MILDMAY, Anthony (c.1549-1617), of Apethorpe, Northants. and 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

b. c.1549, 1st s. of Sir Walter Mildmay of Apethorpe by Mary, da. of William Walsingham of Footscray, Kent, sis. of (Sir) Francis Walsingham; bro. of Humphrey. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1562. m. 1567, Grace, 1st surv. da. and coh. of Henry Sharington of Lacock, Wilts., 1da. suc. fa. 1589. Kntd. 1596.2

Offices Held

Auditor, north parts duchy of Lancaster 1589-94 (reversion to fa. 1568); j.p. Northants. from 1579, Wilts. from 1583; sheriff, Northants. 1580-1, 1592-3, dep. lt. from 1607; ambassador to France 1596-7; commr. charitable uses 1603, for goods of gunpowder conspirators 1606; dep. steward Yaxley, Northants.3


Mildmay was born, as it appears from his widow’s provision for a memorial sermon to him, on the Nativity of Our Lady (8 Sept.), but in what year has not been ascertained. To judge from the date of his entry to Peterhouse, it may have been 1549. By the time he was ready for Cambridge his father had survived partial eclipse under Mary and had recovered his official position at Elizabeth’s accession, while his uncle Walsingham had returned from exile to attach himself to William Cecil. It was, perhaps, as much a tribute to his parents as to himself that Mildmay was chosen to greet the Queen with an ode when she visited Peterhouse in August 1564. He did so with credit, and probably met her again two summers later when she hunted and dined at Apethorpe. Like his father, he appears to have left Cambridge without taking a degree.4

Mildmay’s failure to make a public career is a measure of his shortcomings. ‘I always knew him’, John Chamberlain wrote in 1597, ‘to be paucorum hominem’; and there must have been few who found Mildmay worth cultivating. The memorial which his father wrote for him in 1570—presumably on his coming of age—abounds in moral precepts, but it was beyond Walter Mildmay to inculcate what he had failed to transmit, the ingredients of success. He certainly pushed both Anthony and his brother Humphrey forward. Anthony could not have been much above 18 when he married a co-heir of Lacock, an alliance which, if its material rewards were to accrue only after his father-in-law’s death in 1580, and then at the cost of bitter squabbling with his relatives, gave Mildmay a footing in Wiltshire soon to be advanced by the marriage of his sister Martha to the influential William Brouncker of Melksham. Mildmay’s brief experience of military service at the time of the northern rebellion was followed by his return to the Parliament of 1571 for Newton, perhaps through the influence of the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, of which his father was auditor. Not surprisingly, the senior burgess for Newton, one of the youngest men in the House, left no mark on its proceedings.5

Mildmay accompanied Walsingham and Lord Cobham to Antwerp in July 1578,6 when he was sent on a special mission to Duke Casimir of the Palatinate, but at home he was not employed. His late admission to Gray’s Inn—in which he again followed paternal precedent—was presumably honorific. Not having been returned to Parliament in 1572, he had to wait until 1584 for his next chance to sit, when he was returned as junior knight of the shire for Wiltshire in right of his wife, and as such he could have attended the subsidy committee 24 Feb. 1585. His standing in the House could not compare with that of several natives, including his brothers-in-law, William and Henry Brouncker, who on this occasion sat for boroughs. The suggestion that Mildmay was a ‘compromise candidate’, who with powerful backing from outside carried the day, derives some colour from the fact that, unlike his fellow-knight Carew Ralegh (and his own brother Humphrey at Higham Ferrers), he was not to profit from the Crown’s directive by being reelected in 1586. In 1584-5 Sir Walter Mildmay’s leadership of the House may have put his sons as firmly in the shade as before; and in the record of the session Anthony figures only as a member of the subsidy committee appointed on 24 Feb. after the chancellor of the Exchequer had made one of his speeches on supply.7

His embassy to France was Mildmay’s one public employment of consequence. Since it coincided with the mission of the Earl of Shrewsbury (Gilbert Talbot) to invest Henry IV with the Garter, the choice of so inexperienced and, as it proved, so unsuitable an envoy may have owed something to Shrewsbury, whom Mildmay had come to know when his father, the old Earl, had guarded Mary Queen of Scots. Mildmay himself was reluctant to go, but his pleas of weak health, poverty and unsuitability were ignored; solaced with a knighthood, in September 1596 he crossed to Dieppe. Early in October he was presented to the King by Shrewsbury at Rouen, where he was to remain until, early in 1597, he accompanied Henry to Paris. Although Mildmay’s behaviour was certainly maladroit, he was not to blame for the fiasco of the embassy. Its two purposes, the general one of keeping France in the war and the particular one of persuading Henry to recapture Calais, were difficult, perhaps impossible, of achievement, as Mildmay was quick to realise, and the gulf which soon came to separate King and ambassador was not of either’s sole making. Mildmay probably had too much of his father’s puritanism ever to condone Henry’s calculated conversion, while the King’s condemnation of his trafficking with ‘those of the religion’ made no allowance for the ambassador’s affinity with the Huguenots. Even the celebrated episode of Henry’s all but striking Mildmay, and then ordering him out, was not provoked, if Anthony Bacon had the rights of it, by the ambassador himself, but by his delivery of a note from his sovereign. Mildmay was soon finding the negotiations ‘too troublesome and unfit for my poor capacity’ and asking the Earl of Essex to solicit his recall. Although the King accused Mildmay of ill-will towards Essex, the regularity and frankness with which the ambassador reported to the Earl seem to reflect more than prudence. With Essex’s aid, Mildmay was back in England by August 1597. Within a month he obeyed a Privy Council summons, provoked by an invasion scare, to bring a force of servants from Northamptonshire. This he did again in August 1599, this time perhaps in anticipation of Essex’s rumoured coup de main from Ireland; but when 18 months later the Earl did strike, Mildmay was ill and could only send Cecil his congratulations. It was, however, less a quickened interest in state affairs than the complexities of his own which had prompted him in January 1598 to seize the opportunity of the death of Thomas Cole, Member for Westminster, to get himself returned to Parliament at the ensuing by-election, presumably on Lord Burghley’s nomination. His finances, confused by years of delay in the execution of his father’s will, had been further damaged during his embassy, and he evidently saw no alternative to parting with land. Apart from serving on the committee ‘to inform themselves’ on relations with the Lords (14 Jan. 1598) and that discussing the bill to make receivers’ lands liable for their debts (31 Jan.), it was the bill to break his father’s entail which absorbed him in the House. It was committed on 16 Jan., after a second reading, to the secretary and the chancellor of the Exchequer (Cecil and John Fortescue I) and several others; presumably this committee killed the bill, for it did not reach the Lords. He may also have been the ‘Mr. Anthony Wildman’ appointed to a committee concerning the continuation of statutes (14 Jan. 1598). Mildmay was not returned to the Commons in 1601. However, he ‘was called before their Lordships’ on 7 Dec. to give evidence about a matter of copyhold lands belonging to Edward Neville I and Sir Henry Neville II. From 1593 by virtue of his wife’s family status Mildmay was regularly nominating the Members at Chippenham. Mildmay canvassed for a Northamptonshire seat in April 1603, but failed to obtain one.8

