COPE, Sir Anthony (1550-1614), of Hanwell, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



c. Feb. 1606

Family and Education

b. 19 Mar. 1550,1 2nd s. of Edward Cope (d. 22 June 1557)2 of Hanwell and Elizabeth, da. and h. of Walter Mohun of Overstone, Northants.; bro. of Sir Walter Cope*.3 educ. G. Inn, entered 1606.4 m. (1) Frances (d.1599),5 da. of Rowland Lytton of Knebworth, Herts., 7s. 3da.;6 (2) 7 Apr. 1600,7 Anne (d.1637), da. of Sir William Paston of Oxnead, Norf., wid. of Sir Nicholas L’Estrange of Hunstanton, Norf. and Sir George Chaworth of Wiverton, Notts., s.p.8 suc. bro. 1566;9 kntd. c.1591;10 cr. bt. 29 June 1611.11 d. 7 July 1614.12

Offices Held

Steward, manor of Wollaston, Northants. 1576;13 sheriff, Oxon. 1582-3, 1591-2, 1603-4;14 j.p. Oxon. c.1584-1607, by 1614-d., Banbury, Oxon. 1608;15 commr. levies, Oxon. 1586,16 subsidy, 1589, 1595, 1600, 1608;17 constable (jt.) Banbury castle c.1589;18 dep. lt. Oxon. 1593-at least 1608;19 commr. oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. by 1602-d.,20 sewers, Oxon. and Berks. 1604-12,21 aid, Oxf. Univ. 1609;22 collector of aid for Prince Henry, Oxon. 1609, for Princess Elizabeth 1613.23

Member, Virg. Co. 1609.24


Cope came from a cadet branch of a Northamptonshire family which first represented that county in 1397. His great-grandfather acquired the Oxfordshire manor of Hanwell in 1498.25 Cope himself inherited this property, and was visited there in August 1605 by James I.26 Remarkably, Cope sat in every parliament but one between his coming of age and his death. His main contribution to James’s parliaments was his insistence that religion be kept at the forefront of the political agenda. However, having been imprisoned in 1587 for proposing the programme of religious reforms that became known as ‘Cope’s bill and book’,27 he had become wary of controversy, though he remained a lifelong friend and associate of the puritan Peter Wentworth†.28

Cope was sheriff of Oxfordshire at the general election of 1604, and therefore ineligible to sit in Parliament. He yielded his former seat at Banbury to his eldest son, Sir William Cope*, and presumably supported the return of his brother-in-law John Doyley* as knight of the shire. Following the end of his shrievalty he managed to secure a seat for himself, being returned for the county at a by-election to replace (Sir) Lawrence Tanfield*, who had been appointed a judge on 13 Jan. 1606. He took up his seat by 12 Feb., when he was added to the committee for a conference on supply.29 He was one of three Members whose names were noted by the clerk on 15 Feb. in connection with the ministry and the establishment of true religion. However, it is not clear whether this signifies that they were being added to the committee named in January to consider the best means to provide for a learned ministry and counter non-residence.30 Cope was also placed on committees to consider bills to improve ecclesiastical government (25 Feb.), prevent pluralism and non-residence (to which he was the first named member, 5 Mar.) and restore deprived ministers (7 March).31 His predominant interest in religious measures is reflected by the ‘Parliament Fart’ satire, in which he ‘prayed to God’, that the fart was ‘no bull for the pope’.32

In a supply debate on 14 Mar. Cope declared that ‘because many good bills are in the House, and more will come’, grievances should be redressed before there was any grant of subsidy.33 On the following day several grievances were presented, and Cope was one of those who spoke forcefully on the first of them, the deprivation of those ministers who had refused to conform to the 1604 Canons.34 On 27 Mar. he moved that those grievances which were ready should be ‘put into form; and thereupon a conference to be desired with the Lords, and to proceed with petition to His Majesty’.35 His other committees included those on bills for the better execution of penal statutes (27 Mar.), the regulation of ‘tippling houses’ (3 Apr.), the abolition of patronage at parliamentary elections (3 Apr.), and the punishment of non-communicants (7 April).36 He opposed the reading of the subsidy bill on 9 May ‘until the grievances were read’, and three days later complained that conferences had grown ‘so long and wearisome’ that it was needful to allow Members to be seated, ‘for we stay long before their lordships come; and if we depart before the conference be ended, we offend’; he added ‘many of us that are old cannot stand so long but we shall fall down’.37 He was among those ordered to prepare and present to the king a petition on ecclesiastical grievances on 14 May.38

