Elizabeth Killigrew

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Elizabeth Killigrew (Trewinnard)

Also Known As: "Old Lady Killigrew"
Birthplace: St. Erth, Cornwall, England
Death: 1582
St. Budock, Cornwall, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of James Trewynnard and Phillippa Trewynnard
Wife of John Killigrew
Mother of Peter Killigrew; Thomas Killigrew; Sir Henry Killigrew, Kt., MP; Jane Michell (Killigrew); Margaret Godolphin and 6 others
Sister of Philippa Trewynnard; William Trewynnard, MP and James Trewynnard, MP
Half sister of Mary Coffin; Joan Boscawen; Elizabeth Boscawen; Nicholas Boscawen; William Boscawen and 9 others

Occupation: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=rwfurtaw&id=I39005
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Elizabeth Killigrew

From her English Wikipedia page:

Elizabeth Trewinnard

  • Born Before 1525 - St Erth, Cornwall (most likely before 1514 - her son Henry was born circa 1528)
  • Died After 1582 - St Budock, Cornwall
  • Nationality English
  • Ethnicity Cornish
  • Known for pirate, aristocrat
  • Religion Anglican
  • Spouse(s) Sir John Killigrew
    • Children 10 (five sons and five daughters)
  • Parents James Trewynnard of Trewinnard & Philippa (unknown)

Elizabeth Trewinnard, Lady Killigrew (b. before 1525; died after 1582), was an aristocratic Cornish woman and an accused pirate during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. She was the wife of Sir John Killigrew of Arwenack, Cornwall. She and her husband received and stored stolen goods at their home, Arwenack House. In 1582, she was arrested and sentenced to death after she sent her servants to seize the cargo aboard a ship anchored in Falmouth harbour. Queen Elizabeth eventually pardoned her, and she was released from prison.

Elizabeth was also known as "Old Lady Killigrew".

Elizabeth was born on an unknown date in St Erth, Cornwall, the second eldest daughter of James Trewinnard (1490-1523), of St Erth, and Philippa Carminow (died 9 August 1563).

She married Sir John Killigrew (died 1567) of Arwenack (Arwenack was sited within the present town of Falmouth which was not founded until 1613), by whom she had a total of ten children:

  • 1. Sir John Killigrew MP (died 5 March 1584), married Mary Wolverston (1540-before 1571), by whom he had issue.
  • 2. Peter Killigrew, married Ellen Higgins
  • 3. Thomas Killigrew
  • 4. Sir Henry Killigrew, married firstly Katherine Cooke, by whom he had issue; married secondly, Jael de Peigne, by whom he had issue.
  • 5. Sir William Killigrew, married Margery Saunders, by whom he had issue
  • 6. Jane Killigrew, married John Michell
  • 7. Anne or Amy Killigrew
  • 8. Grace Killigrew, married John Tretherffe
  • 9. Alice Killigrew, married Richard Bonython
  • 10. Margaret Killigrew, married Sir Francis Godolphin MP, Governor of the Scilly Isles, by whom she had issue.


In the 1540s, Pendennis Castle was built for King Henry VIII on Sir John's lands and the latter became the first hereditary captain of the castle which meant he controlled all of the shipping in the Falmouth area; however, he used his privileged position to prey on the cargoes of the ships that came within his reach. In 1567, Arwenack House was fortified as a stronghold and used to store merchandise stolen in raids on ships. Elizabeth and her husband paid large fees to harbour and city officials, bribing them to look the other way when carrying out their illicit activities. Elizabeth played an active role in the piracy, and apparently enjoyed the adventure more than her husband.[1]

Historian Neville Williams described Elizabeth as a "tough and unprincipled businesswoman" who managed Arwenack House and oversaw the burial of treasure in her garden.[2]

Her husband died in 1567.

In 1582, Elizabeth, by that time in her 60s, heard a rumour that there was treasure aboard the Hanseatic ship Marie of San Sebastian anchored in Falmouth harbour, and she sent her servants to seize the ship and search the cargo. Despite rumours to the contrary, it's not likely she ever personally went on a raid; however she was arrested for having received and fenced stolen goods after the seizure of Marie of San Sebastian where a factor was murdered when the ship was boarded by her raiding party.[2] Her sons, Sir John, Peter, and Thomas, her grandson John, as well as her daughter-in-law, Mary Wolverston, and her grandson's wife, Dorothy Monk, were also charged with having engaged in acts of piracy. Elizabeth was brought to trial and sentenced to death, although she eventually received a pardon from Queen Elizabeth.[3] Two of Elizabeth's sons, Sir Henry and Sir William, secured her release from prison after having paid substantial bribes.


Elizabeth died on an unknown date in the parish of St Budock, Cornwall.

One of her many descendants, Elizabeth Killigrew, became a mistress of King Charles II of England, to whom she bore a daughter in 1650. Other notable descendants were dramatist Thomas Killigrew, poet Sidney Godolphin, Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, Hugh Boscawen and Edward Boscawen.


  • 1. Anna Wallace Sharp, Daring Pirate Women, Google Books, retrieved 24-12-09 pp. 44-45
  • 2. Kathy Lynn Emerson, A Who's Who of Tudor Women
  • 3.Anna Wallace Sharp, Daring Pirate Women, Google Books, retrieved 24-12-09 p. 47

Kathy Lynn Emerson, A Who's Who of Tudor Women


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Elizabeth Killigrew's Timeline

St. Erth, Cornwall, England
Age 11
Falmouth, Cornwall, UK
Age 13
Age 14
Age 14
Lothbury, Cornwall, England
Age 21
Stockland, Dorset, Devon, United Kingdom
Age 26
Age 28
Arweneck, Cornwall, England
Age 36
Age 41