DEVEREUX, Walter (c.1591-1641), of Lamphey, Pemb., Essex House, The Strand, Westminster and Chartley, Staffs.

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



1640 (Apr.)
1640 (Nov.) - July 1641

Family and Education

b. c.1591, illegit. s. of Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex (exec. 1601) and Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Southwell of Woodrising, Norf.; half-bro. of Michael Molyns*. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1604; riding academy, Angers, France 1608; ?M. Temple 1618. unm. kntd. 2 Sept. 1617.1 bur. 24 July 1641.2 sig. W[alter] D’evreux.

Offices Held

Capt. of ft., 3rd earl of Essex’s regt., Neths. 1624-c.1626.3


Devereux was the product of an illicit union between the 2nd earl of Essex and one of the queen’s maids, Elizabeth Southwell, the daughter of a Norfolk squire. Southwell’s pregnancy - coyly referred to as a ‘lameness in her leg’ by one observer - aroused the queen’s anger, whereupon responsibility was pinned on a minor courtier named Thomas Vavasour (probably the gentleman pensioner of that name who had served with Essex in the Netherlands), who was briefly imprisoned.4 In May 1595 an angry queen discovered Devereux’s true paternity, whereupon Essex was forced to make limited financial provision for his son.5 Devereux should not be confused with the son, also named Walter, who was born to the countess of Essex in January 1592 and died a month later.6

Following Essex’s execution, and perhaps even beforehand, Devereux was entrusted to his paternal grandmother, Lettice, countess of Leicester, at her Staffordshire seat of Drayton Bassett. In November 1604, aged about 13, he was sent to Oxford, where he contributed to a collection of Latin verses composed to commemorate the visit to the university in 1606 of Christian IV of Denmark.7 From Oxford he was dispatched to an academy in the south of France, where he presumably learned to ride, fence and dance. At about the same time it was suggested that he marry the daughter of Lady Florence Stalling, the widow of Sir Nicholas Stalling (d.1606) of Kenne, Somerset.8 Given the sensitive nature of Devereux’s background, the countess of Leicester was naturally reluctant to permit such a match without first consulting the king’s first minister, Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury.9 It seems unlikely that Salisbury raised any objections, but nevertheless the proposed marriage failed to materialize. Indeed, Devereux seems never to have married, which is surprising given the smallness of his landed inheritance. His only manor was that of Lamphey in Pembrokeshire, which comprised just 721 acres and yielded a little over £203 in rents each year, a sum hardly sufficient to maintain Devereux in style and comfort. The lack of adequate means was probably the principal cause that Devereux fell back on the generosity and hospitality of his half-brother, Robert, 3rd earl of Essex, who had naturally acquired the lion’s share of his family’s estates when these had been restored by Parliament in 1604. So far as can be ascertained, Devereux spent most of his adult life in Essex’s household in Staffordshire and Westminster, and although he persistently described himself as being ‘of Lamphey’ there is no evidence to suppose that he ever lived there.10

In September 1613 Devereux journeyed to the Netherlands in company with Essex after the earl challenged Henry Howard*, a younger son of the 1st earl of Suffolk, to a duel for disparaging Essex’s estranged wife. Devereux was appointed one of Essex’s seconds, but before the duel could be fought the protagonists were ordered to return to England by the king. When the Privy Council attempted to establish the facts of the case Devereux initially proved obstructive by failing to pass on as promised a message to his fellow second, Richard Ouseley.11 He eventually signed a paper setting out a detailed narrative of events, but when this was disowned by Essex he and Ouseley subsequently claimed they had been tricked. They declared the paper ‘false in some main points’, and threatened to maintain their own version of events ‘upon the sacrament first, and then with the sword’.12 This display of bravado merely served to earn Devereux a brief spell in the Fleet.13

Devereux was returned to Parliament in March 1614 for Pembroke Boroughs, but left no mark on its records. He perhaps owed his seat to Essex, although Lamphey manor lay only a few miles from Pembroke. In September 1617 he was knighted at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, home of the Hastings family. He sold Lamphey manor to Richard Cuny* in November 1618, whereupon Essex bestowed upon him the lease of Lamphey rectory.14 In the spring of 1620 he probably accompanied his half-brother to the Palatinate, where Essex assumed command of a company under Sir Horace Vere. Although Essex returned to England in time for the opening of the 1621 Parliament, Devereux missed his chance of re-election. However, he was chosen to represent Pembroke Boroughs again in 1624, when his cousin Sir Walter Devereux of Leigh Court, Worcestershire, also secured a seat. It was probably Devereux rather than his kinsman who was named to the committee for the bill to authorize the sale of the Staffordshire lands of the two Thomas Copes, father and son (16 March). It also seems likely that it was he who attended one of the four committee meetings concerned with the bill to reverse a decree in the Court of Requests involving two Welshmen, as he was appointed by virtue of being a Member for a Welsh constituency.15 However, it is unclear which Devereux was named to consider the bills to naturalize James, marquess of Hamilton (14 Apr.) and overturn a Chancery decree concerning Edward Egerton (27 April).16

