FANSHAWE, William (1583-1635), of St. Sepulchre's, London and Parsloes, Dagenham, Essex

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. 4 May 1583,1 3rd s. of Thomas Fanshawe† (d.1601) of Ware Park, Herts. the 2nd s. with his 2nd w. Joan, da. of Thomas Smythe† of Westenhanger, Kent; half-bro. of (Sir) Henry† and bro. of Thomas I*. educ. I. Temple 1601.2 m. 12 Dec. 1615, Katherine (bur. 18 May 1642), da. of Sir John Wolstenholme*, farmer of the Customs, of Stanmore, Mdx. 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (2 d.v.p.).3 d. 4 Mar. 1635.4 sig. W[illiam] Fanshawe.

Offices Held

Auditor, Northern parts, duchy of Lancaster 1612-d.5

Member, N.W. Passage Co. 1612, E.I. Co. 1614.6

J.p. Lancs. by 1620-d.,7 Essex 1624-d.;8 commr. Forced Loan, Lancs. 1627.9


Within a few weeks of attaining his majority in 1604 Fanshawe was granted the reversion to the duchy of Lancaster post held by his brother,10 who relinquished it to him in 1612. In the same year he invested in the North-West Passage Company, and he joined the East India Company in 1614. The two brothers represented Lancaster in the Addled Parliament on the Duchy interest. Fanshawe’s maiden speech, in defence of Sir Thomas Parry’s* interference in the Stockbridge election, was not a success, as John Chamberlain reported: ‘Will Fanshawe ... under colour of kindness and excusing laid him more open and betrayed him and his courses worse than those that spoke most bitterly against him’.11 His very presence in the House contradicted his assertion on 10 May that the chancellor had ‘no power in elections’:

...the chancellor, in his younger days, of good service; now in his age abused by bad servants ... These letters written by one [Loveday] that will sell his master and all for 20s. ... the chancellor [is] free [of blame], save only for setting his hand to that which Loveday brought him ... who had undertaken for money to have put in divers names not returned.12

Fanshawe was appointed to three committees concerning bills for parish taxation (7 May), the prevention of abuses in his brother’s office in the King’s Bench (18 May) and the motion of Edward Alford* to ‘consider of some course concerning the old debts’ (31 May).13

In 1617 Fanshawe accompanied Parry’s successor, (Sir) John Dackombe*, on a visit to Lancashire to enfranchise copyhold tenants of the duchy. He made some useful acquaintances in the Clitheroe area, including the meeting’s host, Sir Ralph Assheton of Whalley.14 A fortunate marriage enabled Fanshawe to buy a small property in the West Riding for £1,200 in around 1617, and in 1619 he acquired Parsloes, adjoining his brother’s Barking estate, from Sir Edward Osborne* for £1,150, though he continued a Londoner by residence.15 Dackombe’s tenure of office was short, and the new chancellor, (Sir) Humphrey May*, required the Lancaster seat for himself in 1621. Fanshawe transferred to Clitheroe where, until 1625, he enjoyed the support of the duchy at the borough’s parliamentary elections, and probably also the Asshetons. He continued to play only a modest role in the Commons. In 1621, on hearing an Exchequer messenger who was accused of using contemptuous language against Parliament in general and (Sir) Edward Fraunceys* in particular, described as an informer, Fanshawe said: ‘the accusation, I think, is not strong, for he is an informer only against recusants, and so did only inform against the Lady Fraunceys for her recusancy’ (30 April).16 In 1624 he was appointed to consider bills to prevent secret inquisitions (8 Mar.), to enable part of the Poyntz estate in Essex to be sold (30 Apr.) and to break the entail on the estate of Toby Palavicino (19 May).17 In 1625 he was named to the bill committee for Daniel Deligne’s naturalization (11 Aug.), and as a Lancashire burgess he attended both meetings of the Macclesfield tenants bill committee (26 June).18

In 1626 Fanshawe failed to obtain his accustomed seat at Clitheroe. Instead an unnaturalized Scottish courtier, George Kirke, was returned, apparently on the duchy interest. Fanshawe’s brother Thomas I raised objection in the Commons, but when a new writ was procured the seat was taken by the Fanshawes’ nephew, Christopher Hatton.19 Ahead of the next Parliament, Fanshawe wrote to the bailiffs of Clitheroe on 6 Feb. 1628 that he would rather ‘serve for the town of Clitheroe than any other borough whatsoever’, and beseeched them to ‘continue your accustomed respect to me’.20 However, he apparently failed to secure May’s backing, for the chancellor instead nominated his kinsman, Thomas Jermyn. In the ensuing contest Jermyn took the first seat, while Fanshawe received eight votes for the second. However, this was insufficient to defeat a popular local candidate.

Fanshawe’s parliamentary experience had not taught him discretion, for in 1634 he was accused of describing his neighbour, the former Speaker (Sir) Thomas Richardson, as ‘a great blabber-lipped fellow, fitter to have made a bearward than a chief judge’.21 He was imprisoned in the King’s Bench to teach him to ‘spare his too lavish speeches of his betters’, and there fell ill, desperately petitioning the king for release.22 Feeling ‘sickly and infirm in body’ he drew up his will on 1 Mar. 1635, and died three days later.23 He was buried at Barking. His son John succeeded to his estate, and later to his office; he fought as a royalist in the Civil War, but no later member of the Parsloes branch entered Parliament.24 A portrait of Fanshawe attributed to Cornelius Johnson is at Valence House Museum in Dagenham, Essex.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Christ Church, Newgate, London ed. W.A. Littledale (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxi), 32.
  • 2. I. Temple database of admiss.
  • 3. Vis. Eng. and Wales, Notes ed. F.A. Crisp, vi.152-4; St. Olave, Hart Street, London (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlvi), 260.
  • 4. Vis. Eng. and Wales, vi. 152.
  • 5. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 67.
  • 6. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, pp. 239, 288.
  • 7. Lancs. RO, QSC 4-20.
  • 8. C231/4, f. 171; C181/5, f. 106; HMC 10th Rep. IV, 502-5.
  • 9. C193/12/2, f. 29v.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 108.
  • 11. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 528.
  • 12. CJ, i. 478a; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 187-8.
  • 13. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 170, 282, 391.
  • 14. Jnl. of Nicholas Assheton ed. F.R. Raines (Chetham Soc. xiv), 55.
  • 15. H.C. Fanshawe, Hist. Fanshawe Fam. 249-51.
  • 16. CD 1621, iii. 110.
  • 17. CJ, i. 679b, 694b, 790a.
  • 18. Ibid. 815a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 228.
  • 19. W.S. Weeks, Clitheroe in Seventeenth Cent. 226-8
  • 20. Lancs. RO, MBC/79.
  • 21. C115/106/8445.
  • 22. HMC Cowper, ii. 46; CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 387.
  • 23. PROB 11/214, f. 311v.
  • 24. Vis. Eng. and Wales, vi. 153; CCC, 1299.
  • 25. Fanshawe Fam. Portraits comp. J. Howson, 4 and plate.