MORDAUNT, Lewis (1538-1601), of Turvey, Beds. and Drayton, Northants.

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. 1538, 1st s. of Sir John Mordaunt, 2nd Baron Mordaunt, by his 1st w. Ela, da. of John Fitzlewis, s. and h. app. of Sir Richard Fitzlewis of West Horndon, Essex, h. to her gd.-mother Alice, da. and coh. of John Harleston of Shrimpling, Norf. m. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Arthur Darcy, sis. of Thomas Lord Darcy, 1s. 3da. Kntd. 1568; suc. fa. as 3rd Baron 1571.1

Offices Held

J.p.q. Beds. from c.1564; Northants. from c.1583; sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 1570-1; commr. musters, Beds. 1569, Northants. 1577, trial of Mary Stuart 1586, to search for Jesuits, Northants. 1591, to suppress recusancy, Beds. Aug. 1592.2


The Mordaunts married heiresses of the Latimer, Vere and Fitzlewis families, and the 1563 Member inherited land in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Essex, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Somerset. He was for some time on bad terms with his father, owing to his refusal to marry a daughter of his stepmother Joan, daughter of Richard Fermor of Northamptonshire and widow of Robert Wilford, merchant tailor of London. An undated Chancery case shows father and son quarrelling over land in Stagsden, Bedfordshire, and the elder Mordaunt carried out a recovery of the Fitzlewis lands to his own use for life, after his death to be transferred for 92 years to ‘such as it pleased him to appoint’. This attempt to deprive the heir of the profits of a large part of his estates was countered by old Lord Mordaunt, father of John and grandfather of Lewis, who made another conveyance, ensuring his own lands to Lewis on the latter’s marriage to someone more suitable in rank. After succeeding to the estates in 1571, Mordaunt lived mainly at Turvey and on his grandmother’s property at Drayton, Northamptonshire, where he carried out extensive building, some of it financed by sales of land in Essex and the west country.3

He was an active official in Bedfordshire and later in Northamptonshire. In April 1565 he was one of those asked by the Council to ‘take care in the good assessing of the [Bedfordshire] subsidy’; in 1580 he served on the Northamptonshire commission for breeding horses, and he was among the ‘principal nobles’ who in September 1586 advised the Queen ‘on the present state of the realm’, owing to the growing danger from Spain. On 23 July 1588, with the Armada excitement at its height, the Council instructed him to come to London, bringing such lances and light horsemen as he could raise. There is another reference to his attending the Queen with troops in 1599, when another attack by Spain was expected.4

The family historian describes Mordaunt as

a person of great justice, nobleness and affability, very well parted, and ingenious. He was the idol of the province where he lived, and one that drew unto him more respect and love than all the great men of those parts. Though he was no courtier, yet he was much honoured by them all, and he had a near friendship with the Earl of Leicester and the Lord Chancellor Hatton,

a portrait not borne out by the scattered references to his private life. He was several times asked by the Privy Council to explain affrays resulting from quarrels between his servants and those of Adrian Stokes about unlawful hunting in Brigstock park, Northamptonshire, where Stokes was keeper; the justices of assize were suspected of partiality towards Mordaunt’s followers. On another occasion the Council advised him to show more generosity to a poor tenant over a disputed title to land.5

Several members of his family were suspected of Catholicism, and, though described by his bishop as ‘earnest’ in religion in 1564, his name appears on a Catholic list of 1582 as one favourable to Mary Stuart. According to Camden, Mordaunt agreed most unwillingly to the sentence on Mary Stuart, whose funeral on 1 Aug. 1587 the government ordered him to attend. About November 1586 one of Walsingham’s spies reported that Mordaunt and the 4th Earl of Worcester had taken a wherry down the river to Ratcliff, where the Red Lion was a favourite haunt of the recusant Francis Brown. He was friendly with the Catholic (presumably 3rd) Lord Vaux, and stood surety for some debts of Sir Thomas Tresham, who defaulted, since his recusancy adversely affected his credit worthiness. Still, he must have conformed, and the government continued to trust him on religious matters, as in the 1590s he served on commissions to take oaths of supremacy, to prosecute recusants and to search out Jesuits and seminary priests. He died at Drayton 16 June 1601, and was buried 20 July at Turvey. By his will, dated October 1593, £80 was to be spent on an alabaster tomb with ‘pictures’ of himself and his wife, and £70 distributed to the poor at his burial. He left £2,000 each to his two unmarried daughters Katherine and Elizabeth, appointing two executors to administer lands for this purpose. The residuary legatee, and the sole executor for all other parts of the will, was his only son Henry, aged 33, the Lord Mordaunt arrested after the Gunpowder Plot.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. CP, Wards 7/1/70; Halstead, Genealogies Mordaunt of Turvey (1685), p. 627; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 42.
  • 2. Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 28; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 341; APC, ix. 322; xxiii. 111-12; HMC Var. iii. 61; HMC Bath, v. 74.
  • 3. Wards 7/26/28; C3/123/29; Halstead, 402-3, 605-7; PCC 39 Holney; Harl. 6767, f. 21v.
  • 4. Lansd. 8, f. 77; Halstead, 607, 613; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 18; APC, xvi. 169-70; HMC Foljambe, 44, 85.
  • 5. Harl. 6767, f. 21v; APC, ix. 220; xi. 51, 63; xxii. 190, 249; Halstead, 403, 614.
  • 6. APC, xv. 153; xxiii. 111-12; Halstead, 402-3, 613, 619-25; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 28; HMC Var. iii. 33-4, 46, 61; HMC Bath, v. 83; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 370; Wards 7/26/28; CP.