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


16 Jan. 1559 (writ)SIR JOHN MARKHAM
 Sir Thomas Stanhope
 Thomas Markham
3 Oct. 1597JOHN BYRON

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For the first six Elizabethan Parliaments Nottinghamshire was almost exclusively represented by MPs from long-established county families who were either related to, or enjoyed the support of, the 3rd Earl of Rutland. Sir Robert Constable, however, was a Yorkshireman who had settled in Nottinghamshire during Elizabeth’s reign. He owed his election in 1584 to his double connexion with the Earl of Rutland through his mother, who was a Manners, and his brother, who was a member of the Earl’s household. Henry Pierrepont, a recusant, secured his county seat in 1572 through his connexions with the protestant Manners and Cavendish families. The extent of Rutland’s influence is demonstrated by the 1586 election when Sir Thomas Stanhope, a leading Nottinghamshire landowner well able to stand for the county in his own right, chose instead to come in under the auspices of the Earl. The power of the Rutlands declined, however, during the long minority which followed the death of the 3rd Earl in 1587, and that of his brother in 1588. Robert Markham, of Cotham, who had already represented the county in 1571 with Rutland’s help, was now elected in 1589 on his own strength, and Brian Lassells took the junior seat with the support of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, who died in 1590. Sir Thomas Stanhope might well have been a candidate at the 1588 election, had he not been sheriff at the time.

On succeeding as 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, Gilbert Talbot embarked upon a feud with Sir Thomas Stanhope which was to split the county into factions and engage the attention of the Privy Council. The 1593 election became a trial of strength between the two camps. Shrewsbury first sponsored his brother-in law Sir Charles Cavendish along with Robert Markham of Cotham who was now one of his circle, and whose son Gervase, the Countess of Shrewsbury’s champion, was already deeply involved in the violence which had erupted between the factions. Stanhope stood himself with Robert’s uncle Thomas Markham of Oilerton, whose mother had been married to a Stanhope before she had married Thomas’s father, and who may or may not have had his own reasons outside Nottinghamshire faction strife for wishing to be in Parliament. Whether because Shrewsbury thought his two candidates too obviously reflected his own part in the affair, or whether the two Markhams felt it indecent to be on the opposite sides of a county contest, Robert Markham withdrew and was replaced by a neutral candidate, Philip Streley. The property qualification of Sir Charles Cavendish who in fact had but little property in the county, was challenged by Stanhope. The situation was further complicated by Henry Pierrepont, Shrewsbury’s brother-in-law, whom Stanhope had recently forced off the bench on account of his recusancy. Four weeks before the election Pierrepont was canvassing in the county in support of the Shrewsbury faction. Stanhope evidently believed Pierrepont to be canvassing on his own behalf but in a letter to Lord Burghley, Shrewsbury denied this.

As for my brother-in-law Pierrepont, though I am sure there is no cause why he should be suspected for religion now (howsoever heretofore) yet neither he nor I had ever meaning that he should stand for one [seat] in this election, whereby your Lordship may now perceive how ready my adversaries are to spread out any falsehood or untruthfulness whatsoever if they think the same may serve their turn.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the eventual candidates were Sir Charles Cavendish and Philip Strelley against Sir Thomas Stanhope and Thomas Markham.

A partisan account of the election itself is contained in that same letter from Shrewsbury to Burghley. Stanhope and Markham had little chance of success as the sheriff was in Shrewsbury’s camp.

Now (with your Lordship’s good favour) I will deliver to you all my proceeding in the matter whereof my adversaries have been so busy to speed false rumours. On Sunday night last, the day before the county court, I came to Nottingham attended on by my own servants under 80, but the high sheriff and most of the justices of [the] peace, hearing of my coming, did indeed meet and accompany me to the town. By the way I was told by many of my friends that Sir Thomas Stanhope had gathered thither all his servants and many of his tenants who were to be in readiness with extraordinary weapons, whereupon it was supposed that some great breach of the peace would be offered ... The next morning ... the freeholders were very many, which moved the sheriff upon good advice given by two or three very sufficient counsellors at the law there present ... to adjourn the county court from the shire hall within the town to her Majesty’s castle, for the said hall would not have contained the fifth man who had a voice in the election. So in the castle court the election was made (at the time limited by the statute) of Sir Charles Cavendish and Mr. Philip Strelley with one voice of all without contradiction of any one man. At the same time (as I heard) Sir Thomas Stanhope and Mr. Thomas Markham, accompanied with none but their sons and servants, unless they procured the two coroners to stay with them, did sit in the shire hall. But we, after our election and dinner done, departed the same night in as peaceable and quiet manner as could be imagined.

By 1597 the 5th Earl of Rutland had come of age, and he used his influence to secure the return of Richard Whalley for the Parliament that year. John Byron, the senior knight in 1597, was no doubt helped to his election by his father being sheriff that year. Sir Charles Cavendish took the senior seat in 1601, his landed status in the county having been established beyond question by Shrewsbury’s transfer of Welbeck abbey to him shortly after the 1593 election. Robert Pierrepont, first son of Henry, was elected for the county with Shrewsbury’s help despite his being aged only 17 and his Catholic affiliations.

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


  • 1. Date of election, HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 208.