Sir Edwin Sandys, Kt., MP

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Edwin Sandys, Kt., MP

Birthplace: Hawkshead, Furnesse Fells, Lancashire, England
Death: Died in Kent, England
Place of Burial: Northbourne, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York and Cicely Sandys (Wilford)
Husband of Margaret Sandys; Anne Sandys; Elizabeth Sandys and Catherine Sandys
Father of Anne Sandys; Elizabeth Wilsford; Henry Sandys, MP; Mary Spencer; Richard Sandys of Downe Hall and 10 others
Brother of Sir Samuel Sandys, MP; Sir Miles Sandys, MP, 1st Baronet of Wilberton; William Sandys; Margaret Sandys; Thomas Sandys and 3 others
Half brother of Child Sands and James Sands

Occupation: Sir Knight
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir Edwin Sandys, Kt., MP

Sir Edwin Sandys (pronounced "Sands") was an English statesman and one of the founders of the proprietary Virginia Company of London, which in 1607 established the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States in the colony of Virginia, based at Jamestown. Edwin Sandys was one of the men instrumental in establishing the first representative assembly in the new world at Jamestown by issuing a new charter calling for its establishment. In addition, he assisted the Pilgrims in establishing their colony at Plymouth Massachusetts by lending them 300 pounds without interest.

In addition to seeking profits for the company's investors, history records that his goal was a permanent colony which would enlarge English territory, relieve the nation's overpopulation, and expand the market for English goods. He never traveled to Virginia, but worked tirelessly in England to support the effort. Although the Virginia Company ultimately failed financially by 1624, Sandys' other visions for the Colony prevailed. It eventually grew and prospered until achieving independence late in the 18th century following the American Revolutionary War.


Born in Worcestershire, Sandys was the second son of Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, and his wife Cecily Wilford. He received his education at Merchant Taylor's School, which he entered in 1571, and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (from 1577). He graduated B.A. in 1579 and B.C.L. in 1589. In 1582 his father gave him the prebend of Wetang in York Minster, but he never took orders. He was entered in the Middle Temple in 1589. At Oxford his tutor had been Richard Hooker, author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, whose life-long friend and executor Sandys became. Sandys is said to have had a large share in securing the Mastership of the Temple Church in London for Hooker.

From 1593 to 1599 Sandys traveled abroad. When in Venice he became closely connected with Fra Paolo Sarpi, who helped him in the composition of the treatise on the religious state of Europe, known at the Europae Speculum which revealed a remarkably tolerant attitude toward Roman Catholics for an Englishman of that period. In 1605 this treatise was printed from a stolen copy under the title A Relation of the State of Religion in Europe. Sandys procured the suppression of this edition, but the book was reprinted at The Hague in 1629.

In 1599 Sandys resigned his prebend and entered active politics. He had already been a Member of Parliament for Andover in 1586 and for Plympton in 1589. After 1599, in view of the approaching death of Queen Elizabeth I, he paid his court to King James VI of Scotland, and on James accession to the throne of England in 1603 Sandys received a knighthood. He sat in James' first parliament as member for Stockbridge, and distinguished himself as one of the assailants of the great monopolies. He endeavoured to secure to all prisoners the right of employing counsel, a proposal which was resisted by some lawyers as subversive of the administration of the law. In 1613 he became the object of royal displeasure when he set forth the principle that there were constitutional limits to the power of both king and people.

Sandys had been connected with the East India Company before 1614, and took an active part in its affairs until 1629. His most memorable services were, however, rendered to the Virginia Company of London, to which he became treasurer in 1619. He promoted and supported the policy which enabled the colony to survive the disasters of its early days. As leader of the liberal faction of the company, Sandys was responsible for many of the progressive features that characterized the last years of the company's control over Virginia, including the introduction of representative government in the first house of burgesses (1619) despite opposition from the king. The king prevented his reelction as treasurer an 1620 and was imprisoned in 1621 as a suspected plotter to establish a Puritan state with republican government in America. He nevertheless remained a leading influence in the Company until it was dissolved in 1624 and Virginia became a crown colony. He was a supporter of indentured servitude, which enabled many plantations to thrive. Sir Edwin may be responsible for the first introduction of black slaves to America circa 1619. Sandys also strongly supported the headright system, for his goal was a permanent colony which would enlarge English territory, relieve the nation's overpopulation, and expand the market for English goods. Also accredited to Sandys is an increase in women sent to the colonies, for the purpose of encouraging men to marry and start families, which ostensibly would motivate them to work harder. Sandys sat in the later parliaments of James I as member for Sandwich in 1621, and for Kent in 1624. His tendencies were towards opposition, and he was suspected of hostility to the court; but he disarmed the anger of the king by professions of obedience. He was member for Penryn in the first parliament of Charles I in 1625.

He is buried in Northbourne Church in Kent with his last wife Katherine the daughter of Sir Richard Bulkeley of Anglesey.



'Edwin SANDYS (Sir Knight)

  • 'Born: 9 Dec 1561, Worcestershire, England
  • 'Died: Oct 1629
  • 'Buried: Northbourne Church, England
  • Notes: See his Biography.
  • Father: Edwin SANDYS (Archbishop of York)
  • Mother: Cecily WILFORD
  • 'Married 1: Margaret EVELEIGH (d. Jul 1588) (dau. of John Eveleigh of Devonshire)
  • Children:
    • 1. Margaret SANDYS
  • 'Married 2: Anne SOUTHCOTT (d. 1593) (dau. of Thomas Southcott) ABT 1592
  • 'Married 3: Elizabeth NEVINSON (dau. of Thomas Nevinson of Eastrey) ABT 1601
  • Children:
    • 2. Anne SANDYS
  • 'Married 4: Catherine BULKELEY (b. 1583 - d. AFT 1629) (dau. of Richard Bulkeley of Beaumaris, Knight and Mary Borough) BEF Jun 1605
  • Children:
    • 3. Henry SANDYS (b. 1605 - d. 1640) (m. Margaret Hammond)
    • 4. William SANDYS
    • 5. Edwin SANDYS (m. Catherine Champneys)
    • 6. Elizabeth SANDYS
    • 7. Mary SANDYS (b. 12 Sep 1607 - d. 26 Oct 1675) (m. 1 William Reade - m.2 Richard Spencer)
    • 8. Francis SANDYS
    • 9. Robert SANDYS
    • 10. Richard SANDYS of Downe Hall (b. 1608 - d. 1669) (m. Hester Aucher)
    • 11. Penelope SANDYS
    • 12. Thomas SANDYS (d. AFT 1629)
    • 13. Catherine SANDYS (m. Gerard Scrimshire of Aquelate)
    • 14. Frances SANDYS
    • 15. Son SANDYS (Sep 1620, a harrowing miscarriage)
  • From:


From:,_James_(DNB00) Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61 Wilford, James by Albert Frederick Pollard

  • [237] Sir Thomas Wilford or Wilsford (1530?–1604?), born about 1530, was son of Thomas Wilford by his second wife, Rose, daughter of William Whetenhall of Peckham. His sister Cecily was second wife of Archbishop Edwin Sandys [q. v.] He also was brought up as a soldier, and, after considerable service (see his petition in State Papers, Dom. Eliz. ccxxx. 114), was in 1585 in command of a company at Ostend. He was a strong advocate of English interference in the Netherlands, and several of his letters to his patron Walsingham are quoted by Motley (United Netherlands, i. 375, 376, 382, 384; cf. Leycester Corresp. pp. 40, 79, 302; Hatfield MSS. iv. 35, 264, v. 367). He was knighted by Willoughby in the Low Countries in 1588 (Metcalfe, p. 137). In September 1589 he was appointed marshal of the expedition to be despatched to France (Acts P. C. 1589–90, p. 415; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Addenda, 1580–1625, pp. 202–3). In the following month he was made lieutenant of Kent, and in 1590–1 was superintending the admiralty works in Dover Harbour. In 1593 he was governor of Camber Castle; on 17 March 1594–5 he was, on Puckering's introduction, admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn; and in July 1595 was commissioned (Rymer, xvi. 279) to exercise martial law in Kent, and to arrest and summarily execute vagrants and others—a commission with which ‘no other measure of Elizabeth's reign can be compared in point of violence and illegality’ (Hallam, Const. Hist. i. 241). On 5 April 1596 Essex appointed him colonel of the English force invading France to help Henry of Navarre, but in October 1597 he was again in England, surveying all the castles in the Downs; and in August 1599, on an alarm of a Spanish invasion, he was nominated sergeant-major of the force to be assembled to meet it. He died about 1604, probably at his manor, Hedding in Kent, having married Mary, only daughter of Edward Poynings, and leaving a son, Sir Thomas, who succeeded him and married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of 'Sir Edwin Sandys' [q. v.] He must be distinguished from three contemporary Thomas Wilfords or Wilsfords: one was master of the Merchant Taylors' Company (Clode, Early Hist. and Memorials, passim); another was for many years president of the company of traders to Spain and Portugal; and the third was a recusant whose name frequently occurs in the state papers and acts of the privy council.


