Sir Richard Wingfield KG

Sir Richard Wingfield KG (b. in or before 1469, d. 22 July 1525), diplomat and solider and the eleventh of the twelve sons of Sir John Wingfield KB of Letheringham, Suffolk (circa 1428–11 May 1481), a member of the Privy Council of Edward IV of England (28 April 1442-9 April 1483) and Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and his wife, Elizabeth FitzLewis (died before 22 December 1500), the daughter of Sir John FitzLewis of London and West Horndon, Essex and his wife Anne Montagu, daughter of Sir John Montagu, KG and 3rd Earl of Salisbury.

Relatively little is known of Richard Wingfield’s early life. In 1496 Richard married without royal licence, Katherine Woodville (circa 1458-18 May 1497), the younger sister of Edward IV’s queen and wife, Elizabeth Woodville (died 8 June 1492), and widow of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, KG (4 September 1454–2 November 1483) and Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke, KG (circa 1431-1495). Twelve years his senior, the dowager duchess Katherine brought him no children but a jointure income during her lifetime of more than £1000 out of the Stafford estates, and the use of Kimbolton Castle in Huntingdonshire. Although the precise circumstances of Richard Wingfield’s entry into royal service are unknown, it probably occurred about the time of his marriage and through the influence of his wife or family.

Polydore Vergil reports that Richard Wingfield fought with his brothers John and Robert Wingfield against the Cornish rebels in the Cornish rebellion of 1497, and he was among the esquires of the body who accompanied Henry VII of England (28 January 1457-21 April 1509) to a meeting with Archduke Philip of Austria (22 July 1478-25 September 1506) near Calais.

In March 1505, Richard traveled to Rome on pilgrimage with his older brother Robert Wingfield and a reputed illegitimate half-brother Richard Urry.

Richard was knighted by 1511.

Sir Richard was appointed marshal of Calais on 10 November 1511 and became deputy of Calais in July 1513.

At some time before 1513, Sir Richard married as his 2nd wife Bridget Wilshire (d. 1533/4), the daughter and heiress of Sir John Wiltshire (d. 1526) of Stone Castle and at one time Comptroller of Calais and his wife Isabella Clothall.

Sir Richard’s first recorded diplomatic missions for Henry VIII of England (28 June 1491–28 January 1547) came in December 1512, when he was commissioned with Sir Edward Poynings KG (1459–22 October 1521), John Yonge (circa 1465-25 April 1516) Master of Rolls, and Sir Thomas Boleyn (circa 1477–12 March 1539) as special ambassador to the Low Countries to treat with the regent Margaret of Austria, Princess of Asturias and Duchess of Savoy (10 January 1480–1 December 1530), Pope Julius II (5 December 1443–21 February 1513), the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (22 March 1459–12 January 1519), and Ferdinand II of Aragon (10 March 1452-23 January 1516) for the formation of a Holy League in support of the Roman Catholic church. Their mission began on 8 January 1513. Sir Richard negotiated the treaty signed on 5 April 1513 at Mechelen, and that spring arranged the recruitment of several hundred German and Burgundian men-at-arms and demi-lancer (was a type of heavy cavalryman found in Western Europe in the 16th and early 17th centuries).

In mid-May 1513, Sir Richard managed a visit to his wife in Calais (LP Henry VIII, 1.1887). By 4 June 1513 Sir Richard returned to Margaret of Austria’s court at Brussels and left the following day for Antwerp to bring hired troops and ordnance back to Calais in preparation for the English invasion of France. During the invasion of France in July 1513 he commanded the spears of Calais.

By February 1514 Sir Richard was referred to as a royal councilor, and on 14 February 1514 he was sent to the Low Countries with William Knight (died 1547) at 20s. per day, charged with arranging the proposed marriage of Henry VIII’s sister Princess Mary Tudor (18 March 1496–25 June 1533) to Archduke Philip of Austria’s son Charles and with raising troops on the continent to fight in support of England’s imperial allies. Sir Richard’s mission failed, as Mary Tudor eventually was married to Louis XII of France (27 June 1462-1 January 1515) in 1514. Sir Richard joined Thomas Spinelly, the de facto English ambassador resident at Antwerp. They had audience with Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy on 21 March 1514. In mid-May Knight travelled on to Switzerland, leaving Sir Richard as the senior ambassador to the regent with Spinelly as his assistant.

By September Sir Richard returned to Calais, and on 26 October 1514 was commissioned along with other town officials to receive 50,000 francs from the French as part payment due to England after the 1513 war.

Late in January 1515 Sir Richard was sent to France on special embassy with his cousin Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (circa 1484–22 August 1545) and Nicholas West, Bishop of Ely (1461–28 April 1533) to negotiate the return of the newly widowed Queen Mary of France and her dowry, with further reimbursement for the substantial cost of her wedding journey to France the previous October. They were also instructed to protest the French depredations on English shipping in the channel, prevent the John Stewart, Duke of Albany (died 2 July 1536) from returning to Scotland, and if possible acquire the bishopric of Tournai for Thomas Wolsey (March 1473-29 November 1530). They had audience with Francis I of France (12 September 1494-31 March 1547) on 1 February 1515. Unbeknown to Sir Richard (at Mary’s insistence), Duke of Suffolk began clandestine discussions with Francis I and widowed Queen Mary, which resulted in her secret marriage to the Duke of Suffolk (probably by 20th February). Sir Richard left Paris for Calais with Duke of Suffolk and Mary on 16 April 1515.

Early in June 1516 Sir Richard and Cuthbert Tunstall (1474–18 November 1559) returned to the Low Countries to the court of Prince Charles, now King of Spain. They were instructed to arrange a loan to Charles, negotiate England’s contributions towards paying Swiss mercenaries to fight for Maximilian I against France in Italy, prevent if possible the impending peace between France and Spain, and strengthen the existing defensive league with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. They had a formal audience with Charles on 4 June 1516, and began substantive talks with his chief minister Chièvres, to whom they brought an English pension of 500 marks. Both Tunstall and Sir Richard argued to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey that paying for Maximilian I’s Italian ventures was not in England’s best interests. The peace treaty between France and Spain at Noyon in mid-August 1516 left England isolated diplomatically, and Sir Richard sent a warning to Cardinal Wolsey that a French attack on Tournai was imminent and was order by Cardinal Wolsey to return to Calais on 22 August 1516.

In October and November 1517, Sir Richard joined Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478-6 July 1535) and William Knight in negotiating with France an exchange of imprisoned pirates and protesting at the treatment given to English subjects in French courts. Sir Richard was in England and present at a council meeting on 6 November 1518.

Sir Richard’s long involvement with Calais ended formally on 15 May 1519, when he was replaced as deputy, recalled to England, granted a lifetime annuity of £200, and appointed to the privy chamber, replacing Sir Nicholas Carew (circa 1496-3 March 1539), Sir John Peachey, Sir Edward Guildford (circa 1474-1534), and others. Sir Richard previously discussed the coming purge with Cardinal Wolsey in person in England about 15–17 May 1519. Sir Richard returned to Calais on 18 May, and six days later received patents for appointments to offices there for Peachey (his successor as deputy), Guildford (marshal of the town), and Carew (captain of Rysbank). As deputy, Sir Richard was active and conscientious, continually worried about improving Calais’s defences, regularly advocating a stronger English naval presence in the channel, privately financing a row-barge to patrol in 1514, supporting the construction of a new conduit for fresh water in 1515–16, running an effective intelligence network (which included an English spy at the French court), and offering official protection to the numerous English merchants who traveled to the continent in his retinue.

By early June 1519, Sir Richard had taken up his privy chamber appointment and was regularly at court; he attended council meetings on 7th June and 27th October 1519.

