VAUGHAN, Stephen (by 1502-49), of St. Mary-le-Bow, 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. by 1502. m. (1) by 1536, Margery Gwyneth (d. 16 Sept. 1544), 1s. 2da.; (2) lic. 27 Apr. 1546, Margery, wid. of Henry Brinklow of London.2

Offices Held

Servant of Cromwell by 1524; King’s factor, the Netherlands c.1530-46; writer of the King’s books 1531; clerk of dispensations and faculties in Chancery 1534-d.; pres. of the English factory at Antwerp 1534; commr. to survey the King’s jewels 1535; gov. Merchant Adventurers, Bergen op Zoom, Holland 1538-?45; ambassador to the Netherlands Sept. 1538-Jan. 1542; under treasurer, Tower II mint 25 Mar. 1544-d.3


Stephen Vaughan is thought to have been the son of a London mercer of moderate status. Nothing is known of his education unless he attended St. Paul’s school. He was no linguist and was later in life to regret the inadequacy of his own education compared with the cultural background of the European diplomats with whom he was sent to negotiate. His career as a royal factor and emissary developed from his business training and force of character.4

It was as a successful merchant adventurer trading in the Netherlands that Vaughan must have become known to Cromwell, through whom he undertook various services for Henry VIII and, at least on one occasion, for Wolsey. He was mentioned by Cromwell in a letter as early as 1523: it was Cromwell who intervened to stop charges of heresy against him in 1529. By 1530 Vaughan, while still conducting private affairs, had become factor and intelligence agent of Cromwell and the King. At the end of that year he was engaged in an effort to return William Tyndale to favour and recruit him into the King’s service. This mission was apparently undertaken on Vaughan’s own initiative and his reluctance to abandon it brought him temporarily under censure from the King and Cromwell. But in July 1531 he secured his first official appointment, that of writer of the King’s books, vacant through the death of Thomas Hall whose clerkship at the hanaper was taken over by Cromwell for himself.5

During the next decade Vaughan was selected for four important missions about which he sent lengthy reports to England. In December 1532 he journeyed to Paris and Lyons to discover French reactions to English foreign policy, especially concerning the King’s divorce. In July of the following year he was in Germany to sound the political attitudes of the Lutheran princes. Between December 1533 and the autumn of 1535 he was occupied with the affairs of the merchant adventurers as crown agent in the Netherlands. In September 1535 he travelled on a short mission to deliver £5,000 to the English ambassadors in Denmark. He acquired the full rank of ambassador in September three years later when sent to the court of the Dowager Queen Mary of Hungary in the Netherlands. Chosen on account of his status with the merchant adventurers, he accompanied Thomas Wriothesley and Sir Edward Carne, who were both recalled when war threatened in March 1539. Vaughan was left to carry on the mission and at the end of the year he entertained Anne of Cleves at Antwerp and accompanied her to England.6

In reward for his services, in July 1533 Vaughan had received an annuity of £20, back-dated to the previous year. This was followed in 1534 by the grant of a clerkship in Chancery, to be held in absentia, for which in May 1545 he was to secure a new patent to himself jointly with John Griffith alias Vaughan. Cromwell, who described Vaughan in 1529 as ‘sometime my servant’ and who trusted him sufficiently to appoint him an executor, prored for him a grant of the priory of St. Mary Spital in Shoreditch. In 1541 Vaughan was assessed for the subsidy in the parish of St. Botolph, London, at £66 13s.4d. in lands and fees.7

Vaughan’s grasp of finance was fully used in government service especially when he was the King’s sole financial agent abroad from 1544 to 1546. He was involved in raising mercenary troops for the French war and in borrowing large sums of money through Florentine and other bankers, notably Jasper Ducci and the house of Fugger. Letters to Paget and Wriothesley in 1545 and 1546 describe his search for a suitable second wife, whom he married at Calais because the King refused permission for him to leave his business and go to London; early in 1547 Queen Catherine Parr’s debts included £116 to Stephen Vaughan, ‘husband of [Margery] Vaughan, late your grace’s silk woman’. The end of the French war brought Vaughan’s usefulness to an end and with failing health he asked to return to England. Early in 1546 he tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain the treasurership of the chamber which was given to Sir William Cavendish. About 1547 he was listed among those who, having possessions to the yearly value of £40 or more, had not compounded for knighthood.8

Vaughan’s absence abroad had prevented him from taking up his responsibilities as under treasurer at the Tower mint and even on his return he did not do so until after the death of Thomas Knight (1 Feb. 1548), whose appointment in July 1545 as under treasurer to control the second mint in the Tower had made Vaughan’s office a sinecure. His general pardon obtained on 22 Jan. 1549 (during the second session of the Parliament of 1547) showed that he still held his posts at the Chancery and mint. It was probably as a government official that he had been elected to Parliament for the duchy borough of Lancaster in the autumn of 1547, especially since his fellow-Member was Sir Thomas Chaloner, a teller of the Exchequer and clerk of the Privy Council. The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir William Paget, who doubtless nominated Vaughan, had been in continuous correspondence with him during the 1540s.9

Vaughan died in London during the third session of Parliament on 25 Dec. 1549, thus causing a by-election at which William Ward I was chosen. By will dated 16 Dec. Vaughan left his soul to the Trinity and his body to be buried in the church of St. Mary-le-Bow. He bequeathed rings to a number of his friends and colleagues including Sir Martin Bowes, Sir John Mason, (Sir) Ralph Sadler, and his two supervisors Thomas Lodge, citizen and grocer, and John Griffith alias Vaughan. One third of his goods were left to Stephen, Anne and Jane, Vaughan’s children by his first wife. He left rents of £26 6s.8d. to his second wife, as well as his house at St. Mary Spital for nine years. His property consisted of tenements, shops and land in London and its suburbs which were to be held for his heir Stephen, then aged 12 and more. The will was proved on 26 Feb. 1550 by Vaughan’s executor and brother-in-law John Gwyneth, clerk. Vaughan’s widow married George Rolle and on his death Sir Leonard Chamberlain.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from first reference. London IPMs (Brit. Rec. Soc.), i. 87, 178; W. C. Richardson, ‘Stephen Vaughan, financial agent of Hen. VIII’, Louisiana State Univ. Studies, soc. science ser. iii. 21-23, 85 n. 29; DNB.
  • 3. Merriman, Letters Thos. Cromwell, i. 362; LP Hen. VIII, v, vii, xiii, xix; CPR, 1548-9 p. 161; Richardson, 18, 19; Brit. Numismatic Jnl. xlv. 70.
  • 4. Richardson, 38.
  • 5. Richardson, 25-34 et passim; M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 578-9; Elton, Reform and Renewal, 38-41; Reform and Reformation, 129; LP Hen. VIII, v.
  • 6. Richardson, passim; LP Hen. VIII, v-xiv; Elton, Reform and Reformation, 185.
  • 7. Merriman, 60, 63, 362; CPR, 1550-3, p. 153; Richardson, 15; E179/144/120; LP Hen. VIII, xvii.
  • 8. Richardson, 15, 20-22, 45-76; APC, i. passim; C. E. Challis, The Tudor Coinage, 180; SC 6, Edw. VI/726; SP10/2, f. 97.
  • 9. Challis, 86-89; Brit. Numismatic Jnl. xxxvii, 93-97; CPR, 1548-9, p. 161.
  • 10. London IPMs, i. 87, 178; Hatfield 207; PCC 5 Coode; C1/1319/9-14; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 12(1), f. 251v; 12(2) ff. 349, 351; 13(1), ff. 154v, 235v; 14, f. 109v.