Cottington, Francis (DNB00)
|←Cottingham, Lewis Nockalls||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 12
COTTINGTON, FRANCIS, Lord Cottington (1578?–1652), born about 1578, was the fourth son of Philip Cottington of Godmonston (Collins, Peerage, ix. 481), near Bruton in Somersetshire. His mother, according to the pedigree in Hoare (Modern Wiltshire, Hundred of Dunworth, 21), was Jane, daughter of Thomas Biflete. Clarendon, however, says ‘his mother was a Stafford, nearly allied to Sir Edward Stafford, who was vice-chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth, and had been ambassador to France; by whom Francis Cottington was brought up, and was gentleman of his horse, and left one of the executors of his will, and by him recommended by Sir Robert Cecil, then principal secretary of state, who preferred him to Sir Charles Cornwallis when he went ambassador to Spain in the beginning of the reign of King James’ (Rebellion, xiii. 30). When Cornwallis was recalled, Cottington acted for a time as English agent (1609–11), and was appointed English consul at Seville (January 1612, Gardiner, History of England, ii. 134, 151). On his return to England he was appointed one of the clerks of the council (September 1613, Court and Times of James I, i. 273). While holding this position he was employed by Somerset, Lake, and the Spanish party in the king's council to urge Gondomar to press forward the proposal for a Spanish marriage in opposition to the treaty for the marriage of Prince Charles to a French princess then in progress (January 1614, Narrative of the Spanish Marriage Treaty, Camd. Soc. 111). In 1616 Digby was recalled from Spain, and Cottington for a time took his place. Through him King James made to the Spanish court his offer of mediation in the Bohemian quarrel (September 1618, Relations between England and Germany, Camd. Soc. 10, 19, 26). On his return, Cottington's knowledge of Spanish affairs made him continually in request with the king, and he was also, in October 1622, sworn secretary to the Prince of Wales (Court and Times of James I, ii. 352). On 16 Feb. 1623 he was knighted, and created a baronet. He was M.P. for Camelford 1624, for Bossiney 1625, and for Saltash 1628. When Prince Charles resolved to go in person to Spain, Cottington was one of the first persons consulted, and communicated to Clarendon a lively description of the scene between himself, Buckingham, and the king (Clarendon, i. 30). In spite of his expressed disapproval of the plan, Cottington was charged to accompany the prince, and took part in the negotiations at Madrid which followed. On his return he was disgraced, deprived of his office and emoluments, and forbidden to appear at court. Buckingham had not forgiven his original opposition to the journey, to which he had lately added the fault of protesting his belief that the restoration of the Palatinate was still to be hoped for from the Spanish ministers (Gardiner, History of England, v. 321). Buckingham therefore openly announced to Cottington that he would do all he could to ruin him, to which Cottington replied by requesting the return of a set of hangings, worth 800l., which he had presented to the duke in hope of his future favour (Clarendon, i. 67). After the duke's death Weston's influence secured Cottington a seat in the privy council (12 Nov. 1628), and on 30 March 1629 the attorney-general was ordered to prepare for him a grant of the chancellorship of the exchequer. In the autumn of 1629 he was sent ambassador to Spain, and signed with that power (5 Nov. 1630) a treaty which put an end to the war, and reproduced, with a few unimportant modifications, the treaty of 1604. This was followed on 2 Jan. 1631 by a secret treaty for the partition of Holland between England and Spain, as the price of the restoration of the Palatinate (Gardiner, History of England, vii. 176; Clarendon State Papers, i. 49). As a reward the negotiator was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Cottington of Hanworth, Middlesex (10 July 1631). With Weston and Windebanke Cottington was throughout in the king's confidence with respect to his secret foreign policy, and represented with them in the council the party favourable to Spain, and hostile to France and Holland. Himself a catholic at heart, and usually declaring himself such when seriously ill, Cottington supported the catholic propaganda in England, but was yet not trusted by the catholics. In March 1635 Cottington became master of the court of wards, in which capacity he ‘raised the revenue of that court to the king to be much greater