Wilson and Webb

My kindred, William Wilson, and his brother-in-law, Erasmus Webb may have known William Shakespeare – intimately! Anne (Webb) Wilson lived at Windsor Castle. Her brother, Erasmus, was the Archdeacon of Buckingham Palace. Are we looking at the authors of Shakespeare’s plays? Why has this family lineage been buried, and all but forgotten? These are extremely educated men, whose wives would be at court. They would know all the intrigues, and, hear confessions. They would know the merry wives of Windsor. People would bring them all the gossip that is the bane of the church, aimed at bringing other down as they vie for royal favors.

This bloodline flows from Bohemia and has seeded several major religions. This is the ‘Hidden Seed’. The Webb family came to America. In the chart below we see that Sir Alexander Webb married Mary Wilson, the daughter of Thomas Wilson MP, the grandfather (or Great Uncle?) of Reverend John Wilson of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, that the Webb family played a large role in. Shakespeare’s line, died out, and thus, this is his American Seed.

Statesman, Thomas Wilson MP, was a stellar scholar and author who could have prepared the way for the writing of Shakespeare. Why not put Alexander Webb is the race? Surely the Webb-Wilson family saw themselves as the family-power behind the Church and Throne, and in need of new forum.

Wilson belongs to the second rank of Elizabethan statesmen. An able linguist, he had numerous acquaintances among Spanish and Flemish officials in the Netherlands, and, in a wider context, his range of friends included Leicester, Burghley, Hatton, Davison, Sir Francis Knollys, Paulet, Walsingham, William of Orange, Jewel, Parker, Parkhurst, Gresham, Ludovico Guiccardini and Arias Montano.”



John Presco

Copyright 2019



Erasmus Webb B.D. (d. 24 March 1614) was a Canon of Windsor, England from 1590 to 1614[1]


He was educated at Gloucester Hall, Oxford where he graduated BA in 1568, MA in 1572 and BD in 1585.

He was appointed:

He was appointed to the ninth stall in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in 1590, a position he held until 1614.

He was buried in the chapel. His inscription read:

“Hic jacet Erasmus Webb, Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureus, cujus Regiae Capallae quondam Canonicus, qui obit 24 die Martii, Anno Domini 1613. Aetatis suae 63”[2]

The Early Webb Families
Sir John Alexander Webb


William Shakespeare and his wife Anne had three children. The eldest, Susanna, was baptised on 26 May 1583. They also had twins, Judith and Hamnet, baptised on 2 February 1585.

Shakespeare had four grandchildren who all died without heirs, so there are no direct descendants of his line today.

Susanna married John Hall in 1607, and had one child, Elizabeth, in 1608. Elizabeth was married twice, to Thomas Nash in 1626, and to John Barnard in 1649. She had no children by either husband.

Hamnet died at the age of 11 and was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon on 11 August 1596. The cause of his death is unknown.

Judith married Thomas Quiney in 1616, and the couple had three sons: Shakespeare Quiney, who died in infancy, and Richard and Thomas, who both died in 1639 within a month of each other. Neither of them married or had children before they died.

It is possible to claim a relationship to Shakespeare through his sister, Joan. There are many descendants of Joan and William Hart alive today, in both the male and female lines.








Sir Henry Alexander Webb, I MP

Gender: Male
Birth: May 11, 1510
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England
Death: circa 1544 (29-37)
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England
Immediate Family: Son of Sir John Alexander Webb, Jr. and Margaret Webb
Husband of Grace Webb
Father of Humphrey Webb; Sir Alexander Webb, I; Agnes O’Dell / Hill / Arden; Henry Webb, Jr.; Ann Wilson and 9 others; Mary Arden Webb; Geoffry Webb; Erasmus Webb, Archdeacon of Buckingham; Stephen Webb; Elizabeth Hathwatt; Anthony Webb; George Webb; Robert Webb and Phillipa Webb « less
Brother of William Webb; Mary Agnes Arden; Abigail Shakespeare and Agnes Webb
Added by: Paula Denice Webb on February 19, 2007
Managed by: Jason Peter Herbert and 63 others
Curated by: Jenna, Volunteer Curator


Date of birth has also been erroneously reported to be December 24, 1534.

Date of death has also been erroneously reported to be 1573.

NOTA BIEN: It has been alleged that this Sir Henry was a baronet, but the Baronetage of England was not formed until May 22, 1611.

It was said that Sir Henry Alexander Webb (1510-1544) established the family for all future time, since to him “for valiant deeds of his father”, Sir John Alexander Webb, of Oldstock, “who was an officer under Kings Henry VII and VIII”, the present generally accepted emblem, or coat of arms, was granted. This heraldic ensigna of rank in the New Nobility, that of the thegus, owe their origin in personal service to the prince then reigning. The New Nobility was accordingly one of office due to meritorious service. The device of hereditary coat of armour, a growth of the twelfth century, did much to define and mark out the noble class throughout Europe. When once acquired by grant of the Sovereign, it went on from generation to generation. They who possessed the right of coat of armour formed the class of nobility or gentry.

