SOUTHWELL, alias Darcy, Richard (by 1531-1600), of Lincoln's Inn, London; Horsham St. Faith, Norf. and Gatton, Surr.

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. by 1531, 1st illegit. s. of (Sir) Richard Southwell of London, and Wood Rising, Norf. by Mary, da. of Thomas Darcy of Danbury, Essex. educ. Corpus Camb. matric. 1545; L. Inn, adm. 4 Feb. 1547. m. (1) by Dec. 1555, Bridget (d.1583 or later), da. of Sir Roger Copley of Gatton, 3s. 4da.; (2) by Oct. 1589, Margaret, da. of John Styles of Ellingham, Norf., 2s. 3da.1

Offices Held


In 1589 the Jesuit Robert Southwell exhorted his father Richard Southwell alias Darcy to return to Catholicism, reminding him that ‘the world never gave you but an unhappy welcome, a hurtful entertainment, and now doth abandon you with an unfortunate farewell’. The elder Southwell was the first of four children borne by Mary Darcy to Sir Richard Southwell before their marriage. Most of Sir Richard Southwell’s estates passed at his death in 1564 to his nearest legitimate male heir, his nephew Thomas Southwell, but under a settlement of September 1545 Richard Southwell inherited the manor of Horsham St. Faith and other property in Norfolk. This settlement was presumably made at the time of his engagement, or perhaps at his brother Thomas’s, to Audrey Malte, the illegitimate daughter of the King’s tailor, who after the breaking of the engagement married John Harington II, leaving him free to espouse the bookish servant of Princess Elizabeth, Bridget Copley. He was tutored by the Protestant John Lowth in Latin and ‘the laws civil and municipal’ before a spell at Cambridge and admission to Lincoln’s Inn where Lowth continued his instruction. Of Lowth his father remarked, ‘He will make the boy like himself, too good a Latinist and too great a heretic.’ By 1550 Southwell was an ‘inner barrister’ of his inn and eight years later it was ordered that he should be called to the bar upon his examination at the next moot. He was described as ‘late of Lincoln’s Inn’ when Sir Richard Southwell made his will on 24 July 1561 leaving him ‘all my books of scripture, prophecy, stories and other Latin authors and my books of law and statute books’. His name does not occur in the records of the inn after 1558 and no trace has been found of him practising as a lawyer. As Bridget Copley remained in the service of Elizabeth until her own death and his son was to accuse him of prodigality in maintaining an appearance at court he may have spent much of his life in attendance on the Queen.2

Southwell’s single Membership of Parliament was a by-product of his betrothal or marriage to Bridget Copley, whose mother had a life-interest in the manor of Gatton, and it may have been helped by his kinsman Sir Anthony Browne who as sheriff returned him: his fellow-Member Leonard Dannett was a distant relative of Lady Copley. He was joined in the House by his uncle Sir Robert Southwell, who is the more likely to have been the ‘Mr. Southwell’ to whom two bills were committed. Before the dissolution he and his father obtained a licence to sell some property in London.3

After Thomas Copley’s flight abroad in 1569 Southwell and his wife made their home at Gatton until Cecil ordered them to leave, but he continued to manage his brother-in-law’s affairs and he was to be an executor of Copley’s will. In May 1576 he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea on suspicion of having spoken against the Queen while staying at his sister’s house at Berechurch in Essex. Although he was released within a month for lack of evidence, the charge brought against him was perhaps not groundless as his sister was a known Catholic, and while he lay in prison his son Robert arrived at Douai to start training for the priesthood. Unwise financial dealings by another son, Thomas, forced him to mortgage Horsham St. Faith and his other property to Henry Hobart in an effort to pay off Thomas’s creditors. This worthy action earned for him a rebuke from Robert who thought the money better used to promote Catholicism and took the opportunity to denounce Southwell’s second marriage. Although Robert complained about the indecent haste of this union, it was probably not that which irked him but the calling of Margaret Styles’s father as a minister in the Anglican Church. If Robert lacked filial respect, Southwell did not fail in parental responsibility on his son’s arrest in 1592. His intercession with the Queen led to the ending of Robert’s interrogation under torture and the meagre comfort allowed the prisoner until execution three years later was the father’s work. This compassion was almost certainly his own undoing for he remained under suspicion after 1595 and it was while a prisoner in the Fleet (for what reason has not been found) that he died in June 1600. By his will made on 17 Oct. 1596 he remembered the poor at Horsham St. Faith and left his wife an annuity of £80. A year later he had added a codicil making better provision for his wife and shortly before his death he confirmed these arrangements. According to Father Garnet, writing on 1 July 1600, Southwell died a Catholic.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from education. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 259; Vis. Norf. (Norf. Arch.), i. 124-6; C. Devlin, Robert Southwell, 7; H. Spelman, Hist. of Sacrilege (1895 ed.), 152-4; Letters of Sir Thomas Copley (Roxburghe Club 1897), pp. xix, 169.
  • 2. Add. 34395, f. 36 seq.; DNB (Southwell, Robert); Devlin, 8, 202; LP Hen. VIII, xx; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 364; Narr. Ref. (Cam. Soc. lxxvii), 45; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, i(1), 595; Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 288, 291-3, 296, 318, 323; PCC 19 Stevenson.
  • 3. CJ, i. 25; CPR, 1553, p. 272.
  • 4. Copley Letters, 97, 169, 182; PCC 13 Brudenell, 56 Wallop; H. Foley, Jesuit Recs. i. 303, 358; Devlin, 201-3, 289, 290.