KINGSMILL, Richard (c.1528-1600), of Highclere, Hants.

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. c.1528, 2nd s. of Sir John Kingsmill of Sydmonton, and bro. of George, Henry and John. educ. L. Inn 1543, called 1548. m. (1) Alice, da. of Richard Fauconer of Hurstbourne Priors, wid. of Thomas Wroughton (d.1557), of Ovenon, 1da.; (2) c.1574, Elizabeth, da. of David Woodrofe, alderman and sheriff of London, sis. of Sir Nicholas Woodrofe, ld. mayor, wid. of George Stonehouse of Radley, Berks., clerk of the green cloth, s.p.1

Offices Held

Autumn reader, L. Inn 1558, treasurer 1563, gov. 1570; of counsel to Calne; j.p.q. Hants and Wilts. from c.1559; eccles commr. in the north 1559; attorney of ct. of wards 1573, surveyor 1590.2


Kingsmill, the grandson of a justice of common pleas, pursued a successful career in the law and entered Parliament in 1559 as Member for the Wiltshire borough of Calne, to which he was legal counsel. He sat in 1563 for a second Wiltshire borough, Heytesbury, presumably through the intervention of Sir John Thynne with Hawker, the borough owner. He may have been the ‘Mr. Kingsmill’ recommended by Thynne to Princess Elizabeth in 1555, to be a member of her household; his first wife was Thynne’s relative and he was to be Thynne’s executor. In Hampshire he was more influential than his elder brother, Sir William Kingsmill, who was never an MP while three other younger brothers were. Richard Kingsmill built up large estates in the county, purchasing Shoddesden—from his brother-in-law, John Thornborough—in 1561, Hurstbourne Fauconers and Tangley in 1563, and Highclere and Burghclere in 1577. In 1584 and 1586 he achieved the unusual distinction for a younger son of sitting as knight of the shire.3

Kingsmill’s influence is perhaps to be explained less by his lands than by his membership of a remarkable family at the centre of the large puritan faction in Hampshire politics. Of his eight brothers, Henry was in exile in Mary’s reign, Andrew was a celebrated puritan divine, John was chancellor of the diocese of Winchester, Thomas became regius professor of Hebrew at Oxford and George a judge of common pleas. His sisters’ marriages made him brother-in-law to Bishop Pilkington of Durham, to Richard Fiennes and to Richard Norton I It is not surprising, therefore, to find Kingsmill listed by the bishop of Winchester as a ‘furtherer earnest’ of true religion in 1564.4

In the first year of Elizabeth’s reign, Kingsmill was employed as an ecclesiastical commissioner in the North, and was confident enough of advancement to apply to Cecil—prematurely as it transpired—for the important office of attorney of the court of wards. His brother-in-law, Pilkington, suggested him in 1566 for the attorneyship of the duchy of Lancaster, apparently without result; and in 1573 he at last obtained, on the recommendation of Sir William Cordell, the attorneyship of the wards. In 1590 he was advanced to the surveyorship of the wards. He was one of the less distinguished holders of that office, and six years later he failed to gain further promotion to the mastership of the rolls.5

During his first Parliament he served on a committee concerning the lands of the bishop of Winchester (18 Feb.1559). No activity is recorded in his name during the first session of the 1563 Parliament, but on 7 Oct. 1566 he was appointed to a committee to decide whether all Members should take the oath of supremacy, or only those elected since the previous session. The next day, Kingsmill reported the committee’s decision that only those Members elected for the 1566 session should be required to take the oath. On 19 Oct. he argued ‘very boldly and judiciously’ in the face of Elizabeth’s displeasure, for the continuation of the Commons’ suit concerning the succession. He was appointed the same day to support this policy in conference with the Lords on 23 Oct., and attended a subsequent committee concerning the succession on 31 Oct. Though his election for Hampshire to the Parliaments of 1584 and 1586 was in a way a victory for the puritan faction, Kingsmill, so far as is known, was not an active speaker in those Parliaments, speaking only twice, both times in 1584, on a legal matter (9 Mar.) and on a matter affecting the court of wards (precise date unknown). He bridled at a suggestion that a bill to extend the burden of wardship held on long lease was to the material advantage of the officers of the wards, claiming that he was ‘an honest, poor man’, who made no profit from his post: ‘For any profit I get in my office, more than the dignity of serving her Majesty, I would another had it. I have gotten no lease since I was officer’. As attorney in the court of wards Kingsmill was appointed to the following committees: informers (2 Dec. 1584), juries (4 Dec.), liberty of ministers (16 Dec.), assurances (16 Dec.), procedure (21 Dec.), fraudulent conveyances (15 Feb. 1585, 18 Feb., 17 Mar.), local officials in Wales (22 Feb.), a private bill (24 Feb.), delays of execution (5 Mar.), Jesuits (9 Mar.), recusants’ weapons (16 Mar.), Mary Queen of Scots (4 Nov. 1586), and continuance of statutes (20 Mar. 1587). As knight for Hampshire he was eligible to attend the subsidy committee on 24 Feb. 1585.6

Despite his protestation, there is evidence to suggest that Kingsmill was no paragon where his profit was concerned. In 1590 one Richard Beckinsawe, some of whose family were, perhaps significantly, recusants, petitioned the Privy Council on behalf of 500 persons living on Kingsmill’s Hampshire manors, alleging his ‘breach of sundry customs, innovations of titles, encroachment of pasture’ and ‘alterations of tenures’.7

Kingsmill died at Highclere on 24 Sept. 1600, and was buried in Highclere church, where his monument survives. His heir was his only daughter, Constance, married six years previously to Sir Thomas Lucy, son of the puritan (Sir) Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warwickshire, by whom she was the mother of William Lucy, bishop of St. David’s, and three Stuart Members of Parliament. Kingsmill’s lands, some of which were apparently held of the bishop of Winchester and others of Pexall Brocas, had been conveyed to Christopher, 4th Viscount Gormanston, and Hugh Hare, to the use of Constance and Thomas Lucy.8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. C142/110/142, 268/128; PCC 12 Ketchyn, 64 Wallop; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 3; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 45; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 54; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 132.
  • 2. Calne Guild Stewards’ Bk. ed. Mabbs (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. vii), 12; Strype, Annals, i(1), p. 245; J. Hurstfield, Queen’s Wards, 224-5.
  • 3. Foss, Judges, v. 57-9; APC, xii. 355; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 1, f. 4; VCH Hants, iv. 278, 285, 290, 327, 374.
  • 4. C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 208; DNB (Andrew and Thomas Kingsmill); Works of Bishop Pilkington, ed. Scholefield (Parker Soc. 1842), xi; Vis. Hants, 3; CPR, 1555-7, pp. 132. 328; HMC Hatfield, viii. 325; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 38; Strype, iii(2), p. 330.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 118; Lansd. 8, f. 212; 17, f. 33; Hurstfield, 224-5, 267; HMC Hatfield, vi. 398.
  • 6. CJ, i. 56, 73, 75; D’Ewes, 49, 123, 124, 125, 127, 335, 340, 345, 349, 353, 354, 356, 363, 364, 365, 368, 369, 394, 417; Lansd. 43, anon. jnl. ff. 166, 171, 175.
  • 7. APC, xx. 160; CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 327, 438.
  • 8. C142/268/128; PCC 64 Wallop; VCH Hants. iv. 286.