Hugh Underhill1

M, b. circa 1519, d. before 23 July 1593
     Important Notes: J. H. Morrison, in his work entitled The Underhills of Warwickshire, has done excellent research in putting together the history of the Underhill family. However, since his work was published, new evidence has arisen which voids the linkage between Hugh Underhill and the previous generations.2 Hugh was born circa 1519 in England. Hugh married 2nd Katherine Manning circa 1572 in England. Hugh made his will on 1 January 1593 at the Royal Palace at Greenwich, County Kent, England.

In the name of God, Amen.- The first day of January in the year of Our Lord, God, a thousand five hundredth ninety-two and in the five and thirtieth year of the reign of our most dread Sovereign Lady Elizabeth by the grace of God. I, Hughe Underhill, one of the yeomen of Her Majesty's wardrobe, being sick and weak in body but of perfect memory, the Lord god be praised, do make this my last will and testament in manner and form as followeth. Viz. First, and before all things, I recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God, the Creator, hoping most assuredly to obtain salvation in and by the death and mercy of Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, And my body to be buried at the discretion of my executor. Again touching the bestowing and distributing of my worldly goods, my will is that my executor shall give to the relief of the poor people of East Greenwich twenty shillings immediately after my burial. Item I give and bequeath unto Hughe Underhill, the son of Thomas Underhill, my son, deceased, one good bed well and thoroughly furnished. Item, I give and bequeath unto my man servant, Thomas Lilly, twenty shillings. Item, All other my goods and chattels whatsoever unbequeathed, my funeral and legacies being duly paid and discharged, I give and bequeath them fully and wholly and to be divided by my overseers equally and indifferently between my wellbeloved wife, Katherine Underhill, and George Underhill, my son. Both which Katherine and George, I do constitute, ordain and make my true and lawful executors of this my last will and testament. Willing and requiring them justly and faithfully to perform the same acknowledging this and none other to be my last will and testament. Item I do ordain, constitute and appoint my very loving friend, Mr. Harry Manning, Mr. John Terrell and Anthony Holte and Mr. William Staunton to be the overseers of this my last will and testament authorizing them to do and perform whatsoever is requisite for overseers to do and perform in this my last will according to my trust reposed in them. In witness, that I will and require each particular of this my last will and testament to be accomplished. I have hereto put my hand and seal the day and year first above written. Item, before the finishing of this will, he gave and bequeathed unto every of the overseers a gilt spoon for their pains to be taken.
Hugh Underhill [his mark]
Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of Leonard Davies, Nicholas Birde, Richard ____.3,4,5

Hugh departed this life before 23 July 1593 in County Kent, England, at the Royal Palace at Greenwich.3 His will was probated on 23 July 1593.

Additional Notes: The earliest public record of Hugh appears coincidently in the same year as that of his brother, Thomas, but where Thomas is found throughout his adult life in city records and involved in the City government, Hugh from the beginning is found in records originating from the royal palace. The first is in the will of Henry Fowler, who gives to Hugh items of a personal nature as well as a small monetary amount. The significance of this bequest is that it establishes Hugh as a man not yet to the age of his majority as being intimately associated with personnel of the Royal Palace at Greenwich. This indicates that Hugh had been undoubtedly introduced to a position as a junior retainer by his uncle, William, some years earlier and that he had become familiar with the household families of the Royal Palace at Greenwich. There are other wills and documents that show that Hugh was close to different members of the Royal Court and their families as well. The most telling of the documents is the royal warrant that was issued under the Great Seal the 6th of February 1563. In a document that would normally be dry to the point of being sterile, we find wording with feeling and warmth and indicating personal knowledge of the recipient. The preamble to the document reads in part, “that in consideration of the true and faithful service heretofore done unto us by our well beloved servant Hugh Underhill, one of the officers of our wardrobe of beds, we have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant unto the said Hugh Underhill the keeping or the office of keeper of our wardrobe within our manor of Greenwich in our county of Kent”. The Queen herself is unlikely to have penned these words, but would at the least have given the direction in which she wanted the warrant to read, indicating her trust and confidence in Hugh Underhill. The remainder of the document spells out the terms of the position, Hugh’s perks and benefits and his duties. In brief, the appointment leaves Hugh in a very comfortable position for life. He would spend his days at Greenwich Palace with his family and be able to live a life at a rather high economic level. As Keeper of the Wardrobe at Greenwich, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite palace, meant a great amount of direct communication with the Queen, and discussions as to what the Queen’s wishes were. Apparently, over the years, the Queen continued to appreciate the services of Hugh as is evidenced by another warrant in December of 1590. This warrant was in regards to the grounds at Greenwich Palace in particular to a specific garden that became known as the Queen’s Garden and referred to by the Queen as “our garden”. It was her favorite place at Greenwich if not in all of England. It was the place that only privileged friends of Elizabeth such as the Earl of Leicester were admitted to. It was here that she went to have intimate conversations that she did not trust in the palace itself. The wording of the warrant again shows Elizabeth’s trust, faith, and confidence in Hugh and his wife. By the “special grace” of the Queen her “well-beloved subjects Hugh Underhill …and Katherine his wife” were appointed to the office of keeper or the keepership of our garden within the manor of East Greenwhich, in our county of Kent, commonly called "the Queen’s Garden’”. It also needs to be remembered that at the time that Hugh entered the community at the Royal Palace in 1540, Elizabeth was a young girl of seven. The two of them no doubt were familiar with each other long before there was any thought that Elizabeth would ever become queen. One other document is of interest, this is the will of Hugh’s predecessor to the office of Keeper of the Wardrobe at Greenwich. In the will, Thomas Mayneman makes some smaller bequests, then bequeaths to the wife of Hugh Underhill, gives all of his weaponry and battle equipment to his godson, Thomas, the son of Hugh Underhill, and essentially divides the rest of his estate between Hugh and another legatee of the court and a personal friend. The question that begs to be answered is why Hugh and also why his wife and son where such large beneficiaries? It seems unlikely that Hugh had married his daughter as that would have been indicated. There is the possibility that as in all wills of this time period, the transcriber had great difficulty in reading and could not have been able to read essential phrases. Thomas Mayneman does not include members of his family, such as his brother, and it appears that Hugh’s wife is not a niece or other close family member. At the writing of the will, Hugh was a “keeper of the beds” at Greenwich and an assistant to Thomas, and may very well have been being groomed to move into Thomas’ position at his death. It needs to be also remembered that Hugh, from sometime during his teenage years, had lived as a member of the Royal household. Which means Hugh could have become close and possibly even living with a particular family; that family could have been the Maynemans, and Thomas may have become a second father to Hugh, Thomas was the godfather of Hugh’s child Thomas and may have felt more like a grandfather. Again, having spent his young adulthood at the palace and in the company of the royal household families, his wife more than likely was also a member of the household. Whatever the scenario, there is no doubt that there was a close connection between Hugh and his benefactor.6,7

