BASSETT, Robert (1574-1641), of Umberleigh, Devon.

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



Family and Education

b. 1574, 1st s. of Arthur Bassett by Eleanor, da. of Sir John Chichester. m. 1591, Elizabeth (d.1635), da. of William Peryam, 2s. 4da. suc. fa. 1586. Kntd. 1599.

Offices Held

J.p. Devon 1597, dep. lt. 1600.


Bassett was returned to the first Parliament after his marriage to the daughter of a judge, one of the executors of his father’s will. Though his name is not to be found in the extant journals of the House (he was only 19), the burgesses for Plymouth as such were put on committees for kerseys (23 Mar., 2 Apr.) and fish (5 Mar.).

In 1595 Bassett obtained a licence to travel abroad for three years, was back in Devon in the following year, and in 1597 was chosen by the lord lieutenant to deputize for one of his former guardians, the infirm deputy lieutenant Hugh Fortescue, whom Bassett succeeded in the office after his return from Ireland, where he was knighted by the Earl of Essex. He was retained as deputy lieutenant on the accession of James despite rumours that he was a Catholic. Suddenly he fled the realm, whether because of his religious views, his debts, or for some reason directly connected with his father-in-law has not been ascertained. At any rate he wrote to his brother

I wish with all my heart that I were at Lundy in as poor case as I came from thence ... I pray curse that damned filthy old judge as heartily as myself, who, for my natural affection to my children and his base brood, has forced me to this desperate course.

Intercepted at Plymouth, the letter was sent by the mayor to the Privy Council, since Bassett was ‘in reputation of a fugitive or traitor’. Confessing his ‘rash miscarriage’ and ‘follies’ in a letter to the King, he bombarded Cecil and others with letters pleading for permission to return, and for protection against his creditors. At length, in 1611, he was granted a conditional pardon as ‘having been lately distracted’, and allowed to return home or stay with a friend of good conformity in religion.

Thenceforward Bassett lived quietly in Devon until his death in 1641. He may have been the author of the anonymous Lyfe of Syr Thomas More by ‘Ro: Ba.’, written about 1600. His son was Col. Arthur Bassett.

Roberts thesis; D’Ewes, 487, 507, 513.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler