Thomas Posthumous Hoby

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Sir Thomas Posthumus Hoby (1566 – 30 December 1640), also spelt Hobie, Hobbie and Hobby, Posthumous and Postumus, was an English gentleman and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1589 and 1629. A Puritan, he has been claimed as the inspiration for Shakespeare's character Malvolio in Twelfth Night . [1]

Kingdom of England Historic sovereign kingdom on the British Isles (927–1649; 1660–1707)

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Gentleman any man of good, courteous conduct

In modern parlance, a gentleman is any man of good, courteous conduct. Originally, a gentleman was a man of the lowest rank of the English gentry, standing below an esquire and above a yeoman. By definition, this category included the younger sons of the younger sons of peers and the younger sons of baronets, knights, and esquires in perpetual succession, and thus the term captures the common denominator of gentility shared by both constituents of the English aristocracy: the peerage and the gentry. In this sense, gentleman corresponds to the French gentilhomme ("nobleman"), which in Great Britain, has long meant only the peerage. In this context, Maurice Keen points to the category of "gentlemen" as thus constituting "the nearest contemporary English equivalent of the noblesse of France". The notion of "gentlemen" as encapsulating the members of the hereditary ruling class was what the rebels under John Ball in the 14th century meant when they repeated:

When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

House of Commons of England parliament of England up to 1707

The House of Commons of England was the lower house of the Parliament of England from its development in the 14th century to the union of England and Scotland in 1707, when it was replaced by the House of Commons of Great Britain. In 1801, with the union of Great Britain and Ireland, that house was in turn replaced by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.



Portrait of Hoby's mother Elizabeth Hoby, at Bisham Abbey Elizabeth Hoby.JPG
Portrait of Hoby's mother Elizabeth Hoby, at Bisham Abbey

Hoby was the younger son of Sir Thomas Hoby (1530–1566), the English Ambassador to France in 1557, by his marriage to Elizabeth Cooke, who was a daughter of the humanist Sir Anthony Cooke (1504–1576), one of four sisters notable for their learning. Hoby was born after his father's death, which led to his gaining the additional name of 'Posthumus'. [2] His sisters Elizabeth and Anne died within a few days of each other in February 1571, while his elder brother was the diplomat and scholar Sir Edward Hoby (1560–1617). Hoby was also a nephew of Sir Philip Hoby, Master-General of the Ordnance and an English ambassador to the Holy Roman Empire. [3]

Sir Thomas Hoby was an English diplomat and translator. He was born in 1530, the second son of William Hoby of Leominster, Herefordshire, by his second wife, Katherine, daughter of John Forden. He matriculated at St. John's College, Cambridge in 1546. Encouraged by his sophisticated half-brother, Sir Philip Hoby, he subsequently visited France, Italy, and other foreign countries, and, as Roger Ascham states, "was many wayes well furnished with learning, and very expert in knowledge of divers tongues." His tour of Italy, which included visits to Calabria and Sicily and which he documented in his autobiography, is the most extensive known to have been undertaken by an Englishman in the 16th century. In this and other respects, it may be regarded as a pioneering Grand Tour.

Renaissance humanism

Renaissance humanism was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The term humanism is contemporary to that period, while Renaissance humanism is a retronym used to distinguish it from later humanist developments.

Sir Anthony Cooke was an eminent English humanist scholar. He was tutor to Edward VI.

Hoby was a very small boy and grew up to be nicknamed "the little knight" for his slightness and short stature. [4] He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Oxford, matriculating in 1574 at the age of eight. [5]

Eton College Independent boarding school in Windsor and Maidenhead, UK

Eton College is a 13–18 independent boarding school and sixth form for boys in the parish of Eton, near Windsor in Berkshire, England. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as Kynge's College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore , as a sister institution to King's College, Cambridge, making it the 18th-oldest Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference school. Eton's history and influence have made Eton one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

Trinity College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford

Trinity College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. The college was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas Pope, on land previously occupied by Durham College, home to Benedictine monks from Durham Cathedral.

Also in 1574, some years after his father's death, Hoby's mother married secondly John, Lord Russell, the eldest surviving son of the Earl of Bedford, and with him had three further children, Elizabeth, Anne and Francis. [2] She was the sister-in-law of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's Secretary of State, and Hoby was himself a first cousin of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, who succeeded his father as the Queen's principal minister. As his mother pursued favours for herself and her friends, Hoby became a protégé of Burghley. [6] [7] Among his many other first cousins were the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon and the spy Anthony Bacon.

Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford English politician

Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, KG of Chenies in Buckinghamshire and of Bedford House in Exeter, Devon, was an English nobleman, soldier, and politician. He was a godfather to the Devon-born sailor Sir Francis Drake. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Devon (1584-5).

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley English statesman

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer from 1572. Albert Pollard wrote, "From 1558 for forty years the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England."

Elizabeth I of England Queen of England and Ireland

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.

Hoby's brother Edward in 1583 Sir Edward Hoby 1583.jpg
Hoby's brother Edward in 1583

In 1589 Hoby was elected Member of Parliament for Appleby. He was re-elected MP for Appleby in 1593. [8] In 1595, Hoby married Margaret Sidney (1571–1633), daughter and heiress of Arthur Dakins, a landed gentleman of Linton, already the widow of two men, of Walter Devereux, a younger brother of the Earl of Essex, and of Thomas Sidney, a brother of the poet Philip Sidney. Hoby had been an unsuccessful suitor four years earlier, after Margaret had lost her first husband. They set up home at Hackness, Yorkshire, but had no children. Margaret Hoby is notable as a diarist. [9] [10] [11] [12]

Appleby was a parliamentary constituency in the former county of Westmorland in England. It existed for two separate periods: from 1295 to 1832, and from 1885 to 1918.

Landed gentry Largely historical British social class, consisting of land owners who could live entirely off rental income

The landed gentry, or simply the gentry, is a largely historical British social class consisting in theory of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate. It belonged to aristocracy, but was distinct from, and socially "below", British peerage, although in fact some of the landed gentry were wealthier than some peers, and many gentry were related to peers. They often worked as administrators of their own lands, while others became public, political, religious, and armed forces figures. The decline of this privileged class largely stemmed from the 1870s agricultural depression; however, there are still many hereditary gentry in the UK to this day, many of whom transferred their landlord-style management skills after the agricultural depression into the business of land agency, the act of buying and selling land.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex 16th-century English nobleman

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, KG, PC, was an English nobleman and a favourite of Elizabeth I. Politically ambitious, and a committed general, he was placed under house arrest following a poor campaign in Ireland during the Nine Years' War in 1599. In 1601, he led an abortive coup d'état against the government and was executed for treason.

In 1597 Hoby was elected MP for Yorkshire and Scarborough, but was declared ineligible at Yorkshire. He was elected MP for Scarborough again in 1604. In 1614 he was elected MP for Ripon and was re-elected MP for Ripon in 1621, 1624, 1625, 1626 and 1628. [8] He was Custos Rotulorum of the North Riding of Yorkshire from 1621 to 1626. [13]

Yorkshire was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of England from 1290, then of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. It was represented by two Members of Parliament, traditionally known as Knights of the Shire, until 1826, when the county benefited from the disfranchisement of Grampound by taking an additional two members.

Scarborough (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1974-1997

Scarborough was the name of a constituency in Yorkshire, electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons, at two periods. From 1295 until 1918 it was a parliamentary borough consisting only of the town of Scarborough, electing two MPs until 1885 and one from 1885 until 1918. In 1974 the name was revived for a county constituency, covering a much wider area; this constituency was abolished in 1997.

Ripon was a constituency sending members to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1983, centred on the city of Ripon in North Yorkshire.

A Puritan, in 1600 Hoby took legal action against William Eure (1579–1646) and several of his other neighbours, alleging that they had entered his house, taken drink, played cards, ridiculed Puritanism, and threatened to ravish his wife. In 1609 he alleged in the Star Chamber that Sir Richard Cholmley had twice spoken contemptuously to him in the hope of provoking a duel. One historian of the period has described Hoby as "that most overbearing, touchy, and resentful of Yorkshire magistrates". [13] It has been suggested that the character of Malvolio in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is based on Hoby [1] [14] and that his legal action of 1600 inspired Scene III of Act 2 of Twelfth Night, in which Malvolio is disturbed by drunken merry-making. [15]

As a magistrate, Hoby has been described as "exceptionally conscientious". [16]

On his mother's death in 1609 Hoby inherited from her "all my pastures of the manor of Gyfford in Gloucestershire", [17] and in 1617 he inherited the estates of his brother, Sir Edward. [4]

