BARKER, William (by 1522-76 or later).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1522. educ. ?St. John’s, Camb. BA 1536-7, MA 1540, ?fellow.1

Offices Held

Sec. to 4th Duke of Norfolk c.1554-71.2


William Barker’s parentage has not been established and his education is difficult to disentangle from that of four namesakes who were his contemporaries at Cambridge. He is known to have gone to Cambridge at the expense of Queen Anne Boleyn, after whose death he remained there for ‘a good time, travailing in such manner of study as then was there approved’. He was probably a fellow of St. John’s and may have been a schoolmaster for some time, although it seems to have been a namesake who was master of Eton. By 1552 he had translated some works of Xenophon which he dedicated to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, but he could not settle to a career and the next two years he seems to have spent on the Continent, mainly in Italy: on his return he published Epitaphia et inscriptiones lugubres, the fruit of his stay in Italy.3

Barker found that after his travels his ‘former fancy of professing nothing particularly was very much increased’, but although cultured and ‘Italianate’ he was also poor; he therefore entered the service of the young Duke of Norfolk, quickly becoming his confidential secretary: he also became, at some stage, the duke’s surveyor for Lincolnshire, at a fee of £6 13s.4d. a year. It was at Norfolk’s nomination that on 31 Dec. 1557 he was elected for Yarmouth to the last Marian Parliament, although he was paid by the town for this service. Twelve months later he was re-elected there and he was to sit in the two following Parliaments. Implicated in the Ridolfi Plot, Barker gave evidence which sealed his master’s fate, but his own conviction for treason cost him only two years in the Tower, after which he soon disappeared into obscurity, being last heard of in February 1576. To the list of his writings given in the Dictionary of National Biography must be added The Nobility of Women, edited for the Roxburghe Club in 1904.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from presumed education. DNB.
  • 2. The Nobility of Women (Roxburghe Club, 1904), 88.
  • 3. Cooper, Ath. Cant. i. 275, 556; Al. Cant. i(1), 88; The Nobility of Women, 8-10, 88; CPR, 1550-3, p. 77.
  • 4. The Nobility of Women, 88; HMC Hatfield, ii. 6; Arundel castle mss G1/7; Yarmouth ass. bk. A, ff. 189, 202v, 203; CSP For. 1572-4, p. 351; Murdin, State Pprs. 87-129 passim; APC, viii. 242, 271; N. Williams, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, 197-236 passim.