PARRY, Sir Thomas (1541-1616), of Hampstead Marshall, Berks. and Lambeth, Surr.

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



4 Jan. 1610
1614 - 11 May 1614

Family and Education

b. 3 Nov. 1541,1 1st s. of Sir Thomas Parry† alias Vaughan of Welford, Berks., treas. of the Household 1559-60, and Anne, da. of Sir William Reade of Boarstall, Bucks., wid. of Sir Giles Greville of Lasborough, Glos. and Sir Adrian Fortescue of Brightwell, Oxon.; half-bro. of Sir John Fortescue* and Thomas Fortescue†.2 educ. Winchester 1558, ‘aged 14’;3 travelled abroad (Low Countries, Italy) 1560-1.4 m. Dorothy (d.1624),5 da. of one Broke of Bristol, maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth, s.p.; 1s. illegit.6 suc. fa. 1560;7 kntd. bef. 20 Oct. 1597.8 d. 31 May 1616.9

Offices Held

J.p. Berks. c.1573-d., Mdx. by 1610-14;10 commr. musters, Berks. 1573, Mdx. 1614;11 sheriff, Berks. 1576-7, 1588-9,12 collector, Privy Seal Loan 1590, 1598;13 dep. lt. 1593-?d.;14 commr. oyer and terminer, Oxf. circ. by 1602-d.,15 the Verge 1610-d.,16 steward, Blewbery manor and Reading hundred, Berks. 1603;17 commr. sewers, Oxon. and Berks. 1604-12, London 1606, 1615, Lea valley, Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1609, Westminster 1611, Surrey 1613,18 subsidy, Berks., London and Mdx. 1608,19 new buildings, London 1608,20 charitable uses, Berks. 1609, 1612,21 annoyances, Surr. 1611, Mdx. 1613.22

Commr. piracy 1601, 1609, 1614, 1615;23 amb. France 1602-6;24 chan., duchy of Lancaster 1607-d.; PC 1607-d.;25 commr. expulsion of Jesuits 1610;26 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1611-at least 1613;27 commr. to enfranchise copyholders 1612,28 augmentation of revenue 1612.29

Member, French Co. 1611.30


Parry was descended from an illegitimate branch of the Breconshire Vaughans. His father, a servant of Princess Elizabeth, leased the ex-monastic manor of Welford in 1546, and was granted the Crown manor of Hampstead Marshall in 1560.31 Despite marrying a courtier, Parry did not immediately follow his father into high office but remained a mere country gentleman for the first 60 years of his life, inheriting lands in Gloucestershire, Monmouth and Wales in addition to the aforementioned Berkshire estates.32 He did not welcome being selected to succeed Sir Henry Neville I* at the Paris embassy; in May 1601 he was reported to have refused to go, but he was formally appointed in January 1602, and, after delaying his departure for many months his objections were finally overruled in the following August.33 His hostility to Spain made him acceptable to the French king.34 He remained in post following the accession of James I, and was therefore absent during the elections to the first Stuart Parliament. However, the king’s chief minister, Lord Cecil (Robert Cecil†) wrote to him explaining the dispute between James and the Commons over the return for Buckinghamshire of his half-brother, Sir John Fortescue.35 His ambassadorial duties proved expensive, and by August 1604 Parry was ‘labouring’ to be recalled. His successor, Sir George Carew*, arrived in Paris towards the end of the following year, though characteristically it took Parry ten weeks to vacate the embassy, rather than the ten days he had promised.36

Parry was granted the reversion of the office of chancellor of the duchy after Fortescue in October 1607, which fell in when the latter died two months later, on 23 December. He was sworn to the Privy Council, though not without opposition, on the following day.37 Shortly thereafter he was returned at a by-election for St. Albans, where he was nominated by Sir Thomas Vavasour*, and took up his seat when Parliament reassembled in January 1610.38 His five committee appointments included two to consider naturalization bills for Scottish courtiers (20 Feb., 10 Mar.), and a private bill to settle the estate of (Sir) Hugh Plat, who had left property in his constituency (10 March).39 He was twice employed to carry bundles of bills up to the Lords, among which were the two naturalization measures (2, 29 March).40 On 27 Apr. he was chosen to consider a bill for the naturalization of ambassadors’ children, and in the committee for grievances on 22 May he was named to a sub-committee to prepare a petition of right on freedom of speech, but refused to act.41 As a privy councillor he was among those ordered to deliver the grievances to the king on 7 July.42 He was also instructed to help prepare for the conference of 19 July on the Great Contract.43 Lady Arbella Stuart was committed to his custody in July 1610 following her secret marriage to William Seymour*, and she remained in his house at Lambeth for seven months.44 Parry left no trace on the meagre records of the fifth session.

