FLEETWOOD, Sir William II (c.1566-1630), of Great Missenden, Bucks.

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. c.1566,1 1st. s. of William Fleetwood† of Great Missenden and Bacon House, Foster Lane, London, and Marian, da. of John Barley of Kingsey, Bucks.2 educ. M. Temple 1584; travelled abroad (Neths.) 1592;3 MA Oxf. 1605.4 m. Anne (bur. 13 Mar. 1622), da. Ralph Barton† of Smithhills Hall, Lancs., 7s. (4 d.v.p.) 7da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1594.5 kntd. 9 June 1603.6 d. 13 Dec. 1630.7 sig. Will[ia]m Fletewoode.

Offices Held

J.p. Bucks. 1603-22,8 by 1625-9,9 Berks. by c.1604-at least c. 1611, Mdx. by c.1604-at least 1608,10 Evesham, Worcs. 1605;11 commr. inquiry, lands of Thomas 15th Lord Grey of Wilton, Bucks. 1603, sewers, Oxon. and Berks. 1604, Bucks., Herts., Mdx. 1609-25, Herts. 1617, inquiry, lands of the Gunpowder plotters, Bucks. 1606,12 charitable uses, Berks. 1607-12, 1617, 1626-7, Bucks. 1621, 1629-30,13 subsidy, Bucks. 1608, 1621-2, 1624, 1626;14 steward, Haddenham, Bucks. 1612;15 commr. oyer and terminer, Hertford, Herts. 1620;16 sheriff, Bucks. 1622-3;17 commr. Forced Loan, Bucks. 1627;18 commr. swans, Eng. except the West Country 1629.19

Surveyor gen., duchy of Cornw. 1610-12.20

Member, Virg. Co. by 1610.21


The Fleetwoods were resident in Preston, Lancashire by the 1390s, where this Member’s great-uncle Thomas was elected to Parliament in 1553. Fleetwood’s grandfather moved to London and became clerk of the petty bag.22 Fleetwood’s father served as recorder of London and was one of the most prominent parliamentarians of the Elizabethan period, sitting eight times. He acquired the site of the former Abbey of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, where he was buried in 1594.23

Fleetwood’s brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Chaloner*, was probably already in contact with James VI before the latter’s accession to the English throne in 1603. Presumably as a result, James visited Fleetwood at Great Missenden in June 1603. Later that year Chaloner was appointed governor to the young Prince Henry and Fleetwood’s brother Thomas was named as the prince’s solicitor.24 Consequently Fleetwood was already connected to the Court when Parliament was summoned in 1604. This may explain why he was chosen for the junior county seat at the Buckinghamshire election on 22 February. The sheriff had originally proposed for the first place the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir John Fortescue, but Fortescue had been rejected by the freeholders in favour of Sir Francis Goodwin. It is possible that the Buckinghamshire electors hoped that by returning Fleetwood for the second seat their rejection of Fortescue would be considered less unpalatable at Court. In addition, as it has been suggested that Fleetwood was linked to the ‘Grey-Goodwin network’ in Buckinghamshire politics, which had long been feuding with Fortescue. In the event, the return was rejected by Chancery because of Goodwin’s supposed outlawry but Fleetwood’s own election was never disputed.25

Fleetwood’s cousin and namesake, Sir William Fleetwood I of Cranford-le-Mote, Middlesex, also sat during the first Jacobean Parliament, and consequently it is difficult to identify precisely this Member’s contribution to the proceedings of the House. However, it was certainly Fleetwood who first raised the issue of the Buckinghamshire election dispute in the Commons on 22 March. Fleetwood wanted Goodwin to be admitted to the Commons and successfully moved for the clerk of the Crown in Chancery, the officer to whom returns were sent, to be summoned to appear before the House the following day.26 Moreover, it was almost certainly this Member who argued the following day that the original election of Goodwin and himself was legally valid because it had been made ‘in the full county’ and that, despite his outlawry, Goodwin was ‘able to give good counsel and advice’ in Parliament. He also argued that the second writ was void because it had been issued before the date of return for the first.27 It was presumably Fleetwood who received six committee appointments relating to the dispute between 27 Mar. and 12 April.28

Fleetwood received at least two further committee appointments in the 1604 session. On 27 Mar. he was named to consider Sir Thomas Shirley I’s privilege case and, on 14 June, both men were nominated to consider the bill to prohibit married men to reside in colleges.29 Moreover, it may have Fleetwood who contributed to the proceedings concerning purveyance, as this was certainly an issue which interested him in subsequent Parliaments. On 7 May he or his namesake was included among the Members who ‘could make pregnant proof of the several articles’ against the purveyors.30 Eleven days later either he or his cousin spoke in favour of composition, proposing the sum of £20,000, presumably per annum, and on 2 June one or other of them unsuccessfully seconded Hare’s motion for a vote of two subsidies ‘to be cleared of the purveyors’.31

