COTTON, Robert (by 1504-59), of Leicester and Laughton, Leics.

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 1504, 1st s. of Thomas Cotton of Leicester by Anne, da. and h. of John Thomson of Nuneaton, Warws. m. 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1549.1

Offices Held

Steward of the fair, Leicester 1525-6,1527-8, 1529-30, 1532-3, auditor, east quarter 1548-9, 1550-1, coroner 1540-1, mayor 1545-6; commr. subsidy 1546, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, j.p. 1549; servant of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk.2


Robert Cotton’s father had come to Leicester from Staffordshire, taken up the trade of mercer and so prospered in it that he was elected mayor in 1515. Son followed father in both occupation and municipal preferment. In 1536 Cotton was appointed to see that the recent Act regulating the making of kerseys (27 Hen. VIII, c.12) was executed, and in 1540 he was involved in securing a royal grant to the town of two new fairs. During his mayoralty he was responsible for a large muster of soldiers for the wars. Immediately after serving as mayor Cotton came to an agreement with his father by which in return for £37 he was not to practise as a mercer in Leicester for three years. The agreement was probably terminated by his father’s death, for in 1549-50 he was in trouble with the drapers, for using stalls in Leicester market place to the prejudice of the Drapery House there, and early in 1550 he was one of those whose weights and measures were examined. In 1540 he had extended his landed interest by buying the manor of Houghton from Thomas Cave.3

Cotton’s services to the crown included membership of commissions for taxation and to inquire into church goods. His sole appearance in the House of Commons was during the brief Parliament called by the Duke of Northumberland in March 1553. Qualified by his standing in the town, and content to receive the statutory wage for his attendance, he doubtless owed his election more to his relationship with the Duke of Suffolk, who as the new steward of the honor was in a position to wield the patronage which had earlier belonged to the Hastings family. Both Cotton and his fellow-Member George Swillington were servants of the duke, and after Suffolk’s implication in the succession crisis of July 1553 both sued out pardons from Queen Mary. What role either had played during the crisis is unknown, but after his master’s disgrace Cotton dropped out of public life. He was buried on Aug. 1559 in St. Martin’s church, Leicester, near his father.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 191; C1/1328/9-10.
  • 2. Leicester Recs. ed. Bateson, iii. 59, 458, 465-7, 473; E179/133/148; CPR, 1550-3, p. 397; 1553, pp. 362, 416; 1553-4, p. 456.
  • 3. Leicester Recs. iii. 38, 46, 54, 63; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; DL1/25/3; C1/1328/9-10; VCH Leics. v. 158.
  • 4. Leicester Recs. iii. 71-72; CPR, 1553-4, p. 456; Leicester Mayors, ed. Hartopp, 62; VCH Leics. v. 216.