Charles MacFarlane.

The life of Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal exchange online

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THE UNIVERSITY
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FROM THE LIBRARY OF
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[Sir Thomas Gresham.]



THE LIFE



SIR THOMAS GRESHAM,



FOUNDER OF THE KOYAL EXCHANGE.









LONDON:
CHARLES KNIGHT & Co., LUDGATE STREET.



1845.



Loudon : Pr inted by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street.



( v )

ADVERTISEMENT.



In the year 1740, Dr. John Ward, Professor of
Rhetoric in Gresham College, published the Lives
of the Professors of that college, to which he pre-
fixed a Life of Sir Thomas Gresham. Of this
folio volume the Life of Gresham occupies only a
small portion ; but the volume contains some valu-
able facts, which were used by subsequent bio-
graphers as the sole materials upon which they
worked, until in 1839 Mr. John William Burgon
produced his "Life and Times of Sir Thomas
Gresham, compiled chiefly from his Correspond-
ence preserved in Her Majesty's State Paper
Office." This elaborate work, in two octavo vo-
lumes, is highly creditable to the industrious re-
search of the Author. A number of very inter-
esting documents for the first time were brought
to light, as illustrating the personal character and
public history of this remarkable English mer-
chant, the Founder of the Royal Exchange and
Gresham College. The little volume now offered,
at a period when the Life of Sir Thomas Gresham
has a passing interest in the opening of the third
Royal Exchange, does not attempt to claim the
merit of any new discoveries of documents ; but
the Author has endeavoured to present a narrative
which may exhibit the character of Gresham in



VI ADVERTISEMENT.

connexion with the spirit of his age, — a spirit in
many respects essentially different from that of
our own, in which the real principles of commer-
cial intercourse have been so strikingly developed.
But whatever may be the defects of the commer-
cial economy and the general politics of the days
of Elizabeth, during which Gresham carried for-
ward a series of financial operations which were
truly important for that time, he has the great
merit of having been the first to counsel a strict
regard to the pecuniary obligations of the State,
as the surest foundation for national prosperity.
It is something for the honour of the English
character two centuries and a half ago, that a
British merchant came to the despotic courts of
the Tudors with only one course of advice under
their constant financial difficulties — pay — pay,
interest regularly, principal as soon as possible ;
— repudiate no contracts, — be honest to all your
engagements even if you know that you have been
dealt hardly with — make the closest bargains you
can for the future, but pay I Such a man was
worthy to attain fortune and eminence ;— and it was
a part of his high-mindedness, amidst some mean-
ness, that he devoted some of that fortune to a
provision for the needy, and for the advancement
of knowledge. That his intentions have not been
carried out is the fault of a succeeding age, which
originated little good and destroyed much.



( vii )



CONTENTS.



PAGE

ADVERTISEMENT v

CHAPTER I.
THE GRESHAM FAMILY 9

CHAPTER II.
EARLY LIFE OF SIR THOMAS GRESHAM 35

CHAPTER III.
GRESHAM SERVES QUEEN MARY , . 63

CHAPTER IV.

SMUGGLING, IN MONEY, ARMS, ETC 82

CHAPTER V.
GRESHAM BEGINS TO SERVE QUEEN ELIZABETH ... 98

CHAPTER VI.
POVERTY, PESTILENCE, AND WARS OF RELIGION ... 117

CHAPTER VII.
THE TROUBLES IN THE LOW COUNTRIES 138



Vlll CONTENTS.

PAOE

CHAPTER VIII.
THE LADY MARY GREY Ifi2

CHAPTER IX.

THE EXCHANGE, AND GRESHAM COLLEGE 184



CHAPTER X.

DEATH OF SIR THOMAS GRESHAM, AND THE FATE
OF GRESHAM COLLEGE 209



APPENDIX.

THOMAS CHURCHYARD



LIFE



SIR THOMAS GRESHAM.



CHAPTER I.

THE GRESHAM FAMILY.



