KEYS, Thomas (by 1524-71), of St. Radigund's, near Dover, Kent.

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 1524, 1st s. of Richard Keys of St. Radigund’s by Mildred, da. of Sir John Scott of Smeeth. m. (1) by 1545, at least 1s. 1da.; (2) 1565, Mary, da. of Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset. suc. fa. 1545/46.1

Offices Held

Capt. Sandgate castle 1546-d.; serjeant porter by 1558-65.2


By his father’s will, made on 15 Nov. 1545 and proved 13 months later, Thomas Keys was given lodging for himself, his wife and his servants in the dissolved house of St. Radigund’s during his mother’s lifetime, and after her death the lease of that property as well as his father’s house at Lewisham, Kent. At the same time Keys succeeded to his father’s captaincy of Sandgate castle, with the command of an under captain, eight gunners, six soldiers and two porters; his service there was to be rewarded ten years later by an annuity of £40.3

Keys owed his seat in the Parliament of November 1554 to his friendship with the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, Sir Thomas Cheyne, who had Keys’s name entered on the return; among the warden’s other nominees on this occasion was Keys’s cousin Nicholas Crispe. Crispe and Keys were both found absent without leave when the House was called early in 1555. For this dereliction they were prosecuted in the King’s bench in Easter term 1555 but without being further proceeded against for three years: both were then distrained for non-appearance, of 2s. in Easter term, 5s. in Trinity and 3s.4d. in Michaelmas, before the Queen’s death brought the cases to an end. Strangely enough, it was while he was ignoring the court’s summons that Keys was appointed serjeant porter of the palace of Westminster: Cheyne also evidently bore him no grudge, for in 1558 he was to be left £40 in the warden’s will.4

Unscathed by this episode, Keys was soon to invite disaster. In 1565 he took as his second wife Lady Mary Grey, who as a granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister was in the line of succession to the throne. The marriage took place secretly, in Keys’s chamber by the watergate at Westminster, and the Queen took it ‘much to heart’. Keys was sent to the Fleet and the Privy Council, in the hope of finding the marriage void, interrogated all the parties and referred the legal issue to Bishop Grindal, who found no reason for annulment. Despite his pleas for release and complaints of his treatment in the Fleet, Keys was kept there until 1568 and even then was not allowed to see his wife. He stayed first at Lewisham and then at Sandgate, whence in 1570 he appealed to Archbishop Parker to entreat the Queen to end his punishment and reunite him with his wife. This she would never concede, but in all other respects Keys became a free man. In February 1571 he ‘made means for himself’ to be re-elected to Parliament for Hythe: the townsmen put his name up to the lord warden, the 10th Lord Cobham, but with no great conviction, and he was not returned.5

Keys died early in September 1571. The news was broken to his wife by Sir Thomas Gresham, in whose custody she was living, and she at once besought the Queen to give her the care of Keys’s children by his first marriage. She died in 1578.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Canterbury prob. reg. A26, f. 25; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 17-18; (lxxv), 69; SP12/40/4, 81/12; DNB (Keys, Lady Mary).
  • 2. CPR, 1555-7, p. 73; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 96, 422; APC, vii. 67, 249.
  • 3. Stowe 571, f. 42v; CPR, 1555-7, p. 73.
  • 4. C219/23/184; PCC 1 Martyn, 1 Chaynay; KB27/1186-8; 29/188, rot. 48.
  • 5. APC, vii. 249, 252; SP12/37/8-13, 40/4, 29, 37, 45, 46, 41/47, 43/23, 48/27, 69/171; Wilks, Barons of the Cinque Ports, 52.
  • 6. SP12/81/10 calendared CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 422 where ‘serjeant porter’ has been interpolated; SP12/81/12; N. and Q. (ser. 8), vi. 302-3.