COTTON, Sir Richard (by 1497-1556), of Bedhampton and Warblington, Hants.

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



Mar. 1553
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1497, 3rd s. of John Cotton of Cotton, Salop by Cecily, da. of Thomas Mainwaring of Ightfield Salop. m. by 1538, Jane, da. of John Onley of London and Catesby, Northants., 6s. 3da. Kntd. 22 Feb. 1547.1

Offices Held

Attorney, the sheriffs’ ct. London 15 June 1518-20 Feb. 1526; comptroller, household of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond 1525-36, the Household Aug. 1552-July 1553; cofferer, household of Princesses Mary and Elizabeth 1536-8; j.p. Hants 1538-d., comptroller and cofferer, household of Prince Edward Mar. 1538-41; member, council of Prince Edward by 1541-7, council in the marches of Wales by 1553; treasurer, Boulogne 17 Mar. 1547-50; commr. relief, Hants 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; sheriff, Hants 1551-2; PC 11 May 1552-July 1553; constable, Holt castle, Denb. 1552-d., Portchester castle, Hants 27 Nov. 1556; lt., Southbere forest, Hants 27 Nov. 1556.2


Richard Cotton, the son of a Shropshire gentleman, presumably received some legal training as his earliest known appointment was as one of the attorneys of the sheriffs’ court in London. This office, however, and the legal career which it might have presaged, he gave up early in 1526 after he had been appointed comptroller in the newly established household of the King’s illegitimate son the Duke of Richmond. His elder brother George was the duke’s governor and the two brothers allied with the duke’s chamberlain, Sir William Parr, against Richard Croke, the Greek scholar whom Henry VIII had appointed his son’s tutor. Croke complained that they falsified the accounts and kept Richmond from his studies, but the Cotton brothers remained on friendly terms with the King who in June 1531 paid them £20 for three ‘sets’—either games or wagers—which he had lost to them in Greenwich Park.3

After Richmond’s death on 22 July 1536 the King was angry with the 3rd Duke of Norfolk because his son had not been buried honourably. Norfolk assured Cromwell that he had ordered the Cotton brothers to have the body wrapped in lead and placed in a closed cart, instructions which were apparently not carried out. There was some discussion of the future employment of Richmond’s former attendants. Richard Cotton was first sent by Cromwell to Lincoln to help the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Anthony Browne to crush the northern rebellion. He next became cofferer in the household of the young princesses until in March 1538 he was appointed comptroller and cofferer of Prince Edward’s household, again in association with his brother George, who was made its vice-chamberlain. Cotton seems to have quitted his new office under a cloud. On 6 Oct. 1540 he made the first of two appearances before the Privy Council, and at the second, ordered on 26 Dec., he was told to bring his household books; when, 12 months later, a commission was appointed to audit his accounts, he had already been replaced as cofferer by John Ryther. He nevertheless remained one of Prince Edward’s councillors and in July 1546 was granted a lease of Langtoft manor, Lincolnshire, in consideration of his services to the prince. He already held leases of the manors of Bedhampton in Hampshire and Bourne in Lincolnshire and these manors were afterwards granted to him in reversion. In 1544 his name appears in a Hampshire list of men designated for the military expedition to France.4

Cotton’s career was to reach its climax under Edward VI. Knighted at the coronation and made treasurer of Boulogne, he remained abroad until 1550 save for an interlude at the end of 1549 when as ‘a man of singular experience’ he was sent to survey the defences in the north and to eliminate waste there. In January 1552 he went to view Calais and Guisnes, in May he was sworn a Privy Councillor, and in August he became comptroller of the King’s household on the death of Sir Anthony Wingfield. This appointment followed closely on the King’s brief stay, during his first royal progress, at the ‘fair great old house’ at Warblington, near Havant, which Cotton had recently been granted by the crown. Cotton doubtless owed the office, and his other preferments, to the Duke of Northumberland, as he was to do his election to the Parliament which met in the following March: he was then recommended, nominally by the King, to the Hampshire electors as ‘comptroller of our house’ and ‘one whom we need not to commend, being for his place with us of no less knowledge than authority’, and this was sufficient to secure him second place to (Sir) Thomas White II. In the Commons his office and his Councillorship brought him straightway to the fore: on 24 and again on 30 Mar. it was he who as ‘Mr. Comptroller’ bore bills to the Lords.5

