MORE, George (1553-1632), of Loseley, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Nov. 1553, o.s. of William More I by his 2nd w. Margaret, da. and h. of Ralph Daniell of Swaffham, Norf. educ. Corpus, Oxf. c.1570-4; I. Temple 1574. m. (1) Anne (d.1590), da. and coh. of Adrian Poynings, 4s. inc. Robert 5da.; (2) Constance, ?da. of John Michell of Stammerham, Suss., wid. of Richard Knight of St. Denys, Hants, s.p. Kntd. c.1598; suc. fa. 1600.1
Member of Earl of Leicester’s household by 1579; commr. musters, Surr. 1580; j.p. Surr. from c.1582, sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1597-8, Suss. from 1601; commr. recusants, Surr., collector of the loan 1598, dep. lt. 1600; chamberlain of receipt in the Exchequer 1601; treasurer and receiver-gen. to Henry, Prince of Wales ?1603; chancellor of order of the Garter 1611-30; lt. of the Tower 1615-17.2
After Oxford and the Inner Temple, More entered the service of the Earl of Leicester, who wrote to More’s father:
I must thank you for him, and do think myself more and more beholding to you, that hath bestowed such a one as not only was dearest to yourself, but I assure you upon my truth is as much to my own liking and contentation every way as my heart can wish ... And as before I knew him he was very welcome to me for your sake, as any of yours must be, so now I must confess he is dear to me for his own sake: so the fruit of his good bringing up doth sufficiently and plainly enough appear in his daily behaviour.3
More entered Parliament at the age of about 30, and would no doubt have done so earlier had there been a general election between 1572 and 1584. He represented either his county or Guildford, adjoining the family seat at Loseley, in 12 consecutive Parliaments. His father was a leading Surrey gentleman, in high favour with the Queen; his sister Elizabeth held a court position, and married as her second and third husbands John Wolley and Thomas Egerton; while two leading courtiers, Leicester and Lord Howard of Effingham (the latter the leading magnate in Surrey), were friendly with his family. More was an assiduous Commons committeeman and a more prominent speaker than his father in the House. His committee work covered some of the most important measures of the second half of Elizabeth’s reign. In 1584 he was appointed to two committees concerning the better observing of the Sabbath day (27 Nov., 10 Dec.). He made a motion concerning libellers on 19 Feb. 1585, and was put in charge of the ensuing committee. During his second Parliament (1586) he was named to the committee concerning the Queen of Scots (4 Nov.) and the following day he made a speech on the subject, concluding ‘after sundry great and weighty reasons first showed’ that
only Popery is the chief and principal root of all the late horrible and wicked treacheries and practices, and the Queen of Scots a principal branch issuing from the same root, and the most perilous and full of poison of all the other branches thereof ... [Catholics] either wish or could easily bear the death of our sovereign lady, the Queen’s Majesty, though perhaps they would not show themselves to be actors or dealers therein.
He asked that the existing laws against Catholics should be enforced and that the Queen should be petitioned to retain near her person ‘such only as may be well known both to profess the true and sincere religion, and also to be every way true and faithful subjects’. On 8 Nov. he was one of those who made ‘sundry speeches’ concerning the Queen’s safety. He was appointed to the subsidy committee on 18 Mar. 1587.
More spoke on the subject of the reform of purveyors’ practices on 15 Feb. 1589 and was appointed to the ensuing committee on the same day. He also attended a conference with the Lords on 27 Feb. concerning the Queen’s dislike of the purveyors bill and was appointed to a second committee that day to discuss the Commons’ course of action over the bill. Other committee work in this Parliament concerned topics such as the subsidy (11 Feb.), Exchequer reform (18 Feb.), forestallers (5 Mar.), a private bill (15 Mar.) and glass factories (19 Mar.). In 1593 More was appointed to two committees concerning the subsidy (26 Feb., 1 Mar.), and spoke on the subject on 7 Mar.
... I speak it with grief, how perilous our estate is and how dangerous a cause we be in. We are not sick of one disease but we labour with a plurality of diseases. To meet therefore with our threefold diseases we ought like good physicians to apply a threefold remedy, a treble subsidy. And as the physic is lost which is not taken in time, so we must seek to minister the medicine in good time. And our disease being a pleurisy it is fit we did so. For a skilful physician though he see in a pleurisy there is no remedy without letting blood, yet he will then choose the time of letting blood when the sign is furthest from the heart. Let us let the people blood, and so prevent the danger.
He spoke twice on matters of privilege and returns (26 Feb., 2 Mar.), and was named to the first standing committee on these subjects (26 Feb.) as well as to committees concerning recusants (28 Feb., 4 Apr.), forgery (10 Mar.), the punishment of rogues (12 Mar.), kerseys (2 Apr.) and timber (5 Apr.).
On 8 Nov. 1597 he proposed a motion concerning the keeping of armour and weapons and was appointed to the committee, which he reported on 14 Nov. On 2 Dec. he brought the bill into the House. He also spoke on a disputed election at Ludlow on 12 Nov. His committees included privileges and returns (5 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), ecclesiastical grievances (14 Nov.), the poor law (19, 22 Nov.), Staines bridge (1 Dec., reported by him 3 Dec.), the double payment on shop books (2 Dec.), tellers and receivers (5 Dec., 23 Jan. 1598), lewd wandering persons (7 Dec.), the export of corn (8 Dec.), painters and stainers (12 Dec.), tillage (13 Dec.), wine casks (3 Feb. 1598) and pawnbrokers (7 Feb.). As knight for Surrey in 1597 he was also entitled to attend committees concerning enclosures (5 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.) and the repair of the Queen’s highways in Sussex, Surrey and Kent (27 Jan. 1598).
At the beginning of the 1601 Parliament More moved that a committee be set up to consider the order of business for the session (3 Nov.), to which he was appointed as knight of the shire. He was active in debate during this session: on the same day he made a second motion on the subject of horse stealing, and spoke against drunkenness during a debate on alehouses:
For although there were laws already against it, yet they did not reach grievous enough to the offence in that kind now committed. And therefore we must not be like spiders that always keep their old and the same webs, so allowing the same laws which must alter with the times. And touching the authority that is given to the justices of assize and justices of the peace by this bill, that they shall assign inns and innkeepers, I think that inconvenient: for an inn is a man’s inheritance, and they are set at great rates, and therefore not to be taken away from any particular man.
He spoke again on the subject of alehouses on 10 Dec. wishing that a controversial bill advocating their suppression be committed. He gave the same advice concerning the bill for the setting of watchmen (6 Nov.):
... those that be night walkers offend God, do the commonwealth no good and sin in both. In my opinion therefore it were good to limit the continuance of this law, and that the defects therein may be the better examined, that it be committed.
The bill was committed the next day and he was named to the committee. He spoke on the subsidy on 7 Nov. On 10 Nov. More spoke against the bill ‘to restrain the multitude of idle people which flock from all parts of the realm to London and the suburbs thereof’, on the grounds that no ‘mechanical’ person would be able to trade in London. He spoke on three major religious bills during 1601, the first being the bill against plurality of benefices. He supported the commitment of the bill on 16 Nov. considering it.
in the general scope, a good law and tending to a good and religious end. But such is the iniquity of this age that for want of a good law of this nature, many souls do not only languish but perish everlastingly for want of spiritual food.
On 20 Nov. he supported the church attendance bill against Sir Edward Hoby’s allegations that there was ‘some matter of secret in this statute’, and on 2 Dec. he made a long speech in favour of the commitment of the bill.
Without going to church or doing Christian duties, we cannot be religious; and by religion we learn both our duties to God and the Queen. In doing our duty to God, we shall be the better able to do our duty to our Prince; and the Word biddeth us that we should give unto God, that which is due unto God. Et Caesari quae sunt Caesaris. Amongst many laws which we have, we have none for constraint of God’s service: I say none though one were made primo Reginae, because that law is no law which takes no force, for executio legis vita legis. Then let us not give such cause of comfort to our adversaries, that having drawn a bill in question for the service of our God we should stand so much in questioning the same. Once a month coming to church excuses us from the danger of the law, but not from the commandment of God who saith: Thou shalt sanctify the Sabbath day—that is every Sabbath.
