The Tudor Society

26 June – Farther than Wingfield, no man dares to go

On this day in Tudor history, 26th June 1596, soldier Sir John Wingfield was buried in the cathedral at Cadiz in southern Spain. Wingfield had been shot in the head in the attack on Cadiz on 21st June.

John Stow recorded that at his funeral "the generalls threw their handkerchiefs wet from their eyes into the grave" and poet John Donne wrote "Farther than Wingfield, no man dares to go", but who was this courageous soldier?

Find out more about him and how he died in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 26th June 1535, a new commission of oyer and terminer was appointed in the case against Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII's former Lord Chancellor. More was being indicted for high treason, and, of course, would eventually be executed. You can find out more about what had led More to this point in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1513 – Burial of Sir Edmund Carew, landowner, administrator and soldier, in the church of St Nicholas, Calais, after he was shot dead during the siege of Thérouanne in Artois.
  • 1568 – Death of Thomas Young, Archbishop of York, at Sheffield. He was buried in York Minster.
  • 1576 – Death of Edward Dering, scholar, Church of England clergyman and controversial evangelical preacher, from tuberculosis at Thobie Priory in Essex. A collection of his works, which included sermons, lectures, prayers and letters, was first published in 1590.


On this day in Tudor history, 26th June 1596, soldier Sir John Wingfield was buried in the cathedral at Cadiz in southern Spain. Wingfield had been shot in the head in the attack on Cadiz on 21st June.

At Wingfield's funeral, according to contemporary historian John Stow, “the generalls threw their handkerchiefs wet from their eyes into the grave”, and the famous poet John Donne, who was a member of the expedition and so had witnessed Wingfield’s courage firsthand, composed an epigram as a tribute to Wingfield, “Farther then Wingefield, no man dares to go”.
Let me give you some facts about this brave soldier…

• Sir John Wingfield was the son of landowner and courtier Richard Wingfield of Suffolk, and his wife, Mary, sister of Bess of Hardwick.
• It is thought that he served Richard Bertie, husband of the late Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, and that’s how he met his wife, Susan, their daughter and widow of Reynold Grey, whom he married without Queen Elizabeth I’s permission on 30th September 1581. The queen was angry and Wingfield’s aunt, Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, tried to help by asking Sir Francis Walsingham to intercede with the queen.
• It is not known how Wingfield started his military career but it may have been with the help of his brother-in-law, soldier Peregrine Bertie, who was serving as governor of Bergen op Zoom. The Wingfield’s named their son, born in 1586, after Peregrine. In September 1586, Wingfield fought at the Battle of Zutphen. He was wounded and knighted for his service by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
• Wingfield was back in London in February 1587, when he was part of the funeral procession for poet and soldier Sir Philip Sidney.
• He was abroad again in the summer of 1587, serving as captain of foot soldiers garrisoned at Bergen, and as deputy governor for Peregrine. In July 1588, he was appointed governor of Geertruidenberg. However, it was a troubled garrison and in March 1589, the unpaid troops mutinied and imprisoned Wingfield after a surprise attack by Maurice of Nassau, son of William of Orange. The garrison surrendered to the Spanish on 10th April 1589 and Wingfield and his wife released, although they were then imprisoned by the Spanish and branded a traitors by the Protestant Netherlands States who believed he’d communicated with Spain. The Wingfields were eventually released following the intercession of Thomas Bodley on behalf of the queen and Lord Burghley.
• It is not known exactly when Wingfield was released but he was in London by July 1591, when he was preparing to take a company of men to Normandy under Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, to help King Henry IV fight the Catholic League and Spain. In France, he served as Elizabeth I’s master of the ordnance, and fought at the Battle of Rouen in October 1591, where he was shot, but not injured, only his clothing damaged. He went on to be in charge of munitions at the storehouse in Dieppe.
• Wingfield was recalled to England in 1592 and received an honourary MA when the queen visited Oxford in September 1592. In 1593, he served as a member of Parliament for Lichfield. His biographer, Mary L Robertson notes that Wingfield also served on committees aiming to help poor and injured soldiers and mariners.
• In June 1596, Wingfield served as camp-master and colonel of a regiment of men sailing on the Vanguard under his good friend, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. They sailed to Cadiz on the coast of south-western Spain and attacked the Spanish fleet. Wingfield then led a force of 200 men in an attack on Cadiz itself, which was defended by around 500 Spanish cavalry. Wingfield and his men pretended to retreat, encouraging the Spaniards to move forward into an ambush of a much larger force of English soldiers. The English force was able to break through the city gates but Wingfield suffered a wound to his thigh, leaving his unable to walk. The Earl of Essex and a band of men carried on into Cadiz’s plaza and the injured Wingfield, intent on following his friend, captured a horse. As Cadiz surrendered to Essex and his force, Wingfield was shot in the head and killed instantly.
• Wingfield was buried at Cadiz Cathedral, La Iglesia de Santa Cruz, on 26th June 1596. John Stow recorded his funeral, writing that he was buried “with all the funeral solemnities of war, the drums and trumpets sounding dolefully, the shot bearing the notes of their pieces downward, the pikes trailed, his body was borne by six knights, the generals threw their handkerchiefs wet from their eyes into the grave, and at the instant the most part of all the shot great and small, aboard and ashore, were discharged.”
• Wingfield’s wife, Susan, who had already been living in a precarious financial situation and had had to sell her jewels and plate and borrow money, was granted an annuity of £100 by the queen in 1597.

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26 June – Farther than Wingfield, no man dares to go