Sir Francis ENGLEFIELD

Born: 1521, Englefield, Berkshire, England

Died: 1605, Valladolid, Spain

Father: Thomas ENGLEFIELD of Englefield (Sir)

Mother: Elizabeth THROCKMORTON

Married: Catherine FETTIPLACE 1550, Compton Beauchamp, Berkshire, England


The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Sir Francis Englefield of Englefield, Berkshire, b. 1521/22, first son of Sir Thomas Englefield of Englefield by Elizabeth, dau. of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton, Warws. Married Catherine, dau. and heiress of Sir Thomas Fettiplace of Compton Beauchamp, Berks. d.s.p. suc. fa. 28 Sep 1537. Kntd. 22 Feb 1547. J.p. Berks. 1547, q. 1554; sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 1547-8; member, household of Princess Mary by 1549-53, commr. relief, Berks. 1550, heresy 1557; other commissions 1553-8; PC 1553-8; constable, Windsor castle and keeper of parks there 1553-61; chief steward, Reading and hundreds of Reading and Theale, Berks. 1553-63; bailiff, Reading, former liberties of Reading abbey and Leominster priory, Herefs. and keeper, Reading gaol 1553; keeper Fulbrook park, Warws. 1554; master, ct. of wards 1 May 1554-8; gen. surveyor, offices and customs in port of London 1558.

Sir Thomas Englefield, Francis's grandfather, had been succeeded in 1514 by a distinguished son of the same name, who is not known to have sat in Parliament but may well have done so before 1529. This Sir Thomas became sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1519, a serjeant-at-law by 1523, and joint master of the wards and a justice of the common pleas three years later. He died in 1537 at the age of 49, having added to his inheritance by buying the manors of Hartridge, Sanderville and Tidmarsh, all in Berkshire, in 1522 and acquiring that of Broughton in Warwickshire at an unknown date. These new estates all passed to Francis Englefield, but the family lands in Shropshire Sir Thomas left to his second son John.

In his will Sir Thomas Englefield envisaged the possibility that his executors should buy the wardship of his eldest son, who was only 15 in 1537, and this they probably did. Another of his wishes was fulfilled when Francis married Catherine Fettiplace, who had become an heiress in 1524. One branch of her family was already linked with the Englefields through old Sir Thomas's marriage to the widow of Anthony Fettiplace of Swinbrook, and Francis's own union with its senior branch, the Fettiplaces of Besselsleigh, knit together two of the oldest houses in Berkshire. With such lineage and connexions it is not surprising that Francis Englefield rose rapidly. Granted prompt livery of his inheritance in Nov 1543, within two years he was on the sheriff roll for Oxfordshire and Berkshire. He was rich enough to pay 1,676 for the manor of Tilehurst and its rectory in 1545, and he was favoured at court, receiving 40 from the King for his expenses on an embassy to France in 1546. A private Act in the Parliament of 1545 (37 Hen. VIII, c.27) confirmed his surrender of the Oxfordshire manor of Rotherfield Greys to Francis Knollys, and in 1546 he sold Hinton. In these early years he does not appear to have been an unbending Catholic, and the government may have hoped to win his support. Tilehurst had once belonged to Reading abbey, as had the rectories included in the same grant, while the Ambassador whom he accompanied to Paris was John Dudley, the future Duke of Northumberland.

The new reign opened with further blandishments, for Englefield was knighted after the coronation and in Nov 1547 he was pricked sheriff. Named as a subsidy commissioner as late as Dec 1550, he was by then attached to the Princess Mary and probably lost to the Reformation. He may have been planted in Mary's household by the government, for his relapse was apparently unexpected. On 27 Jul 1549 the Princess had expressed astonishment to the Protector Somerset and the Council at their imperious summonses to her comptroller Robert Rochester, her chaplain, and her servant Englefield, although the last would attend on them as soon as possible. It was but one incident in her struggle to retain the rites of Rome and there followed a lull of nearly two years while power passed from Somerset to the more rigorous Dudley. The issue was again tackled on 9 Aug 1551, with a final resolution to forbid the mass, and five days later Englefield, Rochester, Dr. John Hopton and Edward Waldegrave were ordered by the Council to convey this decision to their mistress and if necessary to enforce it. On 22 Aug all three reappeared with letters from Mary and the news that they had spoken to her at Copt Hall in Essex, only to be forbidden to repeat the order to her attendants, on pain of dismissal. When on the following day each was summoned separately before the Council at Windsor and commanded, on his allegiance, to return and execute the original order, all three refused and were arrested. A deputation under Chancellor Rich was then despatched to Copt Hall, only to be told by Mary that if her servants had defied the Council, they be the honester men. This rebuff to Rich was reported to the Council on 29 Aug 1551, whereupon the warden of the Fleet was ordered to commit Englefield, Rochester and Waldegrave to the Tower. Their confinement brought protests from the Imperial Ambassador but apparently it was not harsh. Imprisoned throughout the winter, on 18 Mar 1552 they were allowed, for reasons of health, to repair to their homes in the country, and a month later to return to Mary, as she had requested. Englefield alone was summoned to the Council by a letter of 21 Feb 1553, after a meeting at which Northumberland himself presided; it is not clear whether the choice of Englefield was a coincidence or whether he enjoyed a hidden connexion with the Duke. After this, he presumably stayed with the Princess until her triumph brought him his reward.

