SANDYS, Edwin II (1561-1629), of the Middle Temple, London and Northbourne, Kent.

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. 1561, s. of Edwin Sandys (d.1588), bp. of Worcester, later abp. of York, by his 2nd w. Cicely, da. of Thomas Wilsford of Hartridge, Kent; bro. of Samuel. educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1571; Corpus Christi, Oxf. 1577, BA 1579, fellow 1579-80, MA 1583, BCL 1589; M. Temple 1590. m. (1) Margaret, da. of John Evelegh of Broad Clyst, Devon, 1da.; (2) Anne, da. of Thomas Southcote of Bovey Tracey, Devon, ?2da.; (3) Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Nevynson of Eastry, Kent, 1da.; (4) by 1606, Catherine, da. of Richard Bulkeley I of Anglesey and Lewisham, Kent, 7s. 5da. Kntd. May 1603.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Kent 1615-16; treasurer of Virginia Company 1617.


Edwin Sandys was the most distinguished of the numerous sons of Archbishop Sandys, and became a celebrated leader of the early Stuart Commons. The two men who most influenced his early career were probably Richard Hooker, under whom his father had placed him at Oxford, and his uncle, Miles Sandys, an active Member of eight Elizabethan Parliaments, by whom he was entered at the Middle Temple after his father’s death.2

While at Oxford, Sandys was involved in the disputes between his father and Sir Robert Stapleton. Stapleton accused Archbishop Sandys of giving the chancellorship of York to ‘a boy of nine’. In fact, wrote the archbishop to Burghley, he had conferred it upon his son Edwin, aged almost twenty-five and a student of law ‘well-learned’; it was Edwin, the letter continued, who had reported one of Stapleton’s earlier misdemeanours to Burghley, and ‘your lordship then liked well of him’. It seems, indeed, that Sandys quickly made a reputation for learning. By his father’s will, he was given, with Tobie Matthew, the task of disposing of his father’s books; and from being the pupil he became the friend and assistant of Hooker.3

It may be that Sandys entered the Middle Temple in 1590, as soon as he had obtained his BCL at Oxford, in order to be again near Hooker, who, with the assistance of Archbishop Sandys, had been appointed Master of the Temple in 1588. It must have been soon after 1590 that Hooker submitted to Sandys the manuscript of the sixth book of the Ecclesiastical Polity—answering the presbyterian argument for the administration of ecclesiastical law by lay elders—and that Sandys wrote the pungent but constructive criticisms which still survive.4

He seems to have supported the ecclesiastical settlement with fewer reservations than his father—perhaps because he saw it in a political rather than religious light, for he was a remarkably tolerant observer of diversities of doctrine. In 1596 he accompanied his friend, George Cranmer, on a visit to the Earl of Lincoln, then in Germany on embassy, afterwards spending three years travelling in Europe, the fruit of which was Europae Speculum, or a View or Survey of the State of Religion in the Western Parts of the World, completed at Paris on 9 Apr. 1599, but not published until 1605. In this survey he found good points even in Roman Catholicism.5

Thus his leadership of the ‘opposition’ in the Parliaments of James I did not spring from puritan zeal, and is perhaps rather to be traced to a jealousy for the position and privileges of the Commons, learned from that old ‘house of Commons man’, his uncle, Miles Sandys. His admission to the Middle Temple in 1590 which reunited him with Hooker, may be a sign of increased reliance upon his uncle after his father’s death: Miles was the overseer of the archbishop’s will and already had three of the archbishop’s sons under his charge at the Middle Temple, of which he was treasurer, before Edwin arrived. The provision which Archbishop Sandys had been able to make for his younger son, consisting principally of the prebend of Wetwang, Yorkshire, was a perilous one. Edwin seems to have had several disputes with his father’s successors at York, in which he had to call on the support of his friends in London: he apparently accused Archbishop Matthew Hutton of dealings with the Earl of Essex at the time of the ‘rebellion’ of 1601, and Hutton denounced him to Cecil as a ‘sycophant’.6

Sandys made his first two marriages into Devon families, both of which had several members at the Middle Temple. He entered Parliament in 1589—the Edwin Sandys returned for Andover in 1586 was almost certainly Miles Sandys’s own son—by sitting for Plympton, at the same time as his uncle sat for Plymouth. The Southcotes, his second wife’s family, no doubt used their influence in his favour, and Richard Southcote was his fellow-burgess when he was chosen again for Plympton in 1593. As a burgess for Plympton in this Parliament he would have been entitled to attend two committees on kerseys, 23 Mar. and 2 Apr. There followed a gap in his parliamentary career, caused partly by his travels. He took the lead in the Commons in the first Parliament of James, to which he was returned for Stockbridge, probably by the favour of Lord Sandys, whose daughter had married Miles Sandys’s son. After that, his third marriage to Elizabeth Nevynson brought him seats in Kent constituencies and made him independent of his uncle’s family.7

Sandys made his name in Stuart Parliaments by his speeches on union with Scotland, monopolies and ‘the great contract’, his enunciation of the principles of the reciprocal rights of King and people and of kingship by election, and his advocacy of regular keeping of Commons’ journals. His work for the Virginia Company gave him a reputation as the founder of democratic government in America. He died in October 1629 and was buried in a sumptuous tomb at Northbourne. In his will, of which he named Sir Robert Naunton overseer, he endowed lecturerships in ‘metaphysic philosophy’ at Oxford and Cambridge.8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. DNB; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 104, 148; E. S. Sandys, Fam. of Sandys, i. 88, 92-102.
  • 2. N. and Q. (ser. 2), xi. 221-2; M. T. Recs. i. 312.
  • 3. Strype, Annals, iv. 597; PCC 30 Drury.
  • 4. DNB (Richard Hooker); Hooker’s Works (7th ed.), ed. Keble, i. p. xxxiii; iii. 130-9.
  • 5. APC, xxv. 496-7; N. and Q. (ser. 4), vii. 359; Bodl. e. Museo 211.
  • 6. APC, xxv. 496-7; HMC Hatfield, xi. 208-9.
  • 7. CP, xi. 445-6; D’Ewes, 507, 513.
  • 8. DNB; E. S. Sandys, 119-20; PCC 84 Ridley.