GEE, William (?1565-1611), of York Minster Yard and Bishop Burton, Yorks.

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

bap. ?16 Sept. 1565,1 1st s. of William Gee, merchant and alderman of Hull, Yorks. and Elizabeth, da. of Walter Jobson†, merchant and alderman of Hull.2 educ. ?St. John’s, Camb. 1577; Furnival’s Inn; L. Inn 1580, called 1589.3 m. (1) by 1591, Thomasine (bur. 24 Dec. 1599), da. of Matthew Hutton, abp. of York 1595-1606, 5s. d.v.p. 2da. (1 d.v.p.);4 (2) settlement 4 July 1601, Mary (bur. 6 Sept. 1649), da. of Thomas Crompton† of Hounslow, Mdx. and Bennington, Herts. 5s. (1 d.v.p.), 3da.5 suc. fa. 1603;6 kntd. 30 May 1604.7 d. 3 Dec. 1611.8 sig. William Gee.

Offices Held

J.p. co. Dur. c.1592, 1608, Beverley liberty, Yorks. c.1597-d., Yorks. (E. Riding) by 1601-d., Ripon liberty by 1601-d.;9 commr. sewers, E. Riding and Hull 1597, 1603, 1604, subsidy, Hull 1598, 1608;10 member, High Commission, York prov. 1599, 1604;11 sec. and kpr. of signet, Council in the North (jt.) 1604-9, (sole) 1609-d.;12 commr. oyer and terminer, Northern circ. 1606-d., aid, E. Riding and Hull 1609.13

Steward, reader’s dinner, L. Inn, Lent 1595;14 recorder, Beverley 1597-1609, Hull 1598-d.15


From a Leicestershire gentry family, Gee’s father made his fortune as a Hull merchant during the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, but then retired from trading, whereafter he probably acted as a banker to his fellow merchants: his subsidy rating during the 1590s was £50 in goods, by far the highest rating in the town.16 His wealth was matched by his charitable benefactions, estimated at £2,000 in 1595: he provided most of the funds for the town’s new school in the early 1580s; gave the corporation a substantial amount of silverware during his lifetime; and endowed an almshouse, which he left to the corporation in his will.17

Although he beseeched God to consign all lawyers who attempted to alter his will ‘to the devils to dwell in the pit of Hell’, Gee’s father chose a legal career for his eldest son. Gee practised at York, doubtless before the Council in the North, and had little contact with Lincoln’s Inn after his call to the bar: appointed one of the stewards of the reader’s dinner in 1595, he did not attend in person, and was fined for sending insufficient money to cover its cost.18 He acquired a patron by marrying one of the daughters of Matthew Hutton, archbishop of York, who supported Gee’s bid for appointment as deputy to Robert Beale†, absentee secretary to the Council in the North.19 In the event the deputy secretaryship went to John Ferne*. Not long afterwards, however, Gee’s prospects improved as Hutton became de facto head of the Council in the North. Indeed, it was probably this connection which in 1597 secured him the recordership of Beverley, an archiepiscopal liberty. In the following year he also became appointed recorder of Hull, probably as a result of his own family’s influence. His father was still an alderman, and in 1594 Gee himself had lent the town £1,000, which was used to buy up Sir Thomas Wilkes’s† troublesome salt monopoly.20

On his father’s death in January 1603, Gee inherited property in Hull and Beverley, and £2,000 in cash, with which he bought the manors of Bishop and Cherry Burton, near Beverley, from his second wife’s family.21 He was at Hull on 27 Mar. 1603 when Lord Thomas Clinton* arrived with unofficial news of the queen’s death, and it was probably on his advice that the corporation forbore to proclaim King James ‘until more certain advertisement were given’. He subsequently led a deputation of Hull aldermen to greet the king at York, making a speech on the town’s behalf.22

Gee was returned to Parliament for Beverley in 1604, presumably on the corporation interest, though the Council in the North probably endorsed his nomination. He may also have been canvassing for a seat at Hull when, on 8 Mar., he forwarded the deeds of the almshouse his father had bequeathed to the corporation there. This precaution was unnecessary, as he was elected at Beverley on the same day, but it may have been at his behest that the corporation returned Anthony Cole*, his cousin by marriage.23 Gee left little trace on the parliamentary record, although he was named to a committee for the tanners’ bill (28 Apr. 1604), perhaps to further the interests of his constituents. As a northern burgess, he was entitled to attend the committee to examine the articles of Union drawn up in the autumn of 1604 by an Anglo-Scots commission (29 Nov. 1606). He may have missed the end of the spring session of 1610, as he was fined on 18 July for not contributing to the collection for the officials of the House.24

Gee’s main concern while at Westminster was undoubtedly the secretaryship of the Council in the North, which he and Ferne wrested from the absentee Sir John Herbert* in June 1604.25 Their salary was a mere 50 marks, but the secretaries and their clerks also collected fees worth several hundred pounds a year for drafting and sealing documents.26 However, in 1606 John Lepton, a groom of the Privy Chamber appointed to the new position of clerk to the secretaries, claimed many of these fees for himself.27 Ferne and Gee complained to the king and Robert (Cecil†), 1st earl of Salisbury that this patent was illegal, that their clerks would lose their livelihood, and that any increase in fees would create a political storm in the north. Salisbury unsympathetically remarked that ‘I wish His Majesty had means to gratify his servants out of much that is gotten out of the goose quill by clerks and attorneys’, but it was eventually agreed that Lepton would leave his claim in abeyance until after the death of the incumbents, compounding with Gee and Ferne for its execution in the meantime.28 Gee was appointed sole secretary after Ferne’s death in 1609, and it was presumably with his encouragement that his wife’s relative Sir Robert Carey* secured reversions of the office for himself, Thomas Trevor* and Sir John Trevor I*.29 Gee’s administrative role is difficult to assess, as little of his official correspondence survives, the only significant item being an apology to Salisbury for the delay in dispatching the Hedon by-election return in 1610.30

Gee made a remarkably detailed profession of faith in his will of 2 Nov. 1611, declaring his elect status and claiming that God had predestined him to salvation ‘before the foundation of the world’, a point on which he may have disagreed with Archbishop Hutton.31 He also emphasized his perseverance in faith, and thanked God for giving him

knowledge of the true religion, and of the vanity and falsehood of the antichristian religion of Rome, as well by the pure preaching of his holy word and good books, yea of some of the Fathers of the primitive church whereby I have been more confirmed in the truth of religion and do know that the papists do falsely boast that the Fathers are on their side.32

Gee’s erudition in theological matters is confirmed by other sources: Hutton bequeathed Gee ‘my Bible in Hebrew, and translated by Munster’;33 the Yorkshire cleric and anti-Catholic polemicist William Crashawe saluted Gee’s ‘rare knowledge, and godly zeal to religion’ in print;34 and Gee’s monumental inscription claimed that he had been fluent in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.35

Gee’s will provides ample evidence of profound anti-Catholicism: he gave thanks for the deliverance of the Protestant cause in England, Ireland, France and the Low Countries, particularly the peaceful accession of King James and deliverance from ‘the most horrible, inhuman and hellish conspiracy of the papists by gunpowder’. To compensate for the failure of attempts to provide statutory funding for a preaching ministry, he settled 40 marks a year for a preacher at Bishop Burton ‘during the time that the religion now established shall continue and not otherwise’, appointing Thomas Micklethwaite, later a member of the Westminster Assembly, to the vacancy.36 Gee also passed the advowson of Bainton rectory to his old Cambridge college, St. John’s, on condition that the first vacancy went to his brother Walter, and that appointees should be ‘resident thereupon and have no other benefice or dignity whatsoever’.37

Gee died on 3 Dec. 1611 and was buried in York Minster, where a monument, next to that of Archbishop Hutton, extolled his virtues at length, but warned that if these could have saved him

Proud death had ne’er advanced this trophy here:

In it behold thy doom, thy tomb provide

Sir William Gee had all these pleas, yet died.

