MORE, William I (1520-1600), of Loseley, Surr.

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



Oct. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 30 Jan. 1520, 5th but o. surv. s. of (Sir) Christopher More, of Loseley, remembrancer of the Exchequer, by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of Walter Mudge or Mugge of Guildford. m. (1) settlement 12 June 1545, Mabel (d. by 1549), da. of Marchion Digneley of Wolverton, I.o.W., s.p.; (2) settlement 1551, Margaret, da. and h. of Ralph Daniell of Swaffham, Norf., 1s. George 2da. suc. fa. 16 Aug. 1549. Kntd. 14 May 1576.1

Offices Held

Provost marshal, Surr. 1552, commr. church gds. 1553, musters by 1558, j.p. from 1559; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1558-9, 1579-80; v.-adm. Suss. 1559-94; constable, Farnham castle 1565; verderer, Windsor forest by 1561; dep. lt. Surr. 1569, 1580, 1588; eccles. commr. 1572; chamberlain of the Exchequer at d. ; farmer of alnage in Surr. and Suss. from 1549; collector of loan, Surr. 1589, dep. custos rot. by 1594.2


Sir William More of Loseley was the perfect Elizabethan country gentleman. He was absorbed in the local administration of Surrey, and by his impeccable character no less than his efficiency acquired a prestige that was scarcely dimmed by the location in that county of eminent peers, including the Lords Howard of Effingham. He numbered such great men as Lord Burghley, the Earl of Leicester and the 1st Earl of Lincoln among his friends; and through his daughter Elizabeth, who became one of the Queen’s ladies at court, there developed an intimacy between More and his sovereign which has preserved for us some charming royal episodes. In Parliament he gave the same assiduous service as in local administration, entering the House of Commons before attaining his majority and sitting in every Elizabethan Parliament (assuming he was there in 1559) until his death.

While it is difficult to determine how radical More’s early religious views were, there can be no doubt that he was a reformer before Elizabeth came to the throne. His close friendship with Sir Thomas Cawarden, who was involved in Wyatt’s rebellion, suggests this; and indeed it is conceivable that through him he became acquainted with Elizabeth before her accession. When Cawarden died in August 1559, More was his executor. More was among those MPs who in and 1555 resisted the religious legislation of Mary’s government, and he did not sit in Mary’s last Parliament. At the time of the elections to Elizabeth’s first Parliament, when such reformers tended to flock back, More was sheriff of Surrey and unable to return himself for a Surrey constituency. But a William More was elected for Grantham, where Sir William Cecil was able to nominate Members; and it would accord with what we know of Cecil’s activities on this occasion if he took steps to place William More of Loseley in that crucial Parliament. A postscript in a letter dated 27 Feb. 1559 from More’s Surrey friend, Richard Byron, has been taken to imply that More was then an MP; and if so, he must have sat for Grantham. The postscript reads: ‘Sir, you have the closest Parliament that ever I did know. I heartily desire that I may be bold to have some intelligence from you how things goeth with you’. If this was so, More no doubt acted with the large section of the House of Commons which did its utmost to extract a thoroughgoing protestant settlement from the Queen. In later Parliaments More sat either for Surrey, where for social reasons he took the junior seat, or, when a county seat was not available, for the borough of Guildford about two miles from Loseley.3

In the last decade or two of his life, More worked in harmony with the Howards; but this may not always have been so. In 1559 the then Lord Howard, who was the Queen’s lord chamberlain, wanted a county seat for his heir Charles and wrote to More as sheriff for his support. More, however, was already pledged to his friend Sir Thomas Cawarden and evidently supported Cawarden in his determination not to give way. Either Howard’s candidature was withdrawn or he was defeated at the election. Again, in 1584, when More himself was standing for the county, the Earl of Lincoln and Charles Lord Howard wrote belatedly recommending Howard’s heir for election. More must have stood firm on this occasion also, and the Howard candidature was withdrawn. Though the episode may not have caused ill will, it says much for More’s resolution and influence that he could withstand two such noblemen, who were also his friends. Otherwise his electoral relations with the Howards were a matter of give and take, when sharing was not feasible. For his last Parliament in 1597, (Sir) William evidently withdrew to the borough seat of Guildford in order that his son and heir George might graduate as a county Member after ten years’ apprenticeship in the family’s borough seat.

