FLEMING, Thomas I (1544-1613), of Winchester; Newport, I.o.W. and North Stoneham, Hants.

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. 1544, s. of John Fleming, mercer, of Newport by his 1st w. Dorothy Harris. educ. L. Inn 1567, called 1574. m. 1570, Mary, da. of Richard James of Newport, 8s. inc. Thomas II, 7da. Kntd. 1603.3

Offices Held

Freeman, Southampton 1580, Winchester 1582; recorder, Winchester 1582-5; bailiff, soke of Winchester 1585-6; bencher, L. Inn 1587, Autumn reader 1589, Lent reader 1590, double reader 1594, treasurer 1595-6; serjeant-at-law 1594-5; recorder, London 1594-5; solicitor-gen. 1595-1604; recorder, Southampton Mar. 1601-3; chief baron of the Exchequer 1604-7; c.j.K.B. 1607-13.4

J.p. Hants from c.1579, Mdx. from 1596.

Biography

Fleming was a lawyer who, according to Sir John Oglander, owed his advancement and that of his relatives Dr. Edes, dean of Worcester, and Dr. James the physician, to Walsingham, who had, in 1566, married a widow from the Isle of Wight. All three came from Newport and were at one and the same time servants to Queen Elizabeth, who remarked to Lady Walsingham that she employed one for her soul, another for her body and the third for her goods.5

It was probably Walsingham who was behind Fleming’s first return to the Commons at a by-election in 1581 to fill a vacancy caused by the sickness of Thomas Dalton, MP for Kingston-upon-Hull. In the event, after accepting the substitution at the beginning of the session, the House disallowed it at the end (18 Mar. 1581). Soon afterwards made recorder of Winchester, Fleming represented that city in the next four Parliaments. He was described as ‘usually living’ at Winchester in 1584. Even after his resignation as recorder, upon his appointment as solicitor-general, he attended burghmotes until 1609. His son represented the city in the 1601 Parliament, by which time Fleming had himself been made recorder of Southampton, and as such sat for that borough.6

On 11 Feb. 1594 Fleming was made a serjeant-at-law, and six weeks later recorder of London in succession to Edward Drew, his rival for the office two years earlier. After 18 months Fleming resigned the recordership on being designated to succeed Sir Edward Coke as solicitor-general, which appointment he obtained in the face of opposition from Essex’s candidate Francis Bacon. It being then thought necessary to vacate the degree of serjeant before becoming solicitor-general, Fleming received a writ excusing him from it on 5 Nov. 1595, and another appointing him solicitor-general on the next day. Fleming’s only previous parliamentary activity had been his appointment to the subsidy committees on 11 Feb. 1589 and Mar. 1593, but as solicitor-general he was appointed in 1597 to the standing committee on privileges and returns (5 Nov.), and to committees concerning religious topics (7, 12 Nov., 3 Dec.), monopolies (10 Nov., 8 Dec.), legal topics (11 Nov., 5, 12 Dec., 14 Jan. 1598, 16 Jan.), private bills (24 Nov., 16 Jan. 1598), defence (8 Dec., 12 Jan. 1598, 16 Jan.), tillage (13 Dec.), soldiers and mariners (20 Dec.) and the poor law (12 Jan. 1598). Additionally, having been elected knight of the shire, he could have attended committees on enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), the penal laws (8 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.). He is not known to have spoken in the House until 14 Nov. 1601, when he intervened on a procedural point. On 21 Nov. he had to explain his failure to proceed against monopolies, pursuant to the agitation in the 1597 Parliament and a commission directing him to take action which he had received in January 1601. He blamed ‘want of leisure’ caused by the trial and prosecution of the Essex conspirators. On 8 Dec. he spoke on ordnance, and on 12 Dec. he moved that the bill for charitable uses should be read twice in one morning ‘in respect that this was a bill of great consequence’. His committee work included privileges and returns (31 Oct.), and topics such as procedure (3 Nov.), religion (6, 10 Nov.), manor boundaries (8, 7 Dec.), sheriffs (4 Dec.), Exchequer procedure (14 Dec.) and a private bill (15 Dec.).7

In 1596 Fleming assisted in taking the confession of Sir John Smith, who had incited the militia in the neighbourhood of Colchester to mutiny, and, in the following year, he examined John Gerard, the Jesuit. Fleming retained his office as solicitor-general under James I but finding that his ‘services and employments about the King’s affairs’ prevented him from giving due attention to Southampton, he resigned the recordership there in March 1603, continuing, however, to represent the borough in the first session of the 1604 Parliament.8

Fleming died 7 Aug. 1613. Sir Edward Coke praised his ‘judgment, integrity and discretion’, and his sociable disposition.9

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Patricia Hyde

Notes

  • 1. Served as a substitute in 1581 session.
  • 2. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 3. Remembrance Bk. i. (Soton Rec. Soc.), p. xxvi; Assembly Bks. i (Soton Rec. Soc.), 13; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 156-7; Hull corp. bench bk. f. 221; information