In July 1604, following the end of the session Fleetwood, together with the Scottish courtier Sir David Foulis, soon to become Fleetwood’s brother-in-law, reported to Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil†) on the increasing cost of the king’s Household.32 The following year he was awarded an honorary MA when the king visited Oxford.33

The only certain reference to Fleetwood in the records of the second session of the 1604-10 Parliament is his appointment on 18 Apr. to the bill for Foulis’ naturalization.34 In addition, it was probably this Member who was named on 17 Mar. to consider the bill concerning the St. Bees grammar school in Cumberland, which was promoted by Chaloner.35 Neither man made any recorded speeches. There are no unambiguous references to Fleetwood in the records of the third session.36

By 1610 Sir William Fleetwood I was bankrupt and consequently probably did not attend the Commons. All references to ‘Sir William Fleetwood’ in the records of the fourth session can therefore presumably be attributed to this Member. He received ten committee appointments, of which six were for private bills, including two naturalization measures for Scottish members of the Prince Henry’s Household (21 Apr. and 15 June).37 On 3 May Fleetwood successfully moved for a committee to examine the Lords amendments to the bill to confirm conveyances made by a Berkshire landowner, William Essex. It is possible that Chaloner had an interest in this measure, as he, unlike Fleetwood, had been named to the committee when it was originally considered by the Commons. Both men were named to the new committees and Fleetwood successfully reported in favour of the changes the following day.38

In September 1610 Prince Henry was granted the lands of the duchy of Cornwall and consequently a new administration had to be created to manage his extensive estates. In December Fleetwood was appointed surveyor general of Henry’s estates.39 However, his service was cut short by the death of Henry two years later, and on 18 Dec. 1612 he wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton* lamenting that he could ‘never hope for any such opportunity’ again.40 There is no evidence that he sought election to the Addled Parliament.

Fleetwood was re-elected for Buckinghamshire in 1620. He was nominated to 14 committees and made 13 recorded speeches. On 7 Feb. he moved for a survey of the legislation of the 1604-10 Parliament.41 In the supply debate nine days later he asked for assurances that the Parliament would sit in May, presumably afraid that the Royal Assent to the subsidy bill would bring the session to an end before any other legislation could be passed.42

Fleetwood’s activity in the 1621 Parliament was principally directed towards promoting two bills, one concerning purveyance of carriages and the other against imprisonment without cause. The purveyance bill was intended to regulate hiring of transport for the use of the Crown, an issue of particular importance in counties near London through which the king’s progresses frequently passed. Prices were to be fixed by the justices of the peace and kept under regular review to ensure that they kept pace with inflation. Fleetwood successfully moved for the second reading on 21 Apr., when he delivered a petition from the Buckinghamshire grand jury. He argued that it was ‘a greater burden in some places than an annual subsidy’ and also pointed out that it had been the subject of a bill of grace offered by the king in 1614. Not surprisingly he was named to the committee.43

Fleetwood reported the bill on 12 May and in the ensuing debate assured the Members that a clause, apparently considered prejudicial to the Board of Greencloth, had been deleted and there was ‘nothing that can distaste the king’ in the measure, whereupon it was ordered to be engrossed.44 Fleetwood again successfully defended the measure at third reading on 25 May against the criticism of the solicitor general, (Sir) Robert Heath, that it infringed the king’s prerogative. He argued that the prerogative did not extend to the price of hiring transport because according to ‘the law of god and reason ... the labourer should have his hire’ and any law to the contrary was ‘a void thing’. He also defended shifting regulation of purveyance from the Board of Greencloth to the justices of the peace, asserting that the latter were trusted with issues of much greater importance and they could be removed by the king if they displeased him.45

Fleetwood was the principal promoter of the bill to confirm the 29th chapter of Magna Carta, the clause protecting subjects from unlawful imprisonment, which was given its first reading on 30 April. Francis, 2nd Baron Russell of Thornhaugh (Sir Francis Russell*), in a marginal annotation to Pym’s diary, wrote that it was ‘put in by that able man Sir William Fleetwood’.46 It is possible that Fleetwood was inspired by his father, who had probably been responsible for a treatise attacking the authority of the governors of Bridewell hospital for contravening the same chapter.47 The bill’s full title was ‘an act for better securing of the subjects from wrongful imprisonment and deprivation of trades and occupation’ and it included provision for offenders to pay their victims ten times as much as the latter’s lost earnings, suggesting it was primarily intended to protect tradesmen from arbitrary arrest by monopolists and patentees. It did not extend to cases of high treason, indicating that Fleetwood was not concerned about arbitrary arrest for political reasons.48

