ARNOLD, Sir Nicholas (c.1509-80), of Highnam, Glos. and Llanthony, Mon.

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

Family and Education

b.c.1509, 2nd but e. surv. s. of John Arnold of Churcham, Glos., prothonotary and clerk of the Crown in Wales, by Isabel Hawkins. educ. L. Inn 1524. m. (1) 1529, Margaret, da. of Sir William Denys of Dyrham, Glos., by Anne, da. of Maurice, 4th Lord Berkeley, 2s. 1da.; (2) Margaret, da. ?and coh. of John Isham of Braunston, Northants., grand seneschal of co. Wexford, 1s., John. At least 1s. 1da. illegit. suc. fa. 1545. Kntd. c.1550.1

Offices Held

Servant of Thomas Cromwell to 1539; gent. pens. by 1540; j.p. Mon. 1543-?54, from 1579; receiver of St. Peter’s, Gloucester 1543; capt. Isle of Sheppey c.1545-6; capt. of Bullenberg (Boulogneberg) 1546-9; j.p. Glos. 1547-?54, from 1559, q. by 1562, sheriff 1559-60, custos rot. 1559; member, council in the marches of Wales c.1551-4, 1560-d.; commr. inquiry into Ireland 1562-3; ld. justice [I] Apr. 1564-June 1565; commr. musters, Glos. c.1569; j.p. Mon. 1579.2


By the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign Arnold was an experienced Parliament man, who had already been a knight of the shire three times. An opponent of Queen Mary’s Spanish marriage, and one of those who voted against a government measure in the Parliament of 1555, he was out of favour for the rest of Mary’s reign, even being forbidden for some time to visit his Highnam estate near Gloucester.3 Not surprisingly, his electoral influence in the county declined. However, the borough of Gloucester, where he was receiver for the lands of St. Peter’s, and where his brother-in-law Arthur Porter was a popular figure, offered him an alternative seat for the first two Elizabethan Parliaments: the corporation made him presents of wine on his remitting his statutory wages.4 He owed his return for Cricklade in 1571 to the Brydges family, Lords Chandos, into which his son married.5 It seems strange that on this occasion Arnold should have represented a constituency outside Gloucestershire. Perhaps he tried for the county seat and was defeated. The borough of Gloucester had such serious faction disputes in 1571 that even the recorder was refused election,6 and there was probably no chance for an outsider, however influential. In 1572 he returned, for his last Parliament, to membership for the county—the natural position for one of his social standing and experience.

Arnold began his court career through the influence of Thomas Cromwell.7 After holding a succession of court and military posts during Henry VIII’s reign,8 he settled first at Llanthony priory, Monmouthshire, which he had acquired at the dissolution of the monasteries and later in Gloucestershire, where he had inherited considerable estates supplemented by further purchases.9 He was twice in trouble during Mary’s reign, for implication in Wyatt’s rebellion and for taking part in the Dudley plot to drive the Spaniards out of England. Late in 1556 he was released from imprisonment following the second conspiracy, but was not allowed to return to Gloucestershire until the following February.10

Upon Elizabeth’s accession he was restored to favour. He was one of the visitors who in 1559 administered the oath of supremacy to the Welsh clergy, and in July 1562 he was sent to Ireland to take the musters and to examine accusations against the lord lieutenant, the 3rd Earl of Sussex. His inquiries, seemingly carried out in an overbearing and tactless manner, were strongly resented, and Sussex wrote to Sir William Cecil complaining of his ‘frowardness’.11

He must have returned to England temporarily in 1563, as on 1 Mar. he took charge of a bill in the House of Commons, but he was in Ireland again by February 1564, and in April was appointed lord justice while Sussex was absent on sick leave. Though he was energetic and efficient, his colleagues found him unbearably quarrelsome. Sir Thomas Wroth, who had accompanied him as a commissioner, told Cecil in July that Arnold was ‘not so friendly as he used to be’, and this mild complaint was followed by several angry letters from Sir William Fitzwilliam II, declaring that Arnold had made an unwarrantable attack upon his character, used unseemly words to the lord primate of Ireland, and showed great rudeness to the marshal. Cecil himself was shocked by a letter from Arnold in January 1565, stating that he treated the wild Irish like ‘bears and bandogs. So that I see them fight earnestly, and tug each other well, I care not who has the worse’. Cecil replied reprovingly that as a Christian man he ‘could not without perplexity contemplate’ this policy. Arnold had hoped to be appointed lord deputy, but in June 1565 Sir Henry Sidney was given the office. Arnold remained in Ireland until the end of October.

