Adrian STOKES (MP)

Born: 4 Mar 1519 / ABT 1532

Died: 30 Nov 1585

Buried: Chapel at Beaumanor, Leicestershire, England

Father: Robert STOKES of Prestwold

Mother: ¿?

Married 1: Frances BRANDON (D. Suffolk) 9 Mar 1554


1. Elizabeth STOKES (b. 20 Nov 1554 - d. same day)

2. Elizabeth STOKES (b. 16 Jul 1555, Knebworth, Herts. - d. 7 Feb 1556)


Married 2: Anne CAREW 20 Apr 1572

J.p. Leics. from c.1564, commr. subsidy 1565, musters 1573, 1577, 1583, recusants 1577; keeper of Brigstock park by 1577.

Stokes’s origins are unknown, the usual suggestion being that he came of yeoman stock. He had two known brothers, William and Anthony Stokes, and named a Robert Price (or Aprice) as his cousin and a John and Francis Gates as his kinsmen. He may possibly have been the son of John Stokes, the queen’s brewer, who supplied the Suffolks with wine and beer. But if, as is possible, the William Stokes who was claiming in 1558 the lands of his Staunton ancestors, can be identified with Adrian’s known elder brother William (born c.1525), then Adrian’s father was Robert Stokes of Prestwold, and his grandmother a member of an established family of minor gentry. This identification is supported by the fact that the Stokes of Prestwold were connected by marriage with a local family named Price (or Aprice), and his ‘cousin and heir’, Robert Price, benefited considerably from Adrian Stokes’s estate.

He served as marshal of Newhaven in 1546 and, along with William, Lord Stourton, and Sir Richard Cavendish was a member of the council there. In 1547 was a plaintiff in a court case for trespass in the Great Park of Brigstock. In Aug 1549, Newhaven fell to the French. The king’s council ordered in Jan 1550 that Adrian and the ten men who had served under him receive their wages. John Grey of Pirgo, a younger brother of Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset (later Duke of Suffolk), had been the deputy of Newhaven, and it may have been this connection that brought Adrian into the Marquis’s household.

Stokes, red-haired and with a flashy taste in dress, became groom of the chambers, steward, equerry or ‘master of the horse’ to the Duchess of Suffolk (the mother of Lady Jane Grey), whose husband was executed 23 Feb 1554. Within a few days (according to some accounts), but more likely, after just over a year (the discrepancy can be accounted for by confusion over old and new style dates). According to a postmortem inquisition for Frances taken in 1560, Adrian and Frances married on 9 Mar 1554, at “Kayhoe in the county of Surrey”. Interestingly, Frances’s stepmother, Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk, held a life interest in a house at “Kayho”, yet another variation on the spelling of “Kew”. Catherine herself had married one of her servants, Richard Bertie.

Queen Mary did not protest - perhaps she was happy her cousin was putting the past to rest - though Frances does seem to have spent little time at court after her marriage.

Stokes' age has been the subject of controversy. Based on the misidentification of a portrait of Hans Eworth, currently described as that of Mary Neville, Baroness Dacre, and her son Gregory, it was for years misinterpreted as an image of Frances and her "young" husband. The new identification of the painting allows new data to be taken to estimate Adrian's age, and the difference in years between him and Frances. Stokes was a friend of the Elizabethan antiquary and Anglo-Saxonist Laurence Nowell (b. 1530 - d. c. 1570), who recorded Stokes’s exact date and hour of birth in one of three horoscopes entered on his commonplace book, dating from about 1559— 60, now at the University of California at Los Angeles. Adrián Stokes, born according to Nowell at 8p.m. on 4 Mar 1519, was less than 20 months younger than Frances, bom on 16 Jul 1517.

Plainly the Duchess had married beneath her, but it does not follow that Stokes was a mere illiterate yokel. On the contrary, there is some evidence to suggest that he was an educated man. Most likely he was one of those aspiring gentleman servants present in every great household; drawn from the ranks of the rising professional and merchant classes who were looking for an opportunity to carve out a career in the Service of an influential patron.

