French or the Latin, not even so commonly used in our quotidian speech.’
From 1535 onwards Southwell took an active part in the proceeding against the monasteries. He interceded for Pentney in 1536, but had no scruples about making profit out of the surrenders. In January 1536 he took charge of Bishop Nix's effects. In the days of the pilgrimage of grace he was loyal and helped to suppress sedition in Norfolk. Finally, on 24 April 1538, he was made a receiver to the court of augmentations. In 1538 he was also engaged in surveying the lands of the Duke of Suffolk, and in 1539 he was in attendance on the Duke of Norfolk at the reception of Anne of Cleves.
Southwell was doubtless a tool of the court. He was chosen, by court influence, M.P. for Norfolk in 1539. He was one of the king's council, and was knighted in 1542. In June 1542 he was a commissioner at Berwick, and in January 1542–3 was concerned in the release of the Scottish prisoners then in England, taking an important part in the negotiations with them. He seems to have been kind to John Louth the reformer, who lived in his house (Strype, Memorials, I. i. 596), though he hardly shared his beliefs. At the close of 1546, with, as it seems, the basest motives, he came forward as the accuser of Surrey [see under Howard, Henry, Earl of Surrey, (1517?–1547)]. A poem by Surrey, the paraphrase of Psalm lv., is supposed to contain a reference to this ingratitude. Though not one of Henry's executors, he was one of the twelve appointed to assist them, and was a member of the privy council, and a very regular attendant at its meetings throughout Edward's reign. In September 1549 he was at Boulogne on a commission of inquiry. A month later Southwell took the side opposed to Somerset, and was at the meetings in London in October when Somerset's fall was effected. None the less, doubtless as a Roman catholic, he was imprisoned in January 1549–50 in the Fleet, where, according to Ponet, ‘he confessed enough to be hanged for.’ He was released on 9 March. He did not sign the limitation of the crown in Lady Jane Grey's favour, but afterwards agreed to it. But he enjoyed the royal favour in Mary's time. On 4 Dec. 1553 he had a pension of 100l. for services against Suffolk.
Southwell took an active part against Wyatt, and was one of those who escorted Elizabeth to the court when she was under suspicion of complicity with Wyatt. On 11 May 1554 he became master of the ordnance, holding the office till 12 April 1560, when Ambrose Dudley (afterwards earl of Warwick) [q. v.] succeeded him. It is said that he announced the queen's pregnancy to the lords in 1554 [see under Mary I].
On Elizabeth's accession Southwell lost his seat on the council, and on 5 Dec. 1558 he was ordered to give an account of the ordnance to the lords. He died on 11 Jan. 1563–4 (Inquisitio p. m. 6 Eliz. No. 142). He was very rich, and an account of his property in 1545–6 is preserved in the Bodleian Library.
A portrait by Holbein is in the Uffizi Gallery, and what is probably a copy is in the Louvre. Another, also attributed to Holbein, belongs to Mr. H. E. Chetwynd-Stapylton. A portrait by Micheli, after Holbein, belonged in 1866 to Ralph Nicholson Wornum [q. v.] A drawing of him by Holbein is in the royal library, Windsor, and an anonymous portrait belongs to Mr. W. H. Romaine Walker.
He married, first, Thomasine, daughter of Sir Robert Darcy of Danbury, Essex, by whom he had a daughter Elizabeth, who married George Heneage; secondly, Mary, daughter of Thomas Darcy, also of Danbury Essex, by whom he had had two illegitimate sons in the lifetime of his first wife, namely, Richard Southwell of Horsham St. Faith's, Norfolk, and Thomas Southwell of Monton. Richard Southwell of Horsham St. Faith's was the father of Robert Southwell [q. v.] the jesuit.
Sir Robert Southwell (d. 1559), master of the rolls, younger brother of the above, was a courtier, barrister, and active country gentleman. He was very busy about the suppression of the monasteries, and profited greatly. He did much surveying for the court of augmentations, and about 1537 was its solicitor. On 18 Oct. 1537 he was knighted. In 1541 he was a master of requests, and on 1 July 1542 was made chancellor of the court of augmentations. He was further made master of the rolls on 1 July 1542. When his brother accused Surrey and the Howards fell into disgrace, Southwell secured of their property Badlesmere in Kent, which he soon sold. He had another house in the county, Jotes Place, Mereworth. He resigned his mastership of the rolls in 1550. He took a very active part in putting down Wyatt's rebellion, and was rewarded with some of Wyatt's lands at Aylesford and elsewhere. He died about the beginning of November 1559, and was buried on 8 Nov. He married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Neville, fourth son of George, lord Abergavenny; but he left no children, and most of his property passed to his nephews.