PADDY, Sir William (1554-1634), of St. John's College, Oxford and Wood Street, 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



Family and Education

b. 2 Dec. 1554, 1st s. of Roger Paddy, of Pudding Lane, London, and his w. Margery.1 educ. Merchant Taylors’ sch. 1569;2 BA, St. John’s, Oxf. 1573, incorp. MD 1591;3 MD Leiden 1589;4 L. Inn 1602.5 unm.6 kntd. 9 July 1603.7 d. Dec. 1634.8 sig. Will[iam] Paddy.

Offices Held

Licentiate, Roy. Coll. Physicians, London 1589, fell. 1591, censor 1595, 1597-1600, anatomy lecturer 1602, elect 1606-d., consiliarius 1615, 1618-22, 1624, 1629-d., pres. 1609-12, 1618-19;9 reader and lecturer in anatomy, Barber-Surgeons’ Co. 1596-1609;10 member, N.W. Passage Co. 1612.11

Physician to Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, aft. 1591-d.12

Commr. deer, Enfield Chase, Mdx. 1599;13 j.p. Oxf. 1603-at least 1629;14 commr. sewers, Berks. and Oxf. 1604, 1634;15 gov. Queen Elizabeth’s sch. Chipping Barnet, Mdx.-?d.16

Commr. garbling tobacco, 1620.17


One of the foremost physicians of his time, Paddy may have come from a family long-settled in Oxfordshire, as sometime before 1252 a Philip Pady purchased lands near Woodstock, where Paddy himself certainly owned property. His father was a London merchant whose date of death has not been ascertained, and although Paddy’s younger brother Nicholas became Lancaster Herald, the family’s ancestry remains obscure.18 By October 1571 Paddy was a student at St. John’s College, Oxford.19 He took his BA in 1573, and thereafter enrolled at Leiden, where he graduated as an MD in 1589. On returning to London, he was admitted as a licentiate by the Royal College of Physicians, became a fellow in 1591, and served a first term as censor in 1595.20 During his second term, in 1598, he and his colleagues ruled that a patient’s death had been caused by the administrations of one Leonard Poe, who was found to be ‘wholly unlearned’.21 Poe was consequently imprisoned in Wood Street Counter, and Paddy was deputed to visit his patron, the 2nd earl of Essex, to explain the College’s actions.22

In 1596 Paddy was appointed reader and lecturer in anatomy by the Barber-Surgeons’ Company, and was licensed to dissect cadavers at their Hall.23 However, he was fined £4 on 8 May 1598 for carrying out dissections without the permission of his College, and for neglecting to deliver the annual public lecture in anatomy at the Surgeons’ Hall.24 Despite these censures, the Physicians appointed him anatomy lecturer in 1602.25 As one of only 31 doctors licensed by the College to practise in London, Paddy was in frequent contact with members of the Court and nobility, as well as City and governments officials. In the 1590s he may have belonged to the household of (Sir) Robert Cecil†, whom he described as ‘my master’;26 certainly he was one of the four royal physicians to Queen Elizabeth,27 and treated Lady Knollys and Elizabeth, countess of Derby.28 Paddy may have been the man described as ‘40’ who was involved in the coded communication with James VI of Scotland shortly before the latter’s succession.29 At any rate, he became James’s personal physician early in the new reign, and was knighted shortly afterwards.

Paddy was elected to Parliament for the Howard borough of Thetford in 1604. It is probable that he had served the town’s patron, Henry, earl of Northampton, in a medical capacity and that Northampton recommended him for the seat. In the first session he was appointed to four general bill committees, concerned with the liberties of the Commons (29 Mar.); the removal of benefit of clergy for manslaughter (25 Apr.); witchcraft (26 May) and the shooting of guns (30 May).30 He was also appointed to consider measures for the restitution-in-blood of the earl of Arundel (2 Apr.), the buying and selling of hops (18 May) and the confirmation of a grant of letters patent to one of the king’s Scottish advisors, Sir George Home (30 May).31 Paddy joined a long list of Howard clients on the Arundel bill committee, while hops was a matter of general interest to any Member from a brewing county such as Norfolk.

