Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer


17 Dec. 1562SIR JOHN MASON
4 Nov. 1566SIR JOHN BERKELEY vice Mason, deceased
 (Sir) Henry Wallop

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There was a strong conservative strain in Hampshire in accord with the lead it received from its principal nobleman, William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester. This famous statesman was in his seventies at the time of Elizabeth’s accession. A superlative administrator, he served four successive sovereigns, and for 22 years, until his death in 1572, was lord treasurer of England, accommodating himself with easy flexibility to the political and religious changes of those dangerous years.

The first election of the new reign was a tribute to the prevalent mood. Though change was in the air and its results conspicuous in many elections, Hampshire reelected the two previous Marian MPs Mason and White. Mason was of the same pattern as Paulet, though of less distinction, bending to every political and religious storm, and pursuing unruffled, under Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, his career as diplomat, statesman and Privy Councillor. Status and office secured his re-election as senior knight of the shire, almost as a matter of right; and so they did in 1563, the last Parliament in his lifetime. Sir Thomas White had been a master of requests under Mary, but his religious principles were not so flexible as Mason’s. He lost office at the accession of Elizabeth, and was dropped from the commission of the peace. He was brother-in-law of John White, the last Catholic bishop of Winchester, whose opposition to Elizabeth’s religious changes led to imprisonment and deprivation. No doubt Bishop White, whose influence can be detected in certain borough elections in 1559, lent support to his brother-in-law’s election; and Sir Thomas for his part did his best in the House to resist the forward protestant programme.1

By 1563 the Catholic Bishop White had been replaced by the returned puritan Marian exile, Robert Horne. The effect of the new lead in the county can be seen in the election, as Mason’s junior colleague, of William Uvedale of Wickham, one of a group with whom Bishop Horne conferred in 1564, when preparing his report for the Privy Council on the religious views of Hampshire justices.2

The death of Sir John Mason in April 1566 caused a by-election, which can be reconstructed from two cross-suits in the Star Chamber.3 The sheriff at the time was Sir Richard Pexall, master of the buckhounds, who appears in Bishop Horne’s 1564 list as a ‘favourer’ of religion, though this may imply no more than a conforming temperament. He was a son-in-law of the Marquess of Winchester and probably shared his conservative leanings: at any rate, he was aligned with him. Bishop Horne and Richard Norton I appear to have taken the lead in trying to secure a radical successor to Mason. Indeed, it may well be, as Pexall seems to hint in one of his Star Chamber questions, that the bishop procured the election writ from Chancery and paid the fees involved. Certainly the writ was delivered to him and reached the sheriff through Norton. This manoeuvre—if such it was—gave the two of them time to prepare their plans and seems to have left the Paulet party little or no time for theirs. Their first preference was for Sir William Paulet, the radical grandson of the Marquess of Winchester. They evidently thought that there was some slight hope of uniting all parties behind a Paulet. But Sir William resided in Dorset, which county he was to represent in the Parliament of 1571. Anticipating that the sheriff might take advantage of this and refuse to return him, they decided on (Sir) Henry Wallop as an alternative candidate, a forward gentleman in religion, linked by marriage to the Giffords and the Fishers. Bishop Horne wrote to the gentry in support of the plan, and urged his tenants and friends to be present at the election, to vote in this way. Norton and others canvassed to the same effect.

Ready with their programme, the radical gentry, with about 300 supporters, went to Winchester on 7 Oct., the first county day after the receipt of the writ, and waited there from 8 a.m. till 3 p.m. However, on the excuse that the writ had not reached him in time to give the required notice by proclamation, the sheriff stayed away from the county court on that day and sent to London for a new writ. It is possible that the radicals had so manoeuvred that the time allowed the sheriff was in fact very brief; but equally, he must have known of their plans and disapproved of them, and he may have wished to consult the Marquess of Winchester in London. If such consultation did take place, then the Marquess disapproved of his grandson’s election and of the bishop’s alternative choice. Perhaps it was he who suggested the opposing candidate. This was Sir John Berkeley, presumably a man of conservative views. His mother was a daughter of the Marquess, and therefore the sheriff, Sir Richard Pexall, was his uncle by marriage: a Paulet set-up.

