CONINGSBY, William (by 1483-1540), of the Inner Temple, London and Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. by 1483, 2nd s. of Sir Humphrey Coningsby of Aldenham, Herts, by Alice, da. of one Ferriby of Lincs. educ. Eton ?1493-7; King’s, Camb. adm. 1497; I. Temple. m. by 1516, Beatrice, da. of Thomas Thoresby of Lynn, wid. of William Trew (d.1510/12) of Lynn, 1s. 4da.2
Lent reader, I. Temple 1518, Autumn 1525, treasurer 1526-7, gov. 1533-4, 1535-6, 1538-9.
J.p. Herts. 1504-14, Norf. 1514-d.; prothonotary, c.p. in 1521-3 or later; commr. subsidy, Norf. 1523, 1524, to survey monasteries 1535; recorder, Lynn 26 Sept. 1524-d.; member, council of 15th Earl of Oxford in 1532; attorney, duchy of Lancaster 12 July 1536-Feb. 1540; serjeant-at-law 13 June 1540; j.K.B. 5 July 1540-d.3
The first reference to William Coningsby at the Inner Temple probably dates from February 1507, but as he was by then a justice of the peace for Hertfordshire, his father’s adopted county, he had presumably entered the inn some years earlier after leaving King’s College, Cambridge. His settlement at Lynn must likewise have preceded his first naming to a commission there in July 1514 and to the Norfolk bench two months earlier; it probably coincided with his marriage to a lady who was the daughter of one Lynn merchant and widow of another. For the next 20 years he combined service to the town with legal practice and office in the capital: his material progress is reflected in his high assessment of £400 for the loan of 1523 and his professional standing in his choice as one of the lawyers commissioned to assist Wolsey as chancellor in 1529.4
Coningsby’s election to the Parliament of 1536 was an exception to the general compliance with the King’s request on that occasion for the return of the previous Members, and the fact that he and Robert Southwell, who had been by-elected to the other seat in the previous October, were not chosen until 31 May, only eight days before the new Parliament met, suggests that the decision had awaited the outcome of negotiation. Lynn could have had its own reasons for preferring Coningsby to Thomas Miller, the other previous Member, or the change have reflected intervention from elsewhere: Coningsby appears to have been a client of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, as was Southwell, but his appointment, a week before the Parliament ended, to high office in the duchy of Lancaster shows that he also stood well at court. Although a newcomer to the House he appears to have been called on for committee work, the name of ‘Mr. Conisby Len’ appearing with those of three other lawyers on the dorse of the Act denying abjurors benefit of clergy (28 Hen. VIII, c.1).5
It is highly probable that Coningsby sat in the next Parliament, that of 1539, for which most of the names are lost; he was not re-elected at Lynn, but his duchy office would have given him a choice of several boroughs, among them Thetford in his own county. During the lifetime of this Parliament he was to meet with successive reversals of fortune and he did not long survive it. On 14 Nov. 1539 he received a summons to become a serjeant, but three months later he was in disgrace. Accused with Nicholas Hare and Humphrey Browne of having counselled the late Sir John Shelton, ‘all being his servants and of his fee’, to make a will which contravened the Statute of Uses, he shared their punishment of ten days’ imprisonment in the Tower and loss of office under the crown. From this severe blow Coningsby was to make a rapid recovery: on 13 June 1540 he took the coif and on 5 July he became a judge in the King’s bench. The coincidence of his rehabilitation with the fall of Cromwell, who had had a share in his earlier condemnation in the Star Chamber, suggests that there was a political side to the episode; if there was, Coningsby is to be thought of as a partisan of Norfolk in the assault on Cromwell.6
Coningsby’s judgeship, which would have excluded him from the Commons during the closing weeks of the Parliament, was to last for less than two months. It was as one ‘sick in body but ... having a perfect remembrance’ that he made his will on 3 Sept. 1540 and he died a week later. Apart from small bequests to his daughters, sons-in-law and other kinsfolk he left all his movables to his wife, whom he named sole executrix, with Thomas Waters as overseer. She also had a life interest in certain of his lands, which for the rest passed to his son Christopher; the inquisition shows him holding the manor of North Rownton, bought from the crown, those of Thorpland and Wallington, also purchased, and Hardwick, all of them in Norfolk. There is no evidence that he received the knighthood awarded him in some pedigrees.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Roger Virgoe
- 1. Lynn congregation bk. 4, f. 302v.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from education and first commission. Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 444; Blomefield, Norf. vii. 413; Req.2/3/123; PCC 13 Alenger; C142/62/37; DNB.
- 3. CPR, 1494-1509, p. 643; LP Hen. VIII, i-xv; Val. Eccles. iii. 369; C.I.T. Recs. i. 65, 127, 463; information from Susan Flower; Somerville, Duchy, i. 408; Lynn congregation bk. 4, f. 247.
- 4. Lynn Congregation bk. 4, ff. 158-328 passim; Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 462; LP Hen. VIII, iv.
- 5. House of Lords RO, Original Acts, 28 Hen. VIII, no. 1.
- 6. Cal. I.T. Recs. i. 124; LP Hen. VIII, xv; Hall, Chron. 837; Wriothesley’s Chron. i (Cam. Soc. n.s. xi), 116.
- 7. PCC 13 Alenger; C142/62/37.