GAWDY, Philip (1562-1617), of West Harling, Norf. and London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

b. 1562, 2nd s. of Bassingbourne Gawdy I by his 1st w., and bro. of Bassingbourne II. educ. I. Temple 1578. m. c.1597, Bridget, da. of Bartholomew Strangman of Hadleigh, Essex, 3s. 5da.

Offices Held

Esquire of the body to Elizabeth and James I.


Gawdy, a second son, inherited little beyond an annuity of £66 13s.4d. He was always short of money, on several occasions borrowing from his elder brother, whose inheritance and wealthy marriage he envied. From 1578 until at least 1582 he was at the Inner Temple with Bassingbourne, acquiring a reputation as a lute player and afterwards going to court like his father before him. At court from 1587 to 1591 and after 1594, he probably obtained quite early the position of esquire of the body to Elizabeth, a post which he continued to hold in the reign of James I. His voluminous correspondence with other members of the family shows that he was acquainted with many eminent courtiers, and heard and appreciated all the court news and gossip. On numerous occasions he used his influence at court to obtain local office for his family’s supporters in faction-ridden Norfolk.

In 1591 he went on the expedition to the Azores in Sir Richard Grenville’s ship the Revenge, was captured, and imprisoned in Lisbon castle. He was kept longer than some of the other prisoners because he was believed to be of high rank, eventually being allowed to return home on condition that he ransomed one Mathias de Frias, for which purpose he borrowed £200 from Bassingbourne in 1593.

He sat in every Parliament from 1589 until his death, for constituencies in either Norfolk or Suffolk. He wrote to Bassingbourne in March 1604 asking him to ‘make sure with (Sir) Nicholas Bacon’ that he might be returned for Eye, or in Bassingbourne’s ‘right’ for Thetford. His brother had written to the latter borough in 1597, promising that Philip would ‘discharge your town of all charge’ if elected, and adding that he himself would ‘remain ready to pleasure you ... in any other lawful favour I can possibly do’. In 1601 Philip found a seat at the duchy of Lancaster borough of Sudbury, and in 1604 and 1614 not at Eye or Thetford, but at Dunwich, probably owing his return in both cases to Edward Coke. Writing home in February 1589 he said, ‘Let them all know that my second speech in the Parliament House is yet to make. It may be as wise as any that hath yet to be spoken, for I am untried, and therefore it hangs in suspense.’ But no further activity is referred to in his name in the parliamentary journals. In 1597 he may have attended a committee to which the burgesses for Thetford were appointed concerning land reclamation on 3 Dec. After their marriage he and his wife spent some time with her mother at Chilton but by 1604 he was lodging in Fullwood Lane by Gray’s Inn, and it was near there, at a George Fouch’s house in Chancery Lane, that he died, on 27 May 1617, of a ‘surfeit’. He was buried on 30 May at St. Dunscan-in-the-West. A family quarrel was caused by a letter of attorney which he left instead of a will, and which his eldest daughter disputed. Legal proceedings, begun in 1633, were ended by judgment in favour of the validity of the letter, by which his nephew Framlingham Gawdy benefited.

Norf. Arch. xxvi. 356-60; LC2/4/4; PCC 6 Drury; Letters of Philip Gawdy (Roxburghe Club), passim; A. H. Smith thesis, 38, 45; HMC 7th Rep. 518, 521, 529; Add. 27395, f. 41; Thetford hall bk. 1602-23. p. 16; Neale, Parlts. ii. 233; D’Ewes, 567; HMC Var. iii. 85, 89, 93.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.