Sir Edwin Sandys (1561–1629)

Contributed by Theodore K. Rabb

Sir Edwin Sandys, one of the founders of the Virginia Company, was an author and parliamentarian as well as a colonizer. The son and namesake of an Archbishop of York, Sandys served a brief diplomatic mission that led to travels through Europe which became the basis for A Relation of the State of Religion (1605), a survey of religion on the continent that focused on Catholicism. As a member of Parliament for more than three decades, Sandys was an influential and outspoken critic of King James I, as well as an important supporter of English colonization efforts in Bermuda and especially Virginia. Sandys likely helped reorganize the Virginia colony in 1609, transferring control from the king to a company-appointed governor. In 1618, he helped draw up the "Great Charter," which established the General Assembly, and in 1619 he was elected treasurer, the Virginia Company's top leadership position. He failed at diversifying Virginia's economy away from tobacco, but succeeded in a strong effort to promote emigration and bolster its population. A negotiated tobacco monopoly with England in 1622 eventually led to an investigation of the financially troubled Virginia Company and Sandys's leadership in particular. The king revoked the charter and in 1624 the company dissolved. Sandys died in Kent in 1629.

Sandys was born on December 9, 1561, in Worcestershire, England, the second son of Edwin Sandys, the future Archbishop of York (1576–1588), and his second wife, Cecily Wilford. After entering Merchant Taylor's School at the age of nine, young Edwin enrolled six years later at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He earned his B.A. in 1579 and his M.A. in 1583. Though he remained at Oxford, he earned no other degrees, and in 1589, after his first wife died in childbirth, he moved to London, where he joined the Middle Temple—one of the four Inns of Court that controlled access to the legal profession. He was elected to Parliament in 1589, and again in 1593, when, for the first time, there is a record of his making a minor contribution to the debates.

In 1596 Sandys was sent on a brief diplomatic mission to Germany, and for the next three years he traveled on the continent, gathering material for a book that he completed on his return: A Relation of the State of Religion. This was a survey of the various faiths he had encountered on the continent, focusing mainly on the strengths and weaknesses of Catholicism. The conclusion was probably the first comprehensive justification for peaceful coexistence in Reformation Europe. Though the book was suppressed by the Court of High Commission when it was published in 1605, over the next eighty years it went through fourteen editions and was translated into Italian, French, and Dutch.

In May 1603, Sandys was knighted by the new king, James I, and the following year he returned to Parliament. There, over more than two decades, he established himself as the most influential member of the House of Commons. His speeches were the main cause for the failure of the king's proposal to unite the English and Scottish crowns, and again and again his interventions caused his fellow members to question royal policies. In 1621 he was arrested and briefly confined to his home for his efforts, but he remained a major force as the quintessential "Commons-man" even thereafter.

His last years were a time of failing powers, but Sandys likely took consolation from a large family. He had lost three wives, and a number of children, but his fourth wife, who outlived him, gave birth twelve times, and more than half of her children survived to adulthood. Sandys himself died in October 1629, and was buried in the parish church near his home at Northbourne in Kent.