The next county day was on 4 Nov. There must have been between five and six hundred people at Winchester that day for the election. After the writ had been read, the sheriff seems to have nominated Sir John Berkeley, whereupon Richard Norton and William Kingsmill asked if he would return Sir William Paulet, should he be chosen. The sheriff replied No, since Paulet was not resident in the shire, and if he returned him, he would lose £100. Thereupon Norton, Kingsmill and Richard Gifford offered to be bound, between them, for this sum, to save the sheriff harmless. ‘Who’, retorted the sheriff, alluding to the further penalty for a false return, ‘will be in prison for me, though you discharge me of the hundred pounds?’. Norton answered that if he would be contented to return Sir William, there would, in their opinion, be no aggrieved party to lay a complaint against the sheriff. No doubt he was right, but the sheriff was determined to have Sir John Berkeley elected and refused to budge. Norton then nominated Henry Wallop, as a meeter man for the service, and the election by voices followed.

Shaking his cap—says the sheriff—Norton cried, ‘A Wallop! A Wallop!’; and his friends and followers took up the cry. No doubt their opponents rejoined with ‘A Berkeley!’. The pandemonium—tending, complained the sheriff, to a breach of the peace rather than an orderly election—lasted for half-an-hour. Norton’s side claimed to have the more voices; and in all probability they did. The next stage was the ‘view’, for which they moved from the hall of Winchester castle, where the opening proceedings took place, to the green without, where Wallop’s supporters gathered round Norton and Berkeley’s round the sheriff. Perhaps it was at this juncture that—according to the Norton story—the sheriff instructed his lieutenants to call out: ‘As many of you as be present and love my lord treasurer, my Lord St. John, Sir John Berkeley, or any of that house, give your voices with Sir John Berkeley—and my lord will take it thankfully’.

The ‘view’ was apparently vocal as well as visual, and again—probably with justice—Wallop’s side claimed to have most voices. But the election now went to a poll. The sheriff took his followers back into the hall, and there proceeded to register their names. He seems to have finished the poll of Berkeley’s voters sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, whereupon he announced an adjournment for dinner, refusing to complete the poll then and there, but promising to return for the scrutiny of Wallop’s supporters. He probably hoped that the opposing company would also scatter in search of food, and that, if he delayed his return, many would go off home in disgust. Norton and his friends, however, kept their company together, virtually prisoners within the castle walls, ‘fasting and far from home’, as was said.

The sheriff was away a good two hours, and on his return, about 2 o’clock, proceeded first to register the votes of some more of Berkeley’s supporters—no doubt, men who had not been at the initial proceedings and had been collected late, in an attempt to outnumber Wallop’s side. By dilly-dallying, little was left of daylight on that November day when he started the second half of the poll. Tempers had become short. The sheriff was accused of being high-handed and irregular in rejecting some of Wallop’s votes; and when any of the Marquess of Winchester’s tenants voted that way, he is said to have remarked: ‘My lord treasurer shall understand of your dealing’; or else, ‘If you were my tenants, as you are my Lord’s freeholders, I would make you repent your doing’. He said to Richard Norton: ‘You need not to be so earnest against my lord treasurer. You were once his man’.

The election probably ended in twilight or darkness and confusion, the poll of Wallop’s voters incomplete, or completed in the most cursory and unscrupulous fashion. Calculating Berkeley’s legitimate voters as 216 and Wallop’s—not all ‘sufficient’, he said—as 209, the sheriff awarded the victory to Berkeley. It was surely a foregone conclusion; though the opposing forces were not so grotesquely unbalanced as in some Elizabethan elections, where sheriffs showed the same determination to return their nominees.

One outcome of the contest was a suit in the Star Chamber by Wallop against the sheriff, which Pexall countered with a suit against Richard Norton, William Kingsmill and John Fisher. Pexall gave the names of the 216 voters he had credited to Berkeley and the 209 to Wallop. To the latter list Wallop added 53 names, at the same time citing 83 names on the Berkeley list as those of ‘insufficient’ freeholders, or non-resident, or late arrivals. He also challenged the reliability of the seals on the sheriff’s return. The evidence leaves one in little doubt that the sheriff manipulated both the election and the result.

Although this by-election contest certainly seems to have reflected a natural cleavage between the conservative and radical elements in Hampshire, we must evidently be careful not to exaggerate the point. Kingsmill, for example, in his deposition declared that he had no cause to mislike the election of Sir John Berkeley, except that he preferred Wallop, while Fisher based his preference for Wallop on being his ‘very friend’, whereas Berkeley, he said, was scarce known to him, dwelling in the further part of the shire.

