GORING, Sir William (by 1500-54), of Burton, Suss.

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. by 1500, 1st s. of John Goring of Burton by Constance, da. of Henry Dyke of Suss. m. by 1521, Elizabeth (d. 10 Nov. 1558), da. and h. of John Covert of Slaugham, 3s. inc. George 2da. suc. fa. 1520. Kntd. 1526.2

Offices Held

Sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1530-1, 1535-6, 1550-1; j.p. Suss. 1532-d.; knight of the body by 1533; commr. musters, Suss. 1539, chantries 1548, relief 1550, church goods Suss., Chichester 1552; chamberlain, household of Queen Anne of Cleves 1540-6; gent. the privy chamber by 1547-d.3


William Goring’s forbears took their surname from the village near Worthing where they lived until the late 15th century, when they settled at Burton, some three miles south of Petworth. Goring’s father married a local heiress and thereby gained a modest estate, once belonging to the Dawtreys, which enabled John Goring and his descendants to take part in local government.4

Nothing has come to light about William Goring’s upbringing or about his life in the years after he became head of the family. In 1526 the King made a progress through the southern counties and while in Sussex he knighted Goring. Although Goring was to make his career as a courtier, Household official and local administrator, it was not for four years after this honour that he continued his upward progress, his first shrievalty being followed by his appointment to the local bench, where he was soon to be rated indispensable. As a justice Goring came to the notice of Cromwell, and fragments of an official correspondence between them survive. In 1533 he attended the coronation of Anne Boleyn, where he acted as a server at the banquet, and not long afterwards he appears on a list of members of the royal household. He was serving his second term as sheriff when the north rebelled in 1536: on account of ill-health and official duties he excused himself from answering the summons to help suppress the rebellion, but he did muster troops which were sent northwards and he claimed to have thwarted any possibility of a rising in Sussex. In 1537 he attended the christening of Prince Edward and a year later his loyalty to the regime was instrumental in the uncovering of the Pole conspiracy. His dislike of Cardinal Pole was not simply a matter of personal incompatibility, for Goring apparently thought all popery suspect, particularly monks displaced by the Dissolution. This nascent Protestantism presumably commended him to Cromwell and helped to procure for him in 1539 the minister’s approval of his nomination by Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, as one of the knights of the shire for Sussex in the Parliament of that year. No trace has been found of his part in this Parliament, but between its sessions he helped to demolish St. Richard’s shrine in Chichester cathedral and after its dissolution he was the recipient with his fellow-knight Sir John Gage of a letter about the collection of the recently granted subsidy.5

It was doubtless with Cromwell’s assistance that Goring obtained his chamberlainship in the household of Anne of Cleves, but he did not suffer in the palace revolution of the summer of 1540, retaining his post under the displaced Queen, although in August of that year he took the precaution of obtaining permission to return home before leaving the court. In 1543 he served with the military expedition against France and a year later he accompanied the King on the campaign which ended in the capture of Boulogne. His ascendancy may have led to his being re-elected with Gage for Sussex in either or both of the last two Parliaments of Henry VIII’s reign, in 1542 and 1545, but the loss of the returns makes this uncertain. On leaving the service of Anne of Cleves, Goring became a gentleman of the privy chamber and at the accession of Edward VI he was given charge of some of the Howard property in Sussex before it was granted to Admiral Seymour. With Seymour he seems to have stood well, as his responsibility for these properties was renewed by the admiral, who also gave him other charges and leases in the county. In the autumn of 1547 Goring took his place in the Commons as the senior knight for the shire, his colleague being his ‘cousin’ John Palmer. He is not mentioned in the Journal. When Seymour was executed for treason he dissociated himself from the admiral and was confirmed in all the posts and leases which he had held of that patron; two years later his third shrievalty showed that he was trusted by the new government headed by the Duke of Northumberland. After the dissolution of the Parliament of 1547 he was granted, perhaps as a mark of Northumberland’s favour, the reversion of two manors in Sussex held by Anne of Cleves, but it is unlikely that he sat in the Parliament of March 1553, which met under the duke’s aegis, for in the course of that month he was ordered by the Council to inquire into sedition at Chichester: the names of the two knights for Sussex on this occasion have been lost, but one was almost certainly Sir Richard Sackville and the other may have been John Palmer.6

As Edward VI approached his end, Goring himself fell ill and on 6 May 1553, as he lay in his great chamber at Burton, he made his will. After asking to be buried in the parish church, he ordered the following inscription to be placed over his tomb:

O God forget my sins and impute them not unto me
But forgive me for thy dear son Jesus Christ’s sake
And indict me according unto thy inscrutable mercy
For if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves
And there is no truth in us.

He divided his property, chattels and livestock between his wife, children and grandchildren. He also left to his wife all the plate given to him by Anne of Cleves and Edward VI and to his eldest son Henry the rich clothes presented by the King. After remembering his servants he appointed his son Henry executor and Thomas, 9th Lord La Warr, Sir John Kingsmill, John Covert, Edward Shelley and his own son George Goring supervisors. Unlike the King, Goring made a recovery which prolonged his life until 2 Mar. 1554, when he died in London on a visit to Queen Mary. His body was taken by barge to Kingston-upon-Thames, and then overland to Burton where eight days later it was buried.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from marriage. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 45-46; Comber, Suss. Genealogies (Ardingly), 180; Suss. Arch. Colls. xxiii. 142; H. H. Leonard, ‘Knights and knighthood’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 163.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, v. ix, xiii-xv, xx; CPR, 1547-8, p. 90; 1548-9, p. 135; 1550-3, pp. 52, 142, 395-6; E179/69/48; Stowe 571, f. 30.
  • 4. J. R. Mousley, ‘Suss. country gentry in the reign of Eliz.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1956), 541-9.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, ii, vi, x-xv; Leonard, 321; Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxvi. 133.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xvi-xxi; SP10/1, f. 28v; CPR, 1550-3, p. 300; HMC Bath, iv. 336; APC, iv. 238; Stowe 571, f. 55.
  • 7. PCC 38 More; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 58; Suss. Rec. Soc. xiv. 105; Suss. Arch. Colls. xxiii. 142; Nairn and Pevsner, Suss. 123.