COPE, Sir Walter (c.1553-1614), of The Strand, Westminster and Kensington, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1553,1 3rd s. of Edward Cope (d.1557) of Hanwell, Oxon. and Elizabeth, da. and h. of Walter Mohun of Overstone, Northants.; bro. of Sir Anthony*.2 educ. G. Inn 1570.3 m. by 1594, Dorothy, da. of Richard Grenville of Wootton Underwood, Bucks., 1da.4 kntd. 21 Apr. 1603.5 d. 31 July 1614.6 sig. W. Cope.
Gent. usher to Sir William Cecil†, 1st Bar. Burghley, c.1575-98;7 member, Soc. of Antiqs. by 1590;8 commr. examination of prisoners taken in Essex rebellion 1601;9 surveyor-gen. of queen’s revenues by 1605-1607;10 gent. of the privy chamber by 1607-d.;11 contractor for chantry lands 1607;12 chamberlain of the exch. 1608-13;13 member, High Comission, Canterbury prov. 1611;14 registrar of commerce 1611;15 member, Anne of Denmark’s Council by 1612-d.;16 master of the Wards 1612-d.;17 commr. augmentation of revenue 1612,18 cloth exports 1613,19 alum works 1613.20
Feodary for ct. of Wards and duchy of Lancaster, Oxon. and Berks. 1580-1603,21 London and Mdx. 1601-12;22 j.p. Mdx. 1598-d.;23 commr. inquiry Mdx. 1602, Wilts. 1607,24 drainage of Moorfields, Mdx. 1603,25 oyer and terminer, Mdx. 1604-d.,26 the Verge 1606-12,27 London 1610-d.,28 sewers, Mdx. 1604-11, London 1606, Lea Valley 1607-9, Coln valley 1609, Westminster 1611,29 musters, Mdx. 1608,30 subsidy 1608,31 aid 1609,32 compositions for New River 1609,33 gaol delivery, Newgate 1609-12,34 annoyances, Surr. 1611;35 kpr. (jt.) Hyde Park 1610-12, (sole) 1612-d.36
Cope was a second cousin of Mildred, Lady Burghley, and owed his early advancement to the patronage of both William, Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) and Robert Cecil†.41 Towards the end of his life Cope could claim to have lived ‘under the shadow’ of the Court of Wards for 38 years, and he was presumably employed there in some capacity even before his appointment as a feodary in his native Oxfordshire in 1580. He was frequently disparaged by the newsletter writer John Chamberlain, who admitted in 1602 that ‘for some inward respects I malign him’, though both he and Dudley Carleton*, Cope’s cousin, were often dependent upon Cope’s influence with Cecil.42 Indeed, Cope’s reputation has suffered unduly from the negative view of him found in Chamberlain and Carleton’s correspondence, though he was highly regarded by others, including Sir Robert Cotton*, and John Stow, author of the Survey of London, who shared his antiquarian interests.43 In 1602 Cecil did him the ‘very extraordinary favour’ of letting him help entertain the queen, whereupon Cope went to great expense in the hope of earning a promotion. Cope subsequently helped out the lord keeper (Thomas Egerton†) on a similar occasion, providing a Banbury cake, two cheeses and four gallons of cherry brandy.44 Cope continued to aspire to higher office in the new reign, and in 1603 negotiated for the reversion to the post of auditor of the duchy of Cornwall after Richard Connock*. In the event, however, he was never named as Connock’s successor, though he had offered £200.45 That same year, at Cecil’s request, he drew up a list of arguments in support of different types of government, adding that if Cecil required more information he could send him ‘a quire of paper full’. Perhaps with the forthcoming Parliament in mind, he added that ‘for the matter of Wards, the less you oppose against it the better. It is a piece of work so full of knots as no wit can well work out, which will be better least for them to find out than yourself’.46
Cope was returned in 1604 for Westminster, where his patron was high steward. On 26 Mar. 1604 he was named to the committee to examine the laws concerning treason and grants to the king.47 As a delegate to the conference with the Lords on the projected Union with Scotland, he commissioned a list of precedents for unions between European kingdoms, so that he could compare the conditions of each.48 When the proposal to change James’s title to king of Great Britain was debated, Cope moved to hear the heralds’ opinion (23 Apr.), and later opposed a bill for free trade between the two kingdoms.49 He was one of those ordered to consider the petition against purveyance (27 Apr.) and to attend the subsequent conference of 8 May, being listed among the Members able to ‘open and defend the statute laws’.50 In connection with the imprisonment of Sir Thomas Shirley I* in the Fleet, he proposed, on 14 May, to summon Sir George Reynell*, who had appointed the warden.51 He was named to committees for bills to confirm both the queen’s jointure (24 May) and letters patent granted to the Scottish favourite, Sir George Home (30 May).52 On 31 May he opposed two bills for free trade, which eventually passed on 6 June.53 At the purveyance debate on 2 June he observed that ‘cords bind beasts, words bind men, treaties bind kings abroad and laws at home’, and since the question of composition was proving too great an obstacle, moved to offer a ‘contribution’ of £30,000 for the suspension of purveyance during a trial period.54 He pointed out on 8 June that there were precedents for legislation against non-resident clerics, and was named to committees for bills to punish unworthy ministers (12 June), and to prevent clergymen being unjustly sued (19 June).55 He intervened in the debate on 20 June on the Commons’ apology to the king, but the substance of his contribution has been lost.56 In the course of the first session he was twice named to consider bills for fen drainage (12 May, 14 June),57 was appointed to the committee for a bill to annex certain lands inalienably to the Crown (4 July), and may have been one of those who objected, when the latter was reported two days later, that it was unworkable.58 During the recess he prepared a new book of rates, reminding his patron Cecil of the problem of Scottish customs, and corresponding with him about the proposal for a state lottery.59 In January 1605 it was incorrectly rumoured that he was to become secretary of state.60
On the day before the second session began, Carleton informed Chamberlain that Cope had grown so self-important that he was resolved to ‘leave him to his vanities’, but his resolution was soon broken when, as a servant of Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland, he was imprisoned after the Gunpowder plot.61 Cope was named to the committee to prevent similar conspiracies (21 Jan. 1606), and it was he who, on 24 Mar., brought confirmation from the Privy Council that fresh rumours of James’s assassination were false.62 He again favoured compounding for purveyance, which course of action, he declared, need not establish a precedent, and despite pointing out that previous statutes had been ineffective he was named to the committee for the bill for their better execution (30 January).63 On 20 Feb. he moved that his Court of Wards colleague John Hare*, whose strongly worded bill against purveyance had elicited a formal complaint from Cecil, by now the earl of Salisbury, should be cleared, first by a resolution of the Commons and then by a message to the Lords. On the following day, after Sir Edwin Sandys claimed that his servant had been arrested contrary to privilege, Cope suggested that the matter should be referred to the existing committee.64 As a member of the committee for the subsidy bill (10 Feb.), he urged the House on 25 Mar. not to ‘shut up the gates of mercy in respect of our grievances’.65 He was among those appointed to consider bills concerning customs (15 Mar.) and the revived free trade bill (3 April).66 In the impositions debate on 11 Apr. he reminded the House that the king had agreed not to extend their scope for seven years.67 He was ordered to attend the conference of 11 Apr. on ecclesiastical grievances.68 Among the less important committees to which he was named were two for private bills promoted by the Cecilians Sir Thomas Lake I* and (Sir) Michael Hicks*, and he was appointed to several of London interest, including those for the regulation of housing, the relief of poor debtors, the provision of fresh water, and the paving of Drury Lane.69
Cope was markedly less active in the third session. He was among those chosen to hear the Lords’ opinion on the Union on 25 Nov. 1606, and was named to the committee for the revived Court of Marshalsea bill (10 December).70 His only recorded speech, on 16 Feb. 1607, was to press for the severest punishment for Sir Christopher Pigott* for his attack on the Scots,71 though he also intervened in the debate on the bill for better attendance of Members on 4 Mar. with sufficient effect to secure his addition to the committee (28 May).72 The subjects of his other bill committee appointments included fen drainage (9 May) and the transfer by his patron Salisbury of Theobalds to the Crown in exchange for Hatfield House (30 May).73 When the king refused to receive the Commons’ petition for the better enforcement of the recusancy laws, Cope was added to the privileges committee on 16 June to search for precedents. Three days later he was also among those ordered to peruse the Journals for entries concerning privilege.74
