COOKE, William II (1572-1619), of Gray's Inn and Highnam Court, Glos.

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. 1572, 1st surv. s. of William Cooke I by Frances, da. of Lord John Grey of Pirgo. educ. Shrewsbury 1583; G. Inn 1592. m. Joyce, da. of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warws., 3s. 6da. suc. fa. 1589. Kntd. 1603.1

Offices Held

Clerk of liveries in the ct. of wards from 1589; j.p. Herts. by 1596, Glos. temp. James I; purveyor to the stable by Jan. 1599; keeper of the lodge and herbage of Hartwell park, Northants. by 1605; steward of the manor of Bury St. Edmunds by 1614.2


Cooke’s father and namesake, scion of the Cookes of Gidea Hall, was related to the Cecil and Fitzwilliam families. Anxious that his son should succeed him in the lucrative post of clerk of the liveries, he solicited the support of his brother-in-law Lord Burghley, and was successful in procuring a reversion.3

William Cooke the younger was still a minor at the time of his father’s death, and the guardianship passed to his mother. All the same, he had no trouble in being recognised as clerk of the liveries, and was described as such in the Gray’s Inn register when Lord Burghley obtained his special admission there. It may be presumed that the work was done by deputies. In 1593, the last year of his minority, his mother made a determined effort to contract an advantageous marriage for him. Pleading youth and inexperience, he resisted her arguments and, instead, was asked to pay £1,000 in composition for his wardship. As clerk of the liveries he would have been responsible for the suing out of his own livery. He then went abroad, with a two-years’ licence to travel.4

Cooke retained the friendship of many of his father’s associates, including James Morice and Francis Bacon, though the latter was viewed with some suspicion by his mother. He inherited a fair amount of property, but his fortunes as a country gentleman were largely founded on his marriage to Sir Thomas Lucy’s daughter Joyce, heiress to the Gloucestershire estates of her grandfather, Sir Nicholas Arnold. The marriage took place in 1597 or thereabouts. In that year his lifelong friend Richard Verney was busy negotiating the marriage contract. Through this alliance he acquired Highnam Court, Gloucestershire, which became his principal residence. In 1599 he was able to offer himself, together with six men and horses, for the Queen’s service, in subsequent years enhancing his position by the purchase of further land in and around Gloucester. He also owned the manor of Ribbesford and other lands in Worcestershire and, in the reign of James, received a sizable grant in Hertfordshire. By this time he must have been a wealthy man: his will bears out this supposition, and he was able to leave £1,000 to each of his daughters.5

Originally the Highnam estate involved him in a complicated lawsuit with John Arnold. Casting doubt upon Arnold’s legitimacy, Cook also claimed, unsuccessfully,