Shortly after the 1624 Parliament was prorogued, Essex and Devereux travelled to the Netherlands, where the earl took up the colonelcy of an infantry regiment and bestowed a captaincy on Devereux. In July 1625 the two brothers returned to England, where Essex was given command of a squadron of ships which were preparing to sail as part of an expeditionary force to Spain. However, no place was found for Devereux in the list of infantry captains,17 and if he accompanied his brother to Cadiz it must have been as a member of the earl’s private entourage. On 20 Jan. 1626 Devereux was elected for a third time to Parliament, but as the junior burgess for Tamworth, a constituency controlled by his grandmother, the countess of Leicester, rather than for Pembroke Boroughs. He played no recorded part in the Parliament, and soon after its dissolution he and Essex rejoined the prince of Orange’s army.18 His company was among those transferred to Danish service in March 1627,19 but by then Devereux appears to have been only its nominal commander, having returned to England by the beginning of the previous December.20 Re-elected for Tamworth as its junior burgess in February 1628, he was subsequently appointed to help draft a bill to regulate the lieutenancy (24 Mar. 1628) and to consider a measure aimed at preventing bribery and the purchase of judicial office (23 Jan. 1629). He received no further mentions in the Parliament’s records.

Devereux accompanied Essex to Ireland in 1633.21 In 1636 he helped to bring about Essex’s separation from his second wife after revealing to his brother that Sir William Uvedale* had visited the countess in her chamber at night during one of the earl’s absences. Whether his discovery was the culmination of a conspiracy against the countess hatched by Essex, as some fancied, or whether, as the countess’ second husband later alleged, Devereux acted independently to rid himself of the countess in order to improve his chances of inheriting Essex’s estate, is unclear.22 Whatever the truth may have been, his role in precipitating the collapse of his brother’s marriage became widely known and exposed him to scorn from those who believed that neither the countess nor Uvedale - who had been discovered fully clothed - were guilty of any impropriety. Many also recoiled in disdain at the revelation that Devereux had spied on the countess, for ‘if his mother had been so watched he [Devereux] had not been here to watch others now’. About the capital it became commonplace for third parties to taunt couples who met in secret with the words ‘I will Devereux you’.23

Devereux was elected to both the Short and the Long Parliaments as the senior burgess for Lichfield, presumably on his brother’s interest. He died intestate in July 1641 at Essex House, in the Strand, and was buried nearby in the church of St. Clement Danes.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Al. Ox.; ‘Les Gentilshommes Etrangers ... a l’academie d’equitation d’Angers au xviie siecle’, Revue d’Anjou, xxvi. 12; M. Temple Admiss.; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 165.
  • 2. WCA, St. Clement Danes par. reg. vol. 2, unfol.
  • 3. SP84/121, ff. 254v, 269v-70v, 274, 277.
  • 4. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 261; W. Camden, Elizabeth (4th edn. 1688), p. 624; HMC Hatfield, iv. 153. We owe these refs. to Paul Hammer. See also P.E.J. Hammer, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Pols.: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1597-97, p. 95.
  • 5. Hammer, 319-20; SP12/253/20. We owe this last ref. to Paul Hammer.
  • 6. Hammer, 105 n. 179; St. Olave Hart Street (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlvi), 15.
  • 7. BL, Royal 12A LXIV, f. 18.
  • 8. Stalling’s will is at PROB 11/105, f. 207v, but curiously there is no mention of a da.
  • 9. SP14/40/3.
  • 10. Longleat (IHR microfilm), Devereux Pprs. vol. 9, f. 27. For evidence that Devereux cited Lamphey as his address, see Devereux Pprs. box 9, nos. 142-3, 146, 148, 151, 156, 187, 188.
  • 11. CUL, Dd.iii.63, f. 50r-v.
  • 12. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 475, 478-9; HMC Downshire, iv. 190-1, 205-6; W.B. Bourchier, Lives and Letters of the Devereux, Earls of Essex, ii. 252-3.
  • 13. APC, 1613-14, pp. 231, 244.
  • 14. Longleat (IHR microfilm), Devereux Pprs. vol. 9, f. 27; F. Green, ‘Cuny of Welston and Golden’, W. Wales Historical Recs. xii. 171.
  • 15. CJ, i. 737b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 205.
  • 16. CJ, i. 691b, 767a.
  • 17. SP16/7/49.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 383; V.F. Snow, Essex the Rebel, 159-60.
  • 19. Add. 46188, f. 105.
  • 20. SP16/41/3.
  • 21. Lismore Pprs. ed. A.B. Grosart (ser. 1. iii), 202.
  • 22. Bourchier, ii. 305. The idea that Devereux was trying to improve his chances of inheriting seems fanciful, as the countess had already produced a son for Essex: CP sub Essex.
  • 23. Verney Pprs. ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lvi), 168-9.