Mary entered London on 3 Aug 1553 and ten days later Englefield first appeared as a Councillor, at a meeting in the Tower. London was restless at the first signs that Catholicism was to be restored and for four days the threat to law and order took up much of the Council's time. Meanwhile Northumberland, awaiting execution in the Tower, hinted at vital secrets to be divulged to two Councillors, and on 19 Aug. Englefield and Waldegrave were commissioned to speak with the Duke and his partisan Sir John Gates on such matter as they have to say, although in the end it was the new chancellor, Gardiner, who visited the prisoners. Besides receiving several offices and places on commissions, Englefield was now rewarded with many confiscated lands. In Oct he secured a 21-year lease of the lordships and manors of Pangbourne and Whitley, Berkshire, and a 99-year lease of the lordships of Sonning and Eye; in Dec he received the park of Vastern, Wiltshire. The fees which Englefield enjoyed ranged from 10 a year as chief steward of Reading and 8 10s.8 d. a year as keeper of Whitley park to the 2d. a day attached to many small offices.

A longer step was taken with Englefield's appointment as master of the court of wards and liveries in 1554. His father had shared the mastership of the King's wards with Sir William Paulet from 1526 until 1534, after which Paulet had continued as sole master. Appointed lord treasurer in 1550, and elevated through successive stages to the Marquessate of Winchester, he continued nominally to preside over the court until Mary replaced him with his former colleague's son. The change was overdue, for the court's revenues had sunk to a mere 6,595 in the second year of Edward VI's reign, although the arrest for embezzlement of its receiver-general John Beaumont allowed this figure to be doubled by 1553. Paulet probably contemplated the eventual absorption of the court by the Exchequer, but this prospect, mentioned in the patent of appointment for Sir William Damsell, its new receiver-general in Jan 1554, finds no echo in Englefield's patent, so that the wards must have been saved during the spring of 1554. Whether or not this was a sign of the Queen's peculiar confidence in Englefield, the decision was justified when the revenues, after an initial setback, rose to a record figure of 20,000 in the fourth year of her reign.

Englefield can have met no difficulty in being returned as a knight of the shire for Berkshire under Mary, although the Dictionary of National Biography is wrong in seating him in all five of her Parliaments, since (for no evident reason) he was not a Member in Apr 1554. There is little doubt, although no proof, that he exerted himself to secure the return in Berkshire of men sympathetic to the regime. His own parliamentary career was overshadowed by his other duties. He appears in the Journal only four times, once during Mary's third Parliament, when on 9 Jan 1555 he was ordered by the House to examine a property dispute between the Duchess of Suffolk and William Willoughby, 1st Baron Willoughby of Parham, and three times in her fourth, when on 6 Nov and 3 Dec 1555 bills were committed to him, and on 28 Nov he carried bills up to the Lords. The Council took up more of his time; a full attendance was very rarely recorded and Englefield was at less than half the meetings of the reign, but he was not often away for as long as a month. On 9 Aug 1554 he was named one of the four Councillors responsible for Irish affairs.

The work of refitting the buildings of the restored Syon Abbey in 1557 had been borne by Sir Francis Englefield who, through his wife, was related to two of the sisters.

The sacrifices which Englefield made for his beliefs, both before and after Mary's reign, leave no doubts about his zeal. It is not so clear whether, during his five years of authority, he believed either in the persecution of heretics or the harrying of political dissenters. In 1555 he was ordered to search for John Dee, the astrologer and mathematician, whom he later examined on charges of witchcraft and heresy, and he is also supposed to have urged the interrogation of Princess Elizabeth's old tutor Roger Ascham. Yet when Elizabeth's governess Kate Ashley and others were arrested in 1556, Englefield and Sir Edward Hastings were chosen to visit the Princess with a reassuring message and the gift of a ring from the Queen. Six years later, Sir Francis was to write to Elizabeth from exile, protesting the same devotion to her person as he had shown during her sister's time.

