LUCY, Thomas (bef.1532-1600), of Charlecote, Warws.

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. bef. 1532, 1st s. of William Lucy of Charlecote, and bro. of Richard. m. c.1546, Joyce, da. and h. of Thomas Acton of Sutton Park, Worcs., 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1551. Kntd. 1565.1

Offices Held

J.p. Warws. from c.1559, Worcs. from c.1582; sheriff, Warws. and Leics. 1559-60, Warws. 1578-9, Worcs. 1585-6; commr. musters or dep. Lt. Warws. from c.1569; member, council in the marches of Wales from 1590.2


Lucy was educated at home by the martyrologist, John Foxe, and the puritan principles which he then imbibed he retained throughout his long career. As a child he married a 12 year-old heiress, obtaining seisin of her sizeable Worcestershire estates in 1549. Despite his youth, Lucy appears on the commission to collect the third part of the relief in Warwickshire in 1550, and after his father’s death in the following year he became absorbed in the county duties that were to occupy him for the rest of his life.3

In May 1553 he arranged an advantageous exchange of property with the King, surrendering his outlying manor of Sharpenho in Bedfordshire, which lay within the King’s park at Ampthill, for Warwickshire manors, including Shirburn, which bordered his Charlecote estates. In 1557 he bought the reversion of further Warwickshire estates, and he steadily sold off the family lands in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire so as to consolidate his Midland property.4

Next he rebuilt Charlecote, and entertained the Queen there on her way to Kenilworth in 1565. When the citizens of Warwick appealed to him to settle a dispute, he sent for them ‘to come to his house to Charlecote’, and later, ‘service done and they dined, [he] shewed the cause of their sending for and signified ... he was desirous to hear the matter and set them at one’. But the complainants’ grievances were so lengthy that they made ‘not only Sir Thomas, but the other hearers weary’. In 1584 when there was more trouble, they sat in the town to hear the case, and after much ‘whispering’ amongst themselves, adjourned until higher authority could be invoked.5

Lucy’s time must always have been much occupied with the execution of orders from the Privy Council, the taking of musters and the searching out of recusants, particularly since he was generally present in the shire while others named were elsewhere. Right at the end of his life the Council, in dealing a rebuke to the absentees, contrasted their behaviour with Lucy’s ‘care and endeavour’. He was not always in the Council’s good graces: in 1590 he and his fellows displayed an understandable reluctance to intervene in a dispute between the Countess of Leicester and Robert Dudley. In general, however, he was a diligent servant, and may have had cause for indignation when in 1574 Mr. Justice Dyer at the Warwick assizes spoke against him and other notables in a manner ‘tending, as they took it, to their great infamy and discredit’.6

As a local magnate, Lucy could expect some share of the county representation in Parliament, and in fact sat three times. Since he was a highly respectable man in whom the government had confidence, his well-known religious opinions—he was one of those granted a patent as governor of the possessions and revenues of the preachers of the Gospel in Warwickshire—must have made him one of the principal hopes of the puritans. Although he kept within the law, Lucy probably fulfilled some of their expectations. He did not contribute to the business of the 1559 Parliament, but on 6 Apr. 1571 he was of the committee for redress of defects in the prayer book. He was one of those appointed on 1 May to confer with the Lords about the bill against priests disguising themselves in serving men’s apparel, and later helped to carry to the Lords the bill for coming to church and receiving of Communion (5 May). On 28 May 1571 he was appointed to a committee to investigate allegations of corruption in the House. In 1584 he introduced one of the petitions, touching the liberty of godly preachers (14 Dec.), which initiated the religious discussion in that Parliament, and on 23 Feb. 1585 took the lead in pressing upon the Council a suit for the invention of new and more horrible methods for punishing William Parry. He also served on the subsidy committee (24 Feb.), and upon a bill for the preservation of grain and game (4 Mar.), which did not reach the statute book.7

In his later years Lucy was appointed to the council in the marches of Wales on the recommendation of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and evidently spent some time on its affairs, although it is difficult at this period to disentangle his activities from those of his son Thomas, by this time also a knight and a member of the council in the marches.8

Lucy died at Charlecote 7 July 1600. He was buried in the church there on 7 Aug., under the elaborate altar tomb built after his wife’s decease, with great pomp in the presence of no less than three heralds. He had settled the bulk of his estate on his son Sir Thomas at his marriage. Lucy’s daughter had long been married to Sir Edward Ashton.9

Lucy acquired a dubious posthumous notoriety as the villain in the story of Shakespeare’s deer stealing. The authenticity of this episode, first popularised by Aubrey nearly a century after Shakespeare’s death, has long been a subject of controversy. The description of Shallow’s arms in Act I sc. 1 of The Merry Wives of Windsor had been adduced as supporting evidence of Shakespeare’s animosity to the Lucy family, although the quotation could equally well refer to the arms of the Fishmongers’ Company, and a recent author has claimed that Shallow was a caricature of William Gardiner. As the scene is missing from the defective Quarto, it is not impossible that it is a later revision, so that if the remark refers to a Lucy at all, it might be an allusion to the suit about poaching brought by this Member’s grandson. Even if early, the statement ‘come from Gloucestershire’, applies more readily to this Member’s son, who in his father’s lifetime lived on his first wife’s Gloucestershire estates.10

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 287-8; Nash, Worcs. ii. 420; CPR, 1548-9, p. 336; 1553, p. 4; C142/94/89.
  • 2. P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 352-3.
  • 3. DNB; Nash, Worcs. ii. 218, 418, 420; CPR, 1548-9. p. 336; 1553, pp. 361, 417.
  • 4. CPR, 1553, pp. 4, 138; 1555-7, p. 445; 1563-6, pp. 286, 304, 401; Dugdale, Warws. i. 503.
  • 5. Dugdale, loc. cit.; DNB; Black Bk. of Warwick, 197 seq., 330 seq.
  • 6. CPR; CSP Dom.; APC, passim; HMC 15th Rep. X, 125; HMC Hatfield, iv. 64, 524; vi. 552; vii. 429, 468; viii. 483; Lansd. 8, f. 81; 49, f. 171 seq.; 56, f. 168; 61, f. 89 seq.; 103, f. 62 sq.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 304; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 7; Collinson, ‘The Puritan Classis in the reign of Elizabeth I’, London PhD thesis, 503, 515, 516, 520, 948; D’Ewes, 157, 180, 181, 189, 339, 355, 363; CJ, i. 83, 87, 93; Neale, Parlts. ii. 49, 61.
  • 8. P. H. Williams, 295, 352-3; APC, xxii. 193, 424.
  • 9. C142/263/7(1); DNB; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lvii. 112.
  • 10. DNB; E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare; L. Hotson, Shakespeare versus Shallow; N. and Q. (ser. 3), xii. 181-2; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lvii. 112; Fosbrooke, Glos.