Born: ABT 1532

Died: 23 Sep 1583

Father: William MONSON of South Carlton

Mother: Elizabeth TYRWHITT

Married: Elizabeth DYON (dau. of John Dyon of Tathwell) 12 Sep 1559

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

Third son of William Monson of South Carlton by Elizabeth, dau. of Sir Robert Tyrwhitt of Kettlebyeduc. Camb.; L. Inn 1546, called 1552. m. 12 Sep 1559, Elizabeth, dau. and h. of John Dyon of Tathwells.p.

J.p. Lincs. (Lindsey) from c.1561, (Kesteven) from c.1564, (Holland) from c.1573; reader, Thavies Inn 1557; bencher, L. Inn 1562, Autumn reader 1565, keeper of black bk. 1565-6, treasurer 1567-8, governor 1569-72, Lent reader 1570; legal counsel to Lincoln by 1559, recorder 1570-2; eccles commr., dioceses of Lincoln and Peterborough 1571; serjeant-at-law 1572; j.c.p. (and j.p. many S.E. counties) 1572-80; c.j. Lancaster (and j.p. many northern counties) 1577-9.

As a young man Robert Monson was a source of trouble to the authorities of Lincoln’s Inn: not long after his admission he was fined for losing a moot; in 1550 he was put out of commons and threatened with expulsion for refusing to pay his dues, while in the following year he and John Salveyn were expelled for breaking the window of William Roper, but he was shortly re-admitted to the inn and not long afterwards called to the bar. Possibly he enjoyed his first taste of Parliament within a year of becoming a barrister as his youth and Protestant sympathies would have commended him to the Duke of Northumberland who summoned the Parliament of Mar 1553 (for which not all the returns survive) during the closing months of Edward VI’s life. He sat in every Parliament of Mary’s reign for a Cornish constituency: a number of his associates at Lincoln’s Inn came from families of gentle standing in Cornwall, and in the steward of the duchy, Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, the inn had an honorary member and a patron of its younger sons. Presumably because he was a duchy nominee, Monson took precedence over his fellow-Members when they were of local extraction but, when he was returned with the rising lawyer William Bendlowes and with the younger brother of a peer, William Stourton, he had to be content with the inferior place: on his second return for Newport iuxta Launceston, his name was inserted on the indenture in a different hand. Nothing is known about his contribution to the affairs of the House: he did not support the opposition in 1553 and 1555, and unlike Robert Browne, his fellow-Member in the Parliament of Nov 1554, he did not then quit the House early and without leave.

In 1559 the mayor and aldermen of Lincoln intended to choose Monson both as recorder and MP for the city, until Henry Manners, 2nd Earl of Rutland forced them to give both positions to Anthony Thorold. Monson was, however, retained as legal counsel, at 26s.8d., later 40s. p.a., and in 1564—the year in which he was classified as a justice of the peace ‘earnest in religion’ —a bye-law permitted the mayor to invite him to any council meeting, or informal sitting of members of the corporation, thus making him a sort of de facto recorder. At first Thorold resented Monson, but by 1570 the two were reconciled, and Thorold, apparently on his own initiative, gave up the recordership to his former rival. After twice representing Lincoln in Parliament, Monson, for some unascertained reason, came in for Totnes, where his relative Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford had influence. There was no quarrel with the Lincoln authorities who expressed their gratitude for Monson’s arbitrating between them and the Earl of Rutland over a fee-farm, by granting him a renewal, on more favourable terms, of his existing lease of Hanslope parsonage and other town property. As late as 1580 he was still a musters commissioner for Lincoln and he was a generous benefactor to the city in his will.

No activity has been found for Monson during the first session of the 1563 Parliament, but on 19 Oct 1566 he spoke ‘very boldly and judiciously’ in favour of renewing the succession question, and on 23 Oct he, Robert Bell and Richard Kingsmill spoke before the Lords on behalf of the Commons. Monson was appointed to the succession committee on 31 Oct, and was one of the leaders of the agitation to mention the succession question in the preamble to the subsidy bill. On 29 Nov Sir William Cordell, master of the rolls, wrote to Cecil to report that Monson’s objections to the subsidy bill had been overcome.

On 6 Apr 1571 Monson was appointed to a committee on returns and spoke the next day to arrange the time and the place for the committee to meet. He was named to a committee concerning the reform of canon law (6 Apr.), and reported from the bishops (10 Apr.) about a proposed conference with the Lords on the subject. He spoke on the treasons bill on 12 Apr and was appointed to two committees on the bill (12 Apr, 11 May). Other committee work included topics such as griefs and petitions (7 Apr), fraudulent conveyances (11 Apr), church attendance (21 Apr, 19 May), order of business (21, 28 Apr), vagabonds (23 Apr), tellers and receivers (23 Apr), fugitives (24 Apr, 25 May), priests disguised as servants (1, 2 May), respite of homage (2, 17 May), sheriffs (11 May), and counsellors’ fees (28 May). He was also appointed to a committee to investigate allegations of corruption in the House (28 May).

In the first session of the spoke in the debates on Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Duke of Norfolk (19 May, 9 June) and was appointed to the committees (12, 28 May, 6 Jun). On 11 Jun he spoke against the tale-tellers—he was ‘fully resolved they be papists’ — who misrepresented outside the Commons some of the speeches made there. He spoke on the fraudulent conveyances bill (16 May) and was appointed to two committees on the bill (16 May, 3 Jun); and he was named to a committee on recoveries (31 May). Appointed to the committee on the vagabonds bill on 29 May, he spoke the next day in favour of including minstrels within the provisions of the bill. Monson was made a judge soon after the end of the session and in the next session served in the House of Lords. However, by 1576 he had ‘suffered discomfort and discredit by her Majesty’s displeasure’, and his standing up to the Queen over the sentence on John Stubbe in Octr 1579 ruined him. He resigned his Lancaster office and from Nov 1579 to the following Feb was in the Fleet. After retiring formally from the common pleas in the middle of the Easter term 1580 he retreated to his Lincolnshire property. He died 23 Sep 1583, and was buried in Lincoln cathedral.


Fuidge, N. M.: MONSON, Robert (by 1532-83), of Lincoln and South Carlton, Lincs. and London.

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