Sir Thomas PALMER of Pollicot

Born: ABT 1467

Died: ABT 1544

Father: John PALMER (Sir Knight)

Mother: Isabella BILTON

Married: Margaret SACKVILLE

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

Third son of John Palmer of Angmering Suss. by Isabel, dau. and h. of Edward Bitton of Suss. Kntd. by 1522.

Overseer, petty customs, London Aug 1519; surveyor, Henley-in-Arden Jun 1521; usher, receipt of the Exchequer, and custodian, Star Chamber Jul 1526.

The identification of this Member rests chiefly on the dating of the only known list of Members of the Parliament of 1529. But for the evidence of that document there would be a strong case for identifying him with the Sir Thomas Palmer who served the King both at court and in the field and who in 1534 was made knight porter of Calais: alike in the royal household and in his military capacity Palmer came under the aegis of Sir William Fitzwilliam, who was almost certainly instrumental in procuring the return of both Members for Guildford. The main stumbling-block to this identification is the term ‘miles’ attached to the name as it appears on the list of Members, for the knight porter was dubbed only in November 1532, during the King’s visit to Calais, whereas the list in question probably dates from several months earlier. Unless ‘miles’ was added to the name either in error (of which the list is not innocent) or later (which is unlikely), the senior Member for Guildford other considerations which tell against this identification, among them the fact that for most of the lifetime of the Parliament the knight porter was resident at Calais. Although such absences would not in themselves have excluded him from Membership, his return to Calais early in Dec 1534, after a stay of nearly a year in England, would have removed him mid way through the seventh session and in circumstances scarcely consonant with his being a Member.

No such difficulties arise if the choice falls on a namesake and kinsman of the knight porter. This Sir Thomas Palmer, one of the Palmers of Angmering, Sussex, was perhaps a younger son of John Palmer and thus uncle to the knight porter and to his brothers John and Sir Henry Palmer: his kinship with them is reflected in the grant to Henry Palmer in 1527 of the reversion of the manor of Pollicott, Buckinghamshire, which Thomas had acquired in May 1522. Palmer’s early career is not easy to distinguish from that of the future knight porter, although the first seems to have confined his activities to the court while the second was chiefly prominent as a soldier. From 1509 there are grants to Thomas Palmer of such offices as co-feodary of the honor of Richmond (1509), coroner of Usk, Llanvenethe and Trelleck, Monmouthshire, constable of Caerleon and Penrith castles (1511), and bailiff of Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire (1517), but which man received which appointment it seems impossible to determine: on the other hand, the Thomas Palmer who appears in the revels accounts for the early years of the reign, who fought as one of the King’s spears in 1513 and who served for a while at Tournai, was probably the future knight porter.

From 1522 there is less scope for confusion since in that year, or perhaps shortly before it, the first Thomas Palmer was knighted. This honour seems to have been the climax to a series of favours to Palmer which had begun in Aug 1519 with his appointment as overseer of the petty customs of London, continued with a grant jointly to him and Robert Palmer, presumably his brother the London mercer, of presentations to two royal chantries at Chichester (made at Calais in Jul 1520, this followed his attendance on the King at the Field of the Cloth of Gold), and concluded with his appointment in Jun 1521 as surveyor of Henley-in-Arden and his receipt of an annuity of £20. Five years later, in July 1526, Palmer was to be given his most important, and doubtless his most lucrative, office, that of an usher at the Exchequer and custodian of the Star Chamber. Of the services thus rewarded the only indication comes from the years 1529-32. In Jan 1530 he received £338 10s. ‘for so much money by the King’s grace lost to him at game’, and the £400 the King had given him ‘in reward’ in the previous March may have been in discharge of a similar debt; in company with Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, he diced with the King (who was again the loser) at Calais in Oct and Nov 1532. The resources called for to sustain even successful gambling on this scale and in this company Palmer could scarcely have accumulated from his official emoluments. It was as a parishioner of All Hallows, Barking, that he was assessed at £1,000 for the loan of 1522; he was thus presumably already occupying the house in Mark Lane which he still had in 1539, and this domicile in the city, coupled with his fraternal tie with the Mercers’ Company, suggests that he put his income to profitable use in the money-market.

It was therefore as an intimate of the King as well as a figure at court familiar to Sir William Fitzwilliam that Palmer came to be returned for Guildford in 1529. Henry VIII may well have been personally responsible for Palmer’s nomination as part of the electioneering which he conducted while at Windsor in Aug. That Palmer remained in favour during his Membership of the Commons is shown by his receipt of royal New Year gifts in 1532 and 1533, and by his attendance on the King on his visit to Calais in the autumn of 1532, but of his part in the proceedings of the House the sole indication dates from the end of 1534. It is then that, as ‘Mr. Palmer’, he is included in a list of Members drawn up by Cromwell on the back of a letter written in December: this list, which is believed to record the names of Members having a particular connexion with the treasons bill then passing through Parliament, includes a string of more than a dozen holders of household offices, and it is among these that Palmer appears.

Palmer was doubtless returned for Guildford to the Parliament of 1536 in accordance with the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members, and he may possibly have sat again in 1539: on that occasion Fitzwilliam took charge of the nominations in Surrey and its neighbouring counties, and Palmer’s description in 1538 as a servant of Cromwell’s may reflect an attachment to the minister which could have earned him that powerful support. Of what else befell Palmer in his closing years little has transpired, and that little is once again subject to confusion following the conferment of a knighthood on his namesake of Calais. It was, however, Palmer of London and Pollicott who was a juror at the trial of Henry Norris in 1536 and almost certainly he who on 13 June 1542 was granted an annuity of £30. This grant also furnishes a clue to the date of Palmer’s death which, in the absence of a will, has to be inferred from circumstantial evidence. A list of annuities payable by the augmentations includes, under the date 26 Mar 1544, one to Sir Thomas Palmer with a note ‘and nothing more quia mortuus’. The implication that the recipient died within a year of the date mentioned is borne out by a grant of the reversion of Pollicott, dated 6 Jun 1544, in which he is described as dead; as his brother Robert Palmer, making his will in May 1544, had forgiven him a debt of £140, we may with some confidence place the death at the end of May or the beginning of June 1544.


Johnson, S. R.: PALMER, Sir Thomas (by 1498-1544), of Pollicott, Bucks. and London.

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PALMER, Sir Thomas (by 1498-1544), of Pollicott, Bucks. and London.