OSBORNE, Peter (1521-92), of South Fambridge, Essex, Chicksands, Beds. and Ivy Lane, London.

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. 1521, 2nd s. of Richard Osborne of Tyld Hall, Lockingdon, Essex by Elizabeth Coke or Cooke. educ. ?Camb.; L. Inn 1543. m. Anne (d.1615), da. of Dr. John Blyth, regius professor of physic at Camb. and niece of Sir John Cheke, 11s. inc. Christopher and John 11da.

Offices Held

Clerk of the faculties 1551; keeper of privy purse to Edward VI 1551; ld. treasurer’s remembrancer in the Exchequer 1552-3, from 1559; eccles. commr. 1562; assoc. bencher, L. Inn 1566; dep. gov. mineral and battery works 1568; commr. on disputes with Portugal 1573, piracy 1580; j.p.q. Mdx. from c.1562.


Osborne rose to prominence during the Northumberland régime, then fell out of favour under Mary, when his sympathies were with his relative Sir John Cheke and the protestant reforming group. He may have been imprisoned. He is not known to have been a Marian exile. At Elizabeth’s accession he was reinstated at the Exchequer, where he was employed in 1560 in connexion with the new coinage. A number of letters to his master and marriage relation Sir William Cecil survive, mainly on the subjects of general foreign trade, customs duties and commercial treaties. On 9 Oct. 1572 Osborne sent him a resumé of the personnel of the Exchequer and their responsibilities, and in the same year he was making a collection of statutes, letters patent and charters relating to English trade since the reign of Henry III. The friendship between the two men outlasted Osborne’s death, for Burghley looked after Osborne’s son John, for whom he had already secured the reversion of the remembwrancer’s office, ‘the stay of his house, his wife and children after him’, until 1698 in fact. Though Osborne bought a small amount of landed property, unusually for the period he refrained from speculating with public money, and his estates were not extensive. He bought South Fambridge in 1561 and Chicksands priory, Bedfordshire in 1576. The family remained at Chicksands, and were in the royal service at least until 1812, and MPs until 1824.1

Osborne owed all his parliamentary seats to Cecil. A letter is extant2 of January 1553 signed by Christopher Smythe of the Exchequer and Thomas Hyde, recommending Osborne for election at Bridport. It described him as ‘towards the privy chamber and a great officer in the Exchequer’, and promised that if he were returned he would not ask for wages. It is not known whether or not he was successful. His immediate patron at Tregony, as later at Plympton Erle, was presumably the 2nd Earl of Bedford. Horsham was controlled during the first part of Elizabeth’s reign by the Duke of Norfolk, to whom, again presumably, Cecil applied for a nomination. The inference is that he did also to William More I, himself a former Exchequer official, at Guildford in 1571. The Cecil connexion may also have secured Osborne’s return for Aldeburgh; alternatively this may have been due to his mother’s family. There is no doubt about Westminster, where Burghley was high steward. In turn Osborne had his own relatives returned to Parliament, for example George Blyth at Maldon in 1571 and, probably, Edmund Bell for Aldeburgh in 1586. It is likely that it was Peter Osborne who was the ‘Mr. Osborne’ appointed to committees concerning the clerk of the market (27 Jan. 1581), the reformation of disorders of sheriffs (committed to him 4 Feb. 1581), Mary Queen of Scots (4 Nov. 1586)and the debts of Thomas Hanford (18 Mar. 1589). It was certainly he who spoke, 18 Feb. 1589, to the effect that he had no objections to an Exchequer reform suggested by (Sir) Edward Hoby.3

By 1587 Osborne was suffering from the stone, and in the spring of 1591 he was ‘at more leisure from Westminster and going abroad, by reason of my lameness and sickliness, than heretofore’. He died 7 June 1592, and was buried at St. Faith’s under St. Paul’s. No will has been found.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. DNB ; Lansd. 14, 18, 24, 26, 52, 56, 146 passim; L. Inn Black Bks. passim; Egerton 3369; HMC Hatfield , ii. 171; Hatfield mss 223/7, 278; Cooper, Ath. Cant. ii. 126; Eliz. Govt. and Soc. 115-16; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 177; CPR , 1560-3, pp. 42, 279. The matriculation date of 1548 in Venn, Al. Cant , i(3), p. 285 is too late. Osborne was not called to the bar, his associate benchership was ‘for board only’.
  • 2. HMC 6th Rep. 497.
  • 3. CJ , i. 120, 122; D’Ewes, 291, 394, 434, 447.
  • 4. Lansd. 52, f. 90; 66, f. 217; C142/249/59.