TURNER, Peter (c.1542-1614), of London.

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.1542, s. of William Turner by Jane, da. of George Auder, alderman of Cambridge. She m. (2) Richard Cox, bp. of Ely. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1564; MD Heidelberg 1571; incorp. Camb. 1575, Oxf 1599; lic. R. Coll. Physicians 1582. m. Pascha, da. of Henry Parry, chancellor of Salisbury cathedral, sis. of Henry Parry, bp. of Worcester, at least 4s. 2da. suc. fa. 1568.

Offices Held

Physician at St. Bartholomew’s hospital 1581-5.1


Turner’s father was a religious radical, author of anti-Catholic tracts, and a botanist who travelled extensively on the Continent during the last years of Henry VIII’s reign. Returning to England on the accession of Edward VI, he became chaplain to the Duke of Somerset, and subsequently dean of Wells, a position lost under Mary, when Turner and his family returned to the Continent. At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign he was influential in the propagation of near-presbyterian principles. The Elizabethan settlement naturally failed to satisfy him, and he circulated tracts against vestments.2

Turner himself received tuition in both his father’s disciplines, eventually choosing medicine, but it is his religious views that make him of particular interest as an MP. In 1584 he probably gained his seat at Bridport through the influence of the 2nd Earl of Bedford, and in 1586, after the Earl’s death, through the Earl of Warwick, both puritan sympathizers. In the 1584 Parliament he was appointed to the committee for the better observing of the Sabbath day, 27 Nov. At this time the moderate puritans were hoping to gain some measure of reform by the presentation of petitions to Parliament from the individual counties. On 14 Dec. 1584 a number of these petitions had been heard and favourably received, when Turner—the representative of a more extreme wing of the party—called for a Bill and Book to be read, which he had previously deposited with the clerk of the House. The bill, which had been ‘framed by certain godly and learned ministers’, would have had the effect of replacing the prayer book then in use by the Genevan Form of Prayers, a new edition of which had only recently been issued in London, and would have set up a presbyterian system of ministers and elders in the church. Turner’s motion was received coldly, and after both Sir Francis Knollys and Sir Christopher Hatton had spoken in opposition, and there had been no reply in support of the motion, it was agreed that the Bill and Book should not be read. In the following Parliament the extreme puritans were better organized, although Turner, on this occasion, played only a minor role. The Bill and Book introduced by Cope received a considerable amount of organized support, but Turner, so far as is known, spoke neither in the debate on the Bill and Book, nor in the more general debate on religion that took place on the following day. He showed his solidarity with his fellow puritans, however, when, on 6 Mar. 1587, he moved ‘for the liberty of the gentlemen committed to the Tower’ for their outspokenness in these debates, ‘pleading the liberties of the House’. Earlier in this Parliament Turner had joined the general outcry against Mary Queen of Scots, desiring her execution and stronger laws against papists:

Her Majesty’s safety cannot be sufficiently provided for by the speedy cutting off of the Queen of Scots, unless some good means be had withal for the rooting out of Papistry, either by making some good new laws for that purpose, or else by the good and due execution of the laws already in force ... so concluding in his own conscience that no Papist can be a good subject.

He offered a bill to the House to this purpose, asking that it should be read. The Speaker side-stepped the issue by pointing out that as the bill was concerned with the Queen’s safety, it should be referred to the committee already discussing the subject. After several speeches this was agreed, and no more was heard of the bill. Later in the same Parliament Turner continued his attack on the papists, desiring ‘that by some token they may be known’.3

As a physician Turner had a number of important patients, receiving a bequest as ‘my physician’ under the will of Sir Roger North, 2nd Lord North, whose family had strong puritan sympathies. He was also physician to Henry Brooke II, 11th Lord Cobham, and attended Sir Walter Ralegh when he was in the Tower. His list of publications did not equal his father’s. He was probably the author of ‘A Spiritual Song of Praise’ appended to Oliver Pig’s Meditations, published in 1589, and he also wrote a pamphlet entitled, The Opinion of Peter Turner Dr. in Physicke, concerning Amulets, or Plague Cakes, which was published in 1603. His opinion was that they could be valuable in assisting recovery, but ‘accursed be he that putteth his whole confidence in secondary means, for it is neither herb nor salve, nor anything like that healeth, but only the blessing of the head physician’.4

Turner died 27 May 1614 and was buried on the following day in St. Olave’s, Hart Street, where a monument was erected to him. In his nuncupative will, Turner left the responsibility for raising portions for his younger children to his brother-in-law, Henry Parry, bishop of Worcester, and Thomas Emerson. The widow, Pascha, was granted administration of his estate on 28 July 1614.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. A. Povah, Annals of the Parishes of St. Olave Hart Street and Allhallows Staining, 80; DNB (Turner, Peter; Turner, William); W. Munk, Roll of Royal Coll. of Physicians, i. 84; PCC 87 Lawe; N. Moore, Hist. St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, ii. 427-31.
  • 2. DNB; Collinson thesis, 44, n 1, 81; Strype, Parker, i. 301.
  • 3. PCC 14 Babington; Roberts thesis, 89; D’Ewes, 333, 339, 395; Collinson, 528-30; Neale, Parlts. ii. 61-2, 112, 148-56, 162, 176.
  • 4. Roberts, 89, n. 3; Coll. Top. et Gen. vi. 99; HMC Hatfield, x. 77; xvii. 444; DNB.
  • 5. Povah, 80; PCC 87 Lawe.