BULKELEY, Richard (1606-1640), of Beaumaris and Baron Hill, Llanfaes, Anglesey

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

b. 11 June 1606, 1st s. of Sir Richard Bulkeley (d.1624) of Baron Hill and Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Wilsford* of Ilding, Kent.1 educ. G. Inn 1626.2 m. 16 July 1622, Dorothy, da. of John Hill, ?innkeeper of Honiley, Warws. s.p.3 suc. grandfa. Sir Richard Bulkeley* in Anglesey and Caern. estate 1621.4 d. 5 Mar. 1640.5 sig. Rich[ard] Bulkeley.6

Offices Held

Dep. lt. Anglesey ?1624-d.;7 j.p. Anglesey and Caern. 1626-d.;8 commr. subsidy arrears, Anglesey 1626-7, subsidy 1628, charitable uses, Anglesey and Caern. 1630, knighthood fines, Caern. 1630;9 feoffee, Beaumaris free sch. 1632-d.;10 mayor, Beaumaris 1634-5;11 commr. St. Paul’s cathedral repair, Anglesey 1637;12 capt. militia horse, Anglesey by 1637;13 sheriff 1638-9.14

Sewer of Chamber, extraordinary 1629-d.15


An early family history tactfully remembered Bulkeley as ‘a comely person, of very sweet carriage and demeanour towards all men’, but his life was dogged by bitter wrangles with his closest relatives. The seeds of this struggle were sown in 1585 when Bulkeley’s grandfather, Sir Richard Bulkeley*, disinherited his eldest son in favour of the children of his second marriage. The eldest of these children, Bulkeley’s father, was disinherited in turn in 1609, and in his will of 1614 Sir Richard confirmed his grandson as his heir.16 Furthermore, a few days before his death in 1621, Sir Richard drafted a deed to revoke his wife’s trust of his Anglesey leasehold lands, which were to be consigned to his heir. Though never sealed, this deed precipitated a bitter quarrel between Bulkeley’s mother, Lady Anne, and his grandmother, Lady Mary, who, fearing she was to lose her jointure, encouraged her younger son, Thomas, to seize the family’s papers immediately after Sir Richard’s death.17

As the heir to Sir Richard’s eldest son, it was Bulkeley’s cousin Richard Bulkeley of Whatcroft, Cheshire, who was cited as the Common Law heir to the family estates. The latter’s mother contested Sir Richard’s will, but in February 1622 (Sir) William Jones I* brokered an agreement which assigned most of the Cheshire lands to the senior branch of the family, while confirming possession of the Welsh estates to the descendants of Sir Richard’s second wife.18 The partition should have been confirmed by private Act, but it was contested by Sir Richard’s widow, Lady Mary, much of whose jointure was charged against the Cheshire estates; a bill she filed in the Commons in 1624 never reached the statute book, and the dispute was only resolved a decade later with a complete renegotiation of the settlement.19

Though family disputes took some time to resolve, Bulkeley’s inheritance made him the most eligible bachelor in north Wales. Sir John Trevor I* offered a match in October 1621, which was welcomed by Lady Mary who, as executrix of her husband’s will, wielded considerable influence during her grandson’s minority. However, Bulkeley’s mother, Lady Anne, was ‘somewhat backward’, despite appeals from Sir Sackville Trevor* and Bulkeley’s uncle Sir Thomas Holland†. A counter-bid was received from the Caernarvonshire squire Sir John Bodvel, whose father-in-law Sir John Wynn† warned Lady Mary that the Trevors ‘shall be the greatest scourge to yourself, and will gain from you by your grandchild all the leases, and make you and the young lady [Anne] pensioners of theirs, whereas at this time you share the whole living between you’.20 Bodvel offered a dowry of £2,100, which he insisted should be refunded if the Bulkeleys of Whatcroft made good their claim to the estate, but this was refused, ‘for they [of Baron Hill] hold the estate clear’.21 However, when questioned, the Bulkeleys’ lawyer Sir William Jones reported ‘that he misliked the young Lady Bulkeley’s title, and would not have him [Bodvel] meddle at any hand with the match if he might advise him’. Lady Anne’s estate steward, Thomas Chedle, suggested that Jones had an ulterior motive for discouraging Bodvel:

Sir William Jones would fain be nibbling with it [the match], and had promised him [Chedle] largely for his pains, but, quoth he [Chedle], my Lady [Mary] hath sent me a letter wherein she did let me know, that she would match her grandchild either with Sir John Bodvel, or Sir Roger Mostyn*, and with none else.22

Of course, these encounters may have been planned to encourage Bodvel to come to an agreement, but negotiations apparently stalled.

