TYRWHITT, Sir Robert I (by 1504-72), of Mortlake, Surr. and Leighton Bromswold, Hunts.

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



Apr. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1504, 2nd s. of Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, and bro. of Philip. m. (1) Bridget, da. and h. of Sir John Wiltshire of Stone Castle, Kent, wid. of Sir Richard Wingfield of Kimbolton, Hunts. and (Sir) Nicholas Harvey (d.1532) of Ickworth, Suff.; (2) by 1540, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Goddard Oxenbridge of Brede, Suss. at least 1da. d.v.p. Kntd. 1543.1

Offices Held

Esquire of the body by 1525; chamberlain, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. 13 Sept. 1525; j.p. Hunts. 1536, 1544, 1554-d., Lincs. (Lindsey) 1538, Northants. 1554, Beds. 1558/59-d.; keeper, manor of Dytton, Bucks. 1536; sheriff, Lincs. 1540-1, Cambs. and Hunts. 1557-8; master of the hunt, Mortlake, Surr. 1540; gent. the privy chamber by 1540; commr. ordnance 1541, 1553, benevolence, Surr. 1544/45, relief, Hunts., Northants. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Hunts. 1553, subsidy, Hunts. 1563, eccles. causes, dioceses of Lincoln and Peterborough 1571; servant, household of Queen Catherine Parr July 1543-8, master of the horse by 1544, steward by 1547; constable, Kimbolton castle, Hunts. 1544; steward, duchy of Lancaster, Higham Ferrers, Northants. by 1546; steward, unknown property for Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley by 1548; jt. (with Thomas Audley II) ld. lt. Hunts. in 1551; numerous other minor offices.2


Of old Lincolnshire stock, Robert Tyrwhitt inherited a tradition of service to the crown: his grandfather had been a knight of the body and his father, who received his knighthood at Tournai, was an outstanding figure in his shire. Through his mother Tyrwhitt could claim to be linked by marriage with Henry VIII’s mistress Elizabeth Blount and their son the Duke of Richmond.3

Tyrwhitt was brought up at court. An esquire of the body by 1525, he was an early and large recipient of monastic lands, especially in his own shire: between 1536 and 1547 he acquired some two dozen grants and leases from the augmentations. His first acquisition had been the dissolved monastery of Stainfield in Lincolnshire, which was suppressed on the orders of the King despite a recent decision in favour of its exemption. It was such episodes which provoked the Lincolnshire rebellion. Tyrwhitt’s father was one of the subsidy commissioners first attacked by the rebels, and as soon as news reached the court he himself was despatched with orders for John Hussey, Lord Hussey. His part in the suppression of the rebellion and of the Pilgrimage of Grace is scarcely to be disentangled from that of his many namesakes. The dissolution of Stainfield was promptly carried through, and after leasing them in 1537 Tyrwhitt was granted the house, site and 662 acres of land in fee in the following year.4

By 1540 Tyrwhitt’s advance at court saw him promoted to be a gentleman of the privy chamber and acting vice-chamberlain on the King’s side. He survived a rebuke by the Privy Council in September 1540 for being one of those guilty of causing a disturbance in the presence chamber, and he was given custody of several royal properties previously under Cromwell’s charge. Among them was the house at Mortlake, Surrey, where he and his wife, a gentlewoman of the Queen’s privy chamber, were later to reside. His position was greatly strengthened when his cousin by marriage became Henry VIII’s last Queen: it was about this time that he was knighted and by 1544 he was Catherine’s master of the horse. In that year he had charge of the transportation of ordnance for the campaign in France, where he served with Sir Edward Baynton who remembered him with a legacy. Tyrwhitt was himself an executor of the will which John Hasilwood made early in the same year.5

Tyrwhitt was elected first knight for Lincolnshire to the Parliament of 1545, being styled ‘junior’ on the return to distinguish him from his father who was to die in 1548. His father had probably preceded him in the House, being one of three Lincolnshiremen suggested in 1532 or 1533 to fill two vacancies there and one of the two apparently preferred by Cromwell. It was, however, in Huntingdonshire that Tyrwhitt was to settle. In 1548 he bought Leighton Bromswold, a prebendal manor of Lincoln cathedral, with 2,400 acres of land, pasture and marsh, and thereafter he added further property in Huntingdonshire while disposing of much of his monastic land in Lincolnshire and elsewhere; thus in 1550 he sold part of the Thornton college property to his nephew, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt II, and five years later bought over 5,000 acres at Woodwalton, Huntingdonshire. When in 1553 he was sued by some of his tenants for enclosing he agreed to their demand, saying that ‘as he was a true Christian man and knight’, he would ‘help to pluck up [the hedges] with his own hands’. He was also the defendant in property disputes before the Star Chamber and the court of the duchy of Lancaster.6

