HATTON, Sir Christopher (1581-1619), of Clayhall, Ilford, Essex and St. Bartholomew-the-Great, London

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



30 Nov. 1606

Family and Education

b. 5 Mar. 1581,1 1st s. of John Hatton of Longstanton, Cambs. and Jane, da. of Robert Shute† of Oakington, Cambs. and Gray’s Inn, London, j.q.b. 1586-90.2 educ. Jesus, Camb. c.1598-1600.3 m. 13 Mar. 1602, (with £2,000) Alice (admon. 16 Mar. 1640), da. of Thomas Fanshawe†, queen’s remembrancer, Exch. 1568-1601, of Barking, Essex and Ware Park, Herts. 4s. 2da.4 suc. fa. 1587;5 2nd cousin Sir William Hatton alias Newport† 1597;6 cr. KB 25 July 1603.7 d. 10 Sept. 1619.8 sig. Chr[istopher] Hatton.

Offices Held

J.p. Essex by 1608-d.; dep. warden, Waltham forest, Essex 1613-?d.;9 dep. kpr. Havering-atte-Bower park, Essex 1613-?d.;10 commr. inquiry, Waltham forest 1616;11 steward (jt.), Barking manor, Essex 1617-d.;12 commr. gaol delivery, Havering-atte-Bower 1618, sewers, highways and bridges, Essex 1618.13

King’s remembrancer, Exch. 1616-d.14


Originally from Cheshire, one branch of the Hatton family acquired Holdenby, Northamptonshire by marriage in the fifteenth century.15 The heir to this estate, Lord Chancellor Sir Christopher Hatton†, amassed a fortune which he invested in lands in Cheshire, Dorset and Northamptonshire.16 However, he died in 1591 owing huge sums to the Crown, which led the Exchequer to seize most of his estate. In July 1595 his nephew and heir Sir William Hatton, whose wife was a granddaughter of lord treasurer Burghley (William Cecil†), secured a 21-year lease of the Crown’s extent at £1,500 a year.17 This was a bargain, as it gave Sir William an unimpeachable title to lands worth £4,000 a year.18

On his death in 1597, Sir William’s lease of the Hatton estates passed to his wife, depriving his second cousin Christopher, the subject of this biography, of his inheritance.19 This controversial settlement would undoubtedly have caused a protracted dispute, had not Sir William’s widow married Sir Edward Coke*, then attorney-general. It was presumably Coke who thwarted Hatton’s plans to secure control of part of the Northamptonshire estates, valued at £2,000 a year.20 Thus the future MP was left with a patrimony worth only £500 a year, which was swallowed up by, among other things, wardship fees and his mother’s jointure.21 While a student at Cambridge he subsisted on an annuity of less than £100, leading his principal ally, Bishop Bancroft of London, to ask ‘who would have thought that within seven years the lord chancellor’s heir should have been brought to such an exigent?’22

Despite his modest means, Hatton was returned to the Commons for Buckingham in 1601, probably at the behest of the town’s high steward, Sir John Fortescue*, then chancellor of the Exchequer. He may have been recommended by Henry Fanshawe†, one of Fortescue’s subordinates at the Exchequer, whose sister he married in the following year.23 Hatton was not re-elected in 1604, although he probably wanted a seat in order to promote a bill to pass some of the Hatton estate to the Crown in order to cancel the outstanding debt.24 He was supported by Lady Hatton, who resented Coke’s appropriation of her income for his own uses. The measure received a first reading in the Commons on 27 June 1604, probably at the behest of Sir John Hobart I*, who had been returned for the Hatton borough of Corfe Castle. However, shortly after it was committed (29 June), Lady Hatton informed Sir Christopher that Coke

is come in in an extreme rage; he hath stopped our proceedings for the bill. He sayeth he is [s]cornfully, neglectfully and falsely dealt withal. I bear half the blame, thou[gh] you have three parts. I have laid the fault as much as I can where it is due, that is upon Sir John Hobart, who promised to be with Mr. Attorney [Coke] and Mr. [John] Walter* this morning.25

Coke had every reason to stifle the bill, which was reported on 5 July ‘(with the liking of the parties interested) as thought fit to sleep’. This bland statement probably conceals a good deal of bullying by Coke.26

Coke confirmed his victory by forcing Hatton to enter into a bond for £12,000 as a guarantee that he would not attempt to overthrow the extent upon his estates again. This was reinforced by a further recognizance of £6,000, sealed by Sir John Scott* and Sir John Smythe I*.27 These measures rendered any further attempt to challenge Coke’s control of the estate futile, and forced Hatton to come to an accommodation over his inheritance. The first sign of this was the introduction of a fresh bill in the Lords on 1 Mar. 1606, which reached the statute book at the end of the session without significant alteration. It confirmed Hatton’s title to the former lord chancellor’s estate, but broke the entail on all but the lands in east Northamptonshire.28 This allowed Hatton to conclude a series of agreements over the next three years: Holdenby House was assigned to the Crown in return for fee-farm rents worth £1,600 a year (most of which Hatton sold before his death);29 Coke bought a lease of the Dorset estates for the derisory sum of £4,400; and Lady Hatton was to receive £7,000 from the sale of Holdenby and an annuity of £1,230 in lieu of her jointure lands. In return, Hatton was promised possession of his east Northamptonshire estates, which (once Holdenby had been sold) were valued at about £1,600 a year.30 From Hatton’s point of view, the settlement was a disaster. However, he had little alternative but to accept its terms, as Coke could use Hatton’s bond and his own influence at Court to interfere with the reversion of the estate after the lease of the extent expired in 1616. The uneasy compromise was reflected in the March 1608 grant of a reversionary lease of the extended lands to the unlikely combination of Coke (now lord chief justice), the 1st earl of Exeter (Thomas Cecil†, Lady Hatton’s father), Archbishop Bancroft (Hatton’s supporter) and Sir Henry Fanshawe (Hatton’s brother-in-law).31

Hatton probably owed his return to the Commons for Bedford at a by-election on 30 Nov. 1606 to Thomas Fanshawe I*, who had sat for the borough in 1601 on the interest of his wife’s brother-in-law William Boteler†, the owner of an estate to the west of the town. Furthermore, Hatton probably knew the borough’s chief patron, Oliver, 3rd Baron St. John†, whose London house lay near his own in St. Bartholomew-the-Great, while Coke was also in a position to influence the corporation, having recently been appointed assize judge for the Norfolk circuit.32 With his own estate problems now resolved, albeit unsatisfactorily, Hatton left little trace on the three sessions which he was entitled to attend. Indeed, his only committee nominations were to consider a couple of jointure bills, one for Mary Cavendish, a Norfolk widow (4 Dec. 1606), and the other for the family of Humphrey Mildmay† (20 Feb. 1610), an Essex man who had a house in the same London parish as Hatton.33

Hatton played a rather more active part in the Addled Parliament in 1614. His patron at Huntingdon is unknown, but it may have been Lord St. John, who had electoral influence over the borough. Certainly, Hatton’s transfer to Huntingdon enabled St. John to insert one of his sons, Sir Alexander St. John, at Bedford. However, Hatton could equally well have been recommended by Coke, whose recent elevation to the Privy Council and familiarity with the town from his time on the Norfolk circuit may have given him sufficient influence with the corporation.34 Hatton was appointed to the committee of privileges (8 Apr.), and included on the committee ordered to draft a protest to the king about the alleged activities of ‘undertakers’ in the Commons (13 April). He was also one of those ordered to frame a petition against the creation of baronetcies (23 May), an honour which outranked his own knighthood of the Bath.35 Aside from a handful of nominations to bill committees, his only recorded activity within the Commons was on 23 May, when he was paired with the Huntingdonshire MP Sir Oliver Cromwell as a teller for the yeas in a motion to pass a bill allowing the Sussex gentleman Herbert Pelham* to sell part of his estates. Although one of his grandmothers came from Sussex, Hatton himself had no known interest in the measure.36 He contributed £50 towards the Benevolence raised after the dissolution in lieu of a subsidy.37

In March 1616 Coke’s lease of the Hatton estates expired. Under the terms of the reversion of 1608 the estate then passed to four trustees who theoretically represented the interests of both Coke, now chief justice of King’s Bench, and Hatton. In practice, the bond for £12,000 imposed upon Hatton in 1604 secured Coke’s control of the property for the remaining six years of the extent. However, Coke’s claims that the royal prerogative was subordinate to the Common Law undermined his standing with the king, and presented Hatton with a tempting opportunity to reassert his rights to the whole of his inheritance. He was almost certainly encouraged to do so by Sir Robert Rich*, who had laid claim to part of the Hatton estates since his marriage to Sir William Hatton’s only surviving daughter in 1605.38 Rich was heir to one of the wealthiest noblemen in England, and after he and Hatton agreed to a partition of the estates in April 1616 they offered £7,500 in composition for the outstanding debt on the Crown’s extent of the Hatton estate.39 Coke apparently attempted to conceal this offer from his fellow privy councillors, a deceit which contributed to his suspension from office in July 1616. The Council then forced Coke to cancel Hatton’s bond of 1604 and surrender his interest in the extent of the Hatton estates. This allowed Rich and Hatton to buy out the extent, although they were obliged to increase their offer to £10,000 to match a bid from Lady Hatton.40 The latter, who feared that her jointure was threatened by the unravelling of the settlement agreed after the passage of the 1606 estate bill, claimed Hatton House and the Dorset properties under a dubious assignment of 1608, a dispute which was left unresolved when last brought before the Privy Council in August 1617.41

According to one of his neighbours, Hatton never lived on his Northamptonshire estates.42 He apparently spent his adult life at Court, at his town house in St. Bartholomew’s, and on the estate he leased at Clayhall in Essex, a few miles from the seat of his brother-in-law Thomas Fanshawe I*. Consistently active in Essex affairs, he built a chapel near Clayhall and took charge of the nearby Waltham Forest and Havering Park for the 17th earl of Oxford.43 He acquired a more important office in 1616, that of king’s remembrancer, a sinecure which he held during the minority of Thomas Fanshawe II*.44

Hatton died suddenly on 10 Sept. 1619, apparently at his house in London. His friend John Chamberlain was present at his deathbed, recording that ‘from the first hour I saw him (for all the physicians’ fair promises) I gave him for lost’.45 He was buried in Lord Chancellor Hatton’s vault at Westminster Abbey on the following day, and administration of his estate was granted to his wife on 15 September.46 Chamberlain presumed that Hatton’s estate would prove ‘much encumbered with debts’, but the £10,000 owing on his estate was almost covered by the £8,142 received from the sale of his goods.47 Hatton’s widow sold Clayhall for about £1,000 to the customs farmer Sir John Wolstenholme*, the father-in-law of her brother William Fanshawe*, and moved to Northamptonshire.48 Surprisingly, Hatton’s harshest critic was John Chamberlain, who considered that

if he had lived long he would have much weakened, if not ruined, his whole estate, being of so easy and kind nature that he could deny nothing to his friends or kindred ... and being already entered so far into debt as would in no long time have eaten and consumed as good a living as his.49