Despite his long experience in Parliament, More spoke rarely in debate, though he was an active committeeman. For the record, here are his contributions to the business of Elizabethan Parliaments, from 31 Oct. 1566 when he is first mentioned in the journals as a member of the succession committee. He was one of 30 MPs summoned on 5 Nov. 1566 to hear the Queen’s message on the succession. He was named to the committee on uniformity of religion (6 Apr. 1571) and was presumably the ‘Mr. Moore’ who was appointed to committees in 1571 concerning church attendance (21 Apr., 19 May), the preservation of woods (10 May), juries (14 May), great hosen (14 May), the river Lea (26 May) and dividing the bailiwicks of Surrey and Sussex (28 May). During the first session of the 1572 Parliament he was appointed to two committees concerning Mary Queen of Scots (12, 28 May) and also to committees on private matters (20, 22 May) and the ill-treatment of foreign artisans by London corporations (24 May). He was one of those appointed to draw up a petition for the reformation of church discipline on 29 Feb. 1576, and other committee work during the session included the subsidy (10 Feb.), the poor laws (11 Feb.), the manufacture of woollen cloth (16 Feb.), sheriffs (18 Feb.), leather (18 Feb.), assize of wood in the city of London (3 Mar.) and trials by jury (5 Mar.). At the end of the session he was one of those appointed to collect money for the poor (14 Mar.). He was very active in the 1581 session, being named to committees concerning the subsidy (25 Jan.), the preservation of woods (28 Jan.), wrecks (30 Jan.), slanderous words and practices (1 Feb.), cloth (4 Feb.), coneys (9 Feb.), wool and yarn (13 Feb.), the Family of Love (16, 27 Feb.), the preservation of game (18 Feb.), a private bill (20 Feb.), returns (24 Feb.), land reclamation (8 Mar.), the preservation of her Majesty’s safety (14 Mar.) and iron mills (18 Mar.). The bill against sowing linseed and hempseed in Hertfordshire was committed to him on 23 Feb. 1581.

More felt so strongly about the wretched Dr. William Parry, that on 23 Feb. 1585 he made one of his rare interventions in debate, to second a motion urging that a more hideous means of executing him be devised than the usual traitor’s death. The proposal was rejected by the Queen. On 11 Mar. that year he was appointed to examine one John Bland concerning a matter of privilege, and he reported the findings of the examination on 13 Mar. On 16 Mar. a bill concerning apprentices was committed to him. Other committee work in this Parliament included topics such as the better observing of the Sabbath day (27 Nov. 1584, to, 19 Dec.), informers (9 Dec.), tanners and shoemakers (9 Dec.), griefs and petitions (16 Dec.), the Queen’s safety (15 Feb. 1585), Jesuits (18 Feb., 9 Mar.), the subsidy (24 Feb.), procedure (3 Mar.), malt (16 Mar.), pheasants and partridges (17 Mar.), and the continuation of a statute concerning the Wednesday fish day (19 Mar.). He reported the committee concerning curriers on 19 Mar. 1585. In 1586 he was appointed to the committee concerning Mary Queen of Scots on 4 Nov., and three days later was one of those summoned to attend the Lords to arrange a conference on the subject. A bill concerned with horse stealing was committed to him on to Mar. 1587, and he was among those appointed to have audience with the Queen concerning the subsidy for the Netherlands on 18 Mar. Other committee work during this session concerned the Norfolk election dispute (9 Nov.), purveyors (3 Mar. 1587), the continuation of statutes (6 Mar., 20 Mar.), a learned ministry (8 Mar.), the puritan MPs sequestered in the Tower (13 Mar.), recusants (16 Mar.) and Suffolk cloth (16 Mar.). On 7 Feb. 1589 More was appointed to the committee to consider all cases of privilege that should arise during the session, and the following day he was appointed to the committee to investigate the returns for that Parliament. His committee work included topics such as informers (8 Feb.), the Aylmer privilege case (12 Feb.), mortmain (22 Feb.), captains and soldiers (26 Feb.), forestallers and regrators (5 Mar.), curriers (6 Mar.), alien retailers (12 Mar.), hue and cry (17 Mar.) and glass factories (19 Mar.). On 15 Feb. 1589 he spoke on the purveyors bill and was appointed to the committee. He was appointed to two committees to consider the Queen’s dislike of the bill on 27 Feb., and was one of those appointed on 6 Mar. to attend the Queen with a petition concerning the purveyors bill. In 1593 he was appointed to the first standing committee on privileges and returns (26 Feb.). The House was under pressure to yield an abnormal money grant of three subsidies in 1593, and More was named to three committees considering this, 26 Feb., 1, 3 Mar., and opened the discussion in committee on 2 Mar. He was ‘entirely for yielding three subsidies’:

Her Majesty had more cause to have the subsidy than had Henry VIII, Edward VI or Queen Mary; for Henry VIII his wars continued not, though they were violent for the time. His wars were impulsive and not defensive. He had the suppression of all the abbeys, a matter of great riches unto him. He had a benevolence and then a subsidy paid within three months. Edward VI had chantries and all the church plate for relief paid him. Queen Mary had a relief paid her, which she never repaid. But her Majesty that now is, hath been a continual defence of her own realm and her neighbours’ kingdoms, England, Ireland, France and the Low Countries; yet hath she repaid the loans, and had not such helps.

He was also appointed to committees concerning recusancy (28 Feb.), rogues (12 Mar.) and petty larceny (16 Mar.). A letter from the court, probably from Brian Ansley, dated 20 Apr. 1593, refers to More’s early departure from this Parliament. He must have been in the House on 23 Mar. however, for a bill concerning Devonshire kerseys was committed to him that day.

Despite being 77 years of age at the beginning of his last Parliament, More was as active as ever in 1597, being appointed to committees concerned with tillage and enclosures (5 Nov., 20 Jan. 1598), privileges and returns (5 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.), weavers’ and spinners’ wages (10 Nov.), the continuation of statutes (11 Nov.), ecclesiastical causes (14 Nov.), rogues and sturdy beggars (19 Nov.), the poor law (22 Nov.), confirmation of the deprivation of certain bishops (3 Dec.), lewd wandering persons (7 Dec.), defence (12 Jan. 1598) and the possessions of the bishop of Norwich (16 Jan.). A private bill was committed to him on 16 Dec.4

More built himself a new house at Loseley between 1562 and 1568, and the Queen may have visited him there in 1567. She certainly went to Loseley in 1569, and included it in her progresses in 1576, 1583 and 1591; and it was in 1576, when staying at the Earl of Lincoln’s house at Pyrford, that she knighted him, employing the Earl of Leicester to give the accolade. Elizabeth apparently sent him frequent messages through his daughter and her husband, John Wolley, the Latin secretary, both resident at court. In 1579 Wolley told his father-in-law how the Queen

fell in speech of you, with great good liking and commendation, willing me to send you word that she did perceive that where the young sort of men, wanting experience and trust, did forget their duties, such old servants as you are would remember themselves.

She ‘durst commit her life’ to his trust, she added. Wolley also reported that the Earl of Leicester had previously been talking to him of ‘the very good opinion’ which the Queen had of Sir William, ‘which he [Leicester] did ever seek to increase’. In 1595 there was a letter from Elizabeth Wolley telling her father of the Queen’s concern at his ‘troublesome’ night-journey home from court—evidently during a progress in Surrey when accommodation with the court was unavailable. ‘If her Majesty had known ... she would have had a lodging provided, being likewise sorry that she had no longer time to entertain you’. The Queen sent him three partridges, ‘desiring you to eat them for her sake’; but as Sir Robert Cecil, whose hawk had killed the birds, intercepted the gift, Elizabeth Wolley was constrained to ask her father to pretend to the Queen that he had received them. This letter also reported that the Queen had commanded Mistress Wolley to send for her son—whose godmother the Queen was—to come to court, where ‘she will pose him in his learning’. Advising her father to forget the command, as she herself intended to do, Mistress Wolley told Sir William to see that the boy’s tutor practised him in his French, lest the command be renewed.

Another letter—undated and probably earlier—arose out of More’s gift of a gown to the Queen. When she wore it, she

took thereby occasion to speak to you, saying, ere long I should find a mother-in-law, which was herself; but she was afraid of the two widows that are there with you, that they would be angry with her for it, and that she would give ten thousand pounds you were twenty years younger, for she had but few such servants as you are.5

The rich collection of Loseley manuscripts furnishes an excellent conspectus of his duties and activities as a justice, a deputy lieutenant, a commissioner for many local tasks, and vice-admiral in his shire. Many of the leading men in Elizabethan England were among his correspondents, and the friendly note in their letters is impressive. There is little in the collection about his office of chamberlain of the Exchequer, which he probably discharged by deputy.6

More seems to have enjoyed good health until late in life, but a sudden and severe illness in 1594, which drew his daughter temporarily from her duties at court and caused concern to the Queen, appears to have sapped his strength. A few years later he was handing over much of his work to his son George. He died in duly 1600 and was buried in the Loseley chapel at St. Nicholas’s church, Guildford, where an epitaph describes him as ‘evermore a zealous professor of true religion, and a favourer of all those ... truly ... religious, spending his days in the service of our late sovereign of blessed memory, Queen Elizabeth, in whose favour he lived and died ...’.7

The will, drawn up in January 1597 and proved by the executor, More’s son George, in November 1600, has a devout preamble:

Having assured hope, through the death, merits and passion of my only Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ, not only to have free pardon and remission of all my sins, but also to enjoy with Him His everlasting kingdom, utterly rejecting all other ways and means to attain thereunto than only by my said Saviour Jesus Christ ...

The will enjoins that ‘all pomp and vain glory’ were to be avoided at the funeral, and ends: ‘and thus our Lord God have mercy upon me and receive my soul into His hands’. The provisions were simple, almost everything being left to George and his heirs. (Sir) William’s younger daughter Anne, wife of George Mainwaring, was to have a cup worth £6 13s.4d., and a cousin, Gillian Cowper, a coach. There were generous bequests to servants, and the executor was asked to ‘consider’ the poor of Guildford, Godalming, Compton and Shalford. The overseers were More’s ‘cousin’ Laurence Stoughton, several times MP for Guildford, and his friends Francis Aungier and George Austen, both of whom probably owed their Haslemere seats in 1597 to him. Besides property in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, More owned houses in Blackfriars, one of which he leased to James Burbage in 1596 to become the Blackfriars theatre.8


Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.A.P.


This biography owes much to an early version drafted by Sir John Neale.

  • 1. Manning and Bray, Surr. i. 95 seq.; W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Surr. 87; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 2; CPR, 1549-51, p. 167; C142/89/134; Loseley mss 346/30/1-2.
  • 2. HMC 7th Rep. 607b, 608b, 614a, 615a, 616, 617b, 620a, 622a, 646b, 652, 653a; Surr. Arch. Coll. xxxix. 55; Lansd. 106, ff. 1 seq.; 114, ff. 121 seqq.; CPR, 1569-72, pp. 440-2; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 54; PCC 9 Coode.
  • 3. A. J. Kempe, Loseley Mss, 175 seq.; Bodl. e Museo 17; Guildford Mus., Loseley mss 1081/5, 1331/2; Loseley mss, Letter Box 1, no. 7; HMC 7th Rep. 613a-635b passim.
  • 4. Neale, Commons, 43-7; Camb. Univ. Lib. Gg. iii. 34, p. 209; D’Ewes, 127, 157, 176, 181, 182, 183, 186, 189, 206, 212, 213, 214, 220, 244, 247, 288, 289, 291, 294, 295, 298, 299, 300, 303, 306, 308, 333, 337, 340, 343, 349, 351, 352, 355, 356, 362, 365, 366, 368, 369, 370, 371, 394, 395, 396, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 429, 430, 432, 433, 437, 439, 440, 443, 445, 446, 448, 471, 474, 477, 481, 484, 486, 499, 502, 507, 517, 552, 553, 555, 557, 559, 561, 567, 569, 574, 578, 581, 584; CJ, i. 83, 85, 88, 89, 91, 93, 95, 96, 97, 99, 104, 105, 106, 109, 110, 111, 119, 120, 121, 122, 124, 125, 127, 128, 129, 130, 132, 134, 136; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. f. 132; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 16, 17, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27, 64, 71, 73, 103, 104, 106, 112, 116; Loseley mss. Box 2.
  • 5. E. K. Chambers, Eliz. Stage, iv. 84, 93, 100, 106; N. Williams, 4th Duke of Norf. 157; Kempe, xii-xiii, 265 seq., 313, 317-21; HMC 7th Rep. 654b-655a.
  • 6. Kempe, passim; HMC 7th Rep. 607-58.
  • 7. HMC 7th Rep. 653a, 654a, 658b; Manning and Bray, i. 66.
  • 8. PCC 70 Wallop; C142/264/179; APC, xxvi. 448-9; HMC 7th Rep. 653b.