WAAD, Sir William (c.1546-1623), of Belsize House, Hampstead, Mdx.; Battles Hall, Manuden, Essex and Charing Cross, Westminster.

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



21 Oct. 1605

Family and Education

b. c.1546,1 1st s. of Armagil Waad of Belsize House and his 1st w. Alice, da. of Richard Patten alias Wainfleet of London, Clothworker and wid. of Thomas Serle (admon. 11 Jan. 1541) of Essex and London, Butcher; bro. of Thomas†.2 educ. G. Inn 1571.3 m. (1) lic. 15 Jan. 1586, Anne (d.1589), da. and coh. of Owen Waller of Battles Hall and London, Fishmonger, 1s. d.v.p.;4 (2) by 1597, Anne, 1s. 8da.5 suc. fa. 1568;6 kntd. 20 May 1603.7 d. 25 Oct. 1623.8 sig. W[illiam] Waad.

Offices Held

Servant to 1st Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) by 1577;9 agent, Denmark 1582,10 Holy Roman Empire 1583,11 Spain 1584, France 1585, 1587,12 Low Countries 1585.13

Clerk of PC 1584-1613;14 commr. to search for Catholic traitors 1594-5;15 muster-master, Low Countries by 1600-16;16 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1601-11;17 muster-master-gen. by ?1599-at least 1620;18 lt. Tower of London 1605-13;19 recvr. and overseer, Cheque of Ire. bef. 1606;20 commr. enforcement of starch monopoly, 1607-9.21

J.p. Mdx. c.1591-d., Essex c.1612-16, 1617-d.;22 commr. bankruptcy, London 1595,23 oyer and terminer, Marshalsea 1597,24 London 1601-13, 1621-d.,25 Mdx. 1601-13, 1614-d.,26 Verge 1604-13,27 sewers, Mdx. 1600, 1604-6, 1610, 1620,28 London 1605-6, 1611,29 Herts. 1607, 1609, 1615, 1618, Essex 1618,30 treason indictments, Mdx. 1603, forfeited estates 1603,31 charitable uses 1605,32 gaol delivery, London 1605-11,33 musters, Mdx. 1608, 1616,34 subsidy 1608, 1621-2,35 inquiry, London and Surr. 1608,36 aid, Mdx. 1609,37 swans, Thames valley 1609, New River, Herts. and Mdx. 1610,38 annoyances, Surr. 1611, Mdx. 1613, highway repairs, Essex 1622.39

Member, Spanish Co. 1604,40 Somers Is. Co. 1612-14; cttee. Virg. Co. 1606.41


According to the memorial inscription which Waad drafted for his father Armagil, his family originated in Yorkshire. Since both men obtained their own grants of arms, they were probably of comparatively humble stock. Armagil attracted early attention with a voyage to America, and served as a clerk of the Privy Council under Henry VIII and Edward VI. Employed by Elizabeth I as a diplomatic agent, he also helped to muster troops for the 1562 intervention in France. He died in 1568, leaving Waad a small estate in Buckinghamshire, Kent and Middlesex, including the lease of Belsize House, Hampstead.42 Waad himself, who relied heavily on Cecil patronage throughout much of his career, travelled extensively on the Continent between the mid-1570s and 1587, initially gathering information for Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham†, and then graduating to formal diplomatic missions.43 As a clerk of the Council from 1584, he continued to act vigorously in defence of the Elizabethan regime, and played a significant role in foiling the Babington and Lopez plots.44 A committed Protestant, Waad was known for his dogged pursuit of Catholics, especially priests, whose activities he monitored through his intelligence network.45 In the latter stages of the reign he became heavily involved in mustering and supplying troops in Ireland and the Low Countries.46 He sat in three Elizabethan parliaments, in 1601 as a nominee of Sir Robert Cecil†.47

At the outset of James’s reign, Waad was confirmed in his Privy Council role and, like the other clerks, received a knighthood.48 Despite his advancing years, he took an active part in investigating the Bye and Main plots in 1603, though apparently not to the extent of forging confessions, as the 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke†) alleged.49 In the following year, with Cecil’s help, Waad secured grants of duchy of Lancaster lands worth at least £60 p.a.50 Nevertheless, by the spring of 1605 his standing at Court was in marked decline. Samuel Calvert thought him to be ‘almost in the predicament of other old servants, that are in a manner rather neglected, than in the least measure countenanced’.51

This situation was transformed shortly afterwards by the death of Sir George Hervey*, the lieutenant of the Tower of London. In August 1605 Cecil obtained the lieutenancy for Waad, and then in October nominated him for a parliamentary seat at West Looe, also vacant since Hervey’s death, after an abortive bid to place him at Bere Alston.52 The discovery of the Gunpowder Plot both postponed Waad’s parliamentary duties, and presented him with his first major emergency as lieutenant. Although he failed to prevent the death from natural causes of one of his inmates, the conspirator Francis Tresham, he made considerable efforts to extract information from Guy Fawkes, and was especially assiduous in investigating Henry Garnet, the Jesuit implicated in the Plot.53 Indeed, these events confirmed Waad’s worst suspicions about the Catholic threat. He had been monitoring subversive pamphlets and rumoured conspiracies even before the Plot was revealed, and during the next few years he continued to search out Jesuits and seminary priests.54

Appropriately, Waad’s first nomination in the 1605-6 session of Parliament was to a committee appointed to prepare for a conference with the Lords on recusancy (3 February). Three days later he was included in a select committee to consider measures to address the threat posed by English soldiers fighting for Spain in the Netherlands. On 30 Apr. he was also named to the committee for the Gunpowder plotters’ attainder bill. His position at the Tower was reflected in his inclusion on a bill committee concerned with counterfeiting, since he was responsible for guarding the Mint (28 February). Moreover, he was appointed on 10 Apr. to search for records at the Tower. As a member of High Commission, he was an obvious choice to attend a conference on church courts (10 Apr.), while his Privy Council role may explain his nomination to the bill committee concerned with William Davison’s† King’s Bench clerkship (20 March). It is unclear why he was named on 6 Feb. to the committee stage of a road improvements bill.55

The third parliamentary session saw Waad’s duties increase. Appointed to the committee for privileges, he was nominated on 23 Mar. 1607 to consider how business might be conducted in the Speaker’s absence, and on 19 June to locate references in the Commons Journal to the privileges of the House. He was also named to the select committee for handling the Members’ collection (9 June).56 As lieutenant of the Tower he was instructed by the House first to confine and then release Sir Christopher Piggott*, who had offended the king by his remarks about the Scots (16 and 28 February). Waad’s prominence in London explains his inclusion in bill committees concerned with buildings around the capital, the relief of poor London curriers, and grants to the City’s companies and corporation (21 Nov. 1606, 8 Dec., 30 Apr. 1607, 4 May). A nomination on 28 Feb. to help consider a petition about Spanish ill-treatment of London merchants neatly combined two of his main pre-occupations.57 Waad’s government role probably encouraged his appointment on 29 Nov. 1606 to a committee to prepare for a conference about the Union, and on 13 Dec. to a legislative committee concerned with a Crown grant to Sir Roger Aston*. His remaining committee nominations covered the foundation of a Gloucestershire school, drunkenness, bastardy, and the estates of the Evelyn and Selby families (26 Nov., 8 Dec., 28 Feb. 1607, 30 Apr., 7 May).58

In the fourth session, Waad’s role at the Tower once again coloured his committee appointments. Four times he was dispatched there to consult parliamentary records (30 Apr., 1 May, 16 June and 10 July 1610), while four of the legislative committees to which he was named dealt with trading or court jurisdictions in the London area (20 and 23 Feb., 29 Mar. and 19 April).59 As in the previous session, Waad was nominated to help to arrange distribution of the Members’ collection (18 July). His membership of the House also brought with it personal benefits, as he was twice awarded parliamentary privilege, once on 8 May in relation to a lawsuit, and again ten days later for one of his servants.60 On 5 July he was appointed to examine allegations of soft treatment of recusants, a situation which he would scarcely have condoned when he had only recently secured a grant of the forfeited possessions of any Catholics whom he helped to convict. Waad was heavily involved in the Commons’ efforts to punish Sir Stephen Procter, who had been abusing government commissions for personal gain (8 Mar., 15 May and 19 July), though he was also named to a bill committee which dealt with vexatious suits against magistrates.61 His remaining committee nominations covered bills ranging from the confirmation of Magna Carta (3 Mar.) and an elucidation of the poor law (21 Apr.), through the regulation of roads, alehouses and private contracts (30 and 31 Mar., 19 Apr.), to non-residence of provosts, bastardy, and the Pleydall family’s estates (16 Apr., 16 May and 14 June). No record survives of his activities during the fifth session.62

