TRELAWNY, Sir Jonathan (1568-1604), of Trelawne, Pelynt, Cornw.

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



1604 - 21 June 1604

Family and Education

b. 17 Dec. 1568, 2nd (posth.) s. of John Trelawny (d. Oct. 1568) of Poole, Menheniot, Cornw. and Anne, da. and coh. of William Reskymer of Merthen, Cornw.1 educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1585; M. Temple 1586; embassy, France 1599.2 m. by 1591, Elizabeth, da. of (Sir) Henry Killigrew† of Lothbury, London, 2s. 2da. suc. bro. 1569;3 kntd. Feb. 1598.4 d. 21 June 1604.5

Offices Held

High steward, Liskeard, Cornw. 1587-d.,6 West Looe, Cornw. 1600-d.;7 j.p. Cornw. c.1592-d.,8 sheriff 1594-5,9 commr. oyer and terminer, Western circ. 1598-d.,10 i.p.m. Cornw. 1598,11 piracy Feb. 1604-d.12


Trelawny’s forebears settled in Cornwall by 1273, taking their name from a manor at Altarnun. They sat regularly in Parliament from 1325, first providing a Cornish knight of the shire in 1413. In addition to their substantial estates in the south-east of the county, in the mid-sixteenth century the family inherited a quarter-share of the property in Devon and Somerset formerly held by the Courtenay earls of Devon. Trelawny’s marriage to Elizabeth Killigrew brought him into the Cecil kinship network, and in 1594 he helped lead a delegation of Cornish gentry which petitioned Elizabeth about a serious grievance concerning local land tenure.13 Already a familiar face in the Commons thanks to his firm hold over the borough of Liskeard, he stepped up to represent his county in 1597. In 1601, and apparently earlier, he provided borough seats for nominees of (Sir) Robert Cecil†, certainly at Liskeard, and perhaps also at Callington and West Looe. Such favours were reciprocal, however, and in 1599 Cecil delayed the Crown’s sale of Trelawne manor so that Trelawny, who was then in France with his brother-in-law, Sir Henry Neville I*, would be able to purchase the property upon his return.14

At the 1604 general election Trelawny was once again returned as a Cornish knight of the shire. At Liskeard he successfully nominated his wife’s uncle, Sir William Killigrew I and another distant kinsman, Reginald Nicholas. He probably also arranged the returns of Sir Roger Wilbraham at Callington, and Sir Henry Goodyer and Sir George Hervey at West Looe, as favours to Cecil.15 In the Commons, Trelawny was twice appointed to accompany the Speaker to the king in connection with the Buckinghamshire election dispute (28 Mar. and 12 Apr.), while on 14 Apr. he was nominated to attend the conference with the Lords about the Union. He was named to five bill committees, including one (20 June) concerning abuses in the pilchard fisheries, a major West Country issue in which he would presumably have shown interest. However, on 21 June he was unexpectedly ‘suffocated with a flux of blood, which came by breaking a vein with vehement coughing; and was said to be sound, sick, and dead in a quarter of an hour’. Upon report of this news in the Commons on the following day, the House accepted a motion from Sir John Holles that Members might attend his funeral on 23 June. As Trelawny was in fact buried at St. Mary-le-Strand on 22 June, the parliamentary delegation presumably arrived late.16

A few years earlier, Richard Carew† had described Trelawny as ‘well spoken, staid in his carriage, and of thrifty providence’. The final observation is of questionable accuracy, given that he was at least £4,000 in debt when he died. In his will, drawn up on 18 Apr. 1603, he ordained dowries of £1,500 for each of his two daughters, but payment of the younger girl’s portion was dependent on the sale of some of the Courtenay lands. As Trelawny’s heir was a minor, and therefore unable himself to dispose of his inheritance, a private bill was introduced during the 1605-6 session. This assigned the task to a distinguished body of trustees, namely Cecil, now earl of Salisbury, Neville, Holles, Sir William Killigrew, and four other current Cornish Members, Sir Anthony Rous, Sir William Godolphin, Sir William Lower and (Sir) John Speccott. Although enacted, this measure’s provisions proved to be flawed, and a second bill had to be introduced in the third session to secure the titles of purchasers. Even so, the task occupied the trustees until at least 1610.17 Trelawny’s heir John never sat in Parliament, though he was summoned before the Commons in 1628 for trying to prevent (Sir) John Eliot and William Coryton from becoming the Cornish knights of the shire. However, six of his male lineal descendants found seats in the House between 1660 and 1688.18

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Anne Duffin / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 476.
  • 2. Al. Cant.; M. Temple Admiss.; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 163.
  • 3. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 476.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 95.
  • 5. C142/282/82.
  • 6. C66/1298; C2/Jas.I/L7/35.
  • 7. DCO, Trelawny ms no. 5 (ref. supplied by James Derriman).
  • 8. Hatfield House ms 278; C66/1620.
  • 9. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 23.
  • 10. C66/1482; C181/1, f. 17.
  • 11. C66/1503.
  • 12. C181/1, f. 82v.
  • 13. J. Chynoweth, Tudor Cornw. 33, 262-3, 302-3; J. Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iv. 32; C142/282/82.
  • 14. HMC Hatfield, ix. 371; xi. 405; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 125, 130, 132; C66/1524.
  • 15. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 267-9; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 117; S. Rudder, New Hist. Glos. 705.
  • 16. CJ, i. 157a, 169b, 172a, 243a, 244b; WCA, St. Mary-le-Strand par. reg., f. 48v.
  • 17. R. Carew, Survey of Cornw. ed. P. White, 74; PROB 11/104, ff. 418-21; Lords O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 40; 4 Jas.I, c. 24; Berks. RO, D/EN F7.
  • 18. CD 1628, iii. 70, 386.