Williams, Thomas (1513?-1566) (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, THOMAS (1513?–1566), speaker of the House of Commons, born in 1513 or 1514, was the eldest son of Adam Williams of Stowford, Devonshire, by his wife Alice, daughter of Thomas Prideaux of Ashburton. It is unlikely that he was the Thomas Williams who supplicated for his B.A. at Oxford on 23 June 1528. On 14 Nov. 1539 he was admitted student at the Inner Temple, where he served as auditor, clerk of the kitchen, steward for the reader, serjeant for Christmas, and in other capacities (Inner Temple Records, passim). It is improbable that he was the Thomas Williams who was returned to parliament for Oxford city in 1553, that member being more likely a relative of John Williams, baron Williams of Thame [q. v.]; but in October 1555 he was elected for Bodmin, and in the parliament that met on 20 Jan. 1557–8 he sat for Saltash. In that year he was Lent reader at the Inner Temple, and it was probably his lectures in this capacity that were published in 1680 as ‘The Excellency and Præheminence of the Law of England above all other Lawes in the World, asserted in a Lent Reading upon the Statute of 35 H. 8, cap. 6, concerning Tryals by Jury of Twelve Men,’ London, 8vo, though they are there stated to have been delivered in Lent 1556–1557.

Williams may have sat in the first parliament of Elizabeth (January 1558–9), the returns for which are lost, and in 1560–1 he was again Lent reader at the Inner Temple. To the parliament that met on 11 Jan. 1562–3 he was returned for Exeter, and on the 12th, on the nomination of Sir Edward Rogers [q. v.], comptroller of the household, he was elected speaker. He was presented to the queen on the 15th, his speech on that occasion being printed at length by D'Ewes (Journals, pp. 64–6) and Manning (Speakers, pp. 224 sqq.) D'Ewes also prints Williams's speeches of 28 Jan., when he delivered to the queen the commons' petition for her marriage, and at the prorogation on 10 April. Williams died on 1 July 1566, aged 52, before parliament met again, his death during his term of office creating a precedent (see D'Ewes, pp. 95 sqq.) He was buried in Harford church, Devonshire, where there is a memorial inscription.

By his wife Emlin or Emmeline, daughter of William Crewes of ‘Chimley’ (?Chulmleigh), Devonshire, he left issue two sons—John (d. 1615) and Thomas—and three daughters. Some notes by him are extant in the Record Office (Cal. State Papers, Dom., Addenda, 1547–65, p. 534).

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80; Commons' Journals; D'Ewes's Journal of Parliament during the Reign of Elizabeth, pp. 57–97 passim; Official Ret. Members of Parl. i. 383, 392, 396, 403; Parl. History, i. 682 sqq.; Inner Temple Records, passim; Manning's Speakers of the House of Commons, pp. 223–9; Pole's Worthies of Devon; Vivian's Visit. of Devon, 1895, p. 789. In Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. p. 328, the Grammatica Italica by William Thomas (d. 1554) [q. v.] is erroneously ascribed to Thomas Williams.]

A. F. P.