HAWLEY, Francis (d.1594), of Corfe Castle, Dorset.

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

s. of William Hawley of Aller and Buckland, Som. by Margaret, da. of Thomas Tymbury of Upton, Devon. educ. I. Temple 1563. m. Jane, da. and coh. of Thomas Isley, at least 4s. 1da.

Offices Held

Dep. v.-adm. Isle of Purbeck to Christopher Hatton I by 1577; commr. piracy and j.p. Dorset 1583, dep. v.-adm. Dorset to Thomas Howard by 1586.


Hawley was the creature of Sir Christopher Hatton, the absentee vice-admiral of Purbeck, who thrice brought him into Parliament for Corfe Castle. A weak and avaricious man, Hawley lived largely upon subventions of one kind or another from the pirates he was supposed to suppress. ‘They are my masters’, he stated on one occasion. Sometimes he failed to give them the protection they paid him to provide. One example must suffice. When Clinton Atkinson bought two French prizes into Studland Bay he set out his wares for Hawley to take first choice. In return he was to have leave ‘to make sale in the Island’. But, disagreeing on the terms, Hawley ‘fell into a great displeasure’. When later Atkinson was arrested Hawley suggested a scale of charges: £20 to have the trial in Purbeck, £40 to let him escape, £100 to obtain him a pardon ‘if the worst happened’. Atkinson paid the £100, was found guilty and hanged. Hawley—and the pirates—took full advantage of the fact that Hatton’s area of Dorset was excluded from the normal jurisdiction of the county, and Hawley also exploited the uneasy truce that reigned between the vice-admiral of Purbeck and the vice-admiral of Dorset, eventually becoming deputy to each of them. Equally scandalous was Hawley’s appointment as a piracy commissioner just when his reputation with the Privy Council was at its lowest. But he was ‘deputy vice-admiral to the vice-chamberlain’, and Hatton was a great man. Still, the lords of the Privy Council were not fools, and they saw to it that such an inadequate rogue was not employed in a sensitive area at a critical time: in June 1588 the Isle of Purbeck was transferred from his care to that of Richard Rogers.

Hawley made his will in 1592, appointing his brother Gabriel and George Trenchard I, Sir Hugh Portman and Thomas Prideaux overseers. His wife Jane, executrix, was to have £1,100 and his property to provide for his ‘poor children’. Gabriel, in his will made ten years later, left bequests to three of Francis’s children, all then aged less than 22. One of the sons, Hatton Hawley, who became a barrister of the Middle Temple, was probably Sir Christopher Hatton’s godchild. Another was the ancestor of the Barons Hawley. Hawley died in 1594, three years after his master.

Harl. 1559, f. 70v; Som. Wills, vi. 70; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 16; Vis. Som. ed. Weaver, 113; Roberts thesis; R. Lloyd, Dorset Elizabethans, passim; PCC 43, 44 Lewyn; E. St. John Brooks, Sir C. Hatton, 117; CP, vi. 418.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler