Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Copley-Maryland Connection

Thomas Copley, former favorite of Elizabeth I, died in exile on September 25, 1584. He was in exile because he had returned to his family's Catholic faith and it was not safe for him to stay in England. His sons and daughter found different ways to deal with their inherited recusancy. According to the Dictionary of National Biography:

of Gatton, Surrey, and Roughay, Sussex, and of the Maze, Southwark, who was knighted (perhaps by the king of France), and created a baron by Philip II of Spain, and who is frequently referred to by contemporaries as Lord Copley, was one of the chief Roman catholic exiles in the reign of Elizabeth. Camden styles him ‘e primariis inter profugos Anglos.’ He was the eldest son of Sir Roger Copley by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Shelley of Michelgrove, a judge of the common pleas [q. v.], and was one of the coheirs of Thomas, last lord Hoo and Hastings, whose title he claimed and sometimes assumed. Lord Hoo's daughter Jane married his great-grandfather, Sir Roger Copley. Another daughter married Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, and was the great-grandmother of Anne Boleyn. The lords of the manor of Gatton then, as for nearly three centuries afterwards, returned the members of parliament for the borough, and in 1554 Copley, when only twenty years of age, was returned ‘by the election of Dame Elizabeth Copley’ (his mother) as M.P. for Gatton. He sat for the same place in the later parliaments of 1556, 1557, 1559, and 1563, and distinguished himself in 1558 by his opposition to the government of Philip and Mary (Commons' Journals). He was then a zealous protestant, and was much in favour with his kinswoman Queen Elizabeth at the commencement of her reign. In 1560 she was godmother to his eldest son Henry. According to Father Parsons (Relation of a Trial between the Bishop of Evreux and the Lord Plessis Mornay, 1604) the falsehoods he found in Jewel's ‘Apology’ (1562) led to his conversion to the church of Rome. After suffering (as he intimates in one of his letters) some years' imprisonment as a popish recusant, he left England without license in or about 1570, and spent the rest of his life in France, Spain, and the Low Countries, in constant correspondence with Cecil and others of Elizabeth's ministers, and sometimes with the queen herself, desiring pardon and permission to return to England and to enjoy his estates; but acting as the leader of the English fugitives, and generally in the service of the king of Spain, from whom he had a pension, and by whom he was created baron of Gatton and grand master of the Maze (or Maes) (Camden). He also received letters of marque against the Dutch. His title of baron and these letters form two of the subjects of the correspondence that passed between himself and the queen's ministers (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser.) Much of his correspondence is to be found in the ‘State Papers,’ and in the Cottonian, Lansdowne, and Harleian MSS. He died in Flanders in 1584, and in the last codicil to his will styles himself ‘Sir Thomas Copley, knight, Lord Copley of Gatton in the county of Surrey’ (Probate Office). By his wife Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Sir John Luttrell of Dunster, Somerset, he had four sons and four daughters. His eldest son Henry, Queen Elizabeth's godson, died young; William succeeded at Gatton. The third son was Anthony.

According to the History of Parliament for Gatton, William was also a recusant, so his prospects were few:

The manor of Gatton was in the possession of the Copley family by the early sixteenth century. In 1547 the Members were elected by Sir Roger Copley as ‘burgess and sole inhabitant of the borough’.9 However Sir Roger’s son Thomas†, his widow, and his son William, were Catholics, and spent much of the reign of Elizabeth in exile. In their absence, parliamentary patronage was exercised by Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) and Lord Howard of Effingham (Charles Howard†), subsequently 1st earl of Nottingham, the latter being lord lieutenant of Surrey and part owner of Reigate manor.10

William Copley returned from exile and took possession of his lands shortly after the accession of James I, but his prospects of exerting electoral influence were compromised by his continued recusancy.11 Both the Members elected in 1604, Sir Thomas Gresham and Sir Nicholas Saunders, were Surrey gentlemen. Saunders may have had the support of Nottingham, with whom he had served on the Cadiz expedition of 1596. He may also have enjoyed the backing of Copley, for although he conformed to the Church of England he had strong Catholic connections.

One of William's sons became a Jesuit and worked with Lord Baltimore on the mission of Maryland. His real name was Thomas, but his alias was Philip Fisher, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

b. in Madrid, 1595-6; d. in Maryland, U. S., 1652. He was the eldest son of William Copley of Gatton, England, of a Catholic family of distinction who suffered exile in the reign of Elizabeth. He arrived in Maryland in 1637, and, being a man of great executive ability, took over the care of the mission, "a charge which at that time required rather business men than missionaries". In 1645, Father Fisher was wantonly seized and carried in chains to England, with Father Andrew White, the founder of the English mission in America. After enduring many hardships he was released, when he boldly returned to Maryland (Feb., 1648), where, after an absence of three years, he found his flock in a more flourishing state than those who had opposed and plundered them. That he made an effort to enter the missionary field of Virginia, appears from a letter written 1 March, 1648, to the Jesuit General Caraffa in Rome, in which he says: "A road has lately been opened through the forest to Virginia; this will make it but a two days' journey, and both places can now be united in one mission. After Easter I shall wait upon the Governor of Virginia upon business of great importance." Unfortunately there is no further record bearing on the projected visit. Neill, in his "Terra Mariae" (p. 70), and Smith in his "Religion under the Barons of Baltimore" (p. VII), strangely confound this Father Thomas Copley of Maryland with an apostate John Copley, who was never a Jesuit. Father Fisher is mentioned with honourable distinction in the missionary annals of Maryland, and, according to Hughes, was "the most distinguished man among the fourteen Jesuits who had worked in Maryland".

The third son Anthony, was a poet. According to the University of Manchester Press, which publishes his magnum opus in its Manchester Spencer series:

Anthony Copley's A Fig for Fortune was the first major poetic response to Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. Written by a Catholic Englishman with an uneasy relationship to the English regime, A Fig for Fortune offers a deeply contestatory, richly imagined answer to sixteenth-century England's greatest poem. Through its sophisticated response to Spenser, A Fig for Fortune challenges a contemporary literary culture in which Protestant habits of thought and representation were gaining dominance. This book comprises the poem's first scholarly edition. It offers a carefully annotated edition of the 2000-line poem, an overview of English Catholic history in the sixteenth century, a full biography of Anthony Copley, an assessment of his engagement with Spenser's Faerie Queene, and information on the book's early print history. Extensive support for student readers makes it possible to teach Copley's poem alongside The Faerie Queene for the first time.

There was a fourth son, John, born in Louvain, who became a Catholic priest but then left the Church, became an Anglican and a Church of England minister. One daughter, Margaret, married John Gage of Barstow Manor in Surrey, but they had no "issue". British History Online refers to her as being "of the noted recusant family."

No comments:

Post a Comment