CAESAR, Thomas (1561-1610), of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1561, 2nd or 3rd s. of Cesare Adelmare by Margery, da. and h. of George Perient; yr. bro. of Julius. educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1570-8; I. Temple 1581, called 1591, bencher 1607. m. (1) Susan (d. June 1590; her mother’s name was Chapman), 1s. 2da., all d.v.p.; (2) Ann, da. of George Lynne of Southwick, Northants., wid. of Nicholas Beeston of Holton-le-Moor, Lincs., s.p.; (3) 18 Jan. 1593, Susan, 2nd. surv. da. and coh. of Sir William Ryder, haberdasher and alderman of London, 3s. 5da.1 Kntd. 25 June 1610.

Offices Held

Clock-keeper to the Prince 23 June 1609; cursitor baron of the Exchequer 25 May 1610.2


On 14 Feb. 1595 Thomas Caesar, in association with Thomas Hayes, citizen and draper of London, and Robert Webb, clothier, of Beckington, Somerset, obtained from George Delves his half-share in the lease of the alnage and subsidy of the new draperies, the other half-share remaining in the hands of Delves’s relative and joint patentee William Fitzwilliam. The business of the alnage, since it was country-wide and conducted through numerous sub-farmers who rented their seals from the patentees, involved Caesar and his partners in much detailed supervision of an administrative and financial kind. Their net income appears to have been modest, but to the profits they severally received from letting localities to farm there may well have been added in Caesar’s case his fees for legal services. When the syndicate surrendered its patent early in the new reign upon failing to secure another on more advantageous terms, Caesar continued to take some part in administering the alnage under the new alnager, the Duke of Lennox, whose legal adviser he was.3

Caesar’s second attempt to wrest a fortune from the cloth trade was made in 1600 when he and Webb, who was associated with him in several land transactions in Sussex as well as in the alnage, petitioned the Queen for a licence to export undressed cloth. As the number of cloths exported under licence by the Merchant Adventurers did not satisfy overseas demand, it was customary for the Crown to grant supplementary export licences to favoured individuals which the recipients then put up for sale and which the Merchant Adventurers felt obliged, in the interests of their monopoly, to buy. For the satisfaction of the clothworkers, one in every ten cloths exported had to be dressed before export. The petition presented by Caesar and Webb when controversy in the trade was high, had several novel features. Instead of the usual licence, in which the number of cloths was limited, the petitioners asked for an unlimited licence to run for 21 years. In return they offered the Crown a rent of £2,000 a year (all previous licences had been free), and the clothworkers £240 a year in compensation for no longer including dressed cloths in every consignment exported. To this the Merchant Adventurers responded with a counter-offer, and the petition foundered in the ensuing controversy. Its basic weakness had lain in the social insignificance of its sponsors, a Somerset clothier and a first-generation Englishman seeking for themselves a profitable grant previously enjoyed as a court pension by Lord Admiral Howard, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Earl of Leicester. The weakness was soon remedied. With no appreciable delay, and little alteration in principle, the petition was revised in detail and presented on his own behalf by the colourful and impecunious retired privateer, George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, an intimate friend of the Caesars, with whom Thomas Caesar had sailed in 1591. Twice the Earl was refused. Then the Queen relented and, on 7 Aug. 1601, granted the licence. Its value to the Earl has been put at £2,500 a year clear. Two months later Caesar was returned to Parliament for the Earl’s borough of Appleby, being named to three committees, one of them concerned with a bill (later enacted) for the making of woollen cloth, a clause in which reserved the rights of alnagers. His brother Julius was also in this Parliament and served on this committee (appointed 18 Nov. 1601), but confusion between the two on other occasions is avoided, the clerk distinguishing between ‘Mr. Dr. Caesar’ and ‘Mr. Thomas Caesar’. The other committees to which Thomas Caesar was appointed concerned the clerk of the market (2 Dec.) and the assurance of certain manors (9 Dec.). The burgesses for Appleby were appointed to the committee for the strengthening of the north parts on 3 Dec. 1601.4

