Roe, Sir Thomas

, an able statesman and ambassador, was born at Low-Layton in Essex, about 1580, and admitted into Magdalen college, Oxford, in 1593. He was taken from the university in a year or two; and, after spending some time in one of the inns of court, and in France, was made esquire of the body to queen Elizabeth. In 1604, he was knighted by king James; and soon after sent, by Henry prince of Wales, to make discoveries in America. In 1614, he was sent ambassador to the great mogul, at whose court he continued till 1618. During his | residence there, he employed himself zealously in the service of the East India merchants, but gave a singular offence to the grand mogul. This monarch, happy in his pride and ignorance, fancied his dominions to be the greater part of the habitable world. But his mortification was great when, in Mercator’s maps, presented to him by sir Thomas Roe, he found that he possessed but a small part of it; and he was so chagrined, that he ordered the maps to be given to sir Thomas again.

In 1620, he was elected a burgess for Cirencester in Gloucestershire; and, the year following, sent ambassador to the grand stignor; in which station he continued under the sultans Osman, Mustapha, and Amurath IV. In his passage to Constantinople, he wrote a letter to Villiers duke of Buckingham, then lord high admiral, complaining of the great increase of pirates in the Mediterranean sea; and, during his embassy, sent “A true and faithful relation to his majesty and the prince of what hath lately happened in Constantinople, concerning the death of sultan Osman, and the setting up of Mustapha his uncle,” which was printed at London in 1622, 4to. He kept a very curious account of his negociations at the Porte, which remained in manuscript till 1740, when it was published, by the society for promoting learning, under this title “The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe, in his Embassy to the Ottoman Porte, from the year 1621 to 1628 inclusive; containing a great variety of curious and important matters, relating not only to the affairs of the Turkish empire, but also to those of the other states of Europe in that period: his correspondences with the most illustrious persons, for dignity or character, as, with the queen of Bohemia, Bethlem Gabor prince of Transylvania, and other potentates of different nations, &c. and many useful and instructive particulars, as well in relation to trade and commerce as to subjects of literature; as, ancient manuscripts, coins, inscriptions, and other antiquities,” folio.

During his residence in the East, he made a large collection of valuable manuscripts in the Greek and oriental languages; which, in 1628, he presented to the Bodleian library. He also brought over the fine Alexandrian manuscript of the Greek Bible, sent as a present to Charles I. by Cyril, patriarch of Constantinople; which has since been transcribed and published by Dr. Grabe. In 1629, he was sent ambassador to mediate a peace between the | kings of Poland and Sweden. He succeeded in his negociation and gained so much credit with the great Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, that he inspired that king with a design, which he executed in 1630, of making a descent into Germany to restore the freedom of the empire. Adolphus, upon gaining the victory of Leipsic, sent sir Thomas a present of 2000l. and in his letter calls him his “strenuum consultorem,” he being the first who had advised him to the war. He was afterwards employed in other negociations. In 1640, he was chosen member of parliament for the university of Oxford; and shewed himself a person of great eloquence, learning, and experience, as appears from his printed speeches. The year after, he was sent ambassador to the diet of Ratisbon, in order to mediate the restoration of the late king of Bohemia’s son to the palatinate; and, upon his return, was made chancellor of the garter, and one of the privy couuc;!. The calamities of the nation, in which he cou!d not avoid having a share, not only embittered his life, but probably contributed to shorten it; for he died in Nov. 1644. An epitaph was composed for him by Dr. Gerard Langbaine, but never set up: it may be seen in Wood’s “Athen. Oxon.” By will he left to the Bodleian two hundred and forty-two silver medals.

He had all the accomplishments of the scholar, the gentleman, and the courtier. He left a great number of manuscripts behind him; and, in 1730, proposals were published for printing by subscription, in 5 vols. folio, “The Negotiations and Embasbies of Sir Thomas Roe, from 1620 to 1644:” but, the undertakers not meeting with sufficient encouragement, the design was dropped, and only the volume mentioned above was published in 1740 by Mr. Richardson. 1


Biog. Brit. —Ath. Ox. vol. II.