ONLEY, Edward (1522-82), of Catesby, Northants.

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. 1522, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of John Onley of London and Catesby by his 1st w. Jane, da. of (?Henry) Smith of Sherborne, Warws.; bro. of Thomas. m. Catherine, da. of Thomas Catesby of Whiston, 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 22 Nov. 1537.

Offices Held

Escheator, Northants. Jan-Dec. 1565, sheriff 1574-5, j.p. from c.1573.


Onley and his younger brother Thomas were brought up in the household of their uncle George Cotton, whose nephew Richard married their sister. In 1561 the 3rd Earl of Derby allied himself to the two families by marrying as his third wife Mary (or Margaret) Cotton, Edward Onley’s cousin. The union was not a success. A dispute over the marriage settlement developed, Mary turned to her relatives for aid, and for the next 12 years Edward Onley supported his cousin. By 1574, when an agreement between the Countess and her stepson, the new Earl, was reached through the mediation of the Earl of Leicester, Edward and Thomas Onley acting as ‘especial dealers’ on her behalf, Edward claimed that he had incurred debts of £3,000 for his cousin. With this dispute dividing the two families, it cannot be assumed that it was the Earl of Derby who supported Edward Onley’s candidature at Brackley at the by-election for the 1566 session. It is likely, however, that at this time Lady Derby had influence in the borough, which formed part of the dower that the Earl had intended to settle on her. She no doubt supported her cousin, and this combined with his own local influence was enough to secure his return.

The settlement of 1574 only heralded a further period of litigation. The Countess had promised to compensate Onley when she had reached an agreement with her husband’s family, and in fact refused to come to terms with her stepson until he agreed to grant a 40-year lease of the manors of Brackley and Holborn to Edward Onley. Shortly afterwards, however—possibly at the time she married the Earl of Kent—she changed her mind. The leases had already been made out, but in order to prevent Onley taking possession, she procrastinated and the suit was still in being at Onley’s death on 15 June 1582, after which it was continued by his executors to the financial hardship of the family.

Onley’s will, made on 4 June 1582 and proved on 6 Aug. following, contains a long religious preamble. His heir was still a minor, and the widow was to receive the household goods, most of the livestock, and was to regulate the daughters’ portions, each receiving at least £400. The servants were bequeathed small sums, and the poor of Northampton, and three other Northamptonshire parishes were left a total of £2 10s.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament. Folger V. b. 298.
  • 2. Cal. Lib. Maj. J. R. Abbey (Sotheby and Co., 1 Dec. 1970), 30-2; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 38-9, 121-2; PCC 17 Dyngeley, 33 Tirwhite; CP; Northants. RO, Ellesmere mss; C142/196/30.