It was presumably either Jones or the Wynns who reported Bulkeley’s prospects to the marquess of Buckingham. The favourite arranged a match with his impecunious cousin, Dorothy Hill, which, though it brought no dowry, held glittering prospects: William Wynn* considered that Bulkeley ‘is had in so great estimation, both with the king, marquess, and [the] whole kindred, that he will be like to make his house flourish more than ever it did heretofore, for they intend very nobly towards him’. The first indication of royal favour came on the day following the marriage, when the king ordered the sequestration of the Anglesey lands kept from Bulkeley by his grandmother, ‘that the young man may receive no prejudice in his estate until this matter receive trial’.23 This order breached the uneasy truce which Lady Mary and Lady Anne had maintained since Sir Richard’s death: in the following term a Star Chamber case was brought against Lady Mary and her son Thomas for their alleged conspiracy at the time of Sir Richard’s death; while in the Court of Wards Bulkeley, with Buckingham’s support, claimed possession of his Welsh estates.24 Thomas Bulkeley, advised that his case was ‘very intricate and doubtful’, settled for a small Caernarvonshire estate, but Lady Mary apparently spurned a compromise, only to have her claims to the Anglesey freehold lands rejected in November 1622, when the Court of Wards appointed Sir John Wynn, Owen Wynn and Bodvel as joint administrators on Bulkeley’s behalf.25

The administration of Bulkeley’s Anglesey estates radically altered the balance of power on the island. He temporarily became a pensioner of the Wynns,26 and it was probably this factor, combined with Bulkeley’s extreme youth, which encouraged several others to declare their candidacy for the county seat at the general election of 1624. Sir Sackville Trevor and Rowland Whyte of Friars both expressed an interest, but their hopes were dashed by Owen Wynn, who arrived in the island on or around New Year’s Day, determined that his family should ‘carry the day wholly in north Wales’. Armed with a letter of recommendation for his nephew John Mostyn* from the latter’s father Sir Roger, Wynn was quickly backed by Bulkeley, who recommended that he attend the funeral of David Owen Theodor, ‘where most of the gentlemen would meet, and there moving them together I should know what to trust about the election’. At this gathering, Wynn gained crucial support from Bulkeley’s uncle Sir Thomas Holland and the latter’s brother-in-law Richard Williams - knight of the shire in 1621 - and Mostyn was duly returned.27

After Lady Mary Bulkeley lost her claim to the Anglesey freehold lands in November 1622, she filed a suit for the leasehold lands. When this was dismissed, she claimed, ‘the freehold [lands] by a lease in trust for her use during life,28 and all the leases as executrix, or the moiety by the [inheritance] custom of north Wales’. She also petitioned Parliament for redress, claiming to have spent £2,000 in the unsuccessful defence of her claims.29 A private bill was given two readings in the Commons (8, 13 Apr. 1624), but was rejected in committee with the observation that ‘it will be as apt to bring all the causes in Westminster Hall to the Parliament as this, there being no corruption, favour or injustice alleged, and then that high court shall have little leisure to attend the public affairs for which they are assembled’.30 Still undaunted, Lady Mary brought her case before the Anglesey great sessions in August 1624, where it was frustrated by Sampson Eure*. In November, shortly after the death of Bulkeley’s (disinherited) father, the dowager countess of Buckingham arranged an arbitration, under which Lady Mary waived all her claims in return for an annuity of £400 from the Anglesey leasehold lands.31 Even after this settlement, Bulkeley apparently derived an annual income of £2,000 from his remaining estates.32

