walsingham in 1583, was a ‘particular friend’ of the Earl of Angus and also a ‘near kinsman’ to a certain Mr. Fowler, ‘his Highness’s servant’. Ashby’s main commission was evidently to prev