Sir Henry Alexander Webb married Grace Arden, sister of Robert Arden. Mary Webb (Shakespeare’s grandmother) married Robert Arden, brother of Grace.

from: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~sharonkforehand/page%208Smith%20Webb%20Griffith.htm

Sir Henry Alexander Webb

Though commonly thought to have been the 4th Baronet of Odstock, that distinction would have fallen to his brother William. Presumably the title would come to him if William died without male issue, and I haven’t yet found a reference to wife or child for William. I also haven’t found any reliable reference to Sir Henry as a Peer of the Realm, which means he was most likely not a Baronet.

Undoubtedly named after Henry VIII–due to the close family association with the royal family–Henry Alexander Webb was born on May 11, 1510. Henry married Grace Arden, daughter of Thomas Arden, of Aston Cantlow parish of Warwick county. The continued close association of the Webb family and royalty are documented in a letter sent by the Queen, Katherine Parr, requesting that grants and privileges due Henry Alexander Webb be fulfilled as promised. Sir Henry and wife Grace had three children: First-born Alexander, Agnes and Robert. Little is known of Agnes and Robert.

‘Sir Henry Alexander permanently secured nobility for the family when, on June 17, 1577, he was granted a coat of arms.’ Although I have found this statement all over the internet, it is doubtful and a bit dubious. Firstly, I would point out that the grant of arms listed is for 1577, Henry would have been 67 if he had lived that long (notice the date of death…). Secondly, and more importantly, Sir John was not only Henry’s father but was also the 3rd Baronet of Odstock. This means that the family was already considered Noble. And third, Henry was known to wear his Arms at tournament and on the field of battle. Hard to do if they are not granted to you until after your death. In this common misconception even the heralds at the UK College of Arms were unable to help clear up the debacle. The Arms appear on numerous ‘rolls of Arms’ from the time and always list the bearer as Sir Henry Alexander Webb.

The Heraldric blazon or description of these arms is “Gules a cross between 4 falcons Or” and the crest is “Gules demi eagle rising upon a Ducal coronet”

Some sources say ‘eaglets’ instead of ‘falcons’. According to the United Kingdom College of Arms heralds eaglets adorn Sir John’s arms, Henry’s father. The falcons were a mark of personal distinction between the two men.

A copy of the letter which Katherine Parr sent her council (Cabinet Members) asking them to grant her beloved friend, Sir Henry Webb, the lands and estates that had been mentioned for him, is still in existence.

These lands had been confiscated by the King at the suppression of the monasteries and were located in Dorsetshire, England.

Sir Henry Alexander Webb was usher to the Privy Council of Katherine Parr, Queen Regent of Britian in the 16th century, 6th Queen of Henry VIII of England; to whose influence the future sovereigns Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I owed a great deal.

Among the few exsisting documents connected with the regency of Katherine Parr was one while Henry VIII was conducting the seige of Boulogne in 1544 AD. There is in the Crotonain Collections, a letter to her council, headed: “Katherine, Queen Regent, K.P.; In favor of her trusty and well beloved servant, Henry Alexander Webb, gentlemen, usher of her Privy Chamber”. The letter is in regard to some grants and privileges to Henry Alexander Webb, but which had not been fulfilled and it concludes, “we most heartly desire and pray you to be favorable to him at this our earnest request. Given under my Hand and Signet at my Lord, the King’s Majesty’s Honor of Hampton court, the 23rd of July and the 36th year of his Highness most noble Reign”.

Sir Henry Alexander Webb was an usher to Catherine Parr, Queen of England.


11. Sir Henry Alexander WEBB (John Alexander , John Alexander , William , John , Geofrey , Henry ) was born on 11 May 1510 in Stratford, Warwickshire, England. He died about 1544 in England.

   It was said that Sir Henry Alexander Webb (1510-1544) established the family for all future time, since to him the coat of arms, was granted. This heraldic ensigna of rank in the New Nobility, that of the thegus, owe their origin in personal service to the prince then reigning. The New Nobility was accordingly one of office due to meritorious service. The device of hereditary coat of armour, a growth of the twelfth century, did much to define and mark out the noble class throughout Europe. When once acquired by grant of the Sovereign, it went on from generation to generation. They who possessed the right of coat of armour formed the class of nobility or gentry. Sir Henry Alexander Webb married Grace Arden, sister of Robert Arden. Mary Webb (Shakespeare's grandmother) married Robert Arden, brother of Grace.

Henry married Grace ARDEN, daughter of Thomas ARDEN, about 1533 in Stratford, Warwickshire, England. Grace was born about 1512 in Wilnecote, Warwickshire, England. She died on 3 Dec 1539 in Windsor, Hertsfordshire, England.

They had the following children:

   + 	14 	M 	i 	Sir Alexander WEBB Sr
   + 	15 	F 	ii 	Agnes WEBB
     	16 	M 	iii 	Henry WEBB was born on 15 May 1537 in Stratford, Warwickshire, England.

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Immediate Family

Showing 12 of 22 people Showing 22 people

Alexander Webb, Jr. was born 20 Aug 1559 at Stratford, Warwickshire, England. He died in Boston, Massachusetts. (n.b. This seems unlikely if he did got to Connecticut.)

Parents: Alexander Webb, Sr. and Margaret Arden.

Marriage 1: Mary Wilson (daughter of Thomas Wilson) abt. 1589 in Stratford, Warwickshire, England.

