BENGER, Sir Thomas (d.1572), of Milton, Oxon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
s. of Robert Benger of Manningford, Wilts. by Agnes, da. of William Vavasour of Yorks. m. (1) May 1552, Agnes, da. of William Seycolle, wid. of Robert Edgerley, s.p.; (2) Dorothy, da. of Sir William Raynsford of Tew, wid. of John Danvers of Culworth, Northants., s.p. Kntd. Oct. 1553.1
Auditor of Princess Elizabeth’s household by Sept. 1552; commr. for the coronation Jan. 1559; duchy of Lancaster feodary, Berks., Oxon. and other southern counties Dec. 1559-Dec. 1566; master of the revels Jan. 1560; j.p.q. Beds., Bucks., Herts. and Oxon 1559; j.p. Berks., Herts., j.p.q. Bucks., Oxon. 1561; j.p. Northants. 1564; steward and receiver-gen. of Berkhampstead, and keeper of the park Dec. 1560.2
Little is known of Benger before his entry into Princess Elizabeth’s household. He or a namesake was in the service of John Smith of St. Paul’s in May 1535, but no further reference has been found to him before December 1550, when he was appointed a commissioner to collect a relief in Buckinghamshire. Before the end of Edward VI’s reign he became Elizabeth’s auditor at Hatfield, and was apparently one of her favourite servants. In June 1555, accused of conspiring with John Dee and others to ‘calculate the king and queen and my lady Elizabeth’s nativity’, he was sent to the Fleet. A rumour circulated that his accuser’s two children were at once stricken, one with blindness and the other with a fatal disease. A month later his wife was allowed to visit him in prison, and he was probably released before the end of the year. In April 1557 he was again arrested, evidently for a felony, since the sheriff of Hertfordshire was ordered to make an inventory of his goods forfeited to the Crown. The property confiscated was restored to him at the end of June. Later the same year an Exchequer process was issued against him for the price of some lead he had received from the Crown.3
He presumably owed his election to Elizabeth’s first Parliament to the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir Ambrose Cave, who was later to employ him as a duchy feodary. He soon received several lucrative offices, and in December 1560 was granted a 50-year lease of Berkhampstead Castle, with supervision of the crown property there: however, by February 1562 he had mortgaged the keepership of the park to John Aylworth in payment of a £400 debt. During the last 10 years of his life he was evidently in serious financial difficulties, partly occasioned by a long and complicated lawsuit about his first wife’s property, the plaintiff being his stepson Francis Edgerley. His will referred to other great expenses in ‘searching records, taking out copies and notes of matter necessary for the furtherance of her Majesty’s grant of fines for alienations’. In February 1561 he was granted a patent for the next vacancy in the auditorship of the Exchequer, which he surrendered early in 1564.4
Few later references to him have been found. In September 1562, after the death of his first wife, he unsuccessfully courted the Countess of Essex, who was reported as saying that there had been an ‘old love’ between them. As master of the revels he accompanied the Queen on her progresses, receiving various presents from local bodies; the last mentioned, in August 1571, was a ‘podd of oysters’ from the corporation of Saffron Walden. Besides being responsible for entertainments at court, he kept his own troop of players.5
He died in 1572, but his will, made in June of that year, was not proved until 1577. The preamble records his hope to be one of the ‘elect and chosen to inherit the kingdom of heaven’ and utterly renounces ‘all vain hope of any good work by myself or any other to be any whit profitable towards salvation’. His debts had forced him to sell or mortgage most of his property, and he made a pathetic appeal to the Queen to allow ‘her old servant and one of the last of the poor flock of Hatfield’ to receive the benefit of the grants she had made to him. The will included legacies to his wife, Dame Dorothy, and to two nieces, Margaret and Susan Benger.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 67; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 10-11; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 165, 167; C. C. Stokes, William Hunnis and the Revels of the Chapel Royal, 311-12.
- 2. ‘Household expenses of the Princess Eliz’. ed. Strangford (Cam. Misc. ii(2), pp. 47-8); E101/429/5; Somerville, Duchy, i. 626; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 296-7, 325; 1563-6, p. 185; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, i. 75 seq.
- 3. LP Hen. VIII, viii, p. 269; CPR, 1553 and App. Edw. VI. 351; Cam. Misc. ii(2), pp. 47-8; SP11/5/34; APC, v. 139, 143-4, 157; vi. 81-2, 101, 108-9, 191.
- 4. CPR, 1558-60, pp. 296-7; 1560-3, p. 217; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 195; Req. 2/176/28; Stokes, 311-12; PCC 11 Daughtry; Lansd. 84, ff. 243 seq.
- 5. SP12/24/29; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. i. 281; Chambers, i. 75.
- 6. Chambers, i. 80 seq.; PCC 11 Daughtry.