Sir Edward Waterhouse was born in 1535 in Helmstedbury, Hertfordshire, to John Waterhouse and his wife Margaret, his father was once an auditor to King Henry VIII. Edward was educated at Oxford before joining the King’s Court.
Waterhouse began his career at court by being a private secretary to Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland and on 1st February 1566 was made clerk of the castle chamber at the same time he received a grant of a lease of the manor of Evan in Co. Kildare and the corn tithes of Dunboyne in Co,. Meath. During a tour of Ireland with Henry Sidney he was left to look after Carrickfergus whilst in care of the town he was a crucial part of obtaining a charter for the town in 1570 and as a result he was created a freeman, he later went on to represent the town in the Irish Parliament of 1585.
Waterhouse married three times firstly to Elizabeth Villiers, daughter of George Villiers whom he divorced in 1578, secondly to Margaret Spilman of Kent and finally to Deborah, widow of Mr. Harlackenden of Woodchurch. Deborah would survive Edward.
He then went on to serve Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex until the Earl’s death, during this time Devereux would sent Waterhouse to England on missions that were connected to the sale of property. Waterhouse gained the trust and gratitude of Devereux and then Earl died in his arms saying ‘Oh, my Ned! Oh, my Ned! Thou art the faithfullest and friendliest gentleman that ever I knew’.
Following Devereux’s death Waterhouse was able to obtain a pension of 10s a day which in 1579 was confirmed as a pension for life. He was then appointed secretary of state by Sir Henry Sidney and between 1576 and 79 was sent back to England to escort over treasure and in connection with the question of cess.
On 5th February 1579 he obtained a grant of the collectorship of customs of wine in Ireland and on 27th June he was appointed commissioner for check of the army, 7th July receiver-general in the exchequer and 25th July receiver of all casualties and casual profits falling to the crown.
Between August and November 1579 Waterhouse attended the movements of the army under Sir William Drury before being sworn in at the Privy Council in the October, but a rebellion of the Earl of Desmond in November saw him return to the army in Munster. The army took up all his time for two years and therefore he dismissed his other duties.
On 17th June 1580 Waterhouse obtained a grant for the office of overseer and water bailiff of the Shannon and on 10th April 1581 he was appointed a commissioner for ecclesiastical causes and on 22nd July of the same year he was granted a lease for 21 years of the lands of Hilltown, Meath.
As his positions grew he caught the eye of Queen Elizabeth who was allegedly jealous over his value in particularly the position of water bailiff of the Shannon and custodian of the boats at Athlone and in the autumn of 1582 he was ordered back to England. His gentle manner won the favour of Lord Burghley and his offer to surrender his posts pleased the queen although she demanded that he wrote a list of all the patents, fee etc that had been granted to him in the past seven years.
Upon his return to Ireland he was given the task alongside Sir Geoffrey Fenton of torturing Dermot O’Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel at the request of Lord Burghley, they were instructed to torture him by toasting his feet in front of a fire.
Waterhouse was knighted on 20th June 1584 by Sir John Perrot in Christ Church, Dublin. Perrot said that the reason was that Waterhouse had dispensed yearly more than a thousand marks.
Waterhouse began surrendering some of his roles in order to keep the peace in Ireland between nobles and at one point sought leave to return to England to plead for the reinstatement of his patent, Elizabeth again demanded a detailed account of his offices and rewards but Waterhouse explained that he had been obliged to sell his land in England to survive.
On 19th October 1586 he was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer or of the green wax if Ireland, a position that lasted three years when he surrendered it to George Clive after receiving a grant in consideration of his sufficiency and painful good service.
Waterhouse retired to his estate of Woodchurch, Kent in January 1591 where he died on 13th October 1591.