RICE, William (by 1522-88), of Medmenham, Bucks.

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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. by 1522, s. of one Rice by Eden, da. of Thomas Saunders. m. by Nov. 1553, Barbara ?Fuller.1

Offices Held

Sewer, the chamber by 1543; bailiff, manors of Kingsland and Much Marcle, Herefs. Feb. 1543; gent. the privy chamber by Nov. 1553; bailiff and collector of former lands of St. Mary’s abbey, York in Cumb., Lincs., Yorks. and Westmld. 1553-?d.2


William Rice claimed gentle birth but his parentage has not been traced. He is first glimpsed in 1543 when already established as a minor household officer he obtained the bailiwick of two Herefordshire manors. Of his progression at court nothing has been found until Mary made him a gentleman of the privy chamber and gave him an annuity of £20 in reward for his support during the succession crisis of 1553. A more substantial grant to him and his wife Barbara, for good service, was made on 7 Nov. 1553, comprising the manors of Backnoe in Thurleigh, Bedfordshire and Medmenham. Later royal grants included manors in Kent and Somerset, and a moiety of some former Dudley properties in the midlands. Barbara Rice is sometimes identified with the Mistress Rice to whom during her last illness Queen Mary confided that when she died Calais would be found ‘lying’ on her heart, but this is more likely to have been Beatrice ap Rhys who had been in Mary’s service since at least 1525.3

Rice doubtless owed his return for Aylesbury in 1554 and 1555 to his post in the Household and his establishment in Buckinghamshire. He obviously satisfied the religious criterion then being applied. Why he was not re-elected for Aylesbury in 1558 remains a matter for speculation, but a seat was found for him at Lancaster by the duchy presumably in response to official prompting. The Journal does not mention him. At the accession of Elizabeth he withdrew from court and played no part in national or local affairs. In April 1561 he was imprisoned in the Tower ‘for the mass’, but although he implored pardon he is not known to have accepted the Anglican settlement. He was a sick man when on 22 July 1588 he made a will providing for his wife and three of his sisters and naming his wife and two friends executors. He died at Chipping Wycombe a week later. At the inquisition, not taken until 1596, it was found that the manor of Medmenham had been settled in July 1588 on his nephew William Rice, but by 1596 there were no heirs on his father’s side, and his nearest kinsman was his maternal cousin, William Saunders.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. K. Dale


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. C142/246/107.
  • 2. LP Hen. VIII, xviii; CPR, 1553-4, p. 284; LC2/4/2.
  • 3. A. H. Plaisted, Manor and Par. Recs. of Medmenham, passim; CPR, 1553-4. pp. 45, 53, 259, 281, 501-2; 1554-5, pp. 168, 175; 1557-8, pp. 89, 407; C142/246/107; Holinshed, Chron. iv. 137; VCH Bucks. iii. 9, 12-14; Privy Purse Expenses of Princess Mary 1536-44, ed. Madden, 38, 55.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 510; 1547-80, p. 180, (the letter calendared under 1570 in CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 403 was almost certainly written much earlier, probably in 1561, SP12/75/74 and cf. SP12/75/75); Cath. Rec. Soc. i. 45, 49-52, 55; Strype, Parker, i. 218-19; PCC 10 Leicester; C142/246/107.