Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Protestant Throckmorton

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton died on February 12, 1571; he was a survivor of the Tudor succession, restored to favor under Mary I in spite of his initial support of Lady Jane Grey--who was executed on February 12 in 1554--and suspicion of his involvement in the Wyatt Rebellion. According to the Dictionary of National Biography:

diplomatist, born in 1515, was fourth of the eight sons of Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton, Warwickshire. His grandfather, Sir Robert Throckmorton (son of Thomas, and grandson of Sir John Throckmorton [q. v.]), was a privy councillor under Henry VII, and died in 1519 while on a pilgrimage to Palestine. His mother was Katharine, daughter of Sir Nicholas, lord Vaux of Harrowden, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, lord Fitzhugh, and widow of Sir William Parr, K.G. She was thus aunt by marriage to Queen Catherine Parr, and Sir Nicholas claimed the queen as his first cousin. His father, Sir George, incurred, owing to some local topic of dispute, the ill-will of Cromwell, whose manor of Oversley adjoined that of Coughton. Early in 1540 Cromwell contrived to have his neighbour imprisoned on a charge of denying Henry VIII's supremacy, but Lady Throckmorton's niece, Catherine Parr, used her influence with the king to procure Sir George's release. Sir George was one of the chief witnesses against Cromwell at his trial, which took place in the same year, and was consulted by Henry VIII in the course of the proceedings. After Cromwell's fall Sir George purchased Cromwell's forfeited manor of Oversley. He was sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1526 and 1546, and built the great gatehouse at Coughton. He died soon after Queen Mary's accession. Sir Robert Throckmorton (d. 1570), Sir George's eldest son and successor in the Coughton estate, was succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1614), who, as a staunch catholic, suffered much persecution and loss of property during Elizabeth's reign. Thomas Throckmorton's grandson Robert was a devoted royalist, and was created a baronet on 1 Sept. 1642. The baronetcy is still held by a descendant.

As for Nicholas, the fourth son, he was a Protestant:

Nicholas was chiefly brought up by his mother's brother-in-law, Lord Parr. In youth he served as page to the Duke of Richmond, and probably went to Paris with his master in 1532. With two brothers he joined the household of his family connection, Catherine Parr, soon after her marriage to Henry VIII in July 1543. Unlike other members of his family, he accepted the reformed faith of his mistress, and remained a sturdy protestant till his death. He and two brothers were present as sympathising spectators at the execution of Anne Askew, the protestant martyr, in 1546 (Narratives of the Reformation, Camden Soc. pp. 41–2).

Throckmorton entered public life as M.P. for Malden in 1545, and sat in the House of Commons almost continuously till 1567. The accession of Edward VI was favourable to his fortunes. With the king's religious sentiment he was in thorough sympathy, and Edward liked him personally. . . .

Although he was Protestant, he eventually sided with the Catholic Mary instead of the Protestant Jane:

Throckmorton's signature was appended to the letters patent of 7 June 1553 which limited the succession of the crown to Lady Jane Grey and her descendants (Chronicle of Queen Jane, p. 100). Immediately after Edward's death and Lady Jane's accession, Throckmorton's wife acted by way of deputy for Lady Jane as godmother of a son of Edward Underhill, the ‘Hot-Gospeller,’ at his christening in the Tower of London (19 July 1553); the boy was named Guilford after Lady Jane's husband (Narratives of the Reformation, p. 153). On the same day Mary was generally proclaimed queen. Throckmorton is reported to have been at the moment at Northampton, and when Sir Thomas Tresham formally declared for Mary there, he is said to have made a protest in Lady Jane's favour, which exposed him to personal risk at the townspeople's hands (Chron. of Queen Jane, p. 12). But Throckmorton's devotion to Lady Jane was more specious than real, and he had no intention of forfeiting the goodwill of her rival Mary. He was credited by his friends with having taken a step of the first importance to Mary's welfare on the very day of Edward VI's death by sending her London goldsmith to her at Hoddesdon to apprise her of the loss of her brother, and to warn her of the danger that threatened her if she fell into the clutches of the Duke of Northumberland (Legend of Throckmorton, vv. 111 et seq.; cf.Goodman's Life and Times, i. 117). On Mary's arrival in London she showed no resentment at Throckmorton's dalliance with Lady Jane's pretensions, and he sat as member for Old Sarum in her first parliament of October–December 1553.

But he was suspected of involvement in the Wyatt Plot and spent some time in the Tower of London, but was acquitted at trial by the jury! That's extraordinary in the history of treason trials, but he had defended himself well--and both he and the jury were still imprisoned after the verdict.

When Mary died and Elizabeth became queen, Throckmorton began diplomatic contacts with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and Queen of France (briefly):

Elizabeth's accession to the throne opened to him a career of political activity. He was at once appointed chief butler and chamberlain of the exchequer, and was elected M.P. for Lyme Regis on 2 Jan. 1558–9. In the following May the more important office of ambassador to France was bestowed on him (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom., 1547–80, p. 128). On 9 Jan. 1559–60 the queen signed instructions in which he was directed to protest against the assumption of the arms of England by Francis II, who had married Mary Queen of Scots on 24 April 1558, and had ascended the French throne on 10 July 1559 (Hatfield MSS. i. 165–7; State Papers, Foreign, 1559–60, No. 557). Francis died on 5 Dec. 1560, and Throckmorton was much occupied in the weeks that followed in seeking to induce Queen Mary to forego ‘the style and title of sovereign of England,’ and to postpone her assumption of her sovereignty in Scotland. Throckmorton had many audiences of her, and acknowledged her fascination. They corresponded on friendly terms, and despite differences in their religious and political opinions, he thenceforth did whatever he could to serve her, consistently with his duty to his country (cf. Labanoff, Lettres de Marie Stuart, i. 94, 128). He now succeeded in reconciling Elizabeth to the prospect of Queen Mary's settlement in Scotland. But he endeavoured to persuade Mary to tolerate protestantism among her subjects, and did not allow his personal regard for her to diminish his zeal for his own creed. The Venetian ambassador in France described him (3 July 1561) as ‘the most cruel adversary that the catholic religion has in England’ (Cal. Venetian State Papers, 1558–80, p. 333). He showed every mark of hostility to the Guises and of sympathy with the Huguenots, and urged Elizabeth to ally herself publicly and without delay with the Huguenots in France and the reformers in Scotland. Little heed was paid to his proposals.

As you read the rest of the biography, you might notice that Throckmorton was not always a successful diplomat. One problem he had was that Elizabeth I's directions were not always clear, and sometimes even contradictory. He fell out of her graces one last time over Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk's idea of marrying the deposed Mary, Queen of Scots:

Throckmorton thenceforth suffered acutely from a sense of disappointment. His health failed during 1568, but he maintained friendly relations with Cecil, to whom he wrote from Fulham on 2 Sept. 1568 that he proposed to kill a buck at Cecil's house at Mortlake. He had long favoured the proposal to wed Queen Mary to the Duke of Norfolk, and he was consequently suspected next year of sympathy with the rebellion of northern catholics in Queen Mary's behalf. In September 1569 he was imprisoned in Windsor Castle, but he was soon released and no further proceedings were taken against him. He died in London on 12 Feb. 1570–1. . . . Throckmorton was buried on the south side of the chancel in St. Catherine Cree Church in the city of London.

Image Credit at top: Throckmorton's monument in St. Katherine Cree. Note the bottom of the the portrait of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury above the tomb in this picture (he was Bishop of London when he consecrated the rebuilt church in 1631).

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