Major Work: A Relation of the State of Religion (1605)

Time Line

  • December 9, 1561 - Edwin Sandys is born in Worcestershire, England, the second son of Edwin Sandys, the Bishop of Worcester, and his second wife, Cecily Wilford.
  • 1571 - Edwin Sandys enters Merchant Taylor's School.
  • September 16, 1577 - Edwin Sandys enrolls at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
  • 1579 - Edwin Sandys earns a B.A. degree from Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
  • 1583 - Edwin Sandys earns an M.A. degree from Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
  • July 1588 - Edwin Sandys’s first wife and father die.
  • 1589 - Edwin Sandys is elected to Parliament.
  • February 1590 - Edwin Sandys, after moving to London, joins the Middle Temple to study law.
  • 1593 - Edwin Sandys is elected a second time to Parliament and, for the first time, he makes a minor contribution to the debates.
  • 1596-1599 - Edwin Sandys travels for three years on the continent, gathering material for a book.
  • July-October 1596 - Edwin Sandys is sent on a brief diplomatic mission to Germany.
  • May 11, 1603 - Edwin Sandys is knighted by the new king, James I.
  • 1604 - Sir Edwin Sandys is elected a third time to Parliament. Over more than two decades, he establishes himself as the most influential member of the House of Commons, often voicing opposition to James I.
  • 1605 - A Relation of the State of Religion, a survey of the various European faiths written by Edwin Sandys based on his experiences on the continent, is published.
  • March 9, 1607 - Sir Edwin Sandys, a member of the East India Company and of the Virginia Company, is named to the latter's council.
  • 1609 - Sir Edwin Sandys, a member of the Council of the Virginia Company and an outspoken opponent of James I, likely helps draw up the company's second charter, transferring control of the colony from the king to a governor appointed by the council.
  • 1612 - Sir Edwin Sandys helps to found the Somers Island Company, a venture to settle Bermuda.
  • 1616 - Sir Edwin Sandys is elected an assistant (essentially a director) of the Virginia Company.
  • 1617 - Sir Edwin Sandys leads the negotiations with the Leyden Puritans that results in the journey of the Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620.
  • 1618 - Sir Edwin Sandys expands his investments in Virginia, arranging for 310 settlers to join a shrinking population of only 400.
  • 1618 - Sir Edwin Sandys assists in drawing up, and King James I issues, the so-called Great Charter of 1618, which creates a representative assembly in Virginia.
  • April 28, 1619 - Sir Edwin Sandys takes over as treasurer (essentially chairman) of the Virginia Company of London.
  • 1620 - James I forbids the re-election of Sir Edwin Sandys as treasurer of the Virginia Company.
  • Summer 1621 - James I arrests Sir Edwin Sandys, one of the king's most vocal opponents in the House of Commons, and briefly confines him to his home.
  • 1622 - Sir Edwin Sandys negotiates a contract with the Lord Treasurer, Lionel Cranfield, that gives the Virginia Company a monopoly over tobacco imports.
  • 1623 - The Virginia Company's monopoly over tobacco imports, negotiated a year earlier by Sir Edwin Sandys, is dissolved.
  • May 1623 - The Privy Council launches an inquiry into the administration of the Virginia Company.
  • July 1623 - After an investigation, James I demands that the royal charter for the Virginia Company be revoked.
  • 1624 - Sir Edwin Sandys secures a tobacco monopoly for Virginia in Parliament.
  • May 1624 - After James I ordered its royal charter revoked a year earlier, formal legal proceedings finally strip the Virginia Company of its charter, and it dissolves.
  • October 1629 - Sir Edwin Sandys dies and is buried in the parish church near his home at Northbourne in Kent.

Categories: Literature Business and Industry Colonial History (ca. 1560–1763) Nonfiction

Further Reading

  • Craven, Wesley F. Dissolution of the Virginia Company: The Failure of a Colonial Experiment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1932.
  • Horn, James. A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America. New York: Basic Books, 2005.
  • Rabb, Theodore K. Jacobean Gentleman: Sir Edwin Sandys, 1561–1629. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.
  • Cite This Entry
    • APA Citation:Rabb, T. K. Sir Edwin Sandys (1561–1629). (2014, February 18). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from
    • MLA Citation:Rabb, Theodore K. "Sir Edwin Sandys (1561–1629)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.
  • First published: January 5, 2011 | Last modified: February 18, 2014

Contributed by Theodore K. Rabb, professor of history, emeritus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Sir Edwin Sandys, Kt., MP's Timeline

December 9, 1561
Hawkshead, Furnesse Fells, Lancashire, England
Age 23
Devenshire, Worcestershire, England
Age 24
Worcester, Worcestershire, England
September 12, 1607
Age 45
Age 45
Northbourne, Kent, England
Age 45
Age 46
Lancaster Mm, England
June 15, 1615
Age 53
Age 55
Age 58
Northbourne, Northbourne Manor, Kent, England