Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 23.djvu/159

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Gresham
Gresham
151

for an excise office, for the small annuity of 500l. The Gresham lectures were thenceforth delivered at the Royal Exchange, till in 1841 the present Gresham College was erected at the corner of Gresham and Basinghall Streets. Gresham also built during his lifetime eight almshouses immediately behind his mansion, for the inmates of which he provided liberally in his will.

In June 1569 Gresham was entrusted with the custody of Lady Mary, sister of Lady Jane Grey [see Keys, Lady Mary], who had offended the queen by an imprudent marriage, in August 1565, with Martin Keys, the serjeant-porter, and had been in the custody since that date first of Mr. Hawtrey of Chequers, Buckinghamshire, and afterwards of the Duchess of Suffolk. Gresham, the lady's third gaoler, performed his duties strictly. He even asked Cecil's permission to allow his prisoner to put on mourning on the occasion of her husband's death. The restraint thus imposed on his movements and those of his wife became very irksome, and Gresham begged the queen to relieve him of the charge. He repeatedly requested Cecil or the Earl of Leicester to bear in mind his (and his wife's) 'sewte for the removing of my Lady Marie Grey.' On 15 Sept. 1570 he pleads that his wife `would gladly ride into Norfolk to see her old mother, who was ninety years old, and very weak, not like to live long.' His appeals cease in 1573, when it may be presumed that he obtained the sought-for relief (cf. Gresham's letter to the Earl of Leicester, 29 April 1572, Notes and Queries, 4th ser. x. 71).

Clough died at Hamburg in the summer of 1570, and left two wills. By the second he bequeathed to his master, Sir Thomas Gresham, all his movable goods, to discharge his conscience of certain gains which he had acquired when in his service. It is satisfactory to find that Gresham did not take advantage of this bequest, but that an earlier will was proved by which the property was left to Clough's relations.

Queen Elizabeth visited Gresham in August 1573 at his house at Mayfield. About May 1575 Gresham entertained her again at his house at Osterley. For her entertainment he exhibited a play and pageant written by his friend and Antwerp comrade, Thomas Churchyard (Churchyard, The Devises of Warre, and a play at Awsterley: her Highness being at Sir Thomas Gresham's), Fuller relates a well-known anecdote in connection with this visit. The queen 'found fault with the court of the house as being too great,' affirming that it would 'be more handsome if divided with a wall in the middle.' Thereupon Gresham sent at night for workmen from London, who worked so quickly and silently during the night that 'the next morning discovered that court double, which the night had left single before' (Worthies, ii. 35). During the queen's visit four 'miscreants' were committed to the Marshalsea for burning Sir Thomas's park pale.

One of Gresham's latest acts was to receive Casimir, prince palatine of the Rhine, on his visit to this country on 22 Jan. 1578-9. Stow describes his reception at the Tower by a party of noblemen and others, who conducted him, by the light of cressets and torches, to Gresham House. Gresham welcomed him with 'sounding of trumpets, drums, fifes, and other instruments,' and here he was lodged and feasted for three days.

Gresham died suddenly on 21 Nov. 1579, apparently from a fit of apoplexy, as he returned from the afternoon meeting of the merchants at the exchange. He was buried on 15 Dec. in the church of St. Helen, Bishopsgate, beneath a tomb which he had prepared for himself during his lifetime. According to the directions of his will his body was followed to the grave by two hundred poor men and women clothed in black gowns. His funeral was conducted on a scale of unusual splendour, the expenses amounting to 800l. His altar-shaped tomb of alabaster, with a top slab of black marble, is in the east corner of the church. Until 1736 it bore no inscription, but the following entry in the burial register was then cut into the top of the tomb: ` Sr Thomas Gresham, Knight, buryd Decembr the 15th 1579.' A large stained-glass window close by contains his arms and those of the Company of Mercers.

Gresham's character exhibits shrewdness, self-reliance, foresight, and tenacity of purpose, qualities which, coupled with great diligence and an inborn love of commerce, account for his success as a merchant and financial agent. Sir Thomas Chaloner describes him as 'a Jewell for trust, wit, and diligent endeavour' (Haynes, State Papers, 1740. p. 236). His conciliatory disposition is proved by the confidence reposed in him by ministers of state, and by his successful dealings with the Antwerp capitalists. His patriotism and benevolence are attested by his disposition of his property. As we have seen, he was not over-scrupulous in his commercial dealings. He profited by the financial embarrassments of his sovereign, and with the connivance, sometimes by the direct authority, of his own government made it his practice to corrupt the servants and break the laws of the friendly power with which he