WINGFIELD, Robert II (c.1558-1609), of Upton, 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. c.1558, 1st s. of Robert Wingfield I of Upton by Elizabeth, da. of Richard Cecil of Little Burghley, Northants.; bro. of John. educ. G. Inn 1576. m. Prudence, da. of (Sir) John Croke II of Chilton, Bucks., 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1580. Kntd. 1603.

Offices Held

J.p. Northants. from c.1591, q. 1601; keeper of Moorhay walk by 1587; attended funeral of Mary Stuart, 1 Aug. 1587; commr. sewers, Lincs. 1588, Northants. 1600, Hunts., Lincs., Northants. 1601; commr. musters, Northants. 1596; seneschal, manor of Waddington, Lincs. 1598; dep. steward, liberty of Spalding, Lincs. by 1604; surveyor for Northants. in or bef. 1606; subsidy collector, Northants. 1609.2


Wingfield’s mother was Lord Burghley’s sister, and it was to the Cecils that he looked, if not for preferment, then for protection. Thus, after incurring the royal displeasure over monopolies in the 1597 Parliament, Wingfield wrote to Cecil (28 Dec. 1597), making sure to send a present at the same time: ‘Your favour ... towards me this Parliament comforts me as much as if you gave me a great benefit’. And to Burghley early in 1592, asking for a lease, ‘I hope your lordship will not forget me for if I have it not by your lordship’s means, I look never to have it’.

On Burghley’s death Wingfield wrote to Cecil,

Your letters to me, a poor countryman, out of heart since the decease of my honourable lord, brought exceeding comfort, and so much that I am at a strife with myself which way to show myself thankful ... As one confined to the country and vowing to abridge myself of all worldly pleasures, I will ever be devoted to your house in all love.3

Evidently Parliament was not among his ‘worldly pleasures’, for Wingfield sat in every one between 1584 and 1604, as a burgess for Stamford, where he was born, and where the Cecil connexion assured him a place. However, it was not until 18 Dec. 1592 that he became a freeman of the borough in recognition of his willingness ‘to do the town any pleasure he can’ and ‘his sundry travail in the town affairs and specially being often times one of the burgesses for the town at the High Court of Parliament’. Five years later—in October 1597—he was put on the town council and frequently attended meetings. The Privy Council used him at least twice to settle disputes there4

No parliamentary activity is known for Wingfield before 1597. His committee work in that Parliament included George Durant’s will (8 Nov.); marriages without banns (11 Nov.); collecting the clerical subsidy (12 Nov.); enlarging the marriages without banns matter to include other ‘grievances touching ecclesiastical causes’ (14 Nov.); rogues and sturdy beggars (22 Nov.); (Sir) John Spencer’s lands (25 Nov.); draining the fens (2 Dec.); double payment of debts on shop books (2 Dec.); a bill for the Marquess of Winchester (9 Dec.); ordinances made by corporations (12 Jan. 1598, he reported this 16 Jan.) and a private lands bill (20 Jan.). Wingfield spoke on a procedural matter on 8 Feb., otherwise his only interventions in this Parliament concerned ‘sundry enormities growing by patents of privilege and monopolies and the abuses of them’, as he put it, 8 Nov. 1597. He was named to the committee dealing with the problem three days later, and, 21 Nov., he ‘delivered some particular informations to Mr. Chancellor’ about it. But four years later, 9 Nov. 1601, when nothing had been done, and Wingfield felt that the Queen might dissolve Parliament before the great debate could be renewed, he suggested a device that was to become common practice in the seventeenth-century struggles between Crown and Parliament:

that seeing the subsidy was granted, and they yet had done nothing, it would please her Majesty not to dissolve the Parliament until some Acts were passed.

This was not the sort of blackmail calculated to endear Wingfield to the Queen, and, with this speech, Wingfield must have said goodbye to any hopes of preferment while Elizabeth was on the throne. Perhaps he had already done so. When he returned to the charge on 20 Nov. 1601 his speech reflects his knowledge of the displeasure he had already earned for his interventions on monopolies in 1597:

I would but put the House in mind of the proceedings we had in this matter the last Parliament, in the end whereof Mr. Speaker moved her Majesty by way of petition, that the grief touching the monopolies might be respected, and the grievance coming of them might be redressed. Her Majesty answered by the lord keeper, that she would take care of these monopolies and our griefs should be redressed. If not she would give us free liberty to proceed in making a law the next Parliament. ... The wound, Mr. Speaker, is still bleeding, and we grieve under the sore and are without remedy. It was my hap the last Parliament to encounter with the word prerogative, but as then, so now, I do it with all humility, and with all happiness, both unto it and her Majesty. I am indifferent touching our proceedings whether by bill or petition ...

