STOKES, Adrian (c.1533-85), of Beaumanor, Leics.

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. c.1533, ?s. of Robert Stokes of Prestwold. m. (1) 1 Mar. 1555, Lady Frances Brandon (d. 21 Nov. 1559), da. of Charles, 1st Duke of Suffolk, wid. of Henry, Duke of Suffolk by a new creation, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) 20 Apr. 1572, Anne, da. of Sir Nicholas Carew, wid. of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, s.p.1

Offices Held

J.p. Leics. from c.1564, commr. subsidy 1565, musters 1573, 1577, 1583, recusants 1577; keeper of Brigstock park by 1577.2


Stokes’s origins are unknown, the usual suggestion being that he came of yeoman stock. If, as is possible, the William Stokes who was claiming in 1558 the lands of his Staunton ancestors, can be identified with Adrian’s known elder brother William (born c.1525), then Adrian’s father was Robert Stokes of Prestwold, and his grandmother a member of an established family of minor gentry. This identification is supported by the fact that the Stokes of Prestwold were connected by marriage with a local family named Price (or Aprice), and his ‘cousin and heir’, Robert Price, benefited considerably from Adrian Stokes’s estate.3

Stokes became groom, equerry or ‘master of the horse’ to the Duchess of Suffolk (the mother of Lady Jane Grey), whose husband was executed 23 Feb. 1554. Within a few days (according to some accounts), but more likely, after just over a year (the discrepancy can be accounted for by confusion over old and new style dates), the Duchess, aged about 38, and Stokes, aged about 22, married. This caused comment from contemporaries and provided a fund of stories more or less ben trovato; when Cecil told the Queen she exclaimed ‘What! Has she married her horse keeper?’. And Cecil replied, ‘Yes, and she says you would like to do the same with yours’. In the event the marriage was happy, but brief, and a daughter was born who died in 1556. The Duchess made her will 7 Nov. 1559, and died on the 21st, leaving Stokes her goods, a life interest in most of her land, and an acknowledged position in society, eventually to be consolidated by a second fortunate, though necessarily less spectacular, marriage. Before this, however, Stokes had received a crown lease of Beaumanor, and twice been elected knight of the shire. There is no mention of any activity by him in the defective journals of the 1559 Parliament, and no record of his speaking in 1571, but he was named to committees on religion and church government (10 Apr. 1571), treasons (12 Apr., 11 May), abuses in conveyancing (14 Apr.), the order of business (21, 26 Apr.), respite of homage and church attendance (5, 19 May), apparel (14 May) and corrupt presentations (25 May). Stokes was classified by his bishop as earnest in religion in 1564, and he served on many local commissions including those to enforce attendance at church and those concerned with discovering recusants.4

Stokes’s second marriage brought him the administration of the valuable Throckmorton estates, perhaps a mixed blessing as he was obliged to borrow substantially to provide dowries for his new step-daughters. His keepership of Brigstock park also brought its problems in the guise of poaching and affrays by the local people who resented the restrictions Stokes was obliged to impose. In the end the Privy Council gave him permission to use ‘lawful means to defend Her Majesty’s parks by force’.5

In 1582 Stokes settled the remainder of his crown lease of Beaumanor on his brother and Robert Price. His Devon manor of Kanacre was settled on his wife and her children, and other lands had been sold, presumably to pay Stokes’s debts, which still amounted to some £4,000 at his death. In his will, dated 15 Apr. 1585,Stokes asked to be buried without any pomp ‘as it has been used in the papists’ time’, and left most of his goods and chattels to his brother, William Stokes, the executor. Attached to the will are detailed inventories of houses in London and Leicester. There were portraits of Catherine Parr, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth and ‘the French queen’. Robert Price’s widow successfully claimed part of the estate, estimated by the Privy Council at £2,000. The heirs of Simon FitzRichard, Stokes’s sister’s husband, also claimed £1,000. Stokes died on 3 Nov. 1585 and was buried, as he requested, in the chapel at Beaumanor. An inquisition post mortem taken at Torrington, Devon, 25 May 1586 shows little land in that county.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: S. M. Thorpe / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. CP, iv. 422; C142/128/91; Nichols, Leics. iii. 145; C1/1468/64-7; Harl. 760, f. 203.
  • 2. Leicester Recs. iii. 140, 168; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 561, 567; Lansd. 8, f. 79; 56, f. 168 seq.; APC, ix. 384.
  • 3. C1/1468/64-7; Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc. xvii. 54; Nichols, iii. 144ff; APC, xx. 200.
  • 4. N. and Q. vi. 225; xii. 451-2; CPR, 1558-60, pp. 4, 141; 1563-6, pp. 491, 494; C142/128/91; C142/166/6; PCC 59 Chaynay, 53 Brudenell; SC6/Eliz.; Lansd. 8, f. 79; 56, f. 168 seq.; Leicester Recs. iii. 140, 168; APC, ix. 23, 133; xi. 290; xiii. 164, 187; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 561; HMC Hastings, ii. 4; D’Ewes, 160, 165, 166, 178, 179, 181, 183, 186, 188; CJ, i. 84, 85, 86, 89, 91, 92; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 30.
  • 5. APC, ix. 384; xi. 63, 237; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 15-18.
  • 6. Ms cal. and index to pat. rolls 1-16 Eliz. PRO 9(4), p. 199; 15(5), p. 309; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 426, 441; Nichols, iii. 145; PCC 53 Brudenell; C142/210/62; APC, xx. 200, 243, 267; Req.2/164/147; Harl. 760, f. 191.