KILLIGREW, Henry (1525/30-1603), of Lothbury, London; Hendon, Mdx.; Arwennack and Truro, Cornw.

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




Family and Education

b. 1525/30, 4th s. of John Killigrew of Arwennack, by Elizabeth, da. of James Trewynnard of St. Erth, Cornw.; bro. of John and William. educ. ?Camb. m. (1) 4 Nov. 1565, Catherine (d.1583), da. of Sir Anthony Cooke of Gidea Hall, Essex, 4da.; (2) 7 Nov. 1590, Jáel de Peigne, 3s. 1da. Kntd. 20 Nov. 1591.2

Offices Held

Servant, household of John Dudley, Viscount Lisle and later Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, by 1545-53; havener, duchy of Cornw. Apr. 1552-July 1554; bailiff, manor of Helston May 1552; envoy to Germany Dec. 1558-Feb. 1559, France Feb.-Mar. 1559, May 1559-Apr. 1560, Scotland Apr.-May 1560, France 1562-3, Germany 1569, France 1571-2, Scotland 1572-3, 1574, 1575; teller of Exchequer 1561-99; receiver of piracy fines c.1577; surveyor of the armoury 1580; j.p.q. Cornw. 1579-87; member, council of state in the Netherlands 1585-6, 1587-9; treasurer of the Ordnance c.1587.3


The younger son of a leading Protestant appointed by Henry VIII as captain of Pendennis castle, Henry Killigrew probably entered the household of John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, under the aegis of his uncle Benet, a groom of the King’s privy chamber. In 1545 he accompanied Lisle on a visit to Henry VIII at Greenwich. Although he did not graduate, it is possible that he had previously spent some time at Cambridge: in later life he was to show an interest in the university’s affairs and he was to make a benefaction to Emmanuel College. Wherever he was educated, Killigrew was a man of great learning with a knowledge of Latin and classical literature, a command of living languages which impressed his contemporaries, and a reputation as a musician and a painter.4

In the spring of 1549 Killigrew was journeying in Italy and at Padua he met Thomas Hoby, the younger brother of Sir Philip Hoby, who was on the Continent in preparation for a diplomatic career; this may have also been the reason for Killigrew’s own travels, because a year later he was serving the newly appointed ambassador to France, Sir John Mason, as an agent in northern Europe. The two young men together visited Ferrara and Mantua where they met Philip, the heir-apparent of the Emperor Charles V. Killigrew remained close to Dudley, who showed confidence in his knowledge and understanding of foreign affairs (witness a letter from Dudley in 1550 to Petre and Cecil about a conversation which he had had with two Frenchmen), and his fortunes waxed with his patron’s. After the fall of the Protector Somerset, he shared in the rewards given by Dudley, now Duke of Northumberland, to his adherents, receiving among other items an office in the duchy of Cornwall formerly held by his uncle. It was almost certainly as Northumberland’s nominee that he obtained a Cornish seat in the Parliament of March 1553; although his family had little interest in the neighbourhood of Launceston, a maternal kinsman had sat for the same borough in the first Parliament of the reign, and Killigrew could have counted on the support of the receiver-general of the duchy, another dependant of Northumberland’s, (Sir) Henry Gates. Nothing is known about his part in the Commons on this occasion or in his master’s manoeuvres in the closing months of the reign, but he was still a member of Northumberland’s household on its dissolution by Mary.5

A man of Killigrew’s religious convictions cannot have welcomed the accession of a Catholic Queen, and he was soon thick with the opposition to Mary’s proposed marriage to the Emperor’s son Philip. Since he went to France at the behest of Sir Peter Carew to enlist support for the opposition, he was probably the unnamed Englishman who approached Montmorency and Henry II in December 1553 at Fontainebleau for their aid. Killigrew was still in France when the conspiracy became known to Mary and its leaders fled abroad. He was less fortunate than some of his fellow-conspirators for not only was he stripped of his offices but he was also apparently taken prisoner. On his release he returned to France where by October 1554 he had enlisted in the service of the Vidame de Chartres. He remained in close contact with other refugees from the Marian regime and made a second visit to Italy, this time to consult the exiled Earl of Devon at Venice. On the appointment of Sir Nicholas Wotton as ambassador to France, Killigrew attempted to rehabilitate himself, but Wotton failed to secure him a pardon. On the declaration of war with France he was still an exile, and he fought at St. Quentin, possibly on the French side. Not long afterwards he took up residence in Strasbourg, where his future father-in-law was then living, and it was there that Thomas Randolph was sent, allegedly on Mary’s instructions but with the knowledge of Princess Elizabeth, to persuade him to undertake an important mission in France during the last month of Mary’s life. The accession of Elizabeth enabled him to return to England, to resume his career as a diplomat and to sit again in Parliament. Ill health during the early 1590s obliged him to retire to Cornwall where he continued to serve on local commissions until 1598: he died, shortly before the Queen herself, on 2 Mar. 1603.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Date of birth follows A. C. Miller, Sir Henry Killigrew, on which this biography largely rests. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 268; N. and Q. (ser. 2), xi. 17.
  • 3. Duchy Cornw. RO, doq., bk. 199; E315/224/221; CPR, 1553-4, p. 313; 1560-3, p. 127; APC, xi. 38-39, 46, 81, 174; xii. 81; CSP For. 1585-6, p. 146 passim; HMC Hatfield, i. 406, ii. 23, 126, 359; C. Read, Cecil, 249.
  • 4. Al. Cant. iii. 16; SP68/10/585; 70/122/13.
  • 5. SP68/10/245.
  • 6. CPR, 1553-4, p. 313; E. M. Harbison, Rival Ambassadors at Ct. of Q. Mary, 117, n. 23; D. M. Loades, Two Tudor Conspiracies, 157, 172, 259-64.