Although still slightly underage, Bulkeley was returned as knight of the shire for Anglesey in 1626, replacing Sir Sackville Trevor who, having unseated John Mostyn at the general election of 1625, had lost his Anglesey estate on the death of his wife at the end of the year. If Trevor had any ill feelings about his replacement, these were not apparent to his son-in-law, Bishop Bayly of Bangor, who claimed on the day after the opening of the Parliament that ‘had I been in town sooner he [Bulkeley] should have been one of the knights of the Bath [at the Coronation]’.33 Bulkeley left no trace on the records of either of the parliaments in which he sat, although as a Welsh MP, he was entitled to attend the committee for ‘Buckley’s bill’, probably a revival of his grandmother’s 1624 estate bill, which was lost at the dissolution.34 As one of the Villiers kindred, Bulkeley doubtless opposed Buckingham’s impeachment, though relations with his wife’s family were not perfect: at the start of the 1626 session Bayly observed that Lady Anne’s misuse of the Anglesey estates was worrying the dowager countess, who ‘grieves that contrary to his promise he [Bulkeley] joins so much with his mother’.35 Outside the House, Bulkeley apparently forwarded a petition to the Privy Council from several of the Anglesey justices in April 1626, which pleaded that the £20 minimum subsidy rating the government was trying to impose on all magistrates should not be applied to Wales. He remained in London after the dissolution of 1626, when he renewed the lease of some of the Crown lands he farmed in Anglesey and enrolled as a student at Gray’s Inn.36

Although little more than a tool of his mother’s ambitions in his family’s inheritance dispute, Bulkeley apparently became estranged from Lady Anne after her marriage to Thomas Chedle, which probably took place in the second half of 1625.37 There were suspicions that Chedle had murdered Bulkeley’s father, but an indictment was rejected by the Anglesey great sessions, and Chedle covered himself by obtaining a royal pardon at the beginning of King Charles’s reign.38 Further ill feeling may have been caused by Lady Anne’s efforts to lay claim to her son’s leasehold estates, though this dispute was resolved by arbitration in 1631.39 In the following year, according to Lady Anne, Bulkeley was incensed by Chedle’s precedence during his tenure as sheriff, and it was perhaps this difference which persuaded Bulkeley to revive the ‘long sleeping, wicked fact’ of his father’s murder: evidence was presented at the Beaumaris assizes by Bulkeley’s second cousin John Griffith III*; but ‘the said Richard [Bulkeley] was thought to be the underhand prosecutor’. The justices ruled that ‘there was evidence enough to make it very probable and suspicious, though not infallibly to convince’, and Chedle responded with a counter-suit in Star Chamber.40

Bulkeley’s messy dispute with Chedle, ‘which made my name an anvil for every man’s tongue to beat on’, probably explains why a newcomer, Sir Arthur Tyringham* was appointed custos rotulorum of Anglesey in 1640, although Bulkeley hollowly protested that ‘I am very glad I have missed the custos’ place since it was made a business of that account there [in London]’.41 Presumably intending to stand for re-election to the Short Parliament, on 20 Feb. 1640 he asked Robert Lewis* ‘if the writs of Parliament come out now, that you bring or send the Anglesey writ down’. However, before the election he was taken ill at Caernarvon on his return from a family funeral, and died on 5 Mar.; he was buried at Beaumaris.42 Under an indenture of 1638, his estates passed to his uncle Thomas; this arrangement was confirmed in his will, and, though his widow and sisters attempted to contest the settlement, it was confirmed in February 1641. Thomas Bulkeley did much to restore the family’s local standing, and, as an active royalist, received an Irish peerage during the Civil War. His descendants resumed the family’s dominance of the island’s parliamentary representation after the Restoration.43

