MASTER, Robert (1565-1625), of London and Alrewas, Staffs.

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. 1565, 3rd s. of Richard Master, MD, of London and Cirencester, and bro. of George. educ. Trinity Coll. Oxf. 1578-9; BCL 1590; DCL 1594. m. Catherine, da. of Thomas Pagitt of Northants. and of the Middle Temple, London, s.p.1

Offices Held

A ‘carrier’ of Oxf. Univ. 1594-8; principal, St. Alban Hall 1599-1603; adv. Doctors’ Commons 1599; chancellor of dioceses of Rochester and of Lichfield and judge of the PCC; master in chancery extraordinary 1622; j.p. Staffs.2


As the third of seven sons of a royal physician (who also attended Burghley) Robert Master could expect to augment a modest patrimony with the aid of powerful patronage. He had yet to graduate in law when in 1588 he was bequeathed his share of his father’s estate: he received, in addition to a piece of plate, a feather bed and some books, an annuity of £10 a year for life charged on lands and the use, rent free, of the family house in Silver Street, St. Olave’s, whenever he was in London. During the next two years he made his own way at Oxford, and not until after 1603 did he obtain the official appointments elsewhere which were to be the setting of his later career.3

Robert Master’s sole appearance in Parliament may reflect either his family’s local standing or its influential connexions. His father, a native of Kent, had bought the reversion of Cirencester monastery in 1565, and it was there that his eldest brother George had established himself, sitting for the borough of Cirencester in 1586 and 1589. Cricklade, lying hard by the Gloucestershire border, was often represented by men of that shire, especially while the Lords Chandos held its stewardship. Robert Master may have owed his opportunity to sit for the borough in 1601 to the involvement of Gray Brydges, heir to the barony of Chandos, in the Essex rebellion. Brydges had sat for Cricklade in the previous Parliament with (Sir) George Gifford, who in 1601 was Master’s fellow-Member. If Gifford was related to Roger Gifford, Richard Master’s successor as a physician-in-ordinary to the Queen, he may himself have had something to do with Robert Master’s claim to the second seat. Master could also perhaps have looked for support from Sir Robert Cecil, who was an overseer of Richard Master’s will. However procured, Master’s single Membership is unremarked in the known records of Elizabeth’s last Parliament.4

Master’s career after 1603 was divided between his two chancellorships and his work as a Chancery and probate lawyer. In 1616 he bought a property at Alrewas, Staffordshire (his brother had become a canon of Lichfield cathedral in 1613) and his inclusion in the Staffordshire commission of the peace suggests that he made it his residence when not at Westminster. He died 10 July 1625, and was buried in Lichfield cathedral, where an epitaph commemorates him and his wife, who afterwards married Charles Twisden, another civilian and Master’s successor as chancellor of Lichfield.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. DNB (Master, Richard); W. B. Crouch, Hist. Cricklade, 143; Shaw, Staffs. i. 248.
  • 2. Reg. Univ. Oxf. ii(1), pp. 317-20; PCC 43 Wingfield; PRO ms index to petty bag recs.
  • 3. CPR, 1558-60, p. 94; Lansd. 121, f. 49; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 672; PCC 34 Rutland.
  • 4. CPR, 1563-6, pp. 201-2; HMC Hatfield, xii. 497; PCC 34 Rutland.
  • 5. Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc. n.s. iv. 85-6; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1934(2), p. 24; Fasti, i. 267, 382; Shaw, Staffs. i. 248; C. H. Dudley Ward, Fam. of Twysden and Twisden, 130-1.