SERLE, Henry (d.1567), of Cambridge.

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

m. (1) bef. 1545, Alice, da. and h. of John Bowyer (who was bro. of Sir William Bowyer, ld. mayor of London); (2) by 1561, Joan, wid. of John Lyne, alderman of Cambridge, 5s., at least 1da.

Offices Held

Mayor, Cambridge 1562-3.1


As a member of Cambridge corporation, from whom he rented property in Butter Row and elsewhere, Serle carried on a violent dispute with the University in conjunction with Roger Slegge, his son-in-law and colleague in the 1563 Parliament. The only reference found to him there is leave of absence granted 12 Mar. 1563. Cited before the vice-chancellor’s court, the two were accused of various enormities, such as releasing a prisoner committed by the vice-chancellor to the Tolbooth, resisting arrest (‘If we had had weapons, the proctor should never have gone a live man out of that ground’), and so on. Charges and counter-charges finally came before the Privy Council who, on 16 Sept. 1564, put Serle and Slegge in the Fleet. But by 2 Nov. Serle was back in the vice-chancellor’s court at Cambridge to answer charges of gambling, drunkenness, adultery (with his maidservant) and ‘whether, as mayor ... he did cut out one portion of the records of the town, and insert another, to defraud’. Serle only avoided excommunication by paying the legal costs and swearing to obey the church. As it happened, the bishops’ letters to the Privy Council earlier that year had described him as ‘conformable’ in religion. Next, Serle, ‘of a perverse, froward and wilful stomach and mind’ sued out writs of error against the vice-chancellor’s decisions in private cases affecting him, calling them ‘directly contrary to law and equity and therefore reversible in the common law courts’. This time he was stymied by Sir William Cecil, who, as chancellor of the University, persuaded the lord keeper to intervene to uphold his vice-chancellor. But by 1566 the corporation had had enough of Serle and Slegge and on 24 Sept. 1566, just before the new session of Parliament, a letter went off to Cecil asking that they should be replaced as MPs ‘for sundry ... causes which do much consume our quiet governing’. Nothing happened, but after the Parliament, on 6 June 1567, Serle was disfranchised as a freeman. He drew up his will on 24 July 1567, asking that at his funeral there should be ‘no pride or pomp of this world’, and died before 18 Aug. following, when the will was proved.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, xx(1), p. 326; CPR, 1547-8, p. 204; C3/154/132; 162/36; PCC 24 Stonard, 11 Pynnyng; Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 46; Downing Coll. Camb. Bowtell mss; C142/70/40.
  • 2. CJ, i. 69; J. M. Gray, Notes on Cambridge Mayors, 28; SP12/34, f. 175; 35, f. 16 seq.; APC, vii. 149; CSP Dom. Add. 1547-65, pp. 553-4; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 25; C3/48/53; Lansd. 50, f. 93; SP12/40/65; C193/32, lists 3-7; Cambridge Guildhall, day bk. 1564-77, p. 69; PCC 24 Stonard.