In the struggle over the succession Cotton appears to have stood by his patron almost to the end. As the reign drew to its close he was increasingly used in public affairs, being named to commissions concerning Calais, church goods, crown lands and proposed alterations in the administration of the revenue courts. On 14 May 1553 he was granted by the crown extensive lands of the dean and chapter of Chester, and shortly afterwards was licensed to retain 50 gentlemen. He was one of the witnesses of the King’s will, made on 21 June, the day on which he received the reversion of the office of chamberlain of Chester, and he was among the signatories of the letter of 19 July from Queen Jane’s Council to Richard, Baron Rich, the last gesture made by Northumberland’s supporters. In the final crisis, however, he deserted the duke, being among the Councillors who first proclaimed Mary in London and then called on Northumberland to yield. Cotton’s eleventh-hour defection may help to explain why, although he lost his Household office at Mary’s accession, he was not otherwise penalized. He remained on the commission of the peace for Hampshire, and between 1553 and 1555 was again employed at Calais. His return to the Parliament of November 1554 as knight of the shire for Cheshire reflects his newly-established position in that county, where he successfully resisted attempts by successive deans of Chester to upset his acquisition of their lands on the ground that it had been effected by compulsion. He was not among the Members of that Parliament who quitted it in advance of the dissolution and were prosecuted for this offence, nor did he join his kinsman Sir Ralph Bagnall in refusing the papal absolution from Cardinal Pole; early in the session one of Cotton’s servants was granted privilege from arrest in an action for debt.6

Cotton died on 2 Oct. 1556 and was buried at Warblington. He left the manor of Tattenham, Cheshire to provide for his five younger sons and Huntington and Cheveley for his three daughters. His wife and his brothers William and Ralph were named executors, and his ‘well beloved’ friends John Chaderton, Nicholas Dering, John Fitzwilliam and John Norton were among the gentlemen who were to dispose of the residue of his goods. His brother-in-law Thomas Onley was later granted the wardship and marriage of Cotton’s son and heir George.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Ormerod, Cheshire, iii,(1) 414-15; Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 38-39; PCC 23 Ketchyn.
  • 2. City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 3, f. 213v; 7, f. 88; LP Hen. VIII, iv, xi, xvi, add.; APC, ii. 66; iii. 30; iv. 42, 120; Stowe 571, ff. 19, 76; CPR, 1553, pp. 358, 415; 1555-7, p. 509; 1557-8, pp. 93-94.
  • 3. City of London RO, rep. 3, f. 213v; 7, f. 88; LP Hen. VIII, iv; Privy Purse Expenses of Hen. VIII, ed. Nicolas, 143.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, xi-xiii, xvi, xvii, xix-xxi, add.; APC, i. 50, 52, 98; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 103-4.
  • 5. APC ii. 50, 346, 369, 418; iii. 30, 455, 475; W. K. Jordan, Edw. VI, ii. 425, 506; CJ, i. 25, 26; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, passim.
  • 6. APC, iv. 44, 120, 372, 377, 385, 389, 407; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii,) 23; Lansd. 3, ff. 36, 50; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 278, 306, 352, 353, 391-2, 395, 397, 398; 1553, pp. 18, 100, 184-5, 358, 415; 1554-5, p. 118; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 99, 109; Wriothesley’s Chron. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xx), ii. 89; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), p. xxvi. nn. 56, 60, pp. 3, 161n, 202, 673; The King’s Works, iii. 369; W. C. Richardson, Ct. Augmentations, 198; Not. Cest. (Chetham Soc. viii,) i. 65n; CJ, i. 37.
  • 7. C142/108/97; Machyn’s Diary, 115; CPR, 1550-3, p. 154; 1560-3, p. 333; CSP For. 1547-53, p. 190; PCC 23 Ketchyn.