Family 1


Family 2

Katherine Manning b. b 3 Apr 1548, d. b 4 Jun 1627


  1. [S781] Henry C. Shelley, John Underhill Captain of New England and New, pages 18-27.
  2. [S506] Note: The email was written by Harry Macy on July 2, 2009:
    The lineage of Capt. John Underhill (1608/9-1672) is well documented from primary sources, but only to the following extent:
    He was the son of John Underhill (not John Edward) and Honora Pawley, Grandson of Thomas Underhill and Magdalen (possibly Magdalen Amyas), and Great-grandson of Hugh Underhill and wife unknown

    For documentation of the above see John H. Morrison, The Underhills of Warwickshire (1932), also summarized in Underhill Genealogy vols. 1 (1932) and 5 (1980). All of these continue the lineage back several generations from Hugh, showing Hugh's mother as Ann Wynter who descended from Charlemagne, and that lineage was accepted by the College of Arms in 1932.
    However, more recent research casts very serious doubt on Hugh's claimed parentage; the lineage from Hugh forward remains well established; see my Foreword to Vol. 7 of the Underhill Genealogy (2002).
    In order to use Capt. John's Y-DNA to determine his lineage beyond Hugh it would be necessary to find a proven male-line descendant from an earlier English Underhill whose Y-DNA matches the Captain's, and I don't believe that has happened.

    Harry Macy
    Fellow of The American Society of Genealogists, etc.
    Courtesy of Sidney Holdrege 2/28/2011.
  3. [S781] Henry C. Shelley, John Underhill Captain of New England and New, page 26.
  4. [S989] National Archives of the United Kingdom: Will of Hugh Underhill dated: 1 January 1592 & probated: 23 July 1593 [Transcribed 23 March 2011 by Larry & Kathy McCurdy to the best of our ability.Proofing and corrections done by Sidney Holdrege].
  5. [S506] Note: dread - Archaic, Deep awe or reverence.
  6. [S1092] J. H. Morrison, Underhills of Warwickshire, page 63 - ... which bears witness to his increasing seniority and rank, until at last in a warrant dated April 7, 1592, Hugh Underhill heads the list of "yeoman, gromes, and Pages of the Wardropp of Deddes"...
    Page 63 - …These qualities did not go unrecognized or unrewarded by the Queen whom he served so long. “In consideration of the good longe faythefull and acceptable service heretofore done unto us by our saide Welbeloved servaunte hughe Underhill and att his humble suite”,
    Page 64 - … as another mark of speial favor, she [Queen Elizabeth] had granted a few weeks previously, on December 16, 1589, to him and his wife Katherine jointly and severally the Keepership of the famous Garden …
    …when his son Thomas was appointed Keeper of the Wardrobe at Kenilworth Castle … was chosen to fill an exactly analogous position in the great castle , where Robert Dudley, Earl of Leichester, kept almost regal state.
  7. [S953] Find a grave: Hugh Underhill - The Keeper of the Wardrobe of Beds was one of Greenwich Palace's highest positions, involving considerable responsibilities. Unlike the smaller Wardrobe of Robes, which dealt with clothing, the Wardrobe of Beds covered "countless hangings of tapestry and verdures, and Cloths of State and Chairs of State in gold and purple and crimson. Great carpets and small; stools and footstools and cushions; bedsteads of rich apparel; curtains and counterpoints of refulgent hues; and cabinets and sideboards and virginals and innumerable other objects of beauty and costliness." This is based on the inventory of Greenwich at the death of Henry VIII, and in Elizabeth's reign the contents were greatly enhanced in both quantity and value. Hugh Underhill's life was devoted to the maintenance of these treasures. -