William BROOKE

(5th B. Cobham)

Born: ABT 1526/1 Nov 1527, Cobham, Kent, England

Died: 6 Mar 1596/7

Buried: 5 Apr 1597, Cobham, Kent, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: George BROOKE (4 B. Cobham)

Mother: Anne BRAY (B. Cobham)

Married 1: Dorothy NEVILLE 4 Jun 1535 / 1550, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales


1. Dorothy BROOKE (Maid of Honour)

2. Frances BROOKE

Married 2: Frances NEWTON (B. Cobham) (b. 1539 - d. 17 Oct 1592) (dau. of Sir John Newton of Hawtrey and Margaret Poyntz) 25 Feb 1559/60, Westminster Palace, Westminster, Middlesex, England


3. Maximilian BROOKE

4. Frances BROOKE (B. Stourton of Stourton)

5. Elizabeth BROOKE (C. Salisbury)

6. Henry BROOKE (6 B. Cobham)

7. William BROOKE (b. 11 Dec 1565)

8. Margaret BROOKE

9. George BROOKE

Brooke,William(5BCobham)family01.jpg (102680 bytes)

William Brooke, 10th Lord of Cobham and his Family

by an artist of the British School, 1567

(Longleat House collection)

Born 1 Nov 1527, first son of George Brooke, 4th Lord Cobham, and brother of George, Henry, John and Thomas. Educ. Padua 1542-5. Married first, by 4 Jun 1535, Dorothy, dau. of George Neville, third Lord Abergavenny; married secondly, 25 Feb 1560, Frances, dau. of Sir John 'Cradock' Newton of East Harptree, Som. and Hanham, Glos., 4s. inc. Henry and William. Kntd. 1 Dec 1548, KG nom 23 Apr 1584, inst. 15 Apr 1585. suc. fa. as 10th Lord Cobham 29 Sep 1558. Esquire of the body by 1553; constable, Dover castle, Kent 16 Dec 1558-d.; ld. warden, the Cinque Ports 16 Dec 1558-d.; j.p. Kent 1558/59, q. 1561-d.; ld. Lt. Kent 1559-d.; commr. Rochester bridge 1571; PC 1586-d.; keeper, Eltham pk., Kent 1592-d., ld. chamberlain, the Household 8 Aug 1596-7.

Early in 1540 it was said that Lord Cobham had wanted to send two of his sons to the Continent with the Duke of Cleves's chancellor but that Cromwell would not allow them to leave England; in the following year, with Cromwell removed from the scene, William Brooke was licensed to go abroad for his further increase of virtue and learning, taking with him two servants, three horses and 20 in money. He also took with him a number of remembrances from his father, to say his prayers and hear mass devoutly, to remember his marriage vows, to obey his tutor and be diligent in his study of the civil law, rhetoric and Greek, and to write home as often as possible: these precepts the young traveller subscribed:


I will perform all these things by the grace of God. 

By me, your son, 

William Brooke.

Although he was sent to Padua to study, the outbreak of England's war with France evidently made Brooke chafe at being in Italy, and in the autumn of 1545 he left for the Netherlands determined to take part in any action he might find. Early in the following year he returned to England on a short visit and in Nov he was given a military appointment at Calais, where his father was deputy. The letter ordering the grant of this office was put forward by Sir William Paget, and Lord Cobham called his son Paget's servant in a letter of Apr 1547 asking Paget to agree to William's offering his service to the King of France for a year. During the wars of Edward VI's reign Brooke led a band of 100 men, and in Jul 1550 he conveyed 7,000 from England to the treasurer of Calais. In the summer of 1551 he formed part of the embassy to France led by his brother-in-law the Marquess of Northampton, bringing home a report from the Ambassadors in Jun and returning to France with fresh instructions from the Council.

Brooke was three days short of 20 when the Parliament of 1547 opened. That such a stripling should have caused one of the Cinque Ports to break (so far as is known for the first time under the Tudors) the ordinance confining their representation to residents is proof enough of Brooke's enjoyment of powerful backing; apart from his father, a man of weight in Kent, his patron Paget is most likely to have procured his election, perhaps with the aid of the Protector Somerset himself. Brooke's knighthood, conferred on 1 Dec 1548 during the second session of the Parliament, suggests that he then stood well with the Protectoral regime, although his connexion with Northampton must later have aligned him with Somerset's rival Northumberland. He did not sit in the Parliament of Mar 1553, and it is not known whether he played any part in the succession crisis of that summer, but when six months later his cousin Sir Thomas Wyatt raised Kent against Queen Mary he was one of those implicated, although how deeply cannot be known; he pleaded not guilty to an indictment for treason, as did his younger brothers George and Thomas, and all three were pardoned, while his father was let off at the cost of giving the Queen an obligation for 450. Brooke's election 18 months later for Rochester, which had been the starting-point of the rebellion, could therefore have given little satisfaction at court, and even less when towards the close of this Parliament he joined the opposition to one of the government's bills. According to the Complete Peerage he received a writ of summons to the Lords for the second session of the following Parliament, that of 1558, but no trace of this summons has been found and he is not recorded as having taken his place in the Upper House until 1559.