Waad’s financial position during the time he sat in Parliament is difficult to establish. He must have been fairly wealthy to become one of the first directors of the newly founded Virginia Company in 1606, even allowing for his contacts within government. This was no less true six years later, when he joined the consortium which purchased the Somers Islands from the Virginia Company.63 In the meantime, however, he assiduously pursued the arrears owing to him for his task of supplying troops to Ireland, and in 1607 complained to Cecil that his expenses as lieutenant were outstripping his income.64 It was doubtless with some hope of personal profit that, around this time, Waad became involved in managing the earl of Northampton’s farm of the imposition on starch, though he seems to have been less active in this business than some of his fellow commissioners.65

Waad’s management of the Tower was brought seriously into question by the embarrassing escape of William Seymour* in June 1611. The king alleged that the fortress was ‘used now more like a house of hospitality and entertainment of company than of restraint’, and the Council warned that the regime there must be tightened up, not least because Arbella Stuart was shortly to be confined to the Tower in place of her husband.66 However, these criticisms of Waad’s performance took no account of the fact that the lieutenant had to strike a difficult balance. Some of his more high-profile prisoners, such as (Sir) Walter Ralegh†, were liable to cause him trouble if dissatisfied with their treatment, and indeed he was overruled when he tried to prevent the 9th earl of Northumberland from bringing in his own food supplies. When he had first queried how he was expected to handle such notables in 1605, the Council itself admitted that James I permitted a more relaxed regime than had his predecessors. Waad did make some efforts to reduce unauthorized access to the Tower, and indeed found himself in trouble in 1607 for obstructing an Admiralty judge who tried to summon a prisoner before him without first obtaining clearance from the Council. Nevertheless, the allegations of laxness returned to haunt him in 1613.67

On 21 Apr. that year, Sir Thomas Overbury was sent to the Tower, to be kept a close prisoner. About a week later Waad heard reports that he was to be replaced as lieutenant, and on 6 May he was summoned before the Council and summarily dismissed on the grounds of ‘more loose government and liberty given to the prisoners than was used in the queen’s time’, especially with regard to Overbury. The Tower warders were informed that the king was merely relieving the burden on an aged servant, but rumours immediately swept London that Waad had committed some serious offence, such as theft from Lady Arbella.68 Conscious of his disgrace, Waad disposed of his Council clerkship to Sir Francis Cottington* shortly afterwards, although he continued to fulfil his role in military administration.69 By early 1615 he was investigating the management of a glass patent at the Council’s request, and his conduct as lieutenant was in a manner vindicated by the Overbury murder inquiry later that year. Waad cooperated fully with this investigation, asserting with some justification that he had been removed from office because the strict watch which he kept on Overbury was protecting the fallen favourite from his enemies.70

Although as late as 1622 the Council was calling on his services in minor matters, Waad seems to have retired during his final years to his estate in Essex, which he had acquired through his first marriage and where he built a house called Battles Hall.71 His will, drawn up on 1 Apr. 1618, lists a number of properties in London, Middlesex, and Essex, besides his duchy of Lancaster lands. Despite this evidence of worldly success, he was anxious about the future welfare of his wife and children, ‘who are entering into a troubled sea of this latter age ... full of all vexations and unfaithful dealing, of all vice and treachery’. His heir was his only surviving son, a minor, whom he wished to be brought up ‘in the fear of God and in learning’. Waad requested a simple funeral at Manuden in the event that he died at Battles Hall, which he did in October 1623 at the advanced age of 77. He was the last of his immediate family to sit in Parliament.72