Thomas Gresham, the founder of the Royal Ex-
change, was born in the year 1519; and he lived
during the reigns of Henry the Eighth, Edward
the Sixth, Mary, and Elizabeth. He was descended
from a family originally settled in the county of
Norfolk, and which had become considerable and
wealthy by commerce. The name of the family
is said to have been derived from a small town or
village in Norfolk ; but it is more probable that
the family gave its name to the village. A John
Gresham of Gresham lived under the reigns of
Edward the Third and Richard the Second, in the
latter part of the fourteenth century, and appears
to have been a man of substance. His son James
was a correspondent, and is supposed at one time
to have been a clerk, of Sir William Paston, the
Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in the time
of Henry the Sixth. He corresponded with other
members of the Paston family, who were of Nor-
folk, and chiefly lived in that county.* Eleven
of the letters of this James Gresham, written be-



10 LIFE OF GRESHAM.

tween the years 1443 and 1464, have been pre-
served and published among those of the Paston
family ; and they form no unimportant part of that
very interesting collection. His letters are all
dated from London, and the seal on them repre-
sents a grasshopper. It should appear that he
made a good fortune in London, for, during his
father's lifetime he settled at Holt in Norfolk,
built a manor-house there, and became lord of the
jnanor of East Beckham. He kept his own during
the troublesome wars of the Roses and the frequent
revolutions which occurred in the times of Henry
the Sixth and Edward the Fourth ; and as Holt
was only four miles from the sea-coast, and as
Norfolk had long been a very trading county, he
probably increased his fortune by commercial spe-
culations. There was good precedent in the county
for men engaging in trade who had not been bred
to it. Sir John Fastolf, one of the most famous
warriors of that age, who lived near Yarmouth,
and who bequeathed Caister Castle to the Paston
family, concerned himself with ships and in mer-
chandise, although not very successfully, if we are
to believe his secretary, William Botoner.f But an
acute lawyer, like James Gresham, might succeed,
where a bluff, hasty, hospitable old soldier, like
Fastolf, had failed. James Gresham occasionally
left his manor-house at Holt to reside in the po-
pulous and busy, and at that time very commercial,
capital of the county, for one of his five sons was
born at Norwich.

This James Gresham was succeeded by his son

* Paston Letters.

f Ibid. William Botoner appears to have been the familiar
name of the celebrated William Worcester.



THE GRESHAM FAMILY. 1 1

John, and John married a lady who brought him
a large fortune and four sons — William, Thomas,
Richard, and John. Richard, the father of the
founder of the Royal Exchange and Gresham Col-
lege, was knighted by Henry the Eighth, as was
also his younger brother John. It appears that
three of the four brothers, including William, the
eldest, who succeeded to the landed estates, and
was the last of the family that lived at Holt in
Norfolk, were all engaged in trade, and indebted
solely to trade for the illustration the family ac-
quired.* William was a mercer and merchant-
adventurer of London, and one of the principal
freemen of the Mercers' Company. Before at-
taining to this eminence he had made voyages
beyond sea, and had been in the Mediterranean
and up the Levant. " It appears," says Hakluyt,
" out of certain ancient ledgers of Master John
Gresham, that between the years 1511 and 1534
many English ships traded to the Levant ;" and
among these ships Hakluyt mentions " the Mary
George, wherein was factor William Crestta!!!."
In 1544 he joined his younger brothers Richard
and John in advancing to Henry the Eighth one
thousand and seventy-three pounds on a mortgage
of common lands ; and at this time he was ranked
among the most considerable of the English mer-
chants that traded with the Low Countries. He

* John Ward, Professor of Ehetoric in Gresham College
and F.E.S. Lives of the Professors of Gresham College,
&c. ; to which is prefixed the Life of the Founder, Sir
Thomas Gresham. I vol. fol. Lond. 1740.

John William Burgon. Life and Times of Sir Thomas
Gresham ; compiled chiefly from his Correspondence pre-
served in Her Majesty's State Paper Office, &c. 2 vols.
8vo. Lond. 1839.

b2



12 LIFE OF GRESHAM.

died in the year 1547 or 1548, and was buried in
Our Lady Chapel, in the church of Saint Pancras,
Soper Lane (now Bow Lane), in the city of Lon-
don. Of the next brother, Thomas Gresham, little
is known, except that he was a priest, became a
prebendary of Winchester, and died in 1557 or
1558, in the time of Queen Mary. We have seen
that his brother William had been in the Mediter-
ranean in the days of Henry the Eighth, and it is
thought that it is he who is mentioned in the fol-
lowing tale of a very delightful, but somewhat
credulous, old English traveller. George Sandys,
who was in the Mediterranean in the year 1610,
after describing Mount Stromboli and the other
Sicilian volcanoes, says, with all due seriousness : —
u These places and such like are commonly affirmed
by the Roman Catholics to be the jaws of hell, and
that within the damned souls are tormented. It
was told me at Naples by a countryman of ours,
and an old pensioner of the pope's, who was a
youth in the days of King Henry, that it was then
generally bruited throughout England, that Mr.
Gresham, a merchant, setting sail from Palermo
(where there then dwelt one Anthonio, called the
Rich, who at one time had two kingdoms mort-
gaged unto him by the King of Spain), being
crossed by contrary winds, was constrained to an-
chor under the lee of this island (Stromboli).
Now about midday, when for certain hours it ac-
customedly forbeareth to flame, he ascended the
mountain with eight of the sailors ; and approach-
ing as near the vent as they durst, amongst other
noises they heard a voice cry aloud, ' Dispatch,
dispatch, the rich Anthonio is a-coming V Terri-
fied herewith they descended ; and anon the moun-