Early in 1604 Caesar’s brother Sir Julius obtained from the King the promise that Thomas should be appointed a puisne baron of the Exchequer in succession to John Sotherton, whose lifetime of service in that court was thought to be approaching its end. The King declined to sign the patent in reversion, thoughtfully proffered to him by Sir Julius, on the ground that it related to the place of a judge, but he authorized Sir Julius to notify the lord treasurer that the reversion had the royal approval. This Sir Julius did, adding testimonials to his brother’s fitness from the other barons who, though they had already recommended a certain Mr. Burcher, hastened to avoid any semblance of opposition to the royal will by obligingly testifying to Caesar’s ‘honesty, learning and sufficiency every way’ and wishing for his appointment, though without retracting the good opinion they had of Mr. Burcher. Eighteen months later, and Sotherton being still at death’s door, Sir Julius thought it prudent to ask Cecil not to let the appointment pass to any other candidate until the King could be reminded of his promise. However, when Sotherton died in October 1605, it was his relative Nowell Sotherton and not Thomas Caesar who succeeded him.5

The reason for this temporary set-back is obscure. True, Caesar’s ‘sufficiency’ was not all that it had been represented as being, particularly in legal training and experience. He was not a serjeant, nor had he attained the dignity of reader to his inn. But the same could be said of Nowell Sotherton. If the view advanced by Foss is correct, that the time had come for the court to dispense with purely legal qualifications in favour of another kind of ‘sufficiency’, namely the ability to deal with the merely ministerial matters de cursu attaching to the court’s investigation of sheriffs’ accounts and such-like fiscal business, one would have thought Caesar well qualified. However, the Sothertons’ control of the office was not to be weakened, and it was not until Nowell Sotherton died that Casesar became a baron of the Exchequer, his nonjudicial functions being clearly indicated by the new title of baron cursitor. On his death less than two months later another Sotherton succeeded him.6

Traces of Caesar’s other activities survive. He subscribed £25 for a voyage to Cathay in which Elizabeth and several of the nobility also took an interest; he held a one-thirtysixth share in the Mineral and Battery Works incorporated in 10 Eliz. to dig for calamine stone and develop its use in manufacturing latten, battery wire and other metal work; and in 1607 he was one of a group of speculators, among them his father-in-law Ryder and Lionel Cranfield, concerned in the purchase of rectories and monastic lands worth £32,000. But the nature of Caesar’s employment in the King’s service which in 1609 induced the Inner Temple to excuse him his attendance at a reading, and then, apparently, his own reading on payment of a £40 fine, has not been discovered. The office of clock-keeper to the Prince, granted to Caesar for life in June 1609, passed apparently to his son Thomas.7

Caesar died intestate 18 July 1610, at his house in Chancery Lane. The inquisition post mortem reveals little real estate—some 260 acres in Herefordshire and six in Canterbury.8

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: E.L.C.M.


  • 1. Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 95; J. E. Cox, Annals of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, 297-8.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 522, 613.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 65, 69, 408; 1603-10, pp. 63, 483; Add. 1580-1625, p. 521; M. E. Finch, Five Northants. Families (Northants. Rec. Soc. xix), 119-20, 190-2.
  • 4. PRO Index to Pat. Rolls 38-43 Eliz. f. 136 etc.; CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 329-30; 1598-1601, pp. 383-4; R. T. Spence, ‘The Cliffords, Earls of Cumberland’ (Lond. Univ. PhD thesis, 1959), 168, 245-55; D’Ewes, 642, 663, 665, 673.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 28; xvii. 301.
  • 6. Foss, Judges, vi. 21-2, 103-4.
  • 7. Lansd. 81, f. 4; 113, f. 3; HMC Sackville, i. 144; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 378; I. Temple Recs. ii. 43, 44; HMC 4th Rep. 301.
  • 8. C142/317/124.