DONHAULT, Gregory (c.1555-1614), of London.

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. c.1555. educ. Merchant Taylors’ to 1572; Pembroke, Camb. scholar 1572, BA 1575; incorp. Oxf. 1577/8. m. 1608, Leonore (d.1638), da. of Adrian Vierendeels of Antwerp, wid. of Abraham Tryon of St. Mary Aldermanbury, London, s.p.

Offices Held

Sec. to Sir Thomas Egerton I from c.1597; master in Chancery from 1612.


Donhault was connected with the Downhall family of Geddington, Northamptonshire; the spelling of his name adopted in this biography is that of his will. After leaving Cambridge he was for some time a schoolmaster at Gloucester grammar school, one of his pupils later stating that he wrote both the secretary and the Italian hands ‘exquisitely well’. Next he ‘betook himself to another course of being secretary to some nobleman’, the identity of whom has not been ascertained, though Donhault’s will mentions a ring given him by the Countess of Pembroke. In any event, by the last Parliament of Elizabeth’s reign he had been for at least seven years in the service of the lord keeper, and it was no doubt by means of Egerton’s intervention that he represented three Cornish boroughs, East Looe through Lord Burghley, Saltash and Dunheved through the Carew family. There is no record of any activity on his part in the Parliament of 1593. On 28 Jan. 1598 he wanted hardware pedlars excluded from the bill for rogues, which provoked a reply from Thomas Harris I that his motion ‘would have been good in a parliament of women’. Despite his connexions with the court party Donhault must have been a thorn in their flesh in the 1601 Parliament. Townshend reports 18 Nov.:

As they were naming committees, Mr. Downold the lord keeper’s secretary, stood up and desired that the [monopolies] bill Mr. Hyde called for, might be read; and was saying somewhat more. But Mr. Speaker interrupted here and said ‘I pray you let us name committees, and then you may speak’. And so they went to the naming of committees. And Mr. Secretary Cecil, a little while after, spake something in Mr. Speaker’s ear. But so soon as time and place of commitment was named, the Speaker rose without further hearing of Mr. Downold, which he took in great disgrace, and told him ‘He would complain of him the next sitting’, to which the Speaker answered not one word, but looked earnestly on him, and so the press of people parted them.

Two days later Donhault urged that the monopolies should be dealt with by way of a bill rather than by petition, as Cecil wished:

If we proceed by way of petition, we can have no more gracious answer than we had the last Parliament to our petitions. Since the Parliament, we have had no reformation. And the reason why I think no reformation hath been had, is because I never heard the cries against monopolies greater and more vehement.

He was appointed to the committee on 23 Nov., but at the moment when Cecil must have considered the matter closed by the complete capitulation of the Queen, Donhault caused a new uproar by moving

first that the gracious message sent from her Majesty might be written in the books of the records of this House (being worthy to be written in gold) as well as written and fixed in the true heart of every good subject. Secondly that the honourable of this House would move her Majesty and be an earnest means of speed lest that which is now meant indeed may by protraction of time be altered, or perhaps not so happily effected.

These interventions were enough to debar Donhault from any government job during Elizabeth’s reign, and it was not until 1612 that he became a master in Chancery and an associate bencher of the Middle Temple, to which he had been specially admitted on 4 Aug. 1604. His marriage to a wealthy widow involved him in a long dispute with the relatives of her first husband over a house in St. Mary Aldermanbury. Donhault made his will in poor health 1 Apr. 1614. His money was ‘presently forth in other men’s hands’, but he made arrangements for his wife during the months that would pass before the estate could be wound up. He left her the lease of a house at Uxbridge, her jewels, his coach and horses, and plate. He had not left her more for reasons which ‘men of judgment, observing the practice of the time and common course of the world will easily discern and well allow’. He was sorry that his brother was unfit to have his lands and was thus unable to ‘uphold the name which is now much decayed and almost worn out’; instead, they went to his ‘cousin’, William Donhault of the Middle Temple, the chief executor. In a codicil Donhault made provision for scholarships at Pembroke, Cambridge, ‘where’, he wrote, ‘I received my breeding’. He died 4 Apr. 1614, and the will was proved the next day. He was buried at St. Mary Aldermanbury 21 Apr.

Ancestor, ii. 176-7; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 57; T. D. Hardy, Cat. Ld. Chancellors, 89; Vis. Northants, ed. Metcalfe, 16-17; J. Dover Wilson, Shakespeare’s England, 63-4; D’Ewes, 646, 649, 656; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 224, 236, 257; Bull. IHR, xii. 21; C2 Jas. I/D13/52; PCC 29 Lawe; Reg. St. Mary Aldermanbury (Harl. Soc. Reg. lxi), 92.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: Roger Virgoe / P. W. Hasler