WISEMAN, William (c.1550-1610), of Mayland, Essex and Lincoln's Inn, 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.1550, 7th s. of John Wiseman (d.1559), of Felsted by his w. Joan Lucas of London. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. 1564; L. Inn 1567, called c.1578. m. Mary, da. of John Cooke of Rochford, Essex 1s. 5da.

Offices Held

J.p. Essex from 1592; of counsel to Maldon 1593, dep. recorder 1597, recorder by 1603.


Wiseman, an interesting minor Commons figure, a little in advance of his time, and not at all the ‘rural and country man’ he called himself in the House in 1601, was a younger son of an Essex gentry family. His father was an escheator for Essex and Hertfordshire in 1558, and other members of the family held local offices. Wiseman himself was a lawyer who worked for Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich, who may have brought him into Parliament to hold a watching brief for him over ‘the bill for the establishment of an award made between the Lord Rich and Sir Thomas Barrington’, read 16 Mar. 1585, to the committee of which Wiseman was appointed. He stood unsuccessfully in 1586, and came in again in 1597, the year he became deputy recorder. In that Parliament he was on committees for the poor (24 Nov.), monopolies and draining the fens (3 Dec.), corn (8 Dec.), cloth (10 Dec.), the navy (16 Jan.), the Surrey county boundary (19 Jan.), herrings (20 Jan.), soldiers and mariners (26 Jan.), law reform (1 and 3 Feb.), wine casks (3 Feb.) and pawnbrokers (7 Feb.). Apart from reporting two of these committees he made no speeches in this Parliament. In that of 1601, however, he was an active speaker and committeeman. He was appointed to the committee of privileges and returns (31 Oct.), and spoke (4 Nov.) on the Rutland election case. Sir Andrew Noel, the sheriff, had returned himself. Wiseman spoke of the necessity of having all Members present ‘because otherwise the body is but maimed’, and it was in any case inadvisable to allow the return of ‘great officers’ in case freeholders might prefer them to ‘men far more sufficient for that place’. On 7 Nov. he spoke in committee on the subsidy, and on 1 Dec. he asked for a call of the House and for a collection for the poor. On 8 Dec. he spoke on a hardy perennial, the misbehaviour of servants on the stairs leading to the Commons chamber (‘men dare not go down the stairs without a conductor’). Wiseman’s concern for the rights of the ordinary Members was shown again on 10 Dec. 1601. When the Speaker offered another bill to avoid a discussion on ordnance, Wiseman said, ‘I make great difference between the old Roman consuls and [the Speaker] ... we know our own grievances better than Mr. Speaker’. He complained (14 Dec.) that too much time was spent on the affairs of the city of London. Wiseman also spoke on the penal laws (2 Nov.), the composition of committees (11 Nov.), another privilege matter (14 Nov.) and unmarried mothers (twice, 19 Dec.). In the committee of the whole house, 7 Nov., since ‘some must break the ice’, he proposed the subsidy, but at the low rate of 2s. 8d. in the £. Typically, for this type of Member, he urged leaving ‘our orations and speeches, fitter for a Parliament than a committee’. As well as the committee of privileges, already mentioned, Wiseman in 1601 sat on the committees for penal laws (2 Nov.), alehouses (5 Nov.), the better setting of watches (7 Nov.), feltmakers (26 Nov.), the clerk of the market (2 Dec.) and fustians (4 Dec.).2

Though others of his family were Catholics, Wiseman himself, as might be expected from his connexions with Lord Rich, was inclined towards puritanism. He was still being referred to as of Lincoln’s Inn in 1607. In the preamble to his will, dated 20 July 1608 and proved 15 Feb. 1610, he hoped

through the death and merit of ... Christ Jesus to have all my sins forgiven and to inherit the kingdom prepared for His elect.

He bequeathed 40s. to a puritan minister of Vange, Essex, who had been twice suspended for not subscribing to the Articles. He left £300 to each of his three unmarried daughters, and made provision for his widow. The ten poorest householders of Southminster, Althorne and Steeple were to have 2s. each, and he gave £10 to his sons-in-law, who, with Lord Rich, were the executors. The bulk of his estate was to go to Robert, his son and heir, aged about 30 when Wiseman died on 19 Jan. 1610.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: J.H. / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 562-7; CPR, 1558-60, p. 365; Essex RO, Sessions Bk. DB 1/6; assize file 35/34; DB 3/1/8, DB 3/3/27, DB 3/3/270, 272; L. Inn Black Bk. ii. 69; D’Ewes, 368, 369, 562, 567, 569, 571, 581, 583, 584, 588, 592, 594, 622, 624-5, 626, 629, 630, 634, 637, 654, 661, 663, 668, 673, 677; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 108, 111, 113, 114, 121, 180, 185-6, 198, 208, 213, 269, 297, 306-7, 325, 333; HMC Hatfield, xi. 484.
  • 3. Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. xv. 58; PCC 15 Wingfield; Essex Rev. xl. 129; C142/323/54.