THROCKMORTON, Job (c.1545-1601), of Haseley, Warws.; later of Canons Ashby, 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. c.1545, 1st s. of Clement Throckmorton of Haseley by Katherine, da. of Sir Edward Neville. educ. Oxf., BA 1566. m. by 1580, Dorothy, da. of Thomas Vernon (d.1557), of Houndhill in Hanbury, Staffs., 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1573.2

Offices Held


A puritan, like his father and his uncle Sir Nicholas, Throckmorton had none of their reservations about supporting puritan measures in the Commons, nor would he accept the arguments of Walsingham and Mildmay that protestants must wait to set their own house in order until the enemy had been driven from its gates. Brought into the 1572 Parliament for East Retford by the 3rd Earl of Rutland, to whom he was related through his mother, Throckmorton, surprisingly, in view of his later career, left no impression on its records, and his small inheritance meant that he never achieved prominence in the affairs of his county. Throckmorton did not, it appears, stand in 1584, but in 1586 his candidature was sponsored as part of an organized campaign to present the puritan case in Parliament. Other Throckmortons had sat for Warwick, but by 1586 it was customary for the town to return a nominee of the Earl of Warwick together with a townsman. That year Thomas Dudley, the senior Member for the two preceding Parliaments and the Earl’s nominee, was returned again, but who was to fill the second seat? John Fisher, the town clerk, had represented Warwick in the Parliaments of 1571, 1572, and 1584, and the Earl of Warwick, in his letter recommending Dudley, cited the Privy Council request that the same Members be returned as in 1584. But Throckmorton made a determined and successful bid for the second seat with the support of neighbouring puritan gentry such as (Sir) John Harington II and Fulke Greville, combined with like-minded friends within the town led by ‘the busy Richard Brook and his complices’. Throckmorton ‘made very great labour to many of the inhabitants of this borough for their voices’ and won votes for ‘good cheer’s sake’, through a ‘solemn dinner’ for 60 or 80 at the Swan. Alarmed at the thought of an open contest, which would include ‘the meanest inhabitants of the borough’, the bailiff and principal burgesses first called a meeting with the 12 ‘assistants’ who represented the commoners at elections, and then interviewed Throckmorton, who remained determined ‘to put it to the jury by election’. So he was sworn a burgess, and adopted as official candidate.3

Throckmorton was quick to let the Commons hear his views. He made his first speech on 4 Nov. 1586, before being placed on the committee ‘to confer of some convenient and fit course to be taken’ over Mary Queen of Scots. The Jesuits were a ‘viperous brood ... the very sink of the stews’; Spain and France were ‘already drunk with the lies of that anti-Christian beast’. Was there ‘a man that durst once stain his mouth in defence of her whom I protest unto you I know not how to describe?’

If I should term her the daughter of sedition, the mother of rebellion, the nurse of impiety, the handmaid of iniquity, the sister of unshamefastness; or if I should tell you that which you know already—that she is Scottish of nation, French of education, Papist of profession, a Guisan of blood, a Spaniard in practice, a libertine in life—as all this were not to flatter her, so yet this were nothing near to describe her. [To destroy her would be] one of the fairest riddances that ever the church of God had.

Alluding to Elizabeth’s veto of the bill against Mary in 1572, he asked: ‘And what got her Majesty, I pray you, by this her lenity? Even as much as commonly one shall get by saving a thief from the gallows: a heap of treasons and conspiracies, huddling one in the neck of the other ...’ His remedy was

that we be all joint suitors to her Majesty that Jezebel may live no longer to persecute the prophets of God nor to attempt still in this manner the vineyard of Naboth by blood; that so the land may be purged, the wrath of God pacified, and her Majesty’s days prolonged in peace to the comfort of us and our posterity, which the Lord grant for his Christ’s sake.

This was one thing, and the House was with Throckmorton, but his speech on 23 Feb. went too far, for the evolution of the House of Commons had not yet reached the point where the monarch was inclined to be taught lessons in diplomacy by the burgess for Warwick. Throckmorton began with a survey of foreign affairs since the conference at Bayonne, 1565, ‘a pestilent conspiracy against the Church of God’. But, an expression Throckmorton uses repeatedly, ‘the Lord hath vowed himself to be English’, and it was not only the King of Spain (his religion idolatrous, his life licentious, his marriage incestuous, his dominions ‘possessed by an incestuous race of bastards’) but the rulers of France and Scotland, both enjoying ostensibly friendly relations with England, who were treated with contempt. Catherine de Medici (‘I hope I need not describe her’) had not ‘thanks be to God’ many ‘left of her loins to pester the earth with ... she had brought us into this world such a litter as few women have done ... whose principle delight, since they first came out of the shell, hath been in nothing almost but in hypocrisy, filthiness of life and persecuting of the Church of God’. The King of France was ‘stricken with a fearful kind of giddiness, as it were a man in a trance or ecstasy, not knowing ... which way to wind himself ... you will find him occupied when he should do you good; ... a Frenchman unreformed is as vile a man as lives’.

