EDGECOMBE, Richard (c.1499-1562), of Mount and Cotehele, 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. c.1499, 1st s. of Sir Peter Edgecombe by 1st w. educ. Oxf.; L. Inn, adm. 2 Feb. 1517. m. (1) banns 14 Apr. 1516, Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, Cornw., s.p.; (2) settlement 1535, Elizabeth, da. of John Tregian of Golden, Cornw., 4s. inc. Peter and Richard 4da.; (3) Winifred, da. of Sir William Essex of Lambourn, Berks., s.p. suc. fa. 14 Aug. 1539. Kntd. 16 Jan. 1542.3

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw., Devon 1532-d.; steward, Plymouth, Devon by 1539-?d.; sheriff, Devon 1543-4, 1552-3, Cornw. 1555-6; commr. chantries Cornw., Devon, Exeter 1546, relief Cornw., Devon 1550, goods of churches and fraternities Cornw. 1553, musters, 1557; visitor, Exeter diocese 1559.4


Richard Edgecombe was popularly known as ‘the good old man of the castle’ and remembered as ‘a gentleman in whom mildness and stoutness diffidence and wisdom, deliberateness of undertaking and sufficiency of effecting made a more commendable, than blazing, mixture of virtue’. His generosity to friends and servants, his impartiality as a justice and ‘his Christianity, in doing good for evil’ made him one of the most respected figures in the southwest. He was also a deeply religious man who kept a chaplain in his house to say daily service, and one of aesthetic tastes who earned a reputation as a poet.5

Edgecombe’s enthusiasm for the arts was fostered at Oxford, ‘where he spent some part of his youth’. Presumably he had left the university by the time his marriage banns were published and within a year he had entered Lincoln’s Inn in company with his brother John and his brother-in-law Thomas Arundell. Clearly he had no intention of becoming a lawyer. On his admission to the inn he was excused attendance for six vacations on condition that he kept the others during his first three years there; failure to do so either through lack of interest or because he obtained a post under the crown would cost him 10s. for his discharge. If Edgecombe hoped to enter the King’s service he seems to have been disappointed: his name has not been found in the royal household during the 1520s and nothing else is known about his career until 1532 when he began to figure in local administration. His father stood close to Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, who on Sir Peter Edgecombe’s death recommended Edgecombe to Cromwell and asked for the prompt livery of his inheritance: although Cromwell presented him to Henry VIII, he was not to obtain livery until after the minister’s execution nearly a year later.6

It was in 1542 that Edgecombe was probably first elected to Parliament. The returns for Cornwall are lost but he was almost certainly chosen one of the knights of the shire with the help of the sheriff, his brother-in-law Sir John Arundell: at the opening of Parliament the King knighted him in the Parliament chamber with several others, all of whom represented shires. He was not returned to the next Parliament, the last of the reign, but in the first Parliament of Edward VI he was again elected for Cornwall, this time with John Reskymer, a claimant to some of his property who had once petitioned Wolsey for its restoration. The Journal throws no light on Edgecombe’s role in this Parliament save that it was terminated on 2 Mar. 1552 when he obtained leave to go home because someone had died at his lodgings. Although his link with Sir Thomas Arundell would not have conduced to his election to the next Parliament, that of March 1553, no such obstacle stood in his way under either Mary or Elizabeth, yet he did not sit again.7

As one of the principal landowners in the southwest Edgecombe played an important part in local affairs. In the 1540s he was involved in the suppression of piracy and the erection of coastal forts, especially along the approaches to Plymouth, and in 1548 he raised men to restore order in Cornwall following a riot at Helston. Six years later he was instructed to oppose Sir Peter Carew’s rising and not long afterwards he entertained the admirals of the fleet escorting Philip to Southampton at his new house at Mount Edgcumbe, formerly West Stonehouse. On the fall of Calais he mustered the Cornish militia for its relief, and after the accession of Elizabeth he served as a visitor to the diocese of Exeter. He made his will on 1 July 1560, providing for his children and servants. He devised some of his property upon several feoffees, among them Henry Champernon his son-in-law, Roger Buttockshide and William Strode, who were to provide for his unmarried daughters and to pay his debts. He also bequeathed his heir-apparent £400 with which to sue out his livery, and appointed Peter Edgecombe as executor and his feoffees to use as supervisors. Edgecombe died on 1 Feb. 1562 and was buried at Maker church, where a plain stone slab long marked his grave.8

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Sixteenth-century herald’s tricking book in the possession of T. M. Hofmann in 1972.
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Date of birth follows family tradition, Collins, Peerage, v. 321. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 141-2; W. H. Edgcumbe, Edgcumbe Recs. 81-82; information from T. M. Hofmann.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, v-xxi; CPR, 1553, pp. 351-2, 413; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 94; A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 322; R. N. Worth, Plymouth, 221.
  • 5. Collins, v. 324-7; R. Carew, Survey Cornw. ed. Halliday, 166.
  • 6. Collins, v. 323; Edgcumbe, 81; Black Bk. L. Inn, i. 182; LP Hen. VIII, xiv-xv.
  • 7. Information from T. M. Hofmann, H. Leonard; CJ, i. 19.
  • 8. Edgcumbe, 82, 86; Collins, v. 323, 326; Carew, 165-6; LP Hen. VIII, xx; F. Rose-Troup, Western Rebellion, 81-82; APC, ii. 552, vi. 264; Chron. Q. Jane and Q. Mary (Cam. Soc. xlviii), 176; PCC 12 Streat; C142/134/166.