Tyrwhitt and his wife remained in attendance on Catherine Parr after the death of Henry VIII and so became involved with her new husband Thomas Seymour. Lady Tyrwhitt witnessed Seymour’s neglect of Catherine during the last year of her life, and after her death told the story to the Privy Council. Thus in January 1549 the Council, alarmed at Seymour’s wooing of Princess Elizabeth, sent the Tyrwhitts to Hatfield as overseers to the princess in place of Catherine Astley and Thomas Parry, who were suspected of promoting Seymour’s cause. At the Council’s direction Tyrwhitt questioned the princess about Seymour while Lady Tyrwhitt plied her with ‘good advices ... especially in such matters as [the Council] appointed’. Although the Tyrwhitts treated her gently Elizabeth never forgave them their part in the affair. Lady Tyrwhitt was a devout woman of Puritan tendencies who may have been unwelcome to the young princess on several grounds. Her husband once told Thomas Seymour that she was ‘not sane [sound] in divinity, but she was half a Scripture woman’. She was the author of Morning and Euening praiers with diuers Psalmes Himnes and Meditations (1574).7

Shortly after the interlude at Hatfield House, Tyrwhitt was appointed joint lord lieutenant of Huntingdonshire. He may have been elected senior knight for Huntingdonshire in the Parliament of March 1553. The original return is torn and the name of the senior knight lost, but the circumstances point to his election. Since 1544 he had controlled the wardship of Kimbolton, the traditional stronghold of electoral power in the county, and after his purchase of Leighton Bromswold in 1548 he was a leading landowner; he was one of the lords lieutenant and there was no one of his stature to oppose him; and lastly, his co-lieutenant Audley took the junior seat and his client Simon Throckmorton heads the list of electors on the indenture.8

It is not known what part Tyrwhitt played in the succession crisis of July 1553, but at the end of that year he and Audley took the field against the rebels in Kent, presumably in their capacity as lieutenants, although only Audley, a soldier by profession, was given a reward. Tyrwhitt sat in only one of Mary’s Parliaments, that of April 1554. He may have thought it prudent not to court embarrassment. When in Easter term 1555 his brother Philip Tyrwhitt was informed against in the King’s bench for having left Parliament without leave, Tyrwhitt stood surety for him. In the following year Tyrwhitt’s lease of Mortlake was revoked by the crown and the house was handed over to Cardinal Pole. The shrievalty which he began in November 1557 could have been intended both to discipline him and perhaps to make it difficult for him to sit in the Parliament which was summoned immediately afterwards.9

The accession of Elizabeth did not herald Tyrwhitt’s return to favour by reason of the Queen’s grudge against him. After sitting in her first Parliament he led a retired life at Leighton Bromswold, where he died on 10 May 1572.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: T. M. Hofmann


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 1019-20; LP Hen. VIII, xv.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, iv, v, x, xii, xiii, xvi, xviii-xxi; CPR, 1550-3, p. 394; 1553, pp. 186, 354, 356, 414; 1553-4, p. 20; 1560-3, pp. 433-4, 437-8; 1560-3, pp. 18, 22, 24, 40, 41; 1569-72, pp. 222, 277-8; APC, iii. 259; iv. 49, 277; vii. 248; Stowe 571, f. 60; Somerville, Duchy, i. 590; E101/426/2, f. 6; 163/12/17, nos. 38, 51, 54; HMC Hatfield, i. 443; VCH Northants. iii. 69.
  • 3. HP, ed. Wedgwood, 1439-1509 (Biogs.), 891; LP Hen. VIII, ii, iv, x.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xi, xiii-xx; HMC Bath, iv. 3; CPR, 1547-8, p. 172; DKR, x(2), 292-3; M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. 109-10.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xii-xvi, xviii-xxi; R. P. Tyrwhitt, Fam. Tyrwhitt, 17, 106; VCH Northants. iii. 69; APC, i. 169; PCC 6, 28 Pynnyng.
  • 6. C219/18C/58v; LP Hen. VIII, vii. 56 citing SP1/82, ff. 59-62; Cal. Feet of Fines, Hunts. ed. Turner, 138, 144, 146; CPR, 1549-51, p. 232; VCH Hunts. iii. 89; St.Ch. 4/2/13; Ducatus Lanc. ii(3), 316.
  • 7. Coll. State Pprs. ed. Haynes, 70-108.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, xix; APC, iii. 14; iv. 49, 277; CPR, 1550-3, p. 77; C219/20/59.
  • 9. Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 187; KB27/1177; CPR, 1557-8, pp. 69-70.
  • 10. Tyrwhitt, 22; Pevsner, Beds., Hunts. Hunts, and Peterborough, 283.