PARKER, John I (1548-1619), of Lambeth, Surr., Bekesbourne, Kent and Cambridge.

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. 5 May 1548, 1st s. of Matthew Parker, abp. of Canterbury, by Margaret (d.1570), da. of Robert Harlestone. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1562. m. Joanna, da. of Richard Cox, bp. of Ely, 4 or 5s. 3da. suc. fa. 1575. Kntd. 1603.

Offices Held

Jt. keeper of PCC 1570-1; actuary of ct. of audience 1572-c.74; jt. registrar of PCC 1573, sole 1574; keeper of Archbishop’s palace at Canterbury 1573; j.p.q. Kent 1583-93; j.p. Surr. from c.1583; commr. for eccles. causes, Surr. c.1586; steward of Archbishop Whitgift’s household 1588; j.p. Isle of Ely 1591.


Until his marriage Parker lived mainly with his father at Canterbury or at Lambeth, where the archbishop bought Lambeth House, formerly the property of the Duke of Norfolk, for his wife Margaret. In 1570 it descended to her son Matthew, and on his death in 1574 to John’s son, also Matthew. Joanna Cox brought her husband lands in Leicestershire and Norfolk, and he also had an estate, probably in right of his wife, at Bassingbourn, Essex (now Cambridgeshire). In 1568 Bishop Cox made him joint master of the game at Somersham park, Huntingdonshire. Between 1572 and 1576 he paid nearly £2,000 to the Marquess of Winchester and his heir for the manor of Nunney Castle, Somerset, but there is no record of his having ever lived there. His favourite property was at Bekesbourne near Canterbury, leased to him about 1586 by Whitgift, who also confirmed him in his lease of the manor of Boughton, Kent. In May 1594 Parker sold Bekesbourne House for over £350, subsequently dividing his time between his chamber in Doctors’ Commons, his house at Lambeth, and property called St. Mary Ostle, Cambridge, left him by his father.

Strype quotes a contemporary estimate of Parker and his brother as ‘very hopeful young men, and adorned with all their father’s and mother’s manners’, their ‘carriage—so obliging, pleasant and humane, that they had the love and esteem of all’. Though he later gained the reputation of a shrewd not to say unscrupulous businessman, Parker was certainly generous to his close relatives. He went much further in providing for his brother’s widow than his position as executor for Matthew required, continuing to pay her a £44 annuity from lands in Bexley, Kent, even after they had been sold, buying her late husband’s jewels for her and giving her presents of money and plate—‘a large recompense’, according to his own notes, ‘for that my brother was advanced unto by her’. He was equally generous to his daughter Margaret on her marriage, and it may have been through kindness that he kept as his housekeeper at Cambridge the widow of one of his relatives there, having bought furniture and pictures from her (including portraits of Erasmus and Sir Thomas More).

Archbishop Parker obtained appointments for his sons in the ecclesiastical courts, and no doubt it was he who had Parker returned as one of Queenborough’s first MPs, a letter from the Privy Council asking that suitable burgesses should be returned for the Kent boroughs having been sent to the archbishop and Lord Cobham.

The lands of the archbishopric, which were considerable, needed efficient administration, and from about 1573 Parker acted as surveyor for his father and keeper of the Archbishop’s palace at Canterbury, possibly continuing to do much of this work during the sequestration of Grindal and under Whitgift. Among his other duties was that of executor to his father in 1575. The archbishop left books, manuscripts, money and plate, and the administration of the will seems to have been difficult, Parker drawing up memoranda about it as late as 1593. Some books supposed to go to Corpus Christi, Cambridge ‘were not found by me in my father’s library, but either lent or embezzled, whereby I could not deliver them to the college’.

The last 16 years of Parker’s life are not as fully documented as his Elizabethan career. In February 1597 he was granted an honorary admission to Gray’s Inn, and he was knighted by James I at Westminster in July 1603. After this date no more references to him in London have been found, and he seems to have retired to Cambridge some years before his death, spending much of his time there in drawing up an illustrated manuscript of heraldry.Though at one time he had been able to pay over £1,900 for an estate, by August 1618 he was in serious financial difficulties (whether through the extravagance of his son Richard, or through his own generosity or for some other reason is not known), and Corpus Christi College made him a grant and paid the expenses of his funeral, which took place at Great St. Mary’s, Cambridge, on 29 Jan. 1619.

Parker Corresp. (Parker Soc.), pp. x-xi, 379-81; Strype, Parker, passim; HMC 7th Rep. 630, 642; Strype, Whitgift, i. 46; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 527; C3/284/39; PCC 39 Pyckering; Add. 48018, f. 294v; DNB (Parker, Matthew); Lansd. 97, f. 177; R. Masters, Corpus Christi, ed. Lamb, 337.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge