The Tudor Society

March 1 – Sir Thomas Tresham, Grand Prior

Coat of Arms - white cross on a red background - of the Knights Hospitaller

Coat of Arms of the Knights Hospitaller

On this day in Tudor history, 1st March 1559, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Catholic politician and landowner, Sir Thomas Tresham, died at Rushton in Northamptonshire. He was buried at St Peter's Church, Rushton.

Tresham was a leading politician in the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary I, and he’s an interesting Tudor chap.

Let me tell you a bit more about him...

  • Thomas Tresham was born in around the only son of John Tresham of Rushton Hall, Northamptonshire, a member of the Northamptonshire gentry. It’s not clear who his mother was, but she died when Thomas was young and his father married Isabel Harington, daughter of Sir James Harrington of Hornby, Lancashire.
  • Thomas’s grandfather, also named Thomas, served Henry VI as comptroller of the household, fought at several battles in the Wars of the Roses on the side of Margaret of Anjou, and was executed as a traitor by beheading following the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury. He was attainted and his property forfeited, but Henry VII reversed this following his accession in 1485 so that his son, John, our Thomas’s father, could inherit.
  • Thomas was married twice, first to Anne Parr, daughter of William, Lord Parr, with whom he had three sons and a daughter; and then after Anne’s death, to Lettice Peniston, daughter of Sir Thomas Peniston, and widow of Sir Robert Knollys and Sir Robert Lee. They did not have children together.
  • Thomas served Henry VIII as an esquire of the body and was knighted in 1524, but preferred to stay away from court, focusing on his service as Justice of the Peace and sheriff in Northamptonshire, and serving on several commissions there. He also served in Parliament as a knight of the shire in 1539 and 1542. He did, however, help suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion in 1536 and served in the king’s French campaign in 1544.
  • His Catholic faith prevented him from serving in Parliament during Edward VI’s reign, but he did help suppress Kett’s Rebellion in 1549.
  • When Edward VI died in 1553, Tresham had supported Princess Mary's claim, and proclaimed her queen in Northampton.
  • In Mary’s reign, he once again served as a member of Parliament and knight of the shire, as well as sheriff.
  • In 1557, following the restoration of the grand priory of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England (Knights Hospitaller), Thomas was appointed Grand Prior. The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem was a religious military order that had been founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century with the aim of caring for the sick and defending the Crusader kingdom. The English priory had been dissolved in England in 1540 during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.
  • Elizabeth I came to the throne in November 1558 and one of his servants reported that the Catholic Thomas was intending to secretly celebrate the mass. Before Thomas could get into any trouble, he died at his home at Rushton. As his sons were all dead, the heir of his Northamptonshire estates was his grandson, also called Thomas.

1st March is also the feast of St David, patron saint of Wales. Here's a video I did about the feast day in Tudor times:

Also on this day in Tudor history...

In this video, I mean 1620!

Thomas Campion poem -

Thomas Campion compositions:

The Poetry Foundation page on Thomas Campion -

There are 2 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    Seems to be there is a mix up as to which daughter of Lord Parr he married. Some sources state it was Mary Parr who married Tresham while Anne married Sir John Digby. Burke and Richardson say it was Mary. The History of Parliament says Anne. Mystery!

  2. M

    Also wanted to point out that some sources like the Dictionary of National Biography and Burke state he only had two sons by the daughter of Lord Parr of Horton; John and William. The History of Parliament says they had three sons and one daughter. Would really have to look into records from the time to figure this one out.

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March 1 – Sir Thomas Tresham, Grand Prior