Sir John Puckering

Sir John Puckering, Speaker of the House of Commons, is buried in St Paul's chapel in Westminster Abbey. A large monument of alabaster and marble was erected by his widow Jane. Isaac James or Bartholomew Atye have been suggested as the possible sculptors of the monument.

The tomb shows the effigies of John and Jane, he in black robes decorated with gold lace, with a ruff and curly hair, and she in widow's dress with an ermine lined blue mantle, a long stomacher, ruff and hood. At their feet are their crests of a hart (a type of deer) and a silver hand which once held an arrow or a sword. On the front of the tomb are depicted kneeling figures of three sons and five daughters. One son and one daughter hold skulls, denoting that they died before their parents. Its possible one of the other sons died young as Thomas is the only son normally mentioned.

Various symbols appear on the tomb including a winged book, roses, fruit and spades. The heraldic achievement at the top shows two shields of arms, an hour-glass and scales. These include the arms of Puckering (sable, a bend lozengy, cotised argent), Assheton, Lever and Chowne. There are figures of the Seal Purse and Mace bearers. The monument was restored and re-painted in 1962.

The Latin inscription can be translated:

Sir John Puckering, Knight, remarkable for his knowledge in the laws, piety, wisdom and many other virtues, Privy Counsellor to the Serene Princess Elizabeth Queen of England, and Keeper of the Great Seal; after he had given just decrees for four years with singular integrity and equity, fell asleep in the Lord, and lies here. He lived 52 years, and died the 30th of April 1596.
The public care and laws engaged my breast,
To live was toilsome, but to die is rest.
Wealth, Maces, Guards, Crownes, Titles, things that fade,
The prey of time and sable Death were made.
Virtue fires men. His wife this statue rears to her loved spouse,
The test of constancy and marriage vows.
I trust to see the Lord in the land of the living.

About Sir John Puckering

John was born about 1544, the eldest son of William Puckering of Flamborough in Yorkshire, and his wife Anne (Assheton or Ashton). He became a lawyer and on 21st February 1569 he married Jane, daughter of Nicholas Chowne, and had a son and four daughters. John was governor of Lincoln's Inn in London, a Justice of the Peace and a member of the council of Wales. In 1584 he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons for the first time. As queen's serjeant at law he prosecuted at many important trials of the period. In 1592 he was knighted and appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He died of apoplexy. Dame Jane died in 1611 but it is not known where she was buried.

His son Thomas (1592-1637) was a companion of Henry, Prince of Wales and married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Morley. They had one surviving daughter Jane, who had no children. Thomas was created a Baronet, of Weston in Hertfordshire and was a lawyer and Member of Parliament. He was a member of the North West Passage Company and founded a hospital for poor women in Warwick. He was buried at St Mary's Warwick.

The Puckering estates passed to a son of his sister Katherine, Sir Henry Newton, who then took the surname of Puckering.

Further reading for Sir John and his son

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - Sir John Puckering

History of Parliament online

Dame Jane's will is at The National Archives, Kew, Surrey


30th April 1596




Chapel of St Paul

Memorial Type


Material Type

Marble; alabaster

Sir John Puckering
Sir John Puckering
Sir John Puckering
Sir John Puckering tomb

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Sir John Puckering
Weepers, showing his children

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster