GIFFARD, Sir John (1465/66-1556), of Chillington, Staffs.

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



Family and Education

b. 1465/66, 1st s. of Robert Giffard of Chillington by 2nd w. Cassandra, da. of Thomas Humphreston. m. (1) 1483, Jane (d. 8 Dec. 1491), da. of Thomas Horde of Bridgnorth, Salop, 2s. inc. Thomas 7da.; (2) by Apr. 1515, Elizabeth, wid. of Sir John Montgomery of Cubley, Derbys., 4s. 1da. suc. fa. 4 June 1486. Kntd. 25 Sept. 1513.1

Offices Held

J.p. Staffs. 1501-d., Derbys. 1515-d.; gent. usher by 1509; sewer of the chamber by 1509; ranger, the Seven Hayes (Cannock forest), Staffs. 2 June-21 Nov. 1509, Cannock forest 21 Nov. 1509-d.; sheriff, Staffs. 1509-10, 1517-18, 1522-3, 1526-7, 1530-1, 1541-2; jt. bailiff, Wolverhampton 1512; commr. subsidy, Staffs. 1512, 1514, 1515, 1523, 1524, tenths of spiritualities 1535, musters 1539, relief 1550; other commissions 1521-47; knight of the body by 1533.2


An early 17th century epitaph described Sir John Giffard as ‘a noble courtier, one of the best bowmen and horsemen in England, a man in great favour’ with Henry VIII. He came from one of the principal families in Staffordshire, and his whole life was spent in public service. His career at court, to which his father-in-law Thomas Horde perhaps introduced him, may have preceded his advent in local government, but he is first heard of there in 1509 when he attended the funeral of Henry VII and the coronation of the new King.3

For three decades Giffard frequented the court and there is no sign that his attendance was interrupted by the King’s separation from Catherine of Aragon, with whom he had been on friendly terms. He was present at most of the great occasions, the meetings with Francis I at the Field of Cloth of Gold and with Charles V at Gravelines, the coronation of Anne Boleyn and the reception of Anne of Cleves. He served the King in war as well as peace. In 1513 he bore the arms of England before his royal master in the Tournai campaign and he was among those knighted when the town fell; ten years later he may have served in southern France, as on the eve of the expedition’s departure he obtained the grant of a standard; and in 1536, when the north rebelled, he was called upon to help restore order. His otherwise excellent relations with the King were marred briefly in 1515 when he took Elizabeth Montgomery as his second wife without first obtaining royal approval, but after an apology and payment of a fine he was restored to favour.4

Giffard’s local prestige and standing with the King made him an obvious choice as a knight for Staffordshire in Parliament, and his return in 1529 was probably not his first experience of the Commons: the inclusion of his name on subsidy commissions between 1512 and 1524 gives colour to this supposition, but if he sat in either of the Parliaments of 1510 and 1523 it must have been outside Staffordshire as he was sheriff there on these two occasions. In 1529 he was the leading man in the county after George, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, and he took precedence over his fellow-knight and younger neighbour Edward Littleton. While attending this Parliament Giffard was one of the group of Members which used to meet at the Queen’s Head for discussion of parliamentary affairs, and a further hint of his attitude is his inclusion, with Littleton, on a list believed to be of Members opposed on religious or economic grounds to the bill in restraint of appeals enacted during the fifth session early in 1533. His appearance in both contexts may not have been unconnected with his son Thomas’s marriage to a sister of Sir George Throckmorton, who besides being one of the Queen’s Head group is also named on the list of 1533. (It was probably in the course of this session that Giffard was also joined in the House by his former ward Sampson Erdeswick, whose by-election for Stafford he doubtless promoted.) At the close of this session he attended the coronation of Anne Boleyn but on 5 June he obtained a licence to go abroad with his wife on a pilgrimage to Amiens. How long they remained abroad is not known but if, as is likely, Giffard attended the later sessions of the Parliament he probably sat also in its successor of 1536 in accordance with the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members.5

Giffard was then about 70 years of age and it is not surprising that he made no further appearances in the Commons: in 1539 his son Thomas took one of the places for Staffordshire. Early in 1540 Giffard acted as a whiffler at the reception of Anne of Cleves at Blackheath and he used the opportunity to ask for some ex-monastic property in Derbyshire and Staffordshire which he did acquire later that year. So far as is known he spent the remainder of his long life in semi-retirement at Chillington, where he died on 13 Nov. 1556. He was buried in Brewood church and a monument bearing his effigy and those of his wives was erected there.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Authors: L. M. Kirk / A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s death, Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. (n.s.) 1902, p. 111. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii(2), 80-83; v(2), 146; (n.s.) 1902, pp. 110, 121; (ser. 4), viii. 84.
  • 2. CPR, 1494-1509, p. 659; 1553, p. 357; LP Hen. VIII, i-iv, viii, xiii-xv, xxi; Statutes, iii. 88, 117, 170.
  • 3. J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), i. 299.
  • 4. Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii(2), 84; (n.s.) 1902. p. 112; LP Hen. VIII, i-iii, vi, xi, xv.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, vi; ix. 1077 citing SP1/99, p. 234; xiii.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xv; Leland, Itin. ed, Smith, ii. 170; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lxx. 17; C142/110/143; Pevsner, Staffs. 97.