Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer


19 Mar. 1571PETER OSBORNE 
1571GEORGE BLYTH vice Osborne, chose to sit for Guildford 
14 Apr. 1572THOMAS GENT 
4 Oct. 1574EDWARD SULYARD 1 vice Harris, deceased 
30 Sept. 1586JOHN BUTLER II13 votes
 William Wiseman9 votes
8 Nov. 1588JOHN BUTLER II 
14 Feb. 1589EDWARD LEWKNOR 2 vice Vernon, sick 

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During the Elizabethan period Maldon was governed by two bailiffs, a recorder, a town clerk, six aldermen and eighteen head-burgesses. There was also an honorary office of high recorder, held by the Earl of Leicester from about 1565 until his death and afterwards by the Earl of Essex. The borough chamberlain’s accounts for 1598 show that it was intended to give Essex a gift of wine that year, but for some reason not ascertained, but which it would be interesting to know, the entry was deleted. The right to vote was vested in the bailiffs, aldermen and head-burgesses in accordance with an order made in the first year of Elizabeth’s reign, possibly before the 1559 election.

Until his death in 1583, the high steward, Sir Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, played an influential part in Maldon elections. He was responsible for the return of his uncle Sir Humphrey Radcliffe in 1559, when the latter was sheriff and therefore ineligible to sit for the county. Sussex also secured the returns of Gabriel Croft in 1571, his servant, and Vincent Harris, a local man, in 1571. For his service in Parliament in the 1572 session Harris was given a gallon of sack, a bottle of claret and 8 lbs. of cherries. His death in 1574 occasioned a by-election at which he was replaced by a marriage relation Edward Sulyard, another follower of the 3rd Earl of Sussex. Henry Golding I (1559) was a local landowner and also a relative by marriage of the 16th Earl of Oxford, lord lieutenant of Essex, and steward of his household. Richard Argall (1563) was a Kent country gentleman who may have owed his return to Sir Robert Dudley, soon to be Earl of Leicester, or to a friend, Peter Osborne, whose estate lay near the borough. Osborne himself was returned for Maldon in 1571, but preferred to sit for Guildford, and no doubt sponsored his brother-in-law, George Blyth, to replace him at Maldon for that Parliament. John Lathom (1563) and Thomas Gent (1572) were both recorders of Maldon; Lathom had an estate nearby, and Gent, who was of Steeple Bumpstead, was counsel to the 17th Earl of Oxford.

In 1584, the first election after the death of the Earl of Sussex, the Earl of Leicester wrote to Maldon asking to nominate both MPs. Whether he realized that this was going too far, or whether there was a verbal exchange does not appear, but on 30 Oct. 1584 he wrote again:

Although I have not received your letters in answer of my request to have the nomination of the burgesses for your town, yet understanding that your will is I shall have the nomination of one and yourselves desire to appoint the other, I have thought good to name a servant of mine, your countryman, clerk of the peace of your shire, and well known unto you, Richard Brown who, (if your occasions serve) shall have my help at any time to do your town what convenient pleasure may be. Bidding you heartily farewell, from my house without Temple Bar this xxx October 1584

Your very loving friend

R. Leycester.

To which the borough replied, using some old excuses: May it please your honour, immediately after the receipt of your lordship’s letters we the bailiffs with our brethren the aldermen committed ourselves together. And upon our conference we thought it our duties to impart our minds unto your good lordship, that whereas our choice was made before your lordship’s first letter of two gentlemen viz. Mr. Edward Lewknor and Mr. William Wiseman in whose places, if we had warrant, as we have not, we think as yet we cannot without great discourtesy elect others considering their wisdoms’ charge and pains in that calling and also for that they stand sworn for the good of our liberties. And further our election standeth upon the consent of a great multitude wherein we may doubt of the certain election of any man until the great voice be examined and then the names are to be assigned of whom the election may be made, wherein it is requisite that your lordship should nominate a man by name otherwise we are not able to satisfy your lordship’s request.Lewknor was an outsider from Sussex, whose only known connexion with the borough was the friendship of James Morice, recorder of Maldon, his contemporary at the Middle Temple. Wiseman was a younger son of an Essex gentry family and at the time legal counsel to Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich. As Rich had a bill going through Parliament in 1584, it is probable that he wanted Wiseman there to safeguard his interests. Wiseman was unsuccessful in a poll in 1586 and was not returned again until he became deputy recorder.

In 1586 there was a contested election won by Lewknor, though he took the junior seat. In the senior place was John Butler II, a local landowner whose brother-in-law was a puritan minister used to conducting services at Rich’s estate of Rochford Hall. A month before the 1588 election the borough wrote to Rich informing him in the politest terms that thenceforward he could only have one nomination. It may please your lordship that whereas we receiving your late letter unto us and other our associates and company directed, requiring a choice and election of us to be made by our consents of Mr. John Butler and Mr. Lewknor for burgesses of our town for the present summoned Parliament (thereupon we having some consultation amongst ourselves) it was thought very requisite that for some necessary causes for the good of our poor town (too long now by letter to trouble your lordship withal to declare) [the man who drafted Maldon’s letters was a master of evasion] that some fit person of the inhabitants within the said borough to be taken out of the society of our company should be elected to supply the place of one of the said burgesses which thing is hereafter (when we have warrant to proceed to election) it be fully resolved upon, then shall we not be able to satisfy your lordship’s request in choosing both the said gentlemen to that service otherwise (not only therein, but wherein else besides to pleasure your lordship) we shall be ready at all times to endeavour ourselves to accomplish to the best of our power, wherein as we doubt not (in your lordship’s wisdom) to accept in good part of this our reasonable consideration, so we make account of your lordship’s good aid and furtherance in anything that we may there attempt for the benefit of our said town.Butler was re-elected along with William Vernon, the borough’s alderman and coroner, who soon had to resign his seat because of ill-health. He was replaced by Lewknor, who was elected again in 1593. Thomas Mildmay III of Moulsham must have been returned in 1593 through the influence of his father, who became high steward of the borough in the next period. Thomas Harris III (1597) and Richard Weston II (1601) were both returned through their local standing.3

Authors: M.A.P. / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. C219/282/27, 28.
  • 2. C219/284/20, 21.
  • 3. Weinbaum, Charters, 37; Essex RO, Maldon borough recs. DB3/1/3, 3/1/6, 3/1/8, 3/3/205, 257, 273, 422 et passim, 3/12/4; see also DUDLEY, Sir Robert.