However, this was a misconception: Hatton left his estate in fair condition, and while forced to alienate much of his inheritance, it is difficult to see how he could have prevailed against such a powerful adversary as Coke before the latter’s fall from favour in 1616. His legacy was sound enough to enable his son Christopher* to secure both a peerage and a seat on the Privy Council during the Civil War.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. C142/249/61.
  • 2. Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xviii), 115.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, viii. 463; x. 429.
  • 4. PROB 6/17, f. 108v; PROB 11/97, ff. 152v, 158v; C2/Jas.I/H29/24, f. 2.
  • 5. Cambs. RO, Oakington par. reg.
  • 6. C142/249/61, 63; 142/376/100.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 155.
  • 8. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 262.
  • 9. Northants. RO, FH3085.
  • 10. Ibid. FH3002.
  • 11. C66/2090, dorse.
  • 12. C66/2092/19.
  • 13. C181/2, ff. 313, 318v.
  • 14. Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xviii), 46.
  • 15. Vis. Cheshire, 112-15; Vis. Northants. ed. W.C. Metcalfe, 27.
  • 16. C142/232/82.
  • 17. C142/329/193; C66/1442/15; C78/267/2. The lease was made to Hatton’s 2nd cousins Francis* and William Tate* as trustees.
  • 18. Northants. RO, FH3713.
  • 19. PROB 11/89, ff. 317-20; Hatfield House, Petition 185 (BL, microfilm M485).
  • 20. Northants. RO, FH3713; HMC Hatfield, xi. 201.
  • 21. HMC Hatfield, viii. 463; x. 429. Confusingly, Hatton’s mother also claimed to be paying £300 a year towards the lease of the extent of the ld. chancellor’s lands.
  • 22. Ibid. ix. 178; Bancroft had been presented to a Northamptonshire rectory by ld. chancellor Hatton in 1586 [Oxford DNB sub Richard Bancroft].
  • 23. For Hatton’s correspondence with the Fanshawes at this time, see Add. 29571, f. 1.
  • 24. This may have been the plan he proposed to the earl of Devonshire (Charles Blount†) in August 1603: Add. 29549, f. 29.
  • 25. CJ, i. 247a, 249a; Add. 29571, f. 5.
  • 26. CJ, i. 252b.
  • 27. Northants. RO, FH843.
  • 28. LJ, ii. 384b, 386a, 394a, 395a, 398a, 399b, 429b, 430b; CJ, i. 291a, 293b, 297b, 303a, 307b; Bowyer Diary, 140-1; HLRO, O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 38.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 423, 535-6; C66/1762/10; 66/1806/11; 66/1808/8; 66/1893/33; 66/1929/8; C2/Jas.I/H29/24.
  • 30. Northants. RO, FH843, 1042, 3545; Bodl. Tanner 97, ff. 138, 141, 144-5. The valuation was based on estate rentals.
  • 31. C66/1749/15.
  • 32. J.S. Cockburn, Hist. Eng. Assizes, 268-9.
  • 33. CJ, i. 327b, 397b.
  • 34. Cockburn, 269; SIR EDWARD COKE.
  • 35. CJ, i. 456b, 464a, 494b.
  • 36. Ibid. 493b; Vis. Cheshire, 115.
  • 37. Chamberlain Letters, i. 542; E351/1950.
  • 38. PROB 11/89, f. 318; Hatfield House, Petition 185 (BL, Microfilm M485).
  • 39. Northants. RO, FH1174; APC, 1616-17, pp. 184-5.
  • 40. APC, 1615-16, pp. 645-7, 649-50, 668-9; 1616-17, pp. 184-5; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 386; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 14.
  • 41. Northants. RO, FH3545; APC, 1616-17, pp. 184-5, 258-9, 270, 274-6, 309, 322-3.
  • 42. Northants. RO, FH4282.
  • 43. P. Morant, Hist. and Antiqs. of Essex (1768), i. Becontree hundred, pp. 6-7; Northants. RO, FH3002, 3085; Add. 29549, ff. 33, 41.
  • 44. C66/2076/2; Chamberlain Letters, i. 615, 622.
  • 45. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 262.
  • 46. Reg. Westminster Abbey ed. J.L. Chester, 115; PROB 6/10, f. 33v.
  • 47. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 262; Northants. RO, FH2142.
  • 48. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 312; Northants. RO, FH617.
  • 49. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 265.