SAUNDERS, Francis (1513/14-85), of Welford, Northants.

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



? Mar. 1553

Family and Education

b. 1513/14, s. of William Saunders of Welford by w. Dorothy, da. of John Young of Crome D’Abitot Worcs.;, half-bro. of Walter Haddon. educ. M. Temple. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of George Carew of (?Bury St. Edmunds) Suff., 2s. 1da., (2) Helen, da. of Roger Chaloner of London, wid. of Thomas Farnham (d. 4 Sept. 1562) of Stoughton and Quorndon, Leics. and London, prob. 1s.; (3) Frances, da. of one Pope, 1s. 4da.2

Offices Held

Bencher, M. Temple by 1575.

J.p. Northants. 1554-77; jt. (with Robert Saunders) steward, Brackley in 1558.3


As a younger son Francis Saunders was to inherit only a modest estate at Welford and he made his career in law. For most of his life he had a chamber at his inn and he supervised the training there of a number of young relatives and friends. In 1559 he was fined for failing to be Autumn reader but he ended his career as a bencher.4

Branches of the Saunders family customarily maintained close ties, members of different ones executing each other’s wills and making marriages which appear to reflect a common policy. It is thus not surprising that Francis Saunders shared the stewardship of the 3rd Earl of Derby’s borough of Brackley with his cousin Robert Saunders. This joint appointment, known to have been in force in 1558 when the question of its cancellation was mooted, may have been of some years’ standing and thus explain Francis Saunders’s election there in 1547, as it doubtless does his cousin’s successive ones later; but Saunders had other useful connexions, including one by marriage with the sheriff, Thomas Cave. His own first marriage was into the Carew family: its date is unknown but by 1540 Elizabeth Carew had become the stepdaughter of Edward Saunders, Robert’s elder brother, and the fact that her cousin Sir Wymond Carew sat in this Parliament for Peterborough until his death in 1549 gives a family flavour to Francis Saunders’s Membership. He was probably re-elected to the following Parliament with his cousin: the indenture is in poor condition and the name of the junior Member cannot be fully made out, but the Christian name appears to be Francis and the first letter of the surname could be either ‘B’ or ‘S’. Of Saunders’s part in the proceedings of the Commons nothing is known.5

Saunders was not to sit again but during the remaining 40 years of his life he consolidated his position in his shire. Under Mary he was put on the commission of the peace and used for other local purposes. By then he had evidently acquired an interest in his mother’s property, although she did not die until the early 1570s, for in November 1553 he and her stepson Paul Darrell, who was also Saunders’s brother-in-law, were licensed to alienate land in Cold Ashby to their cousin Walter Young: this was almost certainly a stage in the settlement of the inheritance, for the property eventually returned to Saunders. His second and third marriages further strengthened his links with the leading families in the region and his purchase of the manors of Hardwick and Shangton in Leicestershire in 1563 enlarged his property. In 1564 he was adjudged by the bishop of Peterborough ‘indifferent’ in religion and so qualified for retention on the Northamptonshire bench; the Francis Saunders imprisoned in the Tower two years earlier may have been a Suffolk namesake. In 1567-8 Saunders settled three manors to his own use by fine and in 1573 he entailed his mother’s lands in Cold Ashby upon his eldest son as part of a marriage settlement.6

Saunders died on 20 June 1585. By his will of 26 Oct. 1584 he left Hardwick and Shangton, a good third of his property, to Matthew, his only son by his last marriage, after a life tenancy to his wife. Yelvertoft went to his third son Francis, his patrimony of Welford to his second son William, who was to be his executor; and the residue, including the entailed Cold Ashby, to his heir Edward. The provisions of the will were scrupulously carried out, and his sons, two of whom were knighted, founded several more branches of the family in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. C219/20/89.
  • 2. Aged 71 at death according to MI, Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 391. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 44, 131; Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 153; Lipscomb, Bucks. iii. 32; CPR, 1558-60, p. 324; C142/63/24, 211/193; PCC 35 Brudenell.
  • 3. CPR, 1553-4, p. 22; Northants. RO, Ellesmere mss box X 464.
  • 4. M.T. Recs. i. 113, 118, 120, 123-4, 127, 131, 136, 161, 208.
  • 5. Baker, Northants. i. 153, 293.
  • 6. CPR, 1553-4, p. 362; 1554-5, p. 106; Lipscomb, iii. 38; C3/111/22, 172/6; 142/166/57; Northants. RO, Isham (Lamport) collection, nos. 1470, 1472, 1474-5, 1479, 1479A, 1598, 1606-7, 1668-9, 1681, 1683-4, 1699, 1707-8, 1716, 1742, 1795, 1804, 2177, 2177, 2191, 2273, 2285, 2290, 2292, 2302, 2307, 2311, 2364; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 36; APC, vii. 126; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 196, 206.
  • 7. C142/211/193; PCC 35 Brudenell; Northants. RO, Isham (Lamport) collection, no. 2364.