DARCY, Edward (1543-1612), of Dartford Place, Kent.

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. 1543, 3rd s. of Sir Arthur Darcy of Brimham, Yorks. by Mary, da. of Sir Nicholas Carew of Beddington, Surr.;1 bro. of Sir Francis and Sir Henry. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1561;2 I. Temple 1561. m. Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Astley of Writtle, Essex, 15 ch. (at least 3s.).3 Kntd. 11 May 1603.

Offices Held

Groom of privy chamber 1583-1603; j.p.q. Kent from 1604.


Both Darcy’s grandfathers were executed during Henry VIII’s reign for opposing the Reformation. Darcy himself was a courtier who, except for a brief incident in 1592, when he was committed to the Fleet for attacking Sir George Barne, remained in favour throughout Elizabeth’s reign. Early in 1583 he was sent to the Netherlands with letters to the Duke of Anjou and the Prince of Orange. On friendly terms with the Cecils, his parliamentary seat at Truro was in all probability provided by the Killigrew family, one of whom was, like Darcy, a privy chamber official. Darcy left no trace upon the known surviving records of the House.4

His position at court brought him the usual opportunities for gain. In 1594 the attorney-general protested at the nomination of one Wiseman to the post of clerk of the outlawries, after Darcy had virtually put up the office for auction, and in 1600 the widow of Edward Denny petitioned against Darcy’s attempt to obtain part of the proceeds of the sale of her late husband’s office. He had little need, she wrote, ‘to suck this small portion of her Majesty’s favour from the hungry mouths of my children’. Cecil intervened on his side in a dispute with the bishop of Winchester and Sir John Seymour over a lease of the bishop’s park at Waltham. His patent for searching and sealing leather, which he was granted in 1592 (or 1593), led him to commit ‘such exactions and outrages as disquieted all England’, and his privileges were first reduced (in 1595) and then (before May 1598) replaced by a new patent for the monopoly of importing and manufacturing playing cards. This again encountered strong opposition, and Darcy had several times to invoke the aid of the Privy Council for ‘letters of assistance’ to enforce his patent. Twice in 1601 the Privy Council wrote to the justices of the common pleas to stay all process in a case brought by one Thomas Turner against Darcy’s officers, a case which touched on the validity of the patent, and thus on the royal prerogative. On 1 Aug. 1601 a special tribunal was set up to investigate the ‘many complaints ... made of daily abuses and contempts against the said patent.5

These patents were among those attacked in the 1601 Parliament, but they were not among those revoked by the Queen’s proclamation. Early in 1602 Darcy brought a lawsuit against one Thomas Allen, a London haberdasher, for manufacturing and selling playing cards without licence. Darcy v. Allen was argued in the Queen’s bench in 1602, but it was not until Easter term 1603, after the Queen’s death, that in a classic statement of the common law on the subject, the court found for the defendant. Darcy, a wealthy man, now retired to live at Dartford Place, which he had leased from the Crown. As well as inherited property in Yorkshire, he had purchased or been granted manors and lands in Surrey, Sussex and Warwickshire. He died intestate 28 Oct. 1612, and was buried with others of his family at St. Botolph, Aldgate. Letters of administration were issued, first to his eldest son Robert in 1612, and in 1618 to his second son Christopher.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. J. Stow, Surv. London (1734), i. 272-3; Vis. Yorks. (Harl. Soc. xvi), 92-93.
  • 2. Though unusually old to enter university, the Edward Darcy who matriculated in 1561 was probably the MP, as his brother Arthur accompanied him to Cambridge: Al. Cant. i(2), p. 10.
  • 3. Stow, loc. cit.; Hasted, Kent, ii. 297-8.
  • 4. Bell thesis; CSP For. 1583, pp. 88, 91, 101, 110; CSP Span. 1581-6, pp. 445, 452-3; APC, xxii. 332-3.
  • 5. HMC Hatfield, iv. 511; vi. 46, 314; viii. 38; x. 58, 91, 363; APC, xxiv. 123; xxv. 106; xxvi. 533, 555; xxxi. 55, 333, 346; xxxii. 132; Lansd. 74, f. 114; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 103; 1601-3, pp. 46, 108.
  • 6. H. Townshend, Hist. Colls. 240-1; D’Ewes, 650; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 8; 1601-3, pp. 210, 278; W. R. Scott, Joint Stock Cos. 114-15, 119; W. H. Price, Eng. Patents of Monopoly, 156-9; J. W. Gordon, Monopolies by Patent, 2-3, 193-232; Hasted, Kent, ii. 297-8; HMC Hatfield, xiii. 416; C142/328/157; Stow, Surv. ii. 117; Arch. Cant. xx. 7, 11.