(1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury)

Born: 1503, Heytesbury, Wiltshire, England

Acceded: 8 Jun 1536

Died: 28 Jul 1540/1, Tower Hill, London, Middlesex, England

Father: Edward HUNGERFORD (Sir)

Mother: Jane ZOUCHE

Married 1: Susan DANVERS (d. BEF 22 Mar 1526/7) (dau. John Danvers and Anne Stradling)


1. Walter HUNGERFORD of Farleigh (Sir Knight)


Married 2: Alice SANDYS 1527/8



Married 3: Elizabeth HUSSEY (B. Hungerford of Heystesbury) Oct 1532


4. Edward HUNGERFORD (Sir)


Walter Hungerford was the only child of Sir Edward Hungerford. His father, son and heir of Sir Walter Hungerford, accompanied Sir Walter to Scotland in 1503; served in the English army in France in 1513, when he was knighted at Tournai; was sheriff for Wiltshire in 1517, and for Somerset and Dorset in 1518. In 1520 he attended Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold; died on 24 Jan 1521/2, and left his surviving wife sole executrix (cf. Gent. Mag. 1858, pt. i. p. 122). Walter's mother was his father's first wife, Jane, dau. of John, 7 B. Zouche of Haryngworth. His father's second wife was Agnes, widow of John Cotell. She had (it afterwards appeared) strangled her first husband at Farleigh Castle on 26 Jul 1518, with the aid of William Mathewe and William Inges, yeomen of Heytesbury, Wiltshire, and seems to have married Sir Edward almost immediately after burning the body. Not until Sir Edward's death were proceedings taken against her and her accomplices for the murder. She and Mathewe were then convicted and were hanged at Tyburn on 20 Feb 1523/4; she seems to have been buried in the Grey Friars' Church in London (Stow, Chronicle, p. 517; Grey Friars' Chronicle, Camd. Soc., ed. Nichols, pp. 43, 100, where the attempts at identification are hopelessly wrong; Antiquary, ii. 233). An interesting inventory of Lady Hungerford's goods, taken after her trial, is printed in 'Archaeolgia,' xxxviii. 353 sq.

Walter was nineteen years old at his father's death in 1522, and soon afterwards appears as squire of the body to Henry VIII. On 20 Aug 1532 John, Lord Hussey of Sleaford, whose daughter was Hungerford's 3rd wife, wrote to Cromwell that Hungerford desired to be Sheriff of Wiltshire, a desire which was gratified in 1533. Hungerford proved useful to Cromwell in Wiltshire (cf. ib. vi. 340-41), and in Jun 1535 Cromwell made a memorandum that Hungerford ought to be rewarded for his well-doing. On 8 Jun 1536 he was summoned to parliament as Lord Hungerford of Heystesbury. In 1540, he, together with his chaplain, a Wiltshire clergyman, named William Bird, who was suspected of sympathising with the Pilgrimage of Grace of the north of England, was attained be Act of Parliament (Parliament Roll, 31 & 32 Henry VIII, m. 42). Hungerford was charged with employing Bird in his house as chaplain, knowing him to be a traitor; with ordering another chaplain, Hugh Wood, and one Dr. Maudlin to practise conjuring to determine the King's length of life, and his chances of victory over the northern rebels; and finally with committing unnatural offenses. He was beheaded on Tower Hill on 28 Jul 1540, along with his patron Cromwell. Hungerford is stated before his execution to have 'seemed so unquiet that many judged him rather in a frenzy than otherwise'.

Hungerford married thrice: first Susan, daughter of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey; second, in 1527, Alice, daughter of William, Lord Sandys; and third, in Oct 1532, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Hussey, Lord Hussey. His treatment of his third wife is remarkable for its brutality. In an appeal for protection which she addressed to Cromwell about 1536. She asserted that he kept her incarcerated at Farleigh for three or four years, made some fruitless attempts to divorce her, and endeavoured on several occasions to poison her (cf. Froude, History of England, iii. 304 n. popular ed.) And there were suggestions of darker behaviour. Cromwell failed to act on Lady Hungerford's complaints - protecting his friend from criticism. But, in 1540, Cromwell himself fell from grace, and Lady Hungerford was vindicated and avenged. That same year, Walter was attainted and executed - for treason and "unnatural vice". The history text books are a little vague about what this unnatural vice was - sodomy or buggery - leaving our modern imaginations room for much lubricious speculation. After his execution, she became the wife of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton.

Hungerford left two sons and three daughters. The elder, Sir Walter Hungerford, called 'the Knight of Farleigh', was granted land by Edward VI in 1552, and was restored by Queen Mary to the confiscated estate of Farleigh in 1554, when the attainder on his father was reversed. He was Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1557, and died in Dec 1596.
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