TIIK GRESHAM FAMILY. 13

tain again evaporated fire. But from so dismal
a place they made all the haste that they could :
when the wind still thwarting their course, and
desiring much to know more of this matter, they
returned to Palermo. And forthwith inquiring
of Anthonio, it was told them that he was dead ;
and computing the time, did find it to agree with
the very instant that the voice was heard by them.
Gresham reported this at his return to the King
(Henry the Eighth), and the mariners being called
before him, confirmed by oath the narration. In
Gresham himself, as this gentleman said (for I no
otherwise report it), it wrought so deep an im-
pression that he gave over all traffic ; distributing
his goods, a part to his kinsfolk, and the rest to
good uses, retaining only a competency to him-
self; and so spent the rest of his life in a solitary
devotion." *

Richard Gresham, the third of these brothers,
and father of Sir Thomas, was born at Holt, but
bred a mercer in the City of London, being ap-
prenticed to Mr. John Middleton, an eminent
mercer and merchant of the staple at Calais. As
early as the year 1507, he was admitted to the
freedom of the Mercers' Company. He was so
very fortunate in trade that he purchased large

* Narration of a Journey begun a.d. 1610, lib. iv. p. 249,
3rd edition. Lond. 1627. — The author, George Sandys,
was born in 1577, and died in 1643. He was the youngest
son of Dr. Sandys, archbishop of York. In the course of
his travels he visited Greece, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Sicily,
and Italy. His book of Travels is a delightful volume ; but
he is, perhaps, still better known as a poet than as a tra-
veller. He translated into English verse, and with much
spirit, the Metamorphoses of Ovid, and executed a version
of the Psalms.



14 LIFE OF GEESHAM.

estates in several counties of England. He was
frequently absent upon business at Calais and in
the Low Countries. During his residence on the
continent he appears to have been a great collector
and writer of news, as his ancestor, James Gresham,
had been at London in the troublous time of
Henry the Sixth, only, instead of writing to a
judge and knight, and the Norfolk family of the
Pastons, as James had done, he corresponded di-
rectly with the king's ministers, and with no less a
personage than Cardinal Wolsey, who could say.
Ego et rex mens, and who was for many years the
alter Ego of the king. Richard Gresham in fact
acted as political and commercial, or money agent
for Henry the Eighth in the Netherlands, and
resided in this capacity at Antwerp during Henry's
capricious and ridiculous wars with France ; and
after Henry's death he was employed in the same
manner by those who managed the government for
young Edward the Sixth. It appears, however,
that he did not hold the title, although he did the
offices of royal agent. His son Thomas, who
carried out so many of his designs, had both the
title and the duty. Richard Gresham was much
devoted to the great English cardinal and prime
minister ; and he was the first of our merchants
that discovered that foreign loans were precarious
and costly, and that money might possibly be
raised in the City of London for the service of the
king or government without applying to the Dutch
and Flemings. His devotion to government got
him into some trouble, but there is good reason to
believe that it also obtained for him many pre-
ferences and advantages. In the year 1525, Henry
the Eighth being in great want of money to enable



THE GBESHAM FAMILY. 15

him to keep his engagements with the Emperor
Charles the Fifth, and carry on the war against
Francis the First, Cardinal Wolsey, who hitherto
had been a very popular minister, had recourse to
some arbitrary impositions, which drove the Lon-
doners to the very verge of rebellion, and created
a universal discontent throughout the country.
Before this ferment subsided, the king wanted
more money, and the cardinal was compelled to
apply to the lord mayor and aldermen of London
for a " benevolence," or voluntary contribution.
On the 8th day of May the cardinal sent for the
lord mayor (Sir William Bayly) and the aldermen
to Hampton Court, to take them to task for not
having promptly complied with his grace the
king's wishes. A councillor of the City told the
lord cardinal that by the law of the land no such
benevolence might be demanded, forasmuch as it
was contrary to the statute made in the first year
of King Richard the Third. " Sir," quoth the
cardinal, " I marvel that you speak of Richard the
Third, which was a usurper and amurtherer of his
own nephews ! Of so evil a man, how can the acts
be good ?" The lord mayor and aldermen, how-
ever, continued to think that this particular act,
which went to protect the purses of the subject,
was a very good act ; and the city councillor said,
"Although Richard did evil, yet in his time were
many good acts made, not by him only, but by the
consent of the body of the whole realm, which is
the parliament." Then Sir William Bayly, the
mayor, kneit down before the cardinal and gave
sundry reasons why he and the aldermen could
not even consent to impose upon the City this fresh



16 LIFE OF GRESHAM,

contribution. At first "Wolsey threatened, and
next he tried to cajole the mayor, but in the end
lie granted time for consulting the common council
of the City. The mayor did wisely not to assent
to the grant, for the common council would never
have assented, and without their concurrence the
thing was void. On the very next day the question
was debated in common hall, and in a very stormy
manner, the demand of the government being sup-
ported by Richard Gresham, John Hewster, and
Richard Gibson. The common council declared
the demand to be illegal, fell into a great fury,
said that Richard Gresham and John Hewster,
mercers, and Richard Gibson, serjeant-at-arms and
merchant tailor, ought to be banished out of the
common council ; and so. without making answer
as to what they would do, they departed home.
This storm, however, soon blew over, though not
until the cardinal had given up his demand, and
had said many kind and flattering things to the
mayor and his brethren, and certain members of
the common council.* It should appear that the
friendship between Wolsey and Richard Gresham
continued to the end of the cardinal's life, for in
the year 1530, when Wolsey was dying at Leicester,
he spoke of Gresham as his fast friend ; and when
Sir "William Kingston, constable of the Tower,
who had him in custody, asked what had become
of a certain sum of money lately in his possession,
the cardinal replied, ' ; I assure you it is none of
mine, for I borrowed it of divers of my friends to
bury me, and to bestow among my servants." And
then Wolsey explained to Kingston how he was
* Hall's Chronicle.



THE GRESHAM FAMILY. 17

indebted for two hundred pounds to Richard
Gresham.*

In the following year (1531), Richard became
sheriff of London, and received the honour of
knighthood from Henry the Eighth. At this
time Sir Richard attempted to do what was after-
wards done by his son Sir Thomas. The mer-
chants of London having no convenient place of
resort, were accustomed to meet at change hours
in Lombard-street, where they were exposed to
the open air, and all injuries of the weather. But
while Sir Richard was sheriff he wrote a letter to
Sir Thomas Audeley, then lord privy seal, to ac-
quaint him that there were certain houses in
Lombard-street belonging to Sir George Monnocks,
which, if allowed to be purchased and pulled down,
would afford space for a handsome Burse (Bourse)
or Exchange to be built on the ground ; and lie
therefore entreated Audeley to move his majesty,
King Henry, that a letter might be sent to Sir
George, requiring him to sell those houses to the
mayor and commonalty of the City of London,
* for such prices as he did purchase them for."
(i The letter," adds Sir Richard, " must be sharply
made, for he is of no gentle nature. And that he
shall give further credence to the mayor, I will
deliver the letter and handle him the best I can ;
and if I may obtain to have the said houses, I
doubt not but to gather one thousand pounds
towards the building ere I depart out of mine
office." He calculated that two thousand pounds,
or something more, would pay for the new build-
ing, which would be " very beautiful to the City,
and also for the honour of our sovereign lord the
* Cavendish. Life of Cardinal Wolsey. , ^

b3



18 LIFE OF GRESHAM.

king." He declared to the lord keeper, that unless
the citizens might purchase the said houses, the
said " burse" could not be made.* Whether it
was that the government would not interfere and
take from Sir George Monnocks those houses in
Lombard-street * for the prices he did purchase
them for," or whether it proceeded from the in-
difference or backwardness of the citizens, or from
other cause or causes, it is quite certain that Sir
Richard's scheme fell to the ground. It is pro-
bable that the fault lay mostly, if not entirely,
with the citizens ; for when, in the year 1534 or
1535, the king proposed that they should remove
their place of meeting from the open thoroughfare
in Lombard-street to the Leaden Hall, an appro-
priate and commodious place, the proposal was
negatived in the common council by a show of
hands.

