Chaloner, Sir Thomas

, a gallant soldier, an able statesman, and a very learned writer in the sixteenth century, was descended from a good family in Wales, and born at London about 1515. His quick parts discovered themselves even in his infancy; so that his family, to promote that passionate desire of knowledge for whidh he was so early distinguished, sent him to the university of Cambridge, where he remained some years, and obtained great credit, as well by the pregnancy of his wit as his constant and diligent application, but especially by his happy turn for Latin poetry, in which he exceeded most of his contemporaries. Upon his removing from college he came up to court, and being there recommended to the esteem and friendship of the greatest men about it, he was soon sent abroad into Germany with sir Henry Knevet, as the | custom was in the reign of Henry VIII. when young men of great hopes were frequently employed in the service of ambassadors, that they might at once improve and polish themselves by travel, and gain some experience in business. He was so well received at the court of the emperor Charles V. and so highly pleased with the noble and generous spirit of that great monarch, that he attended him in his journies, and in his wars, particularly in that fatal expedition against Algiers, which cost the lives of so many brave men, and was very near cutting short the thread of Mr. Chaloner’s; for in the great tempest by which the emperor’s fleet was shattered on the coast of Barbary in 1541, the vessel, on board of which he was, suffered shipwreck, and Mr. Chaloner having quite wearied and exhausted himself by swimming in the dark, at length beat his head against a cable, of which laying hold with his teeth, he was providentially drawn up into the ship to which it belonged. He returned soon after into England, and as a reward of his learning and services, was promoted to the office of first clerk of the council, which he held during the remainder of that reign. In the beginning of the next he came into great favour with the duke of Somerset, whom he attended into Scotland, and was in the battle of Mussleburgh, where he distinguished himself so remarkably in the presence of the duke, that he conferred upon him the honour of knighthood Sept. 28, 1547, and after his return to court, the duchess of Somerset presented him with a rich jewel. The first cloud that darkened his patron’s fortune, proved fatal to sir Thomas Chaloner’s pretensions; for being a man of a warm and open temper, and conceiving the obligation he was under to the duke as a tie that hindered his making court to his adversary, a stop was put to his preferment, and a vigilant eye kept upon his actions. But his loyalty to his prince, and his exact discharge of his duty, secured him from any farther danger, so that he had leisure to apply himself to his studies, and to cultivate his acquaintance with the worthiest men of that court, particularly sir John Cheke, sir Anthony Coke, sir Thomas Smith, and especially sir William Cecil, with whom he always lived in the strictest intimacy. Under the reign of queen Mary he passed his time, though safely, yet very unpleasantly; for being a zealous protestant, he could not practise any part of that complaisance which procured some of his friends an easier life. He | interested himself deeply in the affair of sir John Cheke, and did him all the service he was able, both before and after his confinement. This had like to have brought sir Thomas himself into trouble, if the civilities he had shewn in king Edward’s reign, to some of those who had the greatest power under queen Mary, had not moved them, from a principle of gratitude, to protect him. Indeed, it appears from his writings, that as he was not only sincere, but happy in his friendships, and as he was never wanting to his friends when he had power, he never felt the want of them when he had it not, and, which he esteemed the greatest blessing of his life, he lived to return those kindnesses to some who had been useful to him in that dangerous season. Upon the accession of Elizabeth, he appeared at court with his former lustre; and it must afford us a very high opinion of his character as well as his capacity, that he was the first ambassador named by that wise princess, and that also to the first prince in Europe, Ferdinand I. emperor of Germany. In this negociation, which was of equal importance and delicacy, he acquitted himself with great reputation, securing the confidence of the emperor and his ministers, and preventing the popish powers from associating against Elizabeth, before she was well settled on the throne, all which she very gratefully acknowledged. After his return from this embassy, he was very soon thought of for another, which was that of Spain; and though it is certain the queen could not give a stronger proof than this of her confidence in his abilities, yet he was very far from thinking that it was any mark of her kindness, more especially considering the terms upon which she then stood with king Philip, and the usage his predecessor, Chamberlain, had met with at that court. But he knew the queen would be obeyed, and therefore undertook the business with the best grace he could, and embarked for Spain in 1561. On his first arrival he met with some of the treatment which he dreaded. This was the searching of all his trunks and cabinets, of which he complained loudly, as equally injurious to himself as a gentleman, and to his character as a public minister. His complaints, however, were fruitless; for at that time there is great probability that his Catholic majesty was not over desirous of having an English minister, and more especially one of sir Thomas’s disposition, at his court, and therefore gave him no satisfaction. Upon this | sir Thomas Chaloner wrote home, set out the affront that he had received in the strongest terms possible, and was very earnest to be re-called; but the queen his mistress contented herself with letting him know, that it was the duty of every person who bore a public character, to bear with patience what happened to them, provided no personal indignity was offered to the prince from whom they came. Yet, notwithstanding this seeming indifference on her part, the searching sir Thomas Chaloner’s trunks was, many years afterwards, put into that public charge which the queen exhibited against his Catholic majesty, of injuries done to her before she intermeddled with the affairs of the Low Countries. Sir Thomas, however, kept up his spirit, and shewed the Spanish ministers, and even that haughty monarch himself, that the queen could not have entrusted her affairs in better hands than his. There were some persons of very good families in England, who, for the sake of their religion, and no doubt out of regard to the interest to which they had devoted themselves, desired to have leave from queen Elizabeth to reside in the Low Countries or elsewhere, and king Philip and his ministers made it a point to support their suit. Upon this, when a conference was held with sir Thomas Chaloner, he answered very roundly, that the thing in itself was of very little importance, since it was no great matter where the persons who made this request spent the remainder of their days; but that considering the rank and condition of the princes interested in this business, it was neither fit for the one to ask, nor for the other to grant; and it appeared that he spoke the sense of his court, for queen Elizabeth would never listen to the proposal. In other respects he was not unacceptable to the principal persons of the Spanish court, who could not help admiring his talents as a minister, his bravery as a soldier, with which in former times they were well acquainted, his general learning and admirable skill in Latin poetry, of which he gave them many proofs during his stay in their country. It was here, at a time when, as himself says in the preface, he spent the winter in a stove, and the summer in a barn, that he composed his great work of “The right ordering of the English republic.” But though this employment might in some measure alleviate his chagrin, yet he fell into a very grievous fit of sickness, which brought him so low that his physicians despaired of his life. In this condition he | addressed his sovereign in an elegy after the manner of Ovid, setting forth his earnest desire to quit Spain and return to his native country, before care and sickness forced him upon a longer journey. The queen granted his petition, and having named Dr. Man his successor in his negociation, at length gave him leave to return home from an embassy, in which he had so long sacrificed his private quiet to the public conveniency. He accordingly returned to London in the latter end of 1564, and published the first five books of his large work before-mentioned, which he dedicated to his good friend sir William Cecil; but the remaining five books were probably not published. in his life-time. He resided in a fair large house of his own building in Clerkenwell-close, over-against the decayed nunnery; and Weever has preserved from oblivion an elegant fancy of his, which was penciled on the frontispiece of his dwelling.*


The lines are these, evidently alluding to the ruins of the nunnery:

Casta fides superest, velatsc tecta sorores

Ista relegatae, deseruere licet:

Nam venerandus Hymen, hie vota jugalia servat;

Vestalemque focem mente fovere studet.

To him also is ascribed the following line, under a sun-dial, at the entrance into the nunnery:

Non aliter pereo species quam futilis umbræ.

He died Oct. 7, 1565, and was buried in the cathedral church of St. Paul with great funeral solemnity, sir William Cecil, then principal secretary of state, assisting as chief mourner, who also honoured his memory with some Latin verses, in which he observes, that the most lively imagination, the most solid judgment, the quickest parts, and the most unblemished probity, which are commonly the lot of different men, and when so dispersed frequently create great characters, were, which very rarely happens, all united in sir Thomas Chaloner, justly therefore reputed one of the greatest men of his time. He also encouraged Dr. William Malim, formerly fellow of King’s college in Cambridge, and then master of St. Paul’s school, to collect and publish a correct edition of our author’s poetical works; which he accordingly did, and addressed it in an epistle from St. Paul’s school, dated August 1, 1579, to lord Burleigh. Sir Thomas Chaloner married Ethelreda, daughter of Edward Frodsham of EJton, in the county palatine of Chester, esq. by whom he had issue his only son Thomas, the subject of the next article. This lady, not long after sir Thomas’s decease, married | sir * * * Brockett, notwithstanding which the lord Burleigh continued his kindness to her, out of respect to that friendship which he had for her first husband. Sir Thomas’s epitaph was written by one of the best Latin poets of that age, Dr. Walter Haddon, master of requests to queen Elizabeth.

Sir Thomas was the author of several tracts, but all that can now be discovered are, 1. “A little Dictionary for children,” mentioned by Bale. 2. “The Office of Servants,” translated from the Latin of Gilbert Cognatus, 1543. 3. “Moriae Encomium,” translated from Erasmus, and printed in 1549. 4. “In laudem Henrici Octavi, regis Angliae prsestantissimi, carmen panegyricum.” 5. “De Republica Anglorum instauranda, libri decem,” Londini, 1579, 4to. 6. “De illustrium quorundam encomiis miscellanea, cum epigrammatibus ac epitaphiis nonnullis.” This collection of panegyrics, epigrams, and epitaphs, is printed with the book before-mentioned. Besides these there are some of his letters in Haynes’s Collection of State Papers. 1

1 Bio. Brit.