GORGES, Arthur (1557-1625), of Chelsea, 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

b. 1557, 3rd s. of Sir William Gorges by Winifred, da. and coh. of Roger Budockshide of St. Budeaux, Devon. educ. Oxf. BA 1574; M. Temple. m. (1) 1584, Douglas (d.1590), da. of Henry Howard, and Visct. Bindon, 1da. d v.p.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Sir Henry Clinton, 2nd Earl of Lincoln, 6s. 5da. Kntd. 1597.

Offices Held

Gent. pens. by Mar. 1583-c.1604; j.p.q. Dorset from c.1592


Gorges was a poet, translator and courtier related to, and a close friend of, both Sir Robert Cecil and Sir Walter Ralegh. Like so many Dorset gentry, Gorges served against the Armada. The poet Churchyard, in 1589, considered him to belong to the same group as John Chudleigh, Ralegh and Sir Robert Carey, and it must have been through the influence of Carey’s brother Sir George that Gorges sat for Yarmouth in 1584. It is known that the parliamentary representation of Yarmouth was revived in that year at Sir George Carey’s request, and that a blank election indenture was sent to him so that he could insert the name of his nominee. Gorges’s return for Camelford in 1589 was due to a court connexion. At the time of the 1593 election Ralegh, who had represented Devon in 1584 and 1586, but who had by then settled in Dorset, was in disgrace, and had to retire to a borough seat. The election as knight of the shire of Gorges, his close friend, may have reflected Ralegh’s popularity in the county. Gorges, who took the senior seat, possessed no lands in Dorset except in the right of his wife, whose uncle Thomas Howard, 3rd Viscount Bindon, was hostile to him. Bindon spent years in legal dispute with Gorges, whose election must have increased the animosity both between Bindon and Gorges and Bindon and Ralegh. Gorges’s return for Rye in 1601 was a straightforward nomination by Cecil through Lord Cobham, his brother-in-law. So little did the townsmen know of their MP that his name was twice written incorrectly in their hundred book as Sir Fernando Gorges.

Gorges is not mentioned in the journals of the House for 1584 or 1589. However, on 2 Mar. 1593 he was one of those appointed to convey the Commons’ refusal of a conference with the Lords concerning the subsidy. He was named to a committee on vagabonds on 12 Mar., and as knight for Dorset in 1593 he was eligible to attend the subsidy committee on 26 Feb. and a legal committee on 9 Mar. In 1601 he was appointed to a committee on the penal laws on 2 Nov., and on 9 Nov. he moved that the Privy Council should check the subsidy assessments of j.p.s. Also in 1601 the burgesses of Rye were appointed to committees which he may have attended, concerning the order of parliamentary business (3 Nov.) and the Severn harbour (21 Nov.).

His marriages were unfortunate: the mother of his first bride approved of the match, but the insane Henry Howard, 2nd Viscount Bindon, who was in prison at the time the marriage was contracted, did not, and there was trouble between them until Bindon’s death in 1590, when the quarrel was taken up by the 3rd Viscount. Gorges’s second marriage brought upon him the displeasure of the Queen herself, and he was sent to the Fleet. There were also disputes with his second wife’s father, the Earl of Lincoln. In 1600 his daughter (by his first wife) Ambrosia died and Cecil wrote to George Carew that ‘he hath some relief by a composition made between him and the Viscount, who must pay him £400 a year during his life’. The following year Gorges was complaining that, after 24 years’ service to the Queen, he was little thought of, ‘especially considering the mighty loss he lately sustained by the long delay and hard suit for his own child, to his utter undoing ... His life is now very bitterly distasted with penury and despair’. Complaints of his poverty, however, are difficult to reconcile with his statement to Cecil that he purchased from Lord Cobham the reversion of a lease of a Cornish manor for £3,000 in ready money. Still, he persisted in his complaints, stating in his will, proved in 1625, the year of his death, that his estate had never received any reward of King James, notwithstanding his loving and faithful service, and that he had had ‘many crosses and detractions from His Majesty, although he far better deserved’.

Except where otherwise stated this biography is based upon R. Gorges, Fam. through Eleven Cents. (Boston 1944); R. Lloyd, Dorset Elizabethans. Other sources are DNB; E407/1/16; E. Suss. RO, Rye mss; D’Ewes, 474, 486, 496, 498-9, 623, 624, 633, 647; Cal. Carew Pprs.iii. 476; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 164; PCC 142 Clarke.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler