HOBY, Thomas Posthumous (1566-1640), of Hackness, Yorks.

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. Oct. 1566, 2nd and post. s. of Sir Thomas Hoby and bro. of Edward. educ. Trinity Coll. Oxf 1574; G. Inn 1588. m. 9 Aug. 1596, Margaret, da. of Arthur Dakins of Linton, wid. of Walter Devereux (d.s.p. 1591), yr. s. of Walter, 1st Earl of Essex, and of Thomas Sidney (d.s.p. 1595), s. of the lord deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, s.p. Kntd. 7 duly 1594.

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (E. Riding) from c.1596, (N. Riding) by 1601, custos rot. c.1621; eccles. commr. province of York 1599; member, council in the north 1603, vice-pres. 1605; senior bailiff, Scarborough 1610.1


Thomas Posthumous Hoby came near to being born in France, where his father was ambassador. His mother Elizabethy—one of the famous daughters of Sir Anthony Cooke—seeing complications ahead if the birth should occur outside the realm, had inquired of Cecil, her brother-in-law, ‘whether any child born beyond sea shall inherit land in England’; but within three months Sir Thomas had died and Lady Hoby, still carrying her child, returned to England. When Thomas Posthumous was born, the Queen, whose condolences to the widow had been rather belated, honoured mother and son by being his godmother, sending the Earl of Leicester to represent her at the christening.2

A diminutive child, who remained tiny, Hoby was incessantly at loggerheads with his intimidatingly learned and autocratic mother. When he was eight he was sent to Oxford. Intended for an Inn of Court when he was sixteen, he refused to go. Denied the means for foreign travel—Lady Hoby (or Lady Russell as she became on her remarriage in 1574) being unwilling to beggar herself in so unprofitable and dangerous a coursey—he seems to have been received into Burghley’s household with £100 a year from his mother: had he ‘gadded’ to the Earl of Leicester or anyone else his allowance would have been cut to £40. Presumably, however, he was the Thomas Hoby listed among the followers of Leicester in the Netherlands in 1586.3 Admission to Gray’s Inn followed, and then, presumably through the Russell-Clifford connexion, he was returned for Appleby in two successive parliaments.

After soldiering in Ireland, where he was knighted, Hoby returned to England and in 1595 became for the second time a suitor for the hand of Margaret Dakins. Four years earlier, with Burghley’s support and urged on by his mother, he had sought to win the young heiress after her first husband’s death, but the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, in whose household she had been brought up and to whose care she returned in her widowhood, had bestowed her on Thomas Sidney. On Sidney’s death Hoby renewed his suit, again with Burghley’s support and this time with Huntingdon himself on his side, but the lady was reluctant. Only when Huntingdon, seeing in the match a means of advancing protestantism in a backward part of Yorkshire, begged Margaret on his deathbed not to reject her persistent suitor did she agree to accept him. She was then 25. Her Hackness estates—bought for her and her first husband for £6,500 in 1568, and confirmed in the possession of herself and Hoby in 1601—were sufficient to support a position of some consequence in the county, and Hoby intended that they should. But first he had to establish his authority over the nearby borough of Scarborough. On 4 Sept. 1597, when he had been only a year in the county, he reminded the corporation of their earlier promise to elect him as their Member, and asked them to return John Mansfield as their second choice. He had heard that someone in London—probably their new high steward, the Earl of Nottingham—was pressing them to act otherwise; they should reply that they were already committed, and he, Hoby would see that their answer was taken in good part.4 At about the same time he was agreeing to stand for the junior seat for the county, in company with his wife’s cousin, (Sir) John Stanhope. Their election would have been welcomed in London on both administrative and religious grounds; Robert Cecil approved, and other strong support was forthcoming, but local interests took control at the last minute and the county contest was lost.5 The archbishop of York explained diplomatically to Cecil that Hoby, ‘a gentleman of very great hope’, was not well known in the county, and attributed his failure partly to a rumour current among the West Riding clothiers to the effect that his elder brother in the preceding Parliament had introduced a bill against northern cloth, ‘which they thought did much concern them’. Hoby seems to have taken only a minor part in the dispute following upon this election, in spite of the ‘wrong’ and ‘insolency’ allegedly offered him; instead, he asked Cecil to send letters of thanks to Edward Talbot for the North Riding, Francis Clifford for the East Riding, and to the archbishop and rest of the council at York,6 and was dutifully elected by his loving friends the bailiffs of Scarborough—but not with Mr. Mansfield. ‘To be plain with you’, he wrote to them with characteristic truculence on 8 Oct. 1597, ‘I can promise no more than lieth in me to perform, which is half the assistance due unto the place, leaving the other half unto him whom you have joined with me ... Wanting the help I looked for, I cannot do that for which I had once in my mind contrived’.7

Unlike his brother, Hoby was not an outstandingly active Member. No mention is made of him in the records of the 1589 Parliament. In 1593 he reported two legal committees in place of his brother, and in 1597-8 he was appointed to committees concerning the penal laws (8 Nov.), forgery (12 Nov.), the relief of the poor (22 Nov.), the lessees and patentees bill (3 Dec.) and the excessive making of malt (12 Jan. 1598).8

As a justice of the peace, and puritanical in every sense of the word, Hoby was alarmed by ‘the backwardness of our northern parts’ in matters of religion, and saw in every creek a suitable landing-place for ‘persons as come for evil intents’.9 A born busybody, humourless and immoderate in the discharge of what he conceived to be his duty, and quite indefatigable in the pursuit of recusants, he was a willing instrument in Cecil’s efforts to control the north, spending as much time travelling the county on some business or other as at home with his pious wife. Haughty towards his inferiors, he reacted immediately to anything offending against his dignity. Hearing that commissioners for musters were to be appointed, he reminded Cecil that he had been employed in the county to levy troops for Ireland and asked that none inferior to him in place might be made his superior in employemnt.10 When he was fined at York assizes it was the disgrace he had suffered, rather than the alleged injustice, that made him appeal for Cecil’s influence to obtain a re-hearing of the case.

In his own estimation, Hoby’s strength as a county administrator derived from the fact that he was a stranger, and his wife’s father and mother strangers there also, so that his impartiality could be relied on. But in Yorkshire, its unruly clannishness aggravated by a resurgence of Catholicism, the officiousness of this undersized stranger, a Cecilite and a puritan, was ludicrous and insupportable. To his neighbours the Cholmleys, whose bailiwick of Whitby Strand was ‘a very bishopric of papists’,11 Hoby was one of the ‘cross accidents’ of life, ‘a troublesome, vexatious neighbour’ who ‘having a full purse, no children (and as it was thought not able to get one), delighted to spend his money and time in suits’. Other neighbours were less charitable towards him and not so restrained. In September 1600, William Eure and his uncle Sir William Eure, with other roistering gentlemen and their servants, thrust themselves uninvited into Hoby’s house, stayed all night dicing, playing cards, drinking, and indulging in suchlike ribaldry (‘abuses never practised by Sir Thomas’), and, while the family were at prayers, stamped on the floor and behaved outrageously. They called him ‘scurvy urchin’, ‘spindleshanked ape’, and insulted his wife. William Eure, when leaving, threw stones at the windows and broke some glass, declaring at the same time that ‘he would go to the top of the hill and fling down mill-stones and play young Devereux’. Hoby conceived that the outrage—its resemblance to the carousal in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has been noticed—was planned to disgrace him, to force him to a quarrel to save his reputation, out of spite for the way he was performing his duties. As he had already observed ‘some dryness’ in Lord Eure, who, besides being vice-president of the council, was father, brother and cousin to the offenders, Hoby judged that a suit for redress would not succeed at York. Rejecting a ‘pacification’ arrived at there, Hoby lodged his complaint in Star Chamber where, after the Eures had given a remarkably different version of their behaviour, the case was settled to Hoby’s satisfaction by the payment to him of £100, Lady Hoby righteously observing that the settlement was made ‘in the sight of our tenants’.

By this time Hoby was a commissioner of oyer and terminer, for ecclesiastical causes, for musters, and had thrice been a commissioner for the subsidy,12 but possibly because of his dispute with the Eures he was not elected to Parliament in 1601, Scarborough returning his adversary, William Eure, as one of its Members. To the same cause may also be attributed his failure to be appointed to the council in the north before the beginning of the next reign, he then being, with one exception, the most senior gentleman of his rank in the county.13 Hoby sat in seven Stuart parliaments, but never as knight of the shire. He died 30 Dec. 1640.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: E.L.C.M.


Except where stated this life is based upon the introduction to the Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby, by Dorothy M. Meads, and the authorities therein referred to. See also, for Hoby’s marriage, Claire M. Cross, The Puritan Earl.

  • 1. C193/13/1; Hist. Scarborough, ed. A Rowntree, 399.
  • 2. Hackness Mss, ed. J. W. Walker (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xcv), 3.
  • 3. Leicester’s Triumph, ed. R. C. Strong and J. A. Van Dorsten, 120.
  • 4. Scarborough borough recs. bundle C. 1.
  • 5. See YORKSHIRE.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, vii 418, 436.
  • 7. Scarborough borough recs. bundle C. 1.
  • 8. D’Ewes, 502, 553, 556, 561, 567, 578.
  • 9. HMC Hatfield, ix. 68.
  • 10. HMC Hatfield, x. 149.
  • 11. Reid, Council of the North, 231.
  • 12. According to W. W. Bean, Northern Counties, 1037, he was also high steward of the manor of Thirsk for many years.
  • 13. HMC Hatfield, xv. 57.