than it had ever been before his administration; by which husbandry all the rich families of England, of noblemen and gentlemen, were exceedingly incensed, and even indevoted to the crown’ (Clarendon, ii. 102). His activity in extending the rights of his office was one of the chief causes of its abolition; it also led him into a quarrel with the lord-keeper Coventry (Heylyn, Life of Laud, i. 225). More serious was the hostility between Laud and Cottington which began about the same time. On 16 March 1635 the treasury was put in commission, and both Cottington and the archbishop named commissioners. Both at the treasury board and in the committee for foreign affairs Cottington frequently came into collision with Laud, whose correspondence is full of complaints of his ‘Spanish tricks’ and general untrustworthiness. In two important cases, the case of the soap-makers' monopoly and the case of Bagge and Pell, Laud and Cottington took opposite sides. He also alarmed Laud by interceding on behalf of Williams, bishop of Lincoln, although, when his case actually came to a judgment, Cottington gave his sentence for the imposition of a fine of 10,000l. on the bishop (Laud, Works, vii. 139; Rushworth, ii. 416). In the archbishop's confidential correspondence with Strafford he had termed Portland ‘the Lady Mora,’ the delayer of the honest and economical administration he sought to introduce; he now wrote of Cottington as the great obstacle, ‘the Lady Mora's waiting-maid,’ who, perhaps, ‘would pace a little faster than her mistress did, but the steps would be as foul’ (Works, vii. 145). All Cottington's activity was directed to obtaining the treasurership for himself, to secure which he intrigued on every side. In this struggle his self-control, and his acquaintance with the business of the exchequer, enabled him to hold his own against Laud, and sometimes, as in the instance of the enclosure of Richmond Park, to make his adversary ridiculous to the king (Clarendon, i. 208). Nevertheless, Laud succeeded in securing the treasury for Juxon (6 March 1636), and Cottington became ‘no more a leader, but meddled with his particular duties only’ (Strafford Papers, i. 523, ii. 52). Besides serving on the committee of the council for foreign affairs, Cottington acted also as a member of the committee for Irish affairs appointed in April 1634 (Laud, Works, iii. 67), and of the far more important committee for Scotch affairs (reproachfully called ‘the junto,’ according to Clarendon) appointed in July 1638 (Strafford Letters, ii. 181). In the latter committee he formed one of the war party (ib. ii. 186), but his position as chancellor of the exchequer made him still more prominent in the different devices for raising money for the war. In June 1639 Cottington attempted to raise a loan from the city, and, when the aldermen refused, supported Windebanke in urging coercion (Gardiner, History of England, ix. 39). In the following May, after the dissolution of the Short parliament, he advocated war against the Scots as a necessary measure of self-defence, and argued that in such an extremity money might be raised without a parliament. According to Vane's notes he added that the lower house were weary both of king and church (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. 3). In July he in vain attempted to persuade the city to lend, and the French ambassador to procure, the king a loan of 400,000l.; in the end he was obliged to raise money by a speculation in pepper (Gardiner, History of England, ix. 175, 190). He also prepared the Tower for a siege, having been appointed constable of that fortress (ib. 191). At the meeting of the Long parliament the parliamentary leaders resolved to call Cottington to an account (Sanford, Studies of the Great Rebellion, 308). Seeing the danger, he resolved to efface himself and give up his offices. He was ready, in exchange for an assurance of indemnity, to surrender the chancellorship of the exchequer to Pym, and the court of wards to Say. The ‘sharp expressions’ he had used in the council, made known during Strafford's trial by Vane's notes, added to his danger. In May 1641 he did actually surrender the court of wards to Say (17 May), and also the lieutenancy of Dorsetshire to Salisbury (10 May), but he retained the chancellorship of the exchequer till the appointment of Sir John Colepeper in January 1642. According to Clarendon, Strafford had recommended the king to send Cottington to succeed him in Ireland as deputy, ‘but the winds were too high and too much against him then to venture thither’ (Rebellion, App. M. 6).