Children of Mary Wilson and Alexander Webb:

1. Richard (1580-1656) m. 1: Grace Wilson. m. 2: Elizabeth Gregory.

2. William Micajah “The Merchant of Virginia” (1582-?)

3. Elizabeth (1585-1635) m. John Sanford, Sr.

4. John (1597-1660)

5. Christopher (1599-1671) m. Humility Wheaton.

6. Henry “The Merchant of Boston” (1601-1671) m. 1: Hannah Scott. m. 2: Docibel Smith.


Alexander & Mary (Wilson) Webb had six children;

Richard Webb b. 5 May 1580, William Micajah b. 9 Sep 1582, Elizabeth Webb b, 3 Sep 1585, John Webb b. 23 Oct 1597, Christopher b.15 Apr 1599, Henry Webb b. Oct 1602

Some gnealogist and family historians think that Alexander and His sons came to America in the early seventheen century. Richard, the elder son setteled in connecticut early in the seventh century, and is lickly the progenerator of the northern line of Webb family.

Alexander Jr. came to america, and so did four of his sons. This was the beginning of the great WEBB family in the United States.

In 1626, the first Webb immigrants came to America. The move was likely to be motivated by sons in the family since the parents, Alexander Webb Jr. and wife Mary Wilson, would have been in their 60s at the time of immigration. There is disagreement in historical records over whether Alexander and Mary stayed in England or emigrated to the United States. The move involved an extended family–sons and daughters of Alexander Webb and Mary Wilson in their 40s and grandkids in their teens. Members of the immigrant family included sons William, Christopher, Henry, and Richard, and daughter Elizabeth. Another son, John, remained in England, possibly to look after the affairs of the remains of the family land holdings in England. This son John came to America in 1636 and historical records indicate he came as a member of the military, which would indicate that he came as part of the British military sent to ensure compliance of the colonies to British rule. As we will see, this could have been a very interesting situation, since other members of the family became an integral part of the Revolutionary War effort.



30. Sir Alexander WEBB Jr (Alexander , Henry Alexander , John Alexander , John Alexander , William , John , Geofrey , Henry ) was born on 20 Aug 1559 in Stratford, Warwickshire, England. He died after 1629 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts and was buried in Boston, Suffolk County, America with four sons: Christopher, Richard, John and William. This was the beginning of the WEBB family in America.

Alexander married Mary WILSON about 1579 in Stratford, Warwickshire, England. Mary was born about 1561 in Stratford, Warwick, England.

They had the following children:

   + 	52 	M 	i 	Richard WEBB Sr
   + 	53 	M 	ii 	William Micajah WEBB
   + 	54 	F 	iii 	Elizabeth WEBB
     	55 	M 	iv 	John WEBB was born on 23 Oct 1597 in Stratford, Warwick, England. He died on 5 Apr 1660 in Siterly, Hampshire, England.
   John was one of four brothers who came to America in 1629 with their father, Alexander Webb Jr.
   + 	56 	M 	v 	Christopher WEBB Sr
   + 	57 	M 	vi 	Henry WEBB

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William Wilson Gentleman
Born about in Penrith, Cumberland, England, United Kingdommap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of Isabell (Unknown) Wilson — married [date unknown] [location unknown]

Descendants descendants

Died in Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Englandmap


“He was “of Wellsbourne, Lincolnshire, gentleman, who was buried in Saint George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where he presumably was some sort of official, although there is no record of more than his burial there.”

“William Wilson, gent., born about 1515, who removed from Penrith and settled at Welbourn, co. Lincoln. He acquired considerable estate, and on March 24, 1586, had confirmation of the following coat of arms, and grant of a crest, by William Flower, Norroy king of arms: Arms, per pale argent and azure three lion’s gambs erased fessways in pale counterchanged; crest, a lion’s head argent guttee de sang. He died at Windsor Castle, co. Berks (where his son William was prebendary), Aug. 27, 1587, and was buried in the chapel of St. George, Windsor Castle, where a monument was erected to his memory. (Burke’s ‘General Armory,’ p. 1120; Ashmole’s ‘History and Antiquities of Berkshire,’ p. 309; Register, ante, vol. xxxviii, pp. 306-307 and vol lii, p. 144; and Herleian MS. 1507, vol. 20.) The name of his wife has not been learned.”

“Of Welbourn, Lincolnshire. He held some position of sufficient importance that he was termed ‘gentleman’ and was buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

“In Harleian MS. 1507, I found the following on lead 20 (in pencil): A confirmacon of ye Armes & Guifte of ye Crest of Wm Wilson of Welborne in ye County of Lincoln, son of William Wilson of ye Town of Perith (Penrith?) in ye County of Cumberland, to all his Issue & offspring for ever under yehand & seale of Wm fflower also Clarenc’ King of Armes dated ye 24 of March 1586 ye 19th of Queen elizabeth. Now, 1594, borne by _____ Wilson of ye prebends of Windsor sonn of ye Aforesd Wm Wilson of Wilborne. Against this was a tricking of the Arms and Crest in pencil: ___Per pale ar and az, three lions gambs erased, feeways, in pale, counterchanged. ____ Crest: A lion’s head ar guttee d sang. In the same MS. (leaf 180, in pencil) I found a copy of a grant or confirmation of the arms of Woodhall and Brindall (Grindall) quartered.

