Archive:Whitneys in Parliament

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Hasler. P.W. 1981. The House of Commons 1558-1603. III. Members M-Z. The History of Parliament. London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, p. 612-613.

WHITNEY, Robert (c. 1536-90) of Thetford, Norf.

Thetford 1584

b. c.1536, s. of Nicholas Whitney of Saffron Walden, Essex, educ. ?Peterhouse, Camb. 1549, aged under 14. m. Jane,2s. ida.

Servant of Philip, 13th Earl of Arundel by 1580.

The Whitneys of Essex may have been related to the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire landed family of the same name, but the pedigrees are confused and inaccurate. Whitney’s will refers to two brothers called Thomas, and it may have been one of these who was a gentleman waiter in the household of Lord Surrey (later Earl of Arundel) in October 1571, and was ordered to leave the Duke of Norfolk’s house at Kenninghall, to ‘remove to Walden and there to remain in ordinary’. Arundel had land in and around Saffron Walden, and it is therefore likely that the Whitneys were a local family in his service there, perhaps even related to him. In 1580 Whitney was commissioned by Arundel, together will William Necton* and Henry ussell, to take an inventory of the goods in Arundel castle, and his name appears again, as ‘my servant’, in another of the Earl’s commissions three years later, this time a much more far-reaching one dealing with the leases of a large number of tenants. Thus, although Whitney resided at Thetford in 1590, and possibly by 1584, he owed his return for the borough to Arundel, who had a residual interest there, his father having owned the manor. Indeed, the town books noted that Whitney was ‘commended by our lord the Earl of Arundel’.

Arundel was imprisoned in 1585 and remained in the Tower until he died 11 years later, and there is little more of interest to say about Whitney. In the later 1580s the Thetford town books record two disputes between him and the corporation, one of them about rights of common at Westwick and possible connected with a sheep pasture which Arundel had conveyed to Whitney on the understanding that the profits should go to Sir Roger Townshend.

A local subsidy list for 1586 indicates that in the last years of his life Whitney was man of some substance. He died between 17 Aug. 1590, when he made his will, and 17 Dec. the same year, when it was proved by his widow and executrix. He asked to be buried in St. Peter’s church, Thetford, to which he left 40s. The will gives no details about his property. The movable goods were divided into halves, one for the executrix, the other for the two sons, Francis and George, and their sister Anne.

Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 69, 103; Vis.Herefs. ed. Weaver, 75-6; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 267; Add. 19815, ff. 13, 59; PCC 85 Drury, 16 Sainberbe; Cath. Rec.Soc. xxi, 18, 381; Lansd. 30, f. 217 seq.; Thetford hall bk. 1568-1622, pp. 113, 142; loose letter in Gawdy letter bk. Norf. Arch. Soc. lib.; bk. of ancient deeds at Thetford, 267.


WHITNEY, Sir Robert (c. 1525-67), of Whitney, Herefs. and Iccombe, Glos.

Herefordshire 1559

b. c.1525, 1st s. of Robert Whitney by Margaret, da. of Robert Wye of Lypiatt Park, Stroud, Glos. m. (1) Sybil, da. of Sir James Baskerville of Eardisley, Herefs. 3s.; (2) Mary, 2da.; 1s. illegit. suc. fa. 1541 Kntd. Oct. 1553.1

Escheator, Herefs. Mar.-Dec. 1548, j.p. by 1555; sheriff, Rad. 1558-9; steward of Clifford, Herefs. and Glasbury, Rad., constable of Clifford castle 1561.2

The christian name Robert was a favourite one in the Whitney family, and several namesakes were living in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire between 1540 and 1567. The pedigrees in the heralds’ visitations are confused and not to be relied upon, but it is reasonable to suppose that the 1559 MP was the Robert, ‘son and heir of Robert Whitney of Whitney’, whose wardship was granted in April 1542 to his uncle James Whitney, a gentleman usher of the chamber; livery of his lands was granted in July 1546. The extensive estates, in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, included the manor of Pencomb, which was held of the Crown by military serviced and entitled the holder to a pair of gilt spurs from the family of every manor of Hereford who died in office.3

The only reference found to Whitney in Parliament is the licence to return home, 13 Apr. 1559, ‘because his wife was lately departed’. There was evidently some trouble over his servants while he was at Westminster: on 21 Apr. the Privy Council wrote ordering him to send before ‘the lords at the court’ any of his attendants who had been in London during the previous month, or had left the city about his affairs or otherwise within the same period. He remained an active local official throughout the changes of the time, the bishops’ letters to the Privy Council in 1564 describing him as a justice ‘favourable’ to the Elizabethan church settlement, yet he was inexplicably omitted from commissions of the peace in 1561 and 1562. He died intestate at Whitney in August 1567; his widow and the heir, Whitney’s son James, were granted letters of administration six months later.4

1C142/64/114, 146/126; Trans. Rad. Soc. xxxviii 51; Duncumb, Herefs. Hundred of Huntingdon, 8o et seq.; Add. 19815 ff. 13, 59; Vis.Herefs. ed. Weaver, 8; PCC admon. act bk. 1567 f. 128.

2CPR, 1553 and App. Ed. VI, p. 402; 1560-3, p. 537; 1566-9, p. 320; SP 11/5/6.

3Add. 19815, ff. 13, 59; Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 75-6; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 267; LP Hen. VIII, xvii. p. 157; xxi(1), p. 684; Harl. 762, f. 11; Duncumb, op. cit. (1804-12), ii(1), p. 151.

4CJ, i. 59; APC, vii, 91; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 13; C142 / 126; PCC admon. act. bk. 1567, f. 128; CPR 1566-9, p. 291.


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