Edward Wotton, 1st Baron Wotton

Edward Wotton, 1st Baron Wotton (1548–1626) was an English diplomat and administrator. From 1612 to 1613, he served as a Lord of the Treasury. Wotton was Treasurer of the Household from 1616 to 1618, and also served as Lord Lieutenant of Kent from 1604 until 1620.

Early life

Born in 1548, Edward was the eldest son of Thomas Wotton (1521–1587) by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Rudston, lord mayor of London.[1]

Edward does not appear to have been educated at any English university, but made up for the deficiency by long study on the continent. In 1579 Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, stated that Wotton had spent three or four years among the Spanish residents at Naples and described him as "a man of great learning and knowledge of languages."[dnb 1] He was certainly an accomplished French, Italian, and Spanish scholar; Mendoza also thought him "a creature of Walsingham's," but was unable to discover what his religion was.

The Scottish diplomat James Melville of Halhill recalled an incident in Edward's early career. Edward's uncle Dr Nicholas Wotton was an ambassador for Mary I of England in France, during the negotiation of the peace of Cateau Cambrésis. Dr Wotton was troubled by accusations that English soldiers served in the Spanish army. These allegations were made by the Constable of France, Anne de Montmorency. Melville says that he sent for his young nephew from England, who was about 19 years old, to learn French and Italian. Edward came to the French court anonymously as a simple countryman, Melville uses the Scots language word "landwart" (Landward) which means "countryside", accompanied only by his interpreter. According to Melville, Edward got an audience with the Constable and began to discuss the political discontent in England with Mary's husband, Philip II of Spain and Spanish influence in England. Edward was supposed to have spoken of a conspiracy to deliver Calais to France.

Naturally, the Constable was suspicious of the young man's offer, and Melville says he was asked if he knew anything of Wotton. Melville supplied his observation that he had seen Wotton deep in conversation with Dr Nicolas Wotton's secretary. Montmorency guessed that this was Dr Nicholas' plot to discredit him, and Edward remained a while in France, but now publicly known as the ambassador's nephew. Melville remembered the incident in 1585, when Edward was sent to Scotland by Francis Walsingham, and warned James VI that Edward might intend to deceive him.[2]


He was early given diplomatic assignments by Walsingham, and in 1574-6 was secretary to the embassy at Vienna, Sir Philip Sidney being for a time associated with him in these duties. In May 1579 Wotton was sent to congratulate Henry, the new king of Portugal, on his accession, and on his way back had an audience with Philip II of Spain at Segovia. In January 1583-4 it was proposed to send him to Spain to protest against Mendoza's conduct in England and to explain his summary expulsion by Elizabeth. (Sir) William Waad was, however, sent instead. On the following 9 Nov Wotton was returned to parliament as one of the Knights of the Shire for Kent.

In May 1586 Elizabeth, alarmed at the progress of the Catholic League in France and the success of Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma in the Netherlands, selected Wotton as envoy to Scotland to persuade James VI to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance and to take the Dutch under his protection. He was also to suggest James's marriage to Anne of Denmark or Arabella Stewart, but it was not until six years later that the former scheme was adopted. Wotton received his instructions from his friend Sir Philip Sidney on 15 May, was at Berwick on the 26th, and was received by James VI at Edinburgh on the 30th. "Doué de qualités brillantes, et qui excellait dans tous les exercices que Jacques VI aimait de prédilection, il ne tarda pas à prendre le plus grand ascendant sur l'esprit du jeune prince."[dnb 2]

At first Wotton's success appeared complete; James agreed to the proposal for an offensive and defensive league, and on 28 June the lords and estates approved. In the same month, however, the exiled Scots in England made a raid into Scotland, supported by an English force, and, though Elizabeth ordered the arrest of the offenders, James, with some reason, suspected the complicity of the English government and feared a repetition of the attempts to restore the exiled lords by force. Moreover, Arran's influence over the king was still supreme, and Arran was strenuously supported by the French party. A fresh complication arose with the murder of Lord Russell (son of Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford) on 27 July. Ker of Fernihurst was the criminal, but Arran was implicated, and Elizabeth now sought to use the circumstance to ruin him. Wotton demanded his arrest and removal to England for trial, but James merely confined him in St. Andrews, whence he was soon released and resumed his ascendancy over James. Wotton's position was now precarious, and in August Arrans ally, Sir William Stewart openly insulted him in the king's presence. Elizabeth, however, hesitated to risk an open breach with James by effectively supporting her ambassador, but the despatch of Castelnau de Mauvissière by Henry III of France to Scotland reinforced French influence at Edinburgh, strengthened James in his refusal to give up Arran, and made Wotton's success hopeless. He now advocated an incursion by the exiled lords, supported by an English force, and the seizure of James and Arran as the only means of restoring English prestige. But, aware of the danger to himself in such an event, he begged for his recall. This was granted on 11 Oct, but before Walslngham's letters could arrive Wotton had on his own authority crossed the border, and on the 12th he was at Berwick-upon-Tweed.[dnb 3][dnb 4][dnb 5][dnb 6][dnb 7][dnb 8][dnb 9]

For some time after his return, Wotton was occupied in local administration in Kent. In 1586, however, he was sent to France to explain to Henry III the intrigues against Elizabeth of Mary, Queen of Scots, certified transcripts of her letters in connection with the Babington Plot being sent him with directions on how to use them.[dnb 10][dnb 11][dnb 12][dnb 13] On 16 Feb 1586-7 he was one of the pallbearers at Sidney's funeral, and later in the year he succeeded his father at Boughton Malherbe, and on 5 January 1587-8 he was admitted student of Gray's Inn.[3] In 1591 he was knighted, and in 1594-5 he served as High Sheriff of Kent.[dnb 14] In 1595-6 he vainly petitioned Burghley for the treasurership of the chamber, [dnb 15] and in March 1597 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. About the same time it was proposed to make him secretary of state,[dnb 16] but, this failing, Wotton made strenuous but vain efforts to secure a peerage.[dnb 17] In 1599, on an alarm of a Spanish invasion, he was appointed treasurer of a 'camp' to be formed, and in May 1601 he was offered but declined the post of ambassador in France. On 23 December 1602 he was made Comptroller of the Household and was sworn of the Privy Council; on 17 January 1602-3 Chamberlain wrote: "The court has flourished more than ordinary this Christmas. The new comptroller has put new life into it by his example, being always freshly attired and chiefly in white." On the following 19 February he was appointed to negotiate with Scaramelli, the Venetian ambassador.[dnb 18]

James I retained Wotton in the office of comptroller, and on 13 March created him Baron Wotton of Marley, Co. Kent.[dnb 19] In November he was one of the lords who tried Sir Walter Raleigh.[dnb 20][dnb 21][dnb 22] During the early years of James I's reign Wotton was lord-lieutenant of Kent,[dnb 23] but in August 1610 he was sent as ambassador extraordinary to France to congratulate Louis XIII on his accession.[dnb 24][dnb 25] On his return in October he brought Isaac Casaubon to England in his suite.[dnb 26] In June 1612 he was nominated commissioner of the treasury on Salisbury's death. In November 1616 he was made treasurer of the household, but on 23 December 1617 he was "persuaded" to retire from that office by the payment of five thousand pounds. This did not satisfy him, and he clung to office some weeks longer in the vain hope of extracting a viscountancy as a further compensation. He was excluded from the council on Charles I's accession on the grounds of being a Roman Catholic.[dnb 27][dnb 28]

Wotton retired to Boughton Malherbe, where he died early in 1626; the inquisitio post mortem was taken on 12 April.[dnb 29] Wotton’s widow had inscribed on her husband's tomb,

    To her beloved husband, Lord Edward Wotton,
       Baron of Marley, a Catholic.
    His grieving wife, Lady Margaret Wotton,

       daughter of Lord Wharton of Wharton, a Catholic.
For this blatant admission of their religion, Lady Wotton was fined and ordered to remove the word “Catholic.” Instances like this were rare.[4]


Edward had three younger brothers:

Wotton first married, on 1 September 1575, Hester, daughter of Sir William Puckering. She died on 8 May 1592 and was buried in Boughton Malherbe church. His second wife was Margaret, daughter of Philip Wharton, 3rd Baron Wharton, who lived until 1652.[dnb 30] Wotton had issue by his first wife only, a son Thomas and a daughter Philippa, who married Sir Edmund Bacon. Thomas succeeded as second baron, but, being of weak health and a Roman Catholic, took little part in politics. He died, aged 43, on 2 April 1630 and was buried in Boughton Malherbe church; in February 1632-3 his widow was fined 500 pounds by the court of high commission for removing the font in the church to make room for her husband's tomb and for inscribing on it "a bold epitaph" stating that he died a Roman Catholic.[dnb 31][dnb 32] On 6 June 1608 he married Mary (1590–1658), daughter of Sir Arthur Throckmorton, with whom he had four daughters: Katherine, who inherited Boughton Malberbe and first married Henry Stanhope, Lord Stanhope, by whom she was mother of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield; secondly, John Polyander à Kirkhoven; and, thirdly, Daniel O'Neill. His daughter Hester (d. 1649) was the third wife of Baptist Noel, third viscount Campden; his daughter Margaret married Sir John Tufton; Anne, his fourth daughter, married Sir Edward Hales, father of Sir Edward Hales, titular earl of Tenterden.