The bill was given a second reading on 5 May, when Fleetwood was named to the committee and the text was delivered to him.49 He reported it on 28 May with an additional proviso to enable privy councillors to imprison for reasons of state without showing due cause, but it was recommitted.50 Fleetwood reported it again on 27 Nov. when it was ordered to be engrossed, and three days later he successfully moved for a third reading.51 Fleetwood tried to send it to the Lords on 12 Dec., but as a result of the House’s refusal to proceed with business in protest against James’s denial of their right to discuss foreign policy, he was ignored.52

Fleetwood made two other recorded speeches. On 28 May he reported the bill against the import of corn, stating that the committee could not come to a resolution and successfully moving for it to be recommitted to the whole House.53 The following day he opposed the bill for finding arms.54

In the aftermath of the 1621 Parliament Fleetwood was summoned before the Privy Council for failing to contribute to the Palatinate Benevolence. He evidently gave an unsatisfactory answer as he was removed from the Buckinghamshire bench in April 1622.55 In addition he was pricked as sheriff the following November. Although no longer a justice he was nevertheless again re-elected for Buckinghamshire in 1624.

Fleetwood made seven recorded speeches and received 26 committee appointments in the fourth Jacobean Parliament. On 23 Feb. he was named to the privileges committee and two days latter he moved for the enfranchisement of three Buckinghamshire boroughs, Amersham, Great Marlow and Wendover, which had petitioned for representation in 1621.56 The case was referred to the privileges committee and when Glanville reported back on 4 May, Fleetwood successfully moved for writs to be sent to the boroughs.57

Fleetwood was evidently concerned about the status of the 1621 Parliament, which James I had asserted was merely a convention because, although legislation had been passed, the refusal of the Commons to conduct business in December had ensured that the temporary legislation had not been re-enacted. Following the second reading of the Sabbath observance bill on 24 Feb., Fleetwood questioned the clause for its continuance until the end of the next session, warning that ‘the king peradventure will not call it a session, and though in conscience we think it so, yet are we bound to call it otherwise’. When he stated that the king’s Proclamation had ‘bred trouble in the country’ he was referring to events in Buckinghamshire, where the justices had allegedly refused to execute the statutes that had not been re-enacted in 1621 at the sessions of the peace held in May 1622. Although Fleetwood had not been a justice at the time he would undoubtedly have heard of the incident.58

On 24 Feb. Fleetwood moved for the re-introduction of the bills concerning imprisonment and purveyance of carts.59 He was named to the committee for the latter measure on 8 Mar. and attended a meeting two days later.60 He successfully reported the bill on 13 Mar. but it failed to pass the Lords.61 On 9 Mar. he had been appointed to consider the revived imprisonment bill and reported it eight days later. However, the bill was recommitted and did not emerge before the end of the Parliament.62 In addition Fleetwood also reported the bill to prevent the infanticide of illegitimate children on 4 May, which he had been appointed to consider four days before. This time he was more successful and the measure was ordered to be engrossed.63

Fleetwood was not re-elected in 1625. Nevertheless the following November (Sir) Arthur Ingram* and Sir Benjamin Rudyard* reported that he would be among those prominent former Members of the Commons chosen as sheriffs to disable them from sitting in the 1626 Parliament. Rudyard stated that Fleetwood would be required to serve as sheriff of Lancashire, but Fleetwood seems only to have held leasehold property in that county, and perhaps for that reason he was not pricked. However, though he remained eligible to stand for election, Fleetwood did not sit in the second Caroline Parliament.64

In late 1627 Fleetwood clashed with the deputy lieutenants of Buckinghamshire over coat and conduct money. When the latter threatened to report him to the Privy Council, Fleetwood gave a defiant answer, writing on 14 Dec. ‘in the name of God, therefore, certify what you please’. Sir Francis Goodwin, who was one of the deputies, advised his colleagues that if they proceeded ‘we shall be sure that markets in the country and ordinary tables at London will ring of our letters’, and the matter was dropped.65

On 8 Feb. 1628 Fleetwood wrote to the Council himself detailing his disputes with local army officers over billeting. He argued that no man could be legally compelled to accept soldiers into his house and was alarmed that a captain had asserted that soldiers were not subject to the authority of a justice of the peace. If this view were to be officially upheld, he added, he wished to be relieved of his office. The same day the Council issued a warrant for Fleetwood’s arrest, although he was discharged without further proceeding on 16 February.66

A week later Fleetwood was re-elected for Buckinghamshire for the third time. He made ten recorded speeches and received 27 committee appointments, including his addition to a private bill on 23 June, to which he had been named on 10 May.67 Speaking at the committee for the whole House concerning the liberty of the subject on 25 Mar., Fleetwood argued that it was contrary to medieval statutes for anyone to be compelled to serve overseas, but he was contradicted by his fellow Buckinghamshire Member, Sir Edward Coke.68 On 3 Apr. he was named to the committee to consider what was to be done to secure the liberty and property of the subject and, on 25 Apr., he was among those instructed to draft a bill to that purpose, successfully moving for a resolution that the resulting measure should be reported back to the committee of the whole House.69 The following day, after the draft had been read, he turned to the thorny question of the Crown’s power to imprison, which, following the Forced Loan, he clearly found much more worrying under Charles than he had under James. He proposed as a form of words that none should be ‘committed, etc., by command of the king but for some crime for which he may be indicted or come to his trial by some statute or law of the land’.70 He evidently welcomed the Petition of Right, moving, on 7 May, that it should include the impressment of Loan refusers and imprisonment for failure to pay coat and conduct money.71 Speaking at the committee appointed to draft the bill for finding arms on 10 June, he proposed a short bill ‘to enforce all men to arm themselves fit against an enemy’, suggesting that he saw little need for a formal militia.72

Fleetwood does not seem to have been driven by any particular animus against the duke of Buckingham. On 5 June, following the king’s message against undertaking further business, Fleetwood called for a reading of the Commons’ Protestation of December 1621, asserting the House’s right to control its own agenda. However, according to one source he rebuked Benjamin Valentine for moving for Buckingham to be declared the common enemy of the kingdom. This speech was attributed to Edward Whitby in another diary, but six days later Fleetwood urged caution over naming the duke in the House’s Remonstrance, asking ‘shall we charge him with all particulars?’. He agreed that Buckingham was guilty of appointing Catholics to public offices, but advised his colleague’s to ‘condemn him no further than we can prove him so’.73

Following Coke’s report on Sir Thomas Monson’s* patent for drafting judicial documents at the Council in the North on 30 May, Fleetwood expressed scepticism that Monson received no benefit from it, stating that ‘I marvel why he [Monson] should desire it’. He successfully moved for the whole patent to be put to the question, which was condemned as a grievance.74

Fleetwood chaired the committee to consider the petitions from the Goldsmiths and currency dealers against the earl of Holland’s (Henry Rich*) patent to establish a public exchanger, to which he was appointed on 13 June. When he reported back ten days later he complained that ‘for want of presence of lawyers’ the committee had been unable to resolve whether the patent was legal, although it had concluded that it was ‘an inconvenience and abuse in execution’.75 In the 1629 session Fleetwood received three committee appointments.76 He made no recorded speeches, but in the final dramatic day of the session he picked up Sir John Eliot’s declaration, which the latter had thrown on the floor, and brought it to the chair.77

The following November Fleetwood was again summoned before the Privy Council, although the cause is not known, and a month later he was purged from the bench.78 He died a year later. In his will, dated 8 Dec. 1630, he ordered that none ‘should wear any blacks for me for seeing that death is the passage unto eternal life the which I do believe that I shall enjoy together with the elect children of god’. Fleetwood was buried, in accordance with his wishes, at Great Missenden on 15 December.79 None of his descendants sat in Parliament until John Fleetwood was elected for Buckinghamshire in 1713.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Ben Coates



