DAVYS, Matthew (c.1549-1615), of High Holborn, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1549,1 3rd or 4th s. of David Edwards of Swansea and Danygraig, Glam. and Catherine, da. of Rees ap Evan of Ynysmaerdy, Glam.2 educ. Oxf. BA 1567, Barnard’s Inn.3 m. Anne (d. aft. 1626), s.p.4 bur. 23 Oct. 1615.5 sig. Math[ew] Davys.

Offices Held

Commr. i.p.m. Glam. 1597.6


Davys should not be confused with a number of namesakes, foremost among whom was the Middle Temple barrister Matthew Davies, who sat for Hindon in 1624. He must also be distinguished from the Matthew Davies who in 1606 was serving as a messenger of the Chamber.7 The Member for Cardiff was the younger son of a minor gentleman whose interests were located in and around Swansea. He was probably christened ‘Matthew ap David Edwards’, but an English education encouraged him to adopt the settled surname of Davys or David; he was presumably the ‘Matthew David’ who received a BA from Oxford in 1567. He trained as an attorney at Barnard’s Inn, and in 1600 he may have been the man who described himself as the servant of Michael Hickes*, one of the secretaries of (Sir) Robert Cecil†;8 his nephew was certainly a servant to the Cecil client and Chancery official, (Sir) George Coppyn†.9

Davys maintained close ties with his native county and, along with another Glamorgan lawyer, William Thomas of Llanfihangel, acted as a man of business in London for local gentry figures such as the Herberts of Cogan Pill.10 This association with the Herberts helps explain his return for Cardiff Boroughs, where William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke enjoyed a dominant interest. In this dispersed constituency, Davys’s close familial ties with Swansea, where he procured a bailiwick in 1601, must also have helped ensure his election.11

Davys was an active Member, especially on matters concerning Wales and the law. In the first Jacobean Parliament he was nominated to committees that dealt with legal business, such as abuses in copying legal documents (6 May 1606; 12 May 1607; 13 Mar. 1610), the delay of executions (8 May 1606), and estate bills (12 June 1604; 16 May and 25 Nov. 1606).12 He was also twice ordered to help confer with the Lords over the Union with Scotland (14 Apr. 1604; 24 Nov. 1606).13 During the second session he took it upon himself to defend the saltpetremen as neither they nor their counsel attended the Commons when their patent was scrutinized (3 May 1606).14 In 1610 Davys opposed the bill to impose a levy for harbour repair at Minehead, one of the principal destinations for Glamorganshire’s trade, and moved that all Welsh Members be named to the committee.15 If this was a ploy to smother the bill, it failed: at the third reading he tried another tack, offering a proviso which presumably sought to exempt Wales from the duty; but this, too, was rejected.16

During the Addled Parliament Davys spoke with greater frequency than before, though he again demonstrated a particular interest in Welsh issues. He was the most prominent advocate of the bill of grace for repealing a branch of the Henrician Union legislation that allowed the monarch to make laws for Wales without reference to Parliament. At the bill’s second reading he gave a patriotic rendition of the theory that the unconquered Welsh were direct descendants of the Trojan Brutus. He extolled the king’s liberality in the ‘release of his power’, but pointed out some irregularities in the bill’s form.17 On 17 May he urged speedy consideration of the bill by the committee, reported it three days later, and at the third reading he and another Welsh lawyer, William Jones I, countered the objections of (Sir) Henry Townshend, one of the judges at Ludlow, who claimed that the bill undermined the authority of the Council in the Marches.18 Davys also spoke on the grace bill to prevent the exaction of excessive fees by Exchequer officials on the passing of sheriffs’ accounts, moving that Welsh sheriffs be included under this measure (6 May).19 Similarly, at the committal of the bill which sought to curtail the removal of lawsuits over small debts to London, Davys requested that the provision be extended to Wales (11 May).20 This abuse must have been particularly vexatious for provincial litigants, and it would appear that Davys was speaking on behalf of his Glamorganshire constituents. He also reported the bill to endow almshouses and a preacher in Monmouth on 21 May.21

The legal intricacies of election disputes also exercised Davys, who complained about the misconduct of the sheriff in the Carmarthen election, drawing attention to his misinterpretation of the Henrician Union legislation (12 April).22 He also contributed to the debate about Sir Thomas Parry’s* interference in the Stockbridge election: though acknowledging Parry as a fellow Welshman, he concluded that he had a case to answer (9 May).23 On the following day he stressed the beneficial effects of the dispute in curbing future excesses of electoral patronage and encouraging freeholders to exercise their rights. He called for the reinstatement of the candidate who had received a majority in the election, but counselled against excessive punishment of Parry.24

Davys approved of the supersedeas bill at its second reading (18 May), but warned that it ‘reaches far into one great office in Chancery and another in Banco Regis’. He deflected criticism of Chancery by claiming that King’s Bench exceeded its authority by sending writs into Wales.25 It was probably to defend Chancery’s interests that Davys also obtained a nomination to the committee to consider a bill which was criticized for drawing fees away from the Petty Bag office and into the Court of Wards (14 May).26 After the king announced that Parliament was to be dissolved, Davys extolled the virtues of parliaments, claiming that they ‘keep all in awe, even the great ones’. He suggested that their approach to James be ‘sweetened’ by a grant of supply to obtain a stay of execution (7 June).27

As a London attorney with close connections among the Glamorganshire gentry, Davys acted as an important conduit between the county and the centre in financial matters. In November 1601 he handled the reimbursement of coat and conduct money due for Glamorgan’s levies for the Irish army.28 Likewise, repayment of Glamorgan’s Privy Seal loan of 1604 was made through Davys in 1608.29 This route of exchange also operated in the opposite direction, as Glamorgan’s contribution to the Benevolence of 1614 was paid direct to Davys.30 In his will Davys recorded that £221 of ‘the country money’ had been left with him by Edward Carne, the Crown’s receiver for South Wales, and he made provision for this debt to be levied from his estates in South Wales.31

Davys made his will on 7 Oct. 1615, leaving bequests to the poor, including those in St. Andrew’s Holborn, the Fleet prison, and the parish of Swansea ‘where I was born’. His wife Anne inherited two houses in High Holborn with their contents, and an annuity of £100 out of his Glamorgan lands, the freehold of which went to his brother, Hopkin David. He left generous bequests to his brothers, and a ring to his cousin, William Price of Britton Ferry, subsequently MP for Cardiff Boroughs. He died in High Holborn, where he was buried on 23 Oct. 1615.32

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Lloyd Bowen / Simon Healy


E115/120/76; GL, ms 6673/1.

  • 1. Assuming he was 18 when receiving his BA from Oxford.
  • 2. G.T. Clark, Limbus Patrum Morganiae et Glamorganiae, 485-6, 527.
  • 3. Ibid. 527; Al. Ox.; C2/Eliz./D9/11; E112/149/44.
  • 4. W. Glam. AS, D/D RE 1/178; Clark, 527.
  • 5. GL, ms 6673/1.
  • 6. Cartae et Munimenta de Glam. ed. G.T. Clark, vi. 2121.
  • 7. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 256.
  • 8. Ibid. xxiii. 82.
  • 9. PROB 11/126, f. 237v.
  • 10. NLW, Bute L2/4, 8-9; 3/64; C54/1959/10.
  • 11. PSO 5/2; W. Glam. AS, B/S Corp. B2, ff. 107, 111, 151; C54/1791; C219/35/2/200.
  • 12. CJ, i. 237b, 305b, 309b, 325a, 373a, 410a, 418b.
  • 13. CJ, i. 172a, 324b.
  • 14. Ibid. 305a.
  • 15. Ibid. 398b, 403a; Som. RO, DD/L 1/55/1; MINEHEAD; M.E. Thomas, ‘Glam. 1540-1640: Aspects of Social and Economic Hist.’, (Univ. of Wales MA thesis, 1973), pp. 260-8.
  • 16. CJ, i. 416a.
  • 17. Ibid. 467b.
  • 18. Ibid. 487b, 490b, 492b.
  • 19. Ibid. 475b; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 168.
  • 20. CJ, i. 481a.
  • 21. Ibid. 492a; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 313.
  • 22. CJ, i. 461a.
  • 23. Ibid. 477a.
  • 24. Ibid. 478b; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 197.
  • 25. CJ, i. 489a.
  • 26. Ibid. 484a.
  • 27. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 436.
  • 28. APC, 1601-4, p. 398.
  • 29. NLW, Deed 1759.
  • 30. Bodl. Carte 121, f. 112.
  • 31. PROB 11/126, f. 238. The declared account records a payment of £231 for the county: E351/1950.
  • 32. W. Glam. AS, B/S Corp. B2, f. 187; PROB 11/126, ff. 237-8v; GL, ms 6673/1.