Sir Nicholas Hare, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons

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Nicholas Hare, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons

Birthplace: Norfolkshire, England
Death: Died in London, England
Place of Burial: London, England, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of John Hare of Homersfield and Elizabeth Hare
Husband of Katherine Hare
Father of Robert Hare, MP; Anne Rous; William Hare; Thomasine Hare; Michael Hare and 1 other
Brother of John Hare, Dr, DCL; Christian Hare; Margaret Hare and Agnes Knightley

Managed by: Kira Rachele Jay
Last Updated:

About Sir Nicholas Hare, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons

Family and Education

b. by 1495, 1st s. of John Hare of Homersfield by Elizabeth Fortescue. educ. Gonville, Camb. pens. 1509, 1. Temple, adm. 1515. m. by 1528, Catherine da. and coh. of Sir John Bassingbourne of Woodhall nr. Hatfield, Herts., 3s. inc. Robert† 3da. suc. fa. 1526. Kntd. May 1539.3

Offices Held

Lent reader, I. Temple 1532, gov. 1538-d.

Counsel to city of Norwich 1530-6, steward, sheriff’s ct. in 1531, recorder Aug. 1536-Aug. 1540; j.p. Norf. 1531-d., Glos., Herefs., Worcs. 1540-5; Mon., Salop 1543-5, Staffs. 1544-5, Suff. 1547-d., Mdx. 1554-d.; dep. steward, ct. augmentations, south of Trent by Nov. 1536-44 or later; Councillor 1537; member, council in the marches of Wales by 1542-5; master of requests Nov. 1537-Mar. 1540, 1545-53, of the rolls 18 Sept. 1553-d.; steward of the marshalsea of the Household by Apr. 1539; justice, Cheshire, Flints. 14 Aug. 1540-19 May 1545, Denb., Mont. 28 June 1541-45; commr. chantries, London, Mdx., Westminster 1548, Ipswich 1553, relief, Norf., Suff. 1550, heresy 1557; custos rot. Flints. c.1547; PC 21 Aug. 1553-d.; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of Oct. 1553, Apr. 1554, Nov. 1554, 1555.4

Speaker of House of Commons 1539.


Nicholas Hare is first mentioned in the printed records of the Inner Temple in November 1518 but is said by their editor to have been admitted in 1515. In 1521 he was admitted to a chamber in the inn, but only in 1527 did he begin to undertake the usual minor duties and offices of a member of the society. Neither his long residence at Cambridge nor the lengthy interval between his admission to the inn and appointment as a reader there is typical of the career of a lawyer of this period, nor did he follow the orthodox pattern of promotion. He seems to have become one of Wolsey’s legal counsel in the late 1520’s and is said to have acted as his proctor at some of the proceedings against him in 1529-30. Despite Wolsey’s precarious position at the time, Hare may have owed his seat at Downton in 1529 to the cardinal, but it is more likely to have been his friendship with Sir William Paulet, the steward of the bishopric of Winchester, which secured his return. The King asked that the men who had served in the Parliament of 1529 should be returned to its successor in 1536 and Hare presumably sat in this Parliament (although probably not for Downton, where Cromwell nominated Thomas Paulet and William Petre), especially as in 1539 he was to be elected Speaker. After Wolsey’s fall he seems to have come under the patronage of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk. From 1530 to 1536 his chief sphere of activity was in East Anglia, where the duke was supreme and he himself had inherited a modest patrimony. During the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 the duke left him at Norwich to maintain order there. In his offices in augmentations and the marshalsea he acted as Norfolk’s deputy, and 20 years later was to be one of his executors.

