Rochester, Robert (DNB00)

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ROCHESTER, Sir ROBERT (1494?–1557), comptroller of the household to Queen Mary, born about 1494, was eldest of the three sons of John Rochester, by his wife Grissell, daughter and coheir of Walter Writtle of Bobbingworth, Essex. His grandfather, Robert Rochester, was yeoman of the pantry to Henry VIII, and bailiff of the manor of Syleham, Suffolk, and outlived his son John, who died on 16 Jan. 1507–8. (Morant erroneously states that Robert died in 1506; cf. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. i. passim.) Probably through his grandfather, Rochester became known at court, and was attached to the Princess Mary's household. In 1547 he was managing her finances, and before 1551 was appointed comptroller of her household. On 22 March of that year he was examined by the council as to the number of Mary's chaplains. On 14 Aug. he was again summoned before the council, and ordered, in spite of his protests, not merely to carry the council's directions to the princess, but personally to take measures that no one should say or hear mass in her household. Rochester returned to Copped Hall, but could not bring himself to carry out these commands, and on the 23rd again appeared before the council. He bluntly refused to carry any more such messages to his mistress, professing his readiness to go to prison instead. Finally Rich, Wingfield, and Petre had to undertake the mission. Rochester was sent to the Fleet on 24 Aug., and to the Tower a week later. On 18 March 1552 he was allowed ‘for his weakness of body’ to retire to his country house, and on 14 April, on Mary's request, was permitted to resume his functions as comptroller.

Rochester's fidelity was rewarded on Mary's accession. He was made comptroller of the royal household, created a knight of the Bath at the queen's coronation, and sworn of the privy council. On 26 Sept. 1553 he was returned to parliament as knight of the shire for Essex, being re-elected for the same constituency on 13 March 1553–4, 23 Oct. 1554, and 24 Sept. 1555. He became one of Mary's most intimate and trusted counsellors. On 28 Jan. 1554 he was sent to Wyatt to inquire into his intentions. In the same year he was made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, placed on a commission to examine Sir Thomas Gresham's accounts, and suggested as one of the six advisers to whom the active work of the privy council was to be entrusted, while the other members were to be employed in the provinces. This scheme came to nothing, but Rochester remained one of the inner ring of councillors who rarely missed a meeting, and had most weight in the council's decisions. He was one of the commissioners who drew up the treaty of marriage between Mary and Philip, and in 1555 was placed on commissions appointed to try Bishop Hooper, and to consider the restoration of the monasteries and the church property vested in the crown. In the same year he was one of Gardiner's executors, and was present at the martyrdom of John Rogers (1509?–1555) [q. v.] He was nevertheless a staunch friend of the Princess Elizabeth and Edward Courtenay, earl of Devonshire [q. v.], whose union he is said to have advocated, and it was in some degree due to his influence with Mary that the princess's life was spared.

In 1556 Rochester was one of the select committee appointed by Philip to look after his affairs during his absence; he was also placed on a commission to inquire into the plots against the queen. In September there was some popular discontent because the loan was ordered to be paid through his hands, ‘the people being of the opinion that this was done in order that the crown might less scrupulously avail itself of the money through the hands of so very confidential a minister and creature of her majesty, than through those of the treasurer’ (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, vi. 588). On 23 April 1557 Rochester was elected K.G., but was never formally installed at Windsor. On 4 May he was placed on a commission to take the surrender of indentures, patents, &c., and grant renewal of them for adequate fines. He died, unmarried, on 28 Nov. following, and was buried at the Charterhouse at Sheen on 4 Dec. He was succeeded as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster by his nephew, Sir Edward Waldegrave [q. v.], son of Edward Waldegrave (d. 1543) and Rochester's sister Lora. The substance of Rochester's will is printed in Collins's ‘Peerage,’ iv. 424–5.

[Cal. of State Papers, Dom., Venetian, and Foreign Ser.; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; Official Return of Members of Parl. i. 382, 386, 389, 393; Ducatus Lancastriæ, Record ed. ii. 175; Visitations of Essex, 1558 and 1612 (Harl. Soc.); Morant's Essex, ii. 127, 391; Lit. Remains of Edward VI (Roxburghe Club); Trans. Royal Hist. Soc. iii. 310, 311; Ashmole's Order of the Garter, p. 715; Metcalfe's Book of Knights; Strype's Eccl. Mem. passim; Foxe's Actes and Monuments; Burnet's Hist. of Reformation, ed. Pocock; Dixon's Hist. of Church of England; Chester's John Rogers, pp. 173, 204, 308; Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England; Tytler's England under Edward VI and Mary; Froude's and Lingard's Histories of England.]

A. F. P.