GREY (GRAY), Sir John (c.1570-1611), of Bradgate, Leics.; Havering, Essex and Whitehall

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



24 Apr. 1610

Family and Education

b. c.1571,1 1st s. of Sir Henry Grey†, 1st Bar. Grey of Groby (d.1614) and Anne, da. of William Windsor†, 2nd Lord Windsor.2 educ. vol., Low Countries 1586;3 L. Inn 1589; G. Inn 1593; Padua 1593.4 m. by 1600, Elizabeth, da. of Edward Neville† of Birling, Kent, 3s. 1da.5 kntd. 1 July 1596.6 bur. 7 Oct. 1611.7

Offices Held

Vol. Cadiz 1596, 8 Low Countries 1602.9

J.p. Leics. 1598-d.,10 Essex 1607-d.;11 commr. subsidy, Leicester, Leics. 1600,12 Essex 1607-9, Leics. and Leicester 1608;13 kpr. Havering Park, Essex 1603-d.;14 commr. to inquire into lands of Henry Brooke alias Cobham, 11th Lord Cobham, Leics. 1603, into Bye-plotters 1603, Gunpowder Plotters 1606;15 steward, Stanford Rivers manor 1606-d.;16 commr. gaol delivery, Havering-atte-Bower, Essex 1607-10, oyer and terminer, Midlands Rising, Leics. 1607,17 sewers, Essex 1607-11,18 aid, Leics. 1609.19

Gent. pens. by 1599-1603;20 gent. of privy chamber 1603.21

Member, embassy to Spanish Neths. 1605;22


Grey’s ancestors were granted the Essex manor of Thurrock by Richard I in 1194, and numerous members of the family acquired peerages in the Middle Ages.23 This Member was descended from a branch that established itself in Leicestershire in the fifteenth century and became closely connected with the royal family when Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Sir John Grey, married Edward IV. Thomas Grey, 1st marquess of Dorset, was both half-brother to the princes in the Tower and brother-in-law of Henry VII. This royal connection was strengthened when Dorset’s grandson Henry Grey, subsequently 1st duke of Suffolk married a niece of Henry VIII in 1533. Although Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey, was executed in 1555 for his part in Wyatt’s rebellion, his younger brother was restored in blood after Elizabeth’s accession. The latter’s son, Sir Henry Grey†, this Member’s father, prospered at the Elizabethan Court and managed to recover most of his ancestors’ Leicestershire estates, centred around Bradgate and Groby. However, he settled in Essex, which he represented in 1589.24

In 1601 Grey stood for election for Leicestershire but was opposed by the 4th earl of Huntingdon (Sir George Hastings†), the head of the Hastings family and the Greys’ traditional rivals for pre-eminence in Leicestershire, and had to settle for a seat at Grampound.25 On 23 Mar. 1603, with the queen on her deathbed, Grey and other gentlemen, who had arrived post haste from Court, were entertained by the Leicester corporation. Presumably they were travelling north hoping to be among the first to greet the new king.26 Grey’s father was subsequently raised to the peerage as Lord Grey of Groby, and settled at Bradgate, while Grey himself was made a gentleman of the privy chamber and keeper of Havering park in Essex. He also obtained an export licence (held jointly with a Scotsman) for 10,000 pairs of duty-free shoes.27 There is no evidence that Grey attempted to obtain a seat when James summoned his first Parliament in 1604.

By the autumn of 1604 Grey’s position at Havering had brought him into conflict with Henry de Vere, 18th earl of Oxford, who wrote to Sir Michael Hickes* on 12 Oct. that he feared he had ‘drawn my lord of Cranborne’s [Robert Cecil†] displeasure upon me’, suggesting that Grey had Cranborne’s favour.28 However, his father’s attempt to secure the lord lieutenancy of Leicestershire after the death of Huntingdon at the end of that year was unavailing.29 Moreover, in 1607 Grey’s application to Cranborne, by now 1st earl of Salisbury, to favour a project to levy an imposition on whalebone was unsuccessful.30

Through his mother’s family Grey had several links with the county of Suffolk. His father was to appoint Anthony Penning of Ipswich one of his executors and his brother-in-law, Sir Anthony Felton, lived at Playford, four miles from the same town. Moreover, his cousin, the 5th Lord Windsor, was married to the cousin of Thomas Rivett, Member for Aldeburgh.31 In 1604 Grey, Rivett and the latter’s parliamentary colleague, Sir William Woodhouse, accompanied William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke on a visit to the 7th earl of Shrewsbury (Gilbert Talbot†).32