With the accession of Elizabeth, six weeks after Brooke's own succession to his barony, new opportunities opened out for him. The first important task assigned to him was the distasteful one of announcing Mary's death to King Felipe in Brussels. He was appointed to succeed Sir Thomas Cheney as lord warden of the Cinque Ports, placed on the commission of the peace for Kent, and in the following year made lord lieutenant of the county. Thenceforward, for nearly 40 years, Lord Cobham was a busy servant of the crown, entrusted with the defence of Kent, the mustering of soldiers, the suppression of piracy, the staying of ships in times of embargo and a host of minor duties committed to him as need arose by the Council. He twice went on embassies to the Netherlands, in 1578 with Sir Thomas Walsingham and in 1588 with Thomas, 4th Earl of Derby. In 1586 he was sworn a member of the Privy Council and ten years later was made Lord Chamberlain. He was then only three months off his seventieth birthday, and he died in the following Mar at Cobham Hall, which he had enlarged with a new south wing and a north wing still unfinished at his death.

His second wife, whom he married 25 Feb 1559/60 at Westminster Palace, was Frances Newton was one of the nineteen children of Sir John Newton or Cradock of East Harptree, Somerset and Hanham, Gloucestershire and Margaret Poyntz. She was in Elizabeth Tudors service before 1558 and continued as one of her chamberers after Elizabeth became Queen. Later in the reign, Frances's sister, Catherine, also became a chamberer. On 17 Jul 1560, the Queen visited Cobham Hall on her summer progress and she returned there for another visit on 4 Sep 1573. Frances was considered to be one of the Queens closest friends. In the 1587 list she was recorded as one of the four Ladies of the Bedchamber. She was never gone from court for long.

Lord Chamberlain 8 Aug 1596 - 5 Mar 1597. All the Lord Chamberlain except the first, William Howard, patronized acting companies at one time or another, though William Brooke never did so during the seven months he was. And there's also an interesting story behind the Henry Carey - William Brooke - George Carey succession in 1596-97. Henry Carey was the patron of Shakespeare's company, the Chamberlain's Men. When he died in 1596,patronage of the company went to his son George, butthe title of Lord Chamberlain unexpectedly went to William Brooke (the Careys and the Brookes were power rivals at Court). Brooke's ancestor had been Sir John Oldcastle,which was the original name of Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV plays. He was forced to change the name aftercomplaints from the Brooke family, and it's often been suggested that Shakespeare used the name Oldcastle in the first place in order to get in a jab at William Brooke forgrabbing the Lord Chamberlain title. During the seven months that Brooke held the office, Shakespeare's company was forced to call themselves Lord Hunsdon's Men; they were so called on the First Quarto of Romeo and Juliet (published in 1597) and in the payment for their court performances in the 1596-97 Christmas season. When Brooke died, George Carey finally got the Chamberlainship, and Shakespeare's company got their old name back.

He had made his will on 24 Feb 1597, trusting wholly and only by the merits of Christ's passion to attain salvation and asking to be buried after a laudable sort, and without vain pomp, in the church at Cobham. His household servants at Cobham and at the Blackfriars, London, were to receive an extra half year's wages, and the houses to be delivered, ten days after his funeral, to his son and heir Henry Brooke. To Sir John Leveson, Thomas Fane and William Lambarde, three of his executors, Cobham left the site of the old college of Cobham on which they were to build a new college for poor people to live in; all his jewels, ornaments and plate, except those items which he bestowed otherwise in his will, were to be sold to pay his funeral expenses, debts and legacies and to provide the money for the perpetual maintenance of this almshouse. Cobham named as another executor his cousin, Sir Edward Wotton, and desired his friend Lord Burghley, and his son-in-law Sir Robert Cecil, to be overseers of his will.

The Cobham family portrait, painted in 1567 by the artist A. W., also known as the Master of the countess of Warwick. The sitters were identified as Frances Newton (standing), her husband, her sister, Joanna (seated) and six of Cobham's children. More recently, the seated woman has been reidentified as Frances while the woman standing is said to be Elizabeth Brooke, Marchioness of Northampton, Lord Cobham's sister, who had died two years earlier. Such memorial portraits were not unheard of. A copy of the Cobham Family Portrait was commissioned c. 1590 by William's daughter Elizabeth and in this version another child, George, not yet born in 1567, is included in the group.

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