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. NLW, 9080E, p. 69; D. Lysons, Environs of London iv. 527; J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 42.
  • 2. GI Admiss.
  • 3. Memorials of St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 330; Griffith, 42; Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 170-1; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 72-3; NLW, 9080E, p. 39; SP16/378/10.
  • 4. STAC 8/76/3.
  • 5. C142/600/123.
  • 6. Bulkeley probably signed himself this way to avoid confusion with his distant relative Richard Bulkeley of Porthamel, who signed himself ‘Richard Bulkley’.
  • 7. NLW, Carreglwyd I/114. This may have been Richard Bulkeley of Porthamel, a deputy lieutenant in 1621 (ibid. I/147). The MP was serving at his death, see NLW, 1595E, f. 334v.
  • 8. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 9-12, 27-30.
  • 9. E179/224/598, ff. 1, 4; 179/219/19, 22; C192/1, unfol.; NLW, 9062E/1545.
  • 10. Anglesey RO, David Hughes Charity mss box 16 (3 Oct. 1632; n.d. [?1649]).
  • 11. Ibid. 12 Aug. 1635.
  • 12. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 89v.
  • 13. HEHL, EL7443.
  • 14. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 237.
  • 15. LC5/132, pp. 158, 163; LC3/1, unfol.
  • 16. NLW, 9080E, p. 39; UCNW, Baron Hill 22, 34-6, 294; PROB 11/138, f. 9.
  • 17. UCNW, Baron Hill 30; STAC 8/76/3; NLW, 9057E/963.
  • 18. C142/393/168; WARD 7/65/87; CHES 3/97/17; NLW, 9057E/983, 988; UCNW, Baron Hill 299, 300; SP14/127/121.
  • 19. HLRO, main pprs. 8 Apr. 1624 (Lady Bulkeley’s bill), f. 11; NLW, 9059E/1150A; UCNW, Baron Hill 285, 306-9, 311.
  • 20. PROB 11/138, f. 9; UCNW, Baron Hill 39; NLW, 9057E/980-1.
  • 21. NLW, 9057E/983.
  • 22. Ibid. 988.
  • 23. NLW, 9058E/1027; NLW, 9080E, p. 39; Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/OE387.
  • 24. NLW, 9057E/981; STAC 8/76/3; Cent. Kent. Stud. U269/1/OL6.
  • 25. UCNW, Bangor 1920/12; NLW, 9058E/1046, 1050; 9059E/1150A.
  • 26. NLW, 9059E/1129, 1134, 1140.
  • 27. NLW, 9059E/1172 [should be dated 2 Jan. 1624], 1186.
  • 28. UCNW, Baron Hill 30, the trust Sir Richard was preparing to revoke on his deathbed.
  • 29. NLW, 9059E/1150A; SP14/162/30; HLRO, main pprs. 8 Apr. 1624 (Lady Bulkeley’s bill) ff. 14-15.
  • 30. CJ, i. 758a, 764b; NLW, 9059E/1150A.
  • 31. Exeter Coll. Oxf. ms 168, f. 31; NLW, 9080E, p. 69; C78/330/2.
  • 32. SP16/378/10.
  • 33. NLW, 9060E/1324; NLW, Carreglwyd III/10. Bayly had married Trevor’s stepdaughter, see DWB sub Bayly, Lewis.
  • 34. CJ, i. 870a.
  • 35. NLW, Carreglwyd III/10; NLW, 1546E/iii/89.
  • 36. SP16/25/37; SO3/8 (July 1626); C66/2387/5; GI Admiss.
  • 37. Bayly mentioned the marriage in February 1626, see NLW, Carreglwyd III/10.
  • 38. NLW, 1546E/iii/92; 9060E/1335.
  • 39. A copy of the settlement may be seen in NLW, 9062E/1550.
  • 40. HEHL, EL7118; SP16/273/63; 16/276/61; NLW, 1546E/iii/92; 9062E/1550; 9080E, p. 39; Carreglwyd II/531.
  • 41. HEHL, EL7175; JPs in Wales and Monm. 12; UCNW, Baron Hill 72.
  • 42. NLW, 9080E, p. 50; 1595E, f. 334v; UCNW, Baron Hill 72, 77, f. 4v.
  • 43. UCNW, Baron Hill 66-70, 73, 77; PROB 11/183, f. 37; 11/185, f. 86.