When the Queen gave way, Wingfield’s reaction (25 Nov.) shows a typically Elizabethan dichotomy—an enthusiastic first part (‘My heart is not able to conceive the joy that I feel ... if ever any of her Majesty’s words were meritorious before God, I do think these are’) to be contrasted with the practical reservations of a second in reply to Francis More’s suggestion that the House should ‘humbly crave pardon’.

For us to accuse ourselves by excusing a fault with which we are not charged, were a thing, in my opinion, inconvenient and unfitting the wisdom of this House.

Another of Wingfield’s preoccupations took plate against a local background: land drainage. Already in 1591 or 1592 he had written to Burghley about the completion of an undertaking to drain 400 acres in Northamptonshire, which had cost the county about £100. Next he signed a letter to the Privy Council from ‘divers gentlemen and inhabitants’ of the counties of Huntingdon, Lincoln, and Northampton, desiring permission to organize further projects of land reclamation. His interest in legislation on the subject in 1597 has already been noted in his committee activity for that Parliament, but the 1597 bill came to nothing, for, after being passed by both Houses it was vetoed by the Queen, whether to pay out Wingfield for his line on monopolies or for some more creditable reason cannot be known. At any rate, after petitioning the Privy Council on the subject in June 1598 Wingfield embarked upon some lobbying in the Parliament of 1601. Hayward Townshend notes (5 Dec.):

Mr. Wingfield showed me the bill touching fens, which was established the last Parliament, and passed both Houses, but advised upon by her Majesty [and] showed me also the bill for fens in this Parliament.

This was the bill he introduced on 21 Nov. 1601, and supported two days later. It was read a second time on 14 Dec. But he was still concerned with ‘the business for the draining of the fens’ at Cambridge in 1606, and he had another ‘great bill of the fens’ in Parliament that year. However, Wingfield’s later parliamentary career will be dealt with elsewhere. In the Parliament of 1601 he was appointed to committees on privileges and returns (31 Oct.), penal laws (2 Nov.), the order of business (3 Nov.), the Sabbath day (6 Nov.) and procedure (11 Nov.). His speeches not already noted were on Exchequer reform (21 Nov.) and to suggest a collection for the locum clerk (17 Dec.).5

Wingfield could hope for nothing while Elizabeth lived. He thought of going to Ireland with Essex in January 1599 but in July was ‘a poor countryman ... no way able to deserve a favourable look ... confined to the country’. Hoping for better things under James, he offered Cecil hospitality when the secretary met the King at Burghley. Wingfield’s house was ‘within three miles of that place’. More presents to Cecil (a falcon and a ‘dainty teg’) preceded an application for a job in the privy chamber (12 Feb. 1605). In October 1606 he still hoped ‘to deserve the King’s favour’ but died without it, at Upton, 24 Aug. 1609.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: A. M. Mimardière / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. C142/190/52; Hatfield ms 278; C66/1549; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 397; 1601-3, p. 71; 1603-10, p. 504; Lansd. 57. f. 20; 171, f. 397v; APC , xxv. 157; xxx. 677; PRO list duchy patents, f. 17; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 343; HMC Bath, v. 83.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 553; Lansd. 67, f. 37; HMC Hatfield, ix. 255.
  • 4. Visct. Powerscourt, Wingfield Muns. passim; APC, xxv. 76; xxx. 73.
  • 5. D’Ewes, 553, 554, 555, 556, 560, 561, 563, 566, 571, 581, 584, 595, 622, 624, 628, 632, 635, 646, 654, 668-9, 685; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 102, 104, 108, 111, 114, 119, 204, 234, 236, 237, 240, 252, 331; Lansd. 67, f. 37; HMC Hatfield, viii. 244; xviii. 332, 456.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, ix. 53, 255; xv. 41; xvi. 385; xvii. 51; xviii. 332; xxi. 121.