WATKINS, Richard (by 1507-50), of London and Hunstrete, Som.

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 1507, 5th s. of Walter Vaughan of Bredwardine, Herefs. by Jenett Owgan. educ. Oxf. BA 1525, BCL by 1530, MA 1535. m. by 1531, Etheldreda, da. of Robert or Thomas Coker of Mappowder, Dorset, 3s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Notary, ct. arches 1528, proctor by Nov. 1532; prothonotary 1533-d.; collector of customs, Bristol by Aug. 1535-47; registrar, ct. admiralty from 1540-d.2


Richard Watkins’s full name was Richard Watkins Vaughan but he customarily used the shorter form. He started his career in the service of his kinsman William Edwards, one of Wolsey’s secretaries, probably as a tutor. While at Louvain in March 1528 Watkins received the offer of an appointment in England which he modestly thought too great for his powers. This was evidently the notaryship from which his subsequent career developed: the earliest known document which he attested was the foundation charter of Wolsey’s college at Ipswich dated 3 July 1528.3

In 1529 Watkins was appointed a notary for the proceedings in the King’s divorce, and for the next four years ‘the great matter’ dominated his life. His efforts on the King’s behalf brought him to the notice of Cromwell who in 1534 favoured his appointment as the bishop of Salisbury’s registrar against that of a servant of his own, John Price. To compensate Watkins for being passed over for this office (which he had been promised by the bishop, Lorenzo Campeggio, presumably to win him over in the divorce proceedings), Cromwell obliged Price to pay him £20 a year until he should receive the customership of Bristol; this post Watkins had obtained by August 1535, when he was licensed to perform his duties by deputy. His standing with Cromwell encouraged his kinsman Edwards to ask his intercession with the minister for a benefice.4

In the 1530s Watkins lived in London, signing his attestations variously at the Temple, ‘in his gallery near Charing Cross’, or ‘at his house in St. Faith’s parish’. In 1543 he bought three manors in Somerset and a house at Box, Wiltshire; for these he should have paid nearly £1,145, but the crown remitted £200. Watkins made one of the Somerset manors, Hunstrete, his country home, leaving all his household stuff there to his son and heir when he died.5

The indenture returned for Bramber in 1542 is mutilated and of the second Member’s name only ‘Ric’m Wa ...’ remains. Watkins was almost certainly the man elected since his deputy at Bristol, John Gilmyn, was chosen for the borough in the following Parliament when he himself found a place at Bridport. Bramber was a borough controlled by the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to whom as treasurer Watkins was responsible at Bristol, and Bridport probably came his way because of his admiralty position, with his friend Christopher Smith perhaps acting as an intermediary.6

A married man, whose eldest son was born in 1531, Watkins cannot have been a priest. His styling of himself in 1530 as clericus landavensis diocesis and in 1535, when he supplicated for his MA, as a secular chaplain, must mean that he had taken minor orders. On other occasions he described himself as gentleman, although when he made his will on 20 July 1548 it was as ‘Richard Watkins Vaughan, prothonotary’. He asked his wife to bind herself in 300 marks for the faithful performance of the will to Clement Smith, Dr. Baugh, archdeacon of Surrey, David Baugh, and William Vaughan, Watkins’s nephew. His three sons were to be ‘found and brought up in grammar first, and in writing schools, and after in the law or literal science or otherwise at the discretion of their schoolmaster in grammar’, and he left all his books to ‘such one of my sons as will apply his learning therein’. One-third of his lands he devised to his heir, the other two-thirds, including lands in Stepney and a manor in Monmouth, he left to his wife and younger children. Watkins died in late April 1550 when his son and heir Polydore was 18 years old. In the following November his widow obtained the wardship of Polydore, who three years later was licensed to enter upon his inheritance.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first appointment. The Gen. n.s. iii. 175; Rymer, Foedera, vi(2), 142; PCC 12 Coode; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 708; Vis. Dorset ed. Colby and Rylands, 7.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv-vi, ix, xv; CPR, 1553, p. 314; E122/22/1, 199/3.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iv.
  • 4. Ibid. iv-vii, ix.
  • 5. Ibid. iv-v, xviii; PCC 12 Coode.
  • 6. C219/18B/95; E122/22/1; LP Hen. VIII, xviii; PCC 12 Code.
  • 7. C142/91/53, 92/81; Rymer, vi(2), 142; Ct.Ch. 2/23/31; PCC 12 Coode; CPR, 1549-51, p. 209; 1553-4, p. 376.