“Wilson’s father has been called ‘a man of deep erudition, a scholar and a courtier . . . we must suppose him to have been a persona grata in the eyes of Queen Elizabeth.’

“The father of the Rev. William Wilson of Windsor (and grandfather of our John Wilson of Boston) was, as we have found, a William Wilson of Wellsbourne, in Lincolnshire, who died in Windsor Castle and was buried there in 1587. In Harleian MS. 1507, I found the following on lead 20 (in pencil): A confirmacon of ye Armes & guifte of ye Crest of Wm Wilson of Welborne in ye County of Lincoln, son of William Wilson of ye Town of Perith (Penrith?) in ye County of Cumberland, to all his Issue & offspring for ever under ye hand & scale of Wm fflower als Clarenc’ King of Armes dated ye 24 of March 1586 ye 19th of Queen Elizabeth. Now, 1594, borne by ____ Wilson of ye prebends of Windsor sonn of ye Aforesd Wim Wilson of Wilborne. Against this was a tricking of the Arms and Crest in pencil: ___Per pale ar and az, three lions gambs, erased, fessways, in pale, counterchanged. ___ Crest: A lion’s head ar guttee de sang. In the same Ms. (leaf 180, in pencil) I found a copy of a grant or confirmation of the arms of Woodhall and Brindall (Grindall) quartered.

“There was once a brass plate on a gravestone to his memory near the north corner of the church. It is now long gone but Ashmole made a record of it: ‘William Wilson, late of Wellsbourne in the County of Lincolne, Gent. departed this lyfe, within the Castle of Windsor, in the Yeare of our Lord 1587, the 27th Day of August, and lyeth buried in this Place.’ [1][2]


  1. Threlfall, John. The Ancestry of Reverend Henry Whitfield (1590-1657) and His Wife Dorothy Sheafe (159?-1669) of Guilford, Connecticut (Madison, Wisconsin, 1989)
  2. The antiquities of Berkshire. By Elias Ashmole, … v.3. Ashmole, Elias, 1617-1692, page 164.

He attended Merton College in Oxford, England where he obtained the following degrees: B.A. 1564, M.A. 1570, B.D. 1576, D.D. 1607.

Prebendary of Saint Paul’s and Rochester Cathedrals, and held the rectory at Cliffe, Kent. In 1584, he became a Canon of Windsor in place of Dr. William Wickham who was promoted to the see of Lincoln, being about that time made chaplain to Edmund Grindall, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was his wife’s uncle.


He made his will on 23 Aug 1613; it was proved on 27 May 1615. It said, “Will of William Wilson, Canon of Saint George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle … to be buried in the chapel near the place where the body of my dear father lies. If I die at Rochester or Cliff, in the county of Kent, then to be buried in cathedral church of Rochester, near the bodies of wives Isabel and Anne. To my cousin Collins, prebendary at Rochester … to the Fellows and Scholars of Martin College, Oxford … my three sons Edmond, John and Thomas Wilson, daughter Isabel Guibs and daughter Margaret Rawson … my goddaughter Margaret Somers which my son Somers had by my daughter Elizabeth, his late wife … to my god-son William Sheafe, at the age of twenty one years … son Edmond, a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, eldest son of me, the said William … to son John the lease of the Rectory and Parsonage of Caxton in the county of Cambridge, which I have taken in my name … to Thomas Wilson my third son … son Edmond to be executor and Mr. Erasmus Webb, my brother in law, being one of the Canons of St. George’s Chapel, and my brother, Mr. Thomas Woodward, being steward of the town of New Windsor, to be overseers. Witnesses: Thomas Woodwarde, Joh. Woodwarde, Robert Lowe & Thomas Holl.”

Death and Burial

He died on 15 May 1615 at Windsor, Berkshire, England. He is buried at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, next to his father. His tomb states: “To me to live is Christ, and to dye is Gain. Philip. I.21. Here underneath lies interr’d the Body of William Wilson, Doctour of Divinitie, and Prebendarie of this Church by the Space of 32 Years. He had issue by Isabell his Wife six Sons and six Daughteres. He dy’d the 15th of May, in the Year of our Lord 1615, of his Age the 73, beloved of all in his Lyfe, much lamented in his Death.” [1]


  1. Threlfall, John. The Ancestry of Reverend Henry Whitfield (1590-1657) and His Wife Dorothy Sheafe (159?-1669) of Guilford, Connecticut (Madison, Wisconsin, 1989)

Thomas Wilson, MP MP

Gender: Male
Birth: 1523
Death: June 16, 1581 (58)
St Katherine’s Hospital, London, England
Place of Burial: London, England
Immediate Family: Son of Sir Thomas Wilson, of Strubby and Lady Anne Wilson
Husband of Elizabeth Wilson; Agnes Wilson and Jane Empson
Father of Margaret Wormall; Margaret Wilson; Mary Margaret Webb, of Bramcote; Ann Burdett; Nicholas Wilson and 1 other; and Lucrece Wilson « less
Brother of William Cumberworth Wilson; Thomas Wilson; William Wilson; Mary Wilson; Roger Wilson and 3 others; Robert Wilson; Godfrey Wilson and Humphrey Wilson « less
Half brother of William Wilson
Added by: Richard Burnett on May 13, 2008
Managed by: W. Thomas Stack and 20 others
Curated by: Margaret (C)


Family and Education b. 1523, 1st s. of Thomas Wilson of Strubby, Lincs. by Anne, da. and h. of Roger Cumberworth of Cumberworth, Lincs. educ. Eton 1537-41; King’s Camb. 13 Aug. 1542, fellow 14 Aug. 1545-7, BA 1546 or 1547, MA 1549; Ferrara Univ. DCL 1559. m. (1) c.1560, Agnes (d. June 1574), da. of John Wynter, of Lydney, Glos., wid. of William Brooke, 1s. 2da. all by 1565; (2) by 1576, Jane (d.1577), da. of Richard Empson, of London, wid. of John Pinchon of Writtle, Essex.2

Offices Held

Master of St. Katharine’s hosp. London 1561-d.; adv., ct. of arches 1561; master of requests 1561; j.p.q. Mdx. from c.1564, Essex from c.1577; ambassador to Portugal 1567, to the Netherlands 1574-5, 1576-7; principal sec. and PC 12 Nov. 1577; dean of Durham 1579.3

Biography Wilson’s ancestors left Yorkshire about the middle of the fifteenth century, settling in Strubby, Lincolnshire. His father made a fortunate marriage, acquired ex-monastic lands and became a friend of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Save for the attachment he developed for his master, Nicholas Udall, little record remains of Wilson’s career at Eton, where he was a King’s scholar. At Cambridge he was taught by such scholars as Cheke, Ascham, Thomas Smith and Haddon: his political and religious preferences at the university can be seen in his associations with the Dudleys, Greys, Brandons and the theologian Martin Bucer. He became tutor to the two sons of his father’s friend the Duke of Suffolk, and was devoted to the latter’s wife Katherine. Both the young Brandons and Martin Bucer died in 1551, and thenceforward Wilson spent less time at Cambridge. During the summer of 1552 he had ‘a quiet time of vacation with Sir Edward Dymoke’ at Scrivelsby, and, by the following January, he had himself settled in Lincolnshire, at Washingborough.4

In view of the opinions expressed in his Rule of Reason, and Art of Rhetorique (written during his visit to Dymoke), Wilson’s eclipse during Mary’s reign was predictable. He joined Cheke in Padua in the spring of 1555, where he studied Greek, and, from the funeral oration he delivered for Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, in St. Anthony’s basilica on 18 Sept. 1556, it seems possible that he may have become the young nobleman’s tutor. In the following year he appeared in Rome as a solicitor in the famous Chetwode divorce case, when, in an attempt to obtain a favourable decision for his client, he intrigued against Cardinal Pole. The Pope—Paul IV—at first proved a willing listener. However, in March 1558 Mary ordered Wilson to return to England and appear before the Privy Council, and soon afterwards still, or again, in Rome he was thrown into the papal prison on a charge of heresy. There he suffered torture, escaping only when the mob broke open the prison upon Paul IV’s death in August 1559. Wilson took refuge in Ferrara, where in November the university made him a doctor of civil law.5

Upon his return to England in 1560 the impoverished scholar received the mastership of St. Katharine’s hospital, London, soon being accused of wasting the revenues, destroying the buildings, and selling the fair and the choir. However, the support of Sir Robert Dudley and Sir William Cecil soon brought him further preferment, as a master of requests. Besides the usual cases he frequently dealt with those concerning conspiracy, commercial disputes and diplomacy. He was prominent in the Hales (1564), Creaghe (1565), Cockyn (1575), and Guaras cases, and after the northern rebellion of 1569 he interrogated supporters of Mary Stuart and conducted many of the examinations in connexion with the Ridolfi plot. Frequently employed on missions abroad, his name occurs in connexion with foreign embassies in 1561, 1562 and 1563, but his first important journey was to Portugal in 1567, where he sought redress for damage done to a ship belonging to his brothers-in-law William and George Wynter, made a lengthy Latin oration before the young king Sebastian and was thenceforward frequently employed in negotiations on commercial matters between England and Portugal. By the end of the 1570s he had established himself as an expert in Portuguese affairs, and emerged as the champion of the pretender, Don Antonio, after the latter had fled from the armies of Philip II. As well as leading a mission to Mary Stuart at Sheffield castle, where he interrogated her upon her part in the Ridolfi plot, Wilson served on two separate occasions in the Netherlands. On the first, in late 1574 and early 1575, he negotiated with the Spanish governor on commercial matters and the expulsion of the English Catholics. By the time he went back in 1576 the situation in the Netherlands was chaotic. Mutinous Spanish troops had pillaged Antwerp, while the States, casting in their lot with the Prince of Orange, forced the new Spanish governor, Don John of Austria, to withdraw the Spanish soldiers. Wilson’s original idea was to arrange a modus vivendi between the protagonists. Gradually, however, he came to fear French intervention and to distrust the intentions of Don John, so that, by the time of his departure in June 1577, he had emerged a partisan of Orange.6

Wilson’s appointment as principal secretary soon followed his return to England. Although, like others in the Walsingham-Leicester faction of the Council, he deplored the Queen’s policy of procrastination over her marriage, and identified England’s cause with that of protestantism abroad, he remained subordinate to his colleague Sir Francis Walsingham, and his influence was minimal. He remained a supporter of Orange, of Condé, and of Henry of Navarre. As part of his duties as secretary, he became the first keeper of the state papers.

