Appendix IV: The 1572 House of Commons

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Effective dates of sessions: 8 May-30 June 1572 8 Feb.-15 Mar. 1576 16 Jan.-18 Mar. 1581


Speakers:(Sir) Robert Bell (1572, 1576) 
 (Sir) John Popham (1581)
Clerk:Fulk Onslow


Privy Councillors in the Commons:

Sir James Croft

(Sir) Christopher Hatton I (1581)

Sir Francis Knollys

Sir Walter Mildmay

Sir Ralph Sadler

Sir Henry Sidney (1581)1

Sir Thomas Smith (1572, 1576)

Francis Walsingham (1576, 1581)

Thomas Wilson (1581)


Total number of Members elected 531

for counties 109

for boroughs 422

at general election 440

for counties 90

for boroughs 350

at by-elections 91

for counties 19

for boroughs 72


Number of Members known to have left before end: 98, of whom 24 sat for counties, 74 for boroughs


Residential qualification. Borough Members

resident in borough 108

resident in county 137

resident in adjacent county etc. 23

strangers 140

no information 16


Electoral qualification. Borough Members returned through

own or family interest 90

wife’s family interest 7

corporation interest 109

‘natural’ influence 34

influence of a great man 139

duchy of Lancaster 10

no information 33


Number of Members with

central office local office
major 14lord lieutenant 3
minor 122deputy lieutenant 12
legal 18custos rotulorum 12
duchy of Lancaster 24j.p. 262
diplomatic/agent abroad 13other county 171
military/naval 20mayor 31
ecclesiastical 12recorder 30
 other municipal 97
 no office in this Parliament 120


Experience. Members who

had sat in previous Parliament 40%

were to sit in next Parliament 24%



very active speakers 6%

very active committeemen 16%

with any recorded activity 51%

with any recorded speeches 18%

with any recorded committees 50%

served on religious committee 15%

spoke on religion 6%

served on subsidy committee 11%

spoke on subsidy 1%

served on a social/economic committee 38%

spoke on a social/economic matter 8%

served on a legal committee 25%

spoke on a legal matter 5%

served on a committee concerning Mary Stuart 14%

spoke on Mary Stuart 7%

served on a committee outside above five classifications 16%

spoke on a subject other than the above five 7%


It will be seen that the percentage of members with any recorded activity rises from 32% in the previous Parliament to 51%. Not only does Fulk Onslow’s journal give more information about the proceedings of the House, but there is an excellent private journal for the first two sessions of the 1572 Parliament in Trinity College, Dublin, transcribed by Miss Miller.

The 1572 session was unusual in that no subsidy was under discussion. As D’Ewes put it (p. 204) ‘and the reason of it is plain, because this session of Parliament ... was convocated ... for that great business touching the Scottish Queen’. No less than 14% of Members served on a committee on this subject, and 7% spoke, the highest recorded for any subject so far in the history of the Commons.


The favoured committee meeting places also become clear. They were, in the first session:

Middle Temple 29%

Star Chamber 24%

Guildhall 18%

‘In this House’ 6%.

Committees also met in Sir William More’s house, the court house at Southwark, the Marshalsea, and Mr. Chancellor’s [of the duchy of Lancaster] at the Savoy.

In the second session:

Exchequer chamber 32%

Star Chamber 14%

Middle Temple 11%

Mr. Treasurer’s chamber at the Savoy 11%

Guildhall 7%

‘In the committee chamber of this House’ 7%2

‘At this House’ 4%3

Westminster Hall 4%

Committees also met in Serjeants’ Inn, and in the chambers of Mr. Lovelace and Mr. Wilson.

In the third session:

Exchequer chamber 48%

Middle Temple 18%

House of Commons committee chamber 10%

Council chamber at court 5%

Guildhall 5%

Star Chamber 3%

Committees also met in Serjeants’ Inn, the Inner Temple, Mr. Secretary’s chamber at court (no doubt Lord Burghley’s) and Mr. Chancellor’s chamber (probably at the Savoy).

Two developments in committee procedure may be noted, both mentioned in Thomas Cromwell’s journal. On 22 May 1572 the House ordered that in matters concerning private individuals, if bills

shall by order of this House be thought good to be committed, the committees shall make their report thereof unto this House in the presence of both the parties and of their learned counsel.

And on 8 Feb. 1576, at the opening of a new session, Speaker Bell moved for a kind of screening committee, suggesting that

for expedition sake upon every motion made, certain might be appointed to consider whether the matter moved were fit to be committed to bill before any argument should be used of the matter.


Sources for the names of Members (unless an individual reference is given)

OR with add. and corr.

PRO T/S list of supplementary returns

Bodl. Tanner 234

Three lists at PRO, C193/32/8, 9, 10. The first of these has been heavily amended to the end of the first session. The second included by-elections to late February 1576. The third is an unamended list for the first session.


Sources for the proceedings of the Commons

CJ, i.


HMC Lords, xi. 8.

The following, transcribed and edited by Miss Helen Miller: Fulk Onslow’s journal 24-31 May, 25 June, House of Lords, Main Papers, Braye, 1572-1636; anonymous journal 8 May-25 June 1572, Bodl. Tanner 393. This amounts to 39 quarto pages of typescript and relates a number of incidents not to be found elsewhere. For example on 6 June 1572, on the bill about Mary Stuart: ‘It seemed hereupon good that certain of the ripest wits within the house should be appointed to have conference upon every point in the bill, and after upon the reading of it by articles, they should utter their opinions as in showing what they thought amiss ... and so leave it to the House to judge upon’.

Thomas Cromwell’s journal, to which reference has already been made, covers 8 May-30 June 1572, 8 Feb.-15 Mar. 1576, 16 Jan.-18 Mar. 1581. Trinity, Dublin N.2.12. This is a substantial journal which makes a major contribution to knowledge of the 1572 Parliament in particular and to the mid-Elizabethan parliamentary machine in general. It amounts to 163 quarto pages of typescript for the 1572 session, 36 for 1576, 45 for 1581, and contains many items of constitutional interest not to be found elsewhere. For example, reporting a speech of Robert Snagge, 11 June 1572: ‘... the Queen and the noblemen represented their own voices only, the knights and burgesses of the Lower House represented all the commonalty of the realm’. Once this alert, inquiring diarist comments on the difficult circumstances under which his journal was written: ‘... her Majesty made an oration, but I could not hear the same, scant one word of twenty, no one perfect sentence’.

Other sources for this Parliament include extracts from BL Hargrave 249; Add. 5758, 48049, 48023, 33271, 32379; Cott. Titus F.i, Cott. Caligula B. viii; Sloane 326; Lansd. 30; SP Dom. Eliz. 147/52, 86/52; Inner Temple Petyt ms 538/17, 54; Exeter Coll. Oxford, 92; Corpus Christi Coll. Cambridge 543; Northants. RO, Fitzwilliam of Milton mss 148.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler

End Notes

  • 1. Sidney was absent in Ireland in 1576, though PC and MP.
  • 2. The first indication that a room was set apart for the purpose is for the date 2 Mar. 1576.
  • 3. May mean in the committee chamber or in the House itself.