FOSTER, John II (1505/6-76), of North Baddesley, Hants and Gray's Inn, 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

Family and Education

b. 1505/6, s. of Thomas Foster of Cranbrook, Kent, and Romsey, Hants. educ. G. Inn, adm. 1543. m. by June 1539, Jane, da. of Sir Nicholas Wadham of Merrifield, nr. Ilton, Som. by 2nd w. Margaret, da. of John Seymour of Wolf Hall, Wilts., 2s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Jt. receiver, Romsey abbey 20 Feb. 1535-9, steward certain of the abbey’s lands by 1539; j.p. Hants 1547-53, q. 1561-4; commr. relief 1550.2


John Foster is first met with in a dispute of 1527 when he displayed a papal bull giving protection to Romsey abbey. His father was an officer of the abbey, and presumably he was originally intended for its service as he obtained one of its stewardships before the Dissolution and its receivership jointly with his father in 1535. He was, however, compromised by an affair with one of the nuns, Jane Wadham, with whom he went through a form of marriage per verba de presenti; although Jane defended their union on the ground that she had become a nun against her will, the ‘malevolent persons’ who had forced her to do so were said to have ignored her protest and also to have induced Foster to become a priest in order to invalidate the marriage. Whatever truth there was in this, Foster had entered the priesthood by December 1536, when the abbess presented him with the chaplaincies of St. Peter-within-the-Abbey and St. Andrew-within-the-Infirmary. The suppression of the abbey in 1539 released Jane from her vows and in the expectation that clerical marriage would soon be allowed Foster married her in facie ecclesiae; but when he heard that the King had ‘established a contrary order’ he asked Cromwell in June 1539 for a pardon on condition that he renounced his wife. This approach notwithstanding, the pair continued to cohabit and a year or two later a pregnancy gave rise to a petition to the King to legalize the marriage. After one commission had come to nothing, a second was appointed in 1544 which, although its verdict is unknown, may have reported in favour, as by then Foster had given up the ministry and begun to study law. At all events, the matter would have been resolved in 1549 by the Act (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.21) enabling priests to marry, although not before it attained a notoriety preserved in a later jingle:

Mr. Foster of Baddesley was a good man
Before the marriage of priests began.
For he was the first that married a nun
For which he begat a very rude son.3

The affair would have caused less stir had it not been that Jane Foster was a cousin of the royal favourite Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. It is indeed possible that the union had been prompted by the King’s own marriage to Jane Seymour and Foster seems to have enjoyed the support, if not the friendship, of her powerful cousins. Shortly before the suppression of Romsey abbey he informed Sir Thomas Seymour II about various of its properties which Seymour wished to acquire, and the living of North Baddesley, which he is known to have held in the early 1540s, was in Seymour’s gift. He may also have been the ‘John Forster’ who served under Hertford’s command in Scotland in 1544. In the autumn of that year he and Richard Marden bought two manors in Romsey, one of which he kept for himself, and in the following year he purchased several other properties in the town. In 1551 his wife inherited a modest patrimony in the west country from her brother Nicholas: some of this was soon disposed of, perhaps to raise the capital to buy the manor of North Baddesley from (Sir) Nicholas Throckmorton in 1553.4

The accession of Edward VI in 1547 opened a new chapter in Foster’s career. Named to the Hampshire bench in May, four months later he was returned to Parliament. The city of Winchester usually elected residents and its acceptance on this occasion of Foster and William Honing bespeaks a recommendation from Hertford, now Duke of Somerset and Protector, perhaps conveyed by his brother Sir Henry Seymour, himself elected one of the knights for Hampshire. At the same time Foster, unlike Honing, was no stranger to the city, where his father owned a little property, and it was perhaps for this reason that of the two he alone was given some wine during 1548-9 and a dinner three years later. He may be presumed to have supported the unsuccessful bill introduced on the city’s behalf during the first session, and was doubtless an enthusiast for the (equally unsuccessful) bill ‘that married men be priests and have benefices’ which passed through the Commons several weeks later but was lost by the prorogation after one reading in the Lords. It was in the next session that the lifting of clerical celibacy removed the source of his earlier embarrassment. As a kinsman of the Seymours Foster is unlikely to have commended himself to the Duke of Northumberland, and he is not known to have sat in the Parliament called in March 1553 under Northumberland’s aegis. If the removal of Northumberland opened the way to his return to the Commons, the advent of Mary blocked it. Elected in the autumn of 1553 for Plympton Erle, his name being inserted in a blank on its indenture, Foster had his Membership challenged. On 12 Oct. 1553, a week after the Parliament opened, a committee was appointed to examine whether he and Alexander Nowell had been validly elected. The case against Nowell was clear, but the naming two weeks later of a second committee, composed of three Members who were civilians, implies that Foster’s position was less so. The verdict is not recorded, perhaps because the civilians did not reach or return one before the session closed on 5 Dec., but the challenge doubtless helps to explain Foster’s absence from the remaining Parliaments of the reign.5

The general pardon sued out by Foster in December 1553 did not stop Mary from depriving him of North Baddesley to reinstate the Knights Hospitallers there or from removing him from the Hampshire bench. Not long afterwards he was indicted of felony and robbery and punished by forfeiture: pardoned these offenses on 26 Feb. 1555 and his goods restored, he appears to have made a recovery over the next three years, but it was not completed until the reign of Elizabeth. In 1564 his Protestantism was commended by Bishop Home, who proposed him as a watchdog over Winchester. He died at North Baddesley on 8 June 1576.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. Aged 40 in November 1546, C24/10/unfoliated, ex inf. R. Fritze. H. G. D. Liveing, Recs. Romsey Abbey, 249; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvi, xix; Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 84.
  • 2. Liveing, 249; CPR, 1547-8, p. 84; 1553, p. 358.
  • 3. Liveing, 237, 247, 249, 251-2; Procs. Hants Field Club, vi. 144; SC6/Edw. VI, no. 190; Willen, Hants, 338; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvi, xix; Orig. Letters, ed. Ellis ser. 1, ii. 111-13; Add. 12483; F. A. Gasquet, Hen. VIII and the Eng. Monasteries, 353; G. Baskerville, Eng. Monks and the Suppression, 221-3.
  • 4. Liveing, 253, 256-7; HMC Bath, iv. 31, 67, 71, 73; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xix; VCH Hants, iii. 421, 463, iv. 453, 455, 460, 535; C142/93/35; CPR, 1550-3 p. 44; 1553, p. 113.
  • 5. Hants RO, Winchester chamberlains’ accts. 2-3 Edw. VI, 5-6 Edw. VI, ex inf. J. S. Furley; CPR, 1554-5, p. 187; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, i. 309-10; C219/21/47; CJ, i. 27, 29.
  • 6. CPR, 1553-4, p. 422; 1554-5, p. 89; 1557-8, p. 335; 1558-60, p. 187; St.Ch.4/8/43; VCH Hants, iv. 436; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 55; C142/175/65.