On the subject of monopolies More took a moderate line. He spoke for the first time on 20 Nov.:
I make no question but that this bill offereth good matter ... many grievances have been laid open, touching the monopoly of salt, but if you had added thereunto petre, then you had hit the grief aright with which my country is perplexed.
However he opposed the idea of proceeding by bill on the grounds that ‘we know the power of her Majesty cannot be restrained by any act’. He thought it more fitting ‘the wisdom and gravity of this House to proceed with all humbleness, rather by petition than bill’. He was appointed to a committee on monopolies on 23 Nov. He spoke twice on the subject of the Queen’s message about monopolies, the first time on 25 Nov. expressing his joy and gratitude; the second time, two days later, in opposition to the suggestion that the Queen’s message should be recorded in the journals.
This eating and filthy disease of monopolies I have ever detested with my heart, and the greater the grievance is and hath been, the more inestimable is the grace of her Majesty in repealing them. And therefore to think we can sufficiently record the same, it were to hold a candle before the sun to dim the light. And seeing that she in her clemency and care to us, hath taken the matter into her own hands, I wish the matter may be no more spoken of, much less proceeded in.
During the debate on iron ordnance on 8 Dec. More again opposed the idea of proceeding by bill. The Queen’s recent ‘clemency’ over monopolies led him to hope that a petition delivered with suitable humility would meet with more success. He was appointed to the committee concerning iron ordnance the same day.
More spoke several times on matters of privilege (14 Nov., 8 Dec.) and was appointed to two committees on the Belgrave privilege case (8, 9 Dec.). He also spoke on the procedural question of the issuing of writs for a by-election on 13 and 14 Nov. He opposed the imposition of ‘too infamous a punishment’ for abuses in cloth manufacture (18 Nov.). His committee work included such topics as privileges and returns (31 Oct.), the penal laws (2 Nov.), church attendance (4 Nov., committed to him), the poor law (5 Nov.), blasphemous swearing (10 Nov.), the abbreviation of the Michaelmas term (11 Nov.), private bills (19, 23 Nov., 3 Dec.), letters patent (20 Nov.), London hospitals (23 Nov.), painters and stainers (24 Nov., reported by him 12 Dec.), felt makers (26 Nov.), abuses of the clerk of the market (2 Dec.), the local government of London (4 Dec.), London watermen (8 Dec.) and kerseys (14 Dec.). On 19 Dec. the last day of the Parliament, More joined in the discussion on illegitimate children, recommending that any relief given to the mother should also be given to the child.4
Most of More’s court career lies outside the Tudor period, but there is no doubt that Elizabeth favoured him. When in the summer of 1586 his brother-in-law John Wolley was sent to James of Scotland to explain the English government’s attitude to Mary Stuart, he reported to Sir William More that the Queen had personally suggested that George More should accompany him. As Sir William grew older and more infirm, More began to take over some of his father’s local duties, and in 1596 a letter from Lord Howard of Effingham told him that the Queen valued his work in Surrey too highly to allow him to go to sea with Howard. From this time until his appointment, presumably on his father’s death, as deputy lieutenant, More acted as a special assistant to the deputies. He was given a knighthood, probably early in 1598, as his sister put it, ‘for his better countenance in her Majesty’s service in the country where he dwelleth, and the comfort of my aged father’. More was still styled ‘Mr. George More’ on 7 Feb. 1598. The only George More found among the knighthoods for this period (described puzzlingly as ‘of the West’), was dubbed on Shrove Tuesday 1598 at Whitehall. More received a further mark of the Queen’s favour in November 1601—a grant of the lordship and hundred of Godalming. He also succeeded, probably early in the same year, to his father’s office in the Exchequer. Lord Buckhurst and Lady Warwick supported his application, the latter assuring More that the Queen thought so well of him that he had ‘reason to be hopeful’.5
