COOKE, Sir William (1574-1619), of Charing Cross, Westminster and Highnam Court, Glos.

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. 21 Sept. 1574,1 1st s. of William Cooke† of Charing Cross and Frances, da. of Lord John Grey of Pirgo, Essex.2 educ. Shrewsbury sch. 1583; G. Inn 1592; travelled abroad 1593-5.3 m. (1) settlement Nov. 1597, Joyce (d. Feb. 1613), da. of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warws. and h. to her gt.-grandfa. Sir Nicholas Arnold† of Highnam Court, 3s. 6da.;4 (2) by Apr. 1613,5 Radegund (d. c.1628), da. of Nicholas Boscawen of Tregothnan, Cornw. wid. of Richard Cole of Buckish, Devon, s.p.6 suc. fa. 1589;7 kntd. 7 May 1603.8 d. 2 Mar. 1619.9

Offices Held

Clerk of the liveries, Ct. of Wards 1589-d.;10 member, embassy to France 1598.11

Kpr. Hartwell Park, Northants. 1605-d.;12 commr. charitable uses, Glos. 1606-9,13 sewers 1607, 1609, 1615,14 subsidy, Glos. and Gloucester 1608;15 j.p. Glos. by c.1605-16,16 liberty of Cheltenham 1618-d.;17 collector of aid, Glos. and Gloucester 1609;18 member, Council in Marches of Wales by 1617-d.;19 commr. oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. 1617-d.,20 ironworks, Forest of Dean 1618.21


Cooke’s father was a younger son of the Essex family and a brother-in-law of the 1st Lord Burghley (William Cecil†). Cooke himself succeeded his father as clerk of the liveries in the Court of Wards at the age of 14, the office being filled by a deputy during his minority, and inherited his father’s house in Charing Cross, other property in Warwickshire, Essex and London and a lease of the rectory of St. Michael-on-Wyre in north Lancashire.22 He subsequently married a Gloucestershire heiress.

Cooke seems to have owed his return to Parliament in 1597 and 1601 to his kinsman Robert Cecil†. The latter almost certainly helped to secure his return for Wigan to the first Jacobean Parliament as well, since the mayor, Sir Thomas Holcroft*, was a distant relation of Cecil’s. He played no recorded part in the proceedings of the first session other than to be appointed to two committees for estate bills, one for a Gloucestershire Catholic, Henry Jerningham (7 June 1604),23 and the other for Edward Seymour* (12 June).24

On the death of his father-in-law in 1605, Cooke took possession of Highnam Court, in Gloucestershire, which now became his principal residence,25 and sold his Charing Cross property to the earl of Northampton.26 In the same year he was granted letters patent for the keepership of Hartwell Park, to the great indignation of the duke of Lennox who, as steward of the honour of Grafton, maintained that it was unprecedented for his subordinate officers to hold by direct appointment of the Crown.27 The matter seems to have been resolved by Cooke’s agreeing to hold of the duke; he later made the office over to his younger brother for ten years, ‘if the duke of Lennox for whose life I held the same office and premises should live so long’.28 During the second session Cooke was granted leave of absence because of sickness (13 Mar. 1606),29 but he was back in his place by 14 May, when he was appointed to attend the king with the grievances.30 In the third session he was among those named to consider a bill for the control of the ecclesiastical courts and the articles of the Union with Scotland (28 Nov.),31 as well as three private bills and a further bill concerning ecclesiastical courts (16 May).32 On 11 Mar. 1607 he was again licensed to be absent, this time ‘for many his urgent and important occasions’,33 and on 8 May he was granted privilege after a subpoena had been served on him out of Chancery.34 In 1608 the Crown granted the reversion of certain properties in Hertfordshire to Cooke in trust for Sir Francis Bacon*,35 for whom he had already acted as surety,36 but he sold the Essex manor of Magdalen Laver and wrote to his brother of his willingness to sell his land in Lancashire, presumably a reference to the rectory of St. Michael-on-Wyre.37 In 1609 he helped to resolve the long-standing dispute between the Berkeleys and the Sidneys.38 In the fourth session he was named to consider bills to prevent the double payment of debt (20 Feb.),39 to naturalize ambassadors’ children (27 Apr.),40 and to punish elopements (8 May).41 He was added to the committee for the bill to prevent the export of ordnance (10 May),42 and was appointed to attend the conference with the Lords on the canons (6 July 1610) as an additional member of the committee for religion.43

In 1613, together with Sir Thomas Estcourt*, Cooke undertook to administer the will of Henry, 7th Lord Berkeley, a task sensibly refused by Berkeley’s son-in-law.44 This may have reminded him that it was ‘a principal part of the duty of a Christian man to order, settle and dispose such things as God in mercy hath bestowed upon him’, for he drew up his own will on 1 April. In this he named nine executors, including his children’s former tutor, the puritan divine Thomas Gataker, Sir Richard Verney*, and Sir John Morice (afterwards Poyntz)*, and left £1,000 portions to each of his six daughters.45 It was doubtless the Berkeley interest that secured his election for Gloucestershire in the following year, despite strained relations with the county town, which had been exacerbated by his lease of the hundreds of Dudstone and King’s Barton.46 In the Addled Parliament he was named to three legislative committees, those for a further Jerningham bill (9 May),47 the enforcement of clerical residence (12 May)48 and the prevention of abuses in the issue of writs (18 May).49 He was among those ordered to report on the legality of baronetcies (23 May)50 and was fined 1s. on 28 May for obstructing the entry.51

Cooke died of smallpox on 2 Mar. 1619, and was buried at St. Martin-in-the-Fields two days later.52 His executors refused to act, and consequently his will was proved by his eldest son Sir Robert,53 for whom Cooke had secured the reversion of his clerkship of the liveries in 1603.54 Sir Robert sat for Gloucestershire in the Short Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. St. Martin in the Fields ed. T. Mason (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxv), 10.
  • 2. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 39.
  • 3. Shrewsbury Sch. Regestum Scholarium comp. E. Calvert, i. 87; GI Admiss.; Glos. RO, D326/X14.
  • 4. C2/Jas.I/L13/55; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 45; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 432.
  • 5. PROB 11/133, f. 260.
  • 6. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 47; PROB 11/155, f. 45.
  • 7. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 647.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 104.
  • 9. C142/378/146.
  • 10. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 260; J.C. Sainty, ‘Office-Holders: Wards’ (published online by the IHR).
  • 11. HMC Hatfield, xxiii. 22.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 262; PROB 11/133, f. 261.
  • 13. C93/2/26; 93/3/33.
  • 14. C181/2, ff. 23, 104, 240.
  • 15. SP14/31/1, f. 14.
  • 16. C66/1682; C231/4, f. 13.
  • 17. C181/2, f. 324.
  • 18. SP14/43/107.
  • 19. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 21.
  • 20. C181/2, ff. 285, 334v.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 555.
  • 22. PROB 11/74, ff. 363v-4v, 365v-6.
  • 23. CJ, i. 233b.
  • 24. Ibid. 237b
  • 25. VCH Glos. x. 18.
  • 26. LCC Survey of London, xviii. 10.
  • 27. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 516.
  • 28. PROB 11/133, f. 261.
  • 29. CJ, i. 284a.
  • 30. Ibid. 309a.
  • 31. Ibid. 326b.
  • 32. Ibid. 374a
  • 33. Ibid. 351a.
  • 34. Ibid. 371a
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 400.
  • 36. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, iii. 42.
  • 37. VCH Essex, iv. 106; HMC Cowper, i. 64.
  • 38. J. Smyth, Berkeley Mss ed. J. Maclean, ii. 331.
  • 39. CJ, i. 397b.
  • 40. Ibid. 422a.
  • 41. Ibid. 426a
  • 42. Ibid. 427a.
  • 43. Ibid. 446b.
  • 44. Smyth, ii. 373.
  • 45. PROB 11/133, f. 259v; Oxford DNB sub Gataker, Thomas.
  • 46. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 555, 564, 609, 1611-18, pp. 25, 27; C66/1894/2.
  • 47. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 175.
  • 48. Ibid. 217.
  • 49. Ibid. 282.
  • 50. Ibid. 322.
  • 51. Ibid. 376.
  • 52. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 219; St. Martin in the Fields, 179.
  • 53. PROB 11/133, f. 261.
  • 54. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 15.