It was rumoured in 1612 that Parry, now in financial difficulties, might be driven to sell the chancellorship of the duchy to Sir Thomas Lake I* to get a protection for his debts.45 He subsequently sat on a commission for the improvement of Crown revenue, many of whose members had, as Chamberlain wryly observed, ‘given no good proof of well governing their own affairs’.46 Though he voted with the majority for the annulment of the countess of Essex’s marriage so that she could marry James’s favourite, Robert Carr, Parry was reported at the time of the general election in 1614 to stand ‘in some disfavour at Court’, and to be likely ‘to be suspended from the execution of his place as chancellor’.47 Perhaps to make amends Parry tried fully to exploit the electoral influence of the duchy of Lancaster, though his previous experience of distributing electoral patronage was limited and he probably relied to a great extent upon the advice of his staff. The loyal Lancashire boroughs of Lancaster, Preston and Wigan accepted four duchy officers between them, while Liverpool accepted his nomination of a Londoner, Edward Wymarke. When the latter chose to sit for the Staffordshire borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, where he had also been recommended by Parry, he was replaced at Liverpool by his associate Hugh Beeston, of Cheshire. At Leicester Parry also pressed the claims of the duchy, nominating Henry Felton, the underage grandson of a local peer, Lord Grey of Groby. In reply the corporation pointed out that Parry’s predecessors had ‘neither always written unto us about the choice of our burgesses neither always prevailed when they did write’,48 but they bowed to pressure and, after Felton decided to drop out, accepted Parry’s nomination of another outsider, Sir Francis Leigh I. However, at Stockbridge, in Hampshire, Parry’s interference was met with greater hostility, and caused him to dispatch a pursuivant to oversee the election. Parry requested a seat for Sir Walter Cope, master of the Wards, and sent ‘minatory letters’ to a rival candidate, Henry St. John, to warn him that ‘he should feel a greater power than he could resist, and that it would be ill taken of the state’ if he refused to stand down.49 When the electors defiantly voted to return two local candidates, Sir Richard Gifford and St. John, Parry’s servants coerced the bailiff to hold a new poll, at which Cope and Sir Henry Wallop were elected, despite considerable resistance from St. John’s supporters, some of whom were arrested and beaten.50 An unnamed duchy officer also attended the election in Sudbury, Suffolk, and although it is not known which of the candidates were Parry’s nominees, the borough records note that 3s. 6d. was dispersed on supper for ‘the chancellor’s man of the duchy’.51

Parry himself stood as a knight of the shire for Berkshire, and regained the county seat after 28 years. He was sworn by the lord high steward on the opening day with the other privy councillors, but received only one appointment, to the conference of 14 Apr. on the Palatine marriage settlement, before the storm broke about his head.52 On 9 May Nicholas Fuller reported the Stockbridge case from the committee for privileges, ‘though some moved to have it preferred [sic] because it touched Sir Thomas Parry, the chancellor of the duchy and a privy councillor’.53 A threatening letter signed by Parry was read out, and Sir Francis Goodwin moved that the bailiff and the pursuivant concerned might be committed to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms.54 Moreover, as Sir Edward Hoby, who had also represented Berkshire under Elizabeth, was leaving the House he was met by some of the Stockbridge electors, who showed him warrants signed by Parry for their imprisonment in the Fleet, whereupon Hoby returned to the chamber and demanded Parry’s withdrawal.55 Provoked into delivering what appears to have been his maiden speech, 43 years after first taking his seat, the beleaguered minister ‘moved that he might not render an account of what he had done before the men that inform against him be sent for ... and that divers of them had committed sundry misdemeanours’.56 However, he found no sympathy among subsequent speakers, especially as rumours were rife that some Members had entered into a secret undertaking to manage the Commons on behalf of the king. Sir Robert Phelips, fresh from a hard-fought election in Somerset, observed that ‘here appeared an undertaker and undertaking’, and when Parry desired to remain in the House ‘to hear what his accusers could say against him’, Thomas Malet retorted that in that case he must stand at the bar as a delinquent.57 His offence was considered so grave that after the Speaker asked him ‘twice or thrice to withdraw himself, Sir Thomas went forth without any reverence doing’.58 His servants and friends rallied to his defence the following day, but the duchy auditor William Fanshawe only made matters worse by arguing that Parry was ‘now in his age abused by bad servants’, while the duchy’s attorney Edward Mosley, who vainly insisted that the pursuivants had not been in Stockbridge ‘about the election but for abusing His Majesty’s commissioners’, was dismissed for his partiality.59 The attorney-general Sir Francis Bacon urged the House to ‘consider the person ... a councillor’s son of great age’, but James and the Council abandoned Parry to his fate, declaring that they were ‘ashamed of him’.60 Parry was ordered to attend again on 11 May to hear his sentence, but forbore to do so and was formally expelled in his absence.61 He was subsequently suspended from the chancellorship, and the king sent a message to the Commons that he was also considering expelling Parry from the Privy Council, but most of the speakers in the debate were against inflicting any further punishment.62 In future parliaments Parry’s example was cited as a precedent for the expulsion of Members who endangered the liberties of the House.63

