BORLASE (BURLACY), Sir William (1566-1629), of Bockmer and Little Marlow, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

bap. 26 Jan. 1566,1 o.s. of John Borlase† of Little Marlow, and Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Robert Lytton of Knebworth, Herts.2 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1581, G. Inn 1584.3 m. bef. 1588, Mary (bur. 18 July 1625), da. of Nicholas Backhouse, alderman and Grocer of London, 3s. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1593;4 kntd. 28 June 1603.5 d. 4 Sept. 1629.6 sig. Willi[a]m Borlas.

Offices Held

J.p. Bucks. 1596-d.,7 sheriff 1601;8 commr. inquiry, lands of Lord Grey, Bucks. 1603, lands of Sir Edward Digby, Bucks. 1606,9 subsidy, Bucks. 1604, 1608, 1622, 1624,10 depopulation 1607,11 aid, Prince Henry 1609,12 sewers, Colne valley 1609, 1615, 1618, Bucks. and Berks. 1622-6,13 charitable uses, Bucks. 1617;14 sub-commr. exacted fees, Bucks. 1623;15 dep. lt. Bucks. at least 1625-d.16

Member, New River Co. 1619.17


The Borlases were originally of Cornish origin. In the mid-sixteenth century Borlase’s father, John, inherited various manors in Buckinghamshire from his maternal grandfather Sir John Baldwin†, chief justice of Common Pleas under Henry VIII. He also purchased the manor of Little Marlow in 1561.18 John served twice as sheriff of Buckinghamshire, and represented the county in Parliament in 1586. On his death in 1593, his estates passed to Borlase, who was knighted ten years later at the home of Sir John Fortescue*, in the company of many other local gentry, including Sir Thomas Denton* and Sir Anthony Tyrringham*.

Borlase entered Parliament in 1604 for Aylesbury, having been nominated by the lord of the manor, Sir John Pakington, a great-grandson of Justice Baldwin. There he was joined by his brothers-in-law, Samuel Backhouse and Nicholas Fuller. The Parliament began with a dispute between the Commons and Chancery over the return of Sir Francis Goodwin as knight of the shire for Buckinghamshire, and although Borlase made no recorded contribution to the debates in the House on this election, he was included among two Commons’ delegations sent to the king, on 28 Mar. and 12 Apr. respectively.19 On 24 Apr., after the case had been resolved, he and other county magistrates were instructed by the earl of Northampton to make discreet inquiries into the conduct of certain parties during the election.20 Borlase’s own outstanding concern seems to have been purveyance. On 3 Apr. he was added to the general purveyance committee, while on 7 May he was required to help consider the articles to be exhibited to the king against purveyors and to gather evidence of their abuses.21 On 2 June he commented in a general debate on supply and purveyance that the country should ‘live under a law, and not under arbitrary government’.22 In the second session he was appointed to the purveyance bill committee (30 Jan. 1606),23 while in the fourth session he moved at the grievances committee (21 Mar. 1610) that purveyance should be the first grievance presented, and suggested proceeding by way of a petition, which he then exhibited to the committee.24

Borlase was not recorded as making speeches on any other topics; nevertheless he received numerous committee appointments. In 1604 these included bills to prohibit the residence of married men in university colleges (14 June); and to make rivers navigable (23 June).25 Borlase was also named to attend two joint conferences with the Lords, on the Union (14 Apr.) and wardship (22 May).26 In the second session Borlase was again appointed to committees on the residence of married men in colleges (25 Jan. 1606) and navigable rivers (7 February). He was also one of those selected as the session drew to a close to present the grievances petition to the king (14 May).27

On 24 Nov. 1606 Borlase was named to a joint conference on the Union, the main business of the third session.28 His connection to the Cecil family, through the Lyttons, possibly accounts for his appointment to consider a bill to assure the vicarage of Cheshunt to Robert Cecil†, earl of Salisbury (12 December 1606).29 Another committee to which he was appointed, for founding a grammar school in Northlech, Gloucestershire (28 Feb. 1607), may have provided useful experience when Borlase founded his own school in 1624, in memory of his son Henry*.30 Several of his other appointments concerned matters of religion. They included a committee to draft a petition to the king against Jesuits (18 May 1607), and committees on bills against pluralism (19 Feb. 1610) and subscription (14 March 1610).31 He was nominated on 20 June 1610 to consider the repeal of the New River Act, a venture in which both he and his son, William*, later invested.32 He was named to two drafting committees in 1610, the first concerning grievances (11 May), and the other on impositions (3 July).33

Borlase secured a county seat for Buckinghamshire in 1614 and presumably helped his brother-in-law, Samuel Backhouse, to his former seat at Aylesbury. His eldest son, William, sat for Chipping Wycombe. At the start of the Parliament, on 8 Apr., Borlase was named to the privileges committee. Later the same day, he joined both Fuller and Backhouse on a committee to consider whether to continue or repeal expiring laws.34 He made no recorded speeches during the Parliament, but on 14 Apr. he was required to attend the conference with the Lords on the bill to naturalize the children of the Elector Palatine. He was also appointed to consider bills on knights of the post (16 Apr.) and the Charterhouse hospital (9 May), although in the latter case he seems not to have attended the committee.35

Outside Parliament, Borlase continued to play an active role in Buckinghamshire affairs. In February 1607 he was joined by his kinsman, Rowland Lytton*, in resolving a quarrel that Backhouse’s son, John* had instigated in London.36 He also remained a close friend of Fuller, who made Borlase an overseer of his will and entrusted his daughter’s marriage portion to Borlase and Backhouse.37 Having refused in 1610 to accept the Crown’s search for concealed lands, in 1619 he and his fellow defendants, including Sir John Dormer*, Sir William Clarke, Sir Henry Neville*, (Sir) Henry Savile II†, and Sir Robert Killigrew* were forced to compound with the commissioners for assart lands.38

Borlase did not stand for Parliament again, although he may have used his influence at Great Marlow to secure the election of Backhouse’s son John to the first three Caroline parliaments. Borlase proved extremely reluctant to contribute towards the non-parliamentary taxation of the 1620s. Summoned before the Privy Council in 1622 for failing to pay his share of the Benevolence, he eventually contributed £40.39 In 1626 he managed to procure a discharge from the Privy Seal loan, and the following year he delayed the collection of the Forced Loan in Buckinghamshire for as long as possible.40

One of Borlase’s great interests in life was literature and the arts. It is likely that in this he was encouraged by his uncle Lytton of Knebworth, who often played host to a group of scholars such as William Camden, and Thomas Bodley†, and probably introduced Borlase to this circle. Borlase enjoyed the friendship of the great letter-writers, Dudley Carleton* and John Chamberlain, who also formed part of the Knebworth group.41 Chamberlain often stayed at Borlase’s Buckinghamshire residence, Bockmer Hall, which he described as one of his ‘old haunts’;42 and Borlase, Carleton, Chamberlain and Lytton regularly met together in London.43 Borlase also claimed the friendship of Ben Jonson, even painting his portrait and sending it to him accompanied by his own verse, for which he received elaborate thanks.44

Borlase died on 4 Sept. 1629 and was buried the following day in Little Marlow church.45 The vast majority of his property was left to his son, William, and he endowed lands in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire for Sir William Borlase School, which he had founded in 1624.46

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Chris Kyle / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Cent. Bucks. Stud. Little Marlow par. reg. transcript, 2.
  • 2. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 309-10.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. T. Langley, Hist. Hundred of Desborough, facing 317.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 111.
  • 6. C142/451/107.
  • 7. SP 13/Case F/ no. 11, f. 2; C66/2527.
  • 8. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 9.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 72v, 130v
  • 10. SP14/31/1; C212/22/21, 23; The Gen. n.s. ii. 230.
  • 11. C205/5/2.
  • 12. SP14/43/107.
  • 13. C181/2, ff. 90v, 229v, 317; 181/3, ff. 76v, 202v.
  • 14. C93/7/3.
  • 15. HEHL, Stowe Temple corres., box 5, STT 877.
  • 16. Eg. 860, f. 45v; E401/2586, p. 363; Cent. Bucks. Stud. Verney Pprs. cat. 9/18.
  • 17. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 111.
  • 18. VCH Bucks. iii. 80; The Gen. n.s. ii. 225-39.
  • 19. CJ, i. 157a, 169b.
  • 20. Bodl., Rawl. D918, f. 35; W. Notestein, House of Commons 1604-10, pp. 512-13.
  • 21. CJ, i. 162b, 202a.
  • 22. Ibid. 984b.
  • 23. Ibid. 261b.
  • 24. SP14/53/30; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 63-4; G.R. Elton, ‘A High Road to Civil War?’, Studies, ii. 177.
  • 25. CJ, i. 238b, 245b.
  • 26. Ibid. 172a, 222b.
  • 27. Ibid. 260a, 265a, 309a.
  • 28. Ibid. 324b.
  • 29. Ibid. 330a.
  • 30. Ibid. 344a.
  • 31. Ibid. 375a, 396b, 410a.
  • 32. Ibid. 442a; B. Rudden, The New River, 282.
  • 33. CJ, i. 427b, 445a.
  • 34. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 34, 35.
  • 35. Ibid. 82, 91, 176; LMA, Acc/1876/G/01/16/1.
  • 36. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 243.
  • 37. S. Barfield, Thatcham, Berks. and its Manors, ii. 259-63.
  • 38. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 571; 1611-18, p. 421; 1619-23, p. 99.
  • 39. SP14/127/46; 14/156/15.
  • 40. E401/2586, p. 543; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 163.
  • 41. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 365, 441; Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 105, 108.
  • 42. Chamberlain Letters, i. 611.
  • 43. Ibid. i. 8, 245, 261, 266, 270.
  • 44. Ben Jonson ed. C.H. Herford, P. Simpson and E. Simpson (1970 reprint), viii. 226-7; P. Beal, Index of Eng. Literary Mss, i. (2) JnB 341-51.
  • 45. Cent. Bucks. Studs. Little Marlow par. reg. transcript, 20.
  • 46. VCH Bucks. ii. 214-15; iii. 66; The Gen. n.s. ii. 233.