For the last 15 years of his life he was active on local commissions—to restrict the export of grain, to prevent exploitation by the clothiers, or to collect government loans. He was a commissioner for musters in Gloucestershire, and carried out valuable experiments in horse-breeding, writing a treatise, which has not survived, on the subject. For some time he served on the council in the marches of Wales.12

Arnold was an active member of the House in each of the four Parliaments to which he was returned during Elizabeth’s reign. In the 1559 Parliament, bills concerned with tanned leather (11 Feb.), fish (25 Feb.), the preservation of woods (7 Mar.), and apprentices (18 Apr.) were committed to him. On 25 Mar. 1563 he was named to a committee to consider a case of privilege. In the 1566 session of this Parliament the bill for Gloucester hospital was committed to him on 29 Oct., he was named to the joint committee with the Lords on the Queen’s marriage and succession (31 Oct.), and he was one of 30 Members summoned on 5 Nov. to hear the Queen’s message on the succession. He is recorded as speaking in the 1571 Parliament on the treasons bill (9 Apr.), the bill for the city of Bristol (11 Apr.), and ‘with some vehemency’ on the case of William Strickland (20 Apr.), ‘urging care for the liberty of the House’. He sat on committees concerned with the city of Bristol (12 Apr.), treasons (12 Apr.), order of business (21 and 26 Apr.), tellers and receivers (23 Apr., 26 May), attainders (10 May), the bill against bulls (10 May), church attendance (19 May), tillage, navy, Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (25 May), the 12 shires of Wales (25 May) and privilege (28 May). In the 1572 session of the following Parliament Arnold is recorded as speaking on the Storey privilege case (17 May), and as claiming privilege for himself (10 June), although Thomas Cromwell’s journals do not reveal why he needed to do so. He spoke twice on calivers and dags (22 May, 4 June), and also on the subject of a water supply for the town of Worcester (5 June). He was in favour of including minstrels within the provisions of the vagabonds’ bill on 30 May 1572. No reference to any speeches by him in the 1576 session is to be found in the extant journals. However, throughout both the sessions he attended of this his last Parliament he was an active committeeman, serving on 19 committees covering a wide range of subjects, including the fate of Mary Queen of Scots (12 May 1572), fraudulent conveyances (16 May), recoveries (19 May), calivers and dags (22 May), weights and measures (23 May), privileges and returns (9 Feb. 1576), the subsidy (10 Feb.), the poor law (11 Feb.), promoters (13 Feb.), bastardy (15 Feb.), wool (16 Feb.), tanned leather (18 Feb.), broggers and drovers (28 Feb.), salt pans (6 Mar.), rogues and vagabonds (7 Mar.), forests (8 Mar.), cloth (9 Mar.), benefit of clergy (12 Mar.) and wharves and quays (13 Mar.).13

The exact date of his death is unknown: his will, made on 10 Apr. 1580, was proved on 13 May following. He forbade any almsgiving at his funeral except to his own ‘honest tenants’, and made generous legacies to his relatives and servants, as well as bequests, largely of horses, to a number of friends.14

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C142/73/74, 81; Rylands Eng. ms 311; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi), 4 and n; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 182; HMC Hatfield , vii. 487; CPR, 1549-51, p. 320; 1553 and App. Edw. VI, p. 354.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv(1), p. 871 (misdated list); xiii(2), pp. 497, 512; xiv(2), p. 345; xviii(2) p. 124; xix(1), p. 643; xix(2), p. 96; xxi(1), pp. 664, 710; xxi(2), p. 379; APC, i. 337, 446, 487, 495-6; Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. lvi. 211 n; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, passim; CSP Ire. 1509-73, pp. 199-225, 235-277; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 339.
  • 3. D. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 15 seq.; Guildford Mus. Loseley 1331/2; APC, vi. 47-8.
  • 4. Gloucester min. bk. 1486-1600, f. 133; chamberlain’s accounts, 4-5 Eliz., f. 94; 8-9 Eliz., ff. 116, 118.
  • 5. Vis. Glos. ; W. B. Crouch, Cricklade, ed. Thomson, 140-2.
  • 6. See PATE, Richard.
  • 7. Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 208, 222, 271; LP Hen. VIII, xii(1), pp. 140, 366; xiii(2), p. 497; xiv(2), p. 345; xv, p. 5; xix(1), pp. 161-2; xix(2), p. 275.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xxi(2), p. 379; C. Wriothesley, Chronicle (Cam. Soc. n.s. xx), 11.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, xiii(1), p. 197; xxi(1), pp. 147, 576; CPR, 1547-8, p. 84; 1549-51, p. 320; 1550-3, pp. 394, 397; 1553 and App. Edw. VI, p. 354; 1558-60, p. 363; 1560-3, pp. 495, 569; C142/73/74, 81; PCC 2 Alen, 17 Arundell.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 60; Chron. Q. Jane, Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 65; APC, v. 90, 359; vi. 47-8; CPR, 1554-5, pp 47-8; SP11/8/49; Machyn Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 104; HMC 3rd Rep. 238-9.
  • 11. Jnl. Hist. Soc. Church in Wales, ii(5), pp.62-3; CSP Ire. 1509-73, pp 199-218 passim.
  • 12. APC, viii. 53, 116; x. 29; Harrison, Desc. England (1807), p 371; Flenley, 50, 125, 173.
  • 13. CJ, i. 54, 55, 57, 60, 67, 70, 75, 84, 85, 86, 88, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 104, 105, 106, 108, 109, 111, 112, 114; D’Ewes, 54, 89, 126, 161, 162, 165, 175, 178, 179, 181, 182, 186, 188, 189, 206, 207, 212, 213, 214, 244, 247, 248, 249, 251, 253, 255, 257, 259, 262; Camb. Univ. Lib. Gg. iii. 34, p. 209; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. ff. 22, 35, 50, 51, 60; Trinity, Dublin, anon. jnl. ff. 8, 34; Neale, Parlts. i. 202, 228, 257; HMC Lords, n.s. xi. 8.
  • 14. PCC 17 Arundell.