UNTON, Sir Edward (1534-82), of Wadley, Berks. and Langley, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1534, 1st s. of Sir Alexander Unton of Chequers, Bucks. and Wadley by his 2nd w. Cecily, da. of Edward Bulstrode of Brogborough Park, Beds.; bro. of Henry. educ. I. Temple 1551. m. 29 Apr. 1555, Anne, da. of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, wid. of John Dudley, 2nd Earl of Warwick (d. 21 Oct. 1554), 5s. inc. Edward and Henry 2da. suc. fa. 17 Dec. 1547. KB Jan. 1559.2

Offices Held

Keeper, Malvern chase, Worcs. and Cornbury park, Oxon.; commr. musters, Berks. 1560, 1569, j.p. from c.1560, sheriff 1567-8; j.p. Oxon. from c.1561, commr. muster of horses 1565, 1580.3


Unton’s standing in Berkshire was enhanced by his mother’s marriage to Robert Keilway, surveyor of the court of wards, and his own to the Countess of Warwick. Keilway, a Wiltshire man, was probably responsible for securing Anne Seymour as his stepson’s bride, the match being made just as Unton ceased to be his mother’s ward. Keilway naturally took his profit from the arrangement, by purchasing Warwick’s old manor of Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire, from Queen Elizabeth in 1559. The remaining ‘Warwick’s lands’ in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, Unton shared with Warwick’s brother, the eventual Earl of Leicester; by 1555 he was in possession of the manor of Burford and in 1559 was residing nearby at Langley, where the Queen visited him in 1572, 1574 and 1575.4

He seems to have become a servant of Elizabeth soon after her accession, and was made KB at her coronation. He spent much time in London, and in November 1562 he was involved in a ‘chance affray’ outside Temple Bar with Richard Grenville II of Stowe, Cornwall. He travelled to Italy in 1564, and went abroad again ten years later, on that occasion accompanied by his eldest son. In Italy he was apparently impressed by the works of Machiavelli. He bought a copy of the Istorie Fiorentine in which he wrote: ‘Machiavelli maxima: Qui nescit dissimulare nescit vivere’.5

In the early years of the reign, Unton looked to Oxfordshire for a seat in Parliament. Sir Richard Blount, one of the knights for Oxfordshire, died in 1564; on 9 Oct. 1566, records the memorandum book of Burford corporation, ‘Sir Edward Unton was chosen knight for the Parliament of Oxfordshire with such a voice of the county the like hath not been seen’. For the Parliament of 1571, the Norris and Knollys families shared Oxfordshire and Unton sought election in Berkshire. There again he was kept out by the Norrises who supported Richard Ward for election with a Neville. At Abingdon quarter sessions in the autumn following the 1571 Parliament, Unton’s servants attacked those of (Sir) John Norris. During the ensuing Star Chamber case, Unton was reported by Thomas Wenman to have said that grounds for a ‘good and sufficient quarrel’ had been provided by the interference of the Norrises in the Berkshire election. Unton himself alleged in the Star Chamber that Sir Henry Norris had sent ‘unto certain of his tenants and [had procured] such as had no freehold to appear and give their voice’ against him. Perhaps he had, indeed, been kept out by extraordinary means, for in 1572 he was returned for Berkshire as senior knight. His name is mentioned only once in the journals of the House, 25 Jan. 1581, when he was appointed to the committee on the Queen’s safety.6

Unton’s puritan sympathies were enlisted in September 1580, when he and Sir Henry, by then Lord, Norris were commissioned by the Privy Council to search ‘with diligence and secrecy’ for Jesuits lurking in Oxfordshire. Unton’s children married into puritan families: his eldest son, Edward Unton, married first a daughter of Sir Richard Knightley, and secondly, in 1579, a daughter of Sir George Hastings; and one of Unton’s daughters married one of Knightley’s sons, Valentine Knightley. At the Inner Temple, to which he was introduced by his stepfather, Unton became closely connected with the parliamentary dynasty of Croke; his sister married John Croke II—son of John Croke, the chancery master, whose will Unton witnessed—and their son, John III was Speaker of the Commons in 1601. Unton’s own sons, Edward and Henry, sat for Berkshire in 1584, 1586 and 1593.7

Unton died on 16 Sept. 1582 and was buried in Faringdon church. In his will, made 14 Sept. 1581, and proved 19 Sept. 1582, he looked forward to ‘the heavenly life which [God] hath prepared for his elect children before the beginning of the world’. His second son, Henry, and his brother-in-law, John Croke, were his executors. To the eldest son, Edward, was granted the custody of Unton’s widow, the Countess of Warwick: since May 1566 she had been ‘a lunatic enjoying lucid intervals’. Unton instructed his son Henry ‘to govern himself’ by the advice of Sir Francis Walsingham.8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. J. G. Nichols, Unton Inventories, pp. xxiv-xlix; DNB (Unton, Sir Henry); CP; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 222; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 149; Wards 7/4/29; EHR, xxv. 553.
  • 3. Nichols, pp. xlii, xliv; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 156, 340, 690; APC, vii. 251.
  • 4. PRO Index 10217; CPR, 1554-5, p. 14; 1558-60, pp. 236, 308; 1560-3; pp. 9-10; R. H. Gretton, Burford Recs. 84, 411; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, iv. 88, 90, 92.
  • 5. CPR, 1560-3, pp. 9, 509; Nichols, pp. xxxiv, xxxviii; E157/1/1; Brit. Sch. at Rome, Pprs. vii.
  • 6. Gretton, 415; Folger V. b. 298; St. Ch. 5/N10/11, N16/38; CJ, i. 119.
  • 7. APC, xii. 191, 198, 211; Nichols, pp. xxxiv, xlviii; Vis. Berks. ii. 222; C142/203/61; A. Croke, Gen. Hist. Crokes, 448 seq.
  • 8. C142/203/61; VCH Berks. iv. 497; PCC 35 Tirwhite; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 74; Nichols, p. xliv; CSP For. 1582, p. 87.