MACWILLIAM, Henry (c.1532-86), of Stambourne Hall, Essex and St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Mdx.

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.1532, 1st s. of Henry Macwilliam of Stambourne by his 2nd w. Ella or Elizabeth, da. and h. of Sir John Leyes. m. c.1558, Mary, da. and coh. of Richard Hill, wid. of Sir John Cheke, 1s. 5da. suc. fa. 1539.

Offices Held

Keeper, Colchester castle Jan. 1559; gent. pens. by 1566; j.p. Essex from c.1569, Suff. from c.1580.2


‘A gentleman of the court and of considerable quality’, Macwilliam was said to have been of Irish extraction. Almost nothing is known of him before his marriage to the widowed Lady Cheke, a gentlewoman of Elizabeth’s privy chamber. Two of her sons were in Cecil’s household; and Cecil’s first wife was Sir John Cheke’s sister. Presumably it was Cecil’s influence with the 2nd Earl of Bedford that brought about Macwilliam’s return for Dorchester and Liskeard, but Macwilliam had a personal connexion at Dorchester, his sister Anne having married Arthur Stourton of Overmoigne, some six miles from the borough. Macwilliam’s patron at Appleby may have been Bedford’s son-in-law, the Earl of Cumberland. Macwilliam would in any case have been known to Bedford through his ‘especial good friend’ Edmund Tremayne, and he was one of Leicester’s 22 noblemen and gentlemen who jousted before the Queen in November 1565 at the marriage of the Earl of Warwick to Bedford’s daughter, Lady Anne Russell. His return for Carlisle, after Bedford’s death, may have been due to its governor, Lord Scrope.3

Macwilliam was also on friendly terms with (Sir) Christopher Hatton I. He witnessed a land settlement drawn up for Hatton in 1579, and there is ground for thinking that it was Hatton who had him appointed keeper of the Earl of Arundel in the Tower in April 1585. There was talk of replacing him in June but he was still at the Tower in April 1586, an early biographer of Arundel stating that ‘almost a year or more’ after the Earl’s commitment to the Tower Macwilliam suggested to him that he might regain his freedom ‘if he would but show so much conformity as to read [protestant] books’. Later in 1586 Hatton asked Macwilliam to examine Chidiock Tichbourne’s wife Jane, one of the Babington conspirators.4

In addition to lands inherited from his father in Essex and Suffolk, Macwilliam had temporary possession of much of his wife’s property. He was keeper of Colchester castle for life; in 1566 he, as gentleman pensioner, and his wife were granted ‘for their service’ the 31-year lease of lands in north Wales and Anglesey, and in the following year he received the lease of several duchy of Lancaster manors in Essex and Suffolk. Jointly with Robert Colshill and two members of the Gorges family, he was granted in 1575 the office of writing and engrossing writs of subpoena in the court of Chancery. Custody of ‘the house and mansion called St. James, Westminster’ was granted to him and his wife in 1576, and in 1577 he and Colshill were granted the Queen’s moiety of forfeitures for the unlawful transportation of corn.5

He died 27 Dec. 1586. His nuncupative will has no religious preamble. His duchy of Lancaster lands were to descend to his son Henry, who fought under Sir John Norris in Brittany, and was killed in a duel in 1599, leaving no children. The other landed property went to his widow for life. The eldest of his five daughters married (Sir) John Stanhope and another Sir Christopher Hatton’s cousin Edward Saunders and afterwards Goddard Pemberton.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. C142/61/67; Wright, Essex, i. 640; Morant, Essex, ii. 345, 357; CPR, 1558-60, p. 62; E. St. John Brooks, Sir Christopher Hatton, 52.
  • 3. Strype, Cheke, 133-4; H. Nicolas, Mems. Sir C. Hatton, 207; Morant, ii. 357; Vis Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 86.
  • 4. Brooks, 256, 296, 389; Lansd. 45, f. 208 seq.; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxi. 117, 131, 316; APC, xiv. 56.
  • 5. CPR, 1558-60, p. 62; 1563-6, p. 522; Lansd. 4, f. 143; Brooks, 52; Morant; Somerville, Duchy, i. 603; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 486; PRO Index 16770 (18 Eliz.), f. 6.
  • 6. PCC 26 Spencer; Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 243; v. 258-9; Lansd. 78, ff. 138-9; HMC Hatfield, vi. 570; ix. 246; Rylands Eng. ms 311; Brooks, 69.