Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cordell, William

CORDELL, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1581), master of the rolls, son of John Cordell, esq., by Eva, daughter of Henry Webb of Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, was born at Edmonton, Middlesex, and educated at Cambridge, though at what college is not known. He was admitted a member of Lincoln's Inn in 1538, and called to the bar in 1544. In 1545 he obtained the manor of Long Melford, Suffolk, and was M.P. for Dunheved. In the parliament which met 1 March 1552–3 he sat for Steyning, and he became solicitor-general to Queen Mary on 30 Sept. 1553. In that capacity he took part in the prosecution of Sir Thomas Wyatt for high treason. He served the office of Lent reader of Lincoln's Inn in 1553–4, and shortly afterwards became one of the governors of that society, a post which he held on many subsequent occasions. On 5 Nov. 1557 he was constituted master of the rolls, having previously received the honour of knighthood. Queen Mary appointed him one of her privy council, and granted him a license to have twelve retainers. He was returned for Suffolk to the parliament which assembled on 20 Jan. 1557–8, and was chosen speaker of the House of Commons. In 1558 he was despatched to the north with Thirleby, bishop of Ely, to inquire into the cause of quarrel between the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland.

Queen Elizabeth, though she removed him from the privy council, continued him in the office of master of the rolls, and he was in the ecclesiastical commission. In the course of this reign he was a member of various important royal commissions. He was M.P. for Middlesex in the parliament which met on 11 Jan. 1562–3. In 1569 he subscribed a declaration of his obedience to the Act of Uniformity. He was returned by the city of Westminster to the parliament which assembled on 2 April 1571. On 4 Aug. 1578 he most sumptuously entertained the queen in his house at Long Melford. He died at the Rolls House in Chancery Lane, London, on 17 May 1581, and was buried in Long Melford church, where a fine marble monument was erected to his memory.

He married Mary, daughter of Richard Clopton, esq., but, leaving no children, Joan, his sister, the wife of Richard Allington, esq., became his heir. By his will he made provision for the foundation at Long Melford of a hospital, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, for a warden, twelve brethren, and two sisters. He evinced much interest in the progress of Merchant Taylors' School, and rendered very essential assistance in the foundation of St. John's College, Oxford, of which he was visitor for life. In that college is a curious portrait of him by Cornelius de Zeem.

[Baga de Secretis; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 431, 568; Davy's Suffolk Collections, ii. 51, 93, 99, 100, 124–30; Foss's Judges of England, v. 476; Fuller's Worthies (Suffolk); Manning's Speakers, 214; Strype's Works (general index); Wilson's Merchant Taylors' School.]

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