ABSTRACT

The lesser landed gentry of Tudor England had no history. They lived quietly and obscurely in the shires, busied with their tenantry and estates or fulfilling their duties as Justices of the Peace. Not so their landless younger brothers and nephews: these had their way to make in the world, and while many of them secured petty Government appointments or entered the learned professions, it became increasingly common for at least one member of the family to adventure into trade. Consequently it often happened during the period of rapid economic and social change characteristic of the sixteenth century that while the head of the house remained obscure, the cadet became a man of note. Such was the good fortune of two cousins, alike named Richard Hakluyt, who sprang from a younger branch of an old-established Herefordshire county family. Their common grandfather was a certain Edmond Hakluyt who at the close of the fifteenth century had a family of four sons. Thomas, the eldest survivor, became Clerk for the Council of Wales and the Marches. Walter went to Oxford, took Holy Orders and obtained a country living in Norfolk: a celibate priest, he died without issue. The two other sons, Ralph and Richard, were sent up to London in turn and bound apprentice to members of the Skinners’ Company. 1 These four young men 2were the contemporaries of the Thornes, the Barlows and the Rastalls, who played their part in those pioneer adventures overseas which rendered memorable the opening decades of the sixteenth century. But there is no record at this time of any Hakluyt abroad. The head of their house, one John Hakluyt, owner of several manors in the parish of Eyton (lying not far from Leominster), was doomed to die young, and to leave behind him a tiny infant as his heir. Not long before his death he parted with a portion of his estates to his kinsman Thomas (the Clerk) who thus became a landed gentleman, 1 and henceforth styled himself 3Thomas Hakluyt of Eyton. His baby cousin, John’s heir, who was also named Thomas, was made one of the King’s wards, and during his long minority this child’s care and revenues were assigned to a certain Richard Watkyn. Meanwhile the elder Thomas married and founded a family. His first wife Mary died young, leaving him with four little daughters and one son, the latter being the elder of the two Richard Hakluyts to whom this volume is devoted. By a second marriage Thomas Hakluyt had several more sons and daughters, but he himself died in 1544 when they were all still mere children. The widow, Mistress Katherine, took as her second husband another Herefordshire landowner, Nicholas Depdene, a local Justice of the Peace. Her stepson Richard, heir to his father’s landed property, remained under the guardianship of her new husband and herself, and in accordance with the custom of the time his income accrued to his guardians. Reluctant to surrender this source of wealth, the Depdenes entered into a conspiracy with Thomas of Eyton, now of age, and head of the family, to conceal the deeds which constituted Richard’s title to the estates. Consequently the young man on attaining his majority had to bring a suit in Chancery against his stepmother, her husband, and his kinsman Thomas. 1