Sir Thomas MANNERS, Knight

Born: 1537 / 1540, Belvoir Castle, Leicesterhire, England

Acceded: 1570, Berwick, England

Died: Jun 1591

Buried: Uffington Church, near Stamford, Lincolnshire, England

Father: Thomas MANNERS (1° E. Rutland)

Mother: Eleanor PASTON (C. Rutland)

Married: Theodosia NEWTON (dau. of Sir John Newton of Hawtrey and Margaret Poyntz)


1. Charles MANNERS (Sir)


3. Eleanor MANNERS

4. Theodosia MANNERS

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

Born by 1537, fourth son of Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, by his 2nd w. Eleanor, dau. of Sir William Paston of Paston. Their children were Gertrude, Henry, Anne, Elizabeth, Sir John, Frances, Roger, Thomas, Catherine, Oliver, and Isabel.

Educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1549 (impubes). He was about thirty when he married, 1571, Theodosia, dau. of Sir Thomas Newton. Kntd. 1570. J.p.q. Notts. by 1583 to at least 1587; constable, Nottingham castle and c.j. Sherwood forest 1588; steward of Mansfield.

The career of Thomas Manners exhibits some of the qualities of action, adventure and loyal service which have been held to typify the age in which he lived. Known to his relatives as ‘lusty’ Manners, he rejected both country and court life — preferred by his brothers John and Roger — for the career of a soldier. Unfortunately he coupled his military fame with a disastrous inability to handle his own affairs.

His family background was distinguished. His father had raised the family to the front rank of the nobility by his devotion to Henry VIII, and could also claim royal blood, inherited from Edward IV’s sister. Thomas’s brother, Henry, succeeded to the earldom of Rutland and two of his sisters were married to the Earls of Westmorland and Shrewsbury. Though only a fourth son, he possessed, therefore, advantages. Inherited of his father the manor of Turnham Hall, and Cliff, in the parish of Hemuingburg, with the appurtenances.

Manners took to soldiering soon after he came down from Cambridge without a degree. In 1563 both his eldest and the youngest brother, Oliver, died of the plague at Holywell, Shoreditch, London. There are constant references to his long and honourable service, but little is known in detail of his activities. One former comrade in arms wished that Sir Thomas could be a captain overseas again with 2,000 men and himself as his lieutenant, both unmarried. In the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, he saw service in Ireland, for which he received an annuity of £30, but it is his part in the Scottish campaign of 1570 which is best documented. Together with Robert Constable he commanded 500 men raised in London to join this punitive expedition against some of the border lords. He was present at the siege and destruction of Hamilton castle where the leader of the expedition, Sir William Drury, committed the Duchess of Chastelherault to his personal care. From there the army advanced to Edinburgh where, in anticipation of suspected treachery, Manners was sent forward with two bands of foot soldiers to seize one of the gates, a foray which he brought off skilfully. It was during this short campaign that he was knighted by the Earl of Sussex at Berwick.

Ten years later he was appointed to serve in Ireland once more, with the command of 300 foot raised in London, but at the last moment — for what reason is not known — the Privy Council countermanded the order ‘as the said Sir Thomas shall not be at this time employed’. In the critical year 1588 his services were called upon again, not only as leader of the militia of his own county, but in command of a thousand troops raised in Surrey to help resist Parma’s expected invasion. The Rutland papers have occasional references to his service elsewhere in the intervening years, but no details are given.

Though his family’s principal residence was at Belvoir castle in Leicestershire, Manners came to be associated more with Nottinghamshire, to which he had moved by 1562. At one time he is found living at the White Friars in Nottingham, but by 1580 he was in residence at the castle. His brother Henry, 2nd Earl of Rutland, had been granted in Edward VI’s reign the hereditary titles of constable of Nottingham castle and chief justice of Sherwood forest, and these were given to Sir Thomas in 1588 during the minority of the 5th Earl. He owned land in several parts of the county and his father had left him a manor at Hemingbrough just over the border in Yorkshire. The Queen showed her gratitude for his service by occasional grants of land. Thus he received property confiscated from the Northern rebels and, later, the reversion to St. Sepulchre’s chapel, York. He was also given a reversion of the lease of the manor of Frodsham, Cheshire, but this may have been an exchange only.

His apparently friendly relations with the Nottingham authorities explain his return for the borough in 1572, while his family’s local influence was obviously sufficient to gain him the county seat on two occasions. In the 1584 Parliament, Manners sat on two committees concerned with religious matters (27 Nov, 16 Dec). The second of these was the important body which petitioned the Lords to support their plea for improvements in the qualifications of ministers of the Church. Though the committee was dominated by puritans there is nothing to suggest that Manners was of their persuasion—indeed the general pattern of his life makes it unlikely. On 24 Feb 1585 he served on the subsidy committee. On 4 Nov 1586 he was a member of the committee which pressed for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots; the following year he and his wife were among the official mourners at her funeral service in Peterborough cathedral. It is possible that he had some contact with Mary during her long imprisonment in the care of his brother-in-law, the Earl of Shrewsbury. As first knight for Nottinghamshire he was entitled to attend the subsidy committee on 22 Feb 1587.

Between his campaigns Manners lived on his Nottinghamshire estates. Three successive earls of Rutland died young, leaving in each case a youthful successor dependent on the experience of older members of the family. Thomas was one of those expected to fill this role—he even offered ‘the carcase of a true gentleman most readily to be employed in your service’ to one of them but he proved an inept adviser, and the last years of his life were increasingly burdened by ill-health and debt. As early as 1558 the then Countess of Rutland helped to settle a bill for him, and as time passed it became increasingly apparent that, either through extravagance or incompetence, he was incapable of living within his income. Time after time his brothers rallied to his support, Roger on one occasion offering to sell his house at Lincoln to help him out of his difficulties. His nephew, the 4th Earl, also granted him an annuity. In 1570 his weakness might have got him into serious trouble. While on the Scottish expedition Manners and Price, his lieutenant, were charged with exacting money and armour from ‘the poor men of Worcestershire’ and the Privy Council told the Earl of Sussex to withhold part of Manners’s wages until the money was repaid and to order him to return the armour. Shortly afterwards it appears that only the intervention of Rutland prevented him from being brought to court by Sir John Zouche. Finally, on 29 Jun 1577, he was outlawed, at the suit of Robert Phillips in a plea of debt. He died, in disgrace, in London and was buried near his mother in St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, on 29 May 1591. An elaborate monument testified to the ‘many valiant services performed by him for his prince and country ... witnessed by sundry great wounds he therein received’. The Queen and Rutland gave what help they could to his widow and children. In Dec they were granted ‘all the goods forfeited to her Majesty by the outlawry of Sir Thomas’.

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