RESKYMER, John (c.1499-1566), of Merthen in Constantine and Tremayne, 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, s. of John Reskymer of Merthen by 2nd w. Catherine, da. of John Tretherffe of Tretherffe in Ladock unm. 3s. 1da. illegit. by Margaret Greber. suc. fa. c.1504.2

Offices Held

Servant, household of Cardinal Wolsey by 1523; esquire of the body by 1535; sheriff, Cornw. 1535-6, 1539-40, 1556-7; j.p. 1536-64; reeve, Grampound, Cornw. 1541-2; commr. musters, Cornw. 1546, church goods 1549, relief 1550; bailiff, Helston, Cornw. 1549-50.3


John Reskymer belonged to a family seated at Merthen since the early years of the 15th century. His father died when he was about five years old, whereupon, in his own words, his body ‘was seized and sold during his minority to divers hands and then at last came by sale unto the hands of one John Skewys’, who had married his mother. This transaction probably took place in or shortly before 1514, the year in which William Lytton and Sir William Trevanion brought an action against Skewys for ravishing the boy, whom they claimed as their ward. On coming of age Reskymer had difficulty in obtaining his inheritance. His complaint that his stepfather held on to it for 15 or 16 years is borne out by the fact that as late as 1537 the annual homage payment for Merthen was being charged to feoffees, as though the manor was still held by a minor. Not until the following year, when he was almost 40, was Reskymer himself asked to pay this sum, a demand which he evidently ignored as in 1544 proceedings were begun against him for seven years’ arrears.4

It was some compensation for this ill usage that Skewys, who was on good terms with Wolsey, procured for his stepson a place in the cardinal’s household. From this vantage-point Reskymer and Richard Antron petitioned Wolsey for the reversal of the attainder of Sir Henry Bodrugan and for the restoration of his estates to them as the next of kin; alleging that Bodrugan had been attainted on the perjured evidence of Sir Richard Edgecombe, they wanted the lands restored by Act of Parliament and to this end they offered the King and his minister 1,500 marks, but without avail. Wolsey’s fall did not harm Reskymer and during the 1530s he received several marks of favour from the King. A familiar figure at court, he was immortalized in that setting by Holbein’s portrait. During his term as sheriff of Cornwall he was entrusted with raising the Cornish levy against the northern rebels: chosen sheriff again in 1539, he was perhaps for that reason absent from the reception for Anne of Cleves. His relations with his stepfather, never good, worsened before Skewys’s death. In January 1543, abetted by William Carnsew and William Cavell, Reskymer occupied Skewys’s manor of Polrode: about the same time Skewys was complaining that some of his deeds had passed into Reskymer’s possession.5

When war came in 1543 Reskymer explained to the King that he could provide only six men for the army in France because most of his tenants were mariners or tinners. His own peak of activity was reached three years later when he was given the command of 300 Cornishmen for the defence of Boulogne: he set out for Dover with 100 of them but on the way he received fresh orders to join the lord admiral and spent the closing months of the war with the fleet in the Channel. This experience, combined with his place at court and his local ascendancy, made Reskymer a natural choice as one of the knights for Cornwall in 1547, when he was returned with another Sir Richard Edgecombe, grandson of the man he had once disparaged. (He may have sat in Parliament before, but in the absence of most of the returns to the Parliaments of Henry VIII, this remains uncertain.) Nothing is known about Reskymer’s role in the House.6

Although he was not to sit in Parliament again, even when the accession of Mary restored the Church to which he remained faithful, Reskymer was prominent in Cornish affairs until shortly before his death. In 1564 Bishop Alley of Exeter rated him ‘an extreme enemy’ of the Elizabethan settlement and thought him unfit to remain on the bench, not only by reason of his Catholicism but also because he kept a mistress at Tremayne. It was to secure the succession to his estates of his eldest illegitimate son that in June 1555 he appointed Thomas Treffry I, John Trelawny and others as trustees in tail male of all his lands in Cornwall. After his death at Tremayne on 28 June 1566 all the property, with the exception of the Tretherffe estates, passed to this son, John Reskymer alias Greber.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Aged ‘five or thereabouts’ at fa.’s death, C3/175/19. C. G. Henderson, Constantine, 98, 101; J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 555.
  • 3. E179/281; LP Hen. VIII, ix, x, xxi; CPR, 1550-3, p. 141; 1553, p. 351; 1560-3, p. 435; 1563-6, p. 20; Duchy Cornw. RO, 123, m. IIV; CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 398; information from G. Haslam.
  • 4. Henderson, 95, 101; C3/175/19; Duchy Cornw. RO, 120, m. 15; 122, m. 16v; 223, m. 2.
  • 5. DNB (Skuish or Skewes, John); Req.2/3/377; C1/1068/18-22; SP1/233, ff. 189-90; Holbein (The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace 1978-9), 60-62; LP Hen. VIII, xi.
  • 6. Henderson, 106; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xix, xxi; SP1/184, f. 101v; APC, iii. 504.
  • 7. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 69; Henderson, 105-7; Truro mus. HA13/32, Henderson transcripts, 6, f. 299.