HARCOURT, Walter (c.1553-c.1639), of Ellenhall, Staffs. and Stanton Harcourt, Oxon.

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. c.1553, 1st s. of Simon Harcourt by his 1st w. m. Dorothy, his step-sis., da. of William Robinson of Drayton Basset, Staffs., 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1577. Kntd. 1591.1

Offices Held

J.p. Staffs. 1585-93,2 Oxon. c.1585.


Like others of his family in Staffordshire, Walter Harcourt was associated with the 2nd Earl of Essex, whose principal estate lay in the county. Probably it was Essex who was behind Harcourt’s election to the 1589 Parliament as senior knight for the shire. As such he was eligible to attend the subsidy committee on 11 Feb. He was already seriously in debt. When Essex returned to the siege of Rouen in December 1591 Harcourt accompanied him, and it was apparently from Essex that he received his knighthood in France before the end of the year. Sir Christopher Blount, husband of the Countess of Leicester, had the senior seat in 1593, and Harcourt the junior. He could have attended the subsidy committee (26 Feb.) and a legal committee (9 Mar.). He was licensed to depart on 10 Mar. because of his wife’s sickness. On the day the Parliament ended he was arrested, accused of inducing William Essex, a ward of Sir John Fortescue, to marry his daughter Jane. Fortescue, greatly angered, had called him ‘cozener’ and ‘bankrupt’; Harcourt had replied in like vein, and Fortescue had committed him to the Fleet. Next day, 11 Apr. 1593, the Privy Council removed him to the Tower. The end of the affair is unknown, but he was dropped from the commission of the peace, and though he was returned as senior knight for Westmorland in 1597, it is uncertain whether he took his seat, his name appearing on a list of Members who were ‘not certified into the House, having been outlawed after judgment’. Thus he is unlikely to have attended any of the committees to which the 1597 knights of the shire were appointed.

At the time of the next Parliament he was again anxious to obtain a seat to avoid his creditors, but it is not clear whether or not he actually stood. He died about 1639, having transferred to trustees his remaining estates some 20 years previously. Administration was granted to his grandson, Sir Simon Harcourt.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. Vis. Staffs. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii. pt. 2), 92, 95; Lipscomb, Bucks. iv. 590-1; Harcourt Pprs. i. 79-80; C142/179/64, 183/46(2); Harl. 983, f. 15v; Cam. Misc. i(4), pp. 71, 79.
  • 2. Staffs. Q. Sess. Rolls (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), i. 105; ii. 368; iii. 26.
  • 3. Folger, Bagot mss L. a. 557-60; Lansd. 84, ff. 248-57; 85, ff. 79 seq.; Cam. Misc. i(4), pp. 61, 71, 79; D’Ewes, 431, 474, 496, 497; HMC 4th Rep. 335-6; APC, xxiv. 182; HMC Hatfield, xiv. 25; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 582; Lipscomb, iv. 591.