Paddy was named to the committee on 29 Mar. to examine the imprisoned minister, Brian Bridger, who claimed that the bishops had defiled the kingdom by imitating the anti-Christ. He also spoke on the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts (19 Apr.) and on an anti-puritan measure (25 April).32 He was appointed to the joint conference on the controversial book by the bishop of Bristol (1 June) and spoke twice on the Union.33 During the second of these speeches (19 May), Paddy, who had interrupted a debate about various engrossed bills, was censured for changing the topic, and an order was made that the Speaker should intervene ‘if any man speak not to the matter in question’.34 Paddy failed to heed the warning, and was again cautioned on 2 June, when he and Sir William Skipwith attempted to alter the question on county composition arrangements for purveyance.35 Paddy expressed his views on purveyance on 7 Mar. 1606. He preferred to proceed by bill, for ‘if we compound for removing this grievance, it will be occasion to draw us to compound for all other grievances’. He nevertheless expressed sympathy for the king’s financial difficulties, and suggested that the Lords be asked ‘whether they will go hand-in-hand with us and according to every man’s several degree, place and office to give freely to His Majesty’.36 He later backtracked, stating that ‘a just king must not take unjust courses. The head must not exhaust the vital spirits’, during the subsidy debate on 14 Mar. 1606.37

Paddy was named to eight bill committees during the second session, two of which concerned his alma mater, Oxford University. Another appointment dealt with an attempt by Sir Edward Clere†, to deprive Paddy’s Thetford constituents of a bequest left by Sir Richard Fulmerston†.38 It seems highly likely that Paddy opposed this measure, to which he was named on 23 Jan. 1606. Paddy was also appointed to committees for bills to enable Thomas Mompesson (1 Apr.) and Sir Christopher Hatton* (4 Apr.) to sell land, and on the false making of black soap (5 April).39 His remaining legislative appointments concerned wine (7 Mar.) and the Marshalsea Court (21 March).40 On 3 Apr. Paddy joined in the debate on poor attendance in the Commons. The House had proposed to send letters to the sheriffs recalling the absentees, but James had objected as sheriffs were his officers, and had offered instead to issue a Proclamation. Paddy took up this suggestion, but added that the Commons’ consent to the royal command should be included in the intended Proclamation.41

During the third session Paddy made no recorded speeches, but was named to the joint conference on the Union (24 Nov. 1606), and committees on bastardy (6 Dec.) and the naturalization of his physician colleague, Peter Baro (9 December).42 Outside Parliament Paddy’s medical career continued to prosper. At the request of Anne of Denmark, he was appointed doctor to the infant Princess Mary when she became ill in 1607. Although he laboured night and day he was unable to prevent her death, or, subsequently, that of Prince Henry.43 Elected president of the Royal College of Physicians in October 1609, he served three consecutive yearly terms, during which time he jealously guarded the London medical profession from unlicensed doctors and those he termed ‘quacks’.44 During his first term, Archbishop Bancroft criticized the College for fining and imprisoning Dr. Thomas Bonham for practising medicine without a College certificate. Paddy visited Bancroft, who had licensed Bonham himself, and explained that the College’s right of licence was enshrined in various statutes and charters of incorporation.45 On hearing ‘the eloquent narrative of the president’, Bancroft withdrew his support from Bonham, whose case was instead taken up by Sir Edward Coke*, then lord chief justice of the Common Pleas.46 Controversially, Coke ruled that the College could not be both judge and party in its own cause, nor was it entitled to punish a transgressor twice.47 Bonham was therefore released and awarded £40 in damages. Paddy was appalled, and at a meeting in his house in March 1610 he and his colleagues resolved to petition the king ‘lest medicine perishes and quacks triumph’.48

On becoming the Physicians’ president for the first time, Paddy was involved in a dalliance with Sir John Kennedy’s wife, Elizabeth, who was then convalescing at Paddy’s house in London.49 Kennedy, one of the king’s Scottish favourites, was a violent, unscrupulous character, heavily in debt. On learning of his wife’s infidelity, he turned his full fury on Paddy, as Dudley Carleton* reported:

You have heard I am sure of a great danger Sir William Paddy lately escaped at Barn Elms, where the house was assaulted by Sir John Kennedy by night with a band of furious Scots, who besides their warlike weapons came furnished ... with certain snippers and searing irons, purposing to have used him worse than a Jew, with much more ceremony than circumcision. Sir William, having the alarm given him, fled like a valiant knight out at a back door, leaving his breaches behind him, and the lady by his sweet side went tripping over the plains in her smock with her petticoat in her hand till they recovered the next castle, and now he walks London streets with three or four men in defence of his dimissaries.50

The fleeing couple may have ended up at the house of Sir Arthur Gorges†, who reported that Lady Kennedy had come to his gates ‘bare legged, in her petticoat, old cloak, and night gear’ after she had been violently driven out of her house.51 This incident probably spawned the contemporary verse ‘Ladies all glad ‘e, here comes Doctor Paddy; so farewell bawdy doctors’.52 Paddy’s affair with Kennedy’s wife was singularly ill-judged, and not merely for the physical danger in which it put him, as Kennedy owed him £450.53 In 1626 he petitioned the House of Lords for repayment after Kennedy’s death.54

