CHAMBERLAIN, Sir Edward (1480-1543), of Shirburn, Oxon.

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

bap. 22 Dec. 1480, 1st s. of Richard Chamberlain of Coton, Northants. by Sybil, da. of Richard Fowler of Rycote, Oxon. m. by 1504, Cecily, da. of Sir John Verney of Pendley, Herts., at least 3s. Edward Chamberlain II, Sir Leonard* and Sir Ralph 2da. suc. fa. 28 Aug. 1496, mother 1525. Kntd. 25 Sept. 1513.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 1505-6, 1517-18; lt. Woodstock, Oxon. 1508, jt. (with s. Leonard lt. 1532-d.; esquire of the body by 1509; j.p. Oxon. 1509-37; commr. subsidy 1523, 1524, musters 1539.2


The Chamberlains derived their name from the office held by the Anglo-Norman house of Tancarville, from which they claimed descent. By the 16th century their chief estates lay in Oxfordshire, although Edward Chamberlain’s father also left lands in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, besides property in London and a disputed title to the manor of Penshurst and other lands in Kent. After the younger sons had been provided for, Edward Chamberlain inherited an estate worth about £150 a year. In April 1497 Sybil Chamberlain was granted the wardship and marriage of her eldest son: in 1505 she obtained a lease of Shirburn from her spendthrift brother Richard Fowler, and on her death 20 years later Shirburn passed to Edward.3

Chamberlain sailed with Dorset’s fruitless expedition to Biscay in the summer of 1512, commanded a ship in renewed sea-fighting early in 1513 and crossed with the royal army to northern France in the summer. After being knighted at Tournai in September he was paid conduct money for his men’s return from Dover in November and then settled down to combine the duties of country gentleman and courtier. He served at a royal banquet at Greenwich in July 1517 and attended both the Field of Cloth of Gold and Henry VIII’s meeting with the Emperor at Gravelines in 1520. He was on the sheriff roll for three consecutive years before being pricked for a second term in 1517. This could have been a special mark of confidence, since earlier in 1517 he had been accused of abusing his powers as a justice of the peace.4

Chamberlain may have been nominated for Wallingford in 1529 by the King, who was at Woodstock on 25 Aug. and again on 4 Sept. He had perhaps already sat for the borough, as its Members in the earlier Parliaments of the reign are unknown, although in 1523 the King had ordered the election of local men, preferably residents. Shirburn was perhaps not too far from Wallingford for a man of Chamberlain’s standing to rank as local, although like his fellow-Member Guthlac Overton he owned no property in the borough. On 3 Oct. 1529 he acquitted the corporation of any liability for his expenses.5

In spite of his inheritance, Chamberlain fell into debt. It was doubtless financial straits which drove him to exploit his rights as lieutenant of Woodstock to the full until, at some unknown date, he was accused in the Star Chamber of embezzlement and extortion. The suitor’s name is unknown, as is the result of the case, but the defendant mingled assertions of the customs of the manor with denials and complaints of vagueness, and countered the charges of extortion by declaring that several people had given him money of their own free will when he went to serve the King overseas. Like many others Chamberlain may never have recovered from the extravagant opening years of Henry VIII: what use, if any, he made of the protection from creditors afforded by his Membership is not known.6

Chamberlain still claimed Penshurst and in October 1519 the 3rd Duke of Buckingham promised to pay compensation. On the duke’s attainder the manor escheated to the crown and in 1553 was to be the subject of a lawsuit between its new owner, Sir William Sidney, and Chamberlain’s sons. In February 1525 Chamberlain and his eldest son Leonard sold North Reston, Lincolnshire, to Thomas Heneage for £397, and although his mother died in the same month he soon ceded Stanbridge and Tilsworth, Bedfordshire, to his uncle Fowler for the sake of securing Shirburn: he also sold the Oxfordshire manor of Stanton St. John to Robert Dormer in 1526. Another misfortune was the breach between Chamberlain and his eldest son. In the time of Sir Thomas Audley’s lord keepership, between May 1532 and January 1533, Leonard Chamberlain sued his father in Chancery for having wasted the woods at Shirburn—‘of his covetous mind intending utterly to decay the said manor’—after the estate had been entailed on the heir in October 1528. Surprisingly, in the light of all this, early in 1532 the offices at Woodstock were regranted jointly to father and son. Chamberlain remained active in local administration, but the Sir Edward Chamberlain who served Anne Boleyn at her coronation banquet and who was sent in 1534 to attend Catherine of Aragon in her detention at Kimbolton was probably a Suffolk namesake.7

In his closing years Chamberlain was reconciled to his eldest son and one of his last acts was to settle the Oxfordshire manor of Barton St. John on him. Neither will nor inquisition has been found but a monument in Woodstock chapel gives the date of Chamberlain’s death as 10 Sept. 1543.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Birth and baptism at Weston, Oson. given CIPM Hen. VII, ii. 541. Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 236; Oxon, Wills (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xxxix), 84-85; DNB; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 302; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 175.
  • 2. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 603, 655; LP Hen. VIII, i-v, xi, xii, xiv; St. Ch.2/4/59.
  • 3. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, v. 115, 124; Bridges, Northants. ii. 190, 231; VCH Bucks. iv. 340; CIPM Hen. VII, i. 1147, 1155, 1236-9, 1242; ii. 541; Hasted, Kent, i. 409-11; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 14; Oxon. Wills, 55-56; VCH Oxon. viii. 184.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, i-iii; St. Ch.2/4/12, 58, 59.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, iv; Berks. RO, W/AE pp. 1, 2; HMC 6th Rep. 582.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, ii-iv; C1/618/1-3; St. Ch.2/17/234.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, iii-ix, xiv, xv, xvii; C. Rawcliffe, The Staffords, Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham 1394-1521, pp. 156-7; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, i. 302; E150/796/8; VCH Oxon. v. 285; viii. 184; VCH Beds. iii. 433; PCC 40 Porch; St.CH.2/17/234; C1/699/30, 31.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xviii; Vis. Oxon. 52, 236.