TATE, Francis (1560-1616), of Delapré, Northants.

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. 1560, 2nd s. of Bartholomew Tate by his 2nd w. and bro. of William. educ. Magdalen Hall, Oxf. 1577; Staple Inn bef. 1579; M. Temple 1579, called 1587. unm.

Offices Held

Member, Antiq. Soc. 1591.

Of counsel to Northampton; j.p. Brec., Glam., Rad. 1604; justice of assize Brec. circuit 1604; Lent reader M. Temple 1608, treasurer 1615.1


Tate and his brother William entered the Middle Temple together under the auspices of their uncle Robert Tanfield, a prominent member and later treasurer of the inn. William was there to finish a gentleman’s education, but Francis was to make the law his career. In subsequent years he acted as surety for his many relatives and friends who entered the inn, and he slowly rose through the hierarchy of offices. He was an original member and sometime secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, corresponding with Sir Robert Cotton and William Camden. Though a number of his works were published, ‘discourse importing the assembly of Parliament’ was not his, for it was written on the eve of the Parliament of 1581, at which time Tate was barely of age, and the author had already sat in Parliament. Perhaps it was written by his father. Tate was, however, interested in the antiquity of Parliament, which he traced back to the ancient Britons. He believed that the ‘three parts’ of the Parliament—King, Lords and Commons—had always had the same weight and role, and therefore that the exact method of promulgating statutes in the past had little importance: ‘words are not much to be regarded, inasmuch as whatsoever the Parliament alloweth it bindeth as a law, though it be set forth only in the King’s name, as the statutes of Gloucester and Magna Carta, or in the name of the Commons only’, a conclusion which was thought significant in 1621, when this and other tracts on the subject were gathered together.2

In 1601 Tate sought election at Northampton, and he was returned as the son of a freeman, resident near the town. He was an active speaker, but sat on only two committees (abbreviation of the Michaelmas law term, 11 Nov. and the Exchequer bill, 25 Nov.). His speeches reflect his antiquarian interests, and his use of precedents anticipates so many speeches in the Parliaments of the 1620s. On 14 Nov. 1601, ‘he that presents a precedent without a reason presents a body without a soul’. On 27 Nov. ‘heretofore the Houses of Parliament were both one, without division; and that the united body of the Parliament had the same privileges and jurisdictions which we now have’. Next day, on the bill to explain the act touching charitable uses, there ‘could be no law which was contrary to the Great Charter’. It was Tate who first brought the dispute between the 4th Earl of Huntingdon and George Belgrave to the notice of the House, by producing the information filed by Huntingdon in Star Chamber and requesting that it be referred to the committee on privileges, 3 Dec. When the matter was discussed in the House, Tate prudently suggested (8 Dec.) that rash action might endanger their privileges (‘it is not good to utter things suddenly in great matters’) and advised that the Lords should be petitioned and, if necessary, a conference held, a course recommended by other speakers and ultimately adopted.3

In 1602 Tate was replaced as legal counsel to Northampton, as he was ‘shortly ... to remove into Wales, a place so far distant from this town that the corporation upon any opportunity cannot have use of him as heretofore’. The next year he made his will, at a time when he evidently thought he was dying. But he survived until 1616, still an active member of his inn.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. DNB; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 199; Northampton Recs. ii. 72.
  • 2. Archaeologia, i. p. xii; Stowe ms 1045; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 553; Harl. 253, f. 32 seq.; 305, f. 248; Neale, Commons, 355-8.
  • 3. Northampton Recs. ii. 495; D’Ewes, 635, 638, 651, 655, 661, 666, 672-3; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 215, 254, 255, 259, 269, 270, 282, 296.
  • 4. Northampton Recs. ii. 72; PCC 46 Weldon; M. T. Bench Bk. 172.