FOTHERLEY, Thomas (c.1580-1649/50), of Rickmansworth, Herts. and St. Margaret's, Westminster; later of The Mews, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. c.1580, o.s. of Thomas Fotherley of Rickmansworth and Tabitha, da. and h. of Giles House of Essex.1 educ. Rickmansworth (Mr. Stocke) 1592-7; Caius, Camb. 1597, aged 17.2 m. 7 Mar. 1617, Anne, da. of William Hippisley of Marston Bigot, Som., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.3 suc. fa. 1624; kntd. 31 Mar. 1640.4 d. bet. 1 Dec. 1649 and 15 Jan. 1650.

Offices Held

Kpr. of the privy purse to Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland by 1605, groom of the chamber 1606, recvr.-gen. 1608-19;5 ?steward to George Villiers, 1st mq. (later duke) of Buckingham 1620-c.1626, solicitor c.1626-8,6 steward to Katherine, duchess of Buckingham 1628-at least 1635; commr. for duke of Buckingham’s estate by 1624-at least 1628.7

J.p. Westminster 1624-at least 1636, Herts. and St. Albans liberty 1625-at least 1636;8 bailiff of the liberty of the dean and chapter of Westminster by 1624-8;9 commr. subsidy, Herts. 1624;10 freeman, Rye, Suss. 1625;11 steward of Crown manors, St. Albans liberty 1626-at least 1627;12 commr. oyer and terminer, St. Albans liberty 1632-?d.,13 sewers, Westminster 1634, Colne valley 1638,14 to take accts. of royal recvrs. in co. Londonderry [I] 1639,15 subsidy, Herts. 1641, poll tax 1641,16 array 1642.17

Gent. of the privy chamber 1628-at least 1641.18


Fotherley came from a minor gentry family which was resident by 1544 in the small market town of Rickmansworth, in southern Hertfordshire. His mother died in 1584 when he was just four years old, at which time his father was one of the local churchwardens.19 Admitted to Cambridge in 1597, he won a scholarship in the following year, but left without a degree. By 1605 he was keeper of the privy purse to the 9th earl of Northumberland. Following the Gunpowder Plot he became Northumberland’s groom of the chamber, and after some mathematical training he succeeded Thomas Percy as receiver-general for the earl’s northern estates. During Northumberland’s long confinement in the Tower Fotherley was one of two commissioners for the earl’s lands in Yorkshire.

Fotherley married the sister of Northumberland’s gentleman of the horse, (Sir) John Hippisley* in 1617. The following year he paid £1,300 for the Lincolnshire manor of Fleet, which he purchased from the royal favourite, George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham.20 By that time Buckingham had drawn Hippisley into his service, and it was not long before Fotherley himself followed suit. He was put in overall charge of Buckingham’s financial affairs, and evidently impressed his new master so much that in the summer of 1622 Buckingham appointed him bailiff of Westminster, a position later described by Bishop Williams as being ‘of good profit and reputation’.21 During Buckingham’s absence in Spain in 1623, Fotherley kept his master informed of his activities and also reported to the king, who took a close interest in Buckingham’s finances, and ordered him ‘to come boldly to me whenever he hath occasion’.22 That same year Fotherley picked up a couple of wardships, at which time he was living in St. Margaret’s, Westminster.23

In March 1624 Fotherley received a grant of arms,24 and in the following month he inherited his father’s property at Rickmansworth. At the general election of 1625, with Buckingham lord warden of the Cinque Ports and Hippisley his lieutenant of Dover Castle, Fotherley was nominated for the east Sussex port of Rye. As well as a letter from the duke, the corporation also received a missive from Buckingham’s Admiralty secretary, Edward Nicholas*, who announced that Fotherley was ‘in very great esteem with his grace, beyond most of his grace’s servants’.25 Fotherley was elected in his absence, and sworn in as freeman by his colleague John Sackville at Westminster, but took no known part in the first Caroline Parliament. Re-elected in 1626, he was appointed to two committees, to examine a petition for compensation against the Dunkirk privateers out of the prize ships in Dover harbour (8 Mar.), and to a bill to facilitate the passing of sheriffs’ accounts (14 March).26 As the Commons began to assemble its charges of impeachment against Buckingham, Fotherley naturally did his best to defend the duke. During a meeting of grand committee on 25 Mar. he declared that his master’s annual profit from the Irish customs farm was only £3,000, and that though some manors had indeed been granted to Buckingham by the king they had since been restored to the Crown. On the sale of peerages, he did not deny receiving £4,000 from Lord Robartes; but when it was alleged that Edward Noel† had been made a baron only after his father-in-law, Sir Baptist Hicks*, had sold a manor to the favourite below value, Fotherley claimed that the price represented a full 18 years’ purchase. 27 He was sent with (Sir) James Bagg II to warn Buckingham of the charges to be presented against him at the next sitting of the committee.28 On 21 Apr. he and (Sir) George Hastings* claimed that Buckingham had used his own resources to purchase the office of lord warden from Lord Zouche. Furthermore, he asserted that not a penny of the £71,500 received by Buckingham from the Exchequer during the last two years, had come to the duke’s purse, as all, ‘or most of it’, had been paid ‘for the provisions for the navy’. On the charge that the earl of Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) had only commuted his fine of £20,000 by transferring his Chelsea house and his sugar patent to the favourite, he replied that the initiative had come from Middlesex, and that £5,000 had been duly made over to the Household and the Wardrobe. The House was unimpressed, however, and on 26 Apr. it ordered Fotherley to attend the committee considering the charges against Buckingham based on common fame.29 Buckingham was by now seriously alarmed, and on 2 May, the day on which this investigating committee reported its findings to the Commons, he conveyed his entire estate to Fotherley and Richard Oliver†, his receiver-general, in an attempt to avoid its seizure.30 Fotherley himself did not escape parliamentary criticism, for one of the impeachment charges claimed that £995 of the king’s revenue had gone into his own pocket.31 Following the dissolution Buckingham rewarded Fotherley’s loyalty by securing his appointment as steward of the Crown manors in the liberty of St. Albans, which must have raised his prestige in and around his birthplace.

