CAVE, Sir Ambrose (by 1503-68), of Duddeston, Warws.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. by 1503, 4th or 5th s. of Richard Cave of Stanford, Northants. by 2nd w. Margaret, da. of John or Thomas Saxby of Northampton; bro. of Francis. m. Margaret, da. and coh. of William Willington of Barcheston, Warws., wid. of Thomas Holte (d. 23 Mar. 1546) of Duddeston, 1da. Kntd. by 1525.1

Offices Held

Member, order of St. John of Jerusalem by 1524, preceptor of Yeaveley and Barrow, Derbys. by 1534, j.p. Leics. 1547, Lancs. 1561, q. Warws. 1554-d. Leics. 1558/59-d.; sheriff, Warws. and Leics. ?1548-9; commr. relief, Leics., Warws. 1550, to enforce Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity 1559; other commissions 1551-d.; PC Nov. 1558-d.; chancellor, duchy of Lancaster Dec. 1558-d.; custos rot. Warws. 1558/59-d.; jt. (with Sir Robert Dudley) ld. lt. 1559.2


A Northamptonshire family, the Caves rose to a position of wealth and influence by royal service. Ambrose Cave is said to have been educated at St. John’s, Cambridge, and Magdalen, Oxford, but the only evidence lies in his testamentary foundation of divinity exhibitions at both universities which were then established in these colleges. By 1524 he had entered the order of St. John of Jerusalem, in which he could expect a career of some importance and considerable profit. He rose to the command of a preceptory and in 1534 he was a procurator general of the common treasure. In 1535 he left for Rhodes but by 1537 he had returned and was involved in a bitter dispute with Thomas Dingley, another member of the order, over the valuable preceptory of Shingay, Cambridgeshire. Cave had the support of the order for his claim, but the King, who had already interfered considerably in its affairs, installed Dingley.3

Although Cave behaved with admirable discretion during the trying months preceding the dissolution of the order in 1540, he received only the lesser pension of 100 marks. He does not appear to have suffered unduly by this change of fortune; he engaged in the family wool business, an informal but efficient concern in which the landowning and merchant brothers combined with the brothers in royal service to cover the whole process of wool production. He also set about building up a landed estate. In 1542 he took a lease of land from the crown in Hungerton, Leicestershire, and by 1543 he could afford to buy from it the manor of Rothley which had earlier belonged to his old order. To this property he added various small purchases so that he ultimately held almost the entire parish.4

In 1544 Cave went with the army to France in association with the 13th Lord Grey of Wilton, with whom he jointly received coat and conduct money. Grey had married into the locally dominant Hastings family, and he may have helped Cave to begin his long parliamentary career in 1545, when despite his recent arrival in the shire Cave gained its senior knighthood, with the Marquess of Dorset’s servant, Robert Burdett, as his junior colleague. Two years later he repeated the achievement, although this time he took second place to (Sir) Edward Hastings, and in March 1553 he again sat with Hastings. What role, if any, Cave played in the political events of these years we do not know. His connexion with Grey is likely to have aligned him with the Protector Somerset, but both as sheriff during the turbulent summer of 1549 (in which office he had succeeded the deceased Sir Thomas Brudenell) and as a sheepmaster he may well have adhered to the Earl of Warwick, and he does not appear to have been involved in Grey’s temporary disgrace in 1551-2. Mary’s reign, however, was to see something of a break in his career, although he was placed on the Warwickshire bench and sat for that county in her last Parliament. He devoted time and energy to acquiring property and by the end of the reign he held several manors, some of which he then alienated only to re-acquire them a few years later, perhaps a sign of financial embarrassment.5

In 1558 Cave had the most important phase of his public career before him. He may already have been one of Elizabeth’s supporters, and on her accession he leapt into prominence. He died in London on 2 Apr. 1568.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 126; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 11-12; CSP Span. 1558-67, p. 446; C142/75/84; H. P. Scicluna, Eng. Tongue 1523-67, p. 7; DNB.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, vii; Somerville, Duchy, i. 320 et passim; CPR, 1547-8 to 1569-72 passim; Lansd. 104(14), ff. 33-34; APC, vii. 3; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 95, 129.
  • 3. Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 107; Scicluna, 41; LP Hen. VIII, vii, ix, xii, xiii; VCH Derbys. ii. 77.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xvii, xix, xx; Statutes, iii. 778; B. Winchester, Tudor Fam. Portrait, passim; Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc. xii. 11, 52-55.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 85; 1550-3, pp. 142, 415; 1553, pp. 329, 356, 360, 387; 1558-60, pp. 266, 409; 1560-3, p. 584.
  • 6. PCC 9 Daper; C142/148/4; Nichols, Leics. iv(1), 351.