STANHOPE, Sir Michael (c.1545-1621), of the Barbican, London and Sudbourne, nr. Orford, Suff.; later of St. John's, 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.1545, 5th s. of Sir Michael Stanhope† (d.1552) of Shelford, Notts. and Anne, da. of Nicholas Rawson of Aveley, Essex; bro. of Edward sen.†, Edward jun.†, Sir John I* and Sir Thomas†.1 educ. Trin. Camb. 1561; G. Inn 1568; MA Oxf. 1592.2 m. 10 Jan. 1597, Anne (d. 28 Apr. 1616), da. and h. of Sir William Reade of Osterley, Mdx., 3da. kntd. 7 May 1603. d. 20 Dec. 1621.3

Offices Held

Member, embassy to German states 1577.4

Groom of the privy chamber c.1583-1603,5 gent. 1603-d.;6 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1613.7

J.p. Suff. c.1593-1616, 1617-d.;8 v.-adm. 1595-1619 (sole), 1619-d. (jt.);9 freeman, Ipswich, Suff. 1597,10 Orford, Suff. 1604;11 steward, manor of Trimley, Felixstowe, Suff. 1604;12 kpr. Hertingfordbury Park, Herts. 1604;13 commr. piracy, Suff. 1604, 1612, gaol delivery, Orford 1604-at least 1611,14 subsidy, Suff. and Orford 1608,15 Suff. 1621; dep. lt. Suff. by 1609-at least 1613,16 commr. sewers 1609, 1619-20,17 charitable uses 1617,18 impressment of seamen 1620.19


Stanhope was obliged, as a younger son, to follow his brother Sir John Stanhope I* into the Elizabethan Court, where he became a groom of the privy chamber.20 In 1594 he received a 20-year monopoly of the import of merino wool from Spain for the hat industry, which he subsequently described as ‘the best reward of my service’.21 He had already begun to build up a considerable estate in Middlesex and east Suffolk, including Orford Castle, by grant and purchase.22 Stanhope improved the value of the Sudbourne estate by £200 p.a. by building a sea wall ‘near a mile in length’, at a cost of £1,500, and draining the salt marshes, which rendered the air in and around his residence ‘very corrupt and contagious’.23 A cousin of Sir Edward Coke* and a connection of the Cecils by marriage, he remained at Court as a gentleman of the privy chamber under James I.24

Soon after James I ascended the throne in March 1603 rumours began to circulate that a Parliament would be summoned. Consequently, the following month Stanhope, vice admiral of Suffolk, was proposed by his deputy vice admiral as a candidate at Dunwich. The corporation, perhaps fearing that Stanhope would be returned elsewhere and try to nominate a successor, insisted that he serve in person.25 Due to a severe outbreak of the plague Parliament was not, in the event, summoned until early 1604. There is no evidence that Stanhope sought to renew his candidacy at Dunwich. On the contrary, he seems initially to have sought a seat at Ipswich. He probably withdrew in favour of Sir Francis Bacon*, and was returned instead for Orford.26

Stanhope was appointed to nine committees in the 1604-10 Parliament. In the first session he was named to consider the bill to prevent the obstruction of navigable rivers (23 June), which may have been of interest to him as his eldest brother Sir Thomas† had built a weir on the River Trent.27 Six days later he was appointed to the committee to consider the bill to enable Sir Christopher Hatton* to secure some part of lands of his cousin Sir William Hatton alias Newport†. This measure was probably of interest to Stanhope as the property concerned was then in the possession of his cousin Coke.28 Stanhope left no trace on the records of the next session. On 8 June 1606 he protested to the earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) against the transfer of his Spanish wool monopoly to another applicant, explaining that during the present reign he had not exercised it ‘by reason of the Parliament, being loath to minister matter of offence’.29 In the third session he was named to two more legislative committees, one for the continuance of the fame and memory of worthy, deceased persons (26 Nov. 1606) and the other for the relief of a Norfolk widow (4 Dec. 1606). In the fourth session he received five committee appointments. These included the bill to prevent hawking out of season (19 Apr.), which probably attracted his attention as an enthusiastic falconer.30

Stanhope was not re-elected in 1614, possibly because he was in dispute with the Orford corporation over the rent due for St. Leonard’s hospital, which he apparently had demolished.31 Shortly after the demise of his wife, Lady Anne, in April 1616 Chamberlain ascribed the paternity of her third daughter to Sir Eustace Hart, adding that ‘the world talks somewhat suspiciously’ of Anne’s death.32 Stanhope subsequently recovered his interest at Orford by endowing six almshouses and agreeing to pay £30 p.a. for the St. Leonard’s property; in 1620 two of his kinsmen were returned, his niece’s husband Sir Lionel Tollemache* and his great-nephew Sir Roger Townshend*.33