On resuming his parliamentary seat in 1610, Paddy argued (19 Feb.) that the Commons delegation to the joint conference on supply and grievances should either be enlarged or restrained from making any commitments without the approval of the whole House.55 Five days later he commented on Dr. Cowell’s legal dictionary, The Interpreter, and on 14 and 16 Mar. he contributed to the debates on the Great Contract.56 He spoke in favour of providing supply for the king (28 Feb.) and, after some discussion, agreed that silenced ministers should be included in the grievances’ petition (24 April).57 His seven legislative committees concerned shipping (28 Feb.), Hugh Platt (10 Mar.), wine imports (22 Mar.), the restitution-in-blood of the children of the late George Brooke (31 Mar.), Thomas Mildmay (31 Mar.), amendments to William Essex’s bill (3 May) and the measure sponsored by Thetford to confirm the bequest of Fulmerston (15 June).58 Paddy actually chaired the committee on importing wines and reported the bill on 16 Apr., 9 May, and 12 June, when it was rejected.59 There is no mention of him in the sparse records of the fifth session.

In June 1613 Paddy was licensed to travel to Spa for the recovery of his health.60 He returned to London before April 1614, and in September appeared before the corporation of London to secure the Physicians’ exemption from the requirement to bear arms.61 One of the physicians who performed the post-mortem examination on Arbella Stuart, he also attended King James on his deathbed.62 He arrived at Theobalds on 25 Mar. 1625, and recorded the details of his meeting with James in the latter’s personal copy of the Book of Common Prayer (which he later purloined).

Being sent for to Theobalds but two days before the death of my sovereign lord and master King James, I held it my Christian duty to prepare him, telling him that there was nothing left for me to do ... but to pray for his soul. Whereupon the archbishop [of Canterbury] and the lord keeper, bishop of Lincoln, demanded if His Majesty would be pleased that they should pray for him; whereupon he cheerfully accorded. And after short prayer these sentences were by the bishop of Lincoln distinctly pronounced unto him, who with his eyes ... lifted up to heaven, at the end of every sentence, gave to us all ... a godly assurance of the those graces and ... faith ... wherewith in his godly life he had often publicly professed.63

Paddy remained a royal physician during Charles’s reign, but it is not known whether he ever personally attended the king.64 He was required to give evidence to the 1626 Parliament on Buckingham’s involvement in preparing medicines given to King James shortly before the latter’s death.65

Throughout his life Paddy occasionally resided at his old Oxford college, St. John’s.66 In 1602 he made the first of many large donations of books to the library.67 These books reveal much about Paddy’s character and interests, and explain why he was respected by both laymen and other physicians.68 In addition to medical texts, his donations included works by Augustine and Heinrich Bullinger, historical tomes,69 and two hampers (weighing 610lbs) of mainly legal tracts.70 Paddy’s own published work consisted of a single volume of poems lamenting the death of Queen Elizabeth and praising James I.71 The verses, which have been described as unmelodious, have led one commentator to remark that Paddy ‘made better play with his lancet than his pen’.72 One of Paddy’s poems was read to Christian IV of Denmark when he visited Oxford in 1606.73 Paddy’s most significant contribution to medical literature was to help compile the first edition of Pharmacopoeia Londinensis, which became the standard pharmaceutical textbook.74

Paddy made his will on 23 Aug. 1634 and died the following December. He left two bibles and a copy of the Book of Common Prayer, all previously owned by King James, to St. John’s, which also received £2,800 to maintain a ‘skilful organist’ and eight choristers and to repair the organ and purchase books. He also instructed that the profits from his lands in Woodstock should be used to augment the living of the librarian, and bequeathed £20 to the Royal College of Physicians and 20 marks apiece to two apothecaries. The rest of the estate was inherited by his nephew (and executor) Lewis Paddy.75 Paddy was buried in St. John’s chapel, where a monument to him still survives. The hall at St. John’s boasts a portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts of its greatest benefactor, while the ground floor section of St. John’s library is known as the Paddy room. No further member of the family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Chris Kyle


