HARCOURT, Simon (c.1525-77), of Ellenhall and Ronton Abbey, Staffs. and Stanton Harcourt, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. c.1525, 1st s. of Sir John Harcourt†, and bro. of Michael and Robert. m. (1) Mary, da. of Edward Aston of Tixall, Staffs., 5s. inc. Walter; (2) 18 May 1563, Grace, da. of Humphrey Fitzherbert of Upsall, Herts., wid. of William Robinson of Drayton Bassett, 1da.; (3) Jane, da. of Sir William Spencer of Althorp, Northants., wid. of (Sir) Richard Brydges of West Shefford, Berks. and Ludgershall, Wilts. suc. fa. 1566.1
Receiver, Staffs. and Herefs. 1559-60, from c.1572;2 j.p. Staffs. from c.1561, q. by 1574, sheriff 1566-7; j.p.q. Oxon. from c.1573.
The Harcourts were well-established both in Staffordshire and Oxfordshire at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. It is difficult to separate references to this Member from those to a cousin and namesake of the Ronton branch, who was living, apparently, until shortly before June 1560. A good deal of confusion over the Harcourts has been caused by the fact that the Harcourts of Ellenhall obtained Ronton Abbey long after the other branch of the family was established at Ronton Hall.
It was presumably the MP, as eldest son of the senior line, who in 1558 assisted in levying 500 troops in Staffordshire and who was already referred to as the ‘Queen’s servant’ in the patent roll entry of 1559 recording his appointment as receiver for Staffordshire and Herefordshire, a post he held again in 1572. When he was first elected for Staffordshire, his father had barely completed his year as sheriff and no doubt the family’s prestige stood high. In the early years of the reign Harcourt virtually controlled the parliamentary representation of Staffordshire. In 1563 he had one county seat and his son-in-law John Grey the other. He continued to sponsor Grey in 1571, but did not stand himself, perhaps because of his marriage into the Catholic family of Fitzherbert, and, for that matter, his own family’s conservative religious views. In 1564 the bishop of Coventry, in his letter to the Privy Council on the j.p.s within his diocese, described Harcourt, then residing at Ronton, and his erstwhile father-in-law, Sir Edward Aston, as members of ‘a knot hurtful to justice and great maintainers’. Still, the Privy Council thought him reliable enough, selecting him in April 1565 to supervise the assessment of the subsidy. In 1569 he was a commissioner for musters in the Staffordshire hundred of Cuddleston and, on inheriting the family seat at Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire, undertook local responsibilities in that county also. At some stage in his career, he evidently saw military service abroad.3
Harcourt died 27 July 1577 from gaol fever caught at the Oxford assizes.4
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Lipscomb, Bucks. iv. 590-1; Vis. Staffs. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii. pt.2), 91 seq; M. E. Finch, Five Northants. Fams. (Northants. Rec. Soc. xix), pedigree ii.; C142/143/42.
- 2. CPR, 1558-60, p. 250; Lansd. 4, ff. 57 seq.; 14, f. 8.
- 3. PCC Admons. 1559-71, p. 8; CPR, 1558-60, p. 250; 1560-3, p. 86; APC, vi. 244; ix. 214; Cam. Misc. ix(3), pp. 42-3; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xix), 220; Lansd. 8, f. 80; 22, f. 51; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 342; see also STAFFORDSHIRE.
- 4. Lansd. 24, f. 194; HMC Rutland, i. 112; C142/179/64, 186/46(2).