Appendix VIII: The 1593 House of Commons

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Effective dates of session: 19 Feb.-10 Apr. 1593.


Speaker:(Sir) Edward Coke 
Clerk:Fulk Onslow


Privy Councillors in the Commons:

(Sir) Robert Cecil

(Sir) John Fortescue I

(Sir) Thomas Heneage

Sir Francis Knollys

(Sir) John Wolley


Total number of Members elected 464

for counties 90

for boroughs 374

at general election 462

for counties 90

for boroughs 372

at by-elections 2

for counties 0

for boroughs 2


Number of Members known to have left before end: 1, who sat for a county

Residential qualification. Borough Members

resident in borough 80

resident in county 110

resident in adjacent county etc. 8

strangers 157

no information 19


Electoral qualification. Borough Members returned through

own or family interest 73

wife’s family interest 10

corporation interest 91

‘natural’ influence 39

influence of a great man 131

duchy of Lancaster 12

no information 18


Number of Members with

central office local office
major 4lord lieutenant 3
minor 87deputy lieutenant 31
legal 11custos rotulorum 14
duchy of Lancaster 16j.p. 216
diplomatic/agent abroad 9other county 78
military/naval 21mayor 18
ecclesiastical 10recorder 27
 other municipal 70
 no office in this Parliament 117


Experience. Members who

had sat in previous Parliament 37%

were to sit in next Parliament 33%



very active speakers 5%

very active committeemen 8%

with any recorded activity 59%

with any recorded speeches 12%

with any recorded committees 58%

served on religious committee 14%

spoke on religion 4%

served on subsidy committee 30%

spoke on subsidy 6%

served on a social/economic committee 41%

spoke on a social/economic matter 4%

served on a legal committee 27%

spoke on a legal matter 4%

served on a committee outside above five classifications 11%

spoke oil a subject other than the above five 6%


Notes on Procedure

On 26 Feb. 1593 the first standing committee for privileges and returns was appointed. It does seem that the final connexion in the development of this most important of parliamentary institutions was made by that remarkable man Robert Wroth I, who had been appointed to the standing committee on privileges in 1589. When, at the commencement of the 1593 Parliament a Member wished to have a committee inquire into a disputed election, Wroth moved for a committee on ‘the liberties and privileges of the Members of this House and their servants’ and when the committee was appointed, its terms of reference ‘during all this present sessions of Parliament’, comprised the examination and

report of all such cases touching the elections and returns of any the knights citizens burgesses and barons of this House and also all such cases for privilege as in any wise may occur or fall out during the same sessions of Parliament, to the end this House upon the reports of the same examinations may proceed to such further course in every the same cases as to this House shall be thought meet.

The committee was not only to discuss the subject of the present disputed return but

also any other case of elections returns or privileges whatsoever in question which shall be moved unto them by any member of this House at their pleasure. And notice was then also given in the House to all the members of the same that in all these cases they might from time to time repair to the said committees as occasion shall serve accordingly.1

In the subsidy debate, 7 Mar., the Speaker ‘propounds it as an order in the House ... for him to ask the parties that would speak whether with him that spake before or against him, and the party that speaketh against the last speaker is to be heard first’. On voting the Speaker pronounced, 20 Mar.,

the order of the House is that the Aye being for the bill must go out, and the No against the bill doth always sit. The reason is that the inventor that will have a new law is to go out and bring it in, and they that are for the law in possession must keep the House, for they sit to continue it.

The Commons stood up to the Lords over the right to control financial bills. The chancellor of the Exchequer, Fortescue, was criticized in the House for undue servility to the Queen, while she on her part

misliked greatly that this Parliament such irreverence was shewed towards Privy Councillors who are not to be accounted as common knights and burgesses of the House, who are councillors but during the Parliament, the other are standing councillors, and for their wisdom and great service are called to the council of state.2

Seven members were sequestrated, some imprisoned. Offices were denied to some explicitly on the grounds that they had opposed in the Commons measures favoured by the Queen; freedom of speech in her view was to be limited ‘to say yea or no to bills’. For the Commons ‘to frame a form of religion or a state of government ... no king ... will suffer such absurdities’. The Commons was for greater religious toleration than the Crown. On the proposal to encompass protestant nonconformists within the penalties of the recusancy laws, a Member urged the necessity of defining who these sectaries were. ‘The clause of speaking against the law is very dangerous, for who can be safe against this?’. A ‘great committee’ was set up on this measure at 3 p.m. on 4 Apr.3 which sat until 8 p.m., this twelve-hour day, for the House met at 8 a.m., indicating a dramatic increase in the amount of work being done. The terms ‘great committee’ and ‘general committee’ used in the proceedings of this Parliament show the House teetering on the brink of inventing the committee of the whole House, though this term actually appears in the 1593 proceedings only in a gloss by D’Ewes (pp. 493-4) on committee procedure, itself however an indication that D’Ewes, with hindsight, thought of these committees as committees of the whole, whatever the contemporary term.


Committee meeting places

Exchequer chamber 61%

House of Commons committee chamber (sometimes called the ‘committee chamber next

the Upper House’) 27%

Middle Temple 6%

Serjeants’ Inn 4%

Star Chamber 2%.


Sources for the names of Members (unless an individual reference is given)

No returns have survived, but a full complement of names can be obtained from C193/32 lists 11 and 12, and Lansd. 255, ff. 153 seq. Stowe 354, ff. 19 seq. is of no value.


Sources for the proceedings of the Commons


Anonymous journal 19 Feb.-10 Apr. Cotton Titus F. ii edited and transcribed by Miss Miller. This excellent journal, used by D’Ewes, amounts to 212 pages of quarto typescript. Other sources: Harl. 6265; Lansd. 73, 104; Camb. Univ. lib. Mm. i. 51; St. Paul’s Cathedral mss vii. 6; SP Dom. Eliz. 244/53, 91.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler

End Notes

  • 1. D’Ewes, 471. Our italics. The word ‘committees’ here means committee members.
  • 2. 10 Apr. 1593, anon. jnl. Cott. Titus F. ii, ff. 97-98.
  • 3. Ibid. ff. 92-93.