The main business of the third session was the king’s project for the Union with Scotland. On 24 Nov. 1606 Cope moved that the Instrument of the Union should be returned to the Lords, whereupon he was ordered to attend a conference on the following day.39 With his brother Sir Walter he was named to the committee to consider the bill ‘for the better continuance of the fame and memory of noble and worthy persons deceased’ (26 November).40 He was a member of the committee for a bill to control the ecclesiastical courts, and spoke for this measure at its third reading on 6 December.41 He was also named to committees for bills against unlicensed alehouses (3 Dec.) and for the reformation of abuses in the Marshalsea court (10 December).42 On 5 Mar. 1607, at the third reading of another ecclesiastical measure, the bill in restraint of canons, he pointed out that Queen Elizabeth had ‘stayed her hand from giving life to any of the canons during her time, lest it might stir or grieve her people’s hearts’.43 He helped manage a conference on the Union on 7 Mar., taking responsibility with Sir George More* for expounding a problem detected in the wording of the Instrument involving sheriffs and magistrates.44 Shortly afterwards he was named to a sub-committee to consider the inconvenience of ‘the long and painful standing’ at conferences.45

When Speaker Phelips fell ill late in March 1607, Cope was one of those appointed to consider precedents for procedure during his absence.46 On 28 Mar. he successfully moved postponement of a conference on the Union until after the Easter recess, ‘the House being so small and empty’.47 He opposed a bill introduced by Sir Robert Wingfield* on 30 Apr. and drafted before the Easter recess by the lawyers on the committee for the reform of the Marshalsea court.48 On 2 May, during the third reading debate on an explanatory bill concerning the ministry, he spoke of John Dod, rector of Hanwell, identified in the Journal as ‘Sir Anthony Cope’s preacher’, who had recently been deprived.49 Cope was among those instructed to draft a petition against Catholics and in favour of a preaching and resident ministry (18 May), and to consider a bill to abolish the Court of High Commission (26 June).50 He was also named to the committee to consider a bill for the better attendance of Members (28 May).51 On 5 June he spoke on the clause relating to witnesses in the bill to annul laws hostile to the Scots, although his position only became clear four weeks later, after he had helped to prepare a conference on the bill.52 He argued on 29 June that it was wrong ‘to refuse every lewd fellow, for most of them can say more than any other man. To refuse such, a notable wrong in the jury. The jury unfit, of all other, to choose the testimony’.53 He was appointed on 19 June to search the Journal for questions of privilege raised during the Parliament,54 and on 23 June acted as a teller against a private bill concerning the legacy of the 5th earl of Derby.55

Outside Parliament, in June 1607, Cope joined with his brother and others in what Chamberlain later called ‘a great bargain with the king’ for the purchase of chantry lands and parsonages to the value of £32,000.56 It may perhaps be taken as a sign of hypocrisy that despite Cope’s frequent exhortations against non-residence and pluralism he was eager to profit from the sale of rectories, albeit as a partner in a syndicate organized by his more- worldly sibling.57 Dudley Carleton* observed in August 1607 that many of the ‘puritan Parliament men’ had been put out of the commission of the peace, ‘and if Sir Anthony Cope hold in he hath good luck, for he was the foreman in my lord chancellor’s list to be put out’.58 If Cope was indeed removed from the Oxfordshire bench, it might explain why he briefly became a magistrate for the borough of Banbury (which had power to appoint its own justices) in 1608.