Parry was restored as nominal head of the duchy in May 1615, though John Dackombe*, who was named in reversion to the post, probably took over the work.64 He died intestate on 31 May 1616, and was buried the following night in the former abbey of Westminster.65 Administration of his estate was granted to his widow. Hampstead Marshall passed under settlement to his nephew John Abrahall and his great-nephew Thomas Knyvett, who refused to honour his wish that a rent-charge be paid to Parry’s illegitimate son Samuel.66

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. WARD 7/8/86.
  • 2. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvii), 191.
  • 3. T.F. Kirby, Winchester Scholars, 134.
  • 4. CSP For. 1560-1, pp. 115, 530.
  • 5. Regs. Westminster Abbey, (Harl. Soc. x), 113.
  • 6. VCH Berks. iv. 118.
  • 7. WARD 7/8/86.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p.110.
  • 9. C142/356/129.
  • 10. SP12/104; 12/145, f. 66; SP14/33, f. 6; CJ, i. 435a; C66/1988.
  • 11. APC, 1571-5, p. 98; 1613-14, p. 565; HMC Foljambe, 37.
  • 12. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 6.
  • 13. APC, 1590-1, p. 187; 1597-8, p. 559; E401/2583, f. 8.
  • 14. APC, 1592-3, p. 254; SP14/33, f. 4.
  • 15. C181/1, f. 17v; 181/2, f. 232v.
  • 16. C181/2, ff. 108, 235v.
  • 17. E315/310, f. 3v.
  • 18. C181/1, f. 85; 181/2, ff. 19v, 94, 140, 153, 168v, 191, 243.
  • 19. SP14/31, ff. 2, 25v, 26v.
  • 20. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 415.
  • 21. C93/4/19; C93/5/4.
  • 22. C181/2, ff. 142, 199.
  • 23. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 2, p. 23; C181/2, ff. 101, 214, 220v.
  • 24. SP78/46, ff. 120-22; Handlist of British Diplomatic Representatives comp. G.M. Bell, 102-3.
  • 25. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 1.
  • 26. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, p. 169.
  • 27. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 356.
  • 28. C181/2, f. 171v.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 143.
  • 30. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 64.
  • 31. VCH Berks. iv. 117, 181.
  • 32. SP12/16/44.
  • 33. CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 45; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 142, 145, 149, 156.
  • 34. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 62; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 563; Stowe 167, ff. 326-9, 168, ff. 40, 58, 97, 171, 211.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 94.
  • 36. Winwood’s Memorials, ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 26, 195.
  • 37. Chamberlain Letters, i. 249; Illustrations of British History ed. E. Lodge, iii. 217.
  • 38. HALS, St. Albans corp. ms 152 (accts. 1609-10).
  • 39. CJ, i. 397b, 408b.
  • 40. LJ, ii. 559b, 573b.
  • 41. CJ, i. 422a; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 112.
  • 42. Procs. 1610, ii. 254.
  • 43. CJ, i. 452a.
  • 44. CSP Dom. 1611-19, p. 4; APC, 1616-17, p. 133; Winwood’s Memorials, iii. 201.
  • 45. Chamberlain Letters, i. 339, 369.
  • 46. Ibid. 374.
  • 47. Ibid. 469, 518.
  • 48. Leicester Bor. Recs. ed. H. Stocks, iv. 148-9.
  • 49. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 183.
  • 50. Hants RO, 44M69/G2/154.
  • 51. Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Sudbury bor. ct. bk. 4, p. 4.
  • 52. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 82.
  • 53. Ibid. 175, 180, 183, 186.
  • 54. Birch, i. 315.
  • 55. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 177, 181.
  • 56. Ibid. 181.
  • 57. Ibid. 181-2.
  • 58. Ibid. 182.
  • 59. Ibid. 187-8, 191, 195, 197.
  • 60. Ibid. 199.
  • 61. Ibid. 202-3; HMC Portland, ix. 132.
  • 62. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 204-5; SP99/16/21; Chamberlain Letters, i. 528; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 175.
  • 63. CD 1621, iv. 186; Procs. 1626, ii. 333, iii. 350.
  • 64. Carew Letters (Cam. Soc. lxxvi), 13, 34.
  • 65. Regs. Westminster Abbey ed. J. Maclean, 113; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 7.
  • 66. PROB 6/9, f. 74; C142/356/129; VCH Berks. iv. 118, 181.