Gee’s great-grandson and namesake, an enthusiastic supporter of the Glorious Revolution, was returned for Hull and Beverley six times from 1679. The family continued to live at Bishop Burton until 1783, when the estate was sold to pay debts.38

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


St. Michael-le-Belfry (Yorks. Par. Reg. Soc. i), 67.

  • 1. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 308. No fa. is given, and this could be a child of his uncle, John Gee, but the latter’s will [Borthwick, Reg. Test. 24, f. 525] mentions no son of this name.
  • 2. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 25, 44v, 216v, 229v, 356v.
  • 3. Al. Cant. (W. Gee/Jee); LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 11.
  • 4. St. Michael-le-Belfry, 66-7; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 21-2.
  • 5. C142/332/165; Hull UL, DDGE/3/30a; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis Yorks. iii. 22.
  • 6. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 389.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 132.
  • 8. C142/332/165.
  • 9. Hatfield House, ms 278; SP14/33; C181/1, ff. 7-8, 26; C181/2, f. 146; Add. 38139.
  • 10. Hull RO, M.101; C181/1, ff. 117, 153; E179/204/346, 349; SP14/31/1.
  • 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 1, pp. 224-5; HMC Hatfield, xv. 394.
  • 12. C66/1643, 1814.
  • 13. C181/2, ff. 23, 29, 117; SP14/43/107.
  • 14. LI Black Bks. ii. 38, 40.
  • 15. Yorks. ERRO, BC/II/5/1, ff. 7v, 9; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, f. 321; Bench Bk. 5, f. 10.
  • 16. Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 180-1; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 20-22; E179/204/328, 336, 346, 349.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 49-50; J. Lawson, Town G.S. 54-5; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 29, ff. 128v-9v; Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 309v-10, 357, 363; Bench Bk. 5, f. 4v.
  • 18. Borthwick, Reg. Test. 29, f. 128v; St. Michael-le-Belfry, 66-7; LI Black Bks. ii. 40.
  • 19. Lansd. 79, f. 112; CSP Dom. 1597-9, p. 49.
  • 20. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 285, 292; E. Hughes, Studies in Admin. and Finance, 45-56.
  • 21. Yorks. ERRO, PE158/1, p. 389; Borthwick, Reg. Test. 29, ff. 128v-9v; Hull UL, DDGE/3/27, 6/13-14; VCH Yorks. E. Riding, iv. 4, 6, 13.
  • 22. Hull RO, Bench Bk. 4, ff. 347v-8.
  • 23. Ibid. f. 357.
  • 24. CJ, i. 189a, 326b, 541b.
  • 25. C66/1643.
  • 26. R. Reid, Council in the North, 255, 384.
  • 27. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 321.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, xix. 203, 234, 239, 241, 277-8, 442, 463; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 459; Reid, 384.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 352, 357; C66/1814.
  • 30. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 590.
  • 31. N. Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists, 29-36; H.C. Porter, Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge; P. Lake, ‘Matthew Hutton - a Puritan Bishop?’ Hist. lxiv. 200-202.
  • 32. Borthwick, Reg. Test. 31, ff. 760-1.
  • 33. Hutton Corresp. ed. J. Raine (Surtees Soc. xvii), 180.
  • 34. VCH Yorks. E. Riding, ii. 114; R.A. Marchant, Puritans and Church Cts. 241-2; W. Perkins, A Faithfull and Plaine Exposition ed. W. Crashawe (1606), preface.
  • 35. MI in York Minster.
  • 36. Borthwick, Reg. Test. 31, f. 761; Marchant, 102-6, 263. The bequest was paid until Lady Gee’s death: VCH Yorks. E. Riding, iv. 8.
  • 37. Al. Cant. (Walter Gee); Borthwick, Reg. Test. 31, f. 761v.
  • 38. C142/332/165; Hull UL, DDGE/6/22; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 22-3; HMC 7th Rep. 424; VCH Yorks. E. Riding, iv. 4, 13.