3. The Empson Family

Richard Empson (Late Chair JQRG)

Dick had carried out a lot of research into the history of the Empson family and there are a number of Empsons’ buried at Key Hill Cemetery. The Empson connection was a large part of Dick’s interest in the cemeteries and he had sponsored the restoration of Empson memorials.

Currently there is a lot of interest in the “Tudors” including a number of television programs and there is often mention of two of King Henry’s hated tax collectors, Edmond Dudley and Sir Richard Empson. Dick was unable to establish the precise connection between Henry’s Sir Richard and his branch of the family but he was sure there was one.

There are a number of family members here and abroad researching the Empson family history and I hope to bring you more news in the future. In the meantime below is a brief biography of that other Richard Empson.


 Sir Richard Empson (died 17 August 1510), minister of Henry VII, King of England, was a son of Peter Empson, an influential inhabitant of Towcaster. Educated as a lawyer he soon attained considerable success in his profession, and in 1491 was a Knight of the Shire for Northamptonshire in parliament and speaker of the House of Commons.

Early in the reign of Henry VII he became associated with Edmund Dudley in carrying out the king’s rigorous and arbitrary system of taxation, and in consequence he became very unpopular. Retaining the royal favour, however, he was knighted by sword at the creation of Prince Henry as Prince of Wales, on 18 February 1504 and was soon High Steward of the University of Cambridge, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; but his official career ended with Henry VII's death in April 1509.

Thrown into prison by order of the new king, Henry VIII, he was charged, like Dudley, with the crime of constructive treason, and was convicted at Northampton in October 1509. His attainder by parliament followed, and he was beheaded on 17 or 18 August 1510. Empson left by his wife Jane, so far as is known, a family of two sons and four daughters, and about 1513 his estates were restored to his elder son, Thomas.