GAWDY, Philip (1562-1617), of West Harling, Norf. and Whitehall; later of Chancery Lane, London

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. 13 July 1562, 2nd s. of Bassingbourne Gawdy† (d.1590) of West Harling and his 1st w. Anne, da. of John Wootton of Tuddenham, Norf.; bro. of Sir Bassingbourne*.1 educ. Clifford’s Inn; I. Temple 1579.2 m. c.1597, Bridget (bur. 11 June 1609), da. of Bartholomew Strangman of Hadleigh, Essex, 3s. (1 d.v.p.), 5da. (1 d.v.p.). d. 27 May 1617.3

Offices Held

Vol. Azores 1591.4

Freeman, Eye, Suff. 1594;5 under-sheriff, Norf. 1609-10.6

Esquire of the body by 1603-at least 1604.7


As a younger son Gawdy inherited only an annuity of 100 marks from his father. He became a courtier, securing the post of esquire of the body by the end of the Elizabethan period. On the queen’s death, having sat in the previous four parliaments for East Anglian boroughs, his thoughts quickly turned to securing his re-election to Parliament, which the new king was widely expected to summon shortly after his accession. Consequently, on 25 Mar. 1603, before James had left Scotland, he wrote to his brother Bassingbourne, asking him to obtain either his election for Thetford, which borough Gawdy had represented twice before, or Sir Nicholas Bacon’s† nomination at Eye, for which town Gawdy had sat in 1593. In the event, however, Parliament was not summoned until 1604, when Gawdy seems to have stood neither at Eye nor Thetford, where Bassingbourne himself was only elected after a contest. Instead, he was returned at Dunwich, probably thanks to the support of his brother’s friend, Sir Edward Coke*. On 20 Feb. 1604 he wrote triumphantly to his brother: ‘I know a poor younger brother that had a free election for a place without the opposition of any body’.8

Gawdy was only mentioned once in the records of the 1604 session, on 15 May, when he was named to the committee for the bill for the restitution of Lord William Howard.9 On 6 Apr. he wrote to his brother describing the conference with the judges at Whitehall on the Buckinghamshire election dispute the previous day, to which he himself had not been appointed to attend. He stated that Sir Francis Bacon had spoken ‘wonderfully well’ and that James had been ‘somewhat angry at first’. Nevertheless, the matter had been pacified, as the king and the House had agreed to hold a new election. On 3 July Gawdy reported on the end of session feast at Merchant Taylor’s Hall for a ‘hundred of the best of us of the Parliament House’. Each Member invited had paid 10s., and the king, hearing of the feast, ‘hath given us a brace of bucks to the supper to make merry withal, and sent besides a hogshead of wine’. Eight days later he described the prorogation, at which ‘Mr. Speaker made a speech to the king savouring no more of flattery than good porridge doth of herbs and oatmeal’. All the bills passed by the Parliament had received the Royal Assent ‘save only three, the statute for gold and silver lace, the oath of the supremacy for all such as hereafter should be restored in blood, and a statute that was made about the measuring of oats’.10

In the second session Gawdy was appointed to his only other committee in the Stuart period, this being a bill to confirm a Chancery decree obtained by a Norfolk squire, William Le Grys (17 Feb. 1606). He was given leave on his own motion to attend the assizes on 14 Mar. 1607, and granted privilege later in the same session against a Norfolk yeoman who had served him with a subpoena.11 Despite this minimal activity, he was sufficiently well-known in the Commons to earn a reference in the ‘Parliament Fart’ poem, where he is said to have ‘stroked the old stubble of his face’ before declaring the fart to be ‘well penned’. This caricature suggests that Gawdy was conspicuous both for the brevity of his speeches, none of which were recorded, and the slovenliness of his appearance.12 He may have retired from the Court in 1606 on the death of his uncle Anthony†, who appointed him executor and residuary legatee. He left no further trace on the records of Parliament.13

Gawdy described himself in March 1613 as ‘going somewhat earnestly about’ a second marriage, but it never came off, and a year later he was so dangerously ill as to be reported dead. Nevertheless, he wrote to his nephew Framlingham* in February 1614 to have a care of securing a seat in the Addled Parliament ‘because there are many [that] labour for places in the House’.14 He was re-elected himself for Dunwich ‘at his own request and that of Sir Edward Coke’, but played no known part in his last Parliament.15 He died of a surfeit in his lodgings in Chancery Lane on 27 May 1617, and was buried at St. Dunstan-in-the-West. He left no formal will, but on the last day of his life he signed letters of attorney authorizing three trustees to collect £400 owed to him by one of his nephews. Neither of his two surviving sons entered Parliament. The elder son spent most of his life as an ensign in the Dutch army, and the younger became a clergyman.16

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. P. Millican, ‘Gawdys of Norf. and Suff.’, Norf. Arch. xxvi. 351 356.
  • 2. I. Temple database of admiss.
  • 3. Millican, 357-9, 361; Memorials St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 492.
  • 4. HMC 7th Rep. 521.
  • 5. Letters of Philip Gawdy ed. I.H. Jeayes, 84.
  • 6. Millican, 356.
  • 7. LC2/4/4, f. 47v; LC2/4/5, p. 65.
  • 8. Letters of Philip Gawdy, 127, 142.
  • 9. CJ, i. 211a.
  • 10. Letters of Philip Gawdy, 143, 147-8.
  • 11. CJ, i. 269b, 352b, 371b.
  • 12. J. Mennes, Musarum Deliciae, 69.
  • 13. Millican, 351.
  • 14. Letters of Philip Gawdy, 174-5.
  • 15. HMC Var. vii. 93.
  • 16. Millican, 358-63.