BUTLER (BOTELER), Philip (by 1493-1545), of Watton at Stone, Hefts.

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 1493, 1st s. of John Butler of Watton at Stone by 2nd w. Dorothy, da. of William Tyrrell of Gipping, Suff. m. settlement 1 Aug. 1510, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Robert Drury I of Hawstead, Suff., 12s. inc. Sir John 7da. suc. fa. 11 May 1514. Kntd. Nov./Dec. 1529.2

Offices Held

J.p. Herts. 1522-d.; commr. subsidy 1523, 1524, musters 1539; other commissions 1530-40; sheriff, Essex and Herts. 1532-3, 1539-40; knight of the body by 1533.3


The Butlers of Hertfordshire claimed descent from Ralph le Boteler, butler to Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulan and Earl of Leicester in the time of Henry I, and by the 15th century they had been seated at Watton for some time. Philip Butler had livery of the family lands in seven counties in October 1514. By 1529 he had served on several county commissions and his name had twice been on the sheriff roll for Essex and Hertfordshire. The returns for the Parliament of 1529 are not extant, and the only surviving contemporary list of its Members names ‘Sir John Butler’ as second knight of the shire for Hertfordshire. No knight of that name was then living, at least in Hertfordshire, and as Philip Butler was then the head of the family, and as he was one of the gentlemen knighted by Henry VIII ‘at York Place in the Parliament time Anno Domini 1529’, it is all but certain that he, and not the hypothetical Sir John, sat in the Parliament of 1529. He was appointed sheriff in 1532, when the government was concerned to secure the return of its nominees at a number of by-elections, including one in Hertfordshire and two in Essex; it would have been quite consistent for Butler’s appointment to have resulted from his Membership at the time. He would probably have sat again in the Parliament of 1536, in accordance with the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members, and he certainly did in that of 1539.4

In 1536 Butler was summoned to raise 60 men, and to serve himself with them, against the northern rebels. In 1537 he attended the christening of Prince Edward and two years later the reception of Anne of Cleves. In an undated letter ascribed to 1539, the parson of Watton complained to Butler that a marriage had been solemnized in Bethlehem liberty while its legality was still in doubt; he asked Butler to report the case to the bishop of Lincoln, and added that the abuse should be remedied by legislation. A ‘humble supplication to be made to the King’s majesty’, presumably for a bill in Parliament, deals with this and other matters, and may have been an outcome of the letter. If Butler interested himself in this as a Member of the Parliament of 1539, however, he was unsuccessful, for no such Act resulted. He was pricked sheriff for the second time in November 1539, and during this term of office there took place the trial of the abbot of Colchester; Butler’s duties in that connexion included the empanelling of a trustworthy jury for the trial and the supervision of the abbot’s execution.5

The abbot of Reading was also executed in 1539, and the abbey lands came to the crown. In July 1540 Butler purchased one of the properties, the manor and advowson of Aston, Hertfordshire, for £769. It has been conjectured that Butler himself built Aston Bury house, a substantial and imposing edifice now ruined, but this is unlikely, as a chancery suit shows that Aston Bury had been let by the abbey for a term of years still current in 1542, when its tenant was in dispute with the new owner over timber rights. Butler transferred Aston to his eldest son and daughter-in-law in February 1543, and in the same year he settled Woodhall manor and Watton advowson, the family’s main properties, to provide annuities of £5 for each of his four surviving younger sons. Butler was ordered to raise 20 footmen for service with the rearguard of the army in France in 1544, but does not appear to have served himself. He took a leading part in the raising and despatch of men from Hertfordshire for the war, and in September 1544 he was paid £30 conduct money for 300 soldiers sent to France as reinforcements.6

Butler died on 6 June 1545, possessed of lands to the value of £60 a year. By his will, made on the previous 24 May, he directed that his body should be buried in Watton church if he died within 30 miles of it, as he evidently did, for fragments of a brass on his tomb survive there. A sum of £30 was left ‘toward the making of an aisle to the said church with the money willed by my grandfather wherewith I am charged’. After gifts to servants and charities, and legacies of 200 marks to each of three unmarried daughters, Butler left two other daughters each a cup worth five marks, and the residue of his personal property equally between his widow and his heir, John, the only son mentioned in the will. Lands in Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Hertfordshire and Shropshire were charged with the payment of legacies and annuities, but the will contains no devise of any land. Presumably the settlements Butler had made in his lifetime and the statutory provisions for the heir and the widow made such devises superfluous.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from grant of livery. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 475-6, 489; NRA 11612, p. 213.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, ii-iv, viii, xiii, xiv, xvi-xviii, xx.
  • 4. Herts. Gen. and Antiq. i. 78; LP Hen. VIII, i. iv.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, ii, xi, xii, xiv.
  • 6. Ibid. xv, xviii, xix; C24/6 no. 18; Cussans, Herts. (Broadwater Hundred), 189-90.
  • 7. Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 199; C142/72/88; Hunts. RO, Archdeaconry of Huntingdon wills 8, p. 52.