Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625

During the reign of James I, the king and his councillors received hundreds of petitions every year. As part of ‘The Power of Petitioning’ project, we have transcribed and published almost 400 of these manuscripts from across the seventeenth century on British History Online. We also completed a six-month Shared Learning Project with a large group of amateur researchers from the London Region of the University of the Third Age.

Each of these researchers wrote one or more reports about the petitioners and their requests or complaints. The introduction to this U3A project includes much more information, including important caveats about accuracy and interpretation. This first set of 46 reports cover the first twenty-five years of the seventeenth century.

Among the many reports we find the long-running case of Jane and John Daniell, who was imprisoned in 1601 for forging letters of the Earl of Essex. The couple, individually and jointly, sent innumerable petitions to royal authorities asking for mercy over next nine years, and Penny Bidgood has investigated their troubles. Another notable petitioner was Mary Carleill, the widow well-known naval commander, sought control of lands she claimed had been promised to her husband by Queen Elizabeth. As Virginia Gingell reports, Carleill’s request seems to have fallen on deaf ears, despite her pitiable status as a ‘poore widdowe’. The case of Giles Waters of Winchelsea, who petitioned about his imprisonment and claimed that the mayor had killed his mastiff, is equally intriguing. Lesley Scott-Stapleton shows that Waters had an ambiguous place in his community, regularly getting into trouble but also serving in various official capacities in the 1620s. Together, we hope that these reports suggest how we can use petitions to get a glimpse into the struggles of all sorts of people in late Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

The Petitions and the Reports

For further petitions and reports from the rest of the seventeenth century, return to the main ‘Investigating Petitioners’ page.