PERROT family, of Haroldston, Pembrokeshire

Three members of this house will be noticed.

Sir JOHN PERROT (1530 - 1592), Elizabethan statesman and Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1584-8

He was popularly believed to be an illegitimate son of Henry VIII and Mary Berkeley, one of the royal ladies-in-waiting who married Sir Thomas Perrot of Haroldston. Henry knighted Sir Thomas on his marriage. Sir John was born, probably, at Haroldston, in 1530 and, according to his own statement, was educated at S. Davids. Later, at the age of 18, he entered the household of the marquis of Winchester, after the custom of the times. He possessed great stature and physical strength, but he had an arbitrary temper and a brawling nature. With the Tudor's he enjoyed great popularity; Henry VIII offered him preferment but died before he could grant it; Edward VI valued him as a friend and made him a Knight of the Bath; Mary did not, at first, take exception to his strong Protestantism, but, later, after he had been denounced by one Catherne, a countryman of his, for harbouring heretics at his house in Wales, for which he was imprisoned for a short time in the Fleet, he deemed it more politic to spend the rest of her reign abroad, serving in France under his friend the earl of Pembroke. He returned to this country only a few months before Mary's death. Under Elizabeth he enjoyed great favour and was one of four appointed to carry the canopy of state at her coronation. In 1562 he was appointed vice-admiral of the coast in South Wales and keeper of the gaol at Haverfordwest, while in the following year he was returned to Parliament as member for Pembrokeshire. He now rapidly became the most powerful personality in the county, but his numerous lawsuits and intense love of litigation as a means of embarrassing his enemies made him very unpopular among his powerful neighbours. In 1570 he became mayor of Haverfordwest, after a period during which the mayor and corporation had been bitterly anti- Perrot.

He was the first president of Munster from 1571 to 1573, following a desire by Elizabeth to establish in that county a presidency similar to that which already existed in Connaught. To him was entrusted the suppression of the rebellion of James Fitzmaurice, the nephew of the earl of Desmond, and in this he was successful, after a campaign of some severity. In 1573, however, he returned to Wales in poor health and determined, as he told Burghley, to live a countryman's life and stay out of debt. For the next ten years his 'countryman's life' became one of intense litigation and attempts to enlarge his lands. He again took part in Haverfordwest affairs, but his relations with the mayor and corporation now appear to have improved considerably, he himself becoming mayor for the second time in 1575. The previous year he had been appointed a member of the Council in the Marches of Wales and he became actively interested in the suppression of piracy along the south coasts. When, in 1575, the Privy Council set up a commission to suppress piracy in Pembrokeshire, he was made chief commissioner, but the following year, when a similar commission was appointed for Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, he declined to accept charge of it on the plea of ill-health. His anti-piracy activities are chiefly of interest because of the bitter feud which they created between him and Richard Vaughan, deputy-admiral in Wales and chief commissioner for piracy in Carmarthenshire, who deeply resented Perrot's interference in what he regarded as his sphere of influence.

In September 1579 Perrot was given command of a squadron of five ships with orders to cruise off the west coast of Ireland and intercept any Spanish shipping that might attempt a landing there. Apart from sighting one pirate ship, the ' Derifold,' which Perrot chased and caught, the expedition was an uneventful one, though, on the return to the Thames, Perrot's ship ran aground on the Kentish Downs. When finally the squadron reached the Thames in safety, he found that his enemies had used this incident, and the uneventfulness of the expedition, to discredit him at Court. He was able, nevertheless, to clear himself completely. A little later, in 1580, one Wyrriott, a justice of the peace and former yeoman of the guard, preferred a bill of slanderous charges against him, which he exhibited before the Privy Council. The latter deemed them to be slanderous libels and Wyrriott was imprisoned in the Marshalsea. He repeated his charges again later and altogether his feud with Perrot cost him at least ten years' imprisonment and a fine of 1,000 marks.

It must have been with great relief that many of Perrot's Welsh neighbours heard of his appointment as lord deputy of Ireland, a post which he held from 1584 till 1588. The queen had held his Munster service in high esteem. She had asked his advice, too, in 1581, about Irish problems and had been much impressed with a ' Discourse ' he had written in answer, in which he outlined courses of action to be taken in that country. Again, he was a man of considerable financial means, well likely to be able to bear the expense of such an important office under the parsimonious queen. His four years as lord-deputy were not happy ones and, thwarted by the English officials of his council, a victim of his own unbridled tongue and temper, irritated beyond measure by the enmity of Adam Loftus, archbishop of Dublin, and others, he begged to be recalled. He returned to England in 1588, bitter and disillusioned, suffering from gallstone and kidney trouble, but able, nevertheless, to boast to his successor, Sir William Fitzwilliam, that he had left Ireland in a state of profound peace.

In 1589 he was made a member of the Privy Council but it was not long before rumours of treasonable activity were current about him. These had been instigated in the first instance by Philip Williams, his secretary in Ireland, and Adam Loftus had taken care they should reach the right quarter. They became the subject of investigation by the Privy Council and, in March 1591, Perrot was removed to the Tower. He was tried for treason in April 1592 and was sentenced to death. He died in the Tower in June 1592, before sentence could be carried out. There seems little reason to doubt that he was innocent of treasonable activity but guilty of indiscreet words concerning the queen's person, a fault of his hasty temper. He was more a victim to the animosity of his many enemies, not the least among whom was Sir Christopher Hatton, whose daughter Elizabeth he had seduced, and who had been stung by Perrot's taunt that he had found his way to royal favour by means of the galliard. In spite of his attainder, his estates were soon granted to his son, Sir Thomas Perrot.

He married (1) Ann, daughter of Sir Thomas Cheyney, by whom he had a son, Sir Thomas Perrot, who married Dorothy, daughter of Walter Devereux, earl of Essex, and (2) Jane, daughter of Sir Lewis Pollard, by whom he had a son William (died 1597) and two daughters, Lettice, who married (1) Roland Lacharn of S. Bride 's, (2) Walter Vaughan of S. Bride 's, and (3) Arthur Chichester, baron Chichester of Belfast and later lord-deputy of Ireland, and Ann, who married John Philips. Besides these he had a number of illegitimate children of whom the most important were Sir James Perrot, by Sibil Jones of Radnorshire, Elizabeth, daughter of Elizabeth Hatton, and a daughter who married David Morgan, gent.

In 1580 he donated lands and properties of the yearly value of £30, free of all charges, to the town of Haverfordwest, and these became known as ' The Perrot Trust.' Through the centuries many have been alienated, but the Trust still yields approximately £400 annually.

Sir JAMES PERROT (1571 - 1636), politician

The illegitimate son of Sir John Perrot of Haroldston, by Sibil Jones of Radnorshire. He was probably born at Haroldston but is sometimes referred to as of Westmead, Carmarthenshire, which was in his father's possession and which may have descended to him. In 1586, at the age of 14, he matriculated from Jesus College, Oxford, and entered the Middle Temple in 1590. On the death of his father in 1592 he sought to obtain a share of the family estate and took his case to the Court of Exchequer. He was unsuccessful, however, and when, by 1601, all his father's possessions had been disposed of, though not left totally unprovided for, he nevertheless obtained very much less than he had hoped. In the meantime he had devoted himself to literary composition. In 1596 he published his Discovery of Discontented Minds …, which was followed in 1600 by The First Part of the Considerations of Humane Conditions … etc. He also wrote a book on the life and death of Sir Philip Sidney, but this appears never to have got beyond the manuscript stage. In 1630 he published his last important work, entitled Meditations and Prayers on the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments.

He was knighted in 1603 and when Haverfordwest received its charter at the beginning of the reign of James I his name was the first on the roll of new aldermen. He was returned as member for Haverfordwest borough to the Parliaments of 1597-8, 1604, and 1614, and in that of 1614 took a vigorous part in the debate on impositions. He soon became prominent on the Parliamentarian side and after condemning the Spanish marriage in the Parliament of 1621, and demanding fresh guarantees against Popery, he lost his former royal favour and was honourably banished to Ireland as a member of Sir Dudley Digges's commission to enquire into certain grievances in that realm. He seems to have been more subdued in the parliament of 1624, when he was returned as member for Pembroke county, but in 1628, when returned as member for Haverfordwest, he strongly attacked Laud. In 1624 he leased the royal mines in Pembrokeshire and acted as deputy vice-admiral for the earl of Pembroke. He was promoted vice-admiral of the county in 1626, and urged the necessity for dealing with the wreckers along the Welsh coasts. He also advocated the fortifying of Milford Haven. He was a member of the Virginia Company, to which he subscribed the sum of £37 10s. He died 4 February 1636, and was buried in S. Mary's church, Haverfordwest. He married Mary, daughter of Robert Ashfield of Chesham, Bucks, but had no issue.

ROBERT PERROT (died 1550), organist of Magdalen College, Oxford

Founder of the Northleigh branch of the Perrot family, was the second son of George Perrot of Haroldston, Pembrokeshire, by Isabel Langdale, of Langdale Hall, Yorks. He was born in that county and there is no evidence that he ever visited Wales. He achieved some eminence as a musician and in 1534 became archdeacon of Buckinghamshire and receiver of rents for Christ Church, Oxford. He died in April 1550.

Published date: 1959