  • 1. IGI; Oxf. DNB. We are grateful for information supplied by Neville H. Paddy, Don S. Pady, and Rex Paddy.
  • 2. Merchant Taylors’ Sch. Reg. ed. E.P. Hart, ii. unpag.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. R.W.I. Smith, Eng. Speaking Students Univ. Leyden, 176.
  • 5. LI Admiss.
  • 6. Coll. of Arms, I.24, f. 19v.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 13.
  • 8. Smyth’s Obit. ed. H. Ellis (Cam. Soc. ser. 1. xliv), 10.
  • 9. Royal Coll. of Physicians of London, Annals, ii. ff. 78v, 81v, 90, 113v, 130v, 135, 142, 146, 190v, 191; iii. ff. 4, 7, 9, 22, 35, 40, 47 50, 61, 91, 101, 113v, 132v, 147v.
  • 10. Annals Barber-Surgeons’ Co. ed. A.T. Young, 364-5; GL, ms 5257/3, pp. 245, 246; 5257/4, p. 87.
  • 11. CSP Col. E.I. 1513-1616, p. 239.
  • 12. Coll. of Arms, I.24, f. 19v.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 484.
  • 14. C231/1, f. 150v; C66/1549; C193/13/1; C66/2527.
  • 15. C181/1, f. 85; 181/4, f. 179.
  • 16. F.C. Cass, Queen Eliz. Sch. Chipping Barnet, 35.
  • 17. SP14/113/80.
  • 18. VCH Oxon. xii. 42-3; H.S. London, Coll. of Arms, 134-5.
  • 19. St. John’s Coll. Oxf. Lib. Comptus Annus, 1568-72, passim.
  • 20. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, ii. ff. 113v, 130, 135, 142, 146v; iii. ff. 22, 40, 47, 50, 61, 90, 101, 113v, 132, 147v.
  • 21. G. Clark, Hist. Royal Coll. Physicians, i. 146-8; Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, ii. 133.
  • 22. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, ii. 137a.
  • 23. Annals Barber-Surgeons’ Co. 364-5.
  • 24. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, ii. f. 132.
  • 25. Ibid. f. 158.
  • 26. HMC Hatfield, v. 524.
  • 27. Coll. of Arms, I.24, f. 19v.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, v. 524-5; ix. 256.
  • 29. D.S. Pady, ‘Sir William Paddy’, Medical Hist. xviii. 69-70.
  • 30. CJ, i. 157a, 184a, 227a, 229a.
  • 31. Ibid. 162a, 213b, 228b.
  • 32. Ibid. 178b, 184b.
  • 33. Ibid. 182b, 214b, 230a.
  • 34. Ibid. 214b.
  • 35. Ibid. 984b.
  • 36. Bowyer Diary, 67.
  • 37. CJ, i. 284b.
  • 38. Ibid. 259a, 260a, 278b.
  • 39. Ibid. 291b, 293b, 294a.
  • 40. Ibid. 279a, 288a.
  • 41. Ibid. 293a.
  • 42. Ibid. 324b, 328a, 328b.
  • 43. LS13/280, ff. 352, 356, 368.
  • 44. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, ii. f. 191; iii. ff. 4, 7, 9.
  • 45. Clark, p. 58.
  • 46. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, iii. f. 4v.
  • 47. HMC 7th Rep. Coke, ‘Bonham’s Case’.
  • 48. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, iii. f. 6.
  • 49. SP14/6/65.
  • 50. Carleton to Chamberlain ed. M. Lee, 113.
  • 51. SP14/48/7.
  • 52. Bodl. Rawl. poet. 160, f. 183v.
  • 53. SP14/48/75.
  • 54. LJ, iii. 531; HLRO, main pprs. 16 Mar. 1626.
  • 55. Ibid. 397a.
  • 56. Ibid. 399b, 411a, 412a.
  • 57. Ibid. 403a; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 7v.
  • 58. CJ, i. 402a, 408b, 414a, 417a, 417b, 424b, 440a.
  • 59. Ibid. 418b, 426b, 437a.
  • 60. SO3/5, unfol., June 1613.
  • 61. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, iii. ff. 17v-18v; C. Goodall, Roy. Coll. Physicians (1684), pp. 378-80.
  • 62. Clark, 191.
  • 63. St. John’s Coll. Oxf. Lib. b.2.2, unfol.
  • 64. Coll. of Arms, I.24, f. 19v; Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, iii. passim.
  • 65. HMC Lonsdale, 1-7.
  • 66. J.F. Fuggles, ‘Hist. Lib. St. John’s Coll. Oxf.’ (Univ. Oxf. B.Litt. thesis, 1975), passim; Coll. of Arms, I.24, f. 94v.
  • 67. St. John’s Coll. Oxf. Lib. Registrum Benefactorum, cols. 58-80.
  • 68. Fuggles, 84-6; St. John’s Coll. Oxf. Lib. A.7.11, Y.3.13.
  • 69. Ibid. E.subt.1-6; Gf.8.13 (b); X.2.23 (1); a.3.12 (5); P.2.39.
  • 70. St. John’s Coll. Oxf. Lib. LX.30; Comptus Annus, 1632-3, f. 24v.
  • 71. H.B. Wilson, Hist. Merchant Taylors’ Sch., 602.
  • 72. ‘Some Additions to Aubrey’, Cornhill Mag., lii. 77.
  • 73. BL, Royal 12.A.LXIV, f. 6b.
  • 74. Royal Coll. Physicians, Annals, iii. f. 36.
  • 75. PROB 11/166, ff. 349-50v.