SWALE, Richard (d.1608), of Rotherhithe, Surr. Askham Richard, Yorks.

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

s. of Thomas Swale of Askham Richard. educ. Jesus, Camb. 1566, BA 1568-9, MA 1572, LlD Caius 1587. m. Susan, da. of James Rolfe of St. Albans, s.p. Kntd. 1603.1

Offices Held

Fellow, Jesus, Camb. 1571-6; Caius 1576-89, president 1582, bursar 1585; official of the archdeaconry of Ely 1583; master in Chancery from 1587; chancellor and vicar-gen. Ely diocese 1588-1606; lay rector of Ely and Emneth, Norf. 1588-1606; lay preb. Newbald, York from 1589; member, ct. of delegates from 1589; auditor of causes ct. of audience, see of Canterbury from 1598; officer in ct. of arches by 1600; envoy in mission to Emden 1600; commr. eccles. causes from 1602.

J.p. Isle of Ely from c.1591, Cambs. from c.1592.2


Swale doubtless owed his election as fellow and tutor of Caius to the master, Dr. Thomas Legge, who had been a tutor at his old college,Jesus. He soon became well known as a tutor, a class then rising to prominence, and it is significant that he was named as one of those who refused to read lectures. About 1582 his position was threatened by a faction within the college who differed from his conservative religious views. Burghley agreed to a petition from a number of fellows for a visitation and Swale had himself elected proctor with the assistance of Hatton, who described him as of ‘great sufficiency, gravity and good government’. Next, Burghley quashed the election, complaining that Swale and Legge had abused ‘my courtesy shewn to them’ by maintaining ‘covertly in the college a faction against the true religion received’. However, the visitation itself cannot have damaged Swale’s chances for he was soon elected president and in the autumn wrote to complain that one Gerard had refused to obey the visitors.3

Hatton’s appointment as lord chancellor in 1587 provided Swale with the prospect of a new career. His patron’s inexperience in the law necessitated the presence of an expert to advise him, and Swale, who was about to qualify for a doctorate in civil law, was, as a long-standing friend, an obvious choice. In May he was appointed a master in Chancery, in July he became a doctor of civil law and in October he entered Doctors’ Commons.4

As a doctor of civil law Swale practised mostly in the Admiralty and ecclesiastical courts. By 1589 he was beginning to appear on the commissions to which disputed matters in the ecclesiastical courts were referred. His return for Higham Ferrers to the Parliament which met in that year was no doubt promoted by Hatton. No record of any activities by Swale in this Parliament has been found, but as a receiver of petitions in that of 1601 he frequently brought messages and bills from the Lords. The Mr. Swale mentioned as speaking on 8 and to Dec. 1601 is Richard Swayne.5

After Hatton’s death Swale continued to prosper, and he was chosen for the mission to Emden in 1600, the sort of diplomatic work for which civil lawyers were still considered peculiarly suitable. Swale was unwilling to go, and a firm letter from the Privy Council was necessary before he resigned himself to the prospect. He attended the Hampton Court conference in 1604, and was afterwards on a commission to regulate books printed without authority.6

Swale died on 30 May 1608, seised of lands in Askham Richard and elsewhere in Yorkshire. His heir male was his distant cousin John Swale, but in a brief nuncupative will he left most of his property to his wife, whom he appointed his executrix. When he asked whether he would have any other executor he replied, ‘Who should be but she?’.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. M. Thorpe


  • 1. DNB; Al. Cant. iv. 189; J. Venn, Biog. Hist. Gonville and Caius, i. 85.
  • 2. DNB; APC, xvii. 71; CSP Dom. 1591-4, pp. 177, 189; Canterbury, D. and Ch. Archives, Reg. x, f. 103r; I. J. Churchill, Canterbury Administration, i. 598 n.; HMC Hatfield, x. 5; R. G. Usher, Rise and Fall of the High Commission, 358.
  • 3. J. Heywood and Wright, Camb. Univ. Trans. i. 314-69; Lansd. 33, f. 91; 36, ff. 86, 108; HMC Hatfield, xiii. 204; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 304; 1581-90, pp. 70, 72; Sir Harris Nicolas, Mems. Life and Times Sir C Hatton, 250, 254, 261.
  • 4. C. Coote, Civilians, 60; Nicolas, 467, 468; J. Caius, Annals of Gonville and Caius, ed. Venn (Cambridge Antiq. Soc. xl), 350; Lansd. 69, f. 195; E. St. John Brooks, Hatton, 336-7, 350.
  • 5. W. Senior, Doctors’ Commons and the old Court of Admiralty, 78; APC, xvii. 71; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 589; 1591-4, pp. 177, 189, 203; D’Ewes, 600, 614, 672, 678, 684.
  • 6. APC, xx. 199; xii. 398; xxii. 144, 250, 258, 309; xxiv. 208; xxx. 29, 227; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 295; 1603-10, p. 216; HMC Hatfield, x. 129; xvi. 440; Senior, 59; Strype, Whitgift, ii. 496, 504.
  • 7. C142/302/115; PCC 49 Windebanck.