SANFORD, Hugh (-d.1607), of Wilton, Wilts.

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



1597 - c. Nov. 1597
1604 - by 2 May 1607

Family and Education

m. Elizabeth. d. 21 May 1607.1

Offices Held

Tutor to William Herbert (later 3rd earl of Pembroke) c.1586-93; sec. to 2nd earl of Pembroke 1593-1601, 3rd earl 1601-d.2


Sanford’s pedigree has not been established, although a Somerset contemporary referred to him as a ‘fellow countryman’.3 One branch of the family lived at Nynehead Court, Somerset; John Sanford, chaplain to Archbishop Abbot, was a native of Chard; while James Sanford, translator of numerous Latin and Greek texts, including Cornelius Agrippa’s Of the Vanity and Uncertainty of Arts and Sciences (1569), was also from Somerset. Although not known to have enrolled at any university or inn of court, Sanford evidently received a first class education, as he was regarded by contemporaries as prodigiously learned, while Aubrey later referred to him as ‘a good scholar and poet’.4 If Sanford was related to the translator of Cornelius Agrippa, then it is likely that Sir Philip Sidney†, whose later poetry was deeply influenced by this work, introduced the future MP to the 2nd earl of Pembroke, his brother-in-law. By the 1580s Sanford was tutor to the earl’s eldest son, William Herbert, a position he later shared with the poet Samuel Daniel. His duties presumably ceased when Herbert matriculated at Oxford in 1593, and he thereafter served the earl as secretary, a post he retained after Herbert succeeded as 3rd earl in 1601.5

While Herbert was at Oxford, Sanford, encouraged by the countess of Pembroke, completed (with certain of his own additions) the scholarly second edition (1593) of Sidney’s New Arcadia (1593), which had mostly been written at Wilton in 1580.6 His preface was highly critical of the 1590 edition prepared by Samuel Daniel’s brother-in-law John Florio, who responded in the preface to his A World of Words (1598) by naming two of his characters ‘Huff Snuff’ and ‘Humphrey Swineshead’.7 Sanford’s fondness for devising impresa, or heraldic devices, was illustrated in his design of the title page of his 1593 edition. His style, however, earned him some detractors: when William Herbert required appropriate heraldic embellishments to his armour before entering his first tournament in September 1600, Rowland Whyte, agent to Sir Robert Sidney†, wrote of his fear ‘that Mr. Sanford will in his humour persuade my lord to some pedantic invention’.8

Sanford played an important role in managing the earls’ affairs. In January 1595 he witnessed the 2nd earl of Pembroke’s will (under which he received an annuity of £30), and shortly afterwards, with William Stockman*, one of Pembroke’s receivers, he was granted a lease of various manors in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset.9 In 1599 he helped negotiate the transfer of the presidency of the Marches of Wales from Pembroke to Sir Robert Sidney.10 Four years later he was the principal ‘dealer’ during the protracted marriage negotiations between William Herbert and Mary, daughter of the 7th earl of Shrewsbury (Gilbert Talbot†). His role was so vital that negotiations were briefly halted in December 1603, when he became the ‘special choice ... to direct the order and course of the ladies’ at a Christmas masque at Court.11 In October 1604 Sanford attended Pembroke’s marriage at the Shrewsbury’s seat of Chatsworth, having journeyed there at ‘an ambling pace, justice of peace like’.12

Sanford owed his return to Parliament for Wilton in 1601 and 1604 to the 3rd earl of Pembroke. His contribution to the work of the House was negligible, for he made no recorded speeches and his only committee appointment concerned a witchcraft bill (26 May 1604). Residing at Pembroke’s London residence, Baynard’s Castle, he was granted leave of absence on 26 Mar. 1606.13 Shortly afterwards he removed to Wilton, where he died on 21 May 1607. His will, whose date and provisions are unknown, was nullified by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The inheritance of his property in Glamorganshire and a lease of the profits from writs arising from the Brecon assize circuit - which he purchased in February 1606 for £1,391 - were contested by his mother, Florence, and widow, Elizabeth.14

In addition to his 1593 edition of Sidney’s Arcadia, Sanford contributed the preface to John Bond’s celebrated 1608 edition of Horace’s works, wrote part of De Descensu Domini Nostri Jesu Christi ad Inferos, a treatise by the puritan divine Robert Parker, and from 1605 began work on an answer to Bishop Bilson’s Survey of Christ’s Suffering for Man’s Redemption, which was completed after his death by Parker.15 The scholar Sir John Stradling* dedicated two epigrams to him.16

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. C142/310/65.
  • 2. J. Robertson, Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, xv.
  • 3. S. Daniel, Civil Wars ed. L. Michel, 40.
  • 4. B. O’Farrell, ‘Politician, patron, poet: William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, 1580-1630’ (UCLA Ph.D. thesis, 1966), p. 8; J. Aubrey, Brief Lives, i. 311.
  • 5. Wilts. RO, G25/1/21, p. 295.
  • 6. Robertson, xv; J. Hoskins, Directions for Speech and Style ed. H. Hudson, 1.
  • 7. J. Florio, A World of Words (1598), preface; W. Godshalk, ‘Sidney’s revision of the Arcadia, Bks. III-IV’, Philological Quarterly (1964), p. 174.
  • 8. J. Buxton, Sir Philip Sidney and the English Renaissance, 187.
  • 9. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 218.
  • 10. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, ii. 383, 424; Sidney Letters ed. A. Collins, i. 353, 370; ii. 152.
  • 11. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, iii. 127; Illustrations of British History ed. E. Lodge, iii. 35; ii. 224.
  • 12. Lodge, iii. 103.
  • 13. CJ, i. 277a, 290a.
  • 14. SO3/3, unfol. (Feb. 1606); C142/310/65; PROB 11/112, f. 71v; 11/121, f. 438v.
  • 15. J. Bond, Quinti Horatii Flacci Poemata (1680); R. Parker, De Descensu Domini Nostri Jesu Christi ad Inferos [‘ab auctore doctissimo H. Sanfordo’] (Amsterdam, 1611).
  • 16. J. Stradling, Epigrammatum libri quatuor (1607).