In the next election the senior seat went to a recent comer to Hampshire, a peer’s brother and heir apparent, with the aura of the court about him, Sir Henry Radcliffe, whose brother, the Earl of Sussex, was president of the council in the north and a Privy Councillor. Probably he had the blessing of the Marquess of Winchester and the support of the Paulets. The radicals got their man in for the junior seat. He was Richard Norton I, their leading protagonist in the 1566 by-election.

Court and radicals! The pattern persisted for a couple of decades, and, representing, as it did, two strains in county society, the elections were probably agreed and peaceful. Court prestige kept its lien on the senior seat. In 1572 it was Edward Horsey, captain of the Isle of Wight, the junior Member again being Richard Norton I. For the next four Parliaments the senior Member was Sir George Carey, son and heir of Lord Hunsdon and related to the Queen, who in 1583 succeeded Horsey in control of the Isle of Wight, though—as became his noble birth—with the enhanced title of governor. In 1584 and 1586 his junior colleague was Richard Kingsmill, attorney of the court of wards, brother of William, who had been one of the leaders of the radicals in 1566. The junior Member in 1588 was Thomas West I, younger brother of the 1st Lord Delaware.

In 1593 the pattern changed. Sir George Carey held the senior seat, but the radicals lost control of the junior one. This accorded with the national scene. In 1588-9 the Marprelate tracts had discredited the radical cause, and in the following year or two organised puritanism in the Church had been destroyed. In Hampshire itself, the days when Bishop Horne aided and abetted the left-wing party were long past. The bishop of Winchester was now Thomas Cooper, a Whitgiftian, whose intervention in the Marprelate controversy had brought on him the devastating ridicule of that masterly satirist. The decline of puritanism was all too evident in the House of Commons in 1593, and the junior knight who sat there for Hampshire was a startling illustration of the new mood perceptible in both Court and Parliament. He was Benjamin Tichborne. Members of his family had always been, and remained, uncompromising Catholics. Where his own sympathies lay, there can be no doubt. In 1572 he had been classified as an ‘earnest’ or ‘strong’ papist, and in 1574 his name was on a list of the chief Catholics in England. Still, he became sheriff in 1579-80, though again in 1581 being described as ‘a great favourer of papists and himself suspected’.4 When the county elected such a man, the cause of conservatism was indeed triumphant. Significantly enough, Tichborne had been on Sir Richard Pexall’s side in supporting Sir John Berkeley at the by-election of 1566.

Conservatism was apparently again successful in monopolising the election in 1597. The senior seat was taken by the solicitor-general, Thomas Fleming I, in face of opposition from the Earl of Essex. His junior colleague was Richard Mill of Nursling, son of the recorder of Southampton, who had made a fortunate marriage. Then, in 1601, the radicals staged a comeback, aided—so we might infer—by the sheriff, Sir Francis Palmer. Unfortunately, we have no information about the election, except that the Privy Council censured the sheriff for not executing the writ on the next county day after receiving it. It was believed—they commented—that his motive was ‘some humour to prefer such persons as yourself doth most affect’. They sent him a new writ, disclaimed any desire to direct the election themselves, but admonished him, as ‘a public minister’, to see that there was ‘free and orderly liberty’. Evidently a contested election was in prospect. Perhaps the solicitor-general was hoping for re-election, and complained to the Council when he found the radical party opposing him, in collusion with the sheriff. At any rate, Fleming had to be content with a borough seat at Southampton this Parliament, and cannot have liked it. Perhaps he arranged it as an insurance against defeat for the county.

The person elected to the senior county seat in 1601 was (Sir) Henry Wallop, who two years before had succeeded to the estates of his father, the radical candidate defrauded of the county seat in the by-election of 1566. The puritan strain in the father may have been inherited by the son, and certainly passed to the grandson, who later on was to be a regicide. For the radicals to capture the senior county seat was indeed a triumph, after their total eclipse in 1593. The junior Member was (Sir) Edward More. He was a gentleman pensioner, and perhaps preserved—though at a lower grade of distinction than ever before, and in the inferior seat—the Court and conservative element present in Hampshire’s representation throughout the reign. Certainly, the radical party seem to have enjoyed a resurgence of influence among Hampshire gentlemen on this occasion.


  • 1. CJ, i. 56.
  • 2. Cam. Misc. ix (3), p. 54.
  • 3. St. Ch. 4/7/18; 5/P30/32; 5/W36/33; 5/W45/38.
  • 4. J. E. Paul, ‘Hants Recusants Eliz. I’ (Southampton Univ. PhD thesis, 1958), 73.