CHAUNCY, William (by 1511-85), of Edgecote, Northants.

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



Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1511, 1st s. of John Chauncy of the Tower in Northampton by Margaret, da. and coh. of William Riseley of Lillingstone Lovell, Bucks. educ. M. Temple. m. by 1549, Jane, da. of John Bustard of Adderbury, Oxon., 1s. suc. fa. 20 June 1528.1

Offices Held

Commr. musters, Northants. 1547, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; j.p. 1547, 1579-d.; escheator 1551-2; sheriff 1579-80.2


William Chauncy’s ancestors were minor gentlemen who lived in Northampton and were involved in the borough’s affairs. He did not go to a university but was trained in and may have practised the common law, for he discharged various minor offices at the Middle Temple and seems to have kept a chamber there until his death, bequeathing his furniture in London to his grandsons if they studied at an inn. He frequently rendered legal services to his relatives and friends. In 1543 Chauncy leased the manor and rectory of Edgecote from Anne of Cleves and later bought the reversion from the crown: the manor became his principal residence and he obtained a grant of arms. In 1550 he granted Edgecote to feoffees including William Riseley and Sir John St. John.3

Chauncy’s public career began under Edward VI with his appointment to the Northamptonshire bench and continued with his first election to Parliament. As he probably retained property in Northampton and may have rendered legal service to the borough, he did not breach its general rule of returning townsmen. Whether he enjoyed patronage from outside the borough is not known, but if his later connexion with Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, went back so far—and it was at this time that Dudley had a grant of lands in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire—Chauncy’s return couldhave owed something to Dudley’s father the Duke of Northumberland, under whose aegis the second Edwardian Parliament was called. It is far from certain, however, that Chauncy had yet embraced the Protestantism which he was afterwards to profess. He was to be elected a knight of the shire to three out of Mary’s five Parliaments, and in none of them is he known to have opposed the restoration of Catholicism. He was, it is true, dropped from the Northamptonshire commission, but this need not mean that he was disaffected: it would, for example, have been a likely consequence of an attachment to Robert Dudley.4

Chauncy was himself to allude to his change of faith in the work which, when first printed in 1580, was entitled The rooting out of the Romishe supremacie, but which reappeared seven years later, after its author’s death, as The conversion of a gentleman long tyme misled in poperie. In dedicating this to the Earl of Leicester, Chauncy confessed to his ignorance of the truth ‘until it hath now within these three years pleased God to give me his grace to read his holy scriptures’. Although he may have written the tract, and thus experienced the conversion, some time before it appeared in print, Chauncy’s restoration to the bench in 1579 and appointment as sheriff in the same year would have made an apt sequel to both. On the other hand, there is no clue to the timing or nature of the ‘great adversities’ which he thanked Leicester for helping him to surmount, but if these were of a material kind he had clearly overcome them by the time he made his will on 11 Mar. 1584. He had enough ready money to be able to leave his two granddaughters 500 marks each and to make handsome bequests to the kinsfolk who had kept house for him since his wife’s death in 1571. His eldest grandson and namesake received a £20 annuity and his younger grandson a modest estate. The residue of his goods and lands passed to his only son Tobias, who was to be bound for the performance of the will to John, 2nd Baron St. John, grandson of William’s old friend and trustee, and Sir John Spencer. Chauncy died on 5 Apr. 1585 and was buried in Edgecote church, where a marble altar was erected to his memory.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/47/20. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 12-13; CPR, 1549-51, p. 246. He is styled ‘miles’ in OR, i. 394 but not in the return, C210/24/114v-116, nor elsewhere.
  • 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1550-3, p. 395; 1553, pp. 356, 414; Northants. N. and Q. i. 178
  • 3. M.T. Recs. i. 88 145; C3/56/16; CPR, 1549-51, p. 246; 1550-3, p. 434; 1553-4, p. 367; 1555-7, p. 409; 1558-60, p. 9; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Bridges, Northants. i. 119.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 52.
  • 5. Strype, Annals, i(1), 102; Bridges, i. 120, 253; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 203-4, 263, 304; 1566-9, p. 412; Recs. Northampton, ed. Cox and Markham, ii. 122; PCC 26 Brudenell; C142/206/17.