PETRE, Sir John (1549-1613), of Ingatestone, Essex.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

b. 20 Dec. 1549, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Petre by his 2nd w. educ. M. Temple 1567. m. 1570, Mary, da. of Sir Edward Waldegrave, of Borley, surv. s. inc. William. suc. fa. 1573. Kntd. 1576; cr. Baron Petre 1603.

Offices Held

J.p. Essex from 1573, sheriff 1575-6, dep. lt. 1590-8, commr. musters 1599-1603.1


Petre inherited considerable estates in Essex, and in 1574 completed his father’s purchase of Thorndon Hall. In 1588 he was listed by Lord Burghley among ‘knights of great possessions’; and in 1595 out of an income of £4,280 from rents, £2,900 came from his Essex properties. He was an active county official, a member of the victualling commission in 1573, the piracy commission in 1577, the grain commission in 1586, a commissioner for the subsidy of 1587, and a collector of loans in 1590, 1591 and 1596-8.2

He was acquainted with the Heneage, Mildmay and Radcliffe families, and in 1575 Lord Burghley was godfather to his heir William. Twice knight of the shire, Petre served on committees concerned with tithes (3 Dec. 1584), grain (19 Dec.) and cloth (13 Feb. 1585). Of particular interest, in view of the inclusion of his name in a list drawn up in her interests in 1574, is his membership of the committee which asked for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots (4 Nov. 1586). He was one of those appointed by the House to attend the Queen about the subsidy, 18 Mar. following. In fact Petre is an example of an Elizabethan who resolved conflicting loyalties to Church and State. Though its fortunes had been founded upon the proceeds of the dissolution of the monasteries, the family was, and remained, Catholic. Both Petre’s wife and his mother were presented for recusancy in 1581. Petre himself conformed to the extent of attending Anglican services (though not taking communion), and as an MP he must be presumed to have taken the oath of supremacy. In 1591 he served on a commission against seminaries and Jesuits. Clearly he would have nothing to do with ‘traitorous priests’ or any attempt to subvert the constitution. Still, he was evidently aware of the delicacy of his position: there is a draft and copy of a letter of apology, written in 1605, to be made by a Mr. Bernarde ‘for accusing Lord Petre of being a Papist’.3

Given a peerage by James I, Petre was henceforth less active in local affairs. Perhaps he was already suffering from the ‘long languishing consumption’ of which he died. He was present in 1610 at the creation of Prince Henry as Prince of Wales, and at his funeral in 1612. In 1613 Petre made settlements providing portions of £5,000 each to his grandchildren and settling properties on his eldest son William and his heirs. He died 11 Oct. that year at Thorndon and was buried at Ingatestone 29 Oct. His will, drawn up 10 Jan. 1612, and signed 1 Sept. 1613, was proved 18 Nov. He left money to the poor of local parishes, and to prisoners in London, Southwark and Colchester, to London hospitals and to old retainers. He bequeathed £20 to Exeter College, Oxford, £10 for repairs to Ingatestone church, and £5 for repairs to Thorndon church. He also made other monetary bequests to his surviving children.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.


  • 1. CP; APC, xxix. 643, 701; R. B. Colvin, Lts. and Keepers of Rolls of Essex.
  • 2. C. T. Kuypers, Thorndon, 17; Lansd. 33, f. 146; 66, f. 208; 104, f. 51 seq.; 146, f. 18; Essex RO, D/DP, E6, D/DP 04; APC, viii. 144; xix. 186; xxviii. 559.
  • 3. Lansd. 33, f. 146; 103, f. 266; F. Chancellor, Ancient Sepulchral Mons. Essex, 316; PCC 108 Windebanck, 82 Leicester; D’Ewes 335, 343, 349, 394, 416; Cath. Rec. Soc. Misc. viii. 96; Collinson thesis 504; H. Foley, Recs. Soc. of Jesus, ii. 580 seq.; Essex RO, 2/SR 78/46, 79/100; D/DP 060; D/DP, Z 30/7, 7A; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 88.
  • 4. Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 479; Nichols, Progresses Jas. I, ii. 335, 497; Essex RO, D/DP, F 14, 22, 23, 24, 29; 17 D/DP, F 18; PCC 105 Capell.