Taylor, John (1600?-1655) (DNB00)

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TAYLOR, JOHN (1600?–1655), diplomatist, the eldest son of John Taylor (d. 1616) of Kingsnorth, Kent, by his wife Anne (d. 1623), daughter of William Austen of Goudhurst, was born about 1600, and in 1619 was admitted a student at the Inner Temple (Cooke, Students admitted to the Inner Temple, p. 226; Hasted, Kent, iii. 112, 284; Berry, Kent Genealogies, pp. 162–3). He does not seem to have been called to the bar, but became a good linguist, and about 1627 secured government employment in foreign embassies, probably at Brussels and in Spain, where he was said to have been bred (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 327). In 1634, though he was said to ‘have nothing but language to help himself,’ he was appointed interpreter to the English ambassador at Madrid (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1634–5, p. 195; Strafford Papers, i. 112, 119). For his services, dating from 13 July 1634 to 24 May 1635, he was paid 200l. While at Madrid he sent plans to Wentworth for fostering English trade with Spain and the Canaries (ib. i. 95, 104). On his return to England in 1635 he was selected for an important mission to the emperor's court at Vienna. He was instructed ‘not necessarily to insist upon the restoration of the Upper Palatinate [to Charles I's nephew], but to press earnestly for that of the lower, or at least that it be temporarily sequestered to some neutral prince, and to endeavour to win the Spanish representatives to favour the sequestration.’ Taylor set out in September and reached Vienna on 28 Nov. His own ideas went far beyond his instructions; ‘he was one of those diplomatists who find their whole happiness in the success of the mission committed to them; who accept as genuine all the overtures made to them. … In Vienna he fell in with John Leslie, one of the agents in the murder of Wallenstein, who at that time was in high favour with the court, and who introduced Taylor at the different princely houses, and procured him a good reception there. They both thought the alliance of Charles I with the house of Austria the only hope of the world’ (Ranke, Hist. of England, ii. 25). With these aspirations Taylor used language which led the imperial court to believe that England was prepared to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with the emperor. For this indiscretion he was severely censured by the English government, but he remained at his post until January 1638–9, when the failure of his mission and continued zeal for the Anglo-Austrian alliance caused his recall. He reached England in May, and, after various examinations on the conduct of his mission, he was committed to the Tower in September and his books and papers in the Inner Temple were seized.

In spite of repeated petitions to Windebank, Taylor remained in the Tower some months. He was probably released before the outbreak of the civil war, and apparently retreated to the continent. His ill-treatment did not prevent his adoption of the royalist cause, and during the Commonwealth and Protectorate he was actively employed in negotiating on Charles II's behalf with foreign courts. On 13 Sept. 1652 he was accredited royalist agent to the electors of Cologne and Mainz. He was, however, lightly esteemed; Hyde wrote, ‘If he were to be judged by his letters, I should believe him to be a fool,’ and described him as ‘a factious papist.’ Subsequently he was employed to collect money for Charles in Germany and again became agent at Vienna, where his brother was chaplain to the emperor. He died there in November 1655. By his wife, Jane, he had three children (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639–41, pp. 121, 208; cf. Hasted, Kent, iii. 112, 284; Berry, Kent Genealogies, pp. 162–3). Among the Clarendon papers, No. 1218, is ‘a long, minute, and interesting account of the whole of his negotiations at the court of Vienna … concluding with a summary review of the chief persons and powers with whom he had treated’ (Macray, Cal. Clar. Papers, i. 170).

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1634–41; Cal. Clarendon Papers, passim; Nicholas Papers (Camden Soc.); Thurloe's Memorials, i. 238, 467, ii. 469, iv. 103, 169; Strafford Papers, i. 95, 104, 112, 119, ii. 73; Laud's Works, vii. 253; Masson's Milton, i. 695; Addit. MS. 18827 ff. 15–16; Gardiner's Hist. of England, vol. viii.; authorities cited.]

A. F. P.