COUPLAND, William (by 1501-69), of York.

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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1501, s. of John Coupland of York. m. (2) Elizabeth, da. of Christopher Ledale of York, at least 3s. 3da.2

Offices Held

Muremaster, York date unknown, junior chamberlain 1537-8, city tax collector 1540, sheriff 1543-4, member of the Twenty-Four 1544, alderman 1549-d., mayor 1553-4, 1568-9.3


William Coupland, a native of York, became free of the city as a tailor in 1521-2, thus following his father’s trade. By 1524, when he was taxed on 40s. in wages, he was living in St. Sampson’s parish as a general merchant trading in corn and lead. In the 1530s he was leasing the tolls of one of the city’s markets. In 1546 and 1547 he was assessed to the lay subsidies on £35 in goods, thus ranking as one of the two dozen richest laymen in York.4

In February 1553 Coupland began his first mayoralty, which was to be notable for rigorous action against trading abuses. It also saw the usual performance of the miracle plays on Corpus Christi day and, after Mary’s accession, the restoration of Catholic services in the city’s hospital of St. Thomas, two events which perhaps owed something to the mayor himself, who after another change of regime was to be listed among aldermen accounted ‘no favourers of religion’. It was soon after his mayoralty that Coupland sat for the city in Mary’s third Parliament: the ‘special letter’ which the council in the north sent with the election writ was doubtless designed to secure the return of acceptable Members, and Coupland proved himself one at least to the extent of not withdrawing before the dissolution, an offence for which a number of his fellows were prosecuted. After Mary’s death he gave several years of service on the bench of aldermen and was mayor for a second time, but in less congenial circumstances. In 1562 militant Catholic talk was overheard among Yorkshire gentlemen dining at his house, and in 1565-7 the recusant William Hussey III was placed under house arrest there. As mayor he was unable to have the old Creed play performed because of opposition by the dean of York, and the city council would not agree to perform the Corpus Christi plays instead. It was not long after this mayoralty that he died, just before the city was threatened by the Northern Earls.5

Coupland made his will while he was mayor, on 30 June 1568, asking to be buried near his first wife in his parish church of St. Sampson. He bequeathed his soul to God, the Virgin and all saints, and wanted candles to be burned and torches carried at his funeral ‘if the law will permit’. His charitable gifts were as traditional, consisting chiefly of doles: an unusual bequest was one of pennies and half-pennies to 1,600 old people and children, a figure which must have covered nearly all the old and young poor in the city. Coupland probably died worth over £1,000, for the third of his goods which, with his dwelling house, he left to his wife he valued at 500 marks. There were bequests to three sons and three daughters, two of them married to future sheriffs of the city, and the heir George was made executor and residuary legatee. Coupland added a codicil on 24 Apr. 1569, making additional bequests to grandchildren, and the will was proved on 16 Nov.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. M. Palliser


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.; York archs. B21, f. 74.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from admission as freeman. York Borthwick Inst. R. VII G. 172; Reg. Freemen, York, i (Surtees Soc. xcvi), 243; York wills 18, f. 122; York pub. lib. R. H. Skaife ms civic officials, i. 182.
  • 3. York archs. B13-24 passim.
  • 4. Reg. Freemen, York, i. 243; York Borthwick Inst. R. VII g. 172; Yorks. Arch. Fnl. iv. 179; York archs. B12, f. iv; B13, f. 30; B14, f. 3; B15, f. 5; York Civic Recs. iv (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cviii), 20; vi (ibid. cxii), 123; E179/217/110, 111.
  • 5. York Civic Recs. v (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cx), 86-99, 109, 110; vi. 41, 42, 132-142; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 72; York archs. B21, f. 74; P. Tyler, Eccles. Comm. and Catholicism in the North 1566-77, p. 35.
  • 6. York wills 18, f. 122; D. M. Palliser, ‘York in the 16th cent.’ (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1968), 253; Cath. Rec. Soc. monograph ser. ii. 333; York pub. lib. R. H. Skaife ms civic officials, i. 182.