Available from Boydell and Brewer
No names known for 1510-12
|1515||SIR PETER EDGECOMBE 1|
|1529||SIR PETER EDGECOMBE|
|1539||SIR JOHN CHAMOND 2|
|WILLIAM GODOLPHIN I 3|
|1542||RICHARD EDGECOMBE 4|
|1547||(SIR) RICHARD EDGECOMBE 5|
|JOHN RESKYMER 6|
|1553 (Mar.)||(SIR) WILLIAM GODOLPHIN I|
|1553 (Oct.)||JOHN CARMINOWE|
|1554 (Apr.)||SIR JOHN ARUNDELL|
|1554 (Nov.)||?THOMAS TREFFRY I|
|1558||JOHN ARUNDELL I|
Little is known about the election of knights of the shire for Cornwall in the early 16th century. The writs were sent from Chancery to the duchy of Cornwall offices at Lostwithiel whence they were delivered to the sheriff. Although the sheriff owed his appointment to the duchy, the King merely ratifying its choice, he seems to have held shire elections without reference to the duchy and there is no evidence that the duchy expected him to return its nominees. When in 1539 Cromwell nominated William Godolphin he did so by writing to the sheriff, Godolphin’s father, who received his letter before the writ from the duchy. The elder Godolphin might well have returned his son without such a directive, for in doing so he would have been in line with other holders of his office during the period.7
Only four indentures of election survive, all in Latin and generally in bad condition. They are between the sheriff and from a dozen to 30 or more named electors. The list of these usually begins with a number of esquires, who are followed by gentlemen. The only knight to appear is (Sir) William Godolphin, who heads the list in September 1553; this peculiarity may help to account for a letter from the Privy Council to ‘the gentlemen of Cornwall’, dated six days after the election, in which after thanking them for their ‘honest proceedings’ in the election the Council informed them that the sheriff Reginald Mohun had been ordered ‘to accept their election without further troubling of the county with any other alteration’. In January 1545 the electors include the mayor of Launceston, where on this occasion the election was held; the other indentures give Lostwithiel as the venue of the shire court.8
There is no indication that in Cornwall, as in some counties, the leading gentlemen took it in turns to sit as knights of the shire. Of the 15 known knights at least nine belonged to the closely interlinked families of Arundell, Edgecombe and Grenville, while a tenth, John Polwhele, was associated with the Arundells in mining and property. In the Parliaments of 1529, 1545 and 1558 members of this group took both seats and only in March 1553 and November 1554 did they fail to obtain one. Of those from outside this circle Godolphin was elected against its opposition in 1539 and re-elected in 1553 in virtue of the ascendancy he then enjoyed. Thomas Treffry may have prevailed in 1554 as an answer to his ousting by the Arundells from the captaincy of St. Mawes, and John Carminowe, Henry Chiverton and John Reskymer are not known to have been aligned either with or against the Arundell group, Carminowe and Reskymer being from old Cornish families and Chiverton having married a Cornish heiress. Only John Arundell, Chiverton and Treffry appear to have had previous parliamentary experience, and only Carminowe and Chiverton were to sit in the Commons again.
In 1536 Grenville complained to Cromwell of his outlay in attending Parliament, which far exceeded any likely reimbursement. He may have been hoping for some reward from the minister but he was perhaps soliciting aid in obtaining payment of wages. Nearly 20 years earlier his fellow-Member Sir Peter Edgecombe had proceeded against an ex-sheriff for non-payment for the Parliament of 1515.
During the invasion scare of 1512 the Council had enacted a measure to strengthen the coastal defences of Cornwall (4 Hen. VIII, c.1). The county was one of those where new gaols were to be erected under an Act (23 Hen. VIII, c.2) renewed in 1536, 1545 and 1553. Two Acts (23 Hen. VIII, c.8 and 27 Hen. VIII, c.23) passed during the Parliament of 1529 were meant to stop damage to the harbours there from waste from tinworks. A measure for the marking of hard tin produced in the south-west was rejected by the Lords in 1540. A bill for wools in Devon and Cornwall failed after three readings in 1547, but the two counties obtained an Act (7 Edw. VI, c.9) regulating the manufacture of straits in 1553.9
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. E13/193/30.
- 2. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Sixteenth-century herald's tricking book in the possession of T. M. Hofmann in 1972.
- 5. Hatfield 207.
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. J. Norden, Speculi Britanniae Pars (1728), unpaginated; J. Hatcher, Rural Econ. and Soc. in the Duchy of Cornw. 1300-1500, p. 5.
- 8. C219/18C/12-15, 20/21, 21/17v, 18, 23/19, 24/20v.
- 9. LJ, i. 131; CJ, i. 2, 3.