William Lambarde was born on 18th October 1536 to John Lambarde and his wife. His father died when he was 15 years old and he temporarily became the ward of Edmund Hensley. Lambarde’s early life is unknown until he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1556 where he studied law.
During his time studying law he was encouraged by Laurence Nowell to publish a collection of Anglo-Saxon laws, entitled Archaionomia which was printed by John Day. The publication included a woodcut map showing the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, the first map of its kind to be published in England.
In 1570 Lambarde completed Perambulation of Kent which was the first English country history and it was eventually printed in 1576, it would go through several editions after proving to be very popular. With the success of Perambulation of Kent Lambarde considered writing a similar one for the whole of Britain but set it aside once he discovered that William Camden was already working on the same idea.
On 11th September 1570 Lambarde married Jane Multon, daughter of George Multon, on her 17th birthday but she died just three years later. Lambarde lived in the Manor of St. Clere in Ightham, Kent.
It is believed that Lambarde served as a Member of Parliament for Aldborough during the Parliament of 1563 – 1567, he was also at one time a bencher of Lincoln’s Inn as well as a Justice of the Peace for Kent.
Lambarde was in close communication with Lord Burghley and they wrote regularly. Burghley at one point requested that Lambarde collected some historical notes on Lincoln and Stamford and later in 1587 Lambarde thanked Burghley for unspecified favours which he appreciated after the death of his second wife.
In 1576 Lambarde founded an almshouse in East Greenwich, in 1597 Sir Thomas Egerton, the Lord Chancellor appointed Lambarde as Keeper of the Rolls and in 1601 Queen Elizabeth appointed him as Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London in 1601. As part of his role in early August 1601 he had a private meeting with the Queen who had asked him to draw up a detailed account of the documents that were under his care, they talked at length in her privy chamber in Greenwich and Lambarde was asked to explain various terms.
Lambarde died on 19th August 1601, just two weeks after his audience with the Queen. He died at Westcombe and was buried at Greenwich; he was later reinterred to the Lambarde Chapel in Sevenoaks Church.