Anthony Wingfield, Scholar

Anthony Wingfield (c.1552, d. in or after 1611), scholar and tutor, was the third surviving son of Richard Wingfield, Esq. (1529–1591) of Crowfield and Wantisden, Suffolk, and his wife Mary Hardwick, daughter of John Hardwick, Esq. (1495-1527) of Derbyshire and Elizabeth Leeke, and younger sister of Elizabeth Talbot (c.1527–1608), Countess of Shrewsbury who was better known as Bess of Hardwick.

Anthony Wingfield entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a pensioner on 25 October 1569. He spent time as a student of Gray’s Inn in 1572 before becoming a scholar of Trinity College in 1573. He was first in the ranking of those taking the Bachelor of Arts in early 1574. He was elected minor fellow in 1576 and commenced Master of Arts and was elected major fellow in 1577. On 9 July 1577, he incorporated Master of Arts at Oxford University.

In late 1570s Anthony served as Greek reader to Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603). In 1579 Queen Elizabeth ordered Trinity College to grant Anthony a lease of the rectory of Keysoe, Bedfordshire, but the master and senior fellows dissented.

On 16 March 1581 Anthony Wingfield defeated Gabriel Harvey (c.1552-1631) in an election for the position of public orator of the University of Cambridge. Their contest likely inspired the university drama Pedantius, said to be a satire on Harvey. As public orator Anthony Wingfield was responsible for writing letters for the university. Seven of his letters, all dated between 1580 and 1582, survive as part of the series epistolae academiae in the Cambridge University archives. Among them is his printed letter to the theologian Theodore Beza, thanking him for donating two books to the university library.

On 18 May 1582, Cambridge University granted Anthony Wingfield a leave of absence to accompany Peregrine Bertie, 13th Baron Willoughby de Eresby (1555-1601), on a diplomatic mission to Denmark.

In October 1582, Anthony Wingfield was elected senior proctor of Cambridge University. He was to serve part of his term with Gabriel Harvey (c. 1552/3 – 1631) as junior proctor.

On 10 July 1584, Anthony Wingfield was granted another leave of absence to go abroad, perhaps to accompany Hon. Robert Cecil MP (c.1563-1612) into France. A 1598 letter from Gilbert Talbot, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury (1552-1616), to Cecil confirms that Anthony had once ‘desyred to attend on you [Cecil] into France’ (Hatfield House Library, CP 61/46r).

While at Cambridge University, Anthony Wingfield held the college offices of steward in 1583, junior bursar in 1585, and supervisor of the butteries in 1586, and became senior fellow in 1587. He contributed verses to Academiae Cantabrigiensis lachrymae (1587), a university collection commemorating the death of Sir Philip Sidney. His poem appears immediately after Gabriel Harvey’s two longer poems in the collection.

On 21 March 1589, Anthony Wingfield was granted yet another leave of absence to go abroad by Queen Elizabeth I’s command. It is not clear where he was being sent, but he resigned as Cambridge University orator on 25 September 1589. A letter dated 25 November 1590 places him in London and mentions his brother Henry’s gambling and his Father’s recent marriage. In a letter to the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury on 19 January 1593, the Archbishop of York, John Piers (c.1552-1594) promised to find Anthony Wingfield a ‘Burges of some towne belonginge to the Sea of York’ (Talbot Papers, 1984, LPL, MS 3200, fol. 158r).  In the following month, Anthony served as one of the Members of Parliament for Ripon in 1593, which he served until 1597.

On 18 December 1598, Anthony Wingfield wrote from London to thank Cecil for saving him from destruction on a courtier’s sea (‘in aulicum mare’), and he alludes to his happier days as public orator at Cambridge University (Hatfield House Library, CP 66/78rv). Anthony was still in London on 3 December 1600 when he wrote to the 7th Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury to report the Queen Elizabeth I’s favorable reception of their daughter, Elizabeth.

Anthony Wingfield also acted as tutor to William Cavendish (1592-1676), the future Duke of Newcastle, and his brother Charles Cavendish (c.1594-1654), the sons of Sir Charles Cavendish (1553-1617) and Catherine Ogle (c.1568-1629). Anthony’s letter of 20 March 1606 from Welbeck praises the boys’ intelligence and hard work, and contains a poem believed to be a satire on Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. Sir Charles Cavendish is found on 19 June 1611 sending his commendations to ‘Mr Wingfyld’ in a letter to one Henry Butler, who at the time was staying at Sheffield.


Wingfield, Mervyn Edward, 7th Viscount Powerscourt, ed., Muniments of the Ancient Saxon family of Wingfield (privately printed, London, 1894), Wingfield Family Society, Durham, North Carolina, (1987)

Dewing, Edward M., Pedigree of Wingfield of Wingfield, Letheringham, Easton, & c., Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, Volume 7 Part I (1889), pgs. 57-68

Malone, Edward A., ‘Wingfield, Anthony (b. c.1552, d. in or after 1611)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, (2004)
[, accessed 6 March 2016]

Wingfield, Anthony II (c.1550-c.1615), of Wantisden, Suff., The History of Parliament Online
[, accessed 11 November 2017]

"Posse Nolle Nobile" — Latin for "To have the power without the wish is noble."

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