Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tresham, William (d.1450)

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TRESHAM, WILLIAM (d. 1450), speaker of the House of Commons, was the eldest son of Thomas Tresham of Rushton and Sywell, Northamptonshire. He was educated for the law, and is said to have been attorney-general to Henry V, but Dugdale (Origines Jurid. and Chronica Ser.) does not mention his appointment either as attorney-general or as serjeant-at-law. He was, however, skilled in the law, and was employed on legal business by Henry VI and Cardinal Beaufort in 1433 (Rymer, Fœdera, x. 500, 551). He began his parliamentary career on 30 Sept. 1423 by being elected knight of the shire for the county of Northampton; it extended over twenty-six years, and sixteen parliaments, in all of which he represented Northamptonshire (the writs for six of these parliaments are lost). He was re-elected on 25 Sept. 1427, 25 Aug. 1429, 3 April 1432, 30 June 1433, 15 Sept. 1435, and to the parliament which was summoned to meet, first at Oxford, and then on 12 Nov. 1439 at Westminster. In this parliament Tresham was chosen speaker, doubtless on account of his experience. On 14 Jan. 1439–1440 it was prorogued to meet at Reading on account of the prevalence of the plague in London. Nineteen statutes were passed, but the proceedings are not entered on the rolls. Tresham's conduct probably satisfied the government, as on 12 Sept. following he was one of those to whom were granted the revenues of alien priories in England (Rymer, x. 802).

Tresham again acted as speaker in the parliaments that met on 25 Jan. 1441–2, and 10 Feb. 1446–7 (Rot. Parl. v. 36 b, 172 a), and probably in that which met in February 1448–9. In the growing divergence of the two parties, Tresham, in spite of his previous connection with the court, took the Yorkist side, and in the parliament which met at Westminster on 6 Nov. 1449, and was strongly opposed to the chief minister, William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk [q. v.], Tresham was again elected speaker. He took a prominent part in Suffolk's impeachment, and on 7 Feb. 1449–50 he presented to the lords the formal indictment of the commons (Ramsay, Lancaster and York, ii. 115). In the same year, possibly in consequence of this action, he was deprived of an annuity of 20l. which he held of the crown (Rot. Parl. v. 193 b). In August Richard, duke of York (1411–1460) [q. v.] crossed from Ireland to demand a redress of grievances. Tresham set out from Rushton to meet him, but on 22 Sept. was waylaid at Thorpland, near Moulton in Northamptonshire, and killed by some retainers of the Lancastrian Edmund Grey, lord Grey de Ruthin, and afterwards earl of Kent [q. v.] The parliament that met on 6 Nov. granted his widow's petition for justice on her husband's murderers, but only the agents were named, and the sheriff of Northamptonshire was afraid to apprehend even them (Rot. Parl. v. 212; Ramsay, ii. 135, 140). By his wife Isabel, daughter of Sir William Vaux of Harrowden, Tresham was father of Sir Thomas Tresham (d. 1471) [q. v.]

[Rotuli Parliamentorum, vol. v. passim; Official Return of Members of Parliament; Proceedings of the Privy Council, ed. Nicolas, iv. 323, vi. p. xxxii; William Wyrcester apud Letters, &c., of Henry VI (Rolls Ser.); Collections of a Citizen of London (Camden Soc.), p. 195; Letters of Margaret of Anjou (Camden Soc.), p. 61; Rymer's Fœdera x. 500, 551, 802; Chronicle of England, ed. Giles, p. 42; Bridges's Northamptonshire, ii. 68, 147; Manning's Speakers, pp. 91–4; Ramsay's Lancaster and York, ii. 74, 115, 135, 140.]

A. F. P.