PARR, Sir William (by 1484-1547), of the Blackfriars, London and Horton, Northants.

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. by 1484, 2nd s. of Sir William Parr (d.1483/84) of Kendal, Westmld. by and w. Elizabeth, da. of Henry, 5th Lord FitzHugh. m. by 1511, Mary, da. and coh. of William Salisbury of Horton, 4da. Kntd. 25 Sept. 1513; cr. Baron Parr of Horton 23 Dec. 1543.2

Offices Held

Keeper, great and little parks, Brigstock, Northants. 1506; esquire of the body by 1507, knight 1512; steward, chancellor and receiver, King’s lands, Pemb. 1509-33; commr. subsidy, Northants. 1512, 1515, 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities 1535; j.p. Northants. 1515-d., Yorks. (N. Riding) 1525-36, (E. and W. Ridings) 1528-36, Cumb. 1530-6; sheriff, Northants. 1517-18, Feb.-Nov. 1522, 1533-4, 1537-8; keeper, Rockingham castle, Northants. 1523-44, 1546-d.; chamberlain, household of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond 1525-36, household of Queen Catherine Parr 1543-d.; steward, Crovland abbey’s lands, Northants., Ramsey abbey’s manor, Elton, Northants., Pipewell abbey’s manors by 1535, forfeited lands of Sir John Hussey, Lord Hussey, Northants. 1538.3


The younger son of a prominent northern knight, William Parr first appears at court as one of the King’s spears in January 1506. Made an esquire of the body by Henry VII and knight of the body by Henry VIII, he soon began to receive local crown offices. It was during these years, too, that he and his elder brother Thomas married two Northamptonshire heiresses. Both marriages doubtless owed something to their mother, herself the daughter of a Northamptonshire nobleman, and to their stepfather Sir Nicholas Vaux, a leading figure in the county. Vaux also enjoyed royal favour and under his aegis William Parr advanced rapidly. He was nominated as sheriff of his adopted county in 1510 and although not pricked on that occasion he was chosen seven years later in succession to Vaux. At court he excelled in the lists, where he was often chosen as an opponent for the King. In 1513 he went in Sir William Sandys’s retinue on the campaign in France and was knighted at Tournai. It was probably about this time that he served at Calais, as a later deposition regarding the extent of the English pale records that he was present on certain occasions when the limits were settled by the English.4

After his return Parr probably spent much of his time at court or in London: in 1523 he was living at Blackfriars. He nevertheless strengthened his links with Northamptonshire. In 1518, just after his first term as sheriff, he arranged a marriage between his eldest daughter and the son and heir of William Lane, one of the county’s leading gentlemen; he was soon to find husbands in the neighbourhood for his other daughters, one of whom married Thomas Tresham and another a Digby, and in 1522 his stake in the county was increased by a grant of the valuable property there of the recently attainted 3rd Duke of Buckingham.5

In 1520 Parr accompanied the King to the Field of Cloth of Gold and to Gravelines, and on the outbreak of war he was sent north to serve under the Earl of Surrey: he commended himself by his valour and became one of Surrey’s most trusted captains. His knowledge of the north probably helped to procure him the chamberlainship of the household set up in 1525 for the King’s natural son, the Duke of Richmond, which was designed not only to serve and educate the young prince, a task especially entrusted to Parr, but also to govern the north. For the next ten years these were to remain Parr’s principal duties, although he did not spend all his time in the north: indeed, Richard Croke, Richmond’s first schoolmaster, complained that in two years Parr had been absent for 66 weeks. There was dissension in the household over status, authority over the young duke and expenditure. Extravagance was another of Croke’s charges against Parr, who certainly seems to have become deeply indebted to the duke, but the King retained confidence in him and it was Croke, not Parr, who was removed: one advantage of Parr’s sojourns in London to attend Parliament or the court was that they enabled him to act as a link between the councillors in the north and those at the centre.6

Whether between 1525 and 1533 he found time to act upon the Northamptonshire commissions to which he was appointed is doubtful, but in 1533 it was found advisable to reappoint him sheriff there, as one of the few men in the county powerful enough to prevent Sir William Spencer’s widow and her relatives, the brothers Edmund and Richard Knightley, from carrying their intrigues concerning the wardship of Spencer’s heir and lands to a conclusion detrimental to the crown. At the same time he was involved in family affairs, and Richmond’s council was being reorganized as the council in the north, so that his attendance on it diminished considerably. With Richmond’s death in 1536 Parr’s association with the north ceased almost entirely; in 1535 he had petitioned for the captaincy of Berwick, but he did not obtain it.7

As a well-connected administrator and a courtier esteemed by the King, Parr was a natural choice for election to the Parliament of 1529. The list of Members is torn so that Parr’s constituency and the beginning of his christian name are lost but that he sat for Northamptonshire is clear from the sequence of shires on the list. He may have sat in one or more of the earlier Parliaments of the reign, as he had been named to the Northamptonshire commissions for the subsidies granted in 1512, 1515 and 1523, and he was presumably re-elected to that of June 1536 when the King asked for the return of the previous Members. The only indication of his activity in the House is the appearance of a proviso safeguarding his interests in a private Act (28 Hen. VIII, c.28) obtained by John Onley. When the Lincolnshire rebellion broke out in the autumn of 1536 he set an example by the alacrity with which he answered the King’s call to arms. He was one of those designated for command should the Duke of Suffolk be required elsewhere and he took a share in the punishment of the rebels, but he was to be disappointed in his hope of acquiring attainted lands or offices, especially a lease of the Lincolnshire abbey of Barlings where he was in charge of the suppression. For the next few years he was preoccupied with the preservation of law and order in the midlands. If the story of one parson is to be credited, he was perhaps over-zealous in his search for fomentors of disaffection. The rector concerned declared that Parr set him in the stocks for six hours without trial and before freeing him exacted a promise of a lease, a bond for its secure delivery and another bond for good behaviour; later, when the rector attempted to present his complaint to the King, Parr made great efforts to suppress it. Whether or not this was a fair sample of his behaviour, Parr remained in favour: he was granted leases of ex-monastic property, including the site of Pipewell abbey and several granges, and in 1539 he was elected to Parliament for the last time, being joined in the Commons on this occasion by his son-in-law Tresham. Early in August 1540, not long after the dissolution of this Parliament, he was written to about the subsidy which he had helped to pass.8

Parr’s career culminated three years later when his niece Catherine, the widow of Sir John Neville I, 3rd Lord Latimer, was married to the King: he became the chamberlain of her household and was raised to the peerage. He took his seat in the Lords on 17 Jan. 1544 and thereafter attended the House irregularly for nearly three weeks and then only once again before the dissolution. Later in the year Suffolk asked for his help in the new war against Scotland, but the King chose to make him one of the council appointed to advise the Queen during his own absence abroad. His advancing years, and perhaps ill-health, may explain this sedentary role: he became an infrequent visitor at court and he was absent from the Lords throughout the last Parliament of the reign. On 21 June 1546 he made a will in which he provided for his wife and relatives, including his grandson Ralph Lane and his nephew (Sir) Nicholas Throckmorton. As executors he named his wife and Throckmorton and as overseers his nephew William Parr, Earl of Essex, and his niece the Queen. Parr lived to see the advent of Edward VI, dying on 10 Sept. 1547. He was buried at Horton, where the inscription on his monument wrongly gives his year of death as 1546. His name was initially in the register of peers summoned to Parliament later in the same autumn, but three days after the opening it was removed.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from father s death. CP; Bridges, Northants. i. 367; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 56, 159, 186; Baker, Northants. ii. 61.
  • 3. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 446, 550; 1550-3, p. 146; LP Hen. VIII, i-xxi; Statutes, iii. 88, 169; R. R. Reid, King s Council in the North, app.; Northants. Rec. Soc. xii. passim.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, i, xvi.
  • 5. Northants. RO, Gunning mss, box 1236; LP Hen. VIII, iii.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, iii, iv.
  • 7. Ibid. iv-vi.
  • 8. Ibid. xi-xiii, xvi, add.; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, passim; St.Ch.2/32/16; Elton, Policy and Police, 307, 357, 368-9; E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2]; 371/309, r. 61(i).
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, xix-xxi; Bridges, i. 370; LJ, i. 236-64, 267-82, 284-90, 291-3; Fuller, Worthies (1670), 187; P. Glanville, ‘The Parr Pot’, Arch. Jnl. cxxvii. 147-55; Pevsner and Cherry, Northants. 263-4.