MOMPESSON, Richard (d.1627), of Salisbury, Wilts.

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

4th s. of William Mompesson of Maiden Bradley by Bridget, da. of Robert Browne of Walcot, Northants. m. (1) ?1587, Mary, da. of William Lord Howard of Effingham, wid. of Edward Lord Dudley, s.p.; (2) by Feb. 1601, Elizabeth, da. of John Oglethorpe of Newington, Oxon, wid. of John Alford of Holt Castle, Denb. and Fawley, Bucks., s.p.; (3) aft. 1610, Katherine, da. of Sir Thomas Pakington of Aylesbury, Bucks., wid. of (Sir) Jasper Moore, s.p. Kntd. 22 Apr. 1603.1

Offices Held

Esquire of the royal stables from ?1574.


When, in 1594, Richard Mompesson and Robert Alexander were granted a licence to bring in aniseed and sumach, they were described as having been esquires of the stables for 20 years; and the lack of any information about Mompesson before 1574 suggests that he had embraced this career from an early age. He came of a family of minor gentry in Wiltshire whose main seat was at Bathampton; but his own branch was settled at Maiden Bradley, where in 1576 his father was assessed for subsidy on goods worth £10 and was called upon to pay 16s.8d.2

Mompesson figures in the records of the period chiefly as a recipient of crown grants. In 1581 a Spaniard captured at Smerwick and committed by Mompesson, ‘unto whom the said prisoner was given’, escaped from the Counter; the episode was still under investigation four years later. In 1586 he was granted the proceeds of a prosecution in Wiltshire for coining, and early in the following year he charged an alehouse keeper at Salisbury with perjury in defence of the convicted men. The licence to import aniseed and sumach granted to Mompesson and Alexander in 1594 was a reward of greater value and one which reflects Mompesson’s advance at court. It appears, too, that after Burghley’s death in 1598 the Queen promised Mompesson a park which Burghley’s heir wanted for himself, and that to pacify the offended peer she ‘recalled her promise, preserved my Lord’s honour, and graciously satisfied her servant another way’. By October 1601 he was a favoured candidate for a place in the privy chamber, which appears, however, to have eluded him.3

Mompesson’s career doubtless owed a good deal to the first of his three marriages: Lady Dudley was the daughter of one lord high admiral and the sister of another, whose wife was the Queen’s cousin and intimate friend. A seat in Parliament was thus a natural and legitimate aspiration, and in 1593 he was returned at Devizes as a man with local affiliations and powerful backing. He seems, however, to have been one of the numerous company who were content with a single return to the Commons. Though not mentioned by name in the parliamentary journals, he may have attended a cloth committee to which the burgesses for Devizes were appointed (15 Mar.). On his wife’s death in 1600 he married another widow, Elizabeth Alford, thus acquiring both the domicile in Buckinghamshire which he was to cite at his knighthood and a stepson, Henry Alford, who was to prove a disappointment. It was about this time that Sir John Davies, who had become a Catholic, asked ‘Mr. Mompesson’, whom he took to be of that faith, to procure him a priest; if it was Richard Mompesson who was thus approached he must have been confused with his recusant namesake.4

In April 1603 Mompesson rendered his first professional service to James I by taking six geldings and a coach and four to help equip the King on his way south. He encountered the new monarch at Newark, and was rewarded with a knighthood. The new reign was, however, to bring him no further advance in honour or office, and it is likely that he soon retired, first to West Harnham and then to the house in Salisbury Close which, when rebuilt by a successor towards the close of the century, was to link his name with its dignified beauty. His last marriage, to yet another widow, again combined Wiltshire with Buckinghamshire in its connexions;5 she died in 1622, having left a strange will made much to her husband’s prejudice.

Mompesson prefaced his own will, which he made 4 Sept. 1627 with a mind ‘settled to die in peace’, by an expression of his hope of salvation through Christ’s passion. He asked to be buried in Salisbury cathedral, stipulated that blacks were to be provided only for his family and for the poor, and gave £50 to the corporation for loan to needy tradesmen and £5 to the poor. Among the relatives who received legacies were his sister Dorothy Thorpe (£500 and his own bed), his nephew Henry Poole, and his cousin Thomas Mompesson of Little Bathampton, whom he appointed executor and who received £750, as well as hangings and plate. Mompesson’s bequest of household goods and remission of debt to his stepson Henry Alford was made conditional on him proving ‘a quiet man’ towards the executor; he would himself have been named such if the testator had not found him ‘failing my expectation’ in his behaviour.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. Wilts. Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv, cvi), 135; Genealogist, n.s. xii. 168-9; CP, iv. 482. The Richard Mompesson whose son Jasper matriculated at Hart Hall, Oxf. 24 Oct. 1600 was his kinsman of Codford St. Mary.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1594, p. 483; Two Taxation Lists (Wilts. Arch. Soc. rec. br. x), 158.
  • 3. APC, xiii. 229-30; xiv. 169; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 225, 391; 1601-3, p. 115; HMC Hatfield, viii. 71; xi. 375.
  • 4. B. H. Cunnington, Annals Devizes, i. 23, 62; D’Ewes, 501; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 258, 262, 490; 1598-1601; 548; HMC Hatfield, xiii. 117-18; xv. 35.
  • 5. Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 192; Wilts. Arch. Mag. ii. 183-4, 430-1; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 392.
  • 6. PCC 116 Skynner.