SAUNDERS, Nicholas I (d.1605), of 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

o.s. of Thomas Saunders of Uxbridge, Mdx. by his w. Elizabeth. educ. King’s, Camb. 1565. suc. fa. 1565. unm., 1s.

Offices Held

Govt. messenger in Italy 1581, to the Porte 1584, to the Low Countries 1586, ?in Ireland 1596.


Little is known of Saunders’ father, who must, however, have been of some standing in Middlesex as he nominated as one of the overseers of his will John Newdigate, the head of one of the county families, but his will mentions no estates and no inquisition post mortem has been found. Saunders himself, when he came to make his will in 1604, held no property in Uxbridge, although the family’s interest there continued beyond the death of the father, for in 1576 Margaret or Margery, one of Thomas Saunders’ daughters, paid for the enclosure of the new cemetery.

Saunders had some connexion with the Killigrew family, through whose good offices he presumably embarked on his diplomatic career, such as it was. In 1572 he was with Henry Killigrew on the Continent, and was subsequently employed by the government in taking messages overseas. By July 1585 he had returned to England, and in the following year he was again sent to the Low Countries. At this time, hoping to be made ambassador at Constantinople, Saunders sought the favour of the Earl of Leicester, who wrote on his behalf to Sir Francis Walsingham. Saunders also canvassed the. support of Sir Thomas Cecil, but there is nothing to show that he was employed again even as a messenger until after 1590. Towards the end of 1585 he was in prison for debt, and two years later, still insolvent, he was engaged in a complex suit with a London merchant, William Beecher, over debt. He had also another suit, against Edward Wynter, who was then in captivity.

Saunders probably owed all his parliamentary seats to the Killigrews, unless St. Ives was obtained through Burghley. It is not clear whether the Nicholas Saunders who was appointed to committees dealing with the subsidy on 26 Feb. and 1 Mar., and to the committee to peruse the statutes concerning the relief of the poor and the punishment of rogues (12 Mar.) in the 1593 Parliament was Nicholas Saunders of London or his namesake of Ewell.

Little is known of the remainder of the London man’s career. He was probably the Mr. Saunders who was in Ireland in 1596 as a government messenger. Perhaps he was also the Nicholas Saunders mentioned at the trial of the 11th Lord Cobham in 1604. It was then alleged that Cobham had instructed one of his servants to ask a Nicholas Saunders to offer the attorney-general £100 for his opinion on the case. Later a Nicholas Saunders was given permission to visit Cobham in the Tower.

Saunders’ will, drawn up in 1604, was revised shortly before his death, which occurred on 7 Apr. 1605. He had never married, and the residuary legatee was his 5-year-old child Nicholas Councell, who was to be raised so ‘that I do hope his virtue by good bringing up will redeem my offence’. In 1604 Saunders thought that the estate might amount to £4,000, but he was less optimistic the next year. The child’s mother was bequeathed £500 and a further £500 when her son came of age. Sir William Killigrew and Saunders’ nephew, Sir Maurice Berkeley II, were the executors. The will was contested by Saunders’ younger sister Elizabeth, wife of William Onslow.

PCC 33 Morrison, 26 Bakon, 40 Hayes; S. Lysons, Acct. of those Parishes in Mdx. not Described in the Environs of London, 183; CSP For. 1578-9, p. 45; 1581-2, p. 153; 1584-5, pp. 167, 181, 186, 268, 605; 1586-7, pp. 92, 98; 1589-90, p. 350; C2Eliz./S26/40; D’Ewes, 474, 481, 499; HMC Hatfield, vi. 250; xvi. 193, 197-8; Nichols, Progresses Jas. I, i. 298; C142/304/503.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A. M. Mimardière