BESELEY, Reginald (by 1509-62/64), of York.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1509. educ. univ.; M. Temple. m. Alice, 1s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Recorder, Scarborough by 1547; treasurer to Adm. Seymour in Aug. 1547; v.-adm. in the north parts in Oct. 1547, June 1548; commr. of Admiralty in Nov. 1547; clerk of the county and castle of York bef. 1555-d.2


Nothing has been discovered about Reginald Beseley’s origins or early life, but it can be deduced from a description of him in 1548 as ‘in law baccalaureo’ that he graduated in that subject at a university. The earliest reference found to him dates from 1530, when he was the tenant of a house and land in the suburbs of York belonging to Furness abbey. According to the lease of this property (recited in a case in the court of duchy chamber after Beseley’s death) the rent reserved was 9s. a year and Beseley was to pay this to a nominee of the abbey, after whose death he should keep it as his fee, or perhaps part of his fee, as ‘notary and proctor of the spiritual court’. A letter survives from Beseley to Lady Salvan in which he advises her of the progress of her own suit, and those of several of her friends, in the court of the archdeacon of Durham; the letter has been conjecturally dated 1534 and Beseley signs himself ‘Raynald Beysley your advocate’. In 1533 he had been commissioned with two priests and an alderman of York to take depositions there in a Star Chamber case, so that he was presumably an established lawyer there by that time. Ten years later he was probably clerk of York, that city being a county in itself separate from the Ridings; in April of that year ‘Master Beisley’ was executing writs against Sir William Babthorpe on behalf of the corporation. It is, however, less clear whether he was the ‘Mr. Beseley’ who in 1539 was involved in disputes between the president of the council in the north and Sir William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton.3

Beseley may have begun his parliamentary career before 1545, although he could not have sat for York, the names of all the city’s Members being known. His return for Scarborough in 1545 probably followed his appointment to the recordership there: he is known to have held the office in 1547, when he was re-elected for the town. (Scarborough’s return to the earlier Parliament bears the late date 17 Sept., so that Beseley may have come in as a replacement.) In his third and fifth Parliaments Beseley sat for Thirsk and in his fourth for Knaresborough. It is likely that at both places Beseley enjoyed the support of the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury, president of the council in the north. In October 1555 the earl’s servant John Cryche reported to his master that ‘according to your lordship’s commandment I have delivered unto Beseley’ the names of the Members recently elected for Ripon, Knaresborough and Boroughbridge, an indication both of Shrewsbury’s interest in the elections and of Beseley’s dependence upon him at the time. When and how the relationship originated can only be surmised but it was probably strengthened, if not begun, by Shrewsbury’s presidency from May 1549: although Beseley is not known to have been employed by the council, as a senior lawyer resident in York, where its judicial business was done, he must have been familiar to its members. It was York itself which in 1555 returned Beseley to his seventh consecutive Parliament, having first granted him the necessary qualification of its freedom. The choice was to prove an unfortunate one, for he quickly succumbed to illness. At first the council addressed its letters of instruction to both Members, but on 5 Nov. it expressed sorrow at hearing ‘that Mr. Beseley hath been so crased’ and hope for his recovery: the hope was not fulfilled and for the remainder of the Parliament the letters were sent only to his colleague William Holme, who alone dispatched reports to the corporation on his activities in London. Not surprisingly, his disablement was followed by Beseley’s resignation of his office of ‘solicitor’ to the city, which in March 1556 chose his son-in-law Edward Beseley ‘to solicit the city matters at this next term ... in London in room of his father’. In 1558 neither York nor any of its neighbours elected Beseley, but in the following year he was to sit in his last Parliament, once again for Scarborough. To judge from the silence of the Journal he had made no mark on a House with which he was so familiar, while as a follower of the conservative Shrewsbury he could not be expected to appear among the opponents of the Marian restoration: the ‘Mr. Baseley’ who followed (Sir) Anthony Kingston in his protest of 1555 was almost certainly William Baseley, a knight of the shire for Wiltshire.4

Beseley must have prospered materially, for his official duties would not have prevented him from carrying on private practice; in November 1555 ‘Masters Beseley’, that is, Reginald and Edward, had chambers in the Middle Temple. He was assessed in 1547 for the subsidy at £20 a year in land and fees; many York merchants were rated at double this sum, but it must have borne little relation to his income. Described as ‘a very crafty and covetous man’, he was accused of enriching himself by the misappropriation of crown moneys, including fines taken from the Yorkshire gentry for refusal to become knights at the time of Mary’s coronation, but as only the complaint against him has survived one cannot say whether there was substance in it.5

Beseley made his will on 20 Nov. 1562 ‘considering ... that I am an old man and by the help of God hath lived many years unto a great age’. After revoking numerous earlier wills, he provided for his wife and children and left some law books to a cousin. His will was proved on 26 Jan. 1564.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. DL 1/75/A14; York wills, Reginald Beseley.
  • 2. C219/19/129; HCA 1/34. ff. 69, 73; 14/2; 24/16, f. 3; St.Ch.4/2/4.
  • 3. HCA 24/16, f. 2; DL 1/75/A14; LP Hen. VIII, viii, xiv, xxi; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xlv. 27, 36; cviii. 91-92.
  • 4. Surtees Soc. xcvi. 275; HMC Shrewsbury and Talbot ii. 349; E. Lodge, Illustrations, iii. app. 153; Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cx. 131-3, 135, 138, 142; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 5. E179/217/111; St.Ch.4/2/4; Cal. M.T. Recs. i. 104.
  • 6. York wills (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xiv), 13; York wills, Reginald Beseley.