  1.  Pollard, Albert (1900). "Wotton, Edward (1489-1551)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 63. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. Thomson, Thomas, ed., Memoirs of his own life by James Melville, (1827), pp. 331–5
  3. Foster, Joseph (1889). Register of admissions to Gray's Inn, 1521–1889 together with the register of marriages in Gray's Inn Chapel, 1695–1754. Hansard Publishing Union. p. 72. OCLC 271771277.
  4. Nadine Lewycky and Adam David Morton, editors, Getting Along?: Religious Identities and Confessional Relations in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2012), 62.
  5. Wotton, Henry, Reliquiae Wottonianae, (1672), unpaginated.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Pollard, Albert Frederick (1900). "Wotton, Edward (1548-1626)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 63. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 48–51.  ;

the following references are noted in the DNB but have not been independently verified:
  1. Cal. Simancas MSS.1568–79, pp. 672, 679
  2. Alexandre Teulet, Papiers d'État, ii, 728)
  3. full details of Wotton's negotiations are given in Cotton MSS. Calig. C. viii–ix
  4. Addit. MS. 32657, ii. 83–223
  5. Hamilton Papers, 1543–99. pp. 643–708
  6. Border Papers, 1560–94, Nos. 335–876
  7. Thorpe, Cal. Scottish State Papers, i. 495-5l2
  8. Teulet, Papiers d'État, Bannatyne Club, ii. 728, iii. 404-6
  9. Cal. Simancas MSS. 1580-6, pp. 646–52
  10. (Addit. MS. 33256, ff. 172–205
  11. Cal. Simancas MSS. 1587–1603, p. 178
  12. his instructions dated 29 Sep in Cotton. MS. Calig. E. vi. 302
  13. Bernard, Cat. MSS. Anglica, iii. 5270, f. 240)
  14. Addit. MS. 33924, f. 16
  15. (Lansd. MS. lxxix. 19)
  16. Collins, Letters and Mem. ii. 25, 27, 30,54
  17. ib. ii. 85-8
  18. Cal. State Papers, Venetian, ix. 1135
  19. Addit. MS. 34218, f. 190b
  20. Addit. MS. 6177, f. 137
  21. The Arraignment of Sr Walter Rawliegh . . . before Lord Wotton . . ., London, 1643, 4to
  22. Edwards, Life of Raliegh)
  23. Egerton MS. 880, passim; Harl. MS. 6846, f. 42
  24. John Sherren Brewer, Court and Times of James I, i. 131
  25. instructions in Stowe MS. 177, ff. 131-8)
  26. Casaubonorum Epistoler, pp. 361–2
  27. Samuel Rawson Gardiner, v. 419
  28. John Sherren Brewer, Court and Times of Charles I, i. 8)
  29. 6 Charles I, vol. iii. no. 92
  30. see Calendar of the Committee for Compounding, p. 2309; Addit. MS. 5494, f. 197; and Lords' Journals, vii. 302, 388, viii. 254, 315, ix. 118
  31. Court and Times of Charles I, ii. 227
  32. Laud, Works, v. 311

Endnotes in the DNB but not independently verified:

  • Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1580–1625
  • Lansdowne MSS. xlv. 6, 1. 87. lxii. 54, lxxix. 19. cxi 37
  • Addit. MSS. 20770 f. 23. 34176 ff. 37–43, 49, 80 (corresp. with Sir William Twyslen)
  • Ashmpln MSS. 232 f. 71. 582 f. 411. 1132 f. 3
  • Collins: Letters and Memorials, vol. ii.
  • Birch's Mem of Elizabeth, i. 157
  • Winwood's Memorials, ii. 151
  • Brewer's Court and Times of James I, i. 132-3. 176-7. 451-5
  • Cal. Hatfleld MSS.
  • Cal. Bucelauch MSS.
  • Hist. MSS, Comm. 5th Rep. App. p. 487
  • Official Return Memb. of Parl.
  • Reg. P. C. Scotl., ed. Manson
  • Camden's Annals and Britannia, ed. Gough
  • Baker's Chron.
  • Spedding's Bacon
  • Brown's Genesis USA
  • Fortescue Papers (Camden Soc.), pp. 38,43
  • Samuel Rawson Gardiner: History of England from the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1603–1642
  • Reliquiae Wottonianae. id. 1685
  • Strype's Works (general index)
  • A. W. Fox's Book of Bachelors, 1899 (contains various errors respecting the Wotton family)
  • Hasted's Kent, esp. ii. 429
  • Archleologia Cantiana (general index)
  • Burke's Extinct and G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerages
Political offices
Preceded by
High Sheriff of Kent
Succeeded by
Thomas Palmer
Preceded by
William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury
Comptroller of the household
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Edmondes
Preceded by
The Lord Cobham
Lord Lieutenant of Kent
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Buckingham
Preceded by
Sir William Knollys
Treasurer of the Household
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Edmondes
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Wotton
Succeeded by
Thomas Wotton
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