FORTESCUE, Sir William (c.1562-1629), of Salden House, Mursley, Bucks.; Westminster and Clerkenwell, Mdx.

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.1562, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir John Fortescue* and his 1st w. Cecilia, da. of Sir Edmund Ashfield† of Ewelme, Oxon.; bro. of Francis† and Thomas†.1 educ. Gloucester Hall, Oxf. 1578, aged 16; I. Temple 1581.2 unm. kntd. 17 Nov. 1600.3 bur. 4 June 1629.4

Offices Held

Kpr. of Hatfield House, Herts. (jt.) 1593-1607;5 freeman, Sudbury, Suff. 1593;6 surveyor, duchy of Lancaster (north) 1603-4; feodary of Duchy lands, Beds. and Bucks. June-Nov. 1604;7 steward of Suttons Court, Berks. 1604;8 surveyor of Crown lands, Wilts. 1604-10;9 kpr. Hanslope Park, Bucks. 1607-d.;10 j.p. Bucks. by 1614-21.11

Capt. of ft. [I] 1599-1603;12 esq. of the body by 1603.13


A younger son of limited means, Fortescue was dependent on his father for office and election to Parliament. John Minsheu, who dedicated his Spanish-English dictionary to him, described him as ‘the mirror of a good mind’, and credited him with inheriting his father’s memory and integrity.14 However, his career in Ireland, where he served as a captain of foot, seems, despite his knighthood, to have been undistinguished, and he was not rewarded with a pension.15 Elected to the first Stuart Parliament for the borough of Stockbridge through his father’s patronage as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Fortescue left no mark upon the records of the first two sessions. On 30 May 1607, however, he was appointed to the committee for the bill to ratify the transfer of Theobalds from Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury to the king in exchange for Hatfield House, where he served as joint keeper.16 Later in the session he was ordered to consider a bill to limit the use of leather (1 July). His only other committee nomination was for the purveyance bill in the fourth session (26 Feb. 1610).17

His father’s death in 1607 deprived Fortescue of a parliamentary patron, and he probably never stood again. He inherited Salden House at Mursley in Buckinghamshire, and also lived in Clerkenwell, where he was lay impropriator.18 In 1611 he was left lands in Berkshire by his uncle Thomas†, but he seems to have disposed of them before his death.19 He was pricked for sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1617 but was subsequently excused, and following the accession of Charles I in 1625 he ceased to sit on the county bench, perhaps because his brother’s Catholicism raised doubts over his own religious convictions.20 Having inherited the manor of Torrington in Devon, he became embroiled in protracted litigation over the operation of mills in the town during the last decade of his life.21 He retained lodgings in his father’s old office of the Wardrobe, and may have died there.22 In his will, dated 1 Mar. 1628, he left £6 to the poor of Mursley, where he was buried on 4 June 1629, and his servants were generously treated; but it is clear that he was of only modest means.23 No later member of this branch of the family entered Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 58; T. Fortescue [Lord Clermont], Hist. Fortescue Fam. 253.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 98; CSP Ire. 1600-1, p. 38.
  • 4. PROB 11/156, f. 7v.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, xiii. 483; SC6/Jas.I/1646, f. 32v; SC6/Jas.I/1648 unfol.
  • 6. Suff. Inst. Arch. Procs. xiii. 285.
  • 7. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 74, 196.
  • 8. E315/310, f. 3v.
  • 9. Lansd. 168, f. 366v; SP14/45/24.
  • 10. VCH Bucks. iv. 37; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 506.
  • 11. C66/1988; C193/13/1.
  • 12. CSP Ire. 1599-1600, p. 192; 1601-3, pp. 18, 187, 523; 1606-8, p. 538
  • 13. LC2/4/4, f. 70v.
  • 14. R. Percyvall, Dict. in Spanish and English (1599), STC 19620.
  • 15. HMC Hatfield, viii. 525; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 113; CSP Ire. 1606-8, p. 538.
  • 16. CJ, i. 377a.
  • 17. Ibid. 389b, 400a.
  • 18. W.J. Pinks, Clerkenwell, 32, 347, 598.
  • 19. PROB 11/117, f. 407v.
  • 20. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 9.
  • 21. E134/16 Jas.1/Mich./21; 134/16 Jas.1/Hilary/10; 134/2 Chas.1/Easter/1.
  • 22. LC5/51, p. 338.
  • 23. PROB 11/156, f. 7v; Add. 5840, f. 96.