It was, presumably, court influence that procured Wilson his seat for the Cornish borough of Mitchell in 1563. There is no record of his activities in the first session of that Parliament, but on 31 Oct. 1566, he sat on a conference with the Lords to consider the most important current issues, namely the succession and the Queen’s marriage. On 3 Dec. he sat on a committee about the export of sheep. In the next two Parliaments he represented Lincoln, where his friend Robert Monson was recorder. In 1571 he spoke against vagabonds (13 Apr.) and against usury (19 Apr.). On 21 Apr. he took part in a conference with the Lords where it was decided to afford precedence to public over private bills ‘as the season of the year waxed very hot, and dangerous for sickness’. He was named to committees on the river Lea (26 May) and barristers fees (28 May). In 1572 the main topic was Mary Stuart, whose execution Wilson urged:

No man condemneth the Queen’s opinion, nor thinketh her otherwise than wise; yet [he doubts] whether she so fully seeth her own peril. We ought importunately to cry for justice, justice. The case of a king indeed is great, but if they do ill and be wicked, they must be dealt withal. The Scottish Queen shall be heard, and any man besides that will offer to speak for her. It is marvelled at by foreign princes that, her offences being so great and horrible, the Queen’s Majesty suffereth her to live. A king, coming hither into England, is no king here. The judges’ opinion is that Mary Stuart, called Queen of Scots, is a traitor. The law sayeth that dignity defends not him which liveth unhonestly. The Queen took exception to the Commons giving a first reading, 21 May 1572, to a bill on religion, and a delegation, including Wilson, waited upon her. He reported back to the Commons on 23 May:

She had but advised, not debarred us to use any other way, and for the protestants, they should find that, as she hath found them true, so will she be their defence. In the 1572 session Wilson was appointed to committees concerning Mary Stuart and the Duke of Norfolk, and other, particularly legal, matters. In 1576 he again played a mediating part, this time in the Arthur Hall affair, and he was of the committee that examined Peter Wentworth after the latter had made his famous speech on the liberties of the House. On the other hand his independence, even as a Privy Councillor, can be seen in 1581, when he spoke for Paul Wentworth’s proposal for a public fast. ‘Both Mr Secretaries’, Wilson and Walsingham, were ordered by the House on 3 Mar. 1581 to confer with the bishops on religion. Throughout the 1572 Parliament, Wilson, as master of requests, was frequently employed fetching and carrying bills and messages to and from the Lords, and on such tasks as drafting bills, examining witnesses and administering oaths. As Privy Councillor he was appointed to several committees including those on the subsidy (25 Jan. 1581), seditious practices (1 Feb.), encumbrances (4 Feb.), the examination of Arthur Hall (6 Feb.), defence (25 Feb.), Dover harbour (6 Mar.) and the Queen’s safety (14 Mar.). Wilson died after the end of what proved to be the last session of the 1572 Parliament, but before it was finally dissolved.7

Wilson’s literary works, like those of More, Crowley and Starkey before him, were concerned with classical studies, and with problems of morality and the commonwealth. At Cambridge in 1551 he contributed Latin verse to Haddon’s and Cheke’s De Obitu doctissimi et sanctissimi theologi doctoris Martini Buceri. A few months later, after the death of his young pupils, he wrote and edited Epistola de vita et obitu fratrum Suffolciencium Henrici et Caroli Brandon. The Rule of Reason, written in 1551 and dedicated to Edward VI, uses medieval logic to support the doctrines of Geneva, and this was followed by the dedication in Haddon’s Exhortatio ad Literas to John Dudley, the eldest son of Northumberland, to whom, in 1553, Wilson dedicated his own Art of Rhetorique. Like the Rule of Reason this dealt with the teachings of the earlier scholars, supplemented by digressions on political, social, religious and moral questions. Similar questions concerned Wilson when he wrote his Discourse upon Usury in 1569. Though in close contact with the New Learning, and well informed on current economic problems, Wilson was unable to escape from the limitations of medieval moral precepts. He was especially critical of enclosures and usury, from both of which he feared harm for the commonwealth. In 1570 Wilson translated the Three Orations of Demosthenes, to serve as a warning against a new Philip of Macedon, Philip II of Spain.