On the question of church property Englefield was, at least for a time, unusually close to the Queen. He was one of the four Councillors to whom she originally confided her decision to restore monastic lands still in the hands of the crown. Few of her subjects approved of that decision and still fewer followed its example, but in Feb 1557 Englefield received three licences to restore into clerical hands the property of Reading abbey which he had bought in 1545. He conveyed the rectories of Tilehurst, and of St. Mary's and St. Giles's, Reading, with tithes and lands in the neighbourhood, to the incumbent vicars, to be held of himself and his heirs provided a yearly obit were celebrated for the souls of the Englefields and other benefactors. Yet even Englefield's conscience was not proof against new temptations: in Dec 1557 he paid 255 for the reversion of the abbot of Reading's former mansion of Cholsey, since enjoyed by Princess Elizabeth, and for more lands at Fulbrook, and in Jun 1558 he and another paid 380 for the site of Cuddesdon manor, Oxfordshire, late of Abingdon abbey.

Englefield seems nevertheless to have strengthened his position as the reign progressed. His past service, his fervent Catholicism and his comparative youth all ensured him a future under Mary, who may well have preferred Englefield as a Councillor to such middle-aged converts as Sir John Mason or Sir Thomas Pope. A supporter of Gardiner, he had not been in the reduced number of Councillors vainly proposed by the Emperor in 1554, but by 1558 he was one of six who dealt with financial affairs and enjoyed an annual pension of 500 crowns. He continued to attend the Council regularly until 16 Jun 1558, after which there came a gap of four months; although he and Waldegrave were hastily summoned by a depleted band of their fellow-Councillors on 1 Sept., Englefield did not reappear until 18 Oct. For the next few weeks he stayed in London, as one of the Councillors authorized to sign documents during the Queen's illness, and he was at an unusually full gathering on 11 Nov when the treasurer was asked to attend because of the new session of Parliament; four more meetings were held before the Queen's death, but at none of these was Englefield present.

Englefield's authority died with Mary. The new Queen did not reappoint him to the Council. On 2 Dec, in one of his last acts as master of the court of wards, he answered an inquiry by Secretary Cecil with the curt statement that the crown could hope for no profit from the lands of lunatics. Three days later he was expressing alarm to Cecil at the hasty replacement of customs officers and urging caution, at a time when his own position must have been already under review. Englefield's eclipse was dignified but rapid. On 26 Dec he was summoned before the Council and told that the Queen had been advised that she could lawfully require of him the seal of the court of wards, while leaving him the fees, although his mastership had been granted for life. Englefield expounded his case, before surrendering the seal on the understanding that his rights in the office were unaffected and that his protest would be recorded by the Council; the request was granted, with a reminder that whenever there was doubt in any case between the prince and the subject, the royal will must be preferred. In Jan 1559 Englefield was ordered to surrender any records of the court which were still in his keeping and on 26 Apr Sir Thomas Parry was appointed master. Already on 12 Apr Sir Francis had secured leave to go abroad for a thermal cure, taking with him eight servants, eight horses and 100 marks. The licence covered two years, with the possibility of recall after 12 months, but Englefield was leaving England for good. Worried about the possible loss of his vast Englefield estates while he hid out in Spain, Sir Francis Englefield,  settled all his manors upon his nephew and namesake, Francis, by an indenture dated 1576, with the one proviso that he might revoke the grant at any time by presenting the latter with a gold ring.

It was the first withdrawal from the England of Elizabeth by a leading native Catholic and the resulting exile was to be one of the longest. In the present context the remaining 38 years of Englefield's life must be treated as an epilogue. It is a story of progressive alienation from his country and deepening involvement in activities against its government. After preliminary wanderings Englefield came to divide his time between Spain and the Netherlands, with visits to Rome and elsewhere. From 1568 he was a pensioner of Felipe II and a key figure among English Catholic exiles, whose spokesman he was at the Spanish court. A fervent advocate of the enterprise of England, in his closing years he became preoccupied with the possibility of a Catholic successor to Elizabeth and he had a hand in the composition of The Conference about the Next Succession of 1595.

In England the repercussions of Englefield's errancy were correspondingly cumulative. When his licence to remain abroad expired in 1562, his refusal to obey a royal command to return was followed, a year later, by a survey of his property leading to a redistribution of his offices and of the lands which he held on lease from the crown. In 1584 he was indicted and outlawed, for treason committed six years before, and in 1587 he was included in the Act of attainder (29 Eliz. c.1), which was confirmed in 1593 (35 Eliz. c.5), whereupon the manor of Englefield passed from the family, after at least 400 years, with the rest of his property.

Active to the end, Englefield died late in 1596 on a visit to the English college at Valladolid, leaving a letter to Felipe II in which he urged a new Armada. According to an account of the proceedings to certify his will he died on 13 Sep as a member of the Society of Jesus. Such a deathbed reception, if that is what is meant, is not surprising in itself, but it is remarkable that, if true, it should have been generally overlooked. The will, in Spanish, shows that his household was small: three servants and two English secretaries received legacies, an offering was made for the soul of a third secretary, recently deceased, and 500 escudos went to the executor, William Copley. Englefield's wife had died in 1580 and his nephew and namesake, later a baronet, was left to continue the line. The family remained Catholic.
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