DRURY, Sir William (1550-90), of Hawstead, Suff.

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. 8 Mar. 1550, 1st s. of Robert Drury by Audrey, da. of Richard Rich, Lord Rich. educ. Groton sch. ?1561-4; Caius, Camb. 1564; prob. L. Inn 1569. m. Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Stafford of Chebsey, Staffs., 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 1557; gd.-fa. 1558.2 Kntd. prob. 1576.3

Offices Held

J.p.q. Suff. from c.1577, sheriff 1582-3; receiver, Essex, Herts., Mdx., London by 1587; gov. Bergen-op-Zoom Apr.-Sept. 1588; col. in the Netherlands 1590.


Drury inherited considerable land in Suffolk, including the house at Hawstead which he largely rebuilt and where he provided a ‘costly and delicate dinner’ for Queen Elizabeth in May 1578. In January 1581 he was returned for the new session of the 1572 Parliament for Castle Rising, Norfolk, in a by-election caused by the illness of Edward Flowerdew. When the return was challenged at the beginning of the session the House confirmed Drury in his seat, but on 18 Mar., at the end of the session, it declared him ineligible. In 1584 he was elected knight of the shire, after some canvassing of the local gentry, and as such was eligible to attend the subsidy committee on 24 Feb. 1585. He was named to a committee concerning Suffolk cloth on 7 Dec., and to others on 19 Dec. on ecclesiastical livings and the maintenance of the navy.4

Drury no doubt had some influence at court through his marriage with Elizabeth Stafford, a lady of the bed-chamber; in 1584 he was accused of procuring, by indirect means, the Queen’s presentation of one David Wood to the benefice of Hartest and Boxsted. There is little indication of Drury’s religious views except that he disapproved of the Brownists, and during his year as sheriff asked Bancroft to come from Cambridge to Bury to preach against them. It was probably shortly after this that he became an Exchequer official, only, however, to be forced to flee the realm in July 1587, owing the Crown sums amounting, by Michaelmas, to over £5,000. He remained in the Netherlands, writing to Walsingham and Burghley asking them, unsuccessfully, to intercede with the Queen.5

By April 1588 Drury had taken advantage of his relationship with Lord Willoughby, general of the English troops in the Low Countries, to obtain the governorship of Bergen-op-Zoom, then endangered by the advance of the Spaniards. Though Drury’s ‘care and diligence, his discipline and his policy’ commanded support in the town, Elizabeth ordered his replacement by the more experienced Sir Thomas Morgan. Relieved of his post three weeks after the siege of Bergen had begun, he was given command of the forts round the town, being sent ‘out of the hall into the kitchen and rather worse’, as he put it. Still, Lord Willoughby, reporting to Burghley that Drury had behaved well and fought bravely, suggested that he should replace Sir John Conway as governor of Ostend, since otherwise ‘it will not only kill his heart ... but be a great discouragement to all others that follow the wars’. Conway, however, refused to resign, and by January 1590 Drury was on his way as colonel of 1,000 men (under Lord Willoughby) to the help of Henri IV when he fought a fatal duel with Sir John Borough over a ‘foolish quarrel about precedency’. Drury was ‘so hurt upon the arm that presently he lost his hand with the gangrene ... and therefore cut out his arm, but all that served not’, and he died soon afterwards, commending his wife and family to the Queen’s care. As Drury still owed £3,000 from his time at the Exchequer, this consisted of advice not to ‘grudge at irremediable harms lest you offend the highest Lord and no whit amend your married hap’, and many of his lands were sold to meet the debt, all but £600 of which was eventually paid. Drury, ‘vir gertere et omni elegentia splendidus’, as Camden called him, was buried at Hawstead, where a marble bust of him in full armour was erected over his tomb. The will he had made on 1 July 1587 before leaving England, its pious preamble including a reference to Christ’s ‘elect flock’, was not proved until 4 June 1595.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.


  • 1. Served as a substitute in 1581 session.
  • 2. A. Campling, Hist. Drury Fam. 57, 100; C142/114/51.
  • 3. Several men of this name were knighted in Elizabeth’s reign. According to R. C. Bald, Donne and the Drurys, 13, the parish registers describe his children born up to June 1576 as of Mr. William Drury, and later ones as of Sir William.
  • 4. Lansd. 43, anon. jnl. f. 171; D’Ewes, 281, 282, 308, 337, 343; HMC Gawdy, 23.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 187; Collinson thesis, 918; CSP For. Jan-June 1588, pp. 18, 210.
  • 6. HMC Ancaster, 114; CSP For. 1588-9, passim; Campling, 55, 56, 100; N. and Q. (ser. 10), vii. 205; Bald, 24-7, 33 et passim; PCC 40 Scott.