William DACRE

(3º B. Gillesland/ 2º B. Greystoke)

Born: ABT 1493 / 29 Apr 1500, Gillesland, England

Died: 18 Nov 1563, Kirkoswald

Buried: Skipton, Yorkshire, England

Father: Thomas DACRE (2º B. Gillesland/ 1º B. Greystoke)

Mother: Elizabeth GREYSTOKE (B. Greystoke of Greystoke)

Married: Elizabeth TALBOT (B. Gillesland) (premarriage contract, 1 Dec 1517) 1519


1. Thomas DACRE (4º B. Gillesland/ 3º B. Greystoke)

2. Leonard DACRE

3. Frances DACRE (b. ABT 1523)

4. Anne DACRE (C. Cumberland)

5. Magdalen DACRE (V. Montague)

6. Dorothy DACRE

7. George DACRE (b. ABT 1534)

8. Eleanor DACRE

9. Edward DACRE

10. Mary DACRE

11. Francis DACRE (Sir)

Only son and heir of Thomas, Lord Dacre, by his wife Elizabeth Greystoke. Succeeded mother, in 1516 as Lord Greystoke, title by writ, 1321. Succeeded father, in 1525, as Lord Dacre (of Gillesland), title created 1473. Had special livery, without proof of age, of all the lands of his inheritance, 1525/1526.

He married Elizabeth Talbot, the fourth earl of Shrewsbury's daughter. Towards the end of his father's long rule of the borders, Lord Greystoke served successively as his captain of Norham and Carlisle and deputy warden of the west marches. But in 1525 Henry VIII appointed others to positions that Dacre regarded as his by right. Yet the King's decision in mid-1525 to promote as Earl of Cumberland a relative outsider to the county, Lord Clifford, and then to appoint the new earl as deputy warden, was hardly likely to commend him to the Dacres. Trouble ensued after Lord William refused to surrender Carlisle Castle or to relinquish farms of land traditionally associated with the wardenry. Cumberland found it impossible to rule without Dacre's co-operation: in 1527 the King finally agreed to appoint Dacre as warden, but further trouble followed over custody of Carlisle, which Cumberland retained until 1529. And whereas the Earl of Northumberland, as incoming warden across the Pennines, received an enhanced salary and fee'd retainers to help him restore order, Dacre's salary remained the now traditional early Tudor £153 6s. 8d. a year, far less than fifteenth-century wardens.

Captain of Norham Castle, 1522/1523. Steward of Penrith and divers other northern manors. Warden of the West Marches, 1527-1534; of the West Marches and Governor of Carlisle, 1549-1550/1551; of the West and Middle Marches 1553/1554- I555; of the West Marches 1555-1563. Summoned to Parliament by writs, 1529-1555. Had command of the rearguard in the Scottish Expedition, 1547.

In 1534 he was accused of treason by some Scots "of mean condition", for holding cross-border talks in time of war, committed to the Tower about 15 May 1534 and tried in Westminster Hall. The chief witness against him was a former servant, Sir William Musgrave. Lady Dacre, who had come to London to plead for her husband, was ordered by the King to cease her intercessions until after his trial. There Dacre defended himself for seven hours. The judges found Musgrave’s evidence malicious and Dacre was acquitted to cheers 9 Jul 1534. But Henry VIII still fined him £10,000 as the price of his pardon.

When the Pilgrimage of Grace began in Oct 1536, the rebels approached Dacre to lead them, but he rode instead to Naworth to stay the country. Only after his departure in early Nov did his Cumberland tenants join the Pilgrimage. Finally, the following Feb, he hurried northwards again upon news of the siege of Carlisle, but his uncle, Sir Christopher Dacre, had already dispersed the rebels before his arrival.

Dacre's loyalty was rewarded by appointment to the King's council in the north, but the King ignored the Duke of Norfolk's recommendation concerning the wardenries, noting that Dacre's reappointment would stoke the feud with Cumberland. Instead, he appointed Sir Thomas Wharton as deputy warden, supported by crown pensioners. Unsurprisingly, Dacre declined the lesser post as keeper of turbulent Tynedale: ‘he had rather loose one fynger of every hande then to medle therwith’. The King also pointedly withheld Lanercost Priory, the traditional Dacre burial place, after its dissolution, granting it in 1542 to Dacre's illegitimate half-brother, Sir Thomas Dacre, a crown pensioner and follower of Wharton in the Dacre heartland and later a staunch protestant. Wharton soon realized the difficulties of ruling without Dacre's co-operation. Even after Wharton's extensive landed acquisitions, Dacre's Cumberland estates were still worth more than Wharton's entire holdings, and Wharton's modest Cumberland possessions (former Percy estates around Cockermouth) were also in the strategically less important west of the county. Effectively, therefore, Wharton's suggestion in 1543 that the King exchange Dacre's three baronies of Burgh, Gilsland, and Greystoke for lands elsewhere was an admission of failure; but it was only after the old King's death that Protector Somerset had Dacre reappointed warden, on 17 Apr 1549.

