Appendix III: The 1571 House of Commons

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Effective dates of session: 2 Apr.-29 May 1571.


Speaker:(Sir) Christopher Wray 
Clerk:Fulk Onslow


Privy Councillors in the Commons:

Sir James Croft

Sir Francis Knollys

Sir Walter Mildmay

Sir Ralph Sadler

Sir Thomas Smith


Total number of Members elected 443

for counties 91

for boroughs 352

at general election 438

for counties 90

for boroughs 348

at by-elections 5

for counties 1

for boroughs 4


No Members known to have left before end.


Residential qualification. Borough Members

resident in borough 82

resident in county 125

resident in adjacent county etc. 17

strangers 119

no information 9


Electoral qualification. Members returned through

own or family interest 72

wife’s family interest 9

corporation interest 86

‘natural’ influence 32

influence of a great man 124

duchy of Lancaster 8 no information 21


Number of Members with

central office local office
major 6lord lieutenant 4
minor 82deputy lieutenant 12
legal 11custos rotulorum 12
duchy of Lancaster 15j.p. 167
diplomatic/agent abroad 3other county 84
military/naval 10mayor 9
ecclesiastical 4recorder 16
 other municipal 73
 no office in this Parliament 155


Experience. Members who

had sat in previous Parliament 29%

were to sit in next Parliament 49%



very active speakers 4%

very active committeemen 8%

with any recorded activity 32%

with any recorded speeches 10%

with any recorded committees 31%

served on religious committee 13%

spoke on religion 5%

served on subsidy committee 8%

spoke on subsidy 2%

served on a social/economic committee 19%

spoke on a social/economic matter 4%

served on a legal committee 14%

spoke on a legal matter 3%

served on a committee dealing with the treasons bill 6%

spoke on the treasons bill 3%

served on a committee outside above five classifications 7%

spoke on a subject other than the above five 3%


On 22 Dec. 1570 Fulk Onslow became clerk of the Commons, or, to give his correct title, under clerk of the Parliaments, the clerk of the Parliaments being in the House of Lords. John Hooker wrote about this time ‘of the clerk of the lower house’:

There is only one clerk belonging to this House. His office is to sit next before the Speaker, at a table upon which he writeth and layeth his books. He must make true entry of the records and bills of the House, as also of all the orders thereof.

Fulk Onslow’s journal, in contrast to Seymour’s, names committee members, enters reports and motions more fully, and, greatest advance, reports speeches.1 Onslow remained clerk of the Commons for the rest of this period, until his death at the age of 86 in 1602, though he sometimes employed a deputy. With the commencement of Onslow’s term of office the percentage of Members with recorded activity jumps to 32%, and specialist groups of Members, i.e. ‘such of the committees as are learned in the laws’,2 appear among the members of committees. The committee meeting places are set out more fully:

46% of the 1571 committees were to meet in Star Chamber

38% at the Middle Temple

13% in Mr. Treasurer’s chamber

4% ‘here in the chamber’


Notes on Procedure

On 6 Apr. a returns committee was appointed, and on 28 May another committee was set up to investigate an allegation that ‘some members of this House should take money for their voices’, and ‘afterwards to ... report ... unto this House’.3 The concept of the redress of grievances before supply, already mooted over the special case of the succession in the previous Parliament, is now asserted uncompromisingly over the recurring grievance of promoters. Thus Robert Bell on 7 Apr.:

... if remedy were provided then would the subsidy be paid willingly [but] if ... no redress of the common evils ... they would ... turn to the contrary of their duties.4

Next day, 7 Apr. 1571, a committee was appointed ‘for motions of griefs and petitions ... to meet in the Temple Church on Monday next at two of the clock in the afternoon’.5 This is the first indication of a committee for grievances, a tool to be used remorselessly by the Commons in its struggle with the Crown in the next century. Bell was a member, so was John Popham, both of them future Speakers.


Sources for the names of Members (unless an individual reference is given)

The preferred list of names for this Parliament, referred to as the de Tabley list, was lost before 7 Oct. 1931 when the Committee on House of Commons Personnel and Politics made the interim report which was subsequently laid before Parliament in 1932 and printed as Cmd. 4130. The following note has been contributed by E.L.C. Mullins:

The de Tabley list owned by the Trust is a photographic copy of a manuscript transcript in the John Rylands Library, comprising title and 22 folios, made for W. Duncombe Pink, who seems to have returned it to his agent, John J. Stocken, for checking against the original. Readings doubted by Pink are listed by him on the verso of f. 22 and continued on 23, 23v, 24v, and 25. Accompanying the Trust’s copy is a photographic copy of Stocken’s reply to Pink, dated 5 June 1888, addressed from 3 Heathfield Road, Acton, and beginning ‘The de Tabley ms has had a rigid scrutiny today, and these are the only errors or discrepancies we can detect or certify’. The ‘we’ in Stocken’s letter refers to himself and a Mr. Mackney ‘who transcribed the ms’. Inquiries at the British Museum have established that Mackney was on the staff of the Manuscripts Department there in 1888.

The John Rylands Library Hand-list of English Manuscripts, p.44, gives the location of the de Tabley original as ’in the British Museum’. Inquiries there, in the Dept. of MSS and in the Official Publications (old State Paper) room, have failed to uncover any trace of it, nor is there anything other than the card index in the Dept. of MSS that might correspond to the index pointed out to Stocken by Mackney and described in Stocken’s letter to Pink as ‘containing references to every ms and document they possess of the Parliamentary Lists’ and ‘very voluminous’. The de Tabley original is not entered in this card index.

The de Tabley papers, reported upon by the HMC in its 1st Report (1870), App. p. 46, were stated in 1967 (25th Report) to be with Lt.-Col. Leicester-Warren, Tabley House, Knutsford. They are now (1977) in the Cheshire Record Office but the 1571 list is not among them.

The antiquary Browne Willis printed a list of members of this Parliament from a manuscript in the Le Neve collection, and another by him, in manuscript, is in the Bodleian Library, ms Willis 9. This last is in two columns, the MPs for 1571 on the left, those for 1584 on the right. As between the two, the ms list has been preferred. The de Tabley list and the two Browne Willis lists appear not to derive from a common source, and none is complete, but a full list can be obtained through comparison and correlation.


Sources for the proceedings of the Commons

CJ, i.


Journal of John Hooker alias Vowell, published in Trans. Devonshire Assoc. in 1879.

Miss Helen Miller’s edited transcripts of part of Cotton Titus F.i. and of an anonymous journal, used by D’ewes, covering 2-21 Apr. 1571 in Trinity College, Dublin, E.2.9. No known copy of this anonymous journal extends beyond 21 Apr., though it is evident that the original did so. It is a substantial journal, the transcript amounting to 107 pages quarto typescript. The manner in which the religious debates are reported indicates that the writer was a puritan.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler

End Notes

  • 1. Trans. R. Hist. Soc. (ser. 4) iii. 164-5.
  • 2. D’Ewes, 166.
  • 3. D’Ewes, 156, 189.
  • 4. Trinity Dublin, anon. jnl. f. 7.
  • 5. CJ, i. 83.