GUILDFORD, Sir Henry (1489-1532), of Leeds Castle, Kent and London.

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. 1489, 3rd s. of Sir Richard Guildford, o.s. by 2nd w. Joan, da. of Sir William Vaux of Harrowden, Northants.; half-bro. of Sir Edward Guildford. m. (1) Apr. 1512, Margaret, da. of Sir Thomas Bryan of Ashridge, Herts., s.p.; (2) by 1525, Mary, da. of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Malherbe, Kent, s.p. Kntd. 30 Mar. 1512, kt. banneret 1513, KG nom. 24 Apr., inst. 6 May 1526.2

Offices Held

Bailiff, manor of Sutton Coldfield, Warws. 1512; constable, Leeds castle 1512-31, jt. (with Sir Edward Guildford) 1531-d.; esquire of the body by 1513, knight by 1515; royal standard bearer 1513-d.; j.p. Kent 1514-d.; commr. subsidy 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524; other commissions 1523-d.; master of the horse 1515-22, of the henchmen in 1517; Councillor 1516-d.; comptroller, the Household 1522-d.; jt. chief steward of abp. of Canterbury’s castles and manors 1524-d.; chamberlain, receipt of the Exchequer 1525-d.3


As the youngest son of a father who, before he died considerably in debt, had obtained an Act (11 Hen. VII, c.49) freeing his lands in Kent from gavelkind, Henry Guildford inherited little land and an annuity of only £10. Compelled to make a career for himself he went to court, became a companion of the young Henry VIII and ended as comptroller of the royal household. He and the King were of an age and their friendship probably dated from their early years when Sir Richard Guildford was comptroller to Henry VII.4

At the first New Year of the reign Guildford and his elder half-brother Edward formed two of a small company headed by the King who played Robin Hood and his men to amuse the Queen. Over the next seven or eight years Guildford acted as master of the revels on many such occasions. He was not, however, continuously at court. When in May 1511 the King sent a force to Spain under Thomas Lord Darcy, Guildford accompanied it as provost marshal. The expedition achieved nothing and soon returned, but Guildford stayed behind and on 15 Sept. 1511 was knighted by Ferdinand of Aragon at Burgos, his arms being augmented by a pale pomegranate on a white shield. He travelled home overland and shortly after his return he was knighted by Henry VIII at Westminster on 30 Mar. 1512, the day of the proroguing of Parliament.5

In the following month the King attended Guildford’s wedding, and in June the couple received a royal grant of the manors of Hampton-in-Arden, Warwickshire, and Bicker in Lincolnshire. Guildford took part in the disastrous naval engagement off Brest in August 1512 as joint captain with Sir Charles Brandon of 60 yeomen of the guard in the Sovereign, and in the next year he accompanied the King on his invasion of France, commanding 100 men of the King’s ward. He was made a knight banneret after the capture of Tournai, and as master of the revels he celebrated the victory with an interlude in which he played before the King. In May 1514 he returned to Calais in the 5th Lord Bergavenny’s expedition, and five months later, after peace had been concluded, he did so again on his way to the coronation as Queen of France of Henry VIII’s sister Mary.6

After four summers largely taken up with campaigning Guildford returned to a more settled life in England. His chief residence was Leeds Castle, Kent, which he held for the King: he was later to own other property in the county, including the manor of Hadlow, granted in 1522, and North Frith park, which he received two years later, and from 1522 he held a 40-year lease of the manor of Eltham and the stewardship of Lee, near Lewisham. But it was still the court which was the centre of Guildford’s life. An infrequent attender at the Council, of which he was sworn in 1516 (in the next ten years he was recorded as present only six times), he was first and foremost a personal servant of the King’s, one of the few men assigned lodgings in the royal house by the Eltham ordinances of 1526. He was appointed to go with the King in 1520 to the Field of Cloth of Gold and to the meeting with Charles V at Gravelines, and in the autumn of 1521, when he accompanied Wolsey to Calais, he was soon recalled because the King found himself short of attendants in his privy chamber. Guildford apparently left England only once more, when he went with Wolsey to Calais in 1527 and travelled with him into France. In this year his portrait was painted by Holbein, then on his first visit to England.7

Guildford was elected knight of the shire for Kent in 1529 with his half-brother Sir Edward. In this Parliament the Commons complained of the excessive fees demanded by the clergy for proving wills, a protest which was touched off, it appears, by Guildford’s declaration that he and the other executors of Sir William Compton had paid Wolsey and Warham 1,000 marks for probate of the will. Guildford was one of the two members of the Lower House, the other being Sir William Fitzwilliam I, who on 1 Dec. 1529 signed the 44 articles of complaint against Wolsey prepared by a committee of both Houses for presentation to the King. Soon after this Wolsey acted on Cromwell’s recommendation in attempting to placate those whose friendship was worth having; for Guildford he spoke of securing an increase in fee of £40 a year, tardy amends for his earlier advice to the King that Guildford’s annuity of £100 might be revoked and some of his offices distributed if he became captain of Guisnes. Guildford also became involved, both as a Member of Parliament and personally, in the matter of the King’s divorce. He was one of the milites et doctores in parliamento who signed the letter of 13 July 1530 to the pope urging him to accede to the King’s desire. This he could scarcely have refused to do, although he had little reason to welcome the advent of Anne Boleyn. According to Chapuys, Anne was aware of his dislike of her and in June 1531 threatened him with the loss of the comptrollership when she became Queen. He replied that he would resign first, and straightway went to the King and gave up his baton; this the King returned to him, telling him not to take the matter seriously, but for a time Guildford quitted the court and went down into Kent. He had returned at latest by November, when he was one of the Councillors who conducted negotiations at Greenwich with a special envoy from the Emperor.8

Guildford made his will on 18 May 1532, asking to be buried, if he died within 40 miles of London, in the church of the Blackfriars, where he had already ordered his tomb, and appointing his wife his executrix and charging her with the payment of his debts. By the end of the month he was dead. According to the widow his debts to the King far exceeded the value of all his goods in his London home and at Leeds Castle. Lady Guildford married as her second husband (Sir) Gawain Carew.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth given in DNB. Pylgrymage of Sir Richard Guylforde, (Cam. Soc. li), ped.; Cat. Anct. Deeds, iii. 535; LP Hen. VIII, ii, iv.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, i-v, add.; EHR, lix. 189; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, 120; NRA 10665 (Kingsmill mss), 405; Statutes, iii. 112, 168.
  • 4. PCC 28 Fetiplace.
  • 5. Hall, Chron. 516m, 519-22 LP Hen. VIII, i, ii; CSP Span. 1509-25, p.54.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, i, ii; Hall, 534, 540; J. Anstis, Order of the Garter, ii. 241; Chron. Calais (Cam. Soc. xxxv), 15-16,
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv; EHR, lix. 189, 209; Chron. Calais, 37-38; Holbein, ed. Ganz, 232, plate 77 (inscription probably an addition); Holbein (The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace 1978-9), 40-42; E. Auerbach, Tudor Artists, 11, 70; Anstis, i. 376.
  • 8. Hall, 765; Herbert, Hen. VIII, 293-302; LP Hen. VIII, iv, v, add.
  • 9. PCC 23 Thower; LP Hen. VIII, v, vi, x; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 93.