Sir Peter Wentworth, Sr., Kt.

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Peter Wentworth, Sr.

Birthdate: (67)
Birthplace: Lillingston Lovell, Buckinghamshire, England
Death: November 10, 1596 (67)
Tower of London, City of London, Middlesex, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Nicholas Wentworth, Sr. and Lady Jane Wentworth
Husband of Elizabeth Wentworth and Lettice Wentworth
Father of Frances Strickland; Lady Mary Boys; Nicholas Wentworth; Walter Wentworth; Thomas Wentworth, MP and 1 other
Brother of Joan Gates; Henry Wentworth; Francis Wentworth; Clara Boys; Paul Wentworth and 3 others

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About Sir Peter Wentworth, Sr., Kt.

Peter Wentworth From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []

Sir Peter Wentworth (1529–1596) was a prominent Puritan leader in the Parliament of England. He was the elder brother of Paul Wentworth, and first entered as member for Barnstaple in 1571. He later sat for the Cornish borough of Tregony in 1572, and for the town of Northampton in the parliaments of 1586–7, 1589, and 1593.[1]

Wentworth was perhaps the chief critic of Queen Elizabeth I, and Wentworth's 1576 Parliament address has been regarded as the sign of a new era in English Parliament politicking.[2] Recorded speeches and parliament sessions, jotted in the diaries of MPs such as Thomas Cromwell, began to proliferate around this time, as public interest embraced political affairs and issues such as freedom of speech took root in parliamentary politics.[2] For these reasons, Wentworth is often regarded as the first celebrated English parliamentarian.

Early life

He was the son of Sir Nicholas Wentworth of Lillingstone Lovell, chief porter of Calais and was trained for the law in Lincoln's Inn.

He inherited the estate at Lillingstone Lovell on the death of his father in 1557.


He entered Parliament as the MP for Barnstaple in 1571 and Tregony in 1572.

Wentworth firmly supported the liberties of Parliament against encroachments of the royal prerogative, about which he delivered a memorable speech on 8 February 1576. The speech was interrupted before its conclusion due to Wentworth's provocative claims, and officials imprisoned him in the Tower of London. Below are the words that concluded the spoken part of Wentworth's speech.

"Amongst other, Mr. Speaker, two things do great hurt in this place, of the which I do mean to speak: the one is a rumour which runneth about the house and this it is, "Take heed what you do, the queen's majesty liketh not such a matter. Whosoever prefereth it, she will be offended with him". Or the contrary, "Her majesty liketh of such a matter. Whosoever speaketh against it, she will be much offended with him". The other: sometimes a message is brought into the house, either of commanding or inhibiting, very injurious to the freedom of speech and consultation. I would to God, Mr. Speaker, that these two were buried in hell, I mean rumours and messages, for wicked they undoubtedly are. The reason is, the devil was the first author of them, from whom proceedeth nothing but wickedness..."[3]

It was here that Wentworth was interrupted, and the house decided "that he should be presently committed to the serjeant's ward as prisoner, and so remaining should be examined upon his said speech for the extenuating of his fault therein".[4] The unspoken remainder of Wentworth's was preserved from the draft, and its rhetoric and content continue on much in the same manner until its ending.[5] Eventually, Wentworth was released from the Tower after his incarceration there, and readmitted to Parliament. In 1586, 1589 and 1593 he was elected to represent Northampton.[6]

In February 1587, Sir Anthony Cope (1548–1614) presented to the Speaker a bill abrogating the existing ecclesiastical law, together with a Puritan revision of the Book of Common Prayer, and Wentworth supported him by bringing forward certain articles touching the liberties of the House of Commons; Cope and Wentworth were both committed to the Tower for interference with Elizabeth I's ecclesiastical prerogative.

In 1593, Wentworth again suffered imprisonment for presenting a petition on the subject of the royal succession; and he did not regain his freedom, for he died in the Tower on 10 November 1596. While in the Tower he wrote A Pithie Exhortation to her Majesty for establishing her Successor to the Crown, a famous treatise preserved in the British Library.


