ESSEX, William (c.1575-c.1645), of Beckett, Shrivenham, Berks.

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.1575, 1st s. of Thomas Essex of Beckett by Joan, da. of Thomas Harrison of Brentford, Mdx., and London. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1587. m. Jane, da. of Walter Harcourt of Ellenhall, Staffs., and Stanton Harcourt, Oxon., at least 3s. suc. fa. c.1587; cr. Bt. 1611.1

Offices Held

J.p. Berks. from c.1601.


Essex’s wardship went to Sir John Fortescue I, contrary to his father’s wish that it should be granted to the boy’s uncle. Fortescue was apparently unaware of Essex’s friendship with the Harcourt family who lodged in Fleet Street, close to his own house in Holborn. In April 1593 a marriage was solemnised between Essex and Jane Harcourt, the licence having been obtained by trickery. Sir Walter Harcourt was sent first to the Fleet before being transferred, on the Queen’s orders, to the Tower until he should pay compensation.2

Essex’s return to Parliament for Arundel in 1597 was probably due to Robert Bowyer II, a friend and later secretary of Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, who had influence in the borough. Bowyer’s mother was great-aunt to Essex’s wife, and Bowyer certainly assisted ‘my cousin Essex’ to acquire a baronetcy in 1611. The return at Stafford in 1601 was most probably due to his father-in-law. Essex’s marriage seems to have brought him ‘many needy kindred and needless hangers-on’, to avoid whose importunity he contemplated travelling abroad. In 1609 he had to convey several of his Berkshire manors to feoffees with a view to sale. During the next few years he parted with a considerable amount of land, selling Beckett in 1621. He was presumably the Sir William Essex who, in June 1639, was imprisoned in the Marshalsea for debt. In the Civil War, Essex became an officer in a parliamentary regiment commanded by his only surviving son. He was taken prisoner by the King’s forces at Edgehill, where his son was slain.

He died soon afterwards, perhaps in 1645, apparently intestate, and the baronetcy became extinct.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 125; Vis. Staffs. (Harl. Soc. lxiii), 120; GEC Baronetage, i. 99; C142/212/23.
  • 2. PCC 2 Spencer; St. Ch. 5/A34/35, 26/28; HMC 4th Rep. 335.
  • 3. Her. and Gen. iii. 450-1; Lansd. 152, ff. 16 seq; HMC Hatfield, x. 323; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 562; 1639, p. 345; VCH Berks. iv. 254, 535.