Stokes was active in local governmental affairs throughout his adult life, and his friendship with Nowell, attested in a note by the antiquarian William Lambarde (b. 18 Oct 1536 – d. 19 Aug 1601) in 1574, is reason enough to take his intellectual life seriously. He and Nowell probably first met as members of parliamcnt in early 1559. Adrian was a member of the House of Commons, representing Leicestershire when the new Queen opened her first Parliament on 12 Jan 1559.

In the event the marriage was happy, but brief. Frances Brandon made her will 7 Nov 1559, and died on the 21st, leaving Stokes her goods, a life interest in most of her land, and an acknowledged position in society, eventually to be consolidated by a second fortunate, though necessarily less spectacular, marriage.

About a year after Frances’s death, Catherine Grey and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, secretly married. When the heavily pregnant Catherine revealed the couple’s secret, Queen Elizabeth ordered her to be imprisoned in the Tower. To protect Stokes, Hertford claimed that Frances had had no idea that he wanted to marry Catherine, something Stokes admitted was untrue when he was interviewed. According to Adrian, he and Frances had discussed the possibility of the couple marrying, after which Adrian approached Hertford and advised him to talk with members of the queen’s council who could intervene on his behalf. Frances, meanwhile, had Adrian draft a letter to the Queen in which Frances stated that the marriage was the only thing she desired before her death and that it would be an occasion for her to die the more quietly. Catherine Grey testified that Adrian advised Frances to write to the Queen but that Frances was so sick that she never wrote the letter and died soon thereafter. Catherine Grey died in 1568, a captive to the end of her life.

In 1565 Mary Grey, followed her sister’s example and married Thomas Keyes, sergeant porter to the queen, without the Queen’s permission. She and her husband were both imprisoned, Thomas in the Fleet and Mary in various private houses.

Adrian had had two stepdaughters in royal custody for marrying without royal permission. There is no indication that he petitioned for their release, but it is very unlikely that he would have succeeded.

Stokes had received a crown lease of Beaumanor, and twice been elected knight of the shire. There is no mention of any activity by him in the defective journals of the 1559 Parliament, and no record of his speaking in 1571, but he was named to committees on religion and church government (10 Apr 1571), treasons (12 Apr, 11 May), abuses in conveyancing (14 Apr), the order of business (21, 26 Apr), respite of homage and church attendance (5, 19 May), apparel (14 May) and corrupt presentations (25 May). Stokes was classified by his bishop as earnest in religion in 1564, and he served on many local commissions including those to enforce attendance at church and those concerned with discovering recusants.

Lady Anne Throckmorton, dau. of Sir Nicholas Carew, wid. of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, remarried about six months after her husband's death, choosing Adrian Stokes as her second husband. They probably had known each other for many years, as Anne had served as Jane Grey’s proxy at the christening of Guildford Underhill on the last day of her brief reign. Being of superior rank she kept her name, under which we find gifts made to her in the Leicester town accounts for 1574-5. She retained her house in the city of London and continued to visit her brother at Beddington.

They settled at Beaumanor in Leicestershire. Stokes’s second marriage brought him the administration of the valuable Throckmorton estates, perhaps a mixed blessing as he was obliged to borrow substantially to provide dowries for his new step-daughters. His keepership of Brigstock park also brought its problems in the guise of poaching and affrays by the local people who resented the restrictions Stokes was obliged to impose. In the end the Privy Council gave him permission to use ‘lawful means to defend Her Majesty’s parks by force’.

