READE, alias KYNNERD, Sir William (d.1604), of Holy Island, Northumb.

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

?illegit. s. of one Kynnerd, of Worcs. m. (1) Elizabeth (d.1585); (2) Mary (d.1595); (3) Elizabeth, wid. of Charles Towers of Holy Island; 1s. 1da. illegit. Kntd. 1586.1

Offices Held

Lt. in command of Wark castle 1547; capt. in Berwick garrison 1555; capt. of Holy and Farne Islands 1555-d.; sergeant maj. later lt.-col. gen. with Leicester in the Netherlands 1586.2

J.p. Northumb. from 1577, q. from 1593; co. Dur. from 1583, q. from 1593.


Of obscure origins, Reade rose to high military rank, seeing active service on the borders under four monarchs, and acquiring a reputation for gallantry and reliability. At the time of the northern rebellion, however, his previous service with such commanders as Sir Henry Percy and the Duke of Norfolk brought him under suspicion. He was arrested at the height of the rebellion, but released in time to assist in the defeat of Leonard Dacre’s followers at Naworth.3

Reade accompanied the Earl of Leicester to the Netherlands. During the campaign he received his knighthood, and rose from captain to sergeant major and, finally, to the high rank of ‘lieutenant-colonel general’, commanding the infantry at the relief of Sluys. As he later boasted to Burghley, whom he acknowledged as his ‘best friend’ at court, ‘I have passed all offices in the field almost that belong to a soldier—and whether I have discharged them with credit or no, let the world judge’. From the Netherlands, as from all his campaigns, Reade returned to Holy Island, where as captain and keeper he occupied Fenham, the old monastic manor house, which he leased from the Crown in 1564. The house, which he extended and improved, was well furnished. Pictures, with religious themes, decorated the rooms, while in his own chamber he kept his small library and his maps of the Low Countries and the world. His copies of Calvin’s ‘Commentary upon Job’ (presumably the Sermons upon the booke of Job, which appeared in several English editions) and a ‘Table of the Ten Commandments’, which may be identified with Bishop Hooper’s Declaration of 1548, may reflect his religious beliefs, while his two Latin dictionaries and several chronicles, including Holinshed, suggest a man of scholarly interests.4

Towards the end of his life Reade was honoured by being returned to Parliament as senior knight of the shire, and as such he could have sat on the subsidy committee (26 Feb.) and a legal committee (9 Mar.). His name appears once in the journals (12 Mar.), when he was put on a committee concerning the relief of the poor and the punishment of rogues. On his progress south, James I honoured the now blind and aged soldier with a visit, and the ‘worthy, honourable soldier ... was so comforted with the presence and gracious speeches of the King, that his spirits seemed so powerful within him, as he boasted himself to feel the warmth of youth stir in his frost-nipped blood’. A year later he died, being buried 6 June 1604. On his tomb was inscribed ‘contra vim mortis non medicamen in hortis’.

He was survived by his third wife, Elizabeth Towers, and two illegitimate children, a son, William, who inherited his Berwick and Holy Island property, and was made joint captain of Holy Island in 1594, and a daughter, Charity, who inherited £50. In his will, Reade asked the bishop of Durham’s wife, Frances Matthew, ‘a prudent and provident matron’, to tutor Charity during her minority.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: B.D.


  • 1. Surtees Soc. clxii. 2-3.
  • 2. CPR, 1554-5, p. 119; Border Pprs. ii. 275-6, 786-7; CSP Scot. i. 40-1.
  • 3. CSP Scot. i. 366, 393; CSP Dom. Add. 1566-79, pp. 91 et passim; Raine, North Durham, 175.
  • 4. CSP Scot. ii. 636; iii. 537, 538; CSP For. 1586-7, pp. 77, 214, 279; 1587, p. 192; Border Pprs. i. 387; CPR, 1563-6, p. 200; Raine, 149, 176, 177.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 474, 496, 499; Nichols, Progresses Jas. I, 67; Surtees Soc. loc. cit.; CSP Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 441; DNB (Matthew, Tobie).