During the war years of the 1620s Buckingham frequently dipped into his own pocket to supplement the limited resources of the Exchequer. However, the duke’s purse was not always full, and consequently, during Buckingham’s absence at the Ile de RĂ©, Fotherley was plagued with urgent demands for money by Sir James Bagg*, who was trying to victual the navy’s ships at Plymouth.32 Money ought to have been available, as Fotherley and his fellow commissioners for Buckingham’s estate had been authorized to dispose of three of the duke’s Yorkshire manors, but the sale had evidently run into difficulties, for early in September the Privy Council furnished Fotherley with horses to ride to Yorkshire, where he remained for six weeks.33

Before the general election of 1628, Buckingham again provided his servant with a letter of recommendation,34 but this time Fotherley had to accept the second seat at Rye. He left no trace on the records of the third Caroline Parliament. Following Buckingham’s assassination, Fotherley served as an executor of the duke’s will, in which he was left £500.35 He remained in the employ of the duchess of Buckingham until at least the mid-1630s, and was bound with her in the purchase of the wardship and marriage of the duke’s infant son and heir.36 Although dismissed as bailiff of Westminster soon after Buckingham’s death, he was given a post in the privy chamber in December 1628. In July 1631 he paid £2,000 to the 4th earl of Pembroke (Sir Philip Herbert*) for the residue of a lease of the manor of Rickmansworth.37 By 1638 he was the guardian of the 2nd Viscount Strangford (Philip Smythe†).38 Together with (Sir) Ralph Whitfield* he was sent to Ireland in April 1639 to take the accounts of various receivers of Crown lands in county Londonderry.39 He had returned to England by March 1640, when he was knighted.

Fotherley lent the king £500 in May 1641.40 Following the outbreak of the Civil War he remained in London, and in September 1643 was said to be living in the Mews. Suspected of royalist sympathies, he brought in both his own and his ward’s assessment to Haberdashers’ Hall.41 In November 1645 the parliamentary committee for sequestrations in Hertfordshire ordered his tenants to withhold their rents.42 Sick in body, he made out his will on 6 Dec. 1649, in which he left his daughter £1,000 and lands in Lancashire ‘already given to her’.43 He died soon thereafter and was buried at St. Mary’s, Rickmansworth. His monumental inscription, set up after the Restoration, recorded his public offices as one of the gentlemen of the privy chamber, as a commissioner for Londonderry, and as ‘one of the Privy Council to Prince Charles’, but not his service in Parliament, in which he was the only member of the family to sit.44

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Vis. Herts. (Harl. Soc. xxii), 144.
  • 2. J. Venn, Biog. Hist. of Gonville and Caius Coll. 163.
  • 3. St. Mary Mounthaw (Harl. Soc. Reg. lviii), 9; R. Clutterbuck, Hist. and Antiqs. of Herts. i. 187.
  • 4. Clutterbuck, i. 204; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 207.
  • 5. Household Pprs. of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland ed. G.R. Batho (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. xciii), 5, 153.
  • 6. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 142, 460.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 353; 1628-9, p. 44.
  • 8. C231/4, ff. 167, 192; SP16/405.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 304; 1628-9, p. 276.
  • 10. C212/22/23.
  • 11. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 174.
  • 12. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 163; SP16/69, f. 68.
  • 13. C181/4, f. 30.
  • 14. Ibid. f. 191; 181/5, f. 28v.
  • 15. BRL, 602204/514; 604196/15; CSP Ire. 1633-47, p. 211.
  • 16. SR, v. 62, 84, 107.
  • 17. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 18. LC5/132, p. 68; LC3/1, unfol.
  • 19. Clutterbuck, i. 204; H.R. Wilton Hall, Recs. of Old Archdeaconry of St. Albans, 31.
  • 20. C54/2377/40. See also C54/2413/39.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 276.
  • 22. Stowe 743, f. 42; Harl. 6987, ff. 14, 15v.
  • 23. WARD 9/162, ff. 411v-12.
  • 24. Vis. Herts. (Harl. Soc. xxii), 144.
  • 25. Procs. 1625, pp. 697-8.
  • 26. Procs. 1626, ii. 226, 281.
  • 27. Ibid. 371.
  • 28. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 92.
  • 29. Procs. 1626, iii. 40-1, 43, 47.
  • 30. WARD 7/77/171. We are grateful to Roger Lockyer for this reference. The conveyance was, of course, fictitious.
  • 31. Procs. 1626, iii. 127.
  • 32. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 283, 311, 396.
  • 33. Bodl. Eng. Misc. C.208, f. 171v (we are grateful for this reference to Roger Lockyer); APC, 1627-8, p. 5.
  • 34. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 190.
  • 35. Wills from Doctors’ Commons ed. J.G. Nichols and J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxxxiii), 91.
  • 36. WARD 9/163, f. 3v.
  • 37. C2/Chas.I/B87/15, ff. 1-2. cf. Clutterbuck, i. 187.
  • 38. WARD 10/43, pt. 1, bdle. marked ‘petitions’.
  • 39. SCL, Stafford Pprs. 19/21.
  • 40. Clutterbuck, i. 187n.
  • 41. CCAM, 240, 320. The calendar incorrectly describes him as ‘Fotherby’.
  • 42. C2/Chas.I/B49/61.
  • 43. PROB 11/211, f. 33.
  • 44. Clutterbuck, i. 204.