Soon after the marriage, Mary Grey, whose husband had died, was released from private custody of Sir Thomas Gresham. Gresham suggested that Mary be sent to her stepfather, Adrian Stokes. Mary Grey told Burghley she feared it would be too much of a financial burden for Stokes to take her on as well as all his new stepchildren. Elizabeth agreed reluctantly, therefore, to pay her cousin a modest further allowance. Mary left the Greshams a few days later, with "all her books and rubbish", Sir Thomas wrote dismissively. For a few months, she lived with Adrian and his new family before settling into her own house in London. Mary died in Apr 1578 and she left Adrian’s wife a silver gilt bowl with a cover in her will.

In 1573, Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, prepared to go into Ireland. Stokes wrote from Beaumanor on 24 Jun 1573, to tell him that he thanked God that the earl was going “because I am fullie perswaded your jorney shalbe greatlie to the service of God, for that you shall drive out those which knoweth not God, and plant in those that shall drive out those which knoweth not God, and plant in those that shall lyve in his feare”.

In 1574, William Lambarde presented Adrian with four maps that had belonged to Adrian’s friend Laurence Novell, who had died in 1570. That year Adrian was one of several men admitted as readers at the Gray’s Inn, at the request of Sir Christopher Yelverton. Francis Hastings, who was a younger brother of Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, and who often served with Adrian on local commissions, was also admitted at this time at Yelverton’s request. Also Edward Carey and William Brewster. In 1576, the queen’s privy council directed him and Francis Hastings to inform themselves about the nefarious doings of “one Tomson, professing to be a refiner of gold”.

Carew,Anne01.jpg (83914 bytes)

Anne Carew

by Hieronimo Custodis

In 1577, he was serving as the keeper of the queen’s park at Brigstock. When Nicholas Allen, one of Stokes’ servants, was awaiting trial for killing one of Lewis Mordaunt’s servants, the privy council warned the justices of assizes that if Allen was found guilty, they should not give judgment for his execution until “her Majesty shall signifie her further pleasure”; the justices of assize were suspected of partiality towards Mordaunt’s followers. Lord Mordaunt himself had been unlawfully hunting in the park, and was warned by the privy council not to offer any occasion of quarrel to Stokes, his friends, or his servants. He was several times asked by the Privy Council to explain affrays resulting from quarrels between his servants and those of Adrian Stokes.

In early 1579, Anne was in London and often at court, paving the way for her daughter to join the Queen's household. She was again in London and at court in May 1583 and finally, in Nov 1584, Bess Throckmorton was sworn in as a maid of honor; soon became a favorite of Elizabeth.

Stokes' stepson Arthur Throckmorton kept a personal diary, which gives us some information about Adrian and Lady Anne's intimacy. In 1579, Adrian gave Arthur five pounds, which Arthur spent on fine clothing, including carnation silk stockings. That summer, Adrian was godfather to Henry Cavendish's son; Arthur acted as his proxy. Henry Cavendish was the son of Bess of Hardwick, who had been a close friend of Frances Brandon. Adrian and Anne received many visitors at Beaumanor, including Cavendish and Thomas Wilkes, a Fellow of All Souls, now a professional diplomat and secretary to the queen's privy council. Adrian Stokes and his wife visited George Hastings, another younger brother of the Earl of Huntingdon, and went hunting in his park at Gopsall. After Adrian and Anne returned to Beaumanor, they were visited by Lord Henry Cromwell, his wife Mary Paulet, and his daughter. The couples then went to the Earl of Bedford's house on a hunting trip and killed a dollar. There are constant comings to and from on the part of William Ashby of Lowesby, a friend of the family, who accompanied Arthur on his continental tour next year. That Oct, Arthur recorded that he "got into a fight" with Adrian. Writing on the way to his mother, sister and brother William, but not to Mr. Stokes, he returned to the Court at Greenwich. Although by the following spring the two were exchanging letters. In Sep 1582, Arthur, in debt after a tour abroad, received gifts from Adrian and his mother. Later that fall, Arthur stayed at New Wark, a house that Adrian owned in Leicester.