Peter Wentworth was twice married; his first wife Laetitia Lune, by whom he had no children, was the daughter of Sir Ralph Lune and Maud Parr, Maud was a cousin of Catherine Parr, and his second was Elizabeth Walsingham, a sister of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's secretary of state. By whom he had his children, including a daughter: Frances Wentworth

His third son, Thomas Wentworth (c. 1568-1628), was an ardent and sometimes a violent opponent of royal prerogative in parliament, of which he became a member in 1604, continuing to represent the city of Oxford from that year until his death. He was called to the bar in 1594 and became recorder of Oxford in 1607. Another son, Walter Wentworth, was also a Member of Parliament, representing Tavistock in 1601.[7]


Graves, Michael A. R. Elizabethan Parliaments: 1559–1601. London and New York: Longman, 1987. ISBN 0-582-35516-8. Neale, J. E. “Peter Wentworth.” The English Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 153. (Jan., 1924), pp. 36–54.


  1. David Dean, "Wentworth, Peter (1524-97), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, January 2008
  2. J. E. Neale, “Peter Wentworth”, The English Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 153. (Jan., 1924), 36.
  3. Peter Wentworth's speech, as transcribed from lost documents by Sir Simonds D'Ewes. Graves, 105.
  4. D'Ewes, quoted by Graves, 105.
  5. See Proceedings in the Parliaments of Elizabeth I, 1558-1581 [vol. I], ed. T.E. Hartley (Leicester: University of Leicester Press, 1981), 422.
  6. "WENTWORTH, Peter (1524-1597) of Lillingstone Lovell, Oxon.". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2011-12-12.


Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press


  • The Wentworth genealogy: English and American (1878) Vol. 1
  • (15) Henry Wentworth, of Codham Hall, in Wethersfield, co. Essex, married, first, Elizabeth, daughter and sole heir of Henry Howard, second son of Sir John Howard; and, secondly, Jane, daughter and heir of Henry Fitz Simon. She survived her husband and remarried Sir Richard Fitz Lewes, Kt., of West Horndon, do. Essex, whose Will she proved 24 November 1529. By his second wife Henry Wentworth had issue only one son, Nicholas, ancestor of the Wentworths of counties Oxford, Bucks, Northampton, Warwick, and Lincoln, of whom hereafter. The said Henry Wentworth died 22 March 1482-3, having had issue by his first wife as follows: --
  • Before proceeding with the main line, we give the descendants of the son by the second wife, just mentioned, viz.--
    • (16) Nicholas Wentworth, who became Sir Nicholas, being knighted by King Henry VIII in person during his expedition to Boulogne, in August 1544. For many years he was "Chief Porter of Calais," then an important government post. He possessed numerous estates in the counties of Oxford, Bucks, Northampton, Warwick, and Lincoln, but his chief residence was at Lillingstone Lovell, co. Oxford, which manor was given to him by the king in 1546, in exchange for certain lands in Northamptonshire. His Will, dated 7 February 1551-2, was proved 24 June 1557, and he probably died not long before the latter date. He married, before 1525, Jane, daughter of John Josselyn, Esq., of Newhall-Josselyn, co. Essex, and of Sabridgeworth, co. Herts, and sister of Sir Thomas Josselyn, Kt. She survived him, and was buried at Burnham, co. Bucks, 26 August 1659. Their issue were are follows: --
      • 1. Peter, of whom hereafter.
      • 2. Henry, who became a counsellor at law in London, and died in St. Sepulchre's parish 1 January 1613-14. By a first wife, whose name has not been ascertained, he had one daughter, Cicely, who married Francis Michell, of Theydon Garnon, co. Essex, and had issue. Henry Wentworth married, secondly, Anastacy, daughter and heir of William Hale, Esq., of Maldon, co. Essex. She survived her husband, dying 4 June 1634, without issue and was buried at Maldon aforesaid.
      • 3. Paul, who was of Burnham, co. Bucks. He was chosen M. P. 1571, and was leader of the opposition party in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Hallam calls him "the most undaunted asserter of civil liberty in this reign." He and his brother Peter were repeatedly sent to the Tower. He died 13 January 1593-4, in his 60th year, and was buried at Burnham. He married there, 26 November 1653, Helen, daughter of Richard Agmondesham, Esq., of Heston, co. Middlesex, and widow of William Tyllesley, Esq., of Burnham aforesaid. Her Will, dated 24 August, was proved 8 November 1615. They had issue:-
      • 4. Francis, whom his father in his Will directed should become a priest. There is no evidence that he did so; and he was buried at Burnham 4 September 1564.
      • 5. Clare, only daughter, who married, before her father's death, Edward Boys, Esq., of Fredville, in Nonington, co. Kent, sheriff of that county in 1577. She died before 1586, and he remarried twice, dying 15 February 1598-9, aged 71.
      • The eldest son and heir
      • (17) Peter Wentworth, Esq., of Lillingstone Darrell, co. Bucks (adjoining Lillingstone Lovell, co. Oxford), was M. P. for Tamworth, and leader, with his brother Paul, of the Puritan party in the time of Elizabeth; was twenty-eight years in Parliament, and was six times committed to the Tower. He died in 1600. He married, first, Lettice, daughter of Sir Ralph Lane, Kt., of Horton, co. Northampton, by whom he had no issue; and secondly, Elizabeth, sister of Sir Francis Walsingham, Kt. (the well-known Principal Secretary of State under Queen Elizabeth), by whom he had issue, as follows: --
        • 1. Nicholas, of whom hereafter.
        • 2. Walter Wentworth, Esq., of Catle Bytham, co. Lincoln, where he was buried 13 October 1627. He married, first, Mary, daughter of Griffith Hampden, Esq. She was buried at St. Margaret's, Lothbury, London, 3 May 1614. He married, secondly, the widow of __ Russell, who survived him, but by whom he had no issue. By his first wife he had a daughter Mary, who was living in 1637, the wife of John Browne; and Samuel, only son, who was admitted to Gray's Inn, London, 14 March 1627-8, and who died, apparently unmarried and certainly without issue. His Will, dated the 1st, was proved 9 January 1637-8.
        • 3. Thomas Wentworth, Esq., who became a Barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and was sometime Recorder of the City of Oxford. He died before 16 April 1628, but his Will (without date) was not proved until 9 December 1629. He married the daughter and co-heir of __ Keble (or Kebell), of co. Northampton, who died before him. They had issue as follows: --
        • 4. Frances, who married Walter Strickland, Esq., of Boynton, co. York. Their son William was crated a Baronet 31 July 1641. The Baronetcy still exists, although the last possessor of the title, in 1865, obtained the royal license to abandon the surname of Strickland, and assume that of Cholmley, and also to quarter the arms of Wentworth.
        • 5. Mary, who married, 15 September 1578, Sir Edward Boys, Kt., of Nonington, co. Kent. She was buried at Nonington, 17 October 1616. He remarried, and died 8 Januaary 1634-5.
