GRICE, (le GRICE), William (d.1593), of Great Yarmouth, Norf. and Milk Street, St. Bride's, 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

2nd s. of Gilbert Grice, bailiff of Great Yarmouth, by his w. Margery. m. Alice, da. and h. of Robert Eyre of Yarmouth, 2s. d.v.p. 3da.

Offices Held

Burgess, Yarmouth 1563, freeman 1581, alderman by 1583; clerk of stables to Queen Elizabeth.

Servant of the Earl of Leicester from at least 1564.


Grice was an attorney who presumably acted for the borough in its lawsuits and business in London. He was in 1575 a delegate to a conference in London which attempted to settle the dispute between Yarmouth and the Cinque Ports, and in 1578, in anticipation of a visit by the Queen, he was instructed by the corporation to buy suitable presents. Grice, a follower of the Earl of Leicester, was high steward of Yarmouth in succession to the 4th Duke of Norfolk (executed 1572), and received from him a gilt cup called ‘the ragged staff’. It was probably Leicester who gained for Grice, between 1564 and 1566, two considerable grants of concealed lands, one of which he shared with Anthony Forster. In the end this connexion led to his estrangement from the corporation, Grice supporting Leicester in the Earl’s attempt to appoint his own under-steward—an office which the governing body of the town claimed was in their own gift. The quarrel, which began at least as early at 1586, reached its climax in 1588 and probably accounts for Grice’s failure to secure re-election to Parliament.

Grice was an active Member. In 1571 he was appointed to committees concerning the maintenance of the navy (8, 21, 25 May), a legal question (14 May) and tillage (21, 25 May). On 26 June 1572 he was appointed to a conference with the Lords on the continuance of statutes; and on 13 Feb. 1576 he was appointed to a committee on ports. In 1581 he served on committees concerning merchants in the city of London (2 Mar.), the repair of Dover harbour (4 Mar.), navigation (15 Mar.) and mariners (17 Mar.). In the course of the Parliament of 1584, he attended committees concerning the Sabbath day (27 Nov.), fish (7 Dec.), maintenance of the navy (19 Dec.), ecclesiastical livings (19 Dec.), the preservation of grain (19 Dec.) and the Queen’s safety (5 Mar. 1585). On 25 Nov. 1586 Grice rose to warn against the French ambassador’s projected audience with the Queen the following day:

fully persuading himself for his part that the said ambassador cometh not for any good either to her Majesty or to the realm; and knowing that their manner is in such cases to be attended for the most part with a company of rascals and basest sort of people of their nation, and all the rabble of them accustomed to thrust into the presence of the Prince with their master, moved that for the better safety of her Majesty’s most royal person from peril of any desperate attempt of any of the said French, it would please those of this House of her Highness’ Privy Council to procure that the said ambassador might both be heard and also receive his answer at the hands of her Majesty’s Council, and in no wise to have access unto her Highness’s person.

On 24 Feb. 1587 he advocated the confiscation of arms from papists. During this last Parliament he was named to a committee on fish (6 Mar. 1587). Grice, who earned the epithet of ‘the back-biter’, was a member of the puritan choir, who, it was revealed in 1581, met after supper at his house to discuss parliamentary tactics.

He died in 1593. In his will, he besought God to receive him ‘into the number of his elect and chosen’, so that he might ‘everlastingly and incessantly glorify God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the congregation of the faithful’. He requested a simple burial and that prayers should be said for his children but not for himself, since after departure ‘from this mortal life ... their prayers profit nothing at all’. He bequeathed his house in Milk Street, London, to his cousin Thomas Aldersey and a bed to his son-in-law Edward Savage. To one of his executors, Edward Onley, a relative of the puritan, and to his overseer John Agmondesham he gave ‘the simple gift of the poor widow’s mite’.

H. Manship, Yarmouth, passim; HMC 9th 1, p. 305; H. Le Strange, Norf. Official Lists, 158; Rylands Eng. ms 311; Yarmouth ass. bk. passim; Cal. Yarmouth Freemen, 42; Vis. Norf.(Norf. Rec. Soc. iv), 188; Swinden, Hist. Yarmouth, 224-5; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 62-7, 453-6; CJ, i. 88, 89, 93, 103, 105, 130, 131, 134. 135; D’Ewes, 333, 337, 343, 363, 406, 412; Neale, Parlts. i. 92; ii. 176; Archaeologia, xxxvi. 109; PCC 46 Nevell.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.