DARRELL, Sir Edward (1465/66-1530), of Littlecote, Wilts.

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

b. 1465/66, s. of Sir George Darrell of Littlecote by 2nd w. Jane, da. of William Haute of Bishopsbourne, Kent. m. (1) Jane, da. of Sir Richard Croft of Croft Castle, Herefs., 2s. inc. Edmund 2da.; (2) by 12 Feb. 1493, Mary, da. of John Radcliffe, 6th Lord Fitzwalter; (3) 3 Apr. 1512, Alice, da. of one Flye of Suss., wid. of Edmund Stanhope, 1da.; suc. fa. 21 Mar. 1474. Kntd. 16 June 1487.2

Offices Held

Sheriff, Wilts. 1489-90, 1493-4, 1497-8, 1509-10, 1519-20; keeper, Hungerford park, Wilts. 1490-d.; master of the game, Aldbourne chase, Wilts. 1499-d.; j.p. Wilts. 1502-d., Berks. 1512-14; knight of the body by 1511-15 or later; commr. subsidy, Wilts. 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, musters 1513, enclosures 1517; other commissions 1495-1505; v.-chamberlain, household of Queen Catherine of Aragon.3


The Wiltshire branch of the ancient and widespread family of Darrell sprang from William Darrell, under treasurer of England in the reign of Richard II. His son Sir George Darrell, who became keeper of the great wardrobe to Edward IV, died early in 1474, leaving as his heir an eight year-old son Edward. The sole surviving inquisition shows that Sir George Darrell had held the manors of Hockwell and Putteridge Bury in Hertfordshire, but these were only a fraction of his property: in January 1478 the escheators of London, Berkshire and Wiltshire were ordered to restore the Darrell inheritance, including Littlecote and eight other manors in Wiltshire, to the use of Edward Darrell during his minority.4

Despite his Yorkist background, Edward Darrell prospered under Henry VII. He had barely come of age when he was knighted at the battle of Stoke, and in October 1489 he was described as the King’s servant when granted an annuity of £20. In Wiltshire, where he was first pricked sheriff a year before his uncle Constantine Darrell was, he quickly achieved an ascendancy which lent itself to abuse: while sheriff he seems to have committed various trespasses, and numerous depositions by the under keepers of Savernake forest, of which his brother-in-law John Seymour was warden, show him hunting with impunity over the King’s preserves. He none the less stood well with the King, before whom he jousted triumphantly at the celebration of Prince Henry’s creation as Duke of York in 1493.5

The accession of Henry VIII brought Darrell momentary risk in the form of an allegation that he and his nephew Henry Long were among those whom Edmund Dudley had summoned to London in an attempt to seize power. The danger past, he resumed his upward progress. In the late King’s funeral procession, through London to St. Paul’s, he bore the royal standard as ‘knight mourner’; two years later he was a pall-bearer at the burial of the infant Prince Henry; and in April 1512 the King made his customary gift of 6s.8d. at Darrell’s third marriage. In the following October Darrell was listed among the English captains who were to sail with the expedition to France, and although early in the next year the King wrote to him about military measures to be taken in Wiltshire he must afterwards have crossed to France, for in January 1514 he received wages as a King’s ‘spear’. In July 1517 he attended a royal banquet at Greenwich and on 25 Nov. he was said to have been appointed vice-chamberlain to the Queen, in which capacity he accompanied her to the Field of Cloth of Gold. His own lands lay near several crown estates which were granted to successive Queens as part of their jointure.6

Darrell’s advance at court was matched by his growing eminence in Wiltshire. It is likely that he sat in one or more of Henry VII’s later parliaments or of Henry VIII’s early ones, for none of which returns survive: he may also have been instrumental in procuring the return of other Members, in particular those for Great Bedwyn, where he was lord of the manor from 1522. He was certainly an obvious choice as one of the knights of the shire in 1529, when he sat with Sir Edward Baynton, who was to become vice-chamberlain to Queen Anne Boleyn. At this election, too, he doubtless had a hand in the return of one or more other Members; his son Edmund Darrell was elected for Marlborough and William Newdigate, who was probably his son-in-law, for Great Bedwyn. As Darrell died soon after the end of the first session, his attitude to the King’s divorce and the impending religious changes is uncertain, although as a servant of the Queen he may well have deplored them. The Elizabeth Darrell who was one of Catherine’s maids in 1530 was his kinswoman, perhaps his daughter. Darrell’s place in Parliament was almost certainly taken by his nephew Sir Henry Long.7

Darrell had made his will on 25 July 1528 (doubtless in fear of the sweating sickness then sweeping the country) and had asked to be buried in Ramsbury church. His eldest son John had been slain near Calais, so that the heir was his grandson and namesake, who received specified items of plate and half of all that was left, the remainder being bequeathed with the residue of the goods to the testator’s wife Alice, the sole executrix. If the younger Edward should die without male issue, his legacies were to go to Darrell’s second son Edmund, who was assigned an annuity of 20 marks. Two unmarried daughters, Elizabeth and Catherine, received 300 marks and 100 marks respectively and a third daughter, Anne Newdigate, was also left 100 marks. Darrell died on 9 Mar. 1530, possessed of lands in Berkshire, Dorset and Wiltshire: the property in all three counties had been vested in feoffees, among whom was the Queen’s chamberlain the 4th Lord Mountjoy. In 1531, in accordance with Darrell’s wish, Sir William Essex received the heir’s wardship and marriage, and the boy grew up to continue the line.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C140/85/14. Wilts. Arch. Mag. iv. 226, 228; PCC 18 Jankyn; Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 21; Wilts. N. and Q. ii. 335; LP Hen. VIII, i; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 6.
  • 3. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 50, 287, 420, 627, 665; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxi. 67; LP Hen. VIII, i-iv; Statutes, iii. 80, 113, 169; Somerville, Duchy, i. 633.
  • 4. J. Waylen, Marlborough, 76-77; CCR, 1476-85, nos. 173-4.
  • 5. CPR, 1485-94, p. 291; Wilts. Arch. Mag. li. 506, 511-13; liii. 192, 196, 203-6, 209-12; VCH Wilts. ix. 176.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, i-iv.
  • 7. Ibid. i-v, x; VCH Herts. iii. 42.
  • 8. PCC 18 Jankyn; VCH Berks. iv. 210-11; E150/801/3, 982/7; C142/51/3.