During 1537 Hare was appointed to the King's Council, and during the next three years he was active as a judge in the court of requests; it was probably for these services that in October 1537 he was granted an annuity of £100. In the Parliament of 1539, which saw a Catholic reaction, Hare was made Speaker. Since it was customary for the Speaker to be chosen from among the knights of the shire, Hare may have been returned for one of the four northern counties (Cumberland, Lancashire, Northumberland and Westmorland) where the names of the knights have npt survived: he had no personal ties with these counties but as commander in the north the Duke of Norfolk 'put such order' there that he expected all the Members returned from the region should 'serve his highness according to his pleasure', and as one close to the duke and Speaker-designate Hare is likely to have been one of Norfolk's nominees. If Hare was not returned for a shire, he was probably the first borough Member to be chosen Speaker (if one discounts Sir Humphrey Wingfield, who had replaced Audley in 1533), and his preferment may have been a minor victory for Norfolk and the conservatives against Cromwell, Hare being himself that way inclined as well as being connected with the duke. It was probably on his presentation as Speaker that Hare was knighted. In March 1540, while Parliament stood prorogued, Hareand two other lawyers, William Coningsby* and Humphrey Browne, were sent to the Tower for drawing up a will intended to avoid the Statute of Uses. They were released in their submission a few days later but lost the offices they held under the crown. Hare nevertheless retained the Speakership during the final session (1540) of this Parliament, in the course of which a private bill for a young kinswoman of his was enacted (32 Hen. VIII, c.69), and he received a gracious nod from the King for his long and flowery speech at its close.5

In August 1540 Hare was made justice of Chester and shortly afterwards became a member of the council in the marshes, his annuity of £100 being renewed at the same time. He is not known to have sat in the Parliament of 1542, for which so many names are lost, but his efforts as a member of the council in the marshes to secure Richard Mytton's* election on that occasion suggests that he also found a place for himself. In the summer of 1545 he resigned his marcher posts and returned to court, where he was reappointed a master of requests.6

Hare may have owed his seat at Lancaster in 1545 to his close friend and fellow-Member (Sir) John Baker I; his nomination was doubtless favoured by Sir John Gage*, chancellor of the duchy, and by its attorney John Caryll, with whom he was to sit in the following Parliament. The return of these two conservatives on that occasion for Taunton, one of the bishop of Winchester's boroughs, must have pleased the holder of that see, Stephen Gardiner, although from his quarter in the Tower he can scarcely have had any share in it: Hare probably owed the seat, as he seems to have done his earlier one at Downton to William Paulet, now Baron St. John. The Journal offers numerous glimpses of Hare's activity in the Parliament of 1547: during its second session (1548-9) several bills were committed to him, for fimes in Cheshire, for the city of Canterbury and for respute of homage; in the third (1549) the bills for continuing the Acts for sewers and regrators of wool; and during the last (1552) a bill for cloth production at Norwich. In the debate on the treasons bill of 1547 he expounded its weaknesses, he was one of the delegation ordered by the House in November 1549 to excuse 'Mr. Plamer, burgess' from appearance in the common pleas, and in 1552 he served on the committee to consider the case of William Ward I*. His private affairs also became again the subject of parliamentary debate. A kinswoman of his, now married to Thomas Hobart, exhibited a petition 'against Hare' to reverse the Act of 1540, but after two readings in the second session it was directed to a select committee or, failing that, to the Protector Somerset himself: the dispute had not been settled by the time of the Protector's death, for the Hobarts made a second unsuccessful supplication in 1552. In the absence of so many returns for the next Parliament, that of March 1553, it is not known whether Hare again found a seat; to the Duke of Northumberland, who both summoned and 'packed' it, Hare's experience in the House, probably uninterrupted since 1529, would perhaps have been as much a disqualification as his religious conservatism. As Queen Mary's master of the rolls he received a writ of summons to the Lords, being summoned there for each successive Parliament until his death and thus indirectly continuing to have dealings with the Lower House.7

Hare had sworn allegiance to Mary on 15 July 1553 and become one of her most useful and trusted servants. On 30 July he was authorized to affix the great seal to all kinds of process and to commissions of the peace, in August he was one of the commissions to compound with the late rebels for fines, and in September he was appointed master of the rolls. The last years of his life were devoted to administrative and judicial work. Sworn of the Privy Council, he did not often attend its meetings, although in February 1554 he was appointed to a committee 'to consider what laws shall be established in this Parliament and to name men that shall make the books thereof'. In the same month he was one of the judges at the trial of (Sir) Nicholas Throckmorton* and had several angry exchanges with the accused.8

