Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hungerford, Walter (1503-1540)
HUNGERFORD, WALTER, Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury (1503–1540), was the only child of Sir Edward Hungerford (d. 1522). His father, son and heir of Sir Walter Hungerford [see Hungerford, Robert, (1431–1464), ad fin.], accompanied Sir Walter to Scotland in 1503; served in the English army in France in 1513, when he was knighted at Tournai; was sheriff for Wiltshire in 1517, and for Somerset and Dorset in 1518. In 1520 he attended Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold; died on 24 Jan. 1521–2, and left his surviving wife sole executrix (cf. Gent. Mag. 1858, pt. i. p. 122). Walter's mother was his father's first wife, Jane, daughter of John, lord Zouche of Haryngworth. His father's second wife was Agnes, widow of John Cotell. She had (it afterwards appeared) strangled her first husband at Farleigh Castle on 26 July 1518, with the aid of William Mathewe and William Inges, yeomen of Heytesbury, Wiltshire, and seems to have married Sir Edward almost immediately after burning the body. Not until Sir Edward's death were proceedings taken against her and her accomplices for the murder. She and Mathewe were then convicted and were hanged at Tyburn on 20 Feb. 1523–4; she seems to have been buried in the Grey Friars' Church in London Stow, Chronicle, p. 517; Grey Friars' Chronicle, Camd. Soc., ed. Nichols, pp. 43, 100, where the attempts at identification are hopelessly wrong; Antiquary, ii. 233). An interesting inventory of Lady Hungerford's goods, taken after her trial, is printed in ‘Archæologia,’ xxxviii. 353 sq.
Walter was nineteen years old at his father's death in 1522, and soon afterwards appears as squire of the body to Henry VIII. In 1529 he was granted permission to alienate part of his large estates. On 20 Aug. 1532 John, lord Hussey of Sleaford [q. v.], whose daughter was Hungerford's third wife, wrote to Cromwell stating that Hungerford wished to be introduced to him (Letters, &c. of Henry VIII, v. 538). A little later Hussey informed Cromwell that Hungerford desired to be sheriff of Wiltshire, a desire which was gratified in 1533. Hungerford proved useful to Cromwell in Wiltshire (cf. ib. vi. 340–341), and in June 1535 Cromwell made a memorandum that Hungerford ought to be rewarded for his well-doing (ib. viii. 353). On 8 June 1536 he was summoned to parliament as Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury. In 1540 he, together with his chaplain, a Wiltshire clergyman, named William Bird, who was suspected of sympathising with the pilgrims of grace of the north of England, was attainted by act of parliament (Parliament Roll, 31 & 32 Henry VIII, m. 42). Hungerford was charged with employing Bird in his house as chaplain, knowing him to be a traitor; with ordering another chaplain, Hugh Wood, and one Dr. Maudlin to practise conjuring to determine the king's length of life, and his chances of victory over the northern rebels; and finally with committing unnatural offences. He was beheaded on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540, along with his patron Cromwell. Hungerford is stated before his execution to have ‘seemed so unquiet that many judged him rather in a frenzy than otherwise.’(A ‘brief abstract’ of his escheated lands appears in Hoare's Modern Wiltshire, ‘Heytesbury Hundred,’ pp. 104–7).
Hungerford married thrice: (1) Susan, daughter of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey; (2) in 1527, Alice, daughter of William, lord Sandys; and (3), in October 1532, Elizabeth, daughter of John, lord Hussey. His treatment of his third wife was remarkable for its brutality. In an appeal for protection which she addressed to Cromwell about 1536 (printed from MS. Cotton Titus B. i. 397, in Wood's Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies, ii. 271 sq.) she asserted that he kept her incarcerated at Farleigh for three or four years, made some fruitless attempts to divorce her, and endeavoured on several occasions to poison her (cf. Froude, History of England, iii. 304 n. popular ed.). After his execution, she became the wife of Sir Robert Throckmorton.
Hungerford left two sons (Leland, Itin. ii. 32) and two daughters, all apparently by his . The elder, Sir Walter Hungerford (1532–1596), called ‘the Knight of Farley,’ was granted land by Edward VI in 1552, and was restored by Queen Mary to the confiscated estate of Farleigh in 1554, when the attainder on his father was reversed. He was sheriff of Wiltshire in 1557, and died in December 1596. Two portraits, one dated 1560 and the other 1574, are engraved in Hoare's ‘Modern Wiltshire, Heytesbury Hundred,’ pp. 112 sq. In Hoare's time (1822) they both belonged to Richard Pollen, esq. In the earlier picture Hungerford is represented in full armour, and about him are all the appliances of hunting and hawking, in which the inscription on the picture states that he excelled. A hawk is on his wrist in the later portrait. Serious domestic quarrels troubled his career. About 1554 he married his first wife, Ann Basset, maid of honour to Queen Mary, and about 1558 his second wife, Anne, daughter of Sir William Dormer, of Ascot, by whom he had four children, a son, Edmund (d. 1587), and three daughters. In 1570 he charged his second wife with attempts to poison him in 1564, and with committing adultery between 1560 and 1568 with William Darrell of Littlecote. Lady Hungerford was acquitted, and Hungerford, refusing to pay the heavy costs, was committed to the Fleet. His wife, in October 1571, was living with the English Roman catholics at Louvain, and in 1581, when at Namur, she begged Walsingham to protect her children from her husband's endeavours to disinherit them. He left his property to his brother Edward, with remainder to his heirs male by a mistress, Margery Brighte, with whom he went through the ceremony of marriage in the last year of his life, although Lady Hungerford was still alive. After his death Lady Hungerford recovered ‘reasonable dower’ from her brother-in-law, Sir Edward Hungerford, and died at Louvain in 1603. Sir Edward, a gentleman-pensioner to Queen Elizabeth, was twice married, but died without issue in 1607. He left to his widow (d. 1653) a life interest in the estates, with remainder to his great-nephew, Sir Edward (1596–1648) [q. v.], son of Sir Anthony Hungerford [q. v.], of Black Bourton, Oxfordshire.
[Authorities cited; Dugdale's Baronage; Burke's Extinct Peerage; Hoare's Hungerfordiana, 1823; Jackson's Guide to Farleigh-Hungerford, 1853, and Sheriffs of Wiltshire; Burnet's Hist. of Reformation, i. 566–7; Hall's Society in the Elizabethan Age; Hoare's Modern Wiltshire, Heytesbury Hundred, pp. 110 sq.; Brewer and Gairdner's Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Antiquary, ii. 233.]