Sir Thomas GUILDFORD, Knight

Born: ABT 1535, Hempstead, Kent, England

Died: Jun 1575

Father: John GUILDFORD (Sir)

Mother: Barbara WEST

Married: Elizabeth SHELLEY (b. 1533 - d. AFT 1575) (dau. of John Shelley and Mary Fitzwilliam) ABT 1556


1. Elizabeth GUILDFORD


3. Barbara GUILDFORD


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

Born by 1535, first son of Sir John Guildford by his first wife, Barbara West. Educated G. Inn, adm. 1547. Married by 1560, Elizabeth, dau. of John Shelley of Michelgrove, Suss., by whom he had one son and three daughters. Suc. fa. 5 Jul 1565. Kntd. 12 Aug 1573.

Thomas Guildford evidently owed his by-election at Gatton to the relationship with the patrons, the Copley family, which had secured his father a seat there in 1529 and probably in subsequent Parliaments. John Tingleden, the Member whom Guildford replaced, had died between 18 Aug and 27 Oct 1551 so that Guildford was presumably returned in time for the fourth and last session (1552). Like his father in 1529, he was very young, which makes his appearance in a Parliament from which his father was excluded all the more surprising. If their more eminent kinsman John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, intervened at Gatton, it might be thought that he preferred a malleable youth to the man with whom he had once successfully disputed the Guildford inheritance. On the other hand, the Duke was to appoint Sir John Guildford sheriff of Kent in the autumn of 1552 and to make other bids for his support, while neither father nor son is known to have sat in the Parliament of Mar 1553.

Guildford's early entry into the Commons was not to be the prelude to a distinguished career. He had entered Gray's Inn in 1547 and may subsequently have practised as a lawyer. His failure to sit in Parliament under Mary might be attributable to his Protestantism, although that was unlikely to have been an insurmountable bar at Gatton where Lady Copley on three occasions during the reign returned her Protestant son. 

About 1556 he married Elizabeth Shelley, daughter of Sir John Shelley of Michelgrove (b. 1506 - d. 16 Dec 1550) and Mary Fitzwilliam.

The accession of Elizabeth brought no evident change in Guildford's fortunes and it was apparently not until after he had succeeded to his father's lands in Kent and Sussex that he was placed on the Kent bench. In 1573 he was knighted at Rye after he had entertained the Queen for three days at Hemsted.

In 1566 Guildford found himself a defendant in the court of requests as a consequence of having been appointed an executor of Lord la Warr in lieu of his father. The provisions which he made in his own will of 1 Nov 1574 for the disposal of his estate were complicated by annuities chargeable upon it, which had been granted by himself and his father and which had yet to be redeemed. A part of his property, the manor of Higham and a garden near Rye, worth 84 a year, was to descend normally to his son, as was a lease of property in Canterbury. The rest, worth about 103 a year, was to be administered by the executors until his and his father's will should be fully carried out. He granted his wife a life interest in his lease of a farm at Clapham, but gave strict instructions that it should descend in full value to their son. The executors were his cousin Sir Thomas Shirley and his brothers John Shelley, Edward Gage and Richard Guildford (his half-brother); the overseers were his brothers George and Henry Guildford and his brother-in-law William Shelley.

Guildford's will also reveals that, despite his retiring life (perhaps, after all, a matter of his own choice), he was on good terms with his kinsman the Earl of Leicester and with Lord Burghley. He appealed to Leicester to have a care for the education and advancement of his son and also to keep his promise to procure from the Queen some aid towards the payment of his debts. He asked Burghley to stand good lord to my poor son in his wardship and to have care of his right instruction in the true fear of God and in the true knowledge of God's heavenly word. Guildford's Protestantism, evident in the preamble to the will and in his arrangements for his burial, was brought out most clearly in his appeal to his wife as she will answer before the terrible seat of God not to train up any of my children in papistry which if she shall do either secretly or openly Leicester and Burghley were to take charge of their education. Moreover, he bequeathed to his daughter Mary and her husband John, son of Sir Richard Baker, two books by Bishop Jewel, which they are to read with an upright judgment. Whatever efforts may have been made to restrain her, Lady Guildford did manage to train up her son and her two unmarried daughters in papistry. Elizabeth Shelley, Lady Guildford, was arrested along with her son and daughter, a priest, and several others on Palm Sunday 1574 for allowing mass to be said in her home in Trinity Lane, Queenshithe, London. Henry Guildford, aged nine at his father's death in Jun 1575, later married a daughter of the Catholic Edward, 4th Earl of Worcester and his sisters Barbara and Elizabeth made equally Catholic matches, Elizabeth to Thomas Gage, son of Thomas Guildford's executor Edward Gage of Bentley. According to some accounts, Elizabeth Shelley married a Gage as her second husband. According to others, her mothers second husband was named John Gage.
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