COPE, Anthony (1550-1615), of Hanwell, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 19 Mar. 1550, 2nd s. of Edward Cope of Hanwell by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Walter Mohan of Overstone and Wollaston, Northants.; bro. of Walter. m. (1) Frances (d.1601), da. of Rowland Lytton of Knebworth, Herts. by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of John Carleton, 4s. inc. William 3da.; (2) Anne, da. of Sir William Paston of Norf., wid. of Sir Nicholas Lestrange and Sir George Chaworth, ?s.p. suc. bro. 1566. Kntd. by 1593; cr. Bt. 1611.

Offices Held

Steward, duchy of Lancaster manor of Wollaston 1576; j.p. Oxon. from c.1582, sheriff 1582-3, 1591-2, 1603-4, dep. lt. from 1596; jt. (with Richard Fiennes) superintendent of recusants at Banbury castle from c.1589.


Cope had a remarkable career, missing only one Parliament between attaining his majority and his death over 40 years later. His grandfather and father were puritans and, three years after his father’s death, when Cope was 11, his mother married another, George Carleton. Cope eventually came into the modest estate of Hanwell, near Banbury, the borough for which he was returned to seven Elizabethan Parliaments, and in whose new charter of 1608 his name occurs. Active against recusants and ‘maypoles, morris dances, Whitsun ales and other pastimes’, Cope collected a number of puritan ministers in the Banbury district, appointed a puritan as curate of Hanwell church, and many were the ‘suspicious meetings about religion’ which the sheriff thought he had better report to the archbishop of Canterbury.

So far as is known Cope contributed nothing to the proceedings of his first Parliament, or to the first two sessions of his second. But his known views make it a fair assumption that it was he who spoke on 21 Jan. 1581 in favour of Paul Wentworth’s motion for a public fast (though D’Ewes calls him Cooke). It is also as Cooke that D’Ewes names him to the committee on slanderous words and practices, 1 Feb. On 16 Mar. Cope accused Speaker Popham of partiality, no doubt over the puritan plans for church reform. He missed the 1584 Parliament, and, in the next, on 21 Nov. 1586, spoke on Mary Stuart. It was on 27 Feb. 1587 that he earned a small place among the immortals by introducing the measure known then, since and still as Cope’s ‘bill and book’, showing in D’Ewes’s summary, ‘the necessity of a learned ministry and the amendment of things amiss in the ecclesiastical estate’. The text of Cope’s speech has not survived, but that of the bill has, as well as a great deal of contemporary and later comment. All that need be said here is that Cope was one of the spokesmen in Parliament for a group of puritans who were meeting in London at the time to direct the activities of their parliamentary caucus, composed of such men as Cope himself, Peter Wentworth, Edward Lewknor, Ralph Hurleston and Robert Bainbridge. What they wanted was a new Genevan prayer book, and a presbyterian church. What these five got (from 2 Mar.) was a spell in the Tower, which ended their activities in that Parliament. Cope evidently learned his lesson, for, as far as is known, he never spoke again in Elizabethan Parliaments, though he tried once, after an interval of ten years, and failed to catch the Speaker’s eye. That the Privy Council was wary of him is certain. On 15 Aug. 1591, worried that Wentworth had been staying with him, the Council ordered that his house be searched for anything that ‘may be intended to be moved in Parliament’. Of his general loyalty, however, there could be no question, for a few months later he was made sheriff and, more difficult to understand, knighted. Thus, to go back a year or two, there is no reason why he should not have been the Mr. Cope on the subsidy committee, 11 Feb. 1589, rather than his younger and more obscure brother. It was about this time that he was given the task of supervising the recusants in Banbury castle, a nice example of the Elizabethan principle of directing the energies of an extremist into approved channels.

Still, in the comparatively well reported last three Elizabethan Parliaments, Cope’s total activity amounted to membership of the following committees: rogues and sturdy beggars (12 Mar. 1593, 22 Mar. 1597), armour and weapons (8 Mar. 1597), marriages without banns (14 Nov. 1597), draining the fens (25 Nov. 1597), tellers and receivers (31 Jan. 1598), perjury (1 Dec. 1601), and the bill on church attendance (1s. fine on recusants) 2 Dec. 1601. He had recovered his nerve by the time the Commons was confronting James I, but that is another story. Cope died 23 July 1615.

GEC Baronetage, i. 36; Vis. Notts. (Harl. Soc. iv), 128; Somerville, Duchy, i. 591; Wood, Ath. Ox. i. 192; Strype, Annals, iii(2), p. 452; W. R. Williams, Oxon. MPs, 49-50; M. M. Knappen, Eliz. Puritanism, 292; A. Peel, Seconde Part of a Register, ii. 137; Neale, Parlts. ii. 148-65, 255, 345-6; Wards 9/138, f. 659; C142/145/53; Harl. 360, f. 65; CSP Dom. Add. 1547-65, p. 470; 1581-90, pp. 601-2; 1595-7, pp. 297, 318, 320; CPR, 1566-9, p. 395; APC, xiii. 164, 201; xxi. 392; xxiii. 106-7; xxviii. 40; CJ, i. 121, 134; D’Ewes, 282, 306, 405, 410, 411, 499, 553, 557, 561, 563, 591, 662, 664; Proc. Parl. 1610, ed. Foster; PCC 22 Cope.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.