RANDOLPH, Thomas (1523-90), of St. Peter's Hill, London and Milton, Kent.

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. 1523, 2nd s. of Avery Randolph of Badlesmere, Kent by Anne, da. of Sir John Gaynsford of Crowhurst, Suss. educ. Canterbury sch.; Christ Church, Oxf., BA 1545, BCL 1548, suppl. DCL 1566, 1574. m. (1) 1571, Anne, da. of Thomas Walsingham of Chislehurst, Kent, s.p.s.; (2) by 1575, Ursula, da. of Henry Copinger of Buxhall, Suff., 3s. prob. 3da.2

Offices Held

Notary public by Apr. 1548; principal, Broadgates Hall, Oxf. 1549-53; envoy to Germany 1558, Scotland 1559-66, Russia 1568-9, Scotland 1570, 1572, France 1573, 1576, Scotland 1578, 1581, 1586; master of the posts from 1567; constable (by assignment from Sir Robert Constable), Queenborough castle from 1567; steward, manors of Milton and Merden, Kent from 1567; chamberlain of the Exchequer from 1572; j.p. Kent from 1573, commr. musters from c.1584.3


Randolph wrote from Strasbourg, early in December 1558, to tell Sir Nicholas Throckmorton that he was returning to England with Sir Thomas Wroth and Sir Anthony Cooke. Throckmorton’s ‘advice’ to Elizabeth was that Randolph should be made clerk of the Privy Council, but she had other plans for him. He was to continue the diplomatic career he may already have begun in the reign of her sister, and which was to continue until within four years of his death.

The Elizabethan diplomats provide poor material for parliamentary biographies, as their activity in the Commons, on the comparatively few occasions their duties permitted their attending the House, is rarely commensurate with the interest of their career outside, which has necessarily to be excluded from consideration. Randolph was brought into the 1559 Parliament by Sir William Cecil. He missed the 1563 and 1571 Parliaments altogether, was returned for St. Ives in 1572 by the 2nd Earl of Bedford, but missed the 1581 session, of whose proceedings, however, two or three of his friends sent him an account at Edinburgh. At Maidstone, Randolph’s parliamentary patron was presumably Sir Francis Walsingham, his first wife’s cousin. The sum total of Randolph’s recorded parliamentary activity is his membership of committees on Mary Queen of Scots (12 May 1572, 4 Nov. 1586), rites and ceremonies (20 May 1572), Peter Wentworth (8 Feb. 1576) and ports (13 Feb. 1576).4

Randolph was nearly 50 when he married for the first time, asking Burghley to contrive increased provision for him as his wife was ‘richer in virtue than great wealth’. Soon afterwards she died in childbirth, and his next marriage was to a lady whose ‘power’ was ‘great over him’. Both wives were from puritan families. Considering the status of his missions to Scotland and France and the length of his diplomatic career, Randolph was meanly treated by Elizabeth. He received no honours (an expected knighthood eluded him on several occasions), few royal grants, and her promise of a prebend belonging to Trinity College, Cambridge, was frustrated by the governing body of the college. But his complaints of poverty were unjustified. His will was that of a wealthy man. He died on 8 June 1590, and was buried in St. Peter’s, Paul’s Wharf, near his London house.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


Acknowledgments are due to Drs. K. P. Frescoln and N. M. Sutherland for help with this biography.

  • 1. Returned for New Romney and/or St. Ives.
  • 2. Wood, Ath. Ox. i. 563-7; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 12; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 301, 424; CSP For. 1569-71, p. 176; London IPMs (Brit. Rec. Soc. Index Lib. xxxvi), 146-7; Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 129; PCC 75 Drury.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 301; 1581-90, p. 672; Add. 1566-79, p. 453; CSP For. 1572-4, pp. 433-4; 1575-7, pp. 302-4; CPR, 1566-9, p. 144; 1569-72, p. 448; Lansd. 22, f. 51; 106, f. 132; Harl. 474, f. 75.
  • 4. CSP For. 1558-9, pp. 5, 21-3; 1561-2, pp. 380 seq.; Melville Mems. (3rd ed.), 231; C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 266-7; Lansd. 31, f. 112; 106, f. 132; EHR, lxv. 91 seq.; CJ, i. 95, 96, 104, 105; D’Ewes, 206, 241, 247, 394; PCC 45 Windsor; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 424; SP52/29/40; CSP Scot. v. 639; Wright, Eliz. ii. 129-30.
  • 5. APC, xiii. 400-1; xv. 51; xvi. 22-3, 53; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 286, 301, 306, 310, 424, 671; 1581-90, p. 291; Camb. Univ. Lib., Baker mss; PCC 75 Drury; Lansd. 13, f. 85; 20, f. 103; 43, f. 7; 48, f. 136; 67, ff. 82, 86; 69, f. 19; CSP For. 1569-71, p. 529; London IPMs, 146-7.