Elizabeth had visited Sir William More’s newly built house at Loseley several times during her reign, and James I was entertained there in August 1608 and later. The house may not have been big enough for Sir George More’s growing family: at any rate he built a new east wing, with a gallery and chapel. During his period as treasurer to Prince Henry he was apparently a very wealthy man, but the statement that at the prince’s death ‘then fell all his fortunes’, has a measure of truth. In 1613 his subsidy assessment was among the highest in England, and four years later he was able to sell his lieutenancy of the Tower for about £2,500. But he failed to gain a higher office which he coveted (probably that of treasurer or comptroller of the Household), and later claimed that James I had not sufficiently rewarded his services. He had always spent lavishly on hospitality, and in his later years may have had to meet a number of debts contracted by his grandson, Poynings More. By the time of his death the fortunes of the More family were waning.6
Four of his five daughters made good, if not spectacular, marriages, but Anne’s to John Donne was ‘immeasurably unwelcome’ to More, who had Donne discharged from Egerton’s household and imprisoned. After a few months he allowed his relative Francis Wolley of Pyford to effect a reconciliation.7
More died intestate 16 Oct. 1632, and was buried in the chapel at Loseley. Administration of his property was granted to a creditor, and an inventory of goods taken at More’s death survives among the Loseley manuscripts. Though he owned lands in Kent and Sussex as well as Surrey, no inquisition post mortem has been found. A ‘bequest’ of manuscripts and £40 in money to Oxford University was in fact a gift made in 1604, the year before he received an honorary MA. His eldest son Sir Robert having died some years before 1632, the heir was his grandson Poynings More, who represented Haslemere in the Long Parliament.8
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Authors: J.C.H. / M.A.P.
- 1. Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 2; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 88; Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 95; A. J. Kempe, Loseley Mss, xvi-xvii n; HMC 7th Rep. 625a; DNB; Lansd. 84, f. 147; M.I. at St. Nicholas’s church, Guildford; PCC admon. act bk. 1631-3, f. 147.
- 2. Wright, Eliz. ii. 102; APC, xii. 14; xxi. 12; xxxviii. 559; Harl. 474; PRO Index 4208; p. 196; SP14/33; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 54; 1611-18, p. 56; 1629-31, p. 164; DNB.
- 3. Kempe, xiii.
- 4. D’Ewes, 333, 337, 353, 394, 395, 416, 431, 432, 433, 434, 438, 440, 443, 446, 448, 471, 474, 477, 481, 486, 494, 497, 499, 513, 517, 518, 552, 553, 555, 556, 557, 559, 561, 566, 567, 569, 571, 572, 586, 589, 592, 594, 622, 624, 626, 629, 633, 635, 636, 637, 638, 640, 642, 646, 647, 648, 649, 650, 654, 656, 657, 663, 665, 667, 670, 672, 673, 680, 684; Townshend, 23, 27, 75, 76, 103, 105, 106, 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 181, 185, 193, 206, 211, 213, 215, 218, 222, 228, 234, 252, 258, 274-5, 294, 295, 305, 313, 333; Neale, Parlts. ii. 314, 398; HMC Hatfield, iv. 292, 295; xi. 484; Kempe, 358-9.
- 5. Kempe, 492-3; HMC 7th Rep. 654a, 658b, 659a; Lansd. 84, f. 147; D’Ewes, 594; DNB.
- 6. Nichols, Progresses Eliz. ii. 7; iii. 81; Progresses Jas. I, i. 250-1; Kempe, xiv; M. F. Keeler, Long Parlt. 277-8; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, ii. 50, 58.
- 7. Manning and Bray, i. 99; Kempe, 322-40.
- 8. DNB; Manning and Bray, i. 66, 95, 99; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 280 seq.; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 694; Foster, Al. Ox. i(3), 1023; HMC 7th Rep. 677a; PCC admon. act bk. 1631-3, f. 147.