Whither then shall we cast our eye? Northward towards the young imp of Scotland? Alas, it is a cold coast, ye know, and he that should set up his rest upon so young and wavering a head might happen find cold comfort ... Ye knew his mother ... did ye not? Then I hope ye will all join with me in this prayer, that whatsoever his father was, I beseech the Lord he take not after his mother, for then woe and double woe [to the] Church of God. And how he may degenerate from the humour of his ancestors I know not.

In the event, it was this part of his ‘lewd and blasphemous’ speech, as Burghley was to call it, made at a time when Elizabeth was trying to propitiate James, that landed Throckmorton in real trouble.

Well then [Throckmorton went on] we see no hope of Spain, no trust in France, cold comfort in Scotland, whither then shall we direct our course ? ... is there any man amongst us so dim sighted that doth not here plainly behold the very finger of God directing us ... to the low countries?

The offer of the sovereignty of the Netherlands was the only safe policy, ‘the people of that nation in all humbleness desiring it, the regard of our own safety ... enforcing it [and] the cause of God and religion exacting it at our hands’.

On 25 Feb. Hatton introduced a motion to admonish

a gentleman of noble blood, zealous in religion [who] spake sharply of princes, and laid indignities on them ... We should use great regard of princes in free speech. Hard and intolerable to use ill speeches of the King of France, continuing in league and friendship with us ... The King of Scotland a prince young, of good religion, a friend and in league with her Majesty both offensive and defensive.

A ‘sin’ to speak ill of him, a ‘shame’ to detract him. ‘This motion may avail to make some repair’. It looks as though Hatton was trying to cover up for Throckmorton here, as he was later to do over Marprelate. But Throckmorton had time to loose off another broadside before nemesis overtook him. On 27 Feb. he spoke, ostensibly in favour of Anthony Cope’s proposal for a Genevan prayer book and a presbyterian church, though he was ‘half appalled to deal in it’. The speech falls into two parts, his views on freedom of speech in Parliament, and a statement of the high puritan standpoint as it was just after Mary’s execution. Throckmorton had to ‘begin by way of complaint’ that ‘when we come first into this house there is laid before us a show of freedom’ which turned to ‘bondage before we go forth’.

Ye shall speak in the parliament house freely provided always that ye meddle neither with the reformation of religion nor the establishment of succession, the very pillars and groundworks of all our bliss and happiness.

‘If a question were now propounded to the whole house, what is the chief cause of all our meetings and consultations in this honourable assembly’, the answer would be the Queen’s safety, and ‘the surest and safest way’ was ‘to begin at the house of God’. ‘It was, out of all question, a very worthy act that was lately done at Fotheringhay’ but ‘if I were to give her Majesty advice ... I would humbly desire her that after so many and mighty deliverances she would beware she sleep not upon them in peril of her life’. ‘It was well done of Henry VIII ... to raze ... those dens and cloisters of iniquity, but it was better done of King Edward to plant true religion and the gospel here among us’. But

into what lamentable days and times are we now fallen into? To bewail the distresses of God’s children, it is puritanism. To find fault with corruptions of our church, it is puritanism. To reprove a man for swearing, it is puritanism. To banish an adulterer out of the house, it is puritanism. To make humble suit to her Majesty and the High Court of Parliament for a learned ministry, it is puritanism ... I fear me we shall shortly come to this, that to do God, and her Majesty good service shall be counted puritanism.

Throckmorton now arrived at ‘those things that have been here propounded unto us (I mean the book and the bill)’. Of all ‘deformities of our church’, said Throckmorton,

the foulest, the most shameful and unworthiest of all is (as hath been often and notably told you) our dumb, ignorant and unlearned ministry, a thing grown in a manner desperate of all honest defence ... if I were asked what is the bane of the church and commonwealth ... a thousand times, I must say the dumb ministry. I mean our bare reading ministry.