Walter Mildmay, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote to Adrian on 6 Feb 1581, asked him to settle a dispute between Adrian Farneham of Quarndon, a minor, and his tenants in Barrow over common pasturage rights.

In 1582, Adrián Stokes, was getting his affairs in order, and, prompted by the knowledge that his own claim on Beaumanor would end the following year, he drew up a document "devising” the house and lands to Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham, for twenty years from the end of his own claim. This same document stipulate that Stokes is the rightful owner at present, and makes arrangernents that, if Stokes dies, his brother William Stokes and Robert Price get the property, and clarifies the list of people that they will need to support, John and Francis Gates, two kinsmen of Adrian’s who were studying at the university, and to three of Adrian’s servants. The men, whethet family or servants, get everything except the following fascinating list of ítems, set aside for Anne Throckmorton:

"all the plate of silver and gilt of the said Adrián; the hangings and furniture of the Duchess' chamber as it standeth; my lady Kathryn her Chamber as it standeth; the Lady Throckmortons chamber (wife of the said Adrián) with her Closet as they stand; Mistress Elizabeth Throckmortons chamber as it standeth; the chamber on the gate; the Wardrobe of my lady Marys chamber as they do stand."

His Devon manor of Kanacre was settled on his wife and her children, and other lands had been sold, presumably to pay Stokes’s debts, which still amounted to some £4,000 at his death.

Francis Walsingham wrote a letter to Sir Ralph Sadler on 6 Oct 1584, advising him that he should keep a watchful eye on Mary, Queen of Scots, and that if his own servants were not well furnished with “dagges” or “petronells”, he should procure some from the well-affected gentleman in that county. Walsingham believed that none would better furnish him than Adrian Stokes, but noted that he dwelled somewhat far off.

In Apr 1585, Arthur Throckmorton heard from the Earl of Leicester that Adrian Stokes was dead. He quickly made plans to ride north, and four days later arrived, with his sister Elizabeth, at Beaumanor. On arrival, however, they found that rumors of Stokes death had been greatly exaggerated, and, presumably relieved, brother and sister could return to the real business of their lives—in Bess's case her career at court, in Arthur´s case, pursuing his cousin, Lady Mary Darcy. Bess would later secretly marry Sir Walter Raleigh, making her the third stepdaughter of Adrian to incur the Queen’s wrath.

In his will, dated 15 Apr 1585, Stokes asked to be buried without any pomp ‘as it has been used in the papists’ time’, and left most of his goods and chattels to his brother, William Stokes, who was sixty, the executor. He appointed his friend George Hastings (who became the Earl of Huntingdon a decade later following the death of his childless brother) and Sir Walter Mildmay to be the supervisors of his will. He left his horse “Grey Goodyeare” to Robert Throckmorton and his horse “Grey Babington” to George Hastings. Attached to the will are detailed inventories of houses in London and Leicester. There were portraits of Catherine Parr, Mary, Elizabeth and ‘the French queen’; Catherine de Medici, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and old Sir Robert, Sir Francis Carew and the Earl of Devon. Robert Price’s widow successfully claimed part of the estate, estimated by the Privy Council at £2,000. The heirs of Simon FitzRichard, Stokes’s sister’s husband, also claimed £1,000.

Stokes died on 3 Nov 1585 and was buried, as he requested, in the chapel at Beaumanor. An inquisition post mortem taken at Torrington, Devon, 25 May 1586 shows little land in that county.


Beer, Anna: My Just desire: The life of Bess Raleigh, wife to Sir Walter

Berkhout, Carl T.: "ADRIAN STOKES, 1519–1585." Notes and Queries 47, no. 1 (March 2000)

De Lisle, Leanda: The sisters who would be Queen: Mary, Katherine and lady jane Grey, A Tudor Tragedy

Higginbotham, Susan: The Real Adrian Stokes:

Plowden, Alison: Lady Jane Grey: Nine days Queen

Rowse, A. L.: Ralegh and the Throckmortons.
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