DARCY, Sir Thomas (1506-58), of Danbury, Wivenhoe and St. Osyth (Chiche), Essex.

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. 4 Dec. 1506, o.s. of Roger Darcy of Danbury by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Henry Wentworth of Nettlestead, Suff. m. (1) by Sept. 1521, Audrey, da. of Sir John Raynsford of Bradfield, Essex, s.p.; (2) by 1532, Elizabeth, da. of John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford, 3s. at least 1 da. suc. fa. 3 Sept. 1508. Kntd. 1 Nov. 1532, KG nom. 18 Sept., inst. 6 Oct. 1551. cr. Baron Darcy of Chiche 5 Apr. 1551.3

Offices Held

Commr. tenths of spiritualities, Essex 1535, benevolence 1544/45, array 1545, musters 1546, 1556, 1557, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, heresy 1556, knight, the Household by 1533; carver 1540, v.-chamberlain 2 Feb. 1549-Apr. 1551, chamberlain 5 Apr. 1551-July 1553; j.p. Essex 1538-?d.; keeper, Colchester castle, Essex 1541-53, St. Osyth’s priory 1541-53, Framlingham castle, Suff. 1547-53, manor of East Greenwich, Kent by 1550-3; serjeant or master of the King’s armoury June 1544-51; gent. privy chamber by 1544; steward, Bury St. Edmunds, Suff. 1547-53; PC 24 Jan. 1550-July 1553; master of the buckhounds 28 May 1550-1; ld. lt. ?Essex 1550, Essex 1553; trier of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of Mar. 1553, Apr. 1554, Nov. 1554, 1555 and 1558.4


Thomas Darcy’s father, a gentleman of the chamber to Henry VII, was a considerable landowner in Essex and Suffolk: Darcy was also heir presumptive to the estate of his great-uncle Robert Darcy and would inherit his mother’s property on her death. When his father died the two year-old Darcy’s wardship was granted to one of the new King’s favourite courtiers, Sir John Raynsford, who brought him up to be a soldier, made a son-in-law of him and provided generously for him by will.5

It was, however, with an even more prominent Essex family, the de Vere earls of Oxford, that Darcy was to be more closely connected. After his first wife’s death without issue he married the 15th Earl’s daughter Elizabeth and his early local assignments were frequently discharged in company with his new brother-in-law. On the earl’s death he was given three offices traditionally held by the de Veres, the stewardship of St. Osyth’s and the keeperships of Colchester castle and Tendring hundred. His relationship with the 16th Earl took on a new significance with the advent to power of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. Somerset, who was a cousin of Darcy, planned to marry his heir to Oxford’s daughter and heir presumptive, and was anxious that the earl should not marry one of the gentlewomen in his household: Darcy was used to prevent the match and to negotiate a more suitable one, and when in preparation for the Seymour marriage Oxford entered into recognizances not to alienate his lands or goods, grant annuities, or change his household servants without the Protector’s assent, Darcy was made his overseer. Relations between the two seem, however, to have been correct rather than cordial. In 1542, when the sister of Darcy’s close friend (Sir) John Gates became involved in a dispute with the earl and his servant John Wiseman, Darcy tried to mediate, but without success. There is no trace of affection in his letters to Oxford and no mention of the earl in his will.6

Darcy’s own record during these years was one of steady if unspectacular progress. He had first appeared at court as one of the household of the King’s bastard son Richmond and in this capacity had attended the coronation of Anne Boleyn. From 1536 it was his kinship with the Seymours which brought him on. By 1540 he was a gentleman pensioner and carver to the King, and in the wars which followed he became master armourer and captain of the guard and commanded the pensioners in the expedition of 1544. This was a busy year for him. In February or March he crossed to France but by May he was back in Essex strengthening coastal defences. While there he was empowered to demand the extraordinary assistance of the shire in preventing invasion, and in June he joined the Earls of Essex and Sussex in arranging for the defence of the Isle of Sheppey: in August he was at court, at least for a time, occupying himself with, among other things, the promotion of suits to the King. By 1546 he was regarded as being too necessary at court to be spared for the peace negotiation with France.7

Darcy is known to have sat in two of Henry VIII’s Parliaments and may have sat in at least two more. His name first appears in this connexion in a list of nominees for vacancies in the Commons which was drawn up by Cromwell in 1532 or early in 1533. At that time one of the Essex seats was vacant, Thomas Bonham having died in June 1532, and the other was in process of becoming so with Sir Thomas Audley’s appointment as keeper of the great seal. Although the names of those by-elected are unknown, Darcy could well have been one of them: with one brother-in-law, Sir John Raynsford, already in the Commons and another, the Earl of Oxford, in the Lords, he also enjoyed a standing of his own which was enhanced by the knighthood conferred on him at Calais on 1 Nov. 1532— perhaps to coincide with the by-election. If Darcy did sit in the remaining sessions of the Parliament he was almost certainly returned again to its successor of June 1536 in accordance with the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members. With the Parliament of 1539 conjecture is exchanged for fact: the second knighthood then went to Darcy and the first to Sir Richard Rich, who may already have taken it three years before. The pair were to reappear in the same order in 1545 and it is fair inference that they did so in the intervening Parliament of 1542.8

