ALLEN, Francis (1518/19-66/76), of Westminster, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. 1518/19, perhaps yr. s. of Richard Allen of Grantham, Lincs. m. Winifred, at least 1da.1

Offices Held

Public notary and tabellion 1540; sec. to Stephen Gardiner, bp. of Winchester by 1543-?55; clerk, Privy Council July 1553-d.; member, the chamber by 1558-9 or later.2


Francis Allen was perhaps a younger son of Richard Allen of Grantham; the visitation pedigree for his generation shows only the first son John but in later years the name Francis runs in the family. A Richard Allen also occurs in the subsidy of 1522 at Boston, where he was assessed at 2s. on £4 in goods. When Allen was licensed as a public notary and tabellion (a kind of scrivener) on 13 Apr. 1540, he was described as a ‘sch[olar]’ of Norwich diocese: presumably he had been at one of the universities, probably Cambridge.3

By 1543 Allen had become secretary to Stephen Gardiner: the connexion could have originated at Cambridge. At Gardiner’s trial in 1551 Allen testified on eight of the 85 articles brought against the bishop, and in each case his answer supported Gardiner’s own replies. Questioned about his attitude toward his master, Allen replied that he bore him affection ‘as a servant beareth to his master, in the way of right and justice’ and desired ‘that justice shall take place as a true subject to his prince, and no otherwise’. Two-and-a-half years later Allen shared in Gardiner’s dramatic change of fortune. In July 1553 he was with Mary’s household at Framlingham: he accompanied her on her progress towards London and on 30 July, at Newhall, he was sworn a clerk of the Council, the appointment being subsequently confirmed with a stipend of £50 a year in consideration of his services at the time of the rebellion. One of his first duties that summer was to distribute £110 ‘among the judges and learned counsel that took pains in the indictment’ of Northumberland.4

Allen’s return for Boston to the Parliament of October 1553 may not have marked his entry to the Commons. As bishop of Winchester, Gardiner was patron of three parliamentary boroughs, Downton and Hindon in Wiltshire and Taunton in Somerset, and it was to the Members elected there during his episcopate that he was referring when in November 1547 he deplored ‘the absence of those I have used to name in the nether House’. The loss of the names of the Members concerned makes it impossible to say whether Allen was one of them, but the bishop may well have had his secretary returned to the Parliament of 1545. He would also probably have done so in 1547 but for the disgrace which cost him both his own place in the Lords and his nominations to the Commons. By the time these were restored to him Allen had perhaps quitted his household appointment on obtaining the clerkship of the Council and thus forgone the prospect of filling one of the bishop’s own seats: even so, his standing with Gardiner, now chancellor, must have worked strongly in his favour at Boston, the more so as he supplanted Leonard Irby, who appears to have lent support to Jane Grey. Allen may also have been acceptable to Boston, whether or not he was a native of the town, as one who had done it service in connexion with its charter of incorporation in 1545: modelled on the charter of Winchester, and granted by letters patent bearing Gardiner’s name, the charter could have owed something to the bishop’s secretary. Unfortunately, the page of the corporation minutes which would have recorded the election, and perhaps thrown light on its context, is missing, but if he was of the town’s choosing he was not the electors’ first choice, his name being added in a different hand on the indenture over an erasure. Of his part in the proceedings of the Parliament there is only the negative—and far from surprising—evidence that he was not marked as one of the Members who stood for the true religion, that is, for Protestantism. It is also unclear why he did not sit again, although his chance of doing so is likely to have been affected by the Queen’s directive for the election of resident burgesses.5

Although Allen continued to be associated with Gardiner, whom he assisted at the trial of Hooper and the last examination of John Bradford, and from whom he received a gift of the next presentation to the benefice of West Meon, Hampshire, he is not mentioned in the bishop’s will. On 27 Oct. 1558 he was granted the reversion of the office of remembrancer of the Exchequer, but this he surrendered before 12 Dec. 1561. Under Elizabeth he retained the clerkship of the Council and in the first year of her reign he was described as a member of her chamber. Several letters survive in connexion with his work for the Council, and some of the minutes may be in his hand. In September 1560 he wrote to the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury about the reform of the coinage, in April 1563 he gave testimony in a dispute between the bishop of Worcester and Sir John Bourne, and in July 1568 he wrote to Cecil from Hatfield reporting the name of the new Spanish ambassador and the Queen’s decision not to stay there longer. In July 1566 he and his wife obtained a £60 annuity in consideration of their services and of the surrender of seven patents granting annuities for life amounting to £68 8s.4d. to various persons still living; the original grantees had evidently sold Allen their annuities.6

Allen was probably dead by 18 July 1576 when Thomas Wilkes and Henry Cheke were sworn as clerks of the Council, for with two other clerks previously sworn they completed the tally in 1578. No will has been located.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. M. Hofmann


  • 1. Aged 32 early in 1551, Foxe, Acts and Mons. vi. 227. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. 1), 9; CPR, 1563-6, p. 479; Mar. Lic. London (Harl. Soc. xxv), 150.
  • 2. Fac. Off. Reg. 1534-49, ed. Chambers, 211; Foxe, vi. 227-9; vii. 162; CPR, 1554-5, p. 189; Lansd. 3, f. 193v.
  • 3. Lincs. Peds. 9; E179/136/339; Fac. Off. Reg. 1534-49, p. 211.
  • 4. Foxe, vi. 130, 227-9; APC, iv. 356, 419; CPR, 1554-5, p. 189.
  • 5. Letters of Stephen Gardiner, ed. Muller, 424; C219/21/96.
  • 6. Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(1), 288; Foxe, vii. 162; CPR, 1557-8, p. 428; 1560-3, p. 304; 1563-6, p. 479; Lansd. 3, f. 193v; Reg. J. Whyte (Canterbury and York Soc. xvi), 24; Zurich Letters (Parker Soc.), i. 93n; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 223, 313.
  • 7. APC, viii. 25, 78; ix. 166.