FOWKES, William (d.1616), of Enfield, Mdx.

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

3rd s. of Robert Fowke or Fowkes of Symondsbury, nr. Bridport, Dorset by Mary, da. of Richard, 9th Lord Zouche.1 educ. I. Temple 1561. m. Anne (d. 10 Dec. 1608) da. of John Harington of Witham-on-the-Hill, Lincs. by his 3rd w. Bridget Davenport, 4s. 6da.2

Offices Held

Servant of the 2nd Earl of Essex by Apr. 1589.


Although his father was a Dorset squire, William Fowkes’s family came from Brewood, Staffordshire, some 15 miles west of the borough of Lichfield, which Fowkes represented in the 1597 Parliament. His sister Elizabeth married Lord Burghley’s secretary Vincent Skinner, and his brother Henry was a soldier who served in the Netherlands and was knighted by the Earl of Essex in Dublin. Fowkes’s wife was a cousin of the Haringtons of Exton, Rutland.3

Fowkes was probably a retainer of Walter, 1st Earl of Essex, who left £10 to a servant named Fowkes in his will. He was in the service of Robert, the 2nd Earl, in April 1589, when that nobleman, tiring of the court, escaped to join the fleet at Plymouth, leaving instructions to Fowkes and W. Leighton to come after him ‘with such speed as may be’, with various necessaries. Fowkes did not follow the Essex entourage to France in 1591; in December he wrote to Edward Reynolds, his closest associate, whom he called his master:

My heart is with you and some other my good friends there, not that 1 desire honour by the winning of Rouen, or fear to enter the breach, but being unable by a later sickness [from] which I cannot yet recover, I am hindered from coming to you.

Meanwhile he was busy improving the value of an estate at Lashbrooke, suggesting, incidentally, to Reynolds that if they could not make it worth £100 apiece, they should give it up in return for something better. In 1594 he was engaged in transporting troops to France. He remained in the service of the Earl of Essex and was employed in December 1598 on preparations for the Irish expedition.4

Fowkes’s association with Reynolds, who was managing Essex’s 1597 election campaign, explains his return at Lichfield. It may also explain his brother’s successful military career—for the latter asked William for a troop of loo 100 light horse ‘if Mr. Reynolds could be spokesman for him’ to the Earl. Fowkes does not appear to have been on intimate terms with Essex’s other followers, and their professions of friendship to him have a hollow ring. In May 1599 Gelly Meyrick wrote to Reynolds,

For my part, I have ever loved, and will, Mr. Fowkes. I ever esteemed him as I am assured he is, which is very honest. I never deserved his ill opinion in my own understanding ... yet he told me I did him wrong but my conscience doth cloth witness I did satisfy him once for Wanstead. I did now and have ever wished him as well as any, and will. Let faults rest where they are, for I were very weak to think that he should combine to wrong me.

A month later Henry Lindley told Reynolds, ‘You perceived by me some conceit taken of Mr. Fowkes. Indeed I told you that if Mr. Fowkes loved not my master well, he was to blame, but I meant no evil unto him’.5

Though Fowkes was not implicated in the Essex rebellion, he spent the remainder of his life in obscurity. By his will, made in 1609, he asked to be buried in Enfield church ‘without great charge’. He left plate to his four surviving daughters, and £7,000 to his son, his executor. His overseers were his cousins Edward, 11th Lord Zouche and Sir William Tate, his brother Sir Henry Fowkes, his nephew Robert Middlemore and his friend Edward Reynolds.6

Fowkes died in 1616. There was a namesake, the custodian of the hand guns in the Tower of London, who died to Aug. 1597.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: R.C.G.


  • 1. Genealogist, n.s. ii. 301; Lincs. Peds. ii. 461.
  • 2. Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 121; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 288.
  • 3. J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), i. 405-6; Vis. London, loc. cit.; HMC Hatfield, iv. 293; Shaw, Knights, ii. 97; Mdx. Peds. loc. cit.
  • 4. Cam. Misc. xiii(3), p. 18; HMC Hatfield, iv. 161, 164, 338; viii. 515.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, viii. 476; ix. 157-8, 212.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 213; PCC 54 Cope.
  • 7. E403/1693/32.