PETRE, Robert (d.1593), of St. Stephen's, Westminster and St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate, London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

4th or 6th s. of John Petre of Tor Newton, Devon by Alice, da. of John Collinge of Woodland, Devon; bro. of John and Sir William. m. Margaret, ?s.p.

Offices Held

Receiver-gen. Berks., Oxon., city of Oxford 1567-80; writer of tallies and auditor of the receipt of the Exchequer from 1569.


Petre owed his advancement not to his family’s standing in Devon, but to his brother, the secretary of state and Privy Councillor. There is no trace of Robert Petre before 1569, his religious views possibly preventing him from obtaining any official position under Mary Tudor, in spite of his brother’s influence. He presumably owed his offices in the Exchequer to Sir Walter Mildmay, who became its chancellor early in Elizabeth’s reign. Petre was a full-time government official, acquiring little landed property, and living in one of the three houses in the parish of St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate which he leased from his brother.

During most of his period at the Exchequer, Petre was occupied in a quarrel with Chidiock Wardour, clerk of the pells, each accusing the other of encroachment, corruption and malpractice. A series of commissions sat to determine the rights of the contestants, while the two rivals continued to issue statement and counter statement. In 1588 Wardour. appealed to the Queen and in 1591 Petre petitioned Burghley. Neither received more than nominal satisfaction, but Petre evaded Wardour’s attacks, until his death in 1591 left Wardour with a new opponent in Vincent Skinner.

Petre remained on the closest terms with his brother until Sir William’s death in 1572, when he was a mourner at the funeral and an overseer of the will. His relations with Mildmay in the Exchequer were cordial, Mildmay being described in Petre’s will as his ‘especial good master’. The will, drawn up before Mildmay’s death, contains a bequest to him of a silver-gilt cup valued at £10. In all probability Petre owed his parliamentary seat at Fowey to the 2nd Earl of Bedford. At Penryn the immediate patrons were the Killigrews, Petre probably being nominated at Mildmay’s or at Burghley’s request. The Robert Petre who sat for Dartmouth in 1586 may have been a namesake, of Bowhay, and Torbryan, Devon, but it is more likely that the Member for Fowey, Penryn and Dartmouth was one and the same, returned for Dartmouth on his family’s local interest.

Petre died on 20 Sept. 1593, at the house of his nephew Sir John Petre, at Thorndon in Essex. He was buried at Ingatestone, where his monument describes him as one ‘who lived and died a faithful officer to the most famous Queen Elizabeth in the receipt of her Majesty’s Exchequer’. He left £1,000, along with his plate and household goods, to his wife Margaret, as well as a £20 annuity for her life. His property in Essex and London was bequeathed to his nephew Sir John and £500 to another nephew, William Petre of Torbryan. A jewel worth 20 marks went to Sir John’s wife and more jewels valued at £10 each to her sisters-in-law, Robert’s nieces. To Lord Burghley he left, ‘as a poor remembrance of my good will and duty that I bear and owe unto his lordship’, a silvergilt cup valued at £10, similar to the one he had intended for Mildmay. Unlike others of his family, Petre was a puritan. In the preamble to his will he describes himself as ‘a most vile and wicked sinner’, but trusted that through Christ’s passion he would come ‘pure, clean, and by His blood-shedding, unspotted of sin, with His elect to receive with them that most joyful sentence that then shall be pronounced, "Come, you well-beloved of my Father, and receive the kingdom prepared for you before the beginning of the world" '.

Vivian, Vis. Devon, 592; E407/71/51; F. G. Emmison, Tudor Sec. 83, 290, 292; CPR, 1566-9, p. 36; Eliz. Govt. and Soc. 213-48; Lansd. 67, f. 25; Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 81; Prince, Worthies of Devon (1810), p. 634; PCC 69 Nevell.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy