HENEAGE, Thomas (by 1532-95), of Lincoln and Copt Hall, Essex.

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



Oct. 1553

Family and Education

b. by 1532, 1st s. of Robert Heneage of Lincoln by his 1st w. and bro. of Michael. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1549. m. (1) Anne, da. of Sir Nicholas Poyntz, 1da.; (2) 2 May 1594, Mary, da. of (Sir) Anthony Browne, 1st Visct. Montagu, wid. of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, s.p. suc. fa. 27 July 1556. Kntd. 1 Dec. 1577.

Offices Held

Steward, manor of Hatfield 1561; gent. of privy chamber by 1565; treasurer of chamber 1570; j.p. Essex, Lincs. (Lindsey) from c.1573, q. from c.1586 jt. keeper of recs. in Tower of London 1576; dep. lt. Essex by 1585; PC and vice-chamberlain 6 Sept. 1587; chancellor, duchy of Lancaster 1590; recorder, Colchester 1590; high steward, Hull 1590, Salisbury 1591, Winchester 1592; ranger, Waltham forest.3


Heneage’s uncle, also Sir Thomas, was a gentleman of the privy chamber and a friend of Henry VIII, who left him £200. Heneage’s father was a duchy of Lancaster official, with sufficient influence in Lincolnshire to get his son returned for Stamford in October 1553. In this Parliament Thomas Heneage opposed a major government measure, and did not sit again in Parliament until Elizabeth’s accession. In 1559, when his father was dead, and the Stamford seats were pre-empted by Sir William Cecil, Heneage was returned for Arundel, presumably on the nomination of the 12th Earl of Arundel, a personal friend at whose funeral he was a principal mourner. At the 1563 election he was returned for Boston, but was afterwards elected for the county when an unexpected vacancy arose. Thenceforth he sat for Lincolnshire or Essex.4

Little is known about Heneage’s career before he entered the Queen’s service. He apparently left the university without taking a degree, and his Cambridge MA and membership of Gray’s Inn, granted in 1564 and the following year, were honorary. He entered the Household, where his wife seems also to have held some office, soon after Elizabeth’s accession, and rapidly became so favoured a courtier that by October 1565 Cecil wrote that Leicester was growing jealous of his influence. However, his personal relations with Elizabeth, unlike Leicester’s and Hatton’s, appear to have occasioned no rumours, and his first wife was a friend of the Queen.5

Any early differences with Leicester were soon overcome and the two men became friends. In 1571 Leicester thanked Elizabeth for her ‘special favour used in my behalf’ in furthering some suit of Heneage’s; and during Leicester’s service in the Netherlands, when Heneage went over with messages from the Queen, Thomas Dudley wrote that ‘her Majesty could not have sent any gentleman of the court that loveth you more dearly’.6

Among Heneage’s other intimates at court were John Fortescue I whom he appointed overseer to his will, Philip Sidney and Christopher Hatton I. During the latter’s temporary estrangement from Elizabeth in 1582, after a quarrel over Ralegh’s growing influence, Heneage acted as go-between, giving ‘tokens’ from Hatton to the Queen, reporting her reception of them, and doing all he could to restore amicable relations.

Your knowledge of my love shall suffice, I trust [he wrote to Hatton], to satisfy you of my best endeavour to do that which may best content you. ... Water [Ralegh’s nickname] hath been more welcome than were fit for so cold a season. But so Her Majesty find no hurt by it, I care the less, for I trust it shall make neither me nor my friend wet-shod.7

The longest period of Heneage’s court service was spent in the office of treasurer of the chamber, a post which he retained after becoming vice-chamberlain. There are numerous references to payments made by him for such diverse purposes as bringing messages from ambassadors, decorating the council chamber with ‘boughs and flowers’, and providing post horses. The wages of the companies of players who acted before the Queen, and of the bearwards and keepers of wild beasts, also came within his department, and warrants survive for the money ‘in new pence’ which he set aside for ‘her Highness’s Maundy’. He attended well over a hundred council meetings 1587-9, but thenceforth averaged only about fifty, and in some years considerably less. The gaps in his attendances at the Privy Council were sometimes caused by sickness, and sickness may have been the reason for some otherwise puzzling absences from his parliamentary duties. His letters, especially towards the end of his life, have a constant refrain of ill-health: ‘My long, weary and most painful sickness’; ‘I have had an extreme fit of the stone’; ‘having recovered neither my legs or my stomach yet’. During the 1593 Parliament he had to hand over to Cecil his leadership of a delegation to the Lords concerning the subsidy (8 Mar.), since he was ‘then at that very instant very sharply grieved and pained with his infirmity of the gout’. On another occasion ‘being brought in betwixt two of his men, when he was so troubled with the gout that he could neither go nor stand’, he began a speech with ‘Mr. Speaker, I am fitter to cry than to speak’.8

Like his friend Hatton, Heneage spent nearly all his life in England. The knowledge of continental affairs which contemporaries ascribed to him must have been gained almost entirely at second-hand. However, in the spring and summer of 1586 he was in the Netherlands, telling Leicester of the Queen’s anger at Leicester’s assuming the title of governor of the Netherlands. Although Heneage himself received an angry letter from Elizabeth for exceeding his instructions he was, on his return from this mission, which lasted from February to June, received with marked favour.9

Heneage was an avid office-seeker, ready to use his influence with Elizabeth and with influential statesmen to override the claims of others. When the keepership of the Tower records, which he wanted for his younger brother Michael, fell vacant, he openly opposed the claim of Sir William Cordell, master of the rolls, to make the appointment. A joint patent was finally granted to the Heneage brothers, and Michael continued to hold the office after Thomas’s death. Another post, this time temporary, obtained by the elder Heneage, was that of treasurer at war for the land forces raised to defend England against the Armada. When on 6 Apr. 1590 (Sir) Francis Walsingham, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, died, Heneage, who since 1576 had been steward of some of the duchy lands in Essex, was one of several likely candidates. A week after Walsingham’s death, Sir Gilbert Gerard reminded Burghley that legal business needed the speedy appointment of a new chancellor. He had heard that Burghley was trying to persuade the Queen to grant the office to Heneage, in the writer’s opinion ‘a fit man’. Elizabeth, however, refused to be hurried, and on 3 May Heneage himself wrote to Burghley, asking him to raise the matter again. Not until June was he finally granted the office, receiving the fees as from Easter. During the next three years he was appointed to a number of special commissions, including those for the trials of Sir John Perrot, Patrick O’Cullen and Dr. Lopez.10

Heneage had a very active parliamentary career. He was on the succession committee (31 Oct. 1566), and a large number of committees in 1571, including the reform of church discipline (6 Apr., 25 May), the subsidy (7 Apr.), treasons (12 Apr.), the order of parliamentary business (21 Apr.), Exchequer reform (23 Apr., 26 May), anti-Catholic legislation (10 May) and legal matters (28 May). He spoke on the treasons bill (12 Apr.). At the beginning of his next Parliament, Heneage was appointed to a committee concerning Mary Queen of Scots (12 May), the main business of the 1572 session. No further references to any committee work have been found in the journals until 1576, when he was appointed to committees concerning private bills (14 Feb., 13 Mar.), debasing the coinage (15 Feb.), the maintenance of colleges (2 Mar.), artificers (5 Mar.), excess in apparel (10 Mar.), the Queen’s marriage (12 Mar.) and London goldsmiths (13 Mar.). He was one of those appointed to examine Peter Wentworth on 8 Feb. 1576. During the last session of the 1572 Parliament he was appointed to committees concerning the subsidy (25 Jan. 1581), counterfeit seals (26 Jan.), the clerk of the market (27 Jan.), seditious practices against the Queen (1 Feb.), the Arthur Hall privilege case (4 Feb.), wool (13 Feb.), returns (24 Feb.), defence (25 Feb., reported by him 14 Mar.), heretics (27 Feb.), the Queen’s safety (14 Mar.) and iron mills (18 Mar.). During his next Parliament his committee work included church reform (16 Dec. 1584), the continuance of statutes (19 Dec.), woollen cloth (13 Feb. 1585), fraudulent conveyances (15 Feb.), Jesuits (18 Feb., 9 Mar.), the subsidy (24 Feb.), the government of the city of Westminster (8 Mar.), the Northumberland county court (15 Mar.) and the preservation of timber in Surrey, Sussex and Kent (19 Mar.).

Heneage is mentioned only once in the parliamentary journals of 1586-7, in connexion with the dispute over Wentworth’s defence of the liberty of speech (1 Mar.):

These questions Mr. Puckering [the Speaker] pocketed up and showed Sir Thomas Heneage, who so handled the matter that Mr. Wentworth went to the Tower, and the questions not at all moved.

In the Parliament of 1589, as a Privy Councillor, he played an increasing part in steering government measures. He was in charge of the tricky purveyors bill, handling the arrangements for the conferences with the Lords and delivering messages to and from the Queen. He was also appointed to a large number of committees, including those on penal statutes (8 Feb., reported by him 20 Feb.), the subsidy (11 Feb.), the Roger Puleston II privilege case (12 Feb., reported by him 19 Feb.), Hartlepool pier (1 Mar.), Dover harbour (5 Mar.), forestallers (5 Mar.), salted fish (11 Mar.), foreign merchants (12 Mar.), Lincoln city (15 Mar., reported by him 18 Mar.), hue and cry (17 Mar.; asked to be replaced 18 Mar.), housing (18 Mar., reported by him 20, 21 Mar.), presentations to benefices (20 Mar.), glasshouses (21 Mar.) and Berkshire almshouses (22 Mar.). He also reported the meeting of two committees to which he had been appointed as a Privy Councillor—concerning captains and soldiers (19, 24 Mar.) and husbandry and tillage (25, 26 Mar.). On 20 Feb. 1589 Heneage urged that committees should be better attended, and on 29 Mar. he was one of those who spoke for a declaration of war with Spain, being appointed to the committee the same day.

On 19 Feb. 1593 Heneage seconded the nomination of Edward Coke as Speaker. Though he was in charge of the subsidy bill in that Parliament he did not enjoy the confidence of the House to the same extent as had Hatton in similar circumstances. On 6 Mar. during a debate on the subsidy, Oliver St. John III accused Heneage of misrepresenting the Commons case. Cecil intervened to extract an apology from St. John, but the incident left an impression. His involvement in the protracted negotiations over the subsidy may explain the reduction in his committee activity in this Parliament. However, on 19 Mar. he moved that a collection should be made among Members for the relief of maimed soldiers and mariners, each man contributing according to his parliamentary status. He was appointed to the committee on a bill concerning Colchester harbour on 29 Mar. which he reported next day. He also reported a private committee (26 Mar.), a legal committee (5 Apr.) and a religious committee (4, 6, 7 Apr.). As a Privy Councillor he was appointed to the following committees: privileges and returns (26 Feb.), recusancy (28 Feb., 4 Apr.), legal matters (9, 12 Mar.), the poor law (12 Mar., 12 Apr.), building in London and Westminster (6 Apr.), and letters patent (7 Apr.).11

Heneage tried—not always successfully—to use his local positions at Salisbury, Colchester and Hull to obtain parliamentary nominations. He lacked finesse. ‘So shall you ease the town of half your charge, and make [me] beholding unto you for this courtesy’, he wrote to the corporation of Salisbury in 1593, asking for a nomination, which was refused. Elsewhere, he clearly intended to make full use of the patronage attaching to his office as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. In 1593 he asked the corporation of Leicester for the nomination of both burgesses, claiming, incorrectly, that this had been regularly granted to his predecessors. The tone of his letter may have been responsible for the electors’ prompt choice of two townsmen. Nevertheless, his hand can be detected in a number of returns to this Parliament: among them, his brother Michael’s at Wigan; William Twysden’s, his granddaughter’s husband, at Clitheroe; John Audley’s at Stockbridge; and probably Edward Hubberd’s at Monmouth, a duchy borough, until this time generally free from the chancellor’s influence. Hull, where Heneage was high steward, returned his servant Peter Proby. In at least one county election, that for Essex in 1588, he almost certainly played a decisive part, persuading the council to intervene to suppress Lord Rich’s campaign against Sir Henry Gray, Heneage’s fellow deputy lieutenant, for the junior seat.

Heneage’s advance in this county was almost entirely due to the Queen. Quite early in his career he found, like other young courtiers, that the life was too expensive for him, and began to rely increasingly on crown grants. One of these, the office of receiver and treasurer of one-tenth of the profits of a salt monopoly, was doubtless highly lucrative. Most of his grants were of land or offices. In 1564 he received the manor of Copt Hall, where four years later he entertained Elizabeth; between 1572 and 1577 he added the manors of Epping, Ulting Hall and Bretts in West Ham to his lands in the county; in 1576 the Colchester magistrates leased land to him at the express wish of the Queen; while the rangership of Waltham forest was another profitable sinecure.

By 1584 he was senior knight of the shire for Essex, and soon afterwards deputy lieutenant to his friend and patron, Leicester. Among his intimates in the county was the martyrologist, John Foxe, who lived for some time at Waltham, near Copt Hall.12

Heneage’s personality remains elusive: Camden saw him as ‘a man for his elegancy of life and pleasantness of discourse, born, as it were, for the court’. Most of his surviving correspondence deals with official business, and there is little information about his domestic life. He quarrelled bitterly with his daughter’s husband, (Sir) Moyle Finch, whom he described to Burghley as ‘an unkind and injurious son-in-law’. At times, like other courtiers, he found it difficult to reconcile the Queen’s demands for attendance with his domestic commitments:

It appeareth [he wrote to Hatton in July 1581] that her Majesty is neither well pleased with my absence nor in any wise contented I should come over soon. My wife’s sickness and lameness, so as she could not stir out of her bed, was the cause I could neither in reason nor honesty come out from my house till she were better mended.13

After 1590 Heneage lived sometimes at Copt Hall, and sometimes at Savoy House, from where he transacted much of the duchy business. Elizabeth visited him there in 1594, although earlier in the year he had been out of favour for supporting Essex’s efforts to get the solicitor-generalship for Francis Bacon. He seems to have taken a genuine interest in the administration of his new office. Among proposals which he made to ‘improve the state of religion’ in the duchy was one to pay the receiver-general £200 a year out of the profits of seized recusants’ lands, in order to augment livings in the county palatine.

A large part of Heneage’s will, made on 22 July 1595, is taken up with ensuring that an earlier conveyance of Copt Hall and Epping to his second wife, the sole executrix, should be honoured by his daughter and heiress, Lady Finch and her husband. He asked Sir John Fortescue, the overseer, to have a jewel made, to the value of 1,000 French crowns, for the Queen, ‘my most gracious and dear mistress, who above all other earthly creatures I have thought most worthy of all my heart’s love and reverence’. Fortescue himself received £100, and a codicil to the will left legacies to a number of other friends. As treasurer of the chamber Heneage owed the Crown over £1,300 of which his widow, by December 1596, had paid about £400.

Heneage died on 17 Oct. 1595, and was buried in St. Paul’s.14

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. DNB; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. li), 481; Cott. Claudius c.III; H. Nicolas, Mems. Hatton, 39; CPR,, 1560-3, p. 176; HMC 11th Rep. VII, 139; Wright, Eliz. i. 209; APC, vii. 374; xv. 228; Egerton Pprs. (Cam. Soc. xii), 91; SP12/179/53; HMC Foljambe, 25; Somerville, Duchy, i. 396; Neale, Commons, 165, 235; Sheahan, Kingston upon Hull, 255; Hants RO, Winchester 1st bk. ordinances, f. 275; Lansd. 83, f. 216; E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, i. 64.
  • 4. Bodl. e Museo 17; APC, iii. 201; G. W. Eustace, Arundel, 119; Essex Rev. liv. 41 seq.
  • 5. CPR, 1563-6, p. 90; Lansd. 102, f. 121.
  • 6. CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, p. 339; Leycester Corresp. (Cam. Soc. xxvii), 113; PCC 1 Leicester.
  • 7. PCC 70 Scott;
  • 8. APC, vii. 391; viii. 61-2, 75, 98, 391; ix. 103 et passim; xv. 228; HMC Hatfield, iii. 233, 347; v. 360; Neale, Parlts. ii. 310-11.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 668 et passim; HMC Hatfield, iii. 133; Leycester Corresp. passim.
  • 10. Queen’s Coll. Oxf. 155, pp. 245-7; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 511; Somerville, i. 334-5, 396, 607.
  • 11. D’Ewes, 47, 83, 127, 157, 159, 164, 165, 178, 182, 188, 189, 190, 206, 213, 241, 248, 252, 258, 260, 262, 288, 289, 290, 291, 300, 301, 305, 306, 308, 340, 343, 349, 352, 356, 364, 365, 368, 371, 411, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436, 437, 441, 442, 443, 445, 446, 448, 449, 450, 451, 452, 453, 454, 469, 471, 474, 476, 481, 486, 487, 488, 489, 491, 492, 493, 495, 496, 499, 503, 504, 509, 510, 512, 513, 517, 518, 519, 520, 521; CJ, i. 83, 84, 85, 88, 93, 94, 95, 97, 105, 106, 110, 113, 114, 115, 119, 120, 121, 122, 125, 129, 130, 134, 136; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 70, 74, 76, 77; Trinity, Dublin, anon. jnl. f. 18.
  • 12. Neale, Commons, 156, 173, 225, 227, 295-6; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 268; Morant, Essex, i. 17, 47, 48; ii. 135; Essex Rev. liv. 41 seq.
  • 13. Camden, Eliz. (1688), p. 507; HMC Hatfield, v. 277; Nicolas, 183.
  • 14. Somerville, i. 325; PCC 70 Scott; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 318.