When the fourth session met in 1610, Cope was named to a committee to consider two bills against pluralism and non-residence (19 Feb. 1610).59 In debate on Dr. Cowell’s Interpreter, a book that had outraged many Members by stressing the absolute powers of the king, Cope argued darkly on 24 Feb. that Cowell had confederates, ‘whether from beyond sea or here’.60 On 20 June he spoke in favour of legislation against swearing, and on 3 July he was among those appointed to draft the petition against impositions.61 Three days later he was involved in interrogating an informer, William Udall, who had offered information concerning the whereabouts of priests in hiding.62 After twice urging the House to clarify its position on the Great Contract, he helped to prepare for a conference on the subject on 19 July.63 He is not mentioned in the records of the fifth session.

In 1610 Cope received a lease of woods in Whittlewood forest and a grant of the manor of Bruern, Oxfordshire.64 He was already an investor in the Virginia Company, and in 1611 he bought lands in Ulster, though it was later reported that the house he had built in Omagh fell down and his acres in Cloghor remained uncultivated.65 He probably entertained the king at Hanwell again in August 1612, and in October he prepared Banbury castle for the reception of Lady Stonor and other Catholic prisoners.66

Cope was returned to his final Parliament in 1614, when he served as senior knight of the shire for Oxfordshire. At the age of 74, he was one of the oldest Members in the House. On 5 May he opposed putting supply to the question, saying that although ‘the king’s part might carry it by voices, yet it would not be so honourable for the king to have one negative voice’.67 Two days later he recommended that the judges should set an example by observing the Sabbath while on circuit.68 On 9 May he was named to the committee to consider the bill for confirmation of Thomas Sutton’s charitable foundation, the Charterhouse.69 When his brother Sir Walter’s election for Stockbridge was questioned that same day, Cope demanded that the patron of the borough, Sir Thomas Parry*, chancellor of the Duchy and the only Member in the House older than Cope himself, should be heard in his own defence.70 On 12 May he made ‘a long and good speech’ on yet another bill against non-residence and pluralism, which practices he likened to ‘Hydra’s heads’, as ‘they have the more increased’. Drawing upon his experience of over 40 years in the Commons, he claimed that there were ‘as many non-residents now as in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s time’, and declared that ‘a soul-murthering non-resident [is] as dangerous to the soul as a murtherer of the body to it’. He ended by imploring the House to petition the king to take action and not to dissolve the Parliament until he had done so, for ‘the Parliament [is] the only fit time’.71 He was the first Member named to the committee to consider the bill.72 On 23 May he objected to the petition against baronets, which he termed ‘a libel’, saying that ‘it would but stir up combustions among the gentlemen in this time of many important businesses’.73 Sir Jerome Horsey* mockingly retorted that he ‘speaketh for his penny’, since Cope had been one of the first to buy the title of baronet himself in 1611, and his brother had been involved in handling the sales.74 When a committee was named, Cope complained that all the Members who were baronets had been excluded.75 He was twice appointed to committees to consider what should be done about Bishop Neile’s charges of sedition against the Commons (25 May, 1 June), and to the committee to consider a bill against the ex officio oath (31 May).76 With several of his fellow puritans he spoke in favour of the unsuccessful proposal that the House should sit on Ascension Day.77