Death and memorials

Hoby died on 30 December 1640 and was entombed with the remains of his wife in the Hackness parish church. By a will dated 28 March 1640, he left his manor of Hackness to John Sydenham of Brympton in Somerset, the son of his first cousin Alice Hoby, daughter of Sir William Hoby of Hayles, who was Hoby's uncle. He made further bequests to other members of the Sydenham family, and he also left each of his servants three years' wages. [18] [19] A memorial to him was erected in the church at Hackness in 1682 by Sir John Posthumous Sydenham (1643–1696), the son of Hoby's principal heir and a knight of the shire for Somerset. [20] There is an even more impressive memorial to him in All Saints' Church, Bisham, where a painted statue of Hoby is among a family group in the Hoby chapel. [21] [22]

Although Hoby had no children, his brother Edward's natural son Peregrine Hoby (1602–1679) was the father of Sir Edward Hoby, 1st Baronet (1634–1675), whose baronetcy continued until the fifth Baronet died in 1766. [23]


  1. 1 2 J. L. Simmons, "A Source for Shakespeare's Malvolio: The Elizabethan Controversy with the Puritans", Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 36 (May 1973), pp. 181–201.
  2. 1 2 The Ghost of Lady Hoby at, accessed 17 March 2011
  3. James D. Taylor, Documents of Lady Jane Grey: nine days Queen of England, 1553 (2004), p. 47.
  4. 1 2 John William Walker, ed., Hackness Manuscripts and Accounts (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record series: Volume 95, 1938), p. 5
  5. Sir Wasey Sterry, The Eton college register, 1441-1698: alphabetically arranged and edited with biographical notes (Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co., 1943): "Hoby, Thomas Posthumus; 2nd s. of Sir Thomas H. of Bisham Abbey co. Berks and Elizabeth dau. of Sir Anthony Cooke of Gidea Hall co. Essex ; b. 1566 ; commensal at the 2nd table ; matric. from Trinity College Oxford 11 Nov. 1574 aged 8."
  6. The first edition of this text is available at Wikisource:  "Hoby, Thomas"  . Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  7. David Nash Ford, Elizabeth Cooke, Lady Hoby (1528-1609) (Royal Berkshire History, 2001), at Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  8. 1 2 History of Parliament Online - Hoby, Thomas Posthumous
  9. Dorothy M. Meads, ed., The Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby (1930)
  10. Joanna Moody, ed., The Private Life of an Elizabethan Lady: The Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby, 1599-1605
  11. Sharon Cadman Seelig, 'Margaret Hoby: the stewardship of time' in Autobiography and Gender in Early Modern Literature: Reading Women's Lives, 1600–1680 (2006), pp. 15-33
  12. Hoby, Lady Margaret (1571–1633) in A Historical Dictionary of British Women online, accessed 17 March 2011
  13. 1 2 A. J. Fletcher, Honour, Reputation, and Local Officeholding in Elizabethan and Stuart England online at, accessed 17 March 2011
  14. James C. Humes, Citizen Shakespeare: a social and political portrait (University Press of America, 2003), p. 105: "The puritanical Malvolio may have been modelled from life. His original was Sir Thomas Hoby... who had made himself a figure of ridicule in a lawsuit."
  15. Character Analysis of Malvolio from Twelfth Night at
  16. The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, volumes 55–56 (Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 1983), p. 117, footnote (9): "In practice the theory was not always implemented. For an exceptionally conscientious justice, Sir Thomas Postumus Hoby of Hackness, see Surtees Soc. CXXIV, 6."
  17. Walker, p. 99.
  18. Walker, pp. 7–8
  19. Joseph Jackson Howard, Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica, vol. 1 (1868), p. 143
  20. Dorothy May Meads, ed., Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby, 1599–1605 (1930), p. 45.
  21. SHORT HISTORY OF BISHAM CHURCH Archived 19 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine at, accessed 18 March 2011
  22. photograph of monument at, accessed 18 March 2011
  23. HOBY of Bisham,Berks at, accessed 17 March 2011
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Laurence Lister
Member of Parliament for Appleby
With: Ralph Bowes 1589
Cuthbert Reynolds 1593
Succeeded by
James Colbrand
John Lyly
Preceded by
Edward Gate
Roger Dalton
Member of Parliament for Scarborough
With: Walter Pye
Succeeded by
Edward Stanhope
William Eure
Preceded by
Edward Stanhope
William Eure
Member of Parliament for Scarborough
With: Francis Eure
William Conyers
Succeeded by
Edward Smith
William Conyers
Preceded by
Sir John Mallory
Sir John Bennet
Member of Parliament for Ripon
With: William Mallory 1614–1625
Thomas Best 1626
William Mallory 1628–1629
Succeeded by
Parliament suspended until 1640

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