Disputes with Cumberland, Musgrave, and Sir Thomas Wharton dragged on into the 1550's.

Sir James Strangways in the spring of 1540/1 conveyed a 'manor' and 13 carucates in Tanton to his cousin William, Lord Dacre, for the purpose of a settlement on himself with contingent remainder to Leonard, son of William and his brothers in tail-male. At the death of Sir James Strangways in 1541 his right heirs through his aunts, Joan, wife of Sir William Mauleverer; and Mary, wife of Robert Roos, seem to have disputed the claim of the Dacres. In 1557 one of the co-heirs of Sir James, Robert Roos, son of Robert Roos, who married Mary Strangways, made a conveyance of the manor to Christopher Lascelles of Breckenbrough in Kirkby Wiske, and in 1562 Elizabeth, widow of Sir James Strangways, with her husband Francis Neville, quitclaimed it to Leonard Dacre. The Dacres did not relinquish their claim on the family estates forfeited by Leonard Dacre in 1570.

He was a member of "His Majesty’s Council in the Northern Parts", an institution arising out of the demands of the Pilgrims of Grace for the purpose of facilitating the administration of justice, and saving suitors in the north the inconvenience and cost of repairing to the metropolis.  Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury was appointed Lord President, with an allowance of £1,000 a year for the entertainment of himself and his Council, which body was composed of twenty-two members besides the President, including Henry, Earl of Westmorland, Henry, Earl of Cumberland, Cuthbert, Bishop of Durham, John, Lord of Conyers, Thomas, Lord Wharton, John Hind, Knt., one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Common Pleas, and Edmund Molyneux, Knt., Sergeant-at-law.

In Edward VI’s reign Dacre spoke in the Lords against the Book of Common Prayer, and opposed the Bill permitting clergy to marry. Reform was moderate under Protector Somerset and Dacre’s military service in Scotland stood him well. But after Somerset’s disgrace, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, made peace with Scotland, and the young King wanted radical change. For both reasons, and because the Tudors didn’t like border barons becoming too strong, Dacre lost his wardenship in 1551.

Dacre was ousted again in Feb 1551 and imprisoned in London for his feud with the Musgraves. He was finally reconciled with the Cliffords through the mediation of his brother-in-law, Shrewsbury: in 1554 Dacre's daughter Anne married Henry Clifford, second earl of Cumberland.

As Edward VI lay dying in Jun 1553, he and Dudley agreed that his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, should succeed him, and not his sister Mary. Dacre supported Mary Tudor, and it was reported that Wharton was arming against him; but Mary disbelieved the accusations. When she came to the throne restored his wardenship; and since she needed the support of Parliament for her policy of reinstating Roman Catholicism, she also made his borough of Morpeth into a parliamentary borough returning two members.

The choice of Morpeth had little to do with the peculiar merits of its burgesses, only that they should elect Dacre’s preferred candidates. Fear of attack by the Scots was real in 1553. As long as that was so, the burgesses willingly elected whoever had Lord Dacre’s support. In the long run, however, although in theory the burgesses were the sole electors of two Members of Parliament, it was Lord Dacre and his successors who controlled the electors.

Elizabeth's distrust of Catholic nobles in sensitive posts was probably the main reason for his removal and replacement by the protestant Lord Scrope. His religious conservatism was well known. In Nov he fell ill just before Sunday dinner at Kirkoswald and retired to the great chamber, saying: ‘Thomas [his heir], take my place, for I am sick’. After lingering for three days he died about 4 or 5 a.m. on Thursday 18 Nov 1563, and following procession and funeral—kept as traditional as possible—he was buried in Carlisle Cathedral on 14 Dec. He had four sons, Thomas, fourth Baron Dacre, whom Dacre matched with the Earl of Westmorland's daughter; and Edward, Francis, and Leonard, as well as his daughters, Anne, Countess of Cumberland, Magdalen, Lady Montague, Eleanor, lady Jerningham, Mary, lady Culpepper, and Dorothy, wife of Thomas Windsor.


S. G. Ellis, Tudor frontiers and noble power: the making of the British state(1995) ·

G. W. Bernard, The power of the early Tudor nobility: a study of the fourth and fifth earls of Shrewsbury (1985) ·

Steven G. Ellis, ‘Dacre, William, third Baron Dacre of Gilsland and seventh Baron Greystoke (1500–1563)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/46514, accessed 13 Sept 2013]

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