Richard BERTIE (MP)

Born: 25 Dec 1516

Acceded: Lincoln

Died: 9 Apr 1582

Buried: Spilsby, Lincolnshire, England

Father: Thomas BERTIE

Mother: ¿?

Married: Catherine WILLOUGHBY (B. Willoughby of Eresby/D. Suffolk) 1553


1. Susan BERTIE (C. Kent)

2. Peregrine BERTIE (1° B. Willoughby of Eresby)

Willoughby,Catherine(D.Suffolk)03.jpg (224262 bytes)

The tomb of Catherine and Richard Bertie, at Spilsby

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

Family and Education

First son of Thomas Bertie (or Bartie) of Bearsted, Kent, capt. of Hurst castle, Hants, by a dau. of one Say of Salop. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1534, BA Magdalen Coll. 1537. m. c.1553, Catherine, dau. and h. of William Willoughby, 11° B. Willoughby of Eresby, wid. of Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1555.

J.p. Lincs. (Kesteven and Holland) by 1564, (Lindsey) 1573, sheriff 1564-5; commr. musters (Kesteven) by 1569.

Thomas Bertie began his professional life in 1532 earning 13 shillings and 4 pence per annum maintaining the fabric of Winchester Cathedral. He was a mason and this was a time when the building trade was flourishing, primarily because the dissolution of the monasteries released vast amounts of building materials for the "new men" to build the fine houses we now so readily associate with the late Tudor reigns. Then in 1539 Henry VIII decided to erect blockhouses for coastal defence and Thomas Bertie as "Mr Bert" was the master mason for the project. The rise of the Berties had begun, and in 1550 "Thomas Bartue" was designated as Captain of Hurst Castle when he received a grant of arms in which the text noted that he had "of long tyme used himself in feates of armes and good works" -Elizabethan hyperbole used when a man could afford to "bear the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman, he shall for money have a coat and arms bestowed upon him by the heralds" (who in the charter of the same do of custom pretend antiquity and service, and many gay things).

Thomas sent his son Richard to read law at Oxford University. Bertie is best known for his experiences as a Marian exile, but for over 20 years of Elizabeth’s reign he was a useful county official in Lincolnshire. After studying at Oxford he spent some time in the household of Lord Chancellor Wriothesley, becoming known for his wit and his skill in French, Italian and Latin. His marriage to the widowed Duchess of Suffolk raised his social status, but involved him in serious trouble under Mary, for his wife was not only an uncompromising protestant, but had quarrelled with Bishop Gardiner. Their daughter Susan was born in England in 1554 just before Mary Tudor came to the throne. The couple’s wanderings on the Continent between 1555 and 1558 were described by Bertie himself in a narrative incorporated by Foxe in his Acts and Monuments.

At the accession of Elizabeth, Bertie was in Poland, where King Sigismund Augustus had offered him welcome hospitality, for, after spending some time at Wesel and Strasbourg and almost being murdered on their way to Frankfurt (where Bertie was invited to be a member of the committee on the ‘new discipline’), he and the Duchess were in serious want. Their son, who was born during this period, was christened Peregrine in memory of their wanderings. Bertie having ignored a command from the English government to return to England, his and his wife’s estates were declared forfeit to the Crown.

Probably some time in Mar 1559 the family returned to England, and that Aug their lands were restored. While she was still in Poland the Duchess had written to William Cecil on the evils of ‘halting between two opinions’ in religion, and urged him to ‘forward the true faith’. Her zeal cannot have endeared her to either Cecil or Elizabeth, and after the first few years of the new reign there are comparatively few references to her or her husband at court. However, in 1564 Bertie took part in the royal progress to Cambridge, where he was granted an honorary MA. He seems to have been very much under his wife’s influence: perhaps it is significant that he wrote an answer to Knox’s Monstrous Regiment of Women. The couple settled on the Duchess’s Lincolnshire estates, where they kept up a considerable household: their detailed expenses for the period 1560-2 survive among the Earl of Ancaster’s manuscripts. Bertie, who was described by Nicholas Bullingham, Bishop of Lincoln as ‘earnest in religion’, proved a valuable local official, and most of the Elizabethan references to him are concerned with Lincolnshire affairs. In the Parliament of 1563 he shared the county representation with Sir William Cecil. On 23 Feb 1563 he was licensed to depart ‘for his weighty affairs’. He was appointed to committees concerned with the export of sheep (18 Oct 1566) and the succession (31 Oct). During this Parliament a bill was passed securing him and his wife in the possession of their manors of Whitacre and Whitacre Burgh, which had been enfeoffed to Walter Harenden.

Several letters from Bertie to Cecil survive for the period 1570-2. In Jun 1570 he wrote that he had been negotiating with the ‘foreigners’ who were to be brought into Lincolnshire, and had been in correspondence with Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester about the project; in the following Jan, becoming concerned over the Queen’s re-grants of customs, he reminded Cecil that he and the Duchess had rights to those in Boston. However, his most pressing pursuit at this time was the attempt to have recognized his wife’s claim to the barony of Willoughby (de Eresby). He sent Cecil a collection of court rolls and other documents, asking him to obtain the judges’ opinions, and professing to be willing to forego his own share in the honour if exception should be taken to him personally. In the end it was their son Peregrine who was granted the peerage after his mother’s death in 1580.

Bertie himself had still not been employed in other than a local capacity by 1579 when he was listed as fit to serve in ‘foreign messages’ but never so employed. When he was sent to Denmark, a friend wrote to Peregrinethe disorder of that country, by all probable conjecture, first drew your honourable father into his irrecoverable sickness’, from which, it may be inferred, he died at Bourne, Lincolnshire, 9 Apr 1582. The will he had made the previous Feb is not known to have survived, but a summary of its clauses concerning land is included in the inquisition post mortem.


Fuidge,N. M.: BERTIE, Richard (1517-82), of Grimsthorpe and Stamford, Lincs.

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