ATYE, Arthur (d.1604), of London and Kilburn, Mdx.

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

educ. Christ Church, Oxf., BA 1560, fellow of Merton 1562, MA 1564, BCL, DCL. m. (1) Anne (d.1583), da. of John Quarles of London, wid. of William Ricthorne of Canonbury, Mdx., s.p.; (2) Judith, da. of Walter Hungerford of Cadenham, Wilts., 3 or 4s. 1da. Kntd. 1603.

Offices Held

Principal, St. Alban’s Hall 1569-81; proctor, Oxf. Univ. 1570, public orator 1572-82; sec. to Earl of Leicester from c.Sept. 1580; receiver-gen. of fines 1590; j.p. Mdx. from c.1590; servant of Earl of Essex from c.1596.3


Little is known of Atye’s background before he began the distinguished academic career which brought him into correspondence with such scholars as Alberico Gentili, John Hotman and Antonio del Corro. When the warden of Merton was sent on an embassy to Spain from 12 Jan. 1566 to 4 June 1568 Atye went with him, having been granted leave of absence and the right to return to his lecturership in rhetoric. His friendship at Oxford with luminaries such as Philip Sidney, the Earl of Leicester’s nephew, led to his appointment as Leicester’s secretary. He accompanied Leicester to the Netherlands, thenceforth frequently travelling to and from London on his behalf, transmitting messages, trying to raise money to pay the troops, and acting as a clearing house for intelligence matters. Because of his position in Leicester’s entourage he often had to deal with, and be approached by, the representatives of the States General. In the summer of 1587 he was one of those who advised Leicester to return home. He received some useful, but not spectacular rewards, such as the manor of Maldon, granted him by St. Alban’s Hall at Leicester’s persuasion, and a patent for the Barbary trade, on which his name appears directly after Warwick and Leicester.4

It was Atye’s connexion with the Earl of Leicester that was responsible for his entering Parliament. After trying unsuccessfully to have him returned at a by-election for Chester in 1582, Leicester found him a seat at Liverpool, by arrangement with the 4th Earl of Derby. But by the date of Atye’s return, 5 Apr. 1583, Parliament had been prorogued and was dissolved without a further session, so Atye did not take his seat on this occasion. He was returned at the next general election. Another court connexion, probably with Henry Killigrew, brought him his return for Fowey in 1589. Shaftesbury was the Earl of Pembroke’s borough, and Atye’s second wife was known to the circle at Wilton. Atye himself was a London neighbour of Pembroke’s servant Arthur Massinger. Atye’s name is to be found only twice in the extant journals, each time showing his appointment to a committee on a minor matter (16 Apr. 1585, 4 Apr. 1593). The burgesses for Dunwich, where he was returned as a result of pressure from yet another patron, the Earl of Essex, high steward, were put on a committee for draining the fens (3 Dec. 1597). By this time, after an unsuccessful application for the Latin secretaryship in March 1596—‘the only place that hath been void since [Leicester’s] decease, which I would think myself fit for’—Atye was in the service of the Earl of Essex, under whom he had served while in the Netherlands. He survived Essex’s fall unscathed, though prudently retiring for a while, missed the 1601 Parliament, and, like other followers of Essex, returned to favour on James’s accession. Anne, Countess of Warwick, Leicester’s sister-in-law, in her will of October 1603, called Atye ‘loving friend’. Atye was buried at St. Dunstan-in-the-West, 4 Dec. 1604.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration fo the Parliament.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. PCC 18 Butts; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 32; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 153; Al. Ox. i(1), 44; HMC 5th Rep. 263, 266.
  • 4. Mems. Merton Coll. (Oxf. Hist. Soc. iv), 265; Merton Coll. reg.; E. Rosenberg, Leicester, Patron of Letters, passim; Leycester Corresp. (Cam. Soc. xxvii), 50, 289, 313-14; Correspondentie van Robert Dudley ed. Brugmans, passim; Resolutien der Staten Generaal 1585-7 ed. Japiske, passim; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 394, 648, 651, 675; CSP For. 1585-6, 1586-7, 1587, passim; The Library, xx. 177-192, 201-2, 215-17, and other information from Dr. G. Ungerer.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 368, 517, 567; Chester ass, bk. f. 185; Liverpool Town Bks. ii. 1571-1603; HMC Hatfield, vi. 84, 419; vii. 107; viii. 207; HMC Var. vii. 85; Dunwich min. bk. 1595-1619, f. 36d; PCC 6 Hayes; Lansd. 61, f. 206; 89, f. 100; Tenison, Eliz. England, vi. 45; Collins, State Pprs. i. 43; Guildhall Lib. 10342, f. 207.