COOKE, William (by 1507-58), of London.

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



Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1507. educ. fellow, All Souls, Oxf. 1525-40, BCL 18 Feb. 1528, DCL 11 Oct. 1536; adv. Doctors’ Commons 15 Oct. 1537. m. disp. 21 Apr. 1541, Mary, da. of William Wild of London, 2s.1

Offices Held

Law dean, Oxf. 1528-9, principal, Hinxsey Hall 28 Feb. 1531-June 1534; moderator, civil law sch. Oxf. 1537; dean of the arches 1545-9; master, prerogative ct. of Canterbury 13 Jan. 1547-d.; commr. of Admiralty in Nov. 1547, heresies 1549, 1552, 1557, eccles. laws 1552; master, Chancery by Oct. 1550; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlt. of Mar. 1553; judge, ct. Admiralty Aug. 1553-d.; master, Ilford hospital, Essex in 1558.2


William Cooke’s origins are unknown although it is possible that he may have been related to John Cocks of All Souls who died in 1546, having held several offices which were also to be held by Cooke and naming Cooke as an executor of his will. He did not, however, describe Cooke as a kinsman but only as a friend so that the connexion may, after all, have been no more than a professional one. Whatever the connexion, the Member’s career probably owed something to Cocks and almost certainly more to (Sir) William Petre, another civil lawyer from All Souls, whom Cocks asked to assist his executors and whom Cooke was to mention in his own will, ‘desiring him to be an aid and as good to my wife and children as he was to me being alive’.3

Petre had been suggested for appointment as dean of the arches in November 1535 and John Cocks held the office before Cooke. With regard to another of Cooke’s offices, there was some question whether the mastership of the prerogative court of Canterbury could properly be held by a layman and Cardinal Pole felt it necessary to absolve Cooke on 8 Feb. 1556 for having used ecclesiastical authority; but because ‘there cannot easily be found ecclesiastical persons who are skilful in the law’ he allowed him to continue in office, giving him power to obtain clerical assistance. After Cooke’s death, the dean and chapter protested when Walter Haddon was appointed master and asked that a cleric should be joined with him to give ‘the censures of the Church’; the Council replied that Haddon had agreed to have a cleric always present with him and ordered them to be content with this, ‘considering Doctor Cooke, being a mere layman, had it in like sort’. As a prominent civil lawyer, Cooke served on a number of commissions, notably on those against heresies under both Edward VI and Mary, service which may justify the description of him as ‘a right temporizer’. When John Philpot asked to be treated by the Marian commission as a gentleman, it was Cooke who told him, ‘A heretic is no gentleman: for he is a gentleman that hath gentle conditions’.4

Cooke was a receiver of petitions in the Lords in the Parliament of March 1553, and his later return to Parliament for New Woodstock and Portsmouth was probably due to his official standing (especially at Portsmouth as a judge of the Admiralty) and his aggressive Catholicism. His name was added in a different hand to the Portsmouth indenture. He did, however, have at least one possible link through John Cocks with the Chamberlain family, patrons at New Woodstock. Cocks named one of the Welsborne family in his will and the widow of (Sir) John Welsborne married Edward Chamberlain II of Astley, Warwickshire. Moreover, Cocks was born at Westcott Barton, six miles from Woodstock, and another of Cooke’s circle, Edward Napper, had settled in Oxfordshire, so that there may well have been other connexions. It may also be significant that Sir Leonard Chamberlain himself sat in the Parliament of October 1553 for Scarborough where his fellow-Member was the civilian Sir John Tregonwell. When Cooke sat for Portsmouth in April 1554, the Member for New Woodstock, William Johnson I, was perhaps the ex-paymaster of the works at Portsmouth, and it is possible that Cooke had a hand in his return.5

Cooke made his will on 10 Oct. 1556, providing for his sons, remembering Edward Napper and Sir William Petre among others, and naming his wife residuary legatee and sole executrix. He died on 25 Aug. 1558, when his elder son was 14, and was buried with great pomp on the 28th in the church of St. Gregory. His widow later erected a small tablet to his memory there, describing him as second to none in civil law.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first appointment. Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 127; C. Coote, Civilians, 34; D. G. Squibb, Doctors’ Commons, 147; Fac. Off. Reg. 1534-49, ed. Chambers, 212; PCC 6 Welles; C142/118/77.
  • 2. Oxf. Univ. Arch. T/S cal. chancellor’s ct. reg. EEE, pp. 212, 299; Antiqs. Oxf. i (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xv), 603; CPR, 1548-9, p. 406; 1549-51, p. 346; 1550-3, pp. 354-5; 1553-4, p. 262; 1555-7, pp. 281-2; 1557-8, p. 446; PPC Wills 1383-1558, i (Brit. Rec. Soc. x), p. xxii; LJ, i. 430; HCA 14/2.
  • 3. Al. Ox. 296; PCC 7 Alen.
  • 4. PCC Wills 1383-1558, i, p. xxv; APC, vii. 30-31; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(2), 116; Foxe, Acts and Mons. vii. 610.
  • 5. C219/22/76; A. E. Preston, Abingdon, 73, 295.
  • 6. PCC 6 Welles; F. G. Emmison, Tudor Sec. 154, 279; C142/118/77; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 172, 187, 365; Stow’s Surv. London (1618), 702.