DUDLEY, alias SUTTON, Edward (1567-1643), of Dudley Castle, Staffs.
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Family and Education
bap. 17 Sept. 1567, 1st s. of Edward, 4th Lord Dudley alias Sutton by his 2nd w. Jane, da. of Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby; bro. of John Dudley alias Sutton*. educ. Lincoln, Oxf. 1580. m. 12 June 1581, he aged 14, Theodosia, da. of Sir James Harington of Exton, Rutland, 1s. 4da. 11 ch. illegit. suc. fa. as 5th Lord Dudley 1586.1
J.p. Staffs. by 1585; high steward, Norwich cathedral 1631-5.2
Dudley was descended from John Sutton of Dudley Castle, created a peer by Henry VI. Unlike the junior branch of the family which became prominent through John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the senior line of the family was undistinguished even in Staffordshire, and more often than not deep in debt. Nevertheless the Queen visited Dudley Castle in 1575, and Edward Dudley was elected knight of the shire aged just 17. He made no mark in the Commons, though as a county Member, he was theoretically entitled to attend the subsidy committee on 24 Feb. 1585. Though he succeeded his father in 1586 and was just of age when the Parliament of 1589 was summoned, he does not appear to have taken his seat in the House of Lords until 1593.
There was long-standing friction in both Staffordshire and Worcestershire between the Dudleys and Lytteltons, and in the 1590s a dispute arose between Gilbert Lyttelton of Worcestershire and Lord Dudley over the title to a farm called Prestwood in Staffordshire. Out of this grew much lawlessness on both sides, culminating in a cattle-raid by Dudley and his supporters. In the upshot Lyttelton brought a Star Chamber suit against Dudley, who was heavily fined for rioting and cattle-stealing. The feud between the families explains the conspiracy between Dudley and the Staffordshire sheriff Thomas Whorwood, in 1597 to secure the election to a county seat of Dudley’s brother John in the face of opposition from Sir Edward Lyttelton. At this election Dudley himself ‘with great and loud voice’ voted for his brother, the sheriff ‘allowed’ the vote, and Lyttelton, in his subsequent Star Chamber action, made the point that this was illegal as a peer of the realm had no voice in the election of a knight of the shire.3
In the earlier Star Chamber suit, one of Gilbert Lyttelton’s allegations against Dudley was that he had abandoned his wife in London ‘without provision of sustenance’, and had taken to his house ‘a lewd and infamous woman, a base collier’s daughter’, one Elizabeth Tomlinson of Dudley, by whom he had numerous children. The Privy Council felt obliged to intervene to obtain Lady Dudley an allowance, which Dudley failed to pay, and in August 1597 he was committed to the Fleet. A few days later he was released and again ordered to pay maintenance which, from Michaelmas 1597, was to be at a rate of £100 per annum for his wife, and £20 per annum for his legitimate children. Within 18 months he had fallen in arrears and was again in trouble with the Privy Council, the remainder of his life being a story of indebtedness and pressure by the authorities to make him meet his liabilities. Doubtless the family estate was already encumbered when Dudley succeeded, for his father had felt obliged to set aside all the proceeds of his iron works for 21 years to discharge his own debts, giving his creditors precedence over his wife, younger son John, and daughter Anne. Dudley was enjoined not to interfere with the performance of this will, and it seems that by May 1592 he had been unable to pay any part of the annuity due to his brother John. By 1593 the estate was in the hands of sequestrators, Dudley married his infant, orphaned granddaughter and heiress in or about 1628 to Humble Ward, son of a wealthy London goldsmith and jeweller, one of his creditors.4
Dudley died, probably intestate, on 23 June 1643.