MICHELBORNE, Edward (c.1562-1609), of Hammonds Place in Clayton, Suss.

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.1562, 1st s. of Edward Michelborne of Clayton, by his 1st w. Jane, da. of Thomas Parsons of Steyning. educ. ?G. Inn 1580. m. Anne, da. and h. of Richard Shelley of Patcham, 2s. suc. fa. 1587. Kntd. 1599.

Offices Held

Capt. in the Netherlands 1591; served under 2nd Earl of Essex Azores expedition 1597, in Ireland 1597, gent. pens. to James I.1


Michelborne was a soldier and adventurer, in whose life a seat in Parliament played only an incidental rôle. He became one of Bramber’s representatives in 1593, presumably having enough influence as a local landowner to secure his own return. He had inherited land there from his mother. He may have taken up a military career before 1591, in which year he was a captain in the Queen’s pay in the Netherlands; he was still in command of a company of foot, stationed in Ostend, in 1598. In that year Michelborne’s company was removed from the Queen’s pay, entering that of the Dutch estates. He had not spent all the intervening years abroad. In 1593 he was presumably in England for the Parliament, and two years later was reported to be living in Queenhithe in London. It was probably during this period that he became a follower of the Earl of Essex. He commanded the Moon in the Islands voyage in 1597, and in 1599 accompanied the Earl to Ireland, where he served under him in the field that summer. At the end of the campaign he was knighted by Essex in Dublin. Michelborne was implicated in the Essex revolt, being lucky to get away with a fine of £200. He had, so he said, gone to Essex’s house to hear a sermon, had met the Earl and his followers, and had then accompanied them to Sheriff Smith’s house, but, hearing that the Queen had given orders for the Earl’s arrest, he had returned to his lodgings.2

Michelborne next found a protector in Lord Treasurer Buckhurst, who in 1601 attempted to gain him the command of the East India Company’s first trading venture to the east. The promoters, however, refused to employ ‘gentlemen’ in any place of charge or command, desiring to ‘sort their business with men of their own quality’. When Michelborne failed to pay the amount he had promised for the first voyage, the governors took the opportunity of ‘disfranchising’ him ‘out of the freedom and privileges of this fellowship’. But Michelborne got his own back under James I, obtaining a licence to ‘discover’ and trade with Japan and China, notwithstanding any previous grant. He thus became the first interloper in the East India trade. He sailed with John Davis as navigator from Plymouth on 1 Dec. 1604, in the Tiger (240 tons) and the Tiger’s Whelp. He returned on 9 July 1606.3

Michelborne made his will on 22 Mar. 1609. After a conventional religious preamble, he left a total of £55 to the poor of the three Sussex parishes of Clayton, Penshurst and Lickfold, and a further £20 to the poor of the parish in which he happened to be buried. His other bequests were to his servants and family. The will mentioned a debt of £400 which the 2nd Earl of Dorset owed him. Edward, his executor and eldest son and heir, proved the will on the day that his father died, 27 Apr. 1609. The overseers were Sir Thomas Leeds and Thomas Rooth. Michelborne was buried at Hackney, where he owned a house and lands.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. C142/212/1; 314/111; J. Comber, Suss. Genealogies, Lewes Centre, 248-9; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 88; Voyages and Works of John Davis (Hakluyt Soc. lix), p. lxxi.
  • 2. DNB; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, p. lxxvi; Lansd. 78, f. 165; HMC Hatfield, ix. 145; xi. 87, 214; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 13.
  • 3. Voyages of Sir James Lancaster (Hakluyt Soc. lvi), pp. ii, v-vi; H. Stevens, Dawn of Brit. Trade to East Indies, 28, 178; Purchas His Pilgrimes (1905 ed.), ii. 347, 365, 366.
  • 4. PCC 33 Dorset; C142/314/111; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 88.