NEVILLE, Alexander (1544-1614), of Canterbury and St. Mary-without-Bishopsgate, 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. 1544, 1st s. of Richard Neville of South Leverton, Notts. and of Canterbury, by Anne, da. of Sir Walter Mantell of Heyford, Northants. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1559, hon. MA 1581. m. Jane, da. of Richard Duncombe of Morton, Bucks., wid. of Sir Gilbert Dethick, s.p.2.

Offices Held

Sec. to Archbishops Parker, Grindal and Whitgift.


Born in Nottinghamshire, Neville moved with his parents to Canterbury at an early age. After spending some time in Cambridge, he apparently studied law in London (though his name is not in the printed inns of court registers) possibly at Gray’s Inn, with George Gascoigne, among whose close friends he was soon numbered. In 1560 he published a verse translation of the Oedipus of Seneca, which was well enough received to be reissued in 1581 as part of a collected edition of Seneca’s plays. In 1563 his cousin Barnaby Googe, another of Gascoigne’s literary group, published a volume of Eclogs, Epytaphes and Sonnetes, which contained poems addressed to Neville.

It was probably soon after this that Neville entered the service of Archbishop Parker, who appears to have employed him particularly as a collaborator in his historical works. He was much attracted by the studious life followed in Parker’s household and himself embarked upon an account of Ket’s rebellion, which was published in 1575, together with a description of Norwich. He acknowledged his master’s help in the composition of the work, which he dedicated to him. Government pressure caused it to be withdrawn almost at once, however, until passages reflecting upon the laziness and cowardice of the Welsh levies employed in the suppression of the rebellion were deleted. A revised edition soon appeared, with an additional dedication to Archbishop Grindal, whose service the author entered after Parker’s death. Neville expiated his offence further by publishing an apology to the Welsh.3

Neville spent much of his life in the service of Archbishop Parker and his two successors, but he was not without other influential connexions, as for example the Earl of Leicester, who in July 1585 was relying upon him and his brother Thomas to impress upon Archbishop Whitgift the necessity of encouraging the Queen to help the Netherlands. Two years later, Neville dedicated to Leicester his Academiae Cantabrigiensis lacrimae tumulo Philippi Sidnei sacratae.4

It was presumably through Leicester that he was returned to Parliament in 1584. The immediate patron at Christchurch was probably the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, Leicester’s brother-in-law. Upon this occasion, the mayor refused a nomination to Walsingham on the ground that one Member had already been elected and that the other seat belonged to Huntingdon ‘of ancient right’. At Peterborough Neville presumably owed his seat to the Cecils, but how he obtained election at Saltash in 1601 is obscure. He had no apparent connexion with any of the local families, but may have been nominated through the intervention of Sir Robert Cecil or Archbishop Whitgift. He is not known to have contributed to the proceedings of his three Parliaments.5

Neville died on 4 Oct. 1614 in London. He had made his will less than two months earlier, ‘being by age and sickness somewhat enfeebled’. He left no children and his wife had predeceased him, but other relatives received substantial tokens of his affection. His brother Thomas, now dean of Canterbury, was to have an annuity of £120, to which a bequest of £100 was added in a codicil. Anthony Neville, son of George Neville, ‘my nearest kinsman’, was to receive £200, as was Barnaby Googe, ‘my wellbeloved cousin’—the son of the poet—who was now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and was soon to become chancellor of the diocese of Exeter. He was also generous to his servants; one received £200, another £10 and another an annuity of £6. There were also legacies to the poor of Canterbury and to the parish where he should die. The executor and residuary legatee was Tobias Worthington, ‘my servant for twenty-five years’, who had long managed Neville’s affairs. The will directed burial in Neville’s chapel in Canterbury cathedral, where his brother, the dean, had prepared a tomb for both of them, adding that

wheresoever my body lies, right sure I am my redeemer lives; and though worms devour my flesh, yet I myself shall see him and none other for me, at that day when he shall appear in His majesty to judge both quick and dead.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. Folger V. b. 298.
  • 2. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 87; DNB.
  • 3. DNB (Gascoigne, George; Googe, Barnabe); Strype, Parker, ii. 432, 436-7, 441-2; iii. 346-50; Grindal, 292; Annals, iii(1), p. 744; Pollard and Redgrave, Short Title Catalogue, 421.
  • 4. Lansd. 45, f. 98; Strype, Whitgift, i. 435.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 208.
  • 6. PCC 102 Lawe; Hasted, Kent, xi. 347, 392-3.