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|12 Jan 1559||LANCELOT LANCASTER|
|GERARD LOWTHER I|
|1572||THOMAS KNYVET I|
|1584||FRANCIS CLIFFORD 1|
|THOMAS WARCOP 2|
|31 Oct. 1588||FRANCIS DACRE|
|1593||SIR WILLIAM BOWES|
|(SIR) EDWARD DENNY|
|22 Sept. 1597||(SIR) WALTER HARCOURT|
|15 Oct. 1601||GEORGE WHARTON|
In the first three Parliaments of the reign all the Westmorland knights of the shire were local gentry. Lancelot Lancaster (1559) of Stockbridge was related to Gerard Lowther I (1563) of Lowther, who came from one of the oldest county families and was related to both the Cliffords and the Dudleys. Lowther represented Westmorland while still a student at Lincoln’s Inn. Thomas Warcop of Smardale, captain of Carlisle castle from 1568, had an extraordinary record, representing Westmorland at least four times before the beginning of this period and six times during it, always as junior knight of the shire. Alan Bellingham (1571) of Heslington, was a member of the council in the north. The Stricklands, seated for centuries at Sizergh, provided two knights of the shire, Walter (1563) and his son Thomas (1601).
Elected to the senior seat in 1572 was the courtier Thomas Knyvet, whose mother was a Westmorland heiress, and whose family was connected with the Cliffords during the minority of George Clifford, 3rd of Cumberland, who was to treat the county for the rest of this period as if it were his proprietary borough. Cumberland, hereditary sheriff of Westmorland, was born in 1558, succeeded to the earldom in 1570 and in 1577 married the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Bedford. In 1584 and 1586 Cumberland’s younger brother Francis, of Skipton castle, Yorkshire (later the 4th Earl) was elected, and in 1588 his friend Francis Dacre whom he was supporting in a peerage claim. One 1593 Member was Sir William Bowes, of Streatlam, county Durham, a man of local standing related to Cumberland, but there is some doubt about the identity of the Sir Edward Denny who was his colleague in that Parliament. The connexion of Sir Edward Denny of Bishop’s Stortford with the Earl of Cumberland supports the argument that he was the 1593 MP, an argument strengthened by this Denny’s connexion with the 1st and 2nd Earls of Essex. By this time Cumberland was indulging in voyages abroad and ‘low amours’ at home, to the grief of his ‘well deserving’ wife. He was also ruining, in the course of their joint extravagance, his cousin Henry Cholmley, one of the county Members in 1597. The other 1597 man was Walter Harcourt of Ellenhall, Staffordshire, a pathetic follower of the 2nd Earl of Essex who, as a drinking companion of Cumberland, was by this time playing a small part in Westmorland politics. Harcourt had been removed from the commission of the peace in his own county, and had lately been imprisoned in the Fleet and in the Tower. Having been outlawed for debt it is unlikely that he took his seat in 1597, the authorities taking then, as they had done certainly since 1571, a firmer stand against election to the House of Commons becoming a device for avoiding creditors. Thus he was ‘not certified into the House, having been outlawed after judgment’. By the time of the 1601 elections Essex had been removed from the scene and, for the first time since 1571, both Westmorland Members had estates in the county, even though one of them, Wharton, was the Earl of Cumberland’s eighteen year-old nephew. Denny, Harcourt, Cholmley and Cumberland himself all died in debt, and Wharton might have done so had he not been killed in a duel following a gambling dispute when he was only 26.