ARUNDELL, Sir John (by 1500-57), of Lanherne, St. Mawgan-in-Pyder, Cornw.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1500, 1st s. of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Grey 1st Marquess of Dorset; bro. of Sir Thomas. m. (1) Catherine, da. of Sir Peter Edgecombe of West Stonehouse and Cotehele, s.p.; (2) by 1527, Elizabeth, da. of Gerard Dannett of Dannett’s Hall, Bruntingthorpe, Leics., 4s. inc. John I and Thomas 4da. Kntd. July/Nov. 1539. suc. fa. 8 Feb. 1545.1

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. 1530-44, 1554-d., Devon 1536-44; constable, Tintagel castle, Cornw. 10 June 1537; sheriff, Cornw. 1541-2, 1554-5; recorder, Launceston by 1543; commr. benevolence, Cornw. 1544/45, musters 1557.2


The senior branch of the ancient Cornish family of Arundell had been seated at Lanherne since the middle of the 13th century. By 1500 the Arundells had gained an ascendancy over their neighbours and rivals in the county which was recognized by the offer of a barony; this they declined, notwithstanding their relationship by marriage with several of the leading noble families and even with the crown.

The first trace of John Arundell comes in 1525 when, already a widower, he was at court. This was the year in which his father declined ennoblement on the plea of insufficient wealth, but he was doubtless gratified by another suggestion made by the King, Queen and cardinal, that Arundell should marry one of the Queen’s maids, the daughter of a former councillor. After his marriage Arundell did not remain at court but settled in the country, where he helped to manage the family’s affairs and where he soon cut a figure in local administration: the withdrawal may not have been unconnected with the trend of events, which made any association with the Queen or the cardinal progressively invidious. Until his father’s death Arundell lived mainly in Devon, perhaps at Hartland where his family had property, and was drawn into its feud with its relatives the Grenvilles, who were seated not far from Hartland. Neither Arundell nor his father (who could have relied on the support of the duchy of Cornwall) was returned to the Parliament of 1529: if their affiliations at court told against them, it was probably the enmity of the Grenvilles which was decisive, for one of the knights elected was Richard Grenville.3

Arundell’s interference at Hartland abbey during the visitation of the monasteries brought him to the notice of Cromwell, who never fully trusted him again. A year later he was required to raise 100 men for service in the north, but before he set out his instructions were countermanded. In the summer of 1537 he was granted the constableship of Tintagel and a stewardship of some crown lands, but as the second of these offices had already been conferred on Sir William Godolphin the result was a quarrel between them. Godolphin complained to Cromwell about Arundell’s conduct, while John Grenville, who himself suffered from it during the dispute, did so through Audley, and Arundell’s grant was cancelled. He was concurrently being passed over for the shrievalty, being nominated but not pricked on three occasions from 1536. When a Parliament was summoned in 1539 Godolphin, then sheriff, told Cromwell of Arundell’s ‘great suit’ to be returned a knight of the shire, but if he did sit in this Parliament it was not in that capacity, the two men chosen being Godolphin’s son William and a cousin of the Grenvilles, Sir John Chamond. The knighthood which Arundell received before the end of the year may have been intended to console him, but when it was followed in 1541 by his being made sheriff one result was to debar him from election to the Parliament of the following year. In 1544 he fought with the King in France, a service which, although it did not go unrecognized, did not lead to his return to the last Parliament of the reign, when the sheriff, Sir Richard Grenville, saw to it that two of his own associates were elected for the county.4

The progress of the Reformation under Edward VI cannot have commended so open a Catholic as Arundell: although his younger brother stood well with the new regime, he himself was removed from the commission of the peace. The mistrust was well-founded, for in 1549 Arundell ignored Sir John Russell’s command to mobilise the local gentry against the western rebels. He was arrested and sent to London, where on 26 July he defended himself before the Council, arguing that the two masses he had arranged during the rebellion were meant to ‘appease the people’. Next day he was released upon a recognizance of £4,000 and an undertaking not to leave London. The recognizance was cancelled four months later, but when he sued out livery of his inheritance on 12 Dec. 1549 he was required by the Council to enter into a new one of £1,000 to keep the peace towards the son of his old adversary Sir William Godolphin. Further charges of complicity were then brought against him which he was not able to ward off so readily, and on 30 Jan. 1550 he and his brother were sent to the Tower. There he remained until his brother’s execution, being released on 16 June 1552, under restriction not to leave London, a condition with which he complied for the remainder of the reign.5

The advent of a Catholic Queen restored Arundell to favour and to his place on the Cornish bench. He was an enthusiastic Marian, and the Queen treated him both as a friend and as her henchmen in Cornwall, to which he returned not long after her coronation. It was perhaps his long absence from the county which prevented him from sitting for it in the first Parliament of the new reign, but in the spring of 1554 he achieved that ambition. The Journal throws no light on Arundell’s contribution to the proceedings of the Commons but he may be taken to have supported the government’s measures. At the next election he helped relatives and dependants to find seats but was not himself returned, perhaps because he had already been designated as sheriff for the following year. His discharge of that office was to include the holding of the next election in the shire in the autumn of 1555, when his influence is again apparent in the choice of Members. After remaining active locally for the last two years of his life Arundell died on 7 Nov. 1557, possessed of some 23,000 acres of land in Cornwall but apparently without having made a will.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/73/18, 86/11. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 4; Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iii. 295; Nichols, Leics. iv. (2) 576.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv, x, xii, xx; CPR, 1553-4, p. 17; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 94.
  • 3. Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iii. 295; C142/111/19; LP Hen. VIII, iv; A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 85.
  • 4. LP. Hen. VIII, viii-xvi, xx, xxi.
  • 5. Troubles conn. with the Prayer Bk. of 1549 (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxxvii), 26, 28-29, 38-39; F. Rose-Troup, Western Rebellion, 351-2; APC, ii. 304, 366, 432; iii. 27, 54, 238; iv. 62-63; CPR, 1549-51, p. 63; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 41; C1/1432/11-13; HMC Hatfield, i. 96.
  • 6. APC, iv. 372; v. 12, 18, 20, 74; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 94; Jnl. R. Inst. Cornw. viii. 151.