        • 6. A daughter, who married __ Amies, of Shropshire.
  • ______________
  • The Wentworth genealogy, comprising the origin of the name, the family in England, and a particular account of Elder William Wentworth, the emigrant, and of his descendants (1870)
  • CHART - Henry Wentworth, of Codham Hall, Co. Essex; son of Sir Roger, as in Table G. = Jane Fitz Lewes; had only son, Nicholas
  • CHART - Sir Nicholas Wentworth, of Lillingston Lovel, Co. Oxford Will proved 1557 = Jane, daughter of John Josselyne.
  • children: Peter, Three sons and one daughter.
  • ------------------------
  • Political orations, from Wentworth to Macaulay ([1889]) Peter Wentworth Speech in behalf of the Liberties of Parliament. House of Commons, February 8, 1576
  • [This speech is the first and most important sign of the growing power of Parliament under the Tudor sovereigns. Wentworth was a prominent Puritan member, very determined and courageous, and in this speech he boldly attacks the Crown for encroachments on the privileges of the House of Commons. The House itself was frightened at the tone of its member, and sequestered him, appointing a committee of the privy councillors of the House to examine him. Wentworth declined their authority till assured that they sat as members--not as councillors. After a long examination, in which he compelled them to admit the truth of all he had urged, they reported to the House, who committed Wentworth to the Tower. Here he was confined for a month, when the Queen remitted her displeasure, the House released him, and he acknowledged his fault on his knees before the Speaker. Wentworth is an interesting figure as the pioneer of Pym, Eliot, and Hampden.]
  • ----------
  • Peter WENTWORTH (Sir Knight)
  • Born: 1529, Lillingstone, Dayrell, Buchinghamshire, England
  • Died: 10 Nov 1596, Tower of London, London, England
  • Buried: AFT 10 Nov 1596, Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London
  • Notes: See his Biography.
  • Father: Nicholas WENTWORTH (Sir Knight)
  • Mother: Jane JOSSELYN
  • Married 1: Laetitia LANE (dau. of Sir Ralph Lane and Maud Parr)
  • Married 2: Elizabeth WALSINGHAM
  • Children:
    • 1. Nicholas WENTWORTH
    • 2. Mary WENTWORTH
    • 3. Thomas WENTWORTH
    • 4. Frances WENTWORTH
    • 5. Walter WENTWORTH
    • 6. Son WENTWORTH
    • 7. Dau. WENTWORTH
    • 8. Dau. WENTWORTH
    • 9. Dau. WENTWORTH
  • From: WENTWORTH (Sir Knight)1
  • The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.
  • Born 1524, first son of Sir Nicholas Wentworth of Lillingstone Lovell, chief porter of Calais, by Jane, dau. of John Josselyn of Hyde Hall, Sawbridgeworth, Herts.; brother of Paul. Educated Lincoln Inn 1542. Married first Lettice, dau. of Sir Ralph Lane of Orlingbury, Northants. by Maud, dau. and coheiress of William, 1st Baron Parr of Horton; and secondly Elizabeth, dau. of William Walsingham of Footscray and Joyce Denny, sister of Sir Francis Walsingham, widow of Geoffrey Gates of Walton or Waltham, Essex; by whom he had four sons and five daughters. Suc. family 1557.
  • Wentworth's family setting was both impressive and significant. His grandfather was a younger son of the Wentworths of Nettlestead in Suffolk, a daughter of which house was mother of Jane Seymour and of her brother Protector Somerset. Peter's own first marriage allied him with Queen Catherine Parr and William Parr, Marquees of Northampton. His second marriage, to a sister of Sir Francis Walsingham, made him brother-in-law to Sir Walter Mildmay as well as Walsingham, and later linked him with Sir Phillip Sidney and Robert, Earl of Essex and, more distantly, with the Earl of Leicester. Moreover, through Elizabeth Walsingham's previous marriage to Geoffrey Gates a link was established with another puritan family, while her son by that marriage married a step-daughter of the puritan Thomas Wilson, secretary to Queen Elizabeth. There can be little doubt that Peter was reared in a radical religious atmosphere. His sister Clara married a prominent Kentish gentleman, Edward Boys, and in Mary's reign accompanied her husband into exile abroad, while his younger brother Paul was an ardent puritan, who sat in Parliament from 1559 to 1581 and played a notable part as a radical in the proceedings.
  • The principal seat of Wentworth's father was at Lillingstone Lovell, a few miles north of Buckingham, though then a detached piece of Oxfordshire, which Sir Nicholas had held only for eleven years (by exchange with the king for lands in Northamptonshire). He also held lands in Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Essex and Surrey. The Buckinghamshire lands were left to his son Paul and the Northamptonshire lands to younger sons, while Peter inherited Lillingstone Lovell. Little is known about Peter before he entered Parliament in 1571. He appears on the pardon roll of 1553 as late of Lillingstone Lovell, alias of Epping, in Essex. His name was added to the commission of the peace for Oxfordshire in 1559, but was removed before 1562. Perhaps the need for enthusiastic protestants in the first year of the new reign explains his appearance on the commission; but the isolation of Lillingstone Lovell from the rest of Oxford county hardly warranted locating a justice there, while Wentworth's excessive zeal cannot have appealed to the authorities.
  • In the light of his own later behaviour in Parliament, and of his younger brother's activities in 1566 (at least), it is curious that Wentworth remained out of the Commons until 1571. In 1593 he told how, 31 years before, he had been stirred to interest himself in politics ‘by God's good motion’, ‘by sundry grave and wise men unknown unto me’, and ‘by lamentable messages’ sent by unknown persons. At any rate he was returned to Parliament in 1571 for Barnstaple, probably through the influence of Arthur Bassett, or the latter's friend and patron, Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford. Wentworth almost certainly owed his return at Tregony in the following year to Bedford.
  • In his first Parliament Wentworth served on the committee of the bill to confirm the Articles of Religion, and was one of a delegation of six whom Archbishop Parker questioned in April 1571 about their exclusion of the non-doctrinal articles from the bill. Asked why they had omitted these, Wentworth answered, ‘Because ... we ... had no time to examine ... how they agreed with the word of God’. ‘What!’, exclaimed Parker, ‘surely you mistook the matter. You will refer yourselves wholly to us therein’. ‘No, by the faith I bear to God!’, answered Wentworth: ‘we will pass nothing before we understand what it is, for that were but to make you Popes. Make you Popes who list, for we will make you none’. It was a troublesome session, involving the temporary sequestration from the House of the puritan leader, William Strickland, and a stern, official reprimand for another radical, Robert Bell, who had dared to attack the exercise of the royal prerogative. On the eve of the Easter recess, Sir Humphrey Gilbert made a gratuitous attack on Bell's speech, which provoked Wentworth, 20 Apr, after the recess, to make the first of many speeches in defence of the liberties of the House: Gilbert's speech tended to no other end than to inculcate fear into those which should be free. He noted Gilbert's 'dis position to flatter and fawn upon the prince', comparing him to ' the chameleon which can change himself into all colours saving white ; even so ... this reporter can change himself into all fashions but honesty'. He requested care for the credit of the House, and for the maintenance of free speech (the only means of ordinary proceedings), and to preserve the liberties of the House, to reprove liars, inveighing greatly out of the scriptures and otherwise against liars ...
  • The Parliament of 1572, summoned after the Ridolfi plot, was concerned mainly with the problem of Mary Queen of Scots and with that of her fellow-culprit, the Duke of Norfolk, who stood condemned for treason. On 12 May 1572 Wentworth was placed on the committee which discussed the great cause with a committee of the Lords. He was very active, making several speeches in the House of Commons, calling time and again for the execution of Norfolk and passionately demanding the death of Mary, ‘the most notorious whore in all the world’. Thus on 16 May the Lords should join with the Commons in a motion to the Queen for her execution. In an elaborate figure of speech Mary was likened to Abinadab, the Duke to Abinadab's assistant, and Queen Elizabeth to Achab. On 24 May ‘It remaineth yet to be considered for our petition to the Queen for execution of the Duke’; on 28th the House should ‘forbear to deal in any other matter until this be determined, otherwise ... it will be said unto us justly, “O fool this night shall thy life be taken from thee”’. On 31st he ‘moveth for execution of the Duke, that order may be taken for the petition’. When a soothing message from the Queen prompted two Members to move that a delegation should convey their thanks to her, Wentworth opposed the motion, saying that he could give no thanks and urging the House to refuse to do anything more until the Duke of Norfolk was executed, thus cutting off half Mary's head. In the event the Duke was executed on Monday morning 2nd Jun before the House sat. Wentworth made only two further reported speeches in the session, 9 Jun on aliens, when he said, with insight, ‘that he had rather commit some folly in speech than do injury by silence’, and 11 Jun, on a recurrent complaint of the rank and file in the Commons that ‘the freedom of the House [was] taken away by tale tellers’.
  • Wentworth was not a man who excelled in the cut and thrust of debate. He was of the premeditative, deliberate type. In the interval between 1572 and the second session of that Parliament in 1576, he ruminated on his experience in two Parliaments, especially on the frustration of Members and the disciplinary methods of the government, incorporating these incidents in a draft speech which he realised would probably land him in prison. On the first day of the new session (8 Feb) he rose to astound and embarrass the House with his indictment, written in his strikingly melodious prose: ‘Mr. Speaker, I find written in a little volume these words ... “Sweet indeed is the name of liberty and the thing itself a value beyond all inestimable treasure”’. The speech is deservedly famous among English parliamentary orations. Wentworth claimed for freedom of speech in Parliament a fundamental, entrenched place in the constitution, immune from control by the Crown: a novel and revolutionary conception, without historical justification:
  • ... in this House which is termed a place of free speech there is nothing so necessary for the preservation of the prince and state as free speech, and without it it is a scorn and mockery to call it a Parliament house, for in truth it is none, but a very school of flattery and dissimulation and so a fit place to serve the Devil and his angels in and not to glorify God and benefit the Commonwealth. Two things did ‘very great hurt’.