Cottington was not one of the peers who joined the king at York at the beginning of the war. In a petition to the House of Lords he represents himself as ill with gout at Founthill, and appears as paying assessments to the parliament (Lords' Journals, v. 417). In 1643, however, he joined the king, and was one of the ‘junto’ set up by Charles in the autumn of that year (Clarendon, Life, iii. 37). He also took part in the Oxford parliament, was appointed lord treasurer on 3 Oct. 1643 (Black, Docquets of Letters Patent signed by Charles I at Oxford, p. 80), and signed the capitulation of Oxford in July 1646. Being one of the persons excepted by the parliament from any indemnity or composition, he went abroad, and during the earlier part of his exile seems to have lived at Rouen. Thence the queen summoned him in May 1648 to attend Prince Charles, and after being taken by an Ostend pirate, and losing 1,000l. on the way, he at length reached the Hague (Clarendon, Rebellion, xi. 23; Life, v. 11). After the king's execution a determined attempt was made by Lord Jermyn to exclude Cottington from the council of Charles II. It was not successful; but, nevertheless, in April 1649, on the suggestion of the prince, it was determined by the king that Cottington should go to Spain to endeavour to raise money, and Hyde resolved to accompany him (Rebellion, xii. 35; Nicholas Papers, Camd. Soc., p. 124). Their instructions are dated 24 May 1649 (Calendar of Clarendon State Papers, ii. 48). The ambassadors, who reached Spain in November 1649, were coldly received, slighted, and could effect nothing. The deliberations of the Spanish council on the question of their reception have been printed by Guizot (Cromwell, i. App. vi. x. xi.), and Clarendon has left a long account of their mission (Rebellion, bk. xiii.). Cottington's old influence had entirely vanished; ‘he is more contemned and hated here than you can imagine,’ writes Hyde; ‘without question we might have done more in the king's business if it had not been for him, who yet will not understand that they are not his friends’ (Clarendon State Papers, iii. 25). The destruction of the Spanish fleet in the Downs by the Dutch in 1639 was ‘most unjustly laid to his want of kindness,’ and another cause of the Spanish king's ‘notable aversion from him was furnished by Cottington's apostasy from the catholic religion.’ His religious history was indeed somewhat remarkable. Cornwallis records an attempt to convert him to catholicism in 1607 (Winwood Papers, ii. 321), but he did not actually become a catholic till 1623, during a dangerous illness which took place while he was at Madrid (Narrative of the Spanish Marriage Treaty, Camd. Soc., 249).
Returning to England he again adopted protestantism, but made a second declaration of catholicism during another illness in 1636 (Gardiner, History of England, viii. 140). Now resolving, as he wrote to the king on 1 March 1651, to remain in Spain, he determined again to become a catholic, and was after considerable difficulties reconciled by the papal nuncio (Clarendon, Rebellion, xiii. 27; Calendar of Clarendon State Papers, ii. 97). He succeeded in obtaining license to remain at Valladolid, and a promise that his necessities should be supplied. The care of the English jesuits provided and made ready for him the house in that city where he had before resided during the reign of Philip III, and there he died, on 19 June, 1652, at the age of seventy-four. His body was brought to England in 1679, and interred in Westminster Abbey by his grand-nephew, Charles Cottington. His epitaph and an engraving of his monument are in Dart's ‘Westmonasterium’ (i. 181). Clarendon, who describes his character at length, terms him a very wise man, and praises above all his great self-command. One of his chief characteristics was his dry humour; ‘under a grave countenance he covered the most of mirth, and caused more than any man of the most pleasant disposition.’ ‘His greatest fault was that he could dissemble,’ a fault of which all who had any dealings with him continually complain. He raised by his industry an estate of about 4,000l. a year, and built himself at Hanworth and Founthill two of the finest houses in England (Strafford Papers, i. 51, ii. 118). Clarendon concludes by saying that ‘he left behind him a greater esteem of his parts than love of his person.’ With his death the barony of Cottington became extinct. He married in 1623 Sir Robert Brett's young widow, Anne, daughter of Sir William Meredith, sometime pay- master of the forces in the Low Countries (Court and Times of James I, ii. 365). His children by her all predeceased him; two, a son and a daughter, died in 1631 during his embassy to Spain (Court of Charles I, ii. 65), while a second daughter died shortly after his return (Strafford Papers, i. 81). On 11 March 1634 Cottington wrote to Strafford announcing the death of his wife (ib. i. 214), who died 22 Feb. 1634, aged 33. From notices in the same papers it seems that he thought of marrying again, and Lady Stanhope and a daughter of the lord-keeper Coventry are mentioned, but he remained a widower (ib. ii. 47, 168, 246). His estates passed to Francis, son of his brother Maurice. A portrait, probably painted in Spain by a Spanish artist, is in the National Portrait Gallery.
[Clarendon's Life, Hist. of the Rebellion; Clarendon State Papers; Domestic State Papers; Strafford Correspondence; Gardiner's Hist. of England; Hoare's Modern Wiltshire, the Hundred of Dunworth; and the other authorities mentioned in the text.]