BULKELEY, Sir Richard (by 1524-72), of Beaumaris, Anglesey.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1524, 1st s. of Sir Richard Bulkeley of Beaumaris by Catherine, da. of Sir William Gruffydd of Penrhyn, Caern.; bro. of Rowland. m. (1) Margaret, da. of Sir John Savage of Clifton, Cheshire, 6s. inc. Richard and Thomas 3da.; (2) Agnes, da. of Thomas Needham of Shenton, Salop, and Crange, Cheshire, 4s. 2da. suc. fa. Jan. 1547. Kntd. 3 Oct. 1547.2

Offices Held

Commr. subsidy Anglesey, Caern. 1546, 1555, 1563, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities. Anglesey 1553, Caerwys eisteddfod, Flints. 1568; defence Anglesey 1569, musters, Cheshire 1570; sheriff, Anglesey, 1547, 1551-2, 1560-1, 1569-70, Caern. 1549-50, 1557- 8; v.-adm. N. Wales by 1551, dep. constable, Beaumaris castle by 1548-61; j.p, Anglesey, Caerns. 1555, q. Anglesey 1558/59-d., custos rot. Anglesey 1558/59-d.; capital burgess, Beaumaris 1562.3


The Bulkeley family took its name from its place of origin in Cheshire but it was a branch from Cheadle which settled in North Wales. Various bearers of the name can be traced there from the end of the 14th century, but the period of ascendancy began in the mid-15th when William Bulkeley of Cheadle settled at Beaumaris after his marriage into the Gruffydd family of Penrhyn. The first Sir Richard Bulkeley, the Member’s father, was one of Cromwell’s chief agents in North Wales; he was also on good terms with Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and later Duke of Somerset, with whom he shared the office of chancellor and chamberlain of North Wales, and with John Dudley, Viscount Lisle and afterwards Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland.4

When his father died in 1547 Richard Bulkeley inherited an impressive collection of estates in Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Cheshire, but his youth prevented him from stepping into his father’s pre-eminent position in North Wales: he did, however, complete Sir Richard’s year as sheriff of Anglesey, a commission to deliver the letters patent of appointment being issued on 30 Jan. While still sheriff he joined the army which invaded Scotland in September 1547 and he fought at Pinkie: on his return ‘he caused the ash now standing about the Hall of Baron Hill to be set in the same order and manner as the English army was drawn’ at the battle. He received his knighthood at Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Earl of Warwick whose deputy he was to become at Beaumaris castle. Bulkeley continued to serve as deputy during the constableship of the 3rd Earl of Bath, but his own son Richard did not retain the appointment in 1561.5

As sheriff of Anglesey in October 1547 Bulkeley returned his uncle William Bulkeley as knight of the shire to Edward VI’s first Parliament. William Bulkeley died in July 1549 and Sir Richard was by-elected in his stead. The date of the by-election is not known, but if it were it might have a bearing on the circumstances of Bulkeley’s return, for the sheriff until 12 Nov. 1549 was his cousin William Lewis with whom he was then at odds; thus if Bulkeley had been elected before the opening of the new session on 4 Nov. he might well have needed outside support, for which he would doubtless have looked to the Earl of Warwick, then president of the council in the marches, whereas after 12 Nov. he would have been able to count on the favour of the new sheriff, Dafydd ap Rhys ap Dafydd. As it is, the only clue to Bulkeley’s attendance during this session is that on 9 Dec. he was licensed to depart for home: he had himself been pricked sheriff of Caernarvonshire and may for this reason have needed to return. He was not to be elected to the Parliament of March 1553 and the part played by him in the succession crisis which followed is uncertain. According to a contemporary poem Mary was first proclaimed a traitress at Beaumaris and, a day later, Queen: the responsibility for proclamations in the town lay with Bulkeley but whether he was party to either proclamation is not mentioned in the poem. Whatever the nature of his role then his suing out of a general pardon early in Mary’s reign is likely to have been more than a piece of insurance.6