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Waad was aged 77 in 1623: P. Morant, Hist. and Antiqs. of Essex, ii. 620.
  • 2. Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 33; PROB 11/25, f. 278; 11/28, f. 154r-v.
  • 3. GI Admiss.
  • 4. Bp. of London Mar. Lics. 1520-1610 ed. G.J. Armytage (Harl. Soc. xxv), 145; Mdx. Peds. 33; GL, ms 7673/1; Morant, ii. 620; GI Admiss.
  • 5. IGI Essex; PROB 11/142, ff. 390-1. The statements in HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 560 and Oxford DNB, lvi. 628 that Anne was the da. of Sir Humphrey Browne appear to be unfounded.
  • 6. Morant, ii. 620.
  • 7. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 109.
  • 8. Morant, ii. 620.
  • 9. CSP For. 1575-7, p. 475.
  • 10. HMC Ancaster, 15.
  • 11. CSP For. 1583, p. 397.
  • 12. Ibid. 1584-5, pp. 207, 348; 1586-8, p. 189.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 262.
  • 14. C66/1245.
  • 15. C66/1417; 66/1435.
  • 16. APC, 1599-1600, p. 667; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 382.
  • 17. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 359.
  • 18. HMC Var. i. 69, 90.
  • 19. HMC 8th Rep. 87; APC, 1613-14, p. 11.
  • 20. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1623-5, p. 537.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 390, 419, 441, 470, 536.
  • 22. Hatfield House, ms 278; C66/1898; 66/2285; C231/4, ff. 14, 51.
  • 23. C66/1446.
  • 24. C231/1, f. 59v.
  • 25. C181/1, f. 11; 181/2, f. 178v; 181/3, ff. 21v, 102v.
  • 26. C181/1, f. 13v; 181/2, ff. 177v, 218v; 181/3, f. 100v.
  • 27. C181/1, f. 93v; 181/2, f. 180.
  • 28. C66/1541; C181/1, f. 88; 181/2, ff. 19v, 128; 181/3, f. 18v.
  • 29. C181/1, f. 115; 181/2, ff. 19v, 153.
  • 30. C181/2, ff. 50, 90, 229v, 317, 318.
  • 31. C181/1, ff. 66v, 72v.
  • 32. C93/2/15.
  • 33. C181/1, f. 127; 181/2, f. 157v.
  • 34. Add. 11402, f. 142; APC, 1615-16, p. 692.
  • 35. SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1.
  • 36. C181/2, f. 70.
  • 37. E179/283.
  • 38. C181/2, ff. 89, 126v.
  • 39. C181/2, ff. 142, 199; 181/3, f. 68v.
  • 40. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 395.
  • 41. A. Brown, Genesis of US, 594, 748, 1040.
  • 42. Morant, ii. 620; Mdx. Peds. 33; HP Commons, 1509-58, iii. 532; PROB 11/52, f. 38.
  • 43. HMC Hatfield, ii. 254, 313; xvii. 368; CSP For. 1575-7, p. 356; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 12.
  • 44. HMC Rutland, i. 204-5; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 428.
  • 45. HMC Hodgkin, 270-1; HMC Rutland, i. 369; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1580-1625, p. 437.
  • 46. HMC Rutland, i. 358; HMC Var. i. 69-70; CSP Carew, 1601-3, p. 373.
  • 47. HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 560.
  • 48. APC, 1601-4, p. 497; Shaw, ii. 109.
  • 49. HMC 7th Rep. 591; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 27, 35, 38; HMC Hatfield, xv. 228; Ct. of Jas. I ed. G. Goodman, i. 67.
  • 50. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 31, 64, 91; C66/1648.
  • 51. Winwood’s Memorials, ii. 54, 57.
  • 52. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 368, 445; HMC 8th Rep. i. 87.
  • 53. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 479, 553; xviii. 97, 138; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 239, 246-7, 269, 273, 296, 306, 308-9.
  • 54. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 101, 362-3; xviii. 210; xxi. 100; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 515; HMC Downshire, ii. 367; Lansd. 153, f. 71.
  • 55. CJ, i. 263a, 264a-b, 275b, 287b, 296a-b, 303a.
  • 56. Ibid. 354a, 381b, 385b.
  • 57. Ibid. 318a, 328b, 336a, 344b, 365a, 368b.
  • 58. Ibid. 325a, 326b, 328b, 330b, 344a, 365a, 370b.
  • 59. Ibid. 397b, 399a, 416a, 419a, 422b, 423a, 440a, 447b; Lansd. 486, ff. 138v-9.
  • 60. CJ, i. 426a, 429a, 451b.
  • 61. Ibid. 408a, 415b, 428b, 446b, 452b; C66/1826/73.
  • 62. CJ, i. 404b, 416b, 417a, 418b, 419a-b, 429a, 438b.
  • 63. Brown, 594, 1040.
  • 64. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1623-5, p. 537; HMC Hatfield, xix. 81.
  • 65. HMC Sackville, i. 155; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 419; A.F. Upton, Sir Arthur Ingram, 19-20.
  • 66. HMC 8th Rep. 88; CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 42, 53.
  • 67. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 377-9, 443, 548; xviii. 244; xix. 373; HMC 6th Rep. 229; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 452.
  • 68. SP14/81/84; 14/84/10; HMC Downshire, iv. 105; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 183.
  • 69. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 198; HMC Downshire, iv. 240; APC, 1613-14, pp. 449, 478, 525.
  • 70. APC, 1615-16, pp. 16, 95; SP14/81/84; CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 314, 323, 336; S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. 1603-42, ii. 179.
  • 71. APC, 1621-3, p. 176; Morant, ii. 620.
  • 72. PROB 11/142, ff. 390-2; Morant, ii. 620.