  • 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to the M. Temple.
  • 2. Lancs. and Cheshire Fun. Certs. ed. T.W. King and F.R. Raines (Chetham Soc. lxxv), 28; Oxford DNB sub. Fleetwood, William; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. lviii), 55.
  • 3. Poems of Sir John Davies ed. R. Krueger, pp. xxviii-xxix.
  • 4. Al. Ox.
  • 5. Vis. Bucks. (Harl. lviii), 55; Soc. Gen. Great Missenden par. reg.; Lancs. and Cheshire Fun. Certs. 28.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 110.
  • 7. WARD 7/80/169.
  • 8. C231/1, f. 150v; 231/4, f. 138.
  • 9. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 4; Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry 1625-40 ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv-vii), 64.
  • 10. C66/1620; 66/1898; SP14/33, f. 42.
  • 11. G. May, Descriptive Hist. Town of Evesham, 468-9.
  • 12. C181/1, ff. 78, 85, 130v; 181/2, ff. 90, 297v; 181/3, f. 184.
  • 13. C93/3/13; 93/5/4; 93/7/1; 93/8/15; 93/10/22; 93/11/13; 93/12/6.
  • 14. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23; E115/92/91.
  • 15. E315/310, f. 66.
  • 16. C181/3, f. 14v.
  • 17. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 9.
  • 18. C193/12/2, f. 3v.
  • 19. C181/3, f. 269.
  • 20. T. Birch, Life of Prince Henry (1760), p. 218; LC2/4/6, f. 34.
  • 21. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 466.
  • 22. Docs. Relating to Priory of Penwortham ed. W.A. Hulton, (Chetham Soc. xxx), p. lii; HP Commons, 1509-58, ii. 147.
  • 23. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 133-8; VCH Bucks. ii. 351.
  • 24. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, i. 193; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 32.
  • 25. CJ, i. 161a-b; L.L. Peck, ‘Goodwin v. Fortescue: the Local Context of Parlty. Controversy’, PH, iii. 33, 44.
  • 26. CJ, i. 149a; CD 1604-7, pp. 21, 53.
  • 27. CD 1604-7, p. 23.
  • 28. CJ, i. 156b, 157a, 160a, 161a, 166b, 169b.
  • 29. Ibid. 155b, 238b.
  • 30. Ibid. 202a.
  • 31. Ibid. 975a, 984b.
  • 32. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 188; Soc. Gen. Great Missenden par. reg.
  • 33. Wood, Fasti. 315.
  • 34. CJ, i. 300a.
  • 35. Ibid. 285b; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, pp. 443-4.
  • 36. CJ, i. 324b, 326b, 328b, 329a, 347b, 373a.
  • 37. Ibid. 419b, 439b; Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in Eng. and Ire. ed. W.A. Shaw (Huguenot Soc. of London xviii), 14.
  • 38. CJ, i. 394b, 424b, 429b.
  • 39. G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean Pheonix’, in Estates of English Crown ed. R.W. Hoyle, 269-72.
  • 40. SP14/71/66.
  • 41. CJ, i. 511b.
  • 42. Ibid. 523b.
  • 43. Kyle thesis, 409-10; CJ, i. 585b; CD 1621, ii. 308-9.
  • 44. CJ, i. 619a; CD 1621, iii. 235.
  • 45. CD 1621, iii. 306-7; iv. 373-4.
  • 46. Ibid. iv. 274.
  • 47. Oxford DNB sub Fleetwood, William.
  • 48. CD 1621, v. 113.
  • 49. CJ, i. 610a.
  • 50. Ibid. 628b; CD 1621, ii. 397; Kyle thesis, 293.
  • 51. CJ, i. 647a, 652b.
  • 52. Ibid. 661b.
  • 53. CD 1621, iii. 322-3; CJ, i. 628b.
  • 54. CD 1621, iii. 343.
  • 55. SP14/127/44.
  • 56. CJ, i. 673a; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 22.
  • 57. CJ, i. 697b, 717b.
  • 58. ‘Nicholas 1624’, f. 7; Holles 1624, p. 2; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 415; SP14/131/90, 92.
  • 59. CJ, i. 672b.
  • 60. Ibid. 679a; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 195.
  • 61. CJ, i. 685a.
  • 62. Ibid 680a.
  • 63. Ibid 778b, 783a.
  • 64. Procs. 1625, pp. 725-6; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 240; PROB 11/159, f. 118v.
  • 65. Letters and Pprs. of Verney Fam. ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lvi), 127-8.
  • 66. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 551-2; APC, 1627-8, pp. 276, 283.
  • 67. CD 1628, iii. 355, 425.
  • 68. Ibid. ii. 103, 108.
  • 69. Ibid. 277; iii. 123, 140.
  • 70. Ibid. iii. 157.
  • 71. Ibid. 311.
  • 72. Ibid. iv. 229.
  • 73. Ibid. iv. 120, 125, 255-6.
  • 74. Ibid. iv. 27.
  • 75. Ibid. 289, 366, 425, 427.
  • 76. CJ, i. 922a, 928a, 930a.
  • 77. CD 1629, p. 240.
  • 78. APC, 1629-30, p. 183.
  • 79. PROB 11/159, ff. 118-20; Soc. Gen. Great Missenden par. reg.