FIENNES, Richard (1555-1613), of Broughton Castle, Oxon.

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. 1555, o.s. of Sir Richard Fiennes of Broughton Castle by Ursula, da. of Richard Fermor of Easton Neston, Northants. educ. Winchester; Hart Hall Oxf. 1568; L. Inn 1573. m. (1) Constance, da. of Sir William Kingsmill of Sydmonton, Hants, 1s. 2da; (2) Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Henry Coddenham or Codingham of London, wid. of William Paulet of Winchester, s.p. suc. fa. 1573. Kntd. by 11 May 1593; confirmed as Baron Saye and Sele 9 Aug. 1603.1

Offices Held

J.p. Oxon. from c.1579, Hants from c.1583-c.93; sheriff, Oxon. 1583-4, 1594-5, dep. lt. 1593; jt. (with Anthony Cope) superintendent of recusants at Banbury castle c.1589; keeper of Banbury castle by Oct. 1603.2


Fiennes’s father dying while he was still a minor, he was placed in the wardship of Sir William Kingsmill, whose daughter he later married. He was first returned to Parliament in 1584 for Banbury, the rectory, castle and hundred of which had been leased to his father in 1568. He was sheriff that year and did not complete his term of office until most of the elections were over. The return for Banbury is dated 49 Nov. which is about a fortnight later than the rest, so it appears that Banbury deliberately delayed its return until Fiennes could safely be chosen. At the next election, in the absence in the Netherlands of William Knollys, Fiennes achieved a county seat, there being a shortage of leading protestant gentry in Oxfordshire. In fact Broughton Castle was one of the places where, in 1590 and 1592, the authorities confined recusants ‘of quality and calling’, some at least of whom were sufficiently well treated to wish to be committed there if they should have to be confined again. On the last occasion that Fiennes sat in the Commons, he secured a seat at Whitchurch. He was probably introduced to the patrons of the borough, the dean and chapter of Winchester, by one of his relatives by marriage. Through his first wife he was related to John Kingsmill, the chancellor of the bishop of Winchester: his second wife was connected with the Paulets, a family that had long held office in the bishopric.3

From 1586 onwards, Fiennes constantly pressed his claim to the barony of Saye and Sele, in abeyance since 1471. He enlisted the support of the Earl of Leicester and Sir Christopher Hatton, but without success in Elizabeth’s reign, though in October 1597 there was hope that she would agree. His cause was weakened by his financial troubles which also aggravated his difficulties with his second wife, a Catholic sympathizer. In 1592 they decided to ‘live divided by consent’. She agreed that he should spend his income on paying his debts and improving the estates, while she was to be free to spend her portion, £400 a year, on herself and her two daughters by her first marriage. When Fiennes wrote to tell Burghley of this arrangement, he reckoned that his own income would be £1,200 a year. His debts totalled £3,900, but then he had hopes, which were not realised, of inheriting part of the estates of his kinsman Lord Dacre. In August 1603 Fiennes obtained a patent confirming the barony on him and his heirs, but he was not allowed the precedence of the former barony: he took his seat in the Lords as a junior baron 19 Mar. 1604. He later wrote a number of begging letters to Sir Robert Cecil stressing his financial plight. He was granted the right to receive the fines of a number of recusants, but complained that this was unprofitable.4

In July 1596 he accompanied the Earl of Lincoln on an embassy to Germany and travelled in Italy, visiting Florence and Verona. Nine years later, in May 1605, he went with the Earl of Hertford on an embassy to the Archduke Albert at Brussels. In his will, made 17 July 1612, Fiennes urged that, as his debts were heavy, his funeral should be simple. He left his wife all the goods in his house at St. Batholomew’s, Smithfield, and made small bequests to his two daughters. The residue he left to his only son William, the sole executor. Lord Chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton I) and Fiennes’s ‘loving neighbour and trusty friend’ Edmund Messe were overseers. A schedule attached to the will lists debts totalling £1,500.5

He died in February 1613.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Patricia Hyde


  • 1. C142/167/72; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 213, 297; VCH Hants, ii. 320; Wards 7/51/88; E. A. Webb, Recs. St. Bartholomew’s, Smithfield, ii. 263, 270; APC, xxiv. 224; CP, xi. 484.
  • 2. SP12/145; APC, xxiv. 254; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 45.
  • 3. Wards 9/140/425-7; CPR, 1566-9, p. 153; APC, xviii. 414-17; xxiii. 106-7; Bodl. Tanner 118, f. 128 et seq.; SP12/241/120.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 356, 419; 1591-4, pp. 209, 277; 1595-7, p. 518; Add. 1580-1625, p. 232; HMC Hatfield, iii. 185, 251, 270; vii. 383; xi. 469; xvi. 62-3, 209, 240, 330, 339; xvii. 290, 331, 451, 467, 481, 532, 633; Lansd. 84, f. 151; 104, f. 51.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, vi. 240, 269, 295; xvii. 6-7, 142, 146; PCC 18 Capell.