On 9 June, two days after the dissolution of the Addled Parliament, Cope made his will, ‘being sick in body’. Although he made generous provision for his three younger sons, he reportedly left debts of over £20,000, some of which were incurred on behalf of his brother.78 John Dod was to have ‘the house that he dwells in if he be driven out of his ministry’. Cope died on 7 July 1614 at his brother’s Kensington residence, and was buried at Hanwell under an alabaster monument.79 Robert Harris preached the funeral sermon, in which he praised Cope as ‘a chaste husband, a tender father, a religious magistrate, a kind neighbour, a good churchman, a good statesman’.80 He was succeeded by his eldest son and heir, Sir William Cope.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C142/145/53.
  • 2. C142/112/126, 138.
  • 3. VCH Oxon. ix. 114; Baker, Northants. i. 748.
  • 4. GI Admiss.
  • 5. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 64.
  • 6. Baker, Northants. i. 748.
  • 7. St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxxi), 119.
  • 8. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 128.
  • 9. C142/145/53; Baker, Northants. i. 748.
  • 10. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 88.
  • 11. C66/1942.
  • 12. C142/392/99; Chamberlain Letters, i. 549.
  • 13. R. Somerville, Hist. Duchy of Lancaster, i. 591.
  • 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 109.
  • 15. E163/14/8, f. 28; C66/1988; A. Beesley, Banbury, 256.
  • 16. APC, 1586-7, p. 56.
  • 17. E115/146/86, 115/148/23, 129; SP14/31/1.
  • 18. Harl. 360, f. 65.
  • 19. APC, 1592-3, p. 254; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 297; SP14/33, f. 4.
  • 20. C181/1, f. 17v; 181/2, 232v.
  • 21. C181/1, f. 85; 181/2, 168v.
  • 22. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 2, p. 165.
  • 23. E403/2730, f. 51; 403/2733, f. 26; SP14/43/107.
  • 24. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 81, 320.
  • 25. VCH Oxon. ix. 115, 119.
  • 26. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, i. 527.
  • 27. APC, 1591, p. 392; P. Collinson, Eliz. Puritan Movt. 311; Procs. 1626, iii. 270-1.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield vii. 303.
  • 29. CJ, i. 267a.
  • 30. Ibid. 268b; W. Notestein, Commons 1604-10, p. 452.
  • 31. Ibid. 274a, 277b, 279a.
  • 32. J. Mennes, Musarum Deliciae (repr. 1985), p. 71.
  • 33. CJ, i. 285a.
  • 34. Ibid. 285a.
  • 35. Ibid. 290b.
  • 36. Ibid. 290b, 292b, 293a. 294b.
  • 37. Ibid. 307a; Bowyer Diary, 158.
  • 38. CJ, i. 308b, 309a.
  • 39. Ibid. 324b, 1003b.
  • 40. Ibid. 325b.
  • 41. Ibid. 326b, 1008a.
  • 42. Ibid. 327a, 329a.
  • 43. Ibid. 329b, 1026b.
  • 44. Ibid. 350a; Bowyer Diary, 224, 232.
  • 45. CJ, i. 352a.
  • 46. Ibid. 354a.
  • 47. Ibid. 1034b; Bowyer Diary, 250.
  • 48. CJ, i. 1038a.
  • 49. Ibid. 1040a.
  • 50. Ibid. 375a, 387b.
  • 51. Ibid. 376a.
  • 52. Ibid. 382a, 1049b.
  • 53. Ibid.1055a.
  • 54. Ibid. 386a.
  • 55. Ibid. 387a.
  • 56. Chamberlain Letters, i. 277; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 497; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 381, 399, 427.
  • 57. M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 30, 32, 145-6; A.F. Upton, Sir Arthur Ingram, 25.
  • 58. Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 98.
  • 59. CJ, i. 396b.
  • 60. Ibid. 400a.
  • 61. Ibid. 441b, 445b.
  • 62. Ibid. 446b.
  • 63. Ibid. 402a, 411b, 452a.
  • 64. C66/1801, 1849; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 581.
  • 65. C66/1928, 1945; Recs. Virg. Co. iii. 81, 320; CSP Ire. 1611-14, pp. 124, 126, 317; HMC Hastings, iv. 174, 180.
  • 66. Beesley, 240; Lansd. 161, f. 320.
  • 67. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 152, 156.
  • 68. Ibid. 172.
  • 69. Ibid. 176.
  • 70. Ibid. 177, 182, 192, 198.
  • 71. Ibid. 217, 221.
  • 72. Ibid. 217.
  • 73. Ibid. 322, 326.
  • 74. Ibid. 323; Chamberlain Letters, i. 534.
  • 75. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 323.
  • 76. Ibid. 346, 394, 405.
  • 77. Ibid. 405.
  • 78. VCH Oxon. ix. 115; Chamberlain Letters, i. 580; PROB 11/127, f. 174v-175.
  • 79. Chamberlain Letters, i. 549; Parochial Colls. (Oxon. Rec. Soc. iv), 162.
  • 80. R. Harris, Samuel’s Funerall (1618), STC 12848, p. 16.