BUTTON, Sir William (c.1570-1624/5), of Fulham, Mdx. and Park Gate, Tavistock, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1570,1 1st s. of Miles Button of Dyffryn House, St. Nicholas, Glam. and Margaret, da. of Edward Lewis of Van, Glam.2; bro. of James*. educ. New Coll., Oxf. 1586, BA 1589; G. Inn 1618.3 m. aft. Jan. 1617,4 Martha (d. by 1658),5 da. of Arthur Ascott of Tetcott, Devon, 2da.6 kntd. 15 Dec. 1606;7 suc. fa.?1607.8 d. by 19 Feb. 1625.9

Offices Held

Att. (jt.), sheriff’s ct., Glam. 1592-d.;10 surveyor customs, London, 1618-d.11

Asst. master of ceremonies 1605-d.;12 commr. to license overseas travel 1607.13


A cadet branch of the Wiltshire family, the Buttons settled in south Glamorgan in the fifteenth century, for which county Button’s father, Miles, served as a magistrate for most of Elizabeth’s reign.14 As sheriff of Glamorgan in 1588-9, Miles appointed his three sons - William, Sir Thomas and James* - jointly to the office of attorney to the Glamorgan shrieval court. Late in 1594 William travelled to the Low Countries in the service of the lord admiral (Charles Howard I†), where he was imprisoned; he was eventually released on 26 July 1595 on payment of 220 crowns. He then travelled to Picardy, from where he wrote to Howard on 13 Aug. describing the military manoeuvres of the French and Spanish armies.15 He was presumably introduced to Howard by his brother Sir Thomas, the explorer, whose marriage to a daughter of Sir Walter Rice* linked him to Admiral Sir Robert Mansell*.

Shortly after his return home, Button petitioned Lord Treasurer Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) for employment in France.16 Nothing came of this approach, but in September 1600 complaints from English merchants about their ill-treatment by the French authorities led the Privy Council to recommend Button as ‘a special man of purpose to attend and solicit your suits’, he being ‘one that has travelled abroad, and by his language and good experience is fit and apt to be so employed’.17 His services were evidently accepted, for in May 1601 he reported from Rouen on the merchants’ complaints, noting that the English ambassador was ignoring injustices committed upon them.18 Button was probably the ‘cousin Button’ for whom in November 1601 Sir Robert Mansell had secured a post in Calais settling claims from owners of ships which had been driven into the harbour by bad weather.19 His dealings with lord admiral Howard during this period may explain his subsequent association with the latter’s kinsman, the 1st earl of Suffolk, whose son, Theophilus Howard*, he accompanied to France a year later. In April 1603 Button reported to Sir Julius Caesar* that the constable of France, having offered ‘many kindnesses’, had asked Howard and himself to deliver ‘to our friends in England’ a letter regarding the seizure of ships in the Channel, adding that ‘this party is one whom the constable does favour extraordinarily.’20

Button’s foreign travels and links with the Howards probably explain his appointment in 1605 as assistant master of ceremonies, a position which involved regular contact with foreign diplomats at the Jacobean Court.21 In May 1613 Button arranged for two deponents to give evidence to support the nullification of the marriage between the 3rd earl of Essex and Frances Howard, Theophilus’s sister, while in a related matter he was sent by King James to pacify Nicholas Overbury*, father to the imprisoned Sir Thomas Overbury.22 Button almost certainly owed his return to Parliament for Morpeth in 1614 to Lord William Howard, who controlled the borough. His contribution to the work of the House was negligible, however, for he made no recorded speeches, and his only committee nomination was for the expiring statutes’ continuance bill (8 April).23

Button’s career outside Parliament was centred upon his work as assistant to the master of ceremonies, Sir Lewis Lewknor*, and his surveyorship of London customs. He evidently retained an interest as an attorney to the sheriff’s court in Glamorgan, for in 1623 he appealed to the Privy Council for redress against individuals who impeded his office there.24 Button’s principal residence was in Fulham, where he perhaps lived with his brother, Sir Thomas, who had a house there, but after his marriage in 1617 he also made use of his wife’s dower estate at Park Gate, near Tavistock.25 Settlement of her jointure from her first husband, William Hinson, may have been complicated by her marriage to Button before Hinson’s will had been proved - the couple fought a number of Chancery cases brought by Hinson’s relatives, and as late as July 1621 they were reported to have ‘undergone divers suits at law in most of the courts at Westminster for the greatest part of their estate’. The couple also fell out with the 3rd earl of Bath, who complained that they withheld from him Privy Council instructions pertaining to government administration in Devon. The Council urged Bath to conciliate Button, a Crown servant who was ‘known to most of us to be a gentleman of good abilities and discretion’.26

The date of Button’s death is unknown, but it must have been shortly before 19 Feb. 1625, when the lord treasurer, Lord Ley (Sir James Ley*), wrote to Sir John Finet, the other assistant master of ceremonies, concerning Button’s pension and the suitors for his ‘lately’ vacant office.27 Button was styled as of Park Gate when administration of his estate was granted to his widow on 2 Mar. following.28 His estate, or that of his wife, was evidently substantial, for in 1636 one of his two daughters married Sir William Strode† with a £1,500 portion.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. Assuming age 16 at admiss. to New Coll. Oxf.
  • 2. W. Berry, Hants Genealogies, 34-5.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; GI Admiss.
  • 4. IGI, Hants.
  • 5. PROB 11/280, f. 33.
  • 6. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 21; PROB 11/124, f. 189.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 141.
  • 8. PROB 11/112, f. 295v.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 479.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 180; 1619-23, p. 504.
  • 11. SO3/6, unfol. Mar. 1618.
  • 12. SO3/3, unfol., Aug. 1605; SO3/5, unfol., Sept. 1612.
  • 13. C181/2, f. 33v.
  • 14. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 289-90; Glamorgan Co. Hist. ed. G. Williams, iv. 167; W. Berry, Hants Genealogies, 34-5; Glamorgan Peds. ed. T. Phillipps, 34.
  • 15. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 257; Lansd. 78, f. 54.
  • 16. HMC Hatfield, xiv. 124.
  • 17. APC, 1599-1600, p. 711.
  • 18. Add. 5664, ff. 135-6.
  • 19. APC, 1601-4, p. 373.
  • 20. Add. 5664, f. 327; J. Stoye, Eng. Travellers Abroad, 41.
  • 21. LC5/1, pp. 9, 13.
  • 22. State Trials, ii. 794, 813; A. Amos, Gt. Oyer of Poisoning, 91.
  • 23. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 36.
  • 24. SP14/78, p. 14; LC5/1, p. 9; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 504.
  • 25. E115/48/106; C. Feret, Fulham Old and New, i. 116.
  • 26. C2/Chas.I/B134/32; PROB 11/132, f. 435; APC, 1621-3, p. 29.
  • 27. Add. 35832, f. 174; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 479.
  • 28. PROB 6/11, f. 150.