GORGES, Nicholas (d.1594), of London.

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 Sir Edward Gorges of Wraxall, Som. by Mary, da. of Sir Anthony Poyntz of Iron Acton; bro. of Thomas. m. (1) da. of Sir Giles Poole; (2) Mary (d.1603) da. of Sir Francis Southwell, wid. of Sir Anthony St. Leger, s.p.1

Offices Held

Keeper, manor of Leconfield 1570; capt. of Swiftsure 1576; adm. 1588.


Gorges, a courtier and naval officer distantly related to the Queen and to the lord high admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham, was described in 1569 as a servant of the Earl of Lincoln. Lincoln was lord lieutenant of Lincolnshire, and it is this connexion which accounts for Gorges’s return to Parliament in 1584 for Boston.

In 1576 Gorges was captain of the Swiftsure, a three year-old ship of 400 tons, 400 crew and 41 guns. He was appointed to the squadron of the narrow seas and, from the North Foreland on 17 Sept., wrote to Walsingham to say that he would be ready to attend at Dover or the Downs to convey the ambassador to France. He asked whether he should attempt to intercept pirates between Portland and the Isle of Wight. In 1579 Gorges was warned to prepare himself for service at sea by 14 Aug. Towards the end of 1585 he brought back to England letters from the Earl of Leicester in the Netherlands. Burghley recommended him to Leicester as a person of understanding, fit to repair to the ports of Holland and Zeeland to discover what numbers of ships were ‘provisable for war’, how they were equipped, the numbers of sailors in each port, and whether there were any who might be hired by the Queen. In June 1586 the Queen suddenly decided, to Burghley’s surprise, to send Gorges once more to the Netherlands. He departed early on 9 June and delivered letters to Leicester at Utrecht on or after the 13th. He was at this time a suitor for the minor court office of serjeant of the bakehouse. Leicester, who had already recommended one Jewkes, wrote to Hatton and Walsingham to say that he must needs prefer Gorges, and heartily requested that Gorges might be furthered in his suit, being ‘an old servant of her Majesty and well worthy of preferment’.

Gorges was an admiral at the time of the Armada, receiving 13s.8d. a day for himself and his lieutenant, and commanding a squadron of eight ships from the city of London in the Susan Parnell, a merchant ship belonging to the Levant Company. His force sailed on 26 July to join Lord Henry Seymour in defending the narrow seas. They joined forces a few days later, ‘nothing well manned’, as Seymour reported, ‘but better appointed of munition and powder’. Gorges had been at sea for less than a week when he was afflicted with ‘his old infirmity of bleeding’, so that Seymour asked for him to be replaced. He was still at sea on 16 Aug. and it does not appear that he was relieved of his command.2

Perhaps on account of this infirmity, we hear no more of his career, ‘Sick in body’, he made his will on 28 Oct. 1594, shortly before his death. He asked to be buried at St. Martin’s within Ludgate, in decent and comely manner without vain pomp. Apart from a few small bequests to brothers, nephews, and the poor, everything went to his dear and loving wife Mary, the sole executrix.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N.M.S.


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 342; R. Gorges, Fam. through Eleven Cents. 86-99; CPR, 1569-72, p. 257.
  • 2. APC, ix. 175, 198; xi 223; xvi. 180; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 528z; Clowes, Royal Navy, i. 423, 425, 429, 593; CSP For. June 1586-Mar. 1587, pp. 14, 28; Leycester Corresp. (Cam. Soc. xxvii), 27, 38, 293; R. C. Strong and J. A. Van Dorsten, Leicester’s Triumph, 117; J. K. Laughton, State Pprs. Rel. to Defeat of the Spanish Armada, i. 311, 315; ii. 6, 14.
  • 3. PCC 73 Dixy.