With Rich elevated to the Lords, Darcy’s fellow-knight in the first Edwardian Parliament was (Sir) William Petre, who as secretary succeeded Rich in the senior place. This is the first Parliament at which there is any indication of Darcy’s part in the proceedings of the Commons: his signature is one of those found on four Acts passed during the third session, those for a general pardon, for a churchyard in West Drayton, Middlesex, for the restitution of (Sir) William Hussey II and for the fine and ransom of the Duke of Somerset. That his connexion with Somerset did not compromise Darcy at the time of the Protector’s fall is clear from the string of appointments and honours which he received shortly after it: these included leading posts in the royal household, a Privy Councillorship, a peerage and the Garter. It was the years of Northumberland’s ascendancy, too, which saw the greatest accession to Darcy’s landed wealth. To the ex-monastic properties which he had been accumulating since 1540 there was added in 1551 a slice of the valuable estates of the bishopric of London recently exchanged with the crown on Ridley’s consecration, and in 1553 a large miscellaneous purchase worth nearly £4,000. His ennoblement created a vacancy in the Commons which was filled not long afterwards by Sir John Gates.9

As chamberlain Darcy was one of the leading figures in England during the closing years of Edward VI’s reign, and it was in this capacity that he presided over the committee for reforming the revenue courts. He signed the device enabling Lady Jane Grey to succeed to the throne and helped to proclaim her Queen. At Northumberland’s behest he ordered Baron Rich to hold Essex against Mary but on realizing the popularity of Mary’s cause he forsook Jane and advised Northumberland to surrender. For Darcy’s support of her rival Mary dismissed him from office and placed him under house arrest. Rumour had it that arms were smuggled into his house during his confinement there and that he was conspiring with Princess Elizabeth, but on 1 Nov. 1553 he was pardoned through the intercession of his brother-in-law the Earl of Oxford. By that time Parliament had been in session for several weeks, and it is probable that he had been absent from the Lords until then. In the previous reign he had attended the Upper House as far as his duties elsewhere had allowed, and this standard he maintained until his death, although without appearing to make much mark there. He requited the clemency shown him and the freedom to reside again at St. Osyth’s priory, until recently in occupation by Mary as princess, by helping to check the spread of Wyatt’s rebellion to Essex and afterwards by supporting the restoration of Catholicism in the county.10

Darcy’s exertions during the emergency following the fall of Calais earned the Queen’s thanks, but whatever promise of restoration this offered perished with his death at Wivenhoe on 28 June 1558. On the previous day he had made a will arranging for payment of his debts and providing for his wife, children and household servants. He left an annuity worth £10 his ‘servant’ George Freville and horses to Sir Francis Jobson and Clement Paston. He was buried in the parish church at St. Osyth, where a monument was later erected to his memory, and the will was proved by his executors William Ayloffe and John Holte on 14 Mar. 1560.11

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 3. Date of birth given at proof of age, C142/46/96. CP; Morant, Essex, i. 314; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 16, 45, 47; PCC 21 Maynwaryng, 10 Loftes; C142/116/31.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, ix, xiii-xxi; The Gen. n.s. xxx. 19-20; APC, iii. 18, 371; iii. 222; v. 312; CPR, 1549-50, p. 418; 1553-4, pp. 283-4; Stowe 571, f. 30; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 248, 267, 312; J. E. Oxley, Ref. in Essex, 226; LJ, i. 430, 448, 465, 492, 514.
  • 5. CIPM Hen. VII, iii. 555, 561; Morant, i. 314; LP Hen. VIII, i, ii; PCC 21 Maynwaryng.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xvii, add.; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 376-80; 1550-3, p. 377; APC, ii. 3, 222-3; vi. 79, 85.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, v, vi, viii, xi, xii, xiv, xviii-xx.
  • 8. Ibid. vii. 56, citing SP1/82, ff. 59-62.
  • 9. F. G. Emmison, Tudor Secretary, 68, 110; House of Lords RO, Original Acts, 3 and 4 Edw. VI, nos. 24-25, 30-31; M. L. Bush, Govt. Pol. Somerset, 47 n. 40; S. R. Gammon, Statesman and Schemer, 176, 183, 185; B. L. Beer, Northumberland, 144; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, ii. 378; Oxley, 80, 136, 252, 255.
  • 10. Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, 248-469 passim; Elton, Tudor Rev. in Govt., 230; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 198; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), passim; APC, iii. 77, 138, 164, 203, 300, 307; CSP For. 1547-53, p. 229; CSP Span. 1553, pp. 37, 44, 205, 241; CSP Dom. 1547-8, pp. 39-40; Lansd. 2(17), f. 178; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 94, 99, 109; M. A. R. Graves, ‘The Tudor House of Lords 1547-58’ (Otago Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1974), ii. 320-1; Emmison, 119, 193-4; Oxley, 197, 199, 206; D. M. Loades, ‘The Essex inquisition of 1556’, Bull. IHR, xxxv. 87-97.
  • 11. APC, vi. 230, 299, 309; C142/116/31; PCC 10 Loftes; Pevsner, Essex, 342; RCHM Essex, iii. 198.