WRAY, Christopher (1521/22-92), Lincoln's Inn, London and Glentworth, Lincs.

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



Oct. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1521/22, 3rd s. of Thomas Wray of Yorks. by Joan, da. of Robert Jackson of Gatenby, Bedale, Yorks. educ. Buckingham (Magdalene), Camb.; L. Inn, adm. 6 Feb. 1545, called 1550. m. Anne, da. of Nicholas Girlington of Normanby, Yorks., wid. of Robert Brocklesby (d. 3 Apr. 1557) of Glentworth, 1s. William 4da. Kntd. 6 Nov. 1574.2

Offices Held

Lent reader, L. Inn 1563, 1567, treasurer 1565-6.3

J.p.q. Lincs. (Lindsey) 1558/59-d., (Kesteven) 1562-d., (Holland) 1569-d., Hunts. 1577-d.; steward, manor of Wetherby, Yorks. Jan. 1559-63, of counsel to Lincoln c. 1559, to Henry Neville, 5th Earl of Westmorland by 1562; serjeant-at-law Easter 1567, Queen’s serjeant 18 June 1567, justice of assize Yorks. 31 May 1570; 2nd justice of Lancaster 13 June 1570; j.K.B. 14 May 1572; l.c.j. 8 Nov. 1574; commr. eccles. causes, diocese of Lincoln 1575, to visit Oxf. univ. 1577, custos rot. Hunts. 1579; receiver of petitions in the Lords, Parlts. of 1584, 1586, 1589, eccles. commr. 1589.4

Speaker of House of Commons 1571.


Christopher Wray was a younger son in an undistinguished Yorkshire family, though of more reputable descent than was suggested by Richard Topcliffe in 1584. He had not progressed far in his legal career when he was first returned for Boroughbridge and his re-election there to every Parliament of Mary’s reign—on each occasion with a different partner—implies that he enjoyed a special advantage with regard to the borough. What this was is by no means clear. If, as may be presumed, Boroughbridge was re-enfranchised at the beginning of Mary’s reign with the object of adding to the ranks of government supporters, the two most likely sources of nominations would have been the duchy of Lancaster, within whose honor of Knaresborough the borough lay, and the council in the north, which wielded general patronage in Yorkshire. Wray is not known to have been connected with either the successive chancellors of the duchy, Sir Robert Rochester and Sir Edward Waldegrave, or the president of the council, the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury, nor is there any indication that the 2nd Earl of Cumberland, as steward of the honor, extended to Wray the support which he gave to at least one of the other Members. It is thus probably Wray’s combination of local and professional links which explains his hold on the seat. Among the first is to be noted his mother’s bequest in 1562 of her ‘goods and chattels at Aldborough, and all the corn growing in the fields there’; if these had come to her either from her own family or from her first marriage they would have given Wray a standing in the manor and parish of which Boroughbridge was a part. On the professional side, it could scarcely be fortuitous that three of Wray’s fellow-Members belonged to his inn, which also supplied Members for some other Yorkshire boroughs. Through that institution, and through his own marriage, Wray was associated with relatives and friends of Sir Thomas More, and the presumption of his own Catholicism is borne out by the absence of his name from among those who offered any opposition in the Commons to the Marian Restoration. His only mention in the Journal is as receiving for scrutiny a bill concerning exigents and proclamations on 29 Jan. 1558.5

Wray’s progress under Elizabeth was to carry him to the Speakership in 1571 and to a long and distinguished tenure of the office of lord chief justice. He died on 7 May 1592.

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Aged 70 at death. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. l), 176; (lv), 1322; Req.2/42/62; C. Dalton, Wrays of Glentworth, i. 58, 60; DNB.
  • 3. Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 252-3.
  • 4. CPR, 1560-3 to 1572-5 passim; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 543; J. W. F. Hill, Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, 70; Great Grimsby AO, letter of Francis Ayscough 1562; Somerville, Duchy, i. 473; LJ, ii. 61, 113, 145.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 207; Richmondshire Wills (Surtees Soc. xxvi), 159; PCC 47 Harrington ptd. N. Country Wills, ii (Surtees Soc. cxxi), 142-6; CJ, i. 48.