EYNNS (GYNNS, HEYNES), Thomas (c.1515-78), of Westminster, Mdx. and Heslington, Yorks.

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



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. c.1515, 4th s. of Thomas Eynns of Stretton, Salop by Joyce, da. of Humphrey Gatacre. m. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Edward Neville of Billingbear, Berks., prob. s.p.4

Offices Held

Servant of Duke of Richmond by 1536; sec. to Prince Edward by 1543-7; ?dep. sec., council in the north 1542, sec. and keeper of the signet 4 Feb. 1550-d.; esquire of the body by 1553; j.p. Yorks. 1558/59-d., Cumb., Northumb., Wesmld. 1573/74-d., commr. for eccles. offences in north 1561, 1568.5


The variant spellings of Thomas Eynns’s name are something of a hindrance to the reconstruction of his career: his family genealogy has ‘Heynes’ but he himself seems to have preferred to omit the ‘H’ and to use forms often mistranscribed as Eymis and even, as in the Official Return, Gynns.

Eynns first attached himself to the young Duke of Richmond, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, whose death in July 1536 left him out of work and out of pocket. Three years later he asked Cromwell for a place in the household then being set up for Prince Edward, but whether he was to succeed in his request before or after the minister’s death is not known; he may have been helped to secure his appointment by the prince’s uncle the Earl of Hertford, to whom a letter of 1 Jan. 1542 was probably addressed. Eynns remained the prince’s secretary until Henry VIII’s death brought Edward to the throne. It is likely that at about the same time he became deputy secretary to the council in the north. It was as secretary to the prince that he succeeded to the Cardiganshire seat vacated by the death of Morgan ap Rhys ap Philip, the by-election taking place on 18 Apr. 1543. Although from a marcher family with Welsh connexions, he had no ties with the shire. He was presumably meant to act as a spokesman in the defence of the prince’s interest in the ordinances for the principality then under review in Parliament.6

Eynns was returned to the first Parliament of Edward VI’s reign for Heytesbury in Wiltshire. He was doubtless nominated there by his nephew, (Sir) John Thynne, who although he did not own the borough wielded great influence in it both on his own account and as steward to the Protector Somerset. Of the relationship between Eynns and Somerset there is a glimpse in a letter written by the duke to Sir John Russell, Baron Russell on 25 Sept. 1549, recommending mercy to the western rebels and answering a question of Russell’s by adding, ‘For the coming of Mr. Haynes we have written our letters to him for that intent. Nevertheless we think his presence at London now at the Parliament very requisite.’ That the writer was referring to Eynns (and not, as the letter’s editor believed, to Dean Heynes of Exeter) is clear both from Eynns’s Membership of the Commons at the time and his standing with the Protector, but it is curious that Somerset should have written as though Parliament was in session. It stood prorogued until 4 Nov. 1549 and duly met on that day, after the crisis which led to Somerset’s overthrow. Although Eynns had been a follower of Somerset, the removal of the Protector did not at first impede his career; on 4 Feb. 1550, two days before Somerset’s release from the Tower, Eynns was made secretary of the council in the north. Two years later, however, as part of the aftermath of the duke’s execution, the government seems to have turned its attention to Eynns; on 4 Feb. 1552 a Privy Council note mentions an order to the council in the north to send Eynns south under custody. Eynns’s connexion with Somerset is a more likely explanation of the episode than irregularities in the performance of his duties: the outcome is not known, but it did not cost Eynns his appointment and he was to remain secretary of the council under Mary.7

Eynns was also to sit in the two Parliaments summoned in 1553, the first under the aegis of the Duke of Northumberland and the second after the accession of Queen Mary: on both occasions he was returned for Yorkshire boroughs and clearly owed his nomination to his secretaryship of the council. If his Membership of the first of these Parliaments implies that he was acceptable to Northumberland, he was evidently not so hostile to the Marian restoration as to be numbered among those who in the second ‘stood for the true religion’, that is, for Protestantism. Yet the fact that he was not to sit again until 1558 and his subsequent Membership of the first four Parliaments of Elizabeth suggest that he accommodated himself more easily to the new religious ways than to the old. The only two references to him in the Commons, however, are of a secular kind: in January 1558 he invoked the privilege of the House against a subpoena in Chancery, and in February 1563 he was licensed to be absent for ‘weighty matters’.8

Under Elizabeth, Eynns became firmly established in Yorkshire, where he lived and worked as a member of the council in the north, justice of the peace and local commissioner until his death on 19 Aug. 1578.

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 4. Date of birth estimated from first appointment Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 235; Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 359.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xiv; C219/18B/117; E179/69/31, 48; Roy. 7C, 16, f. 94; R. R. Reid, King’s Council in the North, 170n; CPR, 1549-51, p. 294; 1553-4, p. 445; 1560-3, pp. 170, 187; 1569-72, pp. 216, 221.
  • 6. SP1/143/186-7; Roy. 7C, 16, f. 94; Bath mss. Thynne pprs. 2, ff. 1-2v; C219/18B/117.
  • 7. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 192; VCH Wilts. v. 115n; Troubles conn. with the Prayer Bk. of 1549 (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxxvii), 75; CPR, 1547-8, p. 55; 1558-60, p. 203; Add. 30198, f. 33; APC, iv. 223; Reid, 170n.
  • 8. CJ, i. 48; D’Ewes, 85.