  • One is a rumour that runneth about the House, and this it is: take heed what you do, the Queen's majesty liketh not of such a matter. Whosoever preferreth it, she will be much offended with him. Or, the contrary, her Majesty liketh of such a matter, whosoever speaketh against it she will be much offended with him. The other is sometimes a message is brought into the House either of commanding or inhibiting very injurious unto the freedom of speech and consultation. I would to God, Mr. Speaker, that these two were buried in Hell, I mean rumours and messages ... Reviewing the inroads on this freedom that he had witnessed in 1571 and 1572, he was led into explicit criticism of the Queen:
  • Certain it is, Mr. Speaker that none is without fault, no, not our noble Queen ... Her Majesty hath committed great faults, yea dangerous faults to herself and the state ... It is a dangerous thing in a prince unkindly to entreat and abuse his or her nobility and people as her Majesty did the last Parliament, and it is a dangerous thing in a prince to oppose or bend herself against her nobility and people ... and how could any prince more unkindly entreat, abuse and oppose herself against her nobility and people than her Majesty did the last Parliament? Did she not call it of purpose to prevent traitorous perils to her person and for no other cause? Did not her Majesty send unto us two bills, willing us to make a choice of that we liked best for her safety and thereof to make a law, promising her Majesty's royal consent thereto? And did we not first choose the one and her Majesty refused it, yielding no reason, nay, yielding great reasons why she ought to have yielded to it? Yet did not we nevertheless receive the other and agreeing to make a law thereof did not her Majesty in the end refuse all our travails? And did not we her Majesty's faithful nobility and subjects plainly and openly decipher ourselves unto her Majesty and our hateful enemy? And hath not her Majesty left us all to her open revenge? Is this a just recompense in our Christian Queen for our faithful dealings? The heathen do requite good for good; then how much more is it dutiful in a Christian prince? And will not this her Majesty's handling, think you, Mr. Speaker, make cold dealing in many of her Majesty's subjects toward her? Again I fear it will. And hath it not caused many already, think you, Mr. Speaker, to seek a salve for the head that they have broken? I fear it hath. And many more will do the like if it be not prevented in time. And hath it not marvellously rejoiced and encouraged the hollow hearts of her Majesty's hateful enemies and traitorous subjects? No doubt but it hath.
  • ... It is a great and special part of our duty and office Mr. Speaker to maintain the freedom of consultation and speech for by this are good laws that do set forth God's glory and are for the preservation of the prince and state made. St. Paul in the same place sayeth, hate that which is evil and cleave unto that which is good; then with St. Paul I do advise you all here present, yea, and heartily and earnestly I desire you from the bottom of your hearts to hate all messengers, tale carriers, or any other thing whatsoever it be that any manner of way infringe the liberties of this honourable council. Yea, hate it or them, I say, as venomous and poison unto our commonwealth, for they are venomous beasts that do use it. Therefore I say again and again, hate that that is evil and cleave to that that is good. And this, loving and faithful hearted, I do wish to be conceived in fear of God, and of love to our prince and state, for we are incorporated into this place to serve God and all England and not to be timeservers and humour feeders. Wentworth concluded:
  • I have holden you long with my rude speech, the which since it tendeth wholly with pure consciences to seek the advancement of God's glory, our honourable sovereign's safety and to the sure defence of this noble isle of England, and all by maintaining the liberties of this honourable council, the fountain from whence all these do spring, my humble and hearty suit unto you all is to accept my goodwill and that this that I have here spoken of conscience and great zeal unto my prince and state may not be buried in the pit of oblivion and so no good come thereof...
  • Wentworth's suit was granted. His speech was widely reported in England and abroad, and copies have survived for posterity. It is the first full statement of the doctrine of freedom of speech in the House. The immediate consequences were that Wentworth was committed to the serjeant's custody and that afternoon examined by a committee of the House. We possess Wentworth's account of the examination. As one of the committee said: ‘Mr. Wentworth will never acknowledge himself to make a fault, nor say that he is sorry for anything that he doth speak’. The following day the committee reported back to the House and Wentworth was sent to the Tower. There he remained for just over a month, until, two days before the end of the session, the Queen intervened and returned him to the House, accompanying her action with a gracious and magnanimous message. The episode ended ‘to the great contentment of all’.
