Anne Sutton

Anne Sutton was the only daughter of Sir Edward Sutton, 4th Baron Dudley and his first wife Katherine Bridges. She was born probably in late 1556. Sometimes she is referred to as Agnes Sutton.

Portrait d'Edward Sutton cinquième lord Dudley 1567-1643, © Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles / photo : Grafisch Buro Lefevre, Heule

Anne’s half brother Edward Sutton 5th Baron Dudley. © Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles

Her mother was a lady in waiting to Queen Mary and these connexions meant that her life under the protestant Queen Elizabeth was a sometimes narrow and tricky path. She probably remained a Catholic all her life.

Sir John Sutton, 3rd Baron Dudley, had had his lands restored by Queen Mary in 1553, following the execution of his cousin John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who supposedly had swindled them from the hapless Baron. These were granted back to Sir John Sutton by Letters Patent shortly before his death. He died and was buried in Westminster on 21 Sep 1553 and these lands passed to “the heirs male” his son Sir Edward Sutton, the 4th Baron.

On the marriage in Dec 1555 of Sir Edward Sutton to Katherine Bridges, one of her favourite Maids of Honour, Queen Mary made a further royal grant by Letters Patent of the Manors of Sedgley, Himley and Swinford to the couple and the heirs of “their two bodies”.

Anne was the couple’s only child. Katherine Sutton, her mother, is recorded as being buried in St Edmunds on 28 Apr 1566. However, the 4th baron did produce a male heir by his second wife Jane Stanley, before she also died and was buried on 3 Dec 1569 in St Edmunds. Because of the wording of the Letters Patent we can presume that Anne was a valuable heiress in her own right, although her half brother was the main heir of the Dudley title.

In prenuptial articles of agreement dated 24 Apr 1567 (Dudley Archives DE/2/8) Sir Edward came to an agreement with Sir John Throckmorton to marry his only daughter to Sir John’s oldest son Francis Throckmorton within five years of her attaining the age of 12. Under this agreement Anne Sutton was sent off to Ripford Worcestershire to be brought up further by her intended mother in law Dame Margery, wife of Sir John Throckmorton. The manors of Sedgley. Himley and Swinford are listed as part of the dowry. Sir John Throckmorton’s brother was George Throckmorton married to Mary Bridges, Anne’s aunt. Sir John had been a witness to Queen Mary’s will and had been her principal legal counsel.

It is not clear when this marriage took place as Francis had a long education attending the Catholic Hart Hall, Oxford (mat 1572) and then went to study as a barrister at the Inner Temple in London in 1576. After a long betrothal the couple most likely married in 1576 itself. The couple probably had a son called John Throckmorton born in about 1577.  Dame Margery Throckmorton mentions a grandchild called John Throckmorton in her will of 1591.

Francis cannot have spent much time with his wife as he travelled widely across Europe from 1580 to 1583 notably to Paris and to Madrid, where he openly engaged with exiled English Catholics. Anne was probably living in London at this time possibly with Dame Margery, with whom she remained close. The Throckmortons had a London residence in Lewisham. Whether Anne was fully privy to her husband’s plotting is not clear but she managed to keep a sufficient distance. Queen Elizabeth’s spy network, though, knew very much what Francis Throckmorton was up to and on his return to London he was soon arrested, tortured and executed for Treason on 10 Jul 1584. Both Dame Margery and Anne were allowed to visit Francis in the Tower of London before his execution.

It is not clear whether she forfeited her lands as a result of this execution and this is significant for her subsequent marriage to Thomas Wilmer by 1590. The pre-nuptial agreement of 1567 would appear to say that she ‘will inherit’ the Manors of Sedgley, Himley and Swinford in which case the issue may not have been resolved until 1586 (death of 4th Baron) or 1589 (marriage settlement with Thomas Wilmer)

In his will of 1586 the 4th Baron, Sir Edward Sutton, left the relatively modest sum of £200 to his daughter named as Anne Throckmorton. The will shows that the finances of the Dudley family were clearly in a parlous state. Anne remained the only child of the first marriage and only heir of “their two bodies” of the lands granted by Royal letters Patent by Queen Mary.

Anne Throckmorton is also mentionned in the will of Francis’s sister, Mary, dated 3 Sep 1586 and proved 10 Feb. She is left Mary’s gold bracelets.

It seems likely that Anne spent at least five years of enforced widowhood either in Dudley or at the seat of the Throckmortons in Feckenham Manor in Worcestershire before remarrying.

Thomas Wilmer, her second husband, was a contemporary of Francis Throckmorton at both Oxford and in the Inns of Court, but there is no suggestion that they knew each other. It seems more likely that Thomas Wilmer, who was well into his 30’s when he married Anne, was prepared to finance an entry into the aristocracy and some time around 1590 they were married. She was still young enough and gave birth to four children – Thomas, John, Mary and Ursula. As there are no baptisms or marriage records the only clue about the date of marriage comes from Dame Margery’s will of 1591. Here she gives to her “daughter-in-law Mrs Anne Throckmorton, now Mistress Willmer, my best cloake lyned with Sable” etc

There is a burial recorded for Anne Wilmer in St Margaret’s Westminster on 21 Dec 1601. At this date she would have been aged about 45 and the children of her second marriage would still have been very young. Added in the margin of the Westminster register (1914 transcript only) is the following remark – “dau to the Lord Dudley by the Lady Katherine his first wyfe”. By way of further clarification the 1914 transcript goes on to say – “She was the only dau. of Edward Sutton, 8th Lord Dudley by Katherine, (1st wife) dau of John Brydges, first Baron Chandos of Sudeley”

An unusual and enigmatic entry in the St Edmund’s Dudley parish register on the death of her child Mary Wilmer buried on 28 Feb 1626. Here it describes her as the “Mary ye last daughter of An Wilmore”. This could be taken to indicate that Anne Wilmer is still alive, but as the half sister to the beleaguered 5th Baron, it was deemed worthy of note in the register.

Thomas Wilmer himself certainly lived in Dudley until his death in 1628 and the couple’s eldest son Thomas married Martha Sutton – half blood first cousin in about 1622. Anne Sutton was therefore the great grandmother of Gilbert Jellians. Thomas Wilmer III lived until 1680.

Sources and Notes

  • History of the Wilmer family: Charles Wilmer Foster, Leeds 1888
  • General History of the Lives Trials and Executions of all the Royal and Noble Personages etc: Delahay Gordon, London 1760
  • History of the Dudley Family: Dean Dudley, 1886, Wakefield MA
  • The Watchers, A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I, Stephen Alford, London 2012
  • Parish Register of St Edmunds Church 1540-1646 (BMSGH)
  • Wills from The National Archives Prerogative Court of Canterbury
  • One report says that Anne Wilmer was buried in Feckenham in 1605 (record to be verified – this however could be her sister-in-law Anne Wigmore not Anne Wilmer?)
  • Portrait d’Edward Sutton cinquième lord Dudley 1567-1643, Ecole anglaise, XVIIe siècle, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles