TILNEY, Edmund (d.1610), of London and Leatherhead, Surr.

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

o.s. of Philip Tilney, usher of the privy chamber to Henry VIII by his w. Malena Chambre. m. 4 May 1583, Mary, wid. of Sir Edmund Bray, ?s.p. suc. fa. 1541.1

Offices Held

Master of revels 1579-1610; commr. subsidy, Surr. 1593-4.2


Tilney’s father died in debt and his mother, a member of Catherine Howard’s household, was convicted of treason and subsequently pardoned. In 1568 he made a bid for the favour of Queen Elizabeth by dedicating to her his only known publication, A Brief and Pleasant Discourse of duties in Mariage. He was returned to Parliament for Gatton through his Howard relations, and was appointed to one committee, concerned with poaching, 9 Feb. 1581.3

Tilney was master of the revels during ‘the most glorious period in the annals of the English stage’. His preferment at the expense of Thomas Blagrave, clerk of the revels, was obviously due to his connexion with the Howards. The office was under the control of the lord chamberlain. Tilney had a salary of £100 and a substantial share of the £40 paid yearly as wages to the officers of the revels, as well as fees from licences to companies and theatre owners. There was, after 1586, an official residence in the old hospital of St. John, Clerkenwell. Tilney virtually controlled theatrical productions throughout the country, selecting and revising productions to be performed at court or elsewhere. His power, extended in 1581 and 1606, caused resentment among the theatrical companies of London. He acquired property in Middlesex and Surrey, and was visited at Leatherhead by the Queen during her progress of 1591. He and his wife were joint patrons of the rectory of Alford, Surrey.4

Poor health forced Tilney to surrender some of the functions of the revels office to his kinsman and eventual successor, George Buc, several years before his death. He was buried near his father’s tomb at Streatham, 6 Oct. 1610. His ‘apparel wherein I have spent much money very plainly that might have been otherwise better employed’ was to be sold for the benefit of the Leatherhead and Streatham poor. £100 was to go towards the repair of the stone bridge at Leatherhead. Thomas Tilney of Shelley, Suffolk, was principal beneficiary and executor of the will, proved 17 Oct. 1610.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: H.G.O.


  • 1. F. S. Boas, Q. Eliz. in Drama, 39-41; London Mar. Lic. (Harl. Soc. xxv), 118.
  • 2. DNB; Surr. Arch. Colls. xviii. 200.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, xvi. pp. 617, 618, 664, 680; Boas, 42-7; Surr. Arch. Colls. ix. 425; CJ, i. 124; D’Ewes, 294.
  • 4. Lansd. 19, f. 206; 27, f. 86; 31, f. 49; 86, f. 151; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 512; 1595-7, p. 351; 1598-1601, p. 4; 1603-10, pp. 178, 391, 410; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, i. 88, 93-4, 321; iv. 106, 305-9; Boas, 47-51; Surr. Arch. Colls. xviii. 210; Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 74.
  • 5. Chambers, i. 96, 99; Surr. Arch. Colls. xxiv. 66; PCC 110 Wingfield; Lysons, Environs of London, i. 485.