COLSHILL, Robert (d.c.1580), of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

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

s. of William Colshill by Katherine, da. and coh. of John West; bro. of Thomas.2

Offices Held

Exigenter in ct. of common pleas 5 Oct. 1558-1 Feb. 1561; gent. pens. by 1563-d.; sheriff and bailiff of Glastonbury, Som. 1568; ?keeper of Exmoor forest by 1570; j.p.q. Devon, Dorset, Mdx. and Som. by 1579.3


Unlike his brother Thomas, who held a London customs office for many years, Colshill apparently spent much of his adult life at court. He was already a ‘servant of the King and Queen’ in April 1557, when he and his yeoman deputy were granted a commission to provide labourers and building materials for the service of the Crown. His appointment as exigenter in the following year, ‘in consideration of his service’, was said to have been possible only because there was then no chief justice of the court, and the exigenter’s office could therefore be filled by the Crown. The sequel was that Colshill’s tenure of the office was disputed, in the case of Skrogges v. Colshill.4

Colshill’s parliamentary career must reflect a connexion with the Earl of Arundel, presumably through Sir Thomas Palmer of Parham, Colshill’s first cousin and a household gentleman of the Earl. Arundel’s second wife, Mary, was a daughter of the lord of the borough of Mitchell, Sir John Arundell, of Lanherne, whose relatives, the Arundells of Trerice, had considerable influence at Newport. When she married the Earl, Mary Arundell was the widow of Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex, uncle of Sir Henry Radcliffe, who as captain of Portsmouth in 1572 probably nominated Colshill there. Colshill was also on good terms with the greatest magnate in south-western England, Francis, 2nd Earl of Bedford, who assisted him in 1570, at the Queen’s request, in claims against offenders who had depastured cattle in Exmoor forest. Two years previously Colshill had been granted the reversion of the keepership of the forest, and he may have been exercising the office by 1570. His name appears twice in the journals of the House as a member of committees concerned with justices of the forest (8 Mar. 1576) and a legal bill (13 Feb. 1576).5

In the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, Colshill was apparently a follower of the Earl of Leicester. In 1566 Sir William Cecil named ‘Mr. Colshill’ as one of the Earl’s particular friends, who could expect to be advanced to wealth and office if Leicester married the Queen. When in the previous year the Earl had organised a tournament to celebrate the marriage of the Earl of Warwick to the Earl of Bedford’s daughter, Colshill was one of the four gentlemen chosen to challenge all comers. Among the defenders was another of his friends, Henry Macwilliam, with whom, together with Thomas and Nicholas Gorges, Colshill obtained in 1575 a grant of the right to draw up writs of subpoena in Chancery. Two years later, Colshill and Macwilliam were granted part of the forfeitures for illegal transportation of grain.6

In 1576 Colshill was one of three men commissioned to borrow money in Germany for government purposes. He apparently soon afterwards became associated with (Sir) Christopher Hatton I. There are occasional references to him, as one of Sir Christopher’s followers, in the Hatton letter book, and in 1579 he was with William Saunders and Bartholomew Tate at Holdenby to receive Lord Burghley during Hatton’s enforced absence at court.7

Colshill’s domestic life remains obscure. No evidence of a marriage has been found, and in the absence of an inquisition post mortem it is not possible to say if he owned land. He died, apparently intestate, before 21 Apr. 1580, when administration of his property was granted to Sir Christopher Hatton and Thomas Colshill, his brother. In a letter to Hatton, written in October the following year, Edmund Tremayne mentioned that certain forfeitures belonged to Macwilliam and ‘the executors of Mr. Colshill, deceased.’8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.N.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiv), 562.
  • 3. CPR, 1557-8, p. 460; 1566-9, pp. 207-8, 321; E407/1/3-12.
  • 4. CPR, 1555-7, pp. 314, 370; 1557-8, p. 460; Dyer’s Reps. (1794), p. 175.
  • 5. Vis. Essex; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 391; CJ, i. 105, 112.
  • 6. F. Chamberlain, Elizabeth and Leycester, 171-2; Strype, Cheke, 134; CSP Dom. 1547-8, p. 569; Add. 1566-79, p. 486; 1591-4, p. 400.
  • 7. Add. 5935, f. 144d; Lansd. 155, ff. 167 seq., 312 seq.; E. St. J. Brooks, Hatton, 68-9, 158, 389.
  • 8. PCC admon. act bk. 1580, f. 195; Add. 15891, f. 89.