Sir John GATES of Great Garnetts, Knight

Born: 1504, Great Garnetts, High Easter and Havering-atte-Bower, Essex, England

Died: 22 Aug 1553

Father: Geoffrey GATES (Sir)

Mother: Elizabeth CLOPTON

Married: Mary DENNY ABT 1534, Cheshunt, Hetfordshire, England

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

John Gates of Great Garnetts, High Easter and Havering-atte-Bower, Essex; London, and Syon, Mdx.; first son of Sir Geoffrey Gates of High Roding (b. 1484 - d. 1526) and Elizabeth Clopton; brother of Henry. Educated L. Inn, adm. 2 Aug 1523, s.p. suc. fa. 7 May 1526. KB 20 Feb 1547. J.p. Essex 1532-d.; page of the robes by 1537, groom 1540; feodary, duchy of Lancaster, Essex, Herts., London, Mdx., Surr. 1538-d.; butler, port of Poole, Dorset 1540-d.; groom, privy chamber 1542, gent. 1544; keeper, site and possessions of Syon Abbey, Mdx. 1542, St. Thomas's hospital, Southwark 1546, Eltham park, Kent 1551; servant of Queen Catherine Parr 1543-5 or later; King's bailiff, Southwark Dec 1546; commr. chantries, Essex 1548, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; other commissions 1549-52; sheriff, Essex and Herts. 1549-50; v.-chamberlain, Househould 8 Apr 1551-d.; capt. of the guard 8 Apr 1551-d. PC 1551-d.; jt. dep. lt. Essex May 1552-d.; chancellor, duchy of Lancaster 7 Jul 1552-d., surveyor, Tutbury honor 1552.

John Gates's father was a man of standing in Essex, an associate of the 13th Earl of Oxford and a regular attendant at court and upon the King until his death. He may have died too early to secure his son a place in the royal household, and it was probably to the King's favourite Anthony Denny, whose sister he married, that Gates owed his early advancement. His services during the rebellion of 1536, when he was instructed to keep order in Essex, may have earned him the King's gratitude, for he soon became a royal confidant. The numerous letters during the 1540s asking Gates to intervene with senior courtiers and officials, and even with the King, testify to his influence. It is also clear that he used his position to his own advantage and that he cultivated his even more successful kinsmen, such as Sir Wymond Carew, to promote his own interests. For the last six years of the reign he was entrusted with large sums of crown money. In 1546 he and Denny were employed to affix the dry stamp of the King's signature to documents, several of which were signed ‘at the suit of Master Gates’. He witnessed the King's will, under which he received £200, and he rode beside the King's corpse in the funeral procession at Windsor.

His sister Dorothy (b. 1512 - d. BEF 11 Feb 1582) had married in 1524 Thomas Josselyn of Hide Hall, Hertfordshire (b. 1506 - d. 24 Oct 1562). Dorothy Josselyn was at court in the household of Queen Catherine Howard in 1540-2 and surviving correspondence with her brother, Sir John Gates, indicates that the Queen was not that easy to get along with. “I fear I shall scant content her Grace”, Dorothy wrote on one occasion. Dorothy was probably "a supplier of dresses” to Queen Catherine Parr. Dorothy regularly wrote letters asking for favors from Sir John. In 1542, she needed his help when her husband was implicated in a case of forgery. She made her will in 1579 but lived for several more years.

In 1537 Gates had obtained the lease of Beeleigh abbey in Essex and three years later he bought it for £300, about half of its market value. He made regular purchases, sometimes alone, sometimes in partnership, often to resell at a profit, occasionally to exchange. Together with royal grants, these transactions gave him wide estates in Essex and Suffolk, with a yield in the former county of over £440 a year at his death. After 1540 he rarely stayed at his family's seat, preferring Syon and Havering-atte-Bower, the first close to Hampton Court and the residence successively of the dukes of Somerset and Northumberland, the second near the childhood home of Edward VI. His duties at court did not curtail his interest in local government nor prevent him from playing a leading role in East Anglia.

