RADCLIFFE, Sir Humphrey (1508/9-66), of Elstow, Beds. and Beddington, Surr.

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



Mar. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1508/9, 3rd s. of Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex, by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham; half-bro. of Sir John Radcliffe. m. Elizabeth or Isabel, da. and h. of Edmund Harvey of Elstow, 2s. Edward and Thomas at least 3da. Kntd. by June 1536.2

Offices Held

Gent. pens. 1540-52, lt. 1552-5 or later; j.p. Beds. 1554, q. 1561-d.; sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 1558-9; steward, manor of Elstow 1563-d.3


Named after his maternal great-grandfather, Humphrey Radcliffe was introduced at court by his father, the 1st Earl of Sussex. As a boy he was contracted to marry one of the two daughters of John Marney, 2nd Baron Marny, but in the event Catherine Marney married his brother George and he the daughter of a courtier. In 1536 he took part in the celebrations marking the King’s marriage to Jane Seymour and he seems to have been one of the young men knighted then by Henry VIII. A year later he attended the christening of Prince Edward and not long after the funeral of the Queen. Appointed to the new bodyguard set up in 1540 he was present at the reception of Anne of Cleves and all the main state occasions throughout the 1540s and early 50s. He served in the expedition which took Boulogne, but he is not known to have fought in either Edward VI’s Scottish war or Mary’s French one.4

On his marriage Radcliffe settled in Surrey, where his father-in-law, Edmund Harvey, was keeper of the Carew property at Beddington following the execution of Sir Nicholas Carew, but on receiving the manor of Elstow from Harvey in July 1553 he migrated to Bedfordshire. By that time he had already sat in the previous Parliament as one of the knights for the shire, having been returned in opposition to a directive from the Privy Council in support of Sir John St. John and Lewis Dyve. Dyve was elected, but St. John was passed over in favour of Radcliffe. Why St. John, who had sat for the county at least twice before, should have been replaced this time is a matter for speculation, as is the choice of Radcliffe, a man 20 years younger than St. John and without experience of local management or of the House. His position at court may have commended him although he lacked government support. (It may not be without significance that his nephew Thomas Radcliffe, Lord Fitzwalter, was not summoned to the Lords on this occasion, as were the heirs to other earldoms, but also sat as a knight of the shire.) His local affiliation, standing at court and noble kin explain his repeated election as one of the knights for Bedfordshire in all but one of Mary’s Parliaments. His regular appearance in the House does not seem to have brought him into prominence there. The only mention of him in the Journal concerns a grant of privilege on 28 Oct. 1555 to one of his servants who had been arrested by the sheriff of Middlesex, but before the year was out he is known to have joined the opposition in defeating a government bill. Queen Mary put him on the Bedfordshire bench but replaced him as lieutenant of the pensioners.5

Edward Underhill thought that Radcliffe ‘always favoured the gospel’, but the only evidence he adduced was that as lieutenant of the pensioners Radcliffe had seen to it that Underhill continued to receive his wages while in disfavour with the Marian regime, and had further defended him before the steward of the Household, a course of conduct which looks as much like the reaction of a commanding officer to an attack on one of his subordinates as it does that of a co-religionist. In 1564 he was rated ‘indifferent’ to the Anglican settlement. Re-elected in 1559 for a borough amenable to his family’s influence, he failed to find a seat three years later and died on 13. 1566.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. CJ, i. 42.
  • 2. Aged 57 at death according to MI, Beds. N. and Q. i. 126-7. Doyle, Baronetage, iii. 481; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 48, 65; CPR, 1558-60, p. 2; Beds. N. and Q. i. 90; LP Hen. VIII, xv.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, iv, x, xiv(2) 783; LC2/2, f. 41v; Rep. R. Comm. of 1552 (Archs. of Brit. Hist. and Culture iii), 94; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 128; Narr. Ref. (ibid. lxxvii), 161, 168; CPR, 1553-4, p. 17; 1560-3, p. 518; information from W. J. Tighe.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, vi, xii, xiv-xix; Archaeologia, xii. 389; Lit. Rems. Edw. VI, pp. ccc, 1; Add. 34320, f. 84v; CP, vi. 184.
  • 5. Strype, Eccles. Memorials, ii(2), 65; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xvi; VCH Beds. iii. 281, 293; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 458-9; 1553, p. 232; 1558-60, p. 2; 1560-3, p. 518; CJ, i. 42; Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 6. Narr. Ref. 161, 168; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 28; Beds. N. and Q. i. 126-7; Pevsner, Beds., Hunts. and Peterborough, 84.