Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sir Philip Hoby, Diplomat and Marriage Broker, RIP

Sir Philip Hoby died on May 31, 1558. He managed to serve Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I with some success, traveling with Hans Holbein the Younger to obtain portraits of several princesses as potential wives for Henry VIII after Jane Seymour died: Christina of Denmark, the widowed, sixteen-year old Duchess of Milan, Margaret of France, Mary of Bourbon, Louise of Guise, and Anna of Lorraine. Hoby was a good servant of Henry VIII, according to the History of Parliament on line:

In 1548 the imperial ambassador in England, Van der Delft, reported to his master on Hoby, who had just been named ambassador to the Emperor: Hoby, he wrote, had gained the favour of Henry VIII by his skill in languages and had been used by the late King in the entertainment of foreign guests. He also possessed, it seems, the right temperament for diplomacy. In 1551 another imperial ambassador, Simon Renard, described a conversation with Hoby in which they exchanged courtesies: Renard had met fair words with fair words, but Hoby’s face and drawling tone made the writer suspect that he was the sort of man who thought one thing and said another.5

Where Hoby acquired his fluency in foreign languages is unknown. He may have studied at a university, as his younger half-brother Sir Thomas Hoby was to do, but there is no evidence of this. He is first glimpsed during 1535-6 travelling as an envoy in Spain and Portugal. He had probably entered diplomacy through Cromwell, who called him servant and friend. In 1538 Cromwell sent him with Hans Holbein to obtain portraits of possible consorts for the King; later in the same year, while Edward Carne was sent to negotiate marriages between Henry VIII and the Duchess of Milan and between Princess Mary and the Infante of Portugal, Hoby delivered a letter to Charles V explaining the King’s plans for the marriages and for the peace of Europe. In 1540 he attended the reception of Anne of Cleves at Blackheath. His Protestantism, which had earlier commended him to the King, placed him at risk in 1543, when he was committed to the Fleet for having maintained a clerk ‘who was known to be a man of evil opinions touching the sacrament of the altar’. The affair blew over, and in the following year he fought in the French campaign and was knighted at the fall of Boulogne. In 1545 he served in the Earl of Hertford’s invasion of Scotland as the earl’s master of the ordnance. To his already burgeoning duties abroad, at court and in the field he also added a post in the household set up for Queen Catherine Parr in 1543, where he was responsible for her ‘foreign receipts’, and in 1543 and 1544 she gave him New Year’s gifts of black satin. Henry VIII remembered Hoby in his will with a bequest of 200 marks.6

Hoby’s varied services did not go otherwise unrewarded. In 1540 both he and Lord Lisle had been after the former Dominican priory near Ludgate but neither secured it. Hoby did obtain a house at Blackfriars, probably the one in Carter Lane acquired in June 1541 along with a number of others including the ‘Herber’ in Dowgate near the church of St. Mary Bothaw and the ‘Cheker’ in Bread Street. He also secured much ex-monastic property, including Evesham abbey, Worcestershire, in 1541 and Torksey priory, Lincolnshire, in 1544.7


By 1540, he married Elizabeth Stonor, daughter of Walter Stonor of Hawton, Nottinghamshire; she had been married twice before, to Sir William Compton and to Walter Walshe--he and Elizabeth had no children. Elizabeth and her father maintained a regular correspondence, but did not always get along well because of religious disagreements!

Although he held Reformer or Protestant views, Hoby managed to earn Mary I's favor after the fall of Lady Jane Grey:

Hoby was recalled to England by Mary in August 1553; in December he was forgiven his debts to Edward VI on account of his services and also received a general pardon. Although he openly supported the Queen’s marriage to Philip of Spain he was suspected by Renard who described him as one of the craftiest heretics in England. Finding himself in an uncongenial atmosphere and deteriorating health he obtained leave in 1554 to go abroad to take the waters at Li├Ęge and Aix-la-Chapelle. Renard was convinced that he was going to plot with the Duke of Savoy and claimed that he had sympathised with Wyatt’s rebellion: although the illness appears to have been genuine, Hoby did visit leading Protestant exiles and spent the summer of 1555 with (Sir) John Cheke at Padua, but he also waited on the Emperor and on King Philip, from whom he brought a message for the Queen when he returned early in 1556.11

This website contains this interesting detail about one of Hoby's assignments:

In 1542, Hoby, being then one of the gentlemen ushers of the King's Privy Chamber, was authorised, along with Sir Edward Kerne and Dr. Peter, to apprehend certain persons suspected of being Jews and, on 4th February in that year, he laid before the Privy Council, the books containing their examinations and inventories of their goods.

Remember that King Edward I had expelled the Jews from England in 1290. Henry VIII had hoped for some support in his arguments with Pope Clement re: his annulment on the basis on the Levitical admonition not to marry his brother's widow and he turned to some Jewish rabbis in Italy. According to this website, he even wanted the rabbis to come to England!

According to Albert M. Hyamson in his 1908 A History of the Jews in England, we don't know much about the project Hoby, Kerne, and Peter were assigned to: "Some ten years later, in 1542, the presence of Jews in the country was reported to the Privy Council, who directed that a list of the suspects should be drawn up. The list, unfortunately, has been lost, and no record of further action, beyond arrests, can be found."

If the accused escaped with their lives, they probably didn't escape with their property!

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