William Compton (courtier)

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Sir William Compton
Born William Compton
c. 1482
Compton, Warwickshire
Died 30 June 1528(1528-06-30) (aged 45–46)
Resting place Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire
52°04′26″N 1°31′07″W / 52.073980°N 1.518650°W / 52.073980; -1.518650
Nationality English
Occupation Soldier and courtier
Spouse(s) Werburga Brereton
Children Peter Compton
Parent(s) Edmund Compton
Joan Aylworth

Sir William Compton (c. 1482 – 30 June 1528)[1] was a soldier and one of the most prominent courtiers during the reign of Henry VIII of England.

Family and early life

Compton was born around 1482, the only son and heir of Edmund Compton of Compton of Warwickshire and Joan, the daughter of Walter Aylworth.[1][2] He was around eleven years of age when his father died in 1493, at which time he became a ward of Henry VII, who appointed him page to Prince Henry, Duke of York.[1] He was about nine years older than Henry, but the two became close friends.[3]

Marriage and issue

He married firstly, in May 1512,[4] Werburga, the daughter of Sir John Brereton, and widow of Sir Francis Cheyney. They had a son and at least two daughters:[1][5][6]

He married secondly, after 8 May 1522, Elizabeth Stonor, the daughter of Sir Walter Stonor and by her had at least one child.[8][9]


On Henry's accession in 1509, he was given the position of Groom of the Stool, the man who was in closest contact with the young king.[1] The Groom waited on the king while he used the latrine or close stool, and was also in charge of linen and the King's clothes, jewels and tableware. One of his duties, according to the courtier Elizabeth Amadas, was to procure women for his monarch and arrange trysts with them at his London home, in Thames Street.[10] Compton was also the steward, or administrator, of several royal manors.[11]

Compton was knighted 25 September 1513 at Tournai, following the battle of the Spurs.[12] He had been able to muster 578 soldiers for the campaign in France from the manors he stewarded, almost as many as all the other members of the Privy chamber raised in total.[13] In 1521 he was present at Henry VIII's meeting with Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and at Gravelines for the king's interview with Charles V.[1] Compton served on the Scottish borders under the Earl of Surrey in 1523, and this appears to have been the only time he was far from the court. It was thought that his rival Wolsey contrived his being sent there, hoping to diminish his influence over the king.[1]

Although he was not a politician, Compton ultimately acquired significant influence over Henry when it came to granting land and favours to the aristocracy, and made a fortune himself. The offices he held included:[1]

Anne Stafford

In 1510, Compton was involved in a public row with Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham over Henry's affair with the Duke's married sister, Lady Anne Hastings.[15] Around 1519, Compton became involved with Anne himself,[16] and in 1521 Henry sent Compton to arrest Anne's brother, the Duke of Buckingham, who was later executed for treason.


In his will, which was dated 8 March 1523, Compton made provisions for Lady Hastings, his first wife, Werburga and his children.[9][5] His will was made while his first wife was still living and not updated to provide for his second wife, Elizabeth, who was expecting a child at the time of his death.[9] He died 30 June 1528 of the sweating sickness which killed several courtiers including Anne Boleyn's brother-in-law, William Carey.[17] He was buried in the chapel at Compton Wynyates.[18] His widow, Elizabeth was still attempting to claim her jointure at the time of her second marriage to Walter Walshe, a page of the Privy chamber in November 1529,[8][19] and the matter had not been resolved by June 1538, when her father wrote to Thomas Cromwell on his daughter's behalf: "We both desire your Lordship's favour in her causes, else she is like to be wronged."[20]

Fictional portrayals

A fictionalized William Compton was portrayed by Kristen Holden-Ried in 2007 on the Showtime television series The Tudors, loosely based upon the reign of Henry VIII. In the show he is portrayed in a common law marriage to a "Mistress Hastings" as well as having an affair with Thomas Tallis.



  • Alvarez, Alyson D. (May 2013), A Widow's Will: Examining the Challenges of Widowhood in Early Modern England and America (PDF) (M.A. thesis), Dissertations, Theses, & Student Research, Department of History, 57, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska–Lincoln, retrieved 11 May 2014
  • Bernard, G. W. (January 2008) [First published 2004]. "Compton, Sir William (1482?–1528)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6039. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Bernard, G. W. (October 1981). "The Rise of Sir William Compton, Early Tudor Courtier". The English Historical Review. 96 (381): 754–777. doi:10.1093/ehr/xcvi.ccclxxxi.754. JSTOR 569839. (Subscription required (help)).
  • Brodie, Robert Henry (1887). "Compton, William (1482?-1528)". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 452–453.
  • "The Compendious Peerage of England ... With the Arms Finely Engraved, and a Genealogical Account of the Noble Family of Compton, Earl of Northampton". The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure. 46: 37–40. January 1770.
  • Davidson, Alan; Hasler, P. W. (1981). "Compton, Henry I (1544-89), of Compton Wyniates, Warws. and Tottenham, Mdx.". In Hasler, P. W. The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603. Historyofparliamentonline.org. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  • Gwyn, Peter J. (2011). The King's Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey. Random House. ISBN 9781446475133.
  • Hart, Kelly (2009). The Mistresses of Henry VIII. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-4835-0.
  • "Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII". British-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  • Nicolas, Nicholas Harris (1826). Testamenta Vetusta: Being Illustrations From Wills, of Manners, Customs, &c. As Well As of the Descents and Possessions of Many Distinguished Families. From the Reign of Henry the Second to the Accession of Queen Elizabeth. II. London: Nichols and Son. pp. 591–594, 680–681.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G., ed. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. II (2nd ed.). CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1461045205.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G., ed. Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. III (2nd ed.). CreateSpace. ISBN 9781461045137.
  • Shaw, W. A.; Burtchaell, G. D. (1906). The Knights of England: A Complete Record from the Earliest Times to the Present Day of the Knights of All the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of Knights Bachelors. II. Incorporating a complete list of Knights Bachelors dubbed in Ireland, compiled by G. D. Burtchaell. London: Printed and published for the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, Sherratt and Hughes.
  • Shirley, Evelyn Philip (1871). "On the Descent and Arms of the House of Compton, of Compton Wyniate, in the County of Warwick, Earls and Marquises of Northampton". Archaeologia. 43 (1): 63–72. doi:10.1017/s0261340900003982.
  • Starkey, David (1987). "Intimacy and Innovation: the Rise of the Privy Chamber, 1485–1547". In Starkey, David. The English Court: From the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War. Harlow: Longman. pp. 71–118. ISBN 9780582492813.
  • The Statutes of the Realm. 3. Printed by Command of His Majesty King George the Third, in Pursuance of an Address of the House of Commons of Great Britain. From Original Records and Authentic Manuscripts. London: Dawsons of Pall Mall. 1817. pp. 433–434.

External links

  • All the King's Men: Sir William Compton - Part I A biography
  • All the King's Men: Sir William Compton - Part II
  • Sir William Compton, Knt Sir William Compton's will in Testamenta Vetusta, volume II, pp. 591–594
  • William Compton at Find a Grave
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