Sir Walter MILDMAY

Born: BEF 1523, Moulsham, Essex, England

Died: 31 May 1589, Apethorpe, Northamptonshire, England

Buried: 31 May 1589, St Bartholomew, London, Middlesex, England

Father: Thomas MILDMAY

Mother: Agnes READE

Married: Mary WALSINGHAM 25 May 1546


1. Anthony MILDMAY (Sir)

2. Humphrey MILDMAY of Danbury

3. Winifred MILDMAY

4. Martha MILDMAY

5. Christian MILDMAY

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born by 1523, fourth son of Thomas Mildmay of Chelmsford,  a prosperous merchant of Chelmsford in Essex, by Agnes Read; brother of Thomas. Educ. Christ's Camb. 1537. m. 25 May 1546, Mary, dau. of William Walsingham of Footscray, Kent, niece of Sir Anthony Denny, the King's friend and councillor, and sister of Francis Walsingham, by whom he had two sons, Anthony and Humphrey, and three daughters. Kntd. 22 Feb 1547. Dep. receiver, ct. augmentations by 1540, jt. (with bro. Thomas) auditor, Cambs., Essex, Herts., Hunts., London, Mdx., Norf., Suff. 1545-50, gen. surveyor 1547-54; jt. (with Francis Southwell) auditor, prests, ct. gen. surveyors of the King's lands May 1543, (with bro. Thomas) duchy of Cornw. 1546-54; auditor, duchy of Lancaster, northern parts 1546-86; j.p. Essex 1547, Mdx. 1558/59-d.; Northants. 1558/59-d., Hunts. 1564-d.; chancellor of the Exchequer 5 Feb. 1559-d.; PC 1566; under treasurer 1567-d.; jt. ld. lt. Hunts. 1569, ld. lt. 1587-d.2 1559 executor of John, Lord Williams, will, with the Earl of Bedford and Sir William Cecil.

Three of his brothers followed their father in commerce, but one, Thomas, found a career in the administration of the ecclesiastical revenues annexed to the Crown on Henry VIII's assumption of supremacy over the church of England. It was against this background of new opportunities of public office and land-owning status that Walter was in 1538 sent to Christ's College in Cambridge. He did not stay long enough to take a degree - by 1540 he had joined his brother Thomas.

Walter Mildmay followed in his elder brother's footsteps and entered the royal service, almost certainly under the patronage of Sir Richard Rich, chancellor of augmentations. By the summer of 1540 he was employed in a minor capacity in augmentations, and over the next few years he gained there the administrative experience, skill and insight which were to assist his meteoric rise as a financial adviser to the crown. His brother exerted his influence in 1542 with two of the royal favourites to obtain a further appointment on his behalf from Henry VIII, but it was not until the following year that he received the joint auditorship of prests in the recently reorganized court of general surveyors. In 1544 he accompanied Rich to France as assistant treasurer for the war, and in this capacity he was concerned a year later with the dismantling of the armaments and their return to London. His outstanding ability earned him the respect of those with access to Henry VIII, and with their support Mildmay was to enjoy a series of appointments in different offices before the end of the King's reign.

In 1545 he was chosen as the second Member for Lostwithiel, one of the coinage towns in Cornwall. Since Henry VIII summoned his last Parliament to ask for taxation to meet the expenses of the French war, Mildmay's presence in the Commons as the assistant treasurer for the war was doubtless favoured by the King and Council. He had no personal link with the borough and his election anticipated his auditorship in the duchy of Cornwall, but his brother was already a prominent duchy official: Mildmay's Membership in 1545, however, probably owed more to Anthony Bourchier, his brother-in-law and a councillor to Queen Catherine Parr, to whose charge the King had left the initial arrangements for the Parliament and whose household accounts Mildmay was soon to audit. Two years later, having been admitted to Gray's Inn and knighted at the coronation of Edward VI, he entered the next Parliament for a Sussex borough with the support of Admiral Seymour, who had married Catherine Parr several months after Henry VIII's death.

Mildmay continued in public service, much in demand in financial affairs, throughout the reigns of Edward VI and Mary, and by 1551 was wealthy enough to acquire a country estate at Apethorpe near Oundle.

In the reorganized court of augmentations Mildmay became one of the general surveyors and thus one of the most powerful officials of the institution. He was appointed to the commissions for sale of crown lands and was kept busy throughout the reign of Edward VI with the day-to-day business of certifying accounts, delivering money and hearing causes. Much of the business was transacted in his London house but his presence was from time to time called for elsewhere, as when in 1551 he was much occupied with the establishment of the mint at York. His experience made him a valuable member of the inquiry of 1552 into the financial departments: the report of this commission, on which the reorganization at the beginning of Mary's reign was based, bears traces of Mildmay's influence. His services were rewarded by the crown in grants of land, and around this nucleus he purchased a series of estates in Essex and Northamptonshire.

Mildmay's association with Seymour did not disadvantage him with the Duke of Northumberland. In the spring of 1553 he was returned for Lancaster with the help of his neighbour and the Duke's confidant, Sir John Gates, then the chancellor of the duchy, and also for Maldon where he himself owned the nearby manor of Danbury. On his deciding to sit for Maldon he was replaced at Lancaster by John Caryll. For the following Parliament that year, the first of Mary's reign, he was returned for Peterborough. Here his growing position in Northamptonshire undoubtedly stood him in good stead, while his connexion with John Russell, Earl of Bedford, who was steward for the crown of Mildmay's lordship of Apethorpe, may also have helped. Mildmay and his fellow-Member, Sir William Fitzwilliam (whose heir William later married one of Mildmay's daughters) opposed the first steps towards the restoration of Catholicism, and perhaps because this defiance did not commend him to Mary he was not to sit again until the last Parliament of the reign, when for the first time he was elected a knight of the shire for Northamptonshire, an honour which was to be his for the rest of his life. But his official career was uninterrupted: he continued to be appointed to financial commissions, including those set up to dissolve augmentations and to transfer its functions to the Exchequer, and the subsequent Exchequer commissions to lease and control crown lands. Towards the end of the reign he was employed more frequently, and in 1558 was appointed treasurer of the expedition to recover Calais.

With Elizabeth's accession Mildmay came immediately into prominence and was soon, on the Marquess of Winchester's recommendation, appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1566 to his death. For the remaining years of his life he was one of Elizabeth's chief advisers and Privy Councillor. He frequently used his influence to protect the Puritans and to help protestant refugees from the Continent. He showed too a concern for education by benefactions in 1548 to Chelmsford Grammar School and in 1568 to Christ's College.

His intellectual and religious interests found their fullest expression in his foundation of Emmanuel College in 1584. His original statutes for the College emphasised its role as a seedbed of learned ministers, but from the first it also accepted students with other careers in view; and though critics labelled it a 'puritan' institution both Mildmay and Chaderton, first Master, made clear that they were neither religious separatists nor political dissidents.

William Fitzwilliam’s diary of the 1584 Parliament leaves us greatly in his debt. It concentrates almost entirely on Mildmay’s major speeches and on the subjects so important to the puritans in the House: the Queen’s safety, the bill against Jesuits, the petition to the Lords on religious grievances, the linking of the subsidy bill with religion, and the bill for the reformation of disorders touching ministers of the Church.

He died on 31 May 1589 and was buried at Apethorpe.
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