SACKVILLE, Robert (1561-1609), of Bolbrooke and Buckhurst, Suss. and Knole, Kent.

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. 1561, 1st s. of Thomas Sackville, 1st Baron of Buckhurst and 1st Earl of Dorset, by Cicely, da. of Sir John Baker, of Sissinghurst, Kent. educ. prob. Hart Hall, Oxf. 1576, BA and MA 1579; I. Temple 1580. m. (1) Feb. 1580, Lady Margaret Howard (d. 19 Aug. 1591), o. da. of Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk, 3s. 3da.; (2) Dec. 1592, Anne, da. of Sir John Spencer, of Althorp, Northants., wid. of William Stanley, 3rd Lord Monteagle and of Henry Compton I, 1st Lord Compton. Styled Lord Buckhurst 1604-8. suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Dorset 1608.2

Offices Held

J.p. Suss. from c.1591, Kent from c.1592; dep. lt. Suss. 1601, jt. ld. lt. 1608.3


Sackville’s preliminary education was directed by a tutor chosen by Roger Ascham, whose own son became his fellow-pupil. This arrangement was the result of a suggestion in December 1563 by Sir Richard Sackville, Robert’s grandfather, to the famous pedagogue whose gentleness and learning so impressed him that he offered to bear the entire expense, ‘yea, though they three do cost me a couple of hundred pounds by year’.4

Sackville was put into the senior county seat for Sussex at the first election after he attained his majority by his father and Viscount Montagu, each of whom wrote to the sheriff on his behalf. He did not stand in 1586, and came in for a local borough at the election of 1588 when his father had scarcely emerged from a period of royal disfavour. From 1593 he continued in a county seat until his death. No record has been found of his speaking in the House, but he was a fairly active committeeman in 1593 and 1597. He could have taken part in the work of the following committees: in 1584-5 the preservation of Sussex timber (8 Dec.) and the subsidy (24 Feb.); in 1589 the subsidy (11 Feb.); in 1593 the subsidy (26 Feb., 1, 3 Mar.), a legal matter concerning country gentlemen (9 Mar.) and the poor law (12 Mar.); in 1597 enclosures (5 Nov.), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.), draining the fens (3 Dec.), and highways in Surrey, Sussex and Kent (27 Jan. 1598); in 1601 the main business committee (3 Nov.) and monopolies (23 Nov.).5

In his middle thirties Sackville embarked on a number of speculative financial ventures, such as the export of iron ordnance. His trading ventures led to his becoming a freeman of Southampton in 1596. When he succeeded to the earldom and vast estates he was within a year of his death, which occurred on 27 Feb. 1609. His first wife had been ‘a lady ... of as great virtue ... as is possible for any man to wish to be matched withal’; she was evidently a devout Catholic and may have had a lasting influence on her husband and his household. After her death, Robert Southwell published a small volume in her honour. Sackville asked in his will to be buried at Withyham, ‘as near to my first dearly beloved wife ... as can be’, and that £200-£300 should be spent on a tomb bearing effigies of them both. His second wife, however, was a woman ‘whom without great grief and sorrow inconsolable I cannot remember, in regard of her exceeding unkindness and intolerable evil usage towards myself and my late good lord and father deceased’. He prayed that God would forgive her, and left her a life interest in five rings set with diamonds and sapphires which she often wore in her hair. After her death, the rings were to be shared among other relatives, and Sackville charged her ‘if she have in her any spark of the grace of God or any remorse of conscience for those horrible abuses that she hath offered to my lord, my father, that she do not make an increase thereof by embezzling away these rings’. In fact his death occurred during negotiations for a separation on the ground of his wife’s misconduct. The will forbade ‘blacks’ or ‘great solemnity of funeral’ because the usual ceremonies ‘such as heralds set down for noblemen are only good for the heralds and drapers and very prejudicial to the children, servants and friends of the deceased’. He left bequests to the poor of ten Sussex parishes and to various relatives, friends and servants, appointing as executors his brother-in-law, Lord William Howard and his friend, Sir George Rivers. An interesting legacy was that of £1,000 with an annual endowment of £350 for the foundation and maintenance of a hospital or college in East Grinstead for the relief of 31 poor, unmarried persons. The whole was to be, and was, incorporated and named ‘Sackville College for the Poor’.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. PCC 1 Dorset; CP, iv. 423; ix. 623-4; C3/289/8.
  • 3. PRO Assizes, 35, S.E. Circuit, Suss. 33-4; C66/1421d; APC, xxvii. 56; xxxi. 400; CP, iv. 423.
  • 4. R. Ascham, The Scholemaster, ed. Whimster, 13-16.
  • 5. Harl. 703, ff. 18b, 19b; Neale, Commons, 68-9, 317; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 420, 422, 456, 462; APC, xv. 176-7; HMC Hatfield, iii. 280-4; D’Ewes, 337, 431, 474, 481, 486, 496, 499, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 567, 589, 624, 649; Lansd. 43, anon. jnl. f. 171.
  • 6. Req. 2/34/104 and 72/42; CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 153, 171; 1598-1601, p. 411; 1601-3, p. 151; 1603-10, pp. 139, 477, 484; APC, xxv. 271, 301; HMC Hatfield, vi. 18; viii. 131; HMC 11th Rep. III, 22; C142/312/128; PCC 23 Dorset; Cath. Rec. Soc. ii. 239; xxi. passim; HMC 4th Rep. 120; HMC 7th Rep. 43-4; DNB.