George Cotton, was a well to do London lawyer whose death was noted by the diarist, Henry Machyn,1 “The 26th day of October (1558) was buried (at Saint Gile’s) without Cripplegate, Mr. Cotton, a great rich man of law, with two great candelabras and 12 (torch candles) and 4 great taper candles, and many mourners; and after a great dinner.”2 A century and a half later, Roland’s great-grandson, Cotton Mather, wrote, “by some injustice, deprived of great revenues, Mr. Roland Cotton, had the education of a lawyer bestowed by his friends upon him, in hopes of his being the better capacitated thereby to recover the estate, whereof his family had been wronged; and so the profession of a lawyer was that unto which this gentleman applied himself all his days.”3
George Cotton’s Will stated:6 I ordaine make and constitute my Saide two Sonnes Rowlande Cotton and Thomas Cotton myne executors of this my testament and laste will to whom I give all my goods … I will and ordaine that my trustie and well beloved friend John Cotton of the Inner Temple in London gentleman Raffe Hawle of London Scrivener and xrofer Robinson of London shall have the administracon and orderinge of all my goodes … untill such a tyme as one of my Saide Executors shalbe of lawfull age to take uppon hym the execucion of this my Testament.7
Soon after George Cotton’s Will was probated, a cleric named Robert Cotton challenged the Will in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury.8 For the challenge to have had any chance of success, this Robert Cotton must have been a close relative- perhaps even a brother. As the only remaining record of the case is the verdict, details of Robert’s challenge are unknowable.9 The court, however, ruled against Robert in favor of the three administrators named in George Cotton’s Will: John Cotton, Ralph Hall, and Christopher Robinson.10 Though specifics of Roland Cotton’s lost inheritance remain a mystery, one or more of the administrators of his father’s Will had to have been involved.
1 Machyn, Henry. 1848. The Diary of Henry Machyn. Edited by John Gough Nichols. London: The Camden Society. 177
2 Henry Machyn (1498 – 1563) was an English clothier and diarist in 16th century London. His Chronicle (written between 1550 and 1563) is primarily concerned with public events like state visits, insurrections, executions, and festivities. The original Machyn text reads, “The xxvj day of October was bered [at Saint Giles’s] withowt Crepullgatt master Cottun, a grett rich man of law, with ij grett whytt branchys and xij [torches] and iiij gret tapurs, and mony morners; and after a gret dener.”
3 Mather, Cotton. 1855. Magnalia Christi Americana. Vol. I. Hartford: Silas Andrus and Son. 253
4 One’s minority ended at age eighteen in 16th century England.
5 Kirkpatrick, Kenneth W, and John A Brayton. 1999. “Cottoniana or That Cotton-Pickin’ Somerby!.” The New Hampshire Genealogical Record 16 (4). Dover: 145–70.
6 See Appendices for a full transcription of George Cotton’s Will.
7 Cotton, George. 1560. Will of George Cotton, Gentleman of Saint Giles Without Cripplegate, City of London. Edited by Mellershe (Register). Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC).
8 Haddon, Walter, LLD. 1559. Verdict on Challenge to Will of George Cotton 1559. Translated by Katherine M Longley. Canterbury.
9 See Appendix for a full transcription of the verdict.
10 This John Cotton may have been a relative of George Cotton but certainly not a sibling, or he would have been referred to as ‘brother’ in George’s Will.
George Cotton, son of Clement Cotton II & Constance Leventhorpe. Born abt 1520. George died in St. Giles-without-Cripplegate, London, England, bef 26 Oct 1558; he was 38. Buried on 26 Oct 1558 in St. Giles-without-Cripplegate, London, England.
In 1545 when George was 25, he married Margaret Whittacre in South Ockendon, Essex, England. Born abt 1525. Margaret died in South Ockendon, Essex, England, bef 20 Sep 1557; she was 32.
They had the following children:
- i. Tymothy (>1545-)
- ii. Roland (~1553-1604)
- iii. Thomas (~1555-)
- La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton and a COTTON GENEALOGY of His Descendants, Published Privately in Batavia, New York 1945, Vol. I, page 10.
- “St. Alkmund’s Church Register,” 1550 -1650, Derby, Derbyshire, England, Parish Record Book, Derby, England, page for 1604.
- “St. Alkmund’s Church Register,” 1550 -1650, Derby, Derbyshire, England, Parish Record Book, Derby, England, page for 1582.
- La Verne C. Cooley, A Short Biography of the Rev. John Cotton and a COTTON GENEALOGY of His Descendants, Published Privately in Batavia, New York 1945, Vol. I.
- John Wingate Thornton, Esq., LL.B., “Genealogies: The Cotton Family,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume I; Issue No. 2, April 1847, page 164.
- Meredith B. Colket, Founders of Early American Families: Emigrants from Europe 1607 – 1657, The Order of Founders and Patriots of America, (Revised Edition), page 82.
- Savage, James, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Genealogical Publising Co. Inc., Baltimore 1965, Vol. III of IV, page 49.