BECKET, Robert (by 1525-1604), of Cartuther in Menheniot, Cornw. and London.
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Family and Education
b. by 1525, 1st s. of Gilbert Becket of Cartuther by 3rd w., and bro. of Oliver. m. (1) prob. by July 1545, Anne, da. of Peter Coryton of West Newton in St. Mellion, s.p.; (2) by Sept. 1566, Margaret, da. of Sir John Arundell of Trerice in Newlyn, s.p. suc. fa. 1532.2
?Page, royal household by 1540.3
The Beckets were an armigerous family which had long been seated at Cartuther, two and a half miles south of Liskeard. In his will of 10 May 1532 Gilbert Becket left his lands in Cornwall to trustees, who were instructed to hand over the property to Robert, the eldest of his seven children, when he came of age, until which time Robert was to have £5 a year for his maintenance. On the following 17 July Thomas Arundell wrote to Cromwell to tell him that Gilbert Becket was dead or dying and to ask that the wardship of Robert Becket should be granted to his father Sir John Arundell of Lanherne. It is not known whether Arundell’s application was successful, and nothing has been discovered about Becket’s life earlier than 1540, by which time he was attached, possibly as a page, to the royal household with a pension of £6 a year; he may have owed this post to his uncle Robert, a minor court official of long standing. He probably married within the next five years as his father-in-law, Peter Coryton, named Becket in 1545 a member of the trust to hold lands for the benefit of his sons Thomas and William; the trustees seem to have neglected their duties, with the result that early in Mary’s reign the Coryton brothers brought an action against them in Chancery.4
Becket took the senior place for Liskeard in the Parliament of 1547: he was presumably of sufficient standing in the town to obtain his own election, but he may have had the support of the Arundells, and the sheriff was his neighbour John Trelawny. Although present at the elections of the knights for Cornwall in 1553 he himself was not re-elected: his lawsuits with several Liskeard men during the 1550s may have made him unpopular in the town, which notwithstanding returned several of his kinsmen during Mary’s reign.5
In May 1569 Becket was commissioned to inquire into a dispute between Thomas Arundell and Thomas Kyllyow, but his Catholicism was eventually to disqualify him from taking any part in public affairs. In 1576 he was committed to prison ‘for not going to the church in time of sermons and common prayer’ but later in the year he was allowed to return home until the beginning of the next law term, on condition that he discussed with the bishop of Exeter those points which he doubted and that he did nothing to further Catholicism. The Council and the bishop failed in their hope of converting him, and on 1 Nov. 1578 he was imprisoned ‘for papistry’ in the Marshalsea, where he apparently remained for ten or more years. On account of his persistent refusal to renounce his faith, two thirds (worth £55 a year) of Becket’s property fell to the crown. It was probably because he was anxious to secure his heir’s succession to his remaining property in Cornwall that on 8 Sept. 1600 he conveyed his lands in Lewannick, Quethiock and South Petherwin to Sir William Wray and another. Becket made his will on 10 Feb. 1604, directing that these lands should be conveyed to his wife, whom he named sole executrix. He also remembered Henry Nance, nieces, servants and the poor of four parishes, and asked that his body should be buried in the church at Menheniot, where probably he had not worshipped for more than 40 years. The will was proved 18 days later.6
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: J. J. Goring
- 1. Hatfield 207.
- 2. Date of birth estimated from fa.’s death. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 25; C142/53/46.
- 3. The Gen. n.s. xxx. 101.
- 4. Vis. Cornw. 25; C1/1338/44-48; 142/53/40; LP Hen. VIII, v; The Gen. n.s. xxx. 101.
- 5. C1/1334/21, 1338/44; 219/20/21, 21/18.
- 6. C3/106/77; APC, ix. 145-7, 213, 391; xiv. 142; Cath. Rec. Soc. i. 70; xviii. 16, 18; xxii. 76; A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 369; Cornw. RO, will 1604.