CALTHROPE (CALTHORPE), Charles (?1524-1616), of ?Hempstead, Norf. and Ireland.

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. ?1524, yr. s. of Sir Francis Calthrope ?by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Rafe Barney of Gunton. educ. L. Inn 1560, called 1569. m. (1) Winifred (d.1605), da. of Anthony Toto, a Florentine, Henry VIlI’s serjeant painter, s.p.; (2) Dorothy (d.1616), da. of John Deane of London, wid. of Henry Perkin and Robert Constable, s.p. Kntd. 1605.1

Offices Held

Steward, Yarmouth 1573-80; j.p. Norf. 1575-9; pens. and bencher, L. Inn 1581; attorney-gen. [I] 1584-1606; judge of common pleas [I] 1606-16.2


As a younger son Calthrope took to the law. In 1562 he gave a reading on copyholds at Furnival’s Inn. Having done some work for the Earl of Leicester in Norfolk it would have been easy for him to obtain a parliamentary seat at Eye, probably through the immediate patronage of the lord keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon. The only recorded reference to him in the journals of the 1572 Parliament is his being named to the committee of the navigation bill, 15 Mar. 1581. In 1574-5 he was one of the commissioners inquiring into a dispute between Yarmouth and the Cinque Ports and he was appointed steward of Yarmouth under the Earl of Leicester as high steward, resigning the office in August 1580 because he was ‘chosen by her Majesty for employment in Ireland’.3

He was on good terms with Burghley, to whom he wrote in 1592:

I am a younger brother, never but little worth, called from my practice in England by divers of my honourable friends, now dead, without my seeking.

It is not clear when, or in what capacity, he went to Ireland. In June 1584 he was appointed attorney-general there. He tried to preserve royal rights in forfeited lands, claiming in January 1587 that he had collected about £4,000 arrears. Calthrope’s support of the lord deputy Sir John Perrot led Geoffrey Fenton to write to Burghley in March 1587 that Calthrope was

discovered here to be short of that learning and judgment which his place requireth, and to be rather a pleaser of the lord deputy than careful of the public service, and lastly too much addicted to the Irishry.

He served on many commissions: in 1585 to compound with the chieftains of Connaught and Thomond, in 1586 for attainted lands in Munster, and in 1587 to settle differences there.4

In July 1588 Perrot returned to England, and, on his subsequent disgrace, his opponents in Ireland made the most of their opportunity. In February 1590 Robert Legge, the deputy receiver of the Exchequer in Ireland, reported on the debts of the principal officials there and revenged himself on Calthrope, who had sent an adverse report about him to Walsingham in November 1589, by claiming that Calthrope ‘wanteth law and cannot speak, and is so linked in with the lawyers that he dare not speak’. The next month Calthrope was suspended from office, and in May 1592 was ordered to be tried in the Castle Chamber at Dublin. There was obviously no serious evidence against him, for in June it was suggested that he might be made a judge. This was probably due to the support he received from Lord Burghley, to whom he acknowledged his gratitude in September 1592, adding, ‘I protest coram deo I am not the better by my office or any other means since my coming hither £40’. In November 1592 the Queen restored him to his office, without fine, being persuaded ‘that his offence proceeded of negligence and not of any undutiful affection ...’, but his attempt to receive the fees for the time of his suspension was firmly stopped.5

Calthrope continued to be active in his office until April 1606. During this time the chief justice of Munster and the chief judge of common pleas in Ireland both died, and Calthrope expressed his unwillingness to succeed them, in the first case pleading age and in the second the low fee. In 1606, however, he was appointed one of the judges of common pleas with the support of the new deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester, who reported to Cecil that Calthrope ‘affects the place but not the fee, being half less than the attorney’s.’ In 1608 he was granted an allowance of £200 extra in consideration of his long services, so that he received more than his fee of £159 6s.8d. as attorney-general. Noted as ‘an old weak man, unable to serve’ in 1611, Calthrope died 6 Jan. 1616. He was buried in Christ’s Church, Dublin, reputedly aged 92.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.H.


  • 1. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 65; N. and Q. (ser. 3), iv. 55.
  • 2. H. Le Strange, Norf. Official Lists, 170; DNB.
  • 3. N. and Q. (ser. 3), iii. 489; CJ, i. 134; HMC 9th Rep. i. 307a, 316b.
  • 4. CSP Ire. 1586-8, pp. 249, 282, 300; 1588-92, p. 588; Lansd. 61, f. 170; DNB .
  • 5. CSP Ire. 1588-92. pp. 310, 485, 527, 588; APC, xxi. 13; xxiii. 312; xxiv. 126.
  • 6. CSP Ire. 1592-6, p. 199; 1596-7, p. 425; 1603-6, pp. 445, 494; 1608-10, pp. 70, 339; 1611-14, p. 79; N. and Q. (ser. 3), iv. 55.