BERTIE, Richard (1517-82), of Grimsthorpe and Stamford, Lincs.

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. 1517, 1st s. of Thomas Bertie (or Bartie) of Bearsted, Kent, capt. of Hurst castle, Hants, by a da. of one Say of Salop. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1534, BA Magdalen Coll. 1537. m. c.1553, Katherine, da. and h. of William, 11th Lord Willoughby, wid. of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1555.1

Offices Held

J.p. Lincs. (Kesteven and Holland) by 1564, (Lindsey) 1573, sheriff 1564-5; commr. musters (Kesteven) by 1569.2


Bertie is best known for his experiences as a Marian exile, but for over 20 years of Elizabeth’s reign he was a useful county official in Lincolnshire. After studying at Oxford he spent some time in the household of Lord Chancellor Wriothesley, becoming known for his wit and his skill in French, Italian and Latin. His marriage to the widowed Duchess of Suffolk raised his social status, but involved him in serious trouble under Mary, for his wife was not only an uncompromising protestant, but had quarrelled with Bishop Gardiner. The couple’s wanderings on the Continent between 1555 and 1558 were described by Bertie himself in a narrative incorporated by Foxe in his Acts and Monuments.3

At the accession of Elizabeth, Bertie was in Poland, where King Sigismund Augustus had offered him welcome hospitality, for, after spending some time at Wesel and Strasbourg and almost being murdered on their way to Frankfurt (where Bertie was invited to be a member of the committee on the ‘new discipline’), he and the Duchess were in serious want. Their son, who was born during this period, was christened Peregrine in memory of their wanderings. Bertie having ignored a command from the English government to return to England, his and his wife’s estates were declared forfeit to the Crown.4

Probably some time in March 1559 the family returned to England, and that August their lands were restored. While she was still in Poland the Duchess had written to Cecil on the evils of ‘halting between two opinions’ in religion, and urged him to ‘forward the true faith’. Her zeal cannot have endeared her to either Cecil or Elizabeth, and after the first few years of the new reign there are comparatively few references to her or her husband at court. However, in 1564 Bertie took part in the royal progress to Cambridge, where he was granted an honorary MA. He seems to have been very much under his wife’s influence: perhaps it is significant that he wrote an answer to Knox’s Monstrous Regiment of Women. The couple settled on the Duchess’s Lincolnshire estates, where they kept up a considerable household: their detailed expenses for the period 1560-2 survive among the Earl of Ancaster’s manuscripts. Bertie, who was described by the bishop of Lincoln as ‘earnest in religion’, proved a valuable local official, and most of the Elizabethan references to him are concerned with Lincolnshire affairs. In the Parliament of 1563 he shared the county representation with Sir William Cecil. On 23 Feb. 1563 he was licensed to depart ‘for his weighty affairs’. He was appointed to committees concerned with the export of sheep (18 Oct. 1566) and the succession (31 Oct.). During this Parliament a bill was passed securing him and his wife in the possession of their manors of Whitacre and Whitacre Burgh, which had been enfeoffed to Walter Harenden.5

Several letters from Bertie to Cecil survive for the period 1570-2. In June 1570 he wrote that he had been negotiating with the ‘foreigners’ who were to be brought into Lincolnshire, and had been in correspondence with the Earl of Leicester about the project; in the following January, becoming concerned over the Queen’s re-grants of customs, he reminded Cecil that he and the Duchess had rights to those in Boston. However, his most pressing pursuit at this time was the attempt to have recognized his wife’s claim to the barony of Willoughby (de Eresby). He sent Cecil a collection of court rolls and other documents, asking him to obtain the judges’ opinions, and professing to be willing to forego his own share in the honour if exception should be taken to him personally. In the end it was their son Peregrine who was granted the peerage after his mother’s death in 1580.

Bertie himself had still not been employed in other than a local capacity by 1579 when he was listed as fit to serve in ‘foreign messages’ but never so employed. When he was sent to Denmark, a friend wrote to Peregrine ‘the disorder of that country, by all probable conjecture, first drew your honourable father into his irrecoverable sickness’, from which, it may be inferred, he died at Bourne, Lincolnshire, 9 Apr. 1582. The will he had made the previous February is not known to have survived, but a summary of its clauses concerning land is included in the inquisition post mortem.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. DNB; W. D. Macray, Reg. Magd. Coll. ii. 75-76; Lady Georgina Bertie, Five Generations of a Loyal House, 29n. et passim; CP, xii (2), p. 672.
  • 2. Cam. Misc. ix. (3), p. 27; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 342-3.
  • 3. Pratt’s revision of Townshend’s ed. (1877), viii. 569-76.
  • 4. C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 88.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p 135; SP 12/3/9; HMC 2nd Rep. 42; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 256-60; Cam. Misc. ix (3), p. 27; CJ, i. 66, 74; D’Ewes, 79, 85, 127.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 380, 406, 440-2, 687; HMC Hatfield, i. 482; Lansd. 21, f: 115; 29, f. 186 seq.; 31, f 36; 683, f. 49; HMC Ancaster, 14-15; C142/196/3.