COTTON, William.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

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The man who sat for Newport and Yarmouth was described in 1597 as 'wholly depending' on Lord Hunsdon (Sir George Carey*) who was captain of the Isle of Wight, exercised parliamentary patronage over the boroughs of the island. In his will Hunsdon left him a £20 annuity. He sat on a Commons committee concerning Robert Cotton's lands 25 Nov. 1597, and, a week before that Parliament was dissolved, was admitted to Gray's Inn as 'W. Cotton of the Isle of Wight' at the request of the Speaker.1

Unfortunately his identity remains doubtful. One possibility is that he was:

b. c.1552, yr. s. of Sir Richard Cotton of Warblington by Jane, da. and coh. of John Onley of Onley, Northants. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. 1571, BA and fellow 1573-9, MA 1577.

Freeman, Southampton 1597; esquire of the body by 1603.2

This William Cotton’s father was one of Edward VI’s Privy Councillors, acquired large estates in Cheshire and Hampshire, settled at Warblington in the latter county and died there in 1556. Cotton joined one of his older brothers Henry, later bishop of Salisbury, at Oxford when he became a fellow. On 20 Apr. 1578 he was deprived of commons for a week ‘because he is often out of college, wandering by night in the town’; two months later he was granted six months’ leave of absence to travel overseas; and finally he resigned his fellowship in 1579. When his mother made her will in 1585, she left him only £200 as she had already paid the debts he had accumulated at Oxford and elsewhere. He is last heard of—evidently in poor circumstances—in 1615 when his brother Henry made his will, leaving him £100, regretting he could do no more for him, and asking his children to see that he was never in want.3

Another possible identity is that he was:

b. c.1553, 1st s. of Edward Cotton of Laughton, Leics. by Margaret, da. of one Villars of Hothorpe, Northants. m. Anne, da. of Clement Smith of ‘Ha’melton’, Rutland, 3s.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Rev. Eng. Studies, xxv. 345; PCC 68 Bolein; D'Ewes, 563.
  • 2. Ormerod, Cheshire (1882), iii. 414-15; HMC 11th Rep. III, 22; LC 2/4/4.
  • 3. W. D. Macray, Magdalen Coll. Reg. n.s. ii. 191; PCC 39 Brudenell, 49 Rudd.
  • 4. Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 191.