Walsingham, Edmund (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59
Walsingham, Edmund

by Sidney Lee
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticle Sir Thomas Walsingham (1568–1630).

WALSINGHAM, Sir EDMUND (1490?–1550), lieutenant of the Tower of London, was elder son of James Walsingham (1462–1540). The pedigree of the family, which is supposed to have originally come from Walsingham in Norfolk, has been conjecturally carried back to the thirteenth century. No documentary evidence exists before the fifteenth century, when the city of London archives show that Sir Edmund's great-great-grandfather, Alan Walsingham, was in 1415 a citizen and cordwainer, owning property in Gracechurch Street. Alan's son, Thomas Walsingham, a London citizen and vintner, was the earliest of the family to settle in Kent; in 1424 he purchased the estate of Scadbury at Chislehurst, and he added to the property much neighbouring land in 1433. He died on 7 March 1456, being buried at St. Katherine's by the Tower, and was succeeded by his son, also Thomas (1436–1467). The latter, who was Sir Edmund's grandfather, was the first of the Walsinghams to be buried in the church of Chislehurst. Sir Edmund's father, James Walsingham, was sheriff of Kent in 1497, increased the family estates, and was buried in the Scadbury chapel of Chislehurst church in 1540. Sir Edmund's younger brother, William, was father of Sir Francis Walsingham [q. v.], who was thus Sir Edmund's nephew.

Edmund obtained in youth some reputation as a soldier. He fought at the battle of Flodden Field on 3 Sept. 1513, and was knighted there. Subsequently he attended Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (June 1520), and at the meeting with Charles V at Gravelines (10 July 1520). He was a member of the jury at the trial of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521. Henry VIII regarded him with favour, and about 1525 he was appointed lieutenant of the Tower. That office he held for twenty-two years. He occupied a house within the Tower precincts, and had personal charge of the many eminent prisoners of state who suffered imprisonment during the greater part of Henry VIII's reign. Among those committed to his care were Anne Boleyn, John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More. The torture of prisoners was conducted under his supervision, but he is reported to have declined to stretch the rack, when Anne Askew was upon it, to the length demanded by Lord-chancellor Wriothesley. He retired from office on Henry VIII's death on 28 Jan. 1546–7. Meanwhile he had greatly extended his hereditary estates. In 1539 he received out of a grant of abbey lands nine houses in the city of London, and he acquired additional lands in Kent, including the manor and advowson of St. Paul's Cray and property in other counties. He was elected to sit in parliament as knight of the shire for Surrey on 17 Dec. 1544. He died on 9 Feb. 1549–1550, and was buried in the Scadbury chapel of Chislehurst church. His son erected a monument to his memory there in 1581. A helmet and sword still hang above the tomb. His will, dated the day before his death, was proved 8 Nov. 1550.

Sir Edmund was twice married. His first wife was Katherine, daughter and coheiress of John Gunter of Chilworth, Surrey, and Brecknock in Wales, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William Attworth of Chilworth. There were eight children of this marriage, of whom Mary, Alice, Eleanor, and Thomas survived infancy. Sir Edmund's second wife was Anne, daughter of Sir Edmund Jernegan of Somerley Town, Suffolk, a well-to-do lady, who married five husbands. She survived Sir Edmund, by whom she had no issue, until 1559, and was buried beside her first husband, Lord Grey, in St. Clement's Church in the city of London on 6 April (Machyn, Diary, Camd. Soc. p. 193).

Sir Thomas Walsingham (1568–1630), Sir Edmund's grandson, was third son of Sir Thomas Walsingham (1526–1584), Sir Edmund's only surviving son, who was sheriff of Kent in 1563, and was knighted ten years later. His mother was Dorothy, fourth daughter of Sir John Guldeford of Hempstead in Benenden, Kent. He succeeded to the family estates at Chislehurst in 1589 on the death of his elder brother, Edmund, and rapidly acquired a high position as a country gentleman, a courtier, and a patron of literature. He became a justice of the peace for Kent in 1596, and was favourably noticed by Queen Elizabeth, who visited him at Scadbury in 1597, and afterwards knighted him. In 1599 he was granted the reversion of the keepership of the great park at Eltham in succession to Lord North. He married Ethelred or Awdrey, daughter of Sir Ralph Shelton. On Elizabeth's death his wife, who was said to be a great favourite of Sir Robert Cecil, went to Scotland to attend James I's queen (Anne of Denmark) on her journey to London. Subsequently Walsingham and his wife were appointed chief keepers of the queen's wardrobe. Lady Walsingham received a pension of 200l. a year from James in 1604, and took a foremost part in all court festivities, frequently acting in masques with the queen (Nichols, Progresses of James I, passim). She remained on intimate terms with the queen until the queen's death in 1619. Sir Thomas represented Rochester in six parliaments between 1597 and 1626, and was knight of the shire for Kent in 1614.

Walsingham's relations with literature, by which he best deserves remembrance, date from 1590, when Thomas Watson [q. v.], the poet, dedicated to him his ‘Melibœus,’ a Latin pastoral elegy on the death of his cousin Sir Francis Walsingham, and introduced him into the poem under the name of Tityrus. In 1593 he offered an asylum at his house at Chislehurst to Christopher Marlowe [q. v.], and it was to him that the publisher Edward Blount dedicated in 1598 Marlowe's posthumously issued poem of ‘Hero and Leander.’ Upon the poet in his lifetime (Blount then wrote) Walsingham ‘bestowed many kind favours, entertaining the parts of reckoning and worth which [he] found in him with good countenance and liberal affection.’ George Chapman was another literary client to whom Walsingham proved a constant friend. To him Chapman dedicated in affectionate terms his plays called ‘All Fools’ (1605) and ‘Biron's Conspiracy and Tragedy’ (1608). Walsingham died in 1630, and was buried on 19 Aug. in Chislehurst church. A eulogistic epitaph was inscribed by his son on his tomb. His widow was buried beside him on 24 April 1631. He was succeeded by his son, also Sir Thomas Walsingham (d. 1669), who was knighted on 26 Nov. 1613; was vice-admiral of Kent from 1627 onwards; represented Poole in parliament in 1614, and Rochester in 1621, 1628, and in both the Short and Long parliaments; sold the family property of Scadbury about 1655; and was buried at Chislehurst on 10 April 1669, having married twice (Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Peter Manