Sir William Goring (1500 - 1554)

by Caroline Adams

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Sir William Goring, chamberlain to Anne of Cleves, and
owner of the Nyetimber estate

William Goring was born by 1500[1], the eldest son of John Goring and Constance, daughter of Henry Dike from this county. His family had originally come from Goring in Worthing, but by the time William was born, they had settled in Burton, three miles south of Petworth. William's mother was heiress to a small part of the Dawtrey estate. In 1526, Henry VIII made a progress through west Sussex, staying at Petworth, Cowdray and Arundel, and William was knighted then. He had a successful career, both in local government as a justice and Sheriff for Surrey and Sussex (the shrievalty was held jointly at the time) in 1530-1, 1535-6 and 1550-51, and in the royal household. He was a justice of the peace, serving on several commissions. As a justice Goring came to the notice of Cromwell, so he must have been very good to attract attention.

In 1533 he attended the coronation of Anne Boleyn, the 60th of 83 gentlemen serving at the banquet.[2] He then an official in the royal household.

He was serving his second term as sheriff when the north rebelled in 1536: on account of ill-health and official duties he excused himself from answering the summons to help suppress the rebellion, but he did muster troops which were sent northwards and he claimed to have thwarted any possibility of a rising in Sussex.

In 1537 he attended the christening of Prince Edward and a year later his loyalty to the regime was instrumental in the uncovering of the Pole conspiracy.[3] A year later he was active on a local commission with Thomas West, Lord de la Ware of Halnaker. His activity presumably commended him to Cromwell and helped to procure for him in 1539 the minister's approval of his nomination by Sir William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, as one of the knights of the shire for Sussex in the Parliament of that year. This would represent a rise in status, but no trace has been found of his part in this Parliament.

In 1538 he was given a commission to 'take and convey to the Tower of London the bones, shrine, &c., now in Chichester Cathedral, “of a certain bishop of the same which they call Saint Richard” and to see the place of the shrine destroyed, with all other images in that church whereabout there is any notable superstition.'[4] This cannot have made him popular locally.

It was probably with Cromwell's assistance that Goring obtained his chamberlainship in the household of Anne of Cleves. Thereon, his name appears in the state papers, showing the kind of work he was carrying out. On 11 December 1541, the Privy Council wrote to him and Mr Horsey the steward, to come straight to see them.[5] They arrived on 13th; some matter was 'declared wherefore they wer sent for, and they wer the same day dismissed'.[6] The matter was too important to be set down in the minutes of the Privy Council, and in fact at this time, Katherine Howard was in the Tower awaiting her execution, and Anne of Cleves was hoping her marriage might be re-instated. The reason for the summons of the two men may have been that there was a rumour that the King had slept with Anne of Cleves three months previously on a visit to Richmond Palace, where she resided.


[1] History of Parliament online database (HoP)

[2] State Papers Online, LP Henry VIII, vol. 6, 562

[3] HoP

[4] State Papers, 1049: 14 Dec 1538, Henry VIII (actually signed by Thomas Cromwell) to Sir William Goring and William Ernely

[5] Acts of the Privy Council, vol. VII for Henry VIII, no. 423

[6] Ibid, no.425

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