Knighted at the coronation of Edward VI, Gates only gained a strategic position at court after the overthrow of the Protector Somerset in 1549, when he became right-hand man to the Earl of Warwick, the future Duke of Northumberland. As sheriff of Essex he took 30 men there in Jul 1550 to thwart plans for Princess Mary's escape abroad. In the following spring he became vice-chamberlain and captain of the guard in succession to Sir Thomas Darcy, Baron Darcy of Chiche, and in Sep he was given lands worth £145 a year, part of the spoils of the bishopric of Winchester. Two months later he began to exercise some of Sir William Paget's duties as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, in anticipation of his formal appointment to the post.

It was Gates whom Northumberland was to reproach as having been behind the device to make Jane Grey Queen. The relationship was thus described by a French observer:

"From fear of exciting jealousy should it be known how much he [Northumberland] interfered in everything, he caused all affairs in which he would not be seen to meddle to be set going by one Gates, a chamberlain, who also brought him information of all conversations which passed about the King. For this Gates was always in the royal chamber, and was believed to be one of those who mainly instigated the King to make a will against his sister. Gates was also the duke's agent in the Commons to engineer the passage of a bill altering the succession laid down by the Act of 1544 (35 Hen. VIII, c.1), and the late King's will, which had also been embodied in the Treasons Act of 1547 (1 Edw. VI, c.12)."

Gates had probably been the junior Member for Chipping Wycombe in the Parliament of 1542, although the indenture is so damaged that only the surname remains. He is not known to have had any standing in Buckinghamshire, but he could have obtained the seat there by royal nomination. Three years later, after serving in the French war, Gates and his brother Henry were returned for the 3rd Duke of Norfolk's borough of New Shoreham: the fact that both their names were inserted in a different hand over an erasure indicates a royal, rather than a ducal, nomination, this time almost certainly by Catherine Parr, to whose household Gates belonged and from whom he had already twice received New Year's gifts. On Norfolk's arrest Gates was employed by the Council to search Framlingham and Kenninghall for evidence to lay against the Duke, with Southwell and Sir Wymond Carew.

It was as the King's bailiff that Gates secured the senior place for Southwark in 1547. His election must have displeased the city of London, for he was the main adversary of the City's efforts to assert its privileges in the borough. Gates did not sit for Southwark throughout the Parliament; he was promoted to the vacant knighthood for Essex upon Darcy's elevation to the peerage in 1551, being replaced at Southwark by John Sayer. In the second and third sessions he was active in committee, receiving the bill ‘of pewterers and carrying tin over the seas’ and another for curriers, shoemakers, and girdlers in Feb 1549, sitting with Robert Broke and Richard Goodrich to examine the bill for commons, sheep and farms in Dec 1549, and in the following month the bill for retaining journeymen and servants. During the last session he dealt with three other bills before Northumberland's bill ‘for reviving of treasons’ was committed to him on 29 Feb; thereafter he kept close watch over its progress. On 2 Mar he was ordered ‘to peruse’ the bill, and notes on it presented by Serjeant Morgan were also handed to him on 14 Mar for further scrutiny. Two days later Gates argued for the repeal of the entail upon the Duke of Somerset's lands. On several other occasions he bore bills up to the Lords. After his labours in this session Gates received the house and site of St. Stephen's college, Westminster, furs and materials which had belonged to Somerset, goods from Sir Ralph Vane's house at Westminster, and an annuity of £100 out of the duchy of Lancaster above his fee as chancellor.

As captain of the guard Gates played a leading role in the brief reign of Queen Jane. On 9 Jul 1553 he told his subordinates of the dead King's wishes, and the next day he took possession of the Tower. He followed Northumberland to Cambridge at the head of the guard, amid rumour that he had been killed and that his men supported Mary. He re-entered the Tower on 25 Jul as Mary's prisoner and remained there until 19 Aug, when he was tried and sentenced to death for treason. Three days later he was brought out to Tower Hill, ‘where at three blows his head was stricken off’. An Act confirming his attainder (1 Mary st. 2, c.16) was passed later in the year.

Gates's efforts in Northumberland's cause were almost certainly inspired by personal and political, not religious, motives. He may have been a Protestant but it is more likely that he was indifferent to doctrine. Praised by Ridley as a God-fearing man, when sheriff he had enforced the injunctions for the removal of altars and he was a notorious despoiler of churches. When asked in the Tower whether he would accept the mass he replied: ‘I confess we have been out of the way a long time, and therefore we are worthily punished ... this is the true religion’.
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