Bulkeley was to sit in the second and third of Mary’s Parliaments, but if one is to believe him, he was prevented from doing so in her first by an unscrupulous sheriff. At that election the quarrel between him and William Lewis led to his being opposed for the knighthood of the shire by Lewis: Bulkeley claimed that he had been duly elected by the majority of freeholders present but that the sheriff, Rhys Thomas of Llanfair, Caernarvonshire (who had been appointed after the death of Rowland Gruffydd), had returned Lewis. The dispute gave rise to two legal actions against the sheriff, one in the Exchequer and the other in the common pleas. The exchequer case was brought and won by the attorney general, and the common pleas judges also found for Bulkeley, although their verdict was of no practical value to him: it was not given until Trinity 1555, after he had represented Anglesey in two Parliaments since the one from which he had been excluded.7

The conflict which underlay the affair may be seen both as one between the indigenous Welsh gentry of western Anglesey and the more recent anglicised gentry of the east, and as a continuation, although in a new form, of the differences between the Bulkeleys and their kinsmen the Gruffydds. (Sir) John Puleston, who was first guardian and then father-in-law of William Lewis, had tried to dissuade Bulkeley’s father from worsening the feuds in the Gruffydd family. Edward Gruffydd had married one of Puleston’s daughters, and on his death in 1540 he left three infant daughters as his coheirs: Puleston defended the interest of his granddaughters in the inheritance against Sir Rhys Gruffydd, who was, it seems, supported by Bulkeley. It was surely more than a coincidence that the sheriff who returned Lewis in September 1553 had married Edward Gruffydd’s widow. The feud was to persist for years and its bitterness was to be felt throughout the island; in 1560 the poet William Llyn, in a special poem in Welsh, urged Bulkeley and Lewis to end a quarrel which was the more to be deplored because they were both grandsons of Sir William Gruffydd of Penrhyn.8

As the leading figure in Beaumaris Bulkeley defended the claims of the town against its rival Newborough, and he could have been instrumental in gaining the support of the Earl of Warwick for the bill to make it the shire town enacted in March 1549, while his uncle was sitting for the island. The campaign to demote Beaumaris was headed by men with lands near Newborough, notably the Owens of Bodeon and Frondeg: when in 1556 Lewis ab Owen ap Meurig and others tried to restore the county day to Newborough on the pretext that they had only just heard of the Act of 1549, Bulkeley was ‘the setter forth and procurer’ of the Star Chamber case against them. He left the Parliament of November 1554 without leave before its dissolution and for this contempt he was informed against in the King’s bench during Easter term 1555; a writ of venire facias was directed to the sheriff of Anglesey, but no further process was taken against Bulkeley.9

The advent of Elizabeth did not lessen Bulkeley’s supremacy in Anglesey, and in 1562 he obtained a charter of incorporation for Beaumaris. In 1571 he reappeared in the Commons for the last time. During his absence at Westminster his second wife committed adultery, and his heir even alleged that she brought about his death on 7 Sept. 1572 by poison. The charge of adultery was upheld by the court of arches but she was acquitted of murder by a Beaumaris jury.10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: P. S. Edwards


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament; Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/84/1, 7, 9. Griffith, Peds. 42; Dwnn, Vis. Wales, ii. 134; Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xviii), 204.
  • 3. Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. 1948, p. 16; E179/219/4, 9, 14, 15; CPR, 1553, pp. 363, 419; 1560-3, p. 347; 1563-6, p. 31; HMC Welsh, i(1), 291; R. Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council in the Marches of Wales, 56-57; SP11/5/6; 12/121; E. Breese, Kalendars of Gwynedd, 123; B. Coward, ‘The Stanley fam. c.1385-1651’ (Sheffield Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1968), 201; C219/20/172.
  • 4. C. E. M. Evans. ‘Medieval Beaumaris and the commote of Dindaethwy’ (Univ. Wales M.A. thesis, 1949), passim; D. Mathew, Celtic Peoples and Renaissance Europe, 43n; CPR, 1547-8, p. 163.
  • 5. C142/84/1, 7, 9; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 13, 186; Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. 1948, p. 16; 1961, pp. 20n, 106.
  • 6. CJ, i. 13; CPR, 1553-4, p. 434; HMC Welsh, ii(1), 89.
  • 7. E159/333, Mich. 86; E. Plowden, Reps. (1816), 118 seq.; Add. 14882, ff. 107v seq.; G. Edwards, Second Cent. of the Eng. Parlt. 73-75; L. W. Abbott, Law Reporting in Eng. 117, 196, 223-4, 316.
  • 8. HMC Welsh, ii(4), 1052.
  • 9. Breese, 123; St.Ch.4/8/6; KB29/188 r. 48.
  • 10. Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. 1948, pp. 17-20.