For reformation ‘whither should we fly but to this high court? ... Though this Parliament were not summoned to make any new laws ... it were a very honourable course to reform some old laws’.

Is there law to expel out of the ministry a learned man, of life untainted, and is there no law to banish thence an adulterer, an incestuous person, a drunkard, a dumb hireling, a swearer, a blasphemer or such like? Whereof if it come to examination I fear me ye will blush at the number. ... Till, this monster of our unworthy ministry be banished the land there is no remedy ... the church must needs look for heresies, the prince for treasons, the land for hurly-burlys, the people for destruction.

Throckmorton cited a number of grim ‘warnings’ of political assassinations ‘to pull her Majesty by the sleeve, and methinks the remembrance of them should sometimes awaken her out of her sleep ...’

For who doubts but there is a scourge due to us? Long peace, rare quietness, unwonted bliss, happy government, calmness at home, broils abroad, gospel preached, wealth abounding, no awaking out of wickedness, no amendment of manners, religion boldly professed in mouth and badly practised in life, and open resistance of the holy discipline of God: surely he is worse than blind that looks not for a scourge ... Let this be then the issue of the whole ... to waken her Majesty’s heart before the day of her account, that she may remember the great weight of her calling, thereby to reform with speed such things as are amiss, especially her ignorant and unlearned ministry. That, as she hath been the beginner, so she may be the finisher of the work; as she hath had the praise to be the planter of the gospel, so she may have the honour to be the reformer of the church ... that so the Lord may be moved to bless us still with her ... that her days may be aged, her reign prosperous, her bliss endless; that [he concluded] the last day of her life may (if so please Him) be the last day of this earth; that when she fleeteth hence to our earthly discomfort, we may then behold His son Jesus, sitting in His throne of judgment, to our endless and everlasting comfort for ever.

Throckmorton might have got away with it all if James VI’s London agent had not heard of the relevant passages from the 23rd February speech. Burghley had to do something, and what he did was to write to James’s agent on 2 Mar. promising to put Throckmorton in the Tower next day ‘as a close prisoner, and shall thereby, for the rashness of his tongue, feel smart in his whole body’. Throckmorton wrote an abject letter to Burghley on 3 Apr. 1587: ‘the privilege of the place’ had been ‘apt enough to bring a young head into a distemperature’.4

Throckmorton’s parliamentary career was over, but not his propaganda for the puritan cause. In 1588 he and the Welsh preacher John Penry began the printing of the Martin Marprelate tracts. Although many of the minor actors and ultimately Penry himself were brought to trial, the identity of the author has not been conclusively established. However the style and language of the tracts point to Throckmorton, who is known to have been the kingpin of the organization. Other arguments rule out Penry, and at least one contemporary openly accused Throckmorton of being Martin. It is in any case surprising that he was not punished for his known part in the matter, as were even the most prominent of his supporters, such as Sir Richard Knightley. In the autumn of 1590 Throckmorton was convicted of participating in the printing, but seems not to have suffered any penalties. The next year he was indicted at the Warwick quarter sessions for supporting the fanatics Coppinger and Hacket, but again he got off. The answer may be that he had the protection of Hatton, the lord chancellor, to whom he wrote at least one submissive letter and who more than once spoke up for him. Throckmorton spent his last years, a sick man, at Canons Ashby receiving spiritual consolation from the puritan John Dod. He is said to have sought in vain, for many years, a ‘comfortable assurance’ of his salvation, and to have received it within an hour of his death. He died intestate on 23 Feb. 1601 and was buried at Haseley. Administration of the property was granted on 18 May to his widow.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. OR, following Crown Office list C193/32/8-10, gives John Throckmorton for East Retford. But a 1st session list brought up to date during the session and a 2nd session list give ‘Jobe’.
  • 2. Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 207; Shaw, Staffs. i. 93; C142/263/9(1).
  • 3. C142/172/143; Black Bk. of Warwick, ed. Kemp, 16, 26-7, 56, 104, 367, 387-97.
  • 4. New York, Pierpont Morgan Lib. mss, MA 276; D’Ewes, 393; Harl. 7188, anon. jnl. f. 92; Neale, Parlts. ii. 173-4; Lansd. 53, f. 148.
  • 5. A. L. Rowse, Ralegh and the Throckmortons, 114; W. Pierce, Martin Marprelate Tracts, passim; Collinson thesis; DNB; C142/263/9(1); PCC admon. act bk. 1601, f. 83v.