Thomas Tresham
Sir William Tresham


Family Links

1. Isabel de Vaux

Sir William Tresham

  • Marriage (1): Isabel de Vaux
  • Died: 22 Sep 1450, Moulton, Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN3, GB

   Cause of his death was Mudered in ambush.

  General Notes:

Tresham, William (d. 1450), lawyer and speaker of the House of Commons, was the son of Thomas Tresham, and was apparently a native of Northamptonshire, where he was to become an influential landowner. Elected one of the two knights of the shire for the county in 1423, he acted again in that capacity in another eleven parliaments (1427, 1429, 1432, 1433, 1435, 1439, 1442, 1445, 1447, and February and November 1449). From 1424 until his death, moreover, he was a Northamptonshire JP. For a man whose origins do not appear to have been particularly distinguished, advancement in his home county went hand in hand with, indeed probably depended upon, advancement at the centre of national affairs. Having trained as a lawyer Tresham was certainly intermittently in the king's service from at least 1415, when he was an auditor of the accounts of royal officials in south Wales.

Little is known of Tresham's activities in the 1420s, when he may have concentrated on his legal career, but that he prospered is shown by his becoming a councillor to the duke of Buckingham in 1430; he continued to receive an annual fee from the duke until at least 1447. In 1432 he was appointed one of his two attorneys-general by Cardinal Henry Beaufort, and during the 1430s was also appointed to a number of commissions by the crown. In 1434, for instance, he was named to a commission to investigate concealments of royal revenues in Northamptonshire, and in 1439 to inquire into the value of crown lands in that county. He also forged a connection with the king's household, possibly by 1434, certainly from 1441. The tie was essentially a legal one: Tresham was employed as an apprentice-at-law, and in that capacity was paid nearly 10 for his work in the parliament of 1435. It was doubtless on the basis of such experience that in 1439 he was elected speaker of the Commons, at a time when there was a call for the reform of the royal household.

In May 1440 Tresham was granted an annuity of 40 by the king, and in September that year was one of the feoffees to whom the estates of alien priories were entrusted, as the endowment for Henry VI's foundation at Eton. Elected speaker again in 1442 and 1447, he continued to be employed by the crown, to an increasing extent through the duchy of Lancaster. Already steward of the duchy estates in Northamptonshire by 1437, he was retained as an apprentice-at-law from 1444 to 1447. In 1446 he was one of the feoffees of the duchy estates reserved for the implementation of Henry VI's will, and in 1448 was appointed chancellor of those feoffees. In 1449 he became chancellor both of the duchy and of the county palatine of Lancaster. Favour at court led to Tresham's being employed in politically sensitive legal cases; in 1444 he was one of the commissioners appointed to investigate charges of treason against Thomas Carver, while in 1447 he heard indictments of treason against members of the household of Humphrey of Gloucester. In August 1450 he was himself indicted in the aftermath of Cade's rebellion, suggesting that he was regarded as a leading member of the regime headed by the duke of Suffolk in the late 1440s.

Shortly after the indictment was made, but in circumstances unconnected with it, Tresham died by violence. When parliament assembled at Westminster in November 1449 he was elected speaker for the fourth time, and so was the spokesman of the Commons in their impeachment of Suffolk in 1450. In 1448 he had been chosen as a feoffee by the duke of York, and in either that year or 1449 had also become a councillor to the duke, but there is no evidence that such Yorkist connections were other than purely professional, or that Tresham's links with the court were weakened thereby. Nevertheless, his ties with York helped to bring Tresham to his death. On 22 September 1450 he was at his Northamptonshire residence of Sywell, intending to meet York as the duke made his way to London. But Tresham was tricked into revealing his movements to a group of his enemies, local men with whom he was engaged in a dispute over property, and early next morning they ambushed him at Moulton and killed him. Perhaps in order to demonstrate his continuing royalism, Tresham was wearing his collar of the king's livery. With his wife, Isabel, daughter of William Vaux of Harrowden, another Northamptonshire lawyer, Tresham had a son, Thomas Tresham, who was wounded in the attack that killed his father. Thomas had followed William Tresham into the king's household, and remained a staunch Lancastrian for the rest of his life, being executed after the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.William Tresham's wife also survived him.

Henry Summerson

Sources: J. S. Roskell, 'William Tresham of Sywell', Parliament and politics in late medieval England, 2 (1981), 137 51 R. A. Griffiths, The reign of King Henry VI: the exercise of royal authority, 1422 1461 (1981) P. A. Johnson, Duke Richard of York, 1411 1460 (1988) R. Somerville, History of the duchy of Lancaster, 1265 1603 (1953) B. Wolffe, Henry VI (1981) C. Rawcliffe, The Staffords, earls of Stafford and dukes of Buckingham, 1394 1521, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, 3rd ser., 11 (1978) 1


Title: Attorney General to King Henry V.

Title: Speaker of the House of Commons, 1439. 1

Title: Chancellor of the duchy and of the county palatine of Lancaster, 1449. 1

William married Isabel de Vaux, daughter of William de Vaux of Harrowden, Bedfordshire and Eleanor Drakelowe. (Isabel de Vaux was born about 1402 and died after 22 Sep 1450.)


1 Oxford University Press, editor, <i>Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies</i>; HTML, <i>Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies</i>(

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