In another attempt, and one which was attended
by results still more important than those which
proceeded from the building of the Exchange, Sir
Richard Gresham was more successful. By a
recent proclamation the liberty of barter, or of ex-
changing one commodity for another, was pro-
hibited. Sir Richard showed to Audeley, the
lord privy seal, that this would be very mischievous,
and ought to be abrogated without loss of time ;
that it was in the highest degree necessary that
all merchants, whether subjects or foreigners, should
be permitted to exercise and deal in exchanges
and rechanges without restraint; and that the
w r ant of such liberty was a great detriment to trade,
and occasioned the unnecessary exportation of

* John Ward. Lives of the Gresham Professors. Ward
gives Sir Richard's Letters in his Appendix.



THE GRESHAM FAMILY. 19

much gold out of the kingdom. " If," wrote Sir
Richard, " it shall riot please the king's goodness
shortly to make a proclamation, that all manner of
merchants, as well his subjects as all other, may
ever use and exercise their exchanges and rechanges
frankly and freely, as they have heretofore done,
without any let or impediment, it will cause a
great many of cloths and kerseys to be left unsold
in the cloth-maker's hands, if it be not out of
hand remedied : for Bartholomew Fair will be
shortly here, which is the chief time for the
utterance of the said cloths and kerseys. Also
there is divers merchants that will shortly prepare
themselves toward Bordeaux for provisions of
wines ; and for lack of exchanges, I do suppose
there will be conveyed some gold amongst them.
I am sure, my lord, that these exchanges and re-
changes do much to the stay of the said gold in
England, which would else be conveyed over. I
pray your good lordship to pardon me, for as God
shall help me, I write not this for none commodity
for myself, but for the discharge of my duty
towards the king's majesty ; and for that I do
surely know it shall be for the common wealth of
his subjects, and for the utterance of the com-
modities of this realm : for the merchants can no
more be without exchanges and rechanges, than
the ships in the sea can be without water. My
lord, I have now declared my poor mind. Do as
it shall please you."* In consequence of these
strong representations the unwise proclamation was
revoked by another royal proclamation.

In the year 1537 Sir Richard Gresham became
Lord Mayor of London, and had a grant from the
* Letter of Sir Richard in Ward's Appendix.



10



LIFE OF GKESHAM.



herald's office to him and Ids :y for an a

mis.* It app( rs t : be continued
• manage rari - for the court.

and that he retained the good ill of the ministers

, Cardinal \V. Is favour of

IL nry the Eighth even when thai once debonnaire

k::._- had grown into a arross. capricious, and san-
guina:y tyrant. The last fact will explain that Sir
Richa: i had a yielding conscience in matters of
religion. •::• the self-securing: faculty of making
- that he always believed according
to the las: Act of Parliament, i i last mandate from
c :urt. touching religion. In these unh;a py cays it
was d : a strugg le between Pr I and Ca«

. but a strug-glt . men's consciences

an; the ki:._" v. ill : f, r Henry could no more be
ed a Protestant than he « aid be died a
Roman Catholic; and if he burn Romanist

one day for denying his supr e m acy over the as yet
rrf'rraed and unintelligible Anglican church, he
would burn a Protestant on the next for denying
trans bstantiation ; and he showed no mercy to
such as would aol submit to his frequent changes
cf opir.icm It o - e. be by las

':._• : ste: ly Pro:e>:an: that sir Richard Gres-
ham retained his court fai »ui in this shifting and
-:::aay v.-eather. While he was sheriff he received
into his custody and committed to Newgate the
unf; rt-mate James Painham. a Protestant gentle-
man of the Temple, who was ch ith heresy
by the pori>h priests, whose doctrines and powers
had ::•-: vet been called in nuestion. and who was
' :rned in Smithtield en ti e' : 0th of April. 1532.
In his official capacity Sir Richard have



THE GKEHKAM FAMILY. L 1

acted otherwise than he did, without exposing I
self* esal penalties and to the wrath of a

kin? who "was already settino- himself above all
law. But it should seem that Gresham shoved
grreat subserviency, and a readii.
orders which came from Henry. In 1541, or more
than tibic :'ter he had ceased to 1

i Henry declared that, whether papists or Pro-
testants, all were heretics who rejected his own un-

led exposition of the fait commis-

sions to find out heretics and bring ...

punishment. Sir Richard, as wel] i hi
brother. Sir John Gresham. was put into the com-
ion for heresies done in the city and dioceae of
London, over which Bishop Bonner continued to

g ie : and under .^mission erue"


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Online LibraryCharles MacFarlaneThe life of Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal exchange → online text (page 1 of 17)