CORNWALLIS, Thomas II (by 1587-1628), of Westminster and Wandsworth, Surr.

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. by 1587, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Cornwallis of Porchester, Hants, groom-porter 1597-1618, and Elizabeth, da. of John Molyneux† of Thorpe, Notts. m. (settlement 26 Nov. 1619), Elizabeth (d. 9 Oct. 1649), da. of Jeffrey Clark, proctor, of London and Morant’s Court, Chevening, Kent, wid. of William Watson of White Webbs, Enfield, Mdx. and Pattingham, Staffs., 1s.1 suc. fa. 1618.2 d. 6 Jan. 1628.3

Offices Held

?Groom-porter, Prince Henry 1610.4


This Member cannot be definitively identified, but he was probably the cousin of Katherine Cornwallis, the widow of Thomas Cornwallis, groom-porter under Elizabeth, and daughter of Thomas Wriothesley†, 1st earl of Southampton. Katherine lived at East Horsley in Surrey, near the home of Anne, dowager countess of Arundel, and she and her husband were closely connected with Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, whose second wife, Magdalen, was Anne’s aunt. Consequently, Katherine was presumably able to recommend her kinsman to the countess’ son, Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, lord of the manor at Horsham.5 There are two possible alternative identifications: Thomas Cornwallis I, who lived in Suffolk; and a younger son of Sir Charles Cornwallis*, who lived in Lincoln. Neither of these men had any known connection with Horsham.6

Cornwallis’ father, also called Thomas, was the nephew of Sir Thomas Cornwallis† of Brome Hall, Suffolk, Mary Tudor’s comptroller of the Household. He deputized for Katherine’s husband for many years as groom-porter before succeeding to the post himself when the latter died without surviving children in 1597.7 Knighted in April 1605, Cornwallis’ father was the source of the accusation made by Sir Robert Wingfield* in the Commons, on 31 Jan. 1606, that Sir William Maurice had attended mass. When Sir Thomas was examined, however, he stated merely that he had seen Maurice emerging from a room in which mass had been celebrated. Several Members evidently took exception to the fact that Sir Thomas left ‘without salutation or reverence to the Speaker’, but the matter was not pursued.8

One of Sir Thomas’ sons was converted by Jesuits while travelling in Spain in 1607, and was apparently employed as a page in the archdukes’ court at Brussels in 1610. However, this was probably Cornwallis’ brother William, who was recorded as resident in Brussels in 1614.9 It is more likely that Cornwallis was the son of Sir Thomas reported by Chamberlain to have been ‘sore hurt and endangered’ in a quarrel with a Scottish courtier in 1613.10 Two years later he received a licence to travel abroad ‘for the recovery of his health’.11

Granted the reversion of the groom-portership in 1605, Cornwallis may have fulfilled the duties of that post in the household of Prince Henry, but it was Henry Cornwallis, a short-lived son of Sir William*, who seems to have succeeded to the office on the death of Sir Thomas in 1618.12 Sir Thomas requested burial ‘without any ceremony’ in his will, which may indicate that he shared the Catholicism of many of the Cornwallis family, including Lady Katherine. Indeed Sir Thomas seems to have regarded himself as, in some respects, Lady Katherine’s heir, making specific provision in his will for ‘either lands, leases, or plate’ which she might bequeath him ‘whereof I doubt not’.13

Cornwallis’ marriage the following year to the widow of William Watson brought him control of the large fortune accumulated by his infant stepson’s grandfather, Rowland Watson†.14 It also reinforced his Catholic connections, his brother-in-law describing the Watson family as having been almost entirely Catholic since the turn of the century.15 However, it was probably the younger son of the former ambassador to Spain, Sir Charles Cornwallis*, who was in correspondence with the Spanish diplomat Diego da Lafuente at this time.16

Cornwallis was returned for Horsham to the third Jacobean Parliament but left no trace on its records. He subsequently became a recusant, which probably explains why he does not appear to have sought re-election. On Lady Katherine’s death in 1626 he inherited a 20-year-lease of Monkton Farleigh moor, near Bath, and was presumably therefore the convicted recusant of Westminster granted leave to travel to Bath in October 1626.17 He died on 6 Jan. 1628. A warrant dated 26 Nov. in the lord chamberlain’s records requiring ‘Thomas Cornwallis’ to be sworn esquire of the body extraordinary, with a note that this man ‘refused the oath of supremacy and was not sworn’, presumably refers to the son of Sir Charles.18 No will has been found. Cornwallis’ widow married the second son of the 8th Lord Sourton, and died a recusant. His only son Thomas was too ill to sign his will on 15 Dec. 1642, and probably died unmarried soon afterwards.19

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Private Corresp. of Jane Lady Cornwallis ed. Lord Braybrooke, (1842), xxxvi-xxxviii; PROB 11/98, f. 331; 11/127, f. 477; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 64; CCC, 2059.
  • 2. Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1600-49, p. 68.
  • 3. C2/Chas.I/P13/18.
  • 4. T. Birch, Life of Henry Prince of Wales (1760), p. 454.
  • 5. Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 34; M.F.S. Hervey, Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, 248; M. Questier, Catholicism and Community, 514; Oxford DNB sub Browne [née Dacre], Magdalen.
  • 6. C2/Chas.I/C3/52.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 429; J.G. N[ichols], ‘Funeral Certificates’ Coll. Top. et Gen. iii. 294.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 137; Bowyer Diary, 14-15, 17; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 48-9
  • 9. Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 295; HMC Downshire, iii. 447; SP77/11/25.
  • 10. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 445.
  • 11. SO3/6, unfol. 12 Jan. 1615.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 205; 1619-23, p. 161.
  • 13. PROB 11/132, f. 467r-v; Questier, 514. Sir Thomas may have been in correspondence with a friar in Spain. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 27.
  • 14. C78/217/5; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 589.
  • 15. G. Anstruther, Seminary Priests, ii. 342.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 143; HMC 3rd Rep. 284.
  • 17. PROB 11/150, f. 70; C2/Chas.I/P13/18; APC, 1626, p. 318;
  • 18. LC5/132, f. 65.
  • 19. PROB 11/196, f. 206v; SP23/128/543-7, 553-5.