DONHAULT, Gregory (c.1555-1614), of 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

b. c.1555. educ. Merchant Taylors’ to 1572; Pembroke, Camb. scholar 1572, BA 1575; incorp. Oxf. 1577/8. m. 1608, Leonore (d.1638), da. of Adrian Vierendeels of Antwerp, wid. of Abraham Tryon of St. Mary Aldermanbury, London, s.p.

Offices Held

Sec. to Sir Thomas Egerton I from c.1597; master in Chancery from 1612.


Donhault was connected with the Downhall family of Geddington, Northamptonshire; the spelling of his name adopted in this biography is that of his will. After leaving Cambridge he was for some time a schoolmaster at Gloucester grammar school, one of his pupils later stating that he wrote both the secretary and the Italian hands ‘exquisitely well’. Next he ‘betook himself to another course of being secretary to some nobleman’, the identity of whom has not been ascertained, though Donhault’s will mentions a ring given him by the Countess of Pembroke. In any event, by the last Parliament of Elizabeth’s reign he had been for at least seven years in the service of the lord keeper, and it was no doubt by means of Egerton’s intervention that he represented three Cornish boroughs, East Looe through Lord Burghley, Saltash and Dunheved through the Carew family. There is no record of any activity on his part in the Parliament of 1593. On 28 Jan. 1598 he wanted hardware pedlars excluded from the bill for rogues, which provoked a reply from Thomas Harris I that his motion ‘would have been good in a parliament of women’. Despite his connexions with the court party Donhault must have been a thorn in their flesh in the 1601 Parliament. Townshend reports 18 Nov.:

As they were naming committees, Mr. Downold the lord keeper’s secretary, stood up and desired that the [monopolies] bill Mr. Hyde called for, might be read; and was saying somewhat more. But Mr. Speaker interrupted here and said ‘I pray you let us name committees, and then you may speak’. And so they went to the naming of committees. And Mr. Secretary Cecil, a little while after, spake something in Mr. Speaker’s ear. But so soon as time and place of commitment was named, the Speaker rose without further hearing of Mr. Downold, which he took in great disgrace, and told him ‘He would complain of him the next sitting’, to which the Speaker answered not one word, but looked earnestly on him, and so the press of people parted them.

Two days later Donhault urged that the monopolies should be dealt with by way of a bill rather than by petition, as Cecil wished:

If we proceed by way of petition, we can have no more gracious answer than we had the last Parliament to our petitions. Since the Parliament, we have had no reformation. And the reason why I think no reformation hath been had, is because I never heard the cries against monopolies greater and more vehement.

He was appointed to the committee on 23 Nov., but at the moment when Cecil must have considered the matter closed by the complete capitulation of the Queen, Donhault caused a new uproar by moving

first that the gracious message sent from her Majesty might be written in the books of the records of this House (being worthy to be written in gold) as well as written and fixed in the true heart of every good subject. Secondly that the honourable of this House would move her Majesty and be an earnest means of speed lest that which i