An enthusiastic imperialist, Cope strove to interest Salisbury in Sir John Popham’s† project to reduce unemployment by encouraging emigration to Virginia, and he apparently received some gratification for his efforts at fund-raising. On the reported discovery of gold in the plantation he urged, in Aug. 1606, that investments should be diverted there from the East India Company.75 In 1608 he succeeded Sir William Killigrew* as chamberlain of the Exchequer, and it was believed that he would receive the chancellorship should Sir Julius Caesar* be promoted.76 Meanwhile he was granted the lands of a Somerset recusant and all fines imposed by King’s Bench.77 Together with his brother Sir Anthony, Sir Thomas Lake I and the astute businessman, Arthur Ingram*, he formed a syndicate in June 1607 which ‘entered into a great bargain with the king for £5,000 a year in parsonages, besides £2,000 a year he had before. He and his consorts are called the contractors, and have made shift for a great deal of money on the sudden, and yet when all is done the world thinks they will be no great gainers’.78 In 1609 it was again inaccurately rumoured that Cope was to become a secretary of state.79
In the fourth session Cope’s special relationship with Cecil was recognized by the Commons, which accorded him a seat near the chair, an honour usually reserved for privy councillors, of whom there were few in the first Stuart Parliament.80 He was again named to the privileges committee (9 Feb. 1610) and was ordered to attend the supply conference with the Lords on 15 February.81 He was one of those entrusted with drafting a message to the Lords about the Great Contract on 1 Mar., and preparing another conference (26 March).82 He was named to committees for private bills to naturalize the royal favourite, Sir Robert Carr (20 Feb.), and to restore (Sir) William Brooke* (31 Mar.), Salisbury’s nephew by marriage.83 He was one of those consulted by the Speaker on 11 May 1610 when challenged about the provenance of a message allegedly from the king, but which had in fact been given to him by the Privy Council.84 The issue brought other business to a standstill, and provoked an angry inquiry from the king about what messages the House would receive. On 19 May Cope proposed an address to explain that the Commons had no intention of behaving any less dutifully to the king than their predecessors, and merely wished to ensure due respect from their Speaker. Cope’s draft was ‘exceedingly well liked by the House’, and was adopted with only a few minor modifications; he was then among those sent to find out when the king would receive it.85 On 18 June he was named to a sub-committee to consider the message to the Lords proposed by Sir Edward Montagu* on the Great Contract. On his suggestion it was agreed on 2 July to ask that the impositions already in force be referred to the Commons for reform, and to pass a bill requiring parliamentary consent for any additions in future.86 He was named to a committee to draft an address accordingly (3 July).87 On 4 July he acted with Montagu as teller for a bill in favour of administering the oath of allegiance to women recusants.88 His other appointments included bill committees to provide for the support of Chelsea College by the construction of a new river from Hackney (22 June), and to confirm the foundation of the new Exchange on Salisbury’s property in the Strand (23 June).89 On 11 July he was twice teller for votes of supply: the House agreed to one fifteenth but jibbed at a second. His final committee appointment of the session was to prepare for another conference on the Contract (14 July).90 When discussion was resumed after the recess he suggested that the difficulty lay in finding a starting point: ‘[our] greatest enemies are fear and jealousy. The king’s jealousy fanneth our fear. I do believe we have both one end: he to perform, we to do in all duty. Committee to proceed in both, as well aggrievances as the Contract’.91
Cope remained in Salisbury’s favour, for the latter forgave him a debt of £2,000 and in 1611 granted him a licence as registrar of general commerce to mobilize capital.92 He accompanied the dying lord treasurer on his last journey, and was appointed one of his executors, with a legacy of £2,100.93 Almost the sole defender of the dead statesman, he seized the opportunity of a royal visit to Kensington in July 1612 to present an apologia, lauding Salisbury’s ability and probity in great detail, not forgetting his own role as ‘a most painful and worthy assistant’.94 James was sufficiently impressed to grant him the mastership of the Court of Wards.95 The sincerity of Cope’s determination to eschew all corruption impressed even Chamberlain, but a more cynical commentator hoped that he ‘did not pay so dear for it as his predecessor [Sir George Carew II*] by £3,000, for if he did and live no longer he will have a hard bargain of it’.96 In about 1612 Cope dedicated a tract to the king in which he suggested that the adverse trade balance with the Low Countries could be redressed by devaluing the currency, switching exports from raw materials to manufactures and strengthening the shipping industry by expanding the fishing fleet.97 His practical interest in the development of trade is evidenced by his membership of the Newfoundland and North West Passage Companies, and he continued to raise money for Virginia.98 Cope spent many years patiently building up an estate in Kensington, where he erected a great country house, styled ‘Cope Castle’, and purchased Earl’s Court in 1610.99 He entertained royalty more than once, and it was to Kensington that the king fled following Prince Henry’s sudden death in November 1612.100 Cope’s building and numerous speculative purchases required him to raise massive credit, and he was one of the commissioners for improving the revenue in 1612 who were described by Chamberlain as having ‘given no good proof of well governing their own affairs’.101 Chamberlain was also critical of Cope’s management of the Wards, reporting in 1614 that the king had received five petitions against his decisions within nine days, though these failings were attributed ‘rather [to] uncertainty and weakness of judgment in executing the place, than corruption’.102
When a general election was announced in 1614 Cope, feeling the lack of Salisbury’s patronage, was not confident of being returned for Westminster again, and asked Sir Thomas Parry*, with whom he had recently served on the revenue commission, to secure his election at Stockbridge in Hampshire on the Duchy interest.103 According to subsequent reports, the electors were originally prepared to elect him, but Parry’s officials offended them by their arrogance and a local gentleman, Henry St. John*, defeated Cope by 21 to 8 votes. This result was overturned by Parry’s agents, who arrested some of St. John’s supporters and forced the bailiff to hold another election, at which Cope was returned together with Sir Henry Wallop.104 Cope was present at the opening of the Parliament, and was one of a small group of officials who administered the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to Members.105 He was appointed to three committees, for privileges (8 Apr. 1614), the continuance of statutes (8 Apr.), and the bill for respite of homage (2 May).106 On 16 Apr. he moved that the question of ‘undertaking’ should be passed over, resting as it did on ‘rumour and report, two bastards begotten by the people’, and urged the House not to take a pharisaical attitude.107 It was not until 9 May that the Stockbridge election controversy was reported and the testimony of the burgesses heard. Cope protested that he had no knowledge of the malpractice that had secured his return, and would ‘rather not serve in the House at all than not upon a free election’. He was supported by Sir John Strangways, who urged the House to take into account that Cope was ‘so worthy a Member’, but the election was declared void and he was therefore unseated.108 At a fresh election for Stockbridge later that month, Wallop and Cope were apparently re-elected, with 28 and 26 votes respectively, while St. John received only 19; however, they did not take their seats. Further petitions were submitted to the Commons, and the case remained undecided when the Parliament was abruptly dissolved.109
It was widely rumoured by early July 1614 that Cope would be replaced as master of the Wards. Chamberlain reported that his failings were ‘imputed not so much to his ignorance or avarice as to his want of authority and countenance that should become such a place’.110 The death of his brother Sir Anthony, who had stood surety for many of his debts, was a further blow. Cope drew up his will on 30 July,111 and died the next day after a short illness at his house in the Strand. He was buried at Kensington.112 He left his interest in the sale of chantry lands for payment of his debts, which according to Chamberlain amounted to some £27,000, entrusting their settlement to his son-in-law Henry Rich* and his nephew Sir William Cope*, whom he appointed his executors.113 Cope’s impoverished widow Dorothy married Sir Thomas Fowler of Islington in 1621. Rich, later 1st earl of Holland, inherited ‘Cope Castle’, which he renamed Holland House.114 A portrait at Hatfield thought to be of Cope gives his age as 59 in 1612.115
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. Oxford DNB; we are also grateful to Elizabeth Allen, for supplying additional information.