Mildmay made an advantageous marriage for his daughter and sole heiress, Mary, which was to make her in turn a baroness and a countess and to establish the Earls of Westmorland at Apethorpe for close on three centuries. He had an early opportunity of commending himself to James I, who visited Apethorpe on his way south in April 1603, and became a regular guest, much taken, it was said, with Lady Mildmay’s confectionery. Mildmay made his will 14 Feb. 1615, declaring his hope of salvation through Christ’s death and passion, ‘and by no other help or means whatever’. He named his ‘well beloved wife’ executrix bequeathing her his ‘caroche’ and coach horses, plate, jewels and household goods, the cattle, nags and geldings at Apethorpe and Leistrop, Leicestershire, and the residue of his goods. His other horses were to pass to Sir Francis Fane. Every servant received a year’s wages, and one of them, William Bellamy, £40 for his pains in proving the will, of which the overseers were Sir George Manners and Sir Francis Fane. An ‘old friend’, Sir Augustine Neville the judge, was to have plate, as were Francis Harvey II serjeant at law, William Haske and William Downhall; but, to John Chamberlain’s surprise, Edward Wymarke received ‘not so much as a rush-ring for remembrance’. The provision destined, as it was designed, to have most lasting effect was that which assigned £1,000 to the testator’s tomb in Apethorpe church; this large sum, with the cost of the funeral and of debt-redemption, was to be defrayed from the sale of Great Leistrop manor. Mildmay had raised 25 years earlier the impressive monument in St. Batholomew-the-Great which still proclaims his father’s virtues; but this was to be far outstripped by his own, ‘one of the most sumptuous of its time in England’. Its erection, after Mildmay’s death 2 Sept. 1617, served to commemorate with egregious splendour a life singularly devoid of distinction.9

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. DNB (Mildmay, Sir Walter); Peterhouse Biog. Reg. i. 227.
  • 3. Somerville, Duchy, i. 437; W. R. Williams, Official Lists of the Duchy and County Palatine of Lancaster, 53; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 524; APC, xxx. 677-9; 1613-14, p. 299-300; Peterborough Feoffees’ Accounts 1614-74 (Northants. Rec. Soc. x), 207-8; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 39; Elizabethan Peterborough (Northants. Rec. Soc. xviii), 33-4; Montagu Musters Bk. (Northants. Rec. Soc. vii), 221.
  • 4. Peterhouse Biog. Reg. i. 227; Wards 7/64/48; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. i. 173.
  • 5. Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 29; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 35; 1547-80, p. 251.
  • 6. Instructions given to Mr. Anthony Mildmay (Antwerp, 1578) ex inf. T. M. Hofmann.
  • 7. Lansd. 43, anon. jnl. f. 171; HMC Hatfield, vi. 260; Wards 7/64/48; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxvii. 615; D’Ewes, 356; Neale, Parlts. ii. 54-6. D’Ewes’s reference (p. 263) to Sir Anthony Mildmay, 14 Mar. 1576, is a slip for Sir Walter.
  • 8. Lansd. 49, f. 171; 85, f. 53; APC, xiv. 235; HMC Hatfield, vi. 260, 281, 368, 394, 401, 430, 433, 451, 541-2; vii. 64, 99, 143-4, 145, 182, 209, 357, 500-1, 507; ix. 176, 378-9; x. 314; xi. 41-2; xii. 435; Birch, Mems. ii. 244, 270, 271-2, 281, 292, 305, 312-13, 340; Chamberlain Letters, i. 85; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 546; D’Ewes, 580, 581, 591, 610; HMC Buccleuch, v(3), p. 74.
  • 9. Nichols, Progresses Jas. I, i. 96, 523-4; ii. 457; iii. 18, 185, 258, 559; iv. 1104; PCC 100 Weldon; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 99; N. Pevsner, Buildings Northants. 50, 75-6; C142/376/94.