Stanhope was so crippled with gout that he was unable to sign his elaborate will on 6 Nov. 1621, or either of its two subsequent codicils, and conscious of imminent senility, he dreaded litigation, but failed to avert it. He left bequests to the poor of a dozen parishes in Suffolk, and others in Derbyshire and Middlesex. St. Bartholomew’s hospital, London was to receive £100 ‘for the care and relief of diseased, maimed, and poor persons’, and Trinity, ‘in which college I was once a scholar’, the same amount for the library, in the explicit hope that the testator’s generosity would be remembered to the advantage of his kinsfolk. Various Stanhope relatives were given token bequests and senior members of his household staff were liberally rewarded with money and land for faithful service. Even the intemperate bailiff of the home farm at Sudbourne, ‘once my horsekeeper’, received £20 with an exhortation ‘to serve God and leave drunkenness’. Tollemache was splendidly equipped for all seasons with ‘my velvet gown laid with gold lace and furred with sables and my damask gown laid with gold and black silk lace’. The executors, Tollemache and another kinsman, Thomas Cornwallis I* ‘of whose religious uprightness and conscionable justice I am to my great comfort fully persuaded’, were each to receive £100 plus £20 p.a. for three years over and above their expenses. Stanhope died on 20 Dec. 1621 and was buried at Sudbourne, ‘where I have now in my lifetime erected my tomb’, which was adorned with a blend of genealogical detail and biblical texts.34

The executors successfully fought off an attempt by Stanhope’s daughters to overturn the will on the grounds of mental incapacity; in any case they were scarcely hard done by. Most of the Suffolk estate, valued at £1,500 p.a., had been settled on his eldest daughter, who brought it to her second husband Sir William Withypoll*; the Middlesex property went to his other son-in-law, the 8th Lord Berkeley, who was also to inherit several Suffolk manors on condition that he laid out £2,000 on ‘special furniture, to remain as my gift in Berkeley Castle for ever’. The youngest daughter, for all the doubts over her paternity, married the 1st earl of Desmond in 1630, and lived at Osterley until its sale to the parliamentary general Sir William Waller† during the Interregnum.35

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Ben Coates


  • 1. Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. i), 7-8.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, vii. 500; St. Helen’s Bishopsgate (Harl. Soc. Reg. xxxi), 119; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 56; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 104; WARD 7/68/178.
  • 4. HMC Rutland, i. 111.
  • 5. Add. 5750, ff. 113, 117.
  • 6. Add. 19101, f. 280v; Harl. 6166, f. 68v.
  • 7. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 358.
  • 8. Hatfield House, ms 278; C231/4, ff. 29, 36; C193/13/1.
  • 9. Suff. RO (Ipswich), EE2/Z/1; HCA30/820/4.
  • 10. N. Bacon, Annalls of Ipswche ed. W.H. Richardson, 390.
  • 11. Suff. RO (Ipswich), EE5/2/2, f. 70.
  • 12. E315/310, f. 2.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 164.
  • 14. C181/1, ff. 83v, 86; 181/2, ff. 144, 174.
  • 15. SP14/31, ff. 37v, 39.
  • 16. Add. 39245, ff. 10, 51v; Harl. 3786, f. 35v.
  • 17. C181/2, ff. 94v, 249v; 181/3, f. 13.
  • 18. C93/9/4.
  • 19. APC, 1619-21, p. 248.
  • 20. HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 440-1.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 556; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 161.
  • 22. W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. v. 119, 124, 150, 178, 187.
  • 23. C2/Jas.I/S32/46.
  • 24. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 315.
  • 25. HMC Var. vii. 88.
  • 26. HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 253.
  • 27. CJ, i. 245b; APC, 1592, pp. 149, 155, 191; Harl. 6995, f. 189.
  • 28. CJ, i. 249a.
  • 29. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 161.
  • 30. CJ, i. 418b; HMC Gawdy, 105.
  • 31. R.A. Roberts, ‘The Bor. Business of a Suffolk Town (Orford), 1559-1660’, TRHS (ser. 4), xiv. 113-14.
  • 32. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 626.
  • 33. Suff. RO (Ipswich), EE5/2/2; HMC Var. iv. 27.
  • 34. PROB 11/139, ff. 73-79; Add. 19101, f. 280v.
  • 35. PROB 11/140, f. 46v; WARD 7/68/178; Copinger, v. 150; HMC 7th Rep. 529; VCH Mdx. ii. 311; iii. 109.