CROFT, James (1517/18-90), of Shobdon, Herefs.

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. 1517/18, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Richard Croft of Croft Castle by Catherine, da. of Sir Richard Herbert of Montgomery Castle, Mont.; poss. bro. of Thomas Croft. m. (1) c.1540, Alice (d.1573), da. of Richard Warnecombe of Ivington in Leominster, Lugwardine and Hereford, Herefs., wid. of William Wigmore of Shobdon, 3s. inc. Edward and James 4da.; (2) Catherine, da. of Edward Blount. Kntd. 24 Nov. 1547. suc. fa. 1 Jan. 1562.2

Offices Held

Water bailiff, Boulogne 1544-5, under marshal 21 Mar. 1546-Mar. 1547; capt. Haddington by June-Sept. 1549; member, council in the marches of Wales 1550, v.-pres. 1550-1; ld. dep. [I] 29 Apr. 1551-Apr. 1553; gent. privy chamber Nov. 1551; dep. constable, the Tower ?1 May-8 July 1553; j.p.q. Herefs. 1558/59-d., most marcher and Welsh counties 1573-d.; gov. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 14 Apr 1559-21 Aug. 1560; commr. musters, Herefs. 1569; comptroller, the Household 1570; PC 1570; constable, Aberystwyth castle, Card., Montgomery castle, Mont. 1570; steward, Kedewen, Kerry and Montgomery, Mont. 1570, Hereford by 1570, Leominster by 1571; keeper, Wigmore park, Herefs. 1570; custos rot. Herefs. c.1573.


James Croft had an income ‘not above £100’ when at the age of ‘about 22’ he married a local widow, and it was at her home that he lived before succeeding to his patrimony early in Elizabeth’s reign. His return as one of the knights for Herefordshire to the Parliament of 1542 was doubtless the work of his maternal grandfather, a member of the council in the marches of Wales. He joined his father-in-law Richard Warnecombe in the House and met there Sir John Dudley ‘at whose hand I found great favour for my lady wife’s sake, to whom I was a poor kinsman’. When the sheriff Sir Richard Vaughan failed to pay Croft’s wages in full after the first session, he brought an action against Vaughan in the Exchequer and after staying the sheriff’s account he was promised by Vaughan settlement of the outstanding £7. As Vaughan had not paid this sum by the dissolution of the Parliament on 28 Mar. 1544 Croft petitioned Chancellor Audley for redress, but Audley died on the following 30 Apr. and no more is heard of the case. During the prorogation in 1543 Croft had served aboard Dudley’s flagship; a year later he captained troops under Dudley’s command at the siege of Boulogne and not long after its fall he became water bailiff there on Dudley’s recommendation.3

It is possible that Croft sat in the following Parliament, that of 1545, but the loss of many returns, including all those for Herefordshire, makes this uncertain. After Dudley’s departure from Boulogne Croft was discharged, but following an appeal on his behalf by the new governor he was appointed under marshal with a place on the governor’s council. Before he received this news, he lost an arm in the attack upon Hardelot. He stayed at Boulogne until the accession of Edward VI when he was allowed to return home. For his service he received a knighthood. Allegations of misconduct were dismissed as unfounded by the Protector Somerset and in 1549 Somerset sent Croft north as an adviser in the war against the Scots, where he replaced Sir James Wilford at Haddington after Wilford’s capture. After the abandonment of Haddington he went back to Boulogne as a commander in the Earl of Huntingdon’s relief force. He became interested in Sir Thomas Wyatt II’s plan to establish a militia by Act to preserve England from Catholicism, but not being a Member of the Parliament of 1547 he was unable to help to promote the plan.4

On the conclusion of peace in 1550 Croft was named to the council in the marches of Wales and during the presidency of his kinsman (Sir) William Herbert he acted as vice-president. He was not to remain in England for long, becoming deputy of Ireland in 1551. His scheme to reduce Ireland by force won some approval in the Privy Council and in November 1552 he was summoned to discuss points raised in his correspondence. The Council rescinded its order, but Croft had left Ireland before he knew of this. He stayed in England to advise Dudley, by now Duke of Northumberland, on Irish matters, and his presence at court early in 1553 creates a strong presumption that he sat in the Parliament of March of that year, summoned under Northumberland’s aegis, perhaps again as one of the knights for Herefordshire. His closeness to Northumberland was noted by the imperial ambassador in the following May, but although he was briefly made deputy constable of the Tower he did not sign the device altering the succession in favour of Jane Grey and immediately after the death of Edward VI he was removed from his post at the Tower. Croft was among the first to sue for a general pardon from Queen Mary and two weeks later he attended the funeral of the late King. The favour shown to him initially by Mary, ‘with whom I stood in reasonable good grace’, suggests that he had not opposed her accession and that the story of his defeat at the hands of her supporters in Herefordshire is without foundation.5

As one who was not ‘earnest in the papists’ religion’ Croft did not welcome either the restoration of Catholicism or the Spanish marriage, and he was drawn into the conspiracy to prevent both. He was expected to raise Herefordshire, but when the conspiracy was discovered he had not left London to keep his assignment, although he departed soon afterwards. After his arrest in Herefordshire he was committed to the Tower on 21 Feb. 1554 and remained there until brought to trial on 28 Apr. He was convicted and condemned to death, but after a further nine months in the Tower he was pardoned on 16 Feb. 1555. He petitioned the Queen for restitution but obtained only some of his goods and a pension of £100 from the King. Although he declined to fight in France in 1557 on account of poverty, he was sent north to assist in the war against Scotland. It was during a visit to the capital by Croft to report on this war’s progress that Mary died.6

After the Act for Croft’s restitution (1 Eliz. no. 25) in 1559, Elizabeth entrusted him with the governorship of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Held culpable for the disastrous siege of Leith and accused of peculation and treason, he was removed from office and briefly committed to the Fleet. Shortly after his release and return to Herefordshire he succeeded to the headship of the family. He sat as a knight of the shire in every Parliament from 1563 until his death, and from 1570 he was comptroller of the Household and a Privy Councillor. He died on 4 Sept. 1590.

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: Alan Davidson / A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Index 16763; E13/222/2v; C1/973/75.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., E150/452/2. This biography rests on O.G.S. Croft, House of Croft, C.A. Mackwell, ‘The early career of Sir James Croft, 1518-70’ (Oxf. Univ. B.Litt. thesis, 1970) and R.E. Ham, ‘The autobiography of Sir James Croft’, Bull IHR, 1. 48-57. Vis. Herefs. ed. Weaver, 21-22; DNB.
  • 3. E13/222/2v; C1/973/75.
  • 4. Pprs. Geo. Wyatt (Cam. Soc. ser. 4, v), 57.
  • 5. VCH Herefs. i. 378-9.
  • 6. D.M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 15-16, 21, 92, 96-97, 125, 127; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot, ii. 57, 61-63, 65, 66, 68-70, 72, 73, 77, 79.