Apart from his mastership of St. Katharine’s hospital, Wilson had several sources of income: his employment as master of requests and secretary brought him £100 p.a. as well as perquisites; he received a life annuity of £100 from the Queen in 1571; and on 28 Jan. 1579 he was appointed lay dean of Durham at £266 with £400 p.a. more from the properties attached to the office. He was installed by proxy and had letters of dispensation for non-residence. With one exception the Durham prebendaries acquiesced in Wilson’s appointment. A year before his death he accepted the parsonage of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. He had of course a substantial income from his Lincolnshire lands, concerning which he remained in close touch with his brothers Humphrey and William who lived in that county, and Godfrey, who was a wealthy London merchant and member of the Drapers’ Company. Humphrey, in his will, committed his son Thomas, later a prominent political figure, to his brother’s care; but in the event, Humphrey outlived Wilson, who made his own will in May 1581, the day before he died. He had suffered from bouts of sickness—it seems from a kidney complaint—since his return from the Netherlands in 1577, and the Tower Hill water did not provide the cure he hoped for. He was buried ‘without charge or pomp’ at St. Katharine’s hospital, although he had recently been living on his estate, Pymmes, at Edmonton, which he had purchased in 1579 for £340. His son Nicholas, heir and executor, returned to his father’s Lincolnshire estates, and his two daughters each received 500 marks.8

Wilson belongs to the second rank of Elizabethan statesmen. An able linguist, he had numerous acquaintances among Spanish and Flemish officials in the Netherlands, and, in a wider context, his range of friends included Leicester, Burghley, Hatton, Davison, Sir Francis Knollys, Paulet, Walsingham, William of Orange, Jewel, Parker, Parkhurst, Gresham, Ludovico Guiccardini and Arias Montano.9

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603 Author: P. W. Hasler Notes

This biography is based upon a paper by Albert J. Schmidt, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S.A.

1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament 2. King’s Coll. Camb. protocullum bk. 1, p. 104; Harl. 1550, ff. 85-6; Guildhall mss 4546; Vis. Glos. (Harl. Soc. xxi) 278; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 470; Lincs. Historian, ii(4), pp. 14-24; DNB. 3. C. Jamison, Hosp. St. Katharine, 69 et passim; CPR, 1560-3, p. 102; 1563-6, p. 187; Lansd. 22. f. 52; I. S. Leadam, Sel. Cases Ct. of Requests (Selden Soc. 1898), p. xxi.; Cott. Nero B. 1, f. 125; APC, x. 85; C66/1188/82. 4. Harl. 1550, ff. 85-6; PRO, Lincs. muster rolls, 1539, Calcewath E36/21, f. 52; PRO town depositions C24, 30; T. Wilson, Epistola (London 1551); T. Wilson, Art of Rhetorique, ed. Muir. 5. C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 339 et passim; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 100; CSP Rome, ii. no. 602; Art of Rhetorique. 6. Strype, Annals, i(2), pp. 285-6; E. Nuys, Le Droit Romain, Le Droit Des Gens, et Le College des Docteurs en Droit Civil (Bruxelles, 1910), p. 144; HMC Hatfield, i. 250, 508, 520; APC, vii. 205; x. 210; CSP Ire. 1509-73, p. 255; CSP Scot. 1571-4, nos. 352, 353; 1574-81, nos. 140 seq.; CSP Span. 1568-79, passim; 1580-5, passim; Murdin, State Pprs. ii. passim; CSP For. 1579-80, passim. 7. D’Ewes, 126-7, 157, 206, 219, 220, 222, 241, 249, 251, 252, 255, 282, 288, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 301, 302, 306, 309; CJ, i. 94, 98, 99, 101, 109, 110, 112, 122, 124, 130, 136; Cott. Titus F. i. ff. 152, 163; Neale, Parlts. i. 259, 303-4, 379; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. f. 42. 8. I. Temple, Petyt 538, ff. 39, 147, 152v; C66/1076/29, 1189/38; C54 close rolls, passim; C142/233/41; C54/1052; Dean and Chapter of Durham treasurer’s bk. 1579-80, no. 2; 1580-1, no. 3; reg. 3, ff. 2, 3; Dean and Chapter Acts, 1578-83, ff. 29, 46; Estate House, Old Charlton, Kent, Wilson’s household inventory 1581; Lincoln Wills, 2, f. 262; Wards 7/23/112; Harl. 6992, f. 120; Fleet of Fines, CP25(2) 172, 21 Eliz. Trin.; PCC 32 Tirwhite. 9. CSP For. 1577-8, no. 820(4); CSP Dom. 1575. p. 105; Corresp. de Philippe II (Bruxelles 1848-79), iii. 214; Wilson’s household inventory.

Thomas Wilson (1524–1581) was an English diplomat, judge, and privy councillor in the government of Elizabeth I. He is now remembered for his Logique (1551) and The Arte of Rhetorique (1553), an influential text. They have been called “the first complete works on logic and rhetoric in English.



Thomas Wilson was very much a man of his time. Born to a prosperous but undistinguished family of the Lincolnshire gentry in 1523 or 1524, he went to Eton, then to King’s College, Cambridge, taking his M. A. in 1549. At Cambridge he studied Greek with Sir John Cheke, leading “Grecian” of the time, and developed lifelong friendships with several men who would later become prominent courtiers and humanists, notably Thomas Smith (later to write De Republica Anglorum) and Roger Ascham (who later wrote The Scholemaster).

In the 1550’s Wilson accepted an appointment as tutor to the sons of Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk, member of the important Willoughby family of Wilson’s native Lincolnshire. Her deceased husband was Charles Brandon, the intimate friend of Henry VIII. While in her service Wilson formed enduring connections with influential men in the Protestant circles at court, particularly Sir Edward Dymock and William Cecil, a member of the privy council who later, as Lord Burleigh, would become the most powerful of Elizabeth’s courtiers. In 1551 Wilson published the first book on logic ever written in English (The Rule of Reason), and in 1553 he brought out The Art of Rhetoric, dedicating it to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, heir to the staunchly Protestant Duke of Northumberland, who effectively ruled England during the sad last years of the dying boy-king Edward VI.