  • In 1579 Wentworth was in trouble with the Privy Council on the complaint of his Bishop about the great resort of people from Northampton and elsewhere to his house at Lillingstone Lovell, where the sacrament was administered in puritan fashion. Then, in Jan 1581, came the third and last session of the 1572 Parliament. It started with a contretemps, when Paul Wentworth moved and carried a motion for a public fast, in clear breach of the Queen's ecclesiastical rights. His name recalled to Elizabeth Peter's rash action in 1576, and in her withering rebuke to the House she imputed their offence partly to her lenity towards a brother of that man which now made this motion. Thereafter, the session proceeded on a subdued note, and all we hear of Peter Wentworth is his appointment to two committees, 25 Jan and 17 Mar.
  • Though the radical puritans with whom Wentworth associated had already established their ‘classical’ movement and begun their organized campaign against Archbishop Whitgift before the next Parliament met in Nov 1584, Wentworth did not sit in that Parliament. Nor, indeed, did his friend, neighbour and fellow-enthusiast, Anthony Cope of Hanwell near Banbury. It is idle to speculate why. Both returned to Westminster in 1586, Wentworth sitting for Northampton, a centre of puritan activity where he was well known and may have owned a house. Called as a result of the Babington plot, the autumn meetings of this Parliament were given over to the clamour for executing Mary Queen of Scots. Congenial as this was to Wentworth, we have no record of him speaking on this subject. Perhaps he reserved himself for the part allotted him in the organized campaign of the puritan classical movement. Their opportunity came in Feb 1587, after Mary had been executed. Their leaders had determined to presbyterianize the Anglican church by means of a parliamentary bill, and had held meetings in London with Anthony Cope, Wentworth and other Members to plan their campaign. The opening move was made on 27 Feb when Cope introduced his famous and revolutionary ‘bill and book’. The Queen immediately suppressed the bill. Anticipating such action, the zealots had evidently cast Wentworth for the principal role in their next move the defence of freedom of speech.
  • On 1 Mar Wentworth rose to speak, demanding that the Speaker should put a number of questions about the liberties of Parliament to the House. If conceded, they would have stripped the Crown of its prescriptive right of control and discipline and would have left it defenceless except for the royal veto or support in the House of Lords. By implication, if not intent, they were subversive of the constitution. It had been arranged that another Member should support Wentworth, but he ‘brake his faith in forsaking the matter’ and the Speaker declined to put the questions to the House before he had read them. An opportune summons from the Queen saved the situation, and Cope, Wentworth and three other Members were put in the Tower. Attempts by more moderate puritans to secure their release failed, and, so far as we know, they remained in custody until after the end of the session. This was Wentworth's second experience of the Tower.
  • Wentworth was elected again for Northampton in the next Parliament of 1589. Patriotic feeling after the defeat of the Armada, the revulsion felt by moderate people against the extravagances of the Marprelate tracts, and the explicit injunction of the Lord Chancellor, Hatton, not to meddle with matters of religion, constituted a strong impediment to all radicals. There was an attempt to secure modification of the Whitgiftian regime and it was evidently organized; but there is no evidence that Wentworth took part in it. His mind was by now set on another subject the succession to the throne. In 1587, after the death of Mary Stuart, he had drafted 'A Pithie Exhortation to her Majestie' for establishing her successor to the crowne, a tract published by a friend after his death. Its language was forthright, his admonitions to the Queen at times needlessly and shockingly frank. In a letter to Burghley he later defended the sharpness of his language by quoting ‘the spirit of God in Solomon’: ‘The wounds of a lover are faithful, and the kisses of an enemy are deceitful’.
  • Wentworth intended to present his tract in the Parliament of 1589 and launch a campaign for settling the succession; but he evidently found the time unpropitious. He tried to persuade Burghley to approach the Queen on the subject, and again in 1590 came to London to renew this quixotic plan. Next year he turned to the Earl of Essex, hoping that he would present his tract to the Queen. But copies of the tract were leaked to the Privy Council, and in Aug 1591 they committed him close prisoner, this time to the Gatehouse. He was incorrigible. Instead of seeking pardon, he tried once more to get Burghley to approach the Queen, convinced that this statesman believed as he did: which may, indeed, have been true. Wentworth was released from the Gatehouse in Nov, confined for a time in a private house, and finally set at liberty in Feb 1592.
