WINGFIELD, Edward Maria (c.1550-c.1614), of Stoneley, Hunts.

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.1550, 1st s. of Thomas Maria Wingfield of Stoneley by Margaret, da. of Edward Kaye of Woodsome, Yorks. unm. suc. fa. 15 Aug. 1557.

Offices Held

Capt. in Ireland and Netherlands c.1575-90; patentee of Virginia Co. 10 Apr. 1606; member of council and president, Virginia May-Sept. 1607.1


Although Edward Maria Wingfield is well known by reason of his part in the settlement of Virginia, he has not previously been identified with the ‘Edward Wingfeild esquire’ who sat in the Parliament of 1593. Yet there can be little doubt that they were one and the same: the only contemporary bearing these names, the third son of Edward Wingfield of Kimbolton, was a child of some seven years at the time of the 1593 election.2

There is nothing in the story (dating from 1613) that Edward Wingfield’s father acquired the second christian name which he was to transmit to his three sons by being a godson of Queen Mary and Cardinal Pole, for he had been born about 1518; the name was perhaps a mark of respect on the part of his father, the eminent courtier of Henry VIII, for the infant Princess Mary. Thomas Wingfield married a Yorkshire woman, purchased Stoneley priory hard by the family seat of Kimbolton, and sat in four Marian Parliaments before dying prematurely in 1557. His widow soon remarried, and it was to her new husband, James Cruse or Crewes, that the wardship of the young Edward was granted in March 1562. The Cruses were considerable investors in monastic property in the East Midlands, and one of their acquisitions was the suppressed college of Fotheringay, Northamptonshire. It was thus at Stoneley and Fotheringay, which lie about 15 miles apart, that Edward and his younger brothers Thomas and James passed their boyhood.3

The Wingfields were a fighting family, and it was to the profession of arms that both Edward and Thomas gravitated. Thomas’s career is better documented than Edward’s, which is to be inferred rather than followed; it is not clear, for instance, whether he or his cousin of Kimbolton figured in the affray with Walter Ralegh at Westminster in March 1580 which led to imprisonment. Both Edward and Thomas served in Ireland, as did several of their kinsmen, but Thomas may have preceded his brother to the Netherlands when he went over with the expeditionary force in August 1585, for 18 months later the Queen named ‘one Wingfield’ as ready to murder Mary Queen of Scots, an undertaking for which Edward Wingfield’s domicile at Fotheringay would have specially qualified him. When he reached the Netherlands Edward was taken prisoner, and as Thomas was to write in November 1588 of ‘my brother’s long imprisonment’ his capture probably took place soon after his arrival. At least part of his captivity was passed at Lille. Thomas’s eagerness to effect Edward’s release by taking a valuable prisoner himself was one of the causes of a quarrel between him and General Willoughby which led to his dismissal. Edward was still a prisoner in June 1589 and the date of his release has not been found.4

It was perhaps his experiences at Spanish hands which both prompted and commended Wingfield’s claim to a seat in Parliament. The one he occupied, in a borough and county with which he had no connexion, he could have owed only to Anthony Mildmay, whose house at Apethorpe lay next to Fotheringay and whose father had been much involved with the Wingfields of Kimbolton. Through his marriage to Grace Sharington of Lacock, Mildmay acquired patronage at Chippenham which enabled him to nominate to at least one seat there for the last three Elizabethan Parliaments and the first of James’s; and Edward Wingfield must be accounted the first beneficiary. His election brought the number of Wingfields in the House to five, although only one of them, Sir Edward of Kimbolton, was his near kinsman. To judge from the lack of reference to him, Edward proved a silent and passive Member, though he may have sat on a committee appointed to consider cloth on 15 Mar. 1593.5

A like obscurity surrounds the next 12 years of his life before he emerges, in 1606, as a founder of Virginia. Wingfield’s interest in plantation had first been roused in Ireland; in May 1586 he had figured, to the tune of 3,000 or 4,000 acres, in a project for a Wingfield colony in Munster. When, 20 years later, he tried his fortune in Virginia, he met with disaster. Elected first president of the settlement, he fell foul of his colleagues, was deposed and cast in heavy damages for slander. He returned to England in 1608 and spent his closing years at Stoneley which, since he was unmarried, passed at his death (about 1614) to his brother Thomas. Wingfield’s diary of the Virginia enterprise was rediscovered and published in 1860.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. T. Bindoff


  • 1. DNB, which errs in date of birth and name of wife; Vis. Hunts. (Cam. Soc. xliii), 131; VCH Hunts. iii. 81.
  • 2. Sir Edw. Wingfield’s s. and h. James was 19 in May 1603, C142/284/35.
  • 3. Vis. Hunts. loc. cit.; Feet of Fines, Hunts. ed. Turner (Camb. Antiq. Soc. oct. ser. xxxvii), 143; Vis. Northants. 1564, ed. Metcalfe, 16; CPR, 1557-8, p. 396; 1560-3, p. 232; 1563-6, p. 74; Bridges, Northants. ii. 458.
  • 4. APC, xi. 421, 429; C. Read, Burghley 368; CSP For. July-Dec. 1588, p. 307; Jan.-July 1589, p. 332; CSP Dom. 1581-90. p. 542.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 501.
  • 6. CSP Ire. 1586-8, pp. 52, 62; DNB; VCH Hunts. loc. cit.