Cardinal Wolsey valued Sir Richard’s military and especially naval expertise, which in implementing Cardinal Wolsey’s 1519 reforms included a comprehensive survey of the Henry VIII’s ordnance by Sir Richard, Belknap, and Cutte, and a survey of royal ships by Sir Richard and Sir Weston Browne. As diplomatic duties permitted, Sir Richard worked at these intermittently over the next few years, inspecting the Henry grace à Dieu and inventorying its weapons and tackle with Sir Browne in January 1521, reporting on the state of naval forces at various ports in the summer of 1522, and investigating Portuguese complaints about the looting of a grounded merchant ship at Thanet as late as 1525.In February 1520 Sir Richard was sent as resident ambassador to France, replacing Sir Thomas Boleyn, charged with arranging under Cardinal Wolsey’s overall jurisdiction the personal meeting between the two kings, which would take place in June at the Field of Cloth of Gold outside Guînes. Both Sir Richard and his wife attended the Cloth of Gold meeting.

In early July 1520, Sir Richard was again at the French court, trying to explain Henry VIII’s second meeting with Francis I and was replaced by Jerningham on 1 August 1520.

Sir Richard was back in England and attending council meetings on 24 October 1520 and 30 January 1521.In the spring of 1521 Sir Richard was sent abroad once more, on special embassy to Charles V with instructions to keep the Emperor from starting a war with France and to offer Henry VIII’s services as mediator. Stopping briefly in Brussels to explain his mission to Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy, he was received by Charles V at Worms about 28 May 1521, but could not prevent the outbreak of hostilities once Francis I invaded Navarre.

Sir Richard was directed in June 1521 to arrange a truce and convince Charles V to accept Cardinal Wolsey’s arbitration at a meeting at Calais. He was sent to England on 22 June 1521 with the imperial ambassadors to deliver Charles V’s reaction in person and was sent back to the Charles V on 11 July 1521. In that month, Sir Richard also met Christian II of Denmark (1 July 1481–25 January 1559), in exile in Ghent, and heard his proposal for an alliance with England. After the making of England’s secret treaty of 25 August 1521 (not formally ratified until November), he followed Charles V into the field and, with Spinelly, reported on the course of the war against France in the Low Countries, Spain, and Italy. By October 1521 Sir Richard asked to be recalled, and he applied unsuccessfully to Cardinal Wolsey for the office of treasurer of the household. Sir Richard fell seriously ill at the city of Oudenaarde by 4 November 1521 and remained in poor health throughout that month, asking again on 30th November to return to England. It was not until January 1522 was Sir Richard recalled to England.

In April 1522 Charles V offered to give Sir Richard a pension of 1000 livres and specifically asked Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey to make Sir Richard a knight of the Order of the Garter. Despite some initial reluctance from Henry VIII, Sir Richard was accordingly elected unanimously a Knight of the Garter at a meeting of the order at Richmond on 23 April 1522 and was installed at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on 11 May 1522 (the 280th knight in the history of the order), along with Charles V’s brother Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria (10 March 1503–25 July 1564) and Sir Thomas Boleyn. Sir Richard’s plate is located at North 25 stall at St. George’s Chapel.

Shortly thereafter Sir Richard left for Brussels, joining his brother Sir Robert Wingfield and Spinelly at the imperial court to lay the groundwork for the Treaty of Windsor and escort Charles V back to England for a state visit at the end of May 1522. Sir Richard surveyed naval and military preparedness at Portsmouth, Southampton, and Dartmouth, and personally delivered the English loan of 150,000 gold crowns to Charles V on 20 June 1522.Early in July 1522 Sir Richard helped Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (1473-25 August 1554) organize and lead the secret attack on Morlaix. He reported on 20 August 1522 that Calais could not supply additional English troops, and subsequently with Sir William Sandys KG (1470-4 December 1540) commanded the rearguard of Earl Surrey’s unsuccessful campaign in Picardy and the failed siege at Hesdin. On 14 October 1522, the army retreated to Calais and disbanded. Sir Richard was back at court in time to attend a council meeting on 6 November 1522.

On 20 November 1522 Sir Richard was granted the castle and manor of Kimbolton in Huntingdonshire. He began to rebuild the castle in 1523, adding ‘new fair lodgyns and galeries apon the olde foundations of the castelle’ (Itinerary, 2). He was named to the Huntingdonshire commission of the peace in the month of the grant, and over the next year and a half was appointed a JP in twenty-five additional counties and to subsidy commissions in Hampshire and Huntingdonshire.