  • Rightly or wrongly, Wentworth thought that he had the sympathy of several Councillors and even seems to have convinced himself that the Queen had seen his tract and approved of it. In the late summer of 1592 he was talking to friends along these lines, and when a new Parliament was summoned he made his plans on the lines learnt from the puritan classical movement. He was returned again for Northampton and came to Westminster with a bill, speeches and other papers that might be needed. A small group of seven Members, mostly young and inexperienced, met at chambers in Lincoln's Inn on 21 Feb 1593 to listen to his plans. Some of the group were scared by his intemperate language, and when next morning, at their urging, he went to consult James Morice, an older and wiser Member, he could evoke nothing but scorn. The group was to have met again that afternoon, but news of Wentworth's intentions had reached the Privy Coucil, and authority descended with heavy hand. The examinations of these men by the Council show Wentworth unrepentant and insisting on his rights as a Member of Parliament.
  • Wentworth was imprisoned in the Tower, where he remained till his death four-and-a-half years later. It is clear from several surviving petitions and letters that he could have secured his freedom within a reasonable time if he had been prepared to acknowledge his fault and give pledge of future silence, without which he remained a potential focus of unrest and disturber of the Queen's delicately poised policy for the peaceful transition of the crown at her death. Instead of repentance, in every petition he reiterated the argument of his Pithie Exhortation: to do otherwise, he declared, would be to ‘give her Highness a most detestable Judas-kiss’. In 1594, when Doleman's Conference about the Next Succession to the Crown of England was published a disturbing Catholic tract he was reckless enough, at the instance of some friends, to write an answer, entitled A Discourse containing the Author's opinion of the true and lawful successor to her Majesty. It was published after his death along with his Pithie Exhortation and, fortunately for Wentworth, seems to have been kept secret from the authorities. Wentworth pronounced in favour of James VI's title to the succession a judgment he would have strongly opposed earlier, thus, incidentally, vindicating the Queen in her policy of letting time simplify the problem. Doleman had been led to exalt the rights of Parliament. Thus, ironically enough, Wentworth found himself expounding the limitations of those rights.
  • To keep Wentworth where he could do no harm to the state was the main concern of Queen and Council. As he put it himself: ‘The causes of my long imprisonment ... a truth plainly delivered’. His second wife was permitted to live with him in the Tower, and there she died, Jul 1596, ‘my chiefest comfort in this life, even the best wife that ever poor gentleman enjoyed’. There was a proposal to release him on the pledges of sureties in Jul 1597, when he asked not to be sent home to Lillingstone Lovell, where memories of his wife would be too much for him. On 10 Nov that year he died. An inquisition post mortem taken at Oxford in 1599 was concerned with his manor of Lillingstone Lovell and houses, woods, etc. in the parish and in Lillingstone Dayrell. Wentworth's children married into puritan families, and one of his sons, Thomas, emulated his father in Parliament in James I's reign.
  • Sir John Harrington described Wentworth as a man ‘of a whet and vehement spirit’. The Queen thought he had a good opinion of his own wit. Though in retrospect he must be acclaimed as one of the immortal pioneering spirits in the history of Parliament, whose extravagant notions about the privileges and powers of Parliament became accepted doctrine with the parliamentary opposition of the next generation, he was an embarrassment to his own generation of Members and would not have been accorded their honorific title of ‘great parliament man’. In loyalty, respect and love for his Queen and devotion to his country, he was excelled by none.
  • Several letters from Wentworth to Sir Robert Cecil written during his last imprisonment are at Hatfield with other documents relating to him (Cal. Hatfield MSS. vi. 284, 288, 289, vii. 286, 303, 304, 324). The heir to the manor of Lillingstone Lovell was Wentworth's eldest son, Nicholas, who married Susanna, daughter and heiress of Roger Wigston, the head of a great puritan family; and from their mar riage there sprang Sir Peter Wentworth, Lady Vane, and Sybyl, who married Fisher Dilke, second son of Sir Thomas Dilke of Maxstoke Castle. Of Peter's younger children, Walter was a member of Parliament; and Paul was of Castle Bythorpe, married Mary Hampden, and is sometimes said to have been author of Wentworth's ' Orizons'. Of the daughters, Frances mar ried Walter Strickland.
  • [State Papers, Dom. Elizabeth ; Lord Salisbury's MSS. at Hatfield; D'Ewes's Journals; Official Return of Members of Parliament; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; Hallam's Constitutional History of England; Froude's Hist, of England; Button's Three Branches of the Wentworth Family]
  • Sources:
  • Neale, ‘Peter Wentworth’
  • Neale, Parlts.
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  • Powers-Banks ancestry: traced in all lines to the remotest date obtainable ... By William Howard Powers
  • Pg. 163
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Sir Peter Wentworth, Sr., Kt.'s Timeline

Lillingston Lovell, Buckinghamshire, England
Age 10
Lillingstone Lovell, Buckinghamshire, England
Age 26
Lillingstone, Lovell, Buckinghamshire, England
Age 32
Of Lillingstone, Bucks, England
Age 34
Age 39
Lillingstone, Lovell, Buckinghamshire, England
Age 41
November 10, 1596
Age 67
City of London, Middlesex, England