With the accession of the Catholic Mary, Wilson left England for Italy. There he spent the next five years studying civil law and engaging in enough Protestant intrigue to be imprisoned (and possibly tortured) by the inquisition, though in August of 1559 he was able to escape during an anti-Dominican riot after the death of Pope Paul IV. He took refuge in Ferrara, where he received a doctorate in law in November, 1559.

In 1560, with Elizabeth on the throne and the Earl of Leicester (brother of Wilson’s late patron, John Dudley) in ascendancy at court, Wilson returned to London. He was soon appointed to remunerative and responsible positions in the government. In 1561 he became the master of St. Katherine’s Hospital in the Tower of London, and later that year he was appointed to the much more responsible position as a master (i.e., a judge) in the Court of Requests, one of the new Tudor equity courts that relied heavily on civil law procedures.

Throughout the 1560’s and 1570’s, Wilson served in various diplomatic capacities, primarily in Spain and Portugal, then later in the Spanish Netherlands. He came to be the crown’s recognized authority on Portuguese affairs. During this time, he also finished the first English translation of Demosthenes (The Three Orations of Demosthenes, Chief Orator Among the Grecians, in Favor of the Olynthians . . . With Those His Four Orations . . . Against King Philip of Macedonie, London, 1570), which he had begun while he was residing with Cheke in Padua during 1556. He also completed two significant treatises on politics, both of them intended for the ears of the Dudley circle and the privy council. “A Discourse touching the Kingdom’s Perils with their Remedies” was never printed, but his Discourse Upon Usury was published in 1572, though completed several years earlier.

During the early 1570’s he was entrusted with the important but unpleasant task of prosecuting traitors. He spent much of 1571 living in the Tower, preparing the case against the Duke of Norfolk, including racking two of the duke’s servants. He examined a number of those implicated in the Ridolfi plot in 1572, and he was among those sent to examine Mary, Queen of Scots, about her role in the conspiracy. He sat in several Parliaments during the 1560’s and 1570’s, and in 1577 he succeeded his friend Sir Thomas Smith as the queen’s secretary. Though overshadowed by the queen’s other secretary, the redoubtable Walsingham, Wilson remained an active participant on the Privy Council for the rest of his life. Though a client of Leicester and generally a supporter of aggressively Protestant causes (such as active intervention in the Low Countries during the revolution against the Spanish Hapsburgs), he tempered that allegiance with a conciliatory attitude toward Burleigh’s more pacific and conservative policies. Appointed a lay dean of Durham Cathedral in 1579, he died at St. Katherine’s Hospital on 20 May, 1581, and was buried in St. Katherine’s Church.

Nicholas Sharp

Richmond, Virginia, USA

6 November, 1997


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Immediate Family

Showing 12 of 31 people Showing 31 people


Lady Ada Antoinette Erasmus
Lady Ada Antoinette Erasmus
Birth   •   0 Sources
about 1430
England, United Kingdom
Age 51
Death   •   0 Sources
about 1480
England, United Kingdom
Family Members
Marriage: 1445
Canongate, Midlothian, Scotland
Lady Ada Antoinette Erasmus
Lady Ada Antoinette Erasmus
Children (5)
William Wilson
William Wilson
Christopher Wilson
Sir Thomas Wilson
Sir Thomas Wilson
Thomas Wilson
Thomas Wilson
Children (9)
Johann " The Elder", Baron Of Schwarzenberg
Johann ” The Elder”, Baron Of Schwarzenberg
Magdalene von Seinsheim
Magdalene von Seinsheim
Erkinger von Seinsheim
Erkinger von Seinsheim
Friedrich von Seinsheim
Friedrich von Seinsheim
Ulrich von Seinsheim
Ulrich von Seinsheim
Kunigunde von Schwarzenberg
Kunigunde von Schwarzenberg
Lady Ada Antoinette Erasmus
Lady Ada Antoinette Erasmus
Sigmund I Freiherr von Schwarzenberg und Hohenlandsberg
Sigmund I Freiherr von Schwarzenberg und Hohenlandsberg
Jobst von Seinsheim

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2 Responses to Wilson and Webb

  1. David Peirce says:

    The family of Rev. William Wilson, D.D. who married Isabel Woodhall was not related to the family of Secretary Thomas Wilson. They are completely different Wilson families. One originated in Cumberland, and the other originated in Yorkshire. They have completely different coats of arms. The visitation of Lincolnshire has a pedigree of the family of Secretary Thomas Wilson … and this pedigree does not list any of the members of the Wilson family of Rev. William Wilson. I can share more information if you wish. Also, I’m confused … which Mary Wilson was married to Mr. Webb? Anne Webb was the second wife of Rev. William Wilson … not sure where Mary Webb comes into this. I’m a direct descendant of Rev. William Wilson and have done a lot of work on these two families, only to discover that they are likely not related. Thank you. David

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