Grey was returned on 24 Apr. 1610 at the by-election for Aldeburgh occasioned by the death of his kinsman Rivett. Two weeks later, on 8 May, he received his only committee appointments of the session, these concerning the elopement bill and the explanatory recusancy bill.33 He made no recorded speeches. A few days after these appointments the feud between the Grey and Hastings families came to a head, as Grey crossed over to the Netherlands to fight a duel with Huntingdon’s cousin, Sir Henry Hastings*. John Chamberlain begged Sir Ralph Winwood*, the English representative at The Hague, to favour Grey, ‘a worthy gentleman and friend of mine, ... a man of such desert and so generally well thought of’, whereupon Winwood, with the assistance of Sir Edward Cecil*, successfully mediated a settlement of the affair.34 Grey left no further trace on the records of the Parliament, but during the recess he quarrelled with the 3rd earl of Essex, and it was reported that in consequence he would ‘find very hard opposers against any good fortune he may expect in Court’.35

It may have been to retrieve his position that Grey undertook, in June 1611, the management of the Leicestershire purveyance composition,36 but he died intestate of smallpox before this could be effected and was buried on 7 Oct. at Broughton Astley, leaving a ‘poor widow’ who married (Sir) John Bingley*, and a debt of £600 to his father-in-law. His son was created earl of Stamford in 1628, and his grandson Thomas, Lord Grey of Groby, who represented Leicester in the Long Parliament, was Pride’s chief assistant in the purge of the Commons in 1648.37

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Aged calculated from date of admiss. to L. Inn.
  • 2. CP, vi. 135-6.
  • 3. R. Strong and J.A. van Dorsten, Leicester’s Triumph (Sir Thomas Browne Inst. pubs. spec. ser. ii), 118.
  • 4. GI Admiss.; LI Admiss.; G.L. Andrich, Univ. Patavinae, 134.
  • 5. CP, xii. pt. 1, p. 217; Index to Admons. in the PCC 1609-19 ed. M. Fitch (Brit. Rec. Soc. lxxxiii), 54.
  • 6. S. and E. Usherwood, Counter-Armada, 149.
  • 7. Nichols, County of Leicester, iii. 675.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 263.
  • 9. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 150.
  • 10. C231/1, f. 52; C66/1897.
  • 11. Cal. Assize Recs. Essex Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 14, 99.
  • 12. Recs. of Bor. of Leicester ed. M. Bateson, iii. 414.
  • 13. Lansd. 90, f. 9; Eg. 2644, f. 171; SP14/31/1.
  • 14. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 18; Add. 31825, f. 35v.
  • 15. C181/1, ff. 71, 72v, 130v.
  • 16. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 207.
  • 17. C181/2, ff. 32v, 34v, 114.
  • 18. C181/2, ff. 30v, 136v.
  • 19. Recs. of Bor. of Leicester ed. H. Stock, iv. 93.
  • 20. E179/70/113; LC2/4/4.
  • 21. HMC 7th Rep. 526.
  • 22. HMC Bath, iv. 200.
  • 23. Morant, Essex, i. 95.
  • 24. Oxford DNB sub Grey, Lord John (d. 1564); HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 222-3.
  • 25. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 223-4.
  • 26. Recs. of Bor. of Leicester, iv. 10.
  • 27. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 18, 148; R. Cust, ‘Honour, Rhetoric and Political Culture: the Earl of Huntingon and his Enemies’, Pol. Culture and Culture Pols. in Early Modern Europe ed. S.D. Amussen and M.A. Kishlansky, 86-7.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 310; xxiii. 182; Lansd. 89, f. 44.
  • 29. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 387.
  • 30. Ibid. xix. 108, 485-6.
  • 31. Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 157, 190; PROB 11/124, f. 342
  • 32. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 594; Illustrations of Brit. Hist. ed. E. Lodge, iii. 103.
  • 33. CJ, i. 426a.
  • 34. HMC Buccleuch, i. 99-100; Chamberlain Letters, i. 301; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, iv. 200.
  • 35. HMC Downshire, ii. 370.
  • 36. HMC Hastings, iv. 198.
  • 37. Chamberlain Letters, i. 314; ii. 82-83; PROB 11/140, f. 353; Nichols, County of Leicester, iii. 675.