On 6 April 1523, Sir Richard was appointed chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and chief steward of the southern parts of the duchy. Early in June 1523 he was at court conferring with Cardinal Wolsey, Duke of Suffolk, and George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury KG (circa 1469-26 July 1538) about the coming summer campaigns in France. Sir Richard again commanded the army’s rearguard, this time under his cousin Duke of Suffolk, in the delayed and inconclusive invasions launched from Calais in August and September 1523.

On 23 September 1523, the £40 p.a. rent due for Kimbolton was excused and Sir Richard was given the additional manors of Swinshed and Tilbrooke in Huntingdonshire.

On 28 November 1523, Sir Richard received a 24-year lease of a large London mansion on Candlewick Street in St Swithin’s parish, with gardens, two great gates, and adjoining tenements.

After Sir Thomas Lovell death in May 1524, Sir Richard let it be known that he would like Lovell’s post as High Steward of Cambridge University. Hugh Latimer argued in his favor to Thomas Greene, the university’s vice-chancellor. Sir Thomas More had hoped for the post himself and was persuaded to step aside only when Henry VIII intervened. Sir Richard was elected by the Cambridge University in late 1524.

Sir Richard’s diplomatic experience and good relations with Charles V were especially valuable when the French were defeat at the Battle of Pavia on 24 February 1525 accelerated Charles V’s decision not to honor the Treaty of Windsor. In late March 1525, Sir Richard and Bishop Tunstall were ordered on special embassy to Spain, charged with urging an immediate joint Anglo-imperial invasion of France and its partition between Henry VIII and Charles V and with affirming Charles V’s betrothal to Henry VIII’s six-year old daughter, the princess Mary. Sir Richard and Bishop Tunstall were given an audience with the Charles V on the day they arrived at Toledo, 24 May 1525.

While in Toledo Sir Richard fell ill with dysentery on 15 July 1525, but forced himself to attend a Spanish banquet the following evening. He collapsed with a fever immediately afterwards and died in Toledo on 22 July 1525.

Sir Richard’s funeral was supposedly elaborate. As a mark of Charles V’s favor, Sir Richard was buried, before 28 July 1525, in the church of the Friars Observants of San Juan de los Reyes at Toledo, within the circuit of the choir ‘whiche place is foundyd and reservyd for buryall oonly of Kinges … and never bifore was grauntyd to no pryvate person’ (Bishop Tunstall to Henry VIII, 28 July 1525, State Papers, Henry VIII, 6.450).

Sir Richard’s will, dated 5 April 1525 and proved 9 February 1526, left a considerable estate to his twelve-year-old son and heir Charles Wingfield and bequeath certain gifts to his Dame Bridget; his daughters Katharine, Cecily, Mary and Elizabeth; sons Thomas Maria, Jacques, and Lawrence; sister Katharine Hall, and nephews John and Giles Brewes. His will instructed his executors Lewis Wingfield, Humphrey Wingfield, John Russell, and Sir Robert Bone that immediately after Sir Richard’s decease my executors do cause a trental to be sung for him in the Priory of Stonely in the county of Huntingdon and that an obit be kept yearly there within the said Priory of Stonely for 7 years with Mass of Requiem and Dirge of his soul, the Duchess’ Katharine osuld, and for the souls of his father, mother, and for all his brothers and sister’s souls, and for all his friends’ souls.


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)

Wingfield, John Maurice, Some Records of the Wingfield Family, Wingfield Family Society, Athens, Georgia, (1991), pages 145-226

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), pages 57-68

Metcalfe, Walter C., ed., The Visitations of Suffolk, (Exeter, William Pollard, 1882), page 79, online edition, [accessed 26 November 2017]

Beltz, George Frederick, Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter from Its Foundation to the Present time, Elibron Classics series, (2005)

Robertson, Mary L., Wingfield, Sir Richard (b. in or before 1469, d. 1525), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, (2004), online edition, Oct 2008,, [accessed 12 Nov 2017]

The National Archives (TNA): PROB 11/22/51

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