- 2. Baker, Northants. 748.
- 3. GI Admiss. [name given as ‘Cooper’, but identified as Cope].
- 4. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 600.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 102.
- 6. C142/374/105.
- 7. Bodl. Tanner 78, f. 105; HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 22.
- 8. J. Stow, Survey of London ed. C.L. Kingsford, ii. 360.
- 9. APC, 1600-1, p. 151.
- 10. Add. 27404, f. 38; SC6/Jas.I/1648, unfol.
- 11. SP14/28/37.
- 12. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 497.
- 13. Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xviii), 18.
- 14. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 348.
- 15. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 14.
- 16. HMC Hatfield, xxiv. 212.
- 17. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 156-7.
- 18. Ibid. 143.
- 19. Ibid. 176; SP14/71/89.
- 20. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 188.
- 21. WARD 9/107, f. 279; J. Hurstfield, Queen’s Wards, 234; Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 225.
- 22. WARD 5/30/441; WARD 9/275, unfol.; C181/1, f. 10.
- 23. C231/1, f. 49; C66/1549, 1620; SP14/33, f. 41v.
- 24. C181/1, ff. 36v, 117, C181/2, ff. 10v, 35v, 64.
- 25. CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 290.
- 26. C181/1, ff. 78, 125v, 132; C181/2, ff. 3v, 30, 55, 72, 107v, 133, 155.
- 27. C181/2, ff. 13, 57, 108v, 158v, 180.
- 28. Ibid. ff. 109v, 132, 156v, 171, 179, 194.
- 29. Lansd. 168, f. 151v; C181/1, ff. 88, 100v, 115; C181/2, ff. 19v, 50, 90, 94, 140v, 153.
- 30. Add. 11402, f. 142.
- 31. SP14/31/1.
- 32. SP14/43/107.
- 33. C193/6, no. 190.
- 34. C181/2, ff. 103v, 110v, 131v, 157v, 171v.
- 35. C181/2, f. 142.
- 36. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 643.
- 37. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 84; A. Brown, Genesis of US, 66; Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 29, 32, 81, 320, 338.
- 38. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 52.
- 39. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 238.
- 40. J.H. Lefroy, Memorials of the Bermudas, i. 85.
- 41. R.C. Barnett, Place, Profit and Power, 50-55.
- 42. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 163.
- 43. Cott. Julius C.III, ff. 108-9; Add. 36294, f. 23v; K. Sharpe, Cotton, 58; Stow, ii. 23.
- 44. HMC 3rd Rep. 148. Egerton Pprs. ed. J.P. Collier (Cam. Soc. xii), 354; Chamberlain Letters, i. 177; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 415.
- 45. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 60.
- 46. HMC Hatfield, xv. 274, 368.
- 47. CJ, i. 154a.
- 48. Ibid. 172a; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 101.
- 49. CJ, i. 955b.
- 50. Ibid. 188a, 202a.
- 51. Ibid. 972a.
- 52. Ibid. 224a, 228b.
- 53. Ibid. 229b, 983a.
- 54. Ibid. 984b; P. Croft, ‘Parl., Purveyance and the City of London 1589-1608’, PH, iv. 18; E. Lindquist, ‘King, People, and House of Commons: Problem of Early Jacobean Purveyance’, HJ, xxxi. 560.
- 55. CJ, i. 237a, 241b, 989a.
- 56. Ibid. 243b, 995b.
- 57. Ibid. 207b, 239a.
- 58. Ibid. 252a, 253b, 1002b.
- 59. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 348, 415; xvii. 374.
- 60. SP14/12/6; Winwood’s Memorials, ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 45.
- 61. SP78/52, f. 336; Chamberlain Letters, i. 215, 217; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 243, 274.
- 62. CJ, i. 257b; Hull RO, L.160.
- 63. CJ, i. 261b; 278a.
- 64. Ibid. 272b.
- 65. Ibid. 266b, 289b.
- 66. Ibid. 285a, 292b.
- 67. Ibid. 297a.
- 68. Ibid. 296b.
- 69. Ibid. 259b, 260a, 260b, 262a, 262b, 287a.
- 70. Ibid. 324b, 329a.
- 71. Ibid. 1014b.
- 72. Ibid. 347a, 376a.
- 73. Ibid. 372a, 377a.
- 74. Ibid. 384b, 386a.
- 75. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 84, 232; xix. 417-18, xx. 75.
- 76. Chamberlain Letters, i. 258-9.
- 77. C66/1753; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 403; Eg. 2978, f. 7.
- 78. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 497; Chamberlain Letters, i. 277.
- 79. Chamberlain Letters, i. 280.
- 80. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 84.
- 81. CJ, i. 392a, 393b.
- 82. Ibid. 403b, 414b.
- 83. Ibid. 397b, 417a.
- 84. Procs. 1610 ii. 84.
- 85. Ibid. ii. 98-99; HMC Lords, n.s. xi. 124.
- 86. Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 109.
- 87. CJ, i. 445a.
- 88. Ibid. 445b.
- 89. Ibid. 442b, 443a.
- 90. Ibid. 450a.
- 91. Procs. 1610, ii. 394.
- 92. C66/1868; HMC Hatfield, xxi. 347, xxiv. 223; L. Stone, Crisis of the Aristocracy, 536.
- 93. Chamberlain Letters, i. 336, 346; J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, ii. 448; HMC Hatfield, xxii. 8; PROB 11/119, f. 390.
- 94. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 133; Chamberlain Letters, i. 369-70; J. Gutch, Collecteana Curiosa, i. 119, 132.
- 95. Chamberlain Letters, i. 393.
- 96. Nichols, ii. 490.
- 97. SP14/71/89; Trin. Coll. Camb. ms 698/1.
- 98. Chamberlain Letters, i. 471; T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 270.
- 99. SP14/21/22; E214/296; N. Pevsner, Buildings of Eng.: London, ii. 262-3; D. Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 173-5; T. Faulkener, Hist. Kensington, 84.
- 100. Chamberlain Letters, i. 390.
- 101. Ibid. i. 374, 377; E214/621.
- 102. Chamberlain Letters, i. 503.
- 103. Ibid. i. 517.
- 104. Hants RO, 44M69/G2/44, 154.
- 105. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 12.
- 106. Ibid. 33, 35, 120.
- 107. Ibid. 90.
- 108. HMC Portland, ix. 132; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 175, 179, 183, 193, 196, 198.
- 109. Hants RO, 44M69/G2/42; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 323, 390.
- 110. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 338; Chamberlain Letters, i. 550.
- 111. Chamberlain Letters, i. 554; HMC Downshire, iv. 484; PROB 11/145, f. 529.
- 112. C142/374/105; Faulkener, 365.
- 113. Chamberlain Letters, i. 560-1.
- 114. Ibid. ii. 376; CP, vi. 539.
- 115. Paintings and Sculpture at Hatfield House comp. E. Averbach and C. Kingsley Adams, 78-80.