SELBY, William II (d.1612), of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb.; later of Ightham Mote, 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

2nd s. of John Selby of Branxton, Northumb. and Twizell, co. Dur. by his w. Elizabeth. unm. Kntd. 10 June 1603.1

Offices Held

Served with Leicester in the Netherlands 1586; capt. and pensioner, Berwick for life 1587; gent. porter, Berwick from 1595 (jointly with his nephew William Selby III from Aug. 1599); comptroller of ordnance in north 1596; j.p. Northumb. from c.1591.2


Selby was a ‘discreet and valiant’ soldier, who served under, among others, Leicester and both earls of Essex in France, Ireland, Scotland and the Low Countries. By 1595 he had seen 40 years of service and was recognised as one of the principal captains of his day. On returning from his last campaign, he settled at Berwick, where he had quarters in the garrison and an allowance, as captain and pensioner, of 5s. a day. His reputation as a soldier, his seniority in the garrison, and his brother’s influence (before his death in 1595) as gentleman porter, all ensured him considerable status. His employment as paymaster of the garrison, and the usual chaos of the accounts, including some claims for pay in arrear over seven years, prompted his observation that inadequate payments were worse than none at all. This situation must have been particularly vexatious in view of the reputation for efficiency he had acquired when paying off his troops in Ireland in the 70s. On his brother’s death in November 1595, he was an obvious choice for the vacant office of gentleman porter, which was now by way of becoming a family possession. He also had powerful support from another old soldier Sir William Reade, his friend for the past 40 years, and Burghley, who offered to stand bond for him when the appointment was made. There was local opposition, however, from John Carey, deputy governor under his father, Lord Hunsdon. Carey had already stood in the way of an earlier application by Selby for an office in the garrison, and he later became one of Selby’s most vigorous opponents. Their frequent arguments over the running of the garrison, though usually concerned with trivial points, undermined its efficiency and encouraged the development of faction in the town. Selby, of course, blamed Carey’s unreasonable hatred of him, but it was he who was admonished by the Privy Council.3

Selby earned respect—and additional duties—by his energetic work at Berwick and along the borders. Ralph Lord Eure, an influential figure in the marches, recommended his appointment (apparently unsuccessfully) as a border commissioner, considering him one of the three most suitable candidates from all Cumberland and Northumberland. As comptroller of ordnance from 1596 he was required to inspect the ordnance at Carlisle, and consequently antagonised the resident officials, including Lord Scrope. In his own county he also quarrelled with the Grey family, touching off a decade long feud. Selby was clearly not a man of tact, but he made firm friends, including Sir William Bowes, who supported a claim of his for compensation for his custody of Buccleuch, one of the Scottish pledges handed over during the border negotiations in 1597. Selby received Buccleuch in October, intending to escort him to London on his way to Parliament. Buccleuch, however, remained at Berwick under his constant watch, thus Selby was prevented from attending. Perhaps he did not mind. He made no known contribution to the proceedings of the House, unless, as one of the Berwick burgesses, he sat on two committees in March 1589 (salted fish on the 11th and one concerning the town of Berwick on the 14th). He was probably returned as a man acceptable to both factions of the townsmen versusgarrison power struggle. In contrast to his townsman colleague in 1593 Selby paid his own expenses.4

After four years at Berwick, Selby requested leave to attend to private business, and his nephew, William Selby was appointed joint gentleman porter, sharing the fee of £20. Relieved of his duties, though not of his post, Selby spent most of the remaining years of Elizabeth’s reign at his estate at Ightham, which he had bought from Charles Allen in 1591, and which he left to his nephew. He died on New Year’s Day 1612.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: B.D.


  • 1. Raine, North Durham, 315; Burke, Landed Gentry, 2284.
  • 2. Border Pprs. i. 274; PRO Index 6800, f. 568v; APC, xxvi. 184-5.
  • 3. Border Pprs. passim; Lansd. 78, f. 138; HMC Hatfield, vi. 570; APC, viii. 361, 362, 366; CSP Ire. 1574-85, pp. 50, 82; Cal. Carew Pprs. ii. 28, 29; CSP For. 1575-7, pp. 377, 380, 381-2; 1586-7, pp. 18, 243-4; CSP Span. iii. 554.
  • 4. Border Pprs. passim; HMC Hatfield, viii. 23-4; D’Ewes 445, 446; Berwick guild bk. 1585-95.
  • 5. APC, xxx. 241; Arch. Cant. xlix. 39-40; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, 328.