Mainly through the purchase of former monastic property Hare became a substantial, though not a great landower: most of his estates were in his home county of Suffolk, and a number of his purchases were made jointly with his brother, a London mercer. Hare's inquistion post mortem and will mention numerous manors and lands in East Anglia, together with leases in Staffordshire and Montgomery, the last no doubt obtained while he was of the council in the marshes. By his will, dated 26 Sept. 1557, he left much of this propery to his wife for her life, with remainder to his eldest son: other lands went to his younger sons in tail male. Numerous small bequests to kinsmen included money to his son-in-law, Thomas Timperley*, and to the Inner Temple: the residue of his estate he left to his wife, the sole executrix, to be used 'for the wealth of my soul'. As overseers he named Sir John Baker and Sir Edward Waldegrave*. He died in London 'at the Chancery' on 31 Oct. 1557. His wife proved his will on 4 Nov. but, already a sick woman, died three weeks later, having made her own will on 2 Nov.; in this she appointed as overseer her husband's successor as master of the rolls, William Cordell*. Hare was buried on 8 Nov. in the Temple Church, where until the 19th century a monument stood with an inscription celebrating his achievements and virtues. His three sons were all to be recusants under Elizabeth.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558 Author: Roger Virgoe Notes 1. LJ, i. 116. 2. Hatfield 207. 3. Date of birth estimated from education. G. A. Carthew, Hundred of Launditch, ii. 657; Vis. Suff. ed. Metcalfe, 37-38; PCC 46 Wrastley; Wills Consist. Ct. Norwich 1370-1550 (Brit. Rec. Soc. lxix), 190; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; DNB. 4. LP Hen. VIII, v-xxi; Norwich ass. procs. 2, ff. 137, 139v, 160, 172; E405/115/37; Lansd. 12, ff. 124-30; APC, iv. 333-4, 360, 370; v. passim; CPR, 1548-9 to 1553-4 passim; LJ, i. 447, 464, 492; C193/12/1. 5. LP Hen. VIII, x. 816 citing Cott. Calig. B6, f. 319; xiv, xv; Lansd. 12, ff. 124-30; Elton, Tudor Revolution, 136-7; Reform and Reformation, 283-4; Camb. Hist. Jnl. x. 150-85; Wriothesley's Chron. i. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xi), 116; LJ, i. 125, 137, 161-2; C89/2/37. 6. LP Hen. VIII, xvi; Cal. Wynn (of Gwydir) Pprs. 1515-1690, p. 4; M. L. Bush, Govt. Pol. Somserset, 56-57. 7. Howell, State Trials, 890; CJ, i. 5, 7-9, 11, 17-18, 37-38, 46; C218/1. 8. APC, iv. 306, 398, 430; Elton, Tudor Constitution, 98; CPR, 1553-4, pp. 76, 209; Howell, 870-901. 9. PCC 8 Maynwaryng, 46, 52 Wrastley; LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiv, xxi, CPR, 1555-7, p. 97; C142/114/31; Machyn's Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 152; Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 178; Cal. I. T. Recs. p. lv.

Sir Nicholas Hare of Bruisyard, Suffolk (c. 1484 – 31 October 1557) was Speaker of the House of Commons of England between 1539 and 1540.


He was born the eldest son of John Hare of Homersfield, Suffolk, educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and admitted to the Inner Temple in 1515. He had three sisters, who were married to MPs, and a brother, John Hare of Stow Bardolph.

He was MP for Downton, Wiltshire in 1529 and possibly Wiltshire in 1539 (when he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons), Lancaster in 1545 and Taunton in 1547. In 1539 the nunnery of Bruisyard was dissolved and assigned by Henry VIII to Sir Nicholas. He was knighted in May 1539 and eventually became Master of the Rolls (1553–1557).

In 1554 he presided at the trial of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who had been accused of involvement in Wyatt's rebellion against the marriage of Queen Mary to Felipe of Spain.

Sir Nicholas died in Chancery Lane in 1557 and was buried in nearby Temple Church, commemorated in the south bay window of the new Inner Temple Hall.


Hare married Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Sir John Bassingbourne of Woodhall near Hatfield, Hertfordshire. They had three sons and three daughters. The second son was Robert Hare the antiquary.

b. by 1495, 1st s. of John Hare of Homersfield by Elizabeth Fortescue. educ. Gonville, Camb. pens. 1509, 1. Temple, adm. 1515. m. by 1528, Catherine da. and coh. of Sir John Bassingbourne of Woodhall nr. Hatfield, Herts., 3s. inc. Robert† 3da. suc. fa. 1526. Kntd. May 1539.3


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Sir Nicholas Hare, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons's Timeline

Norfolkshire, England
Age 38
October 31, 1557
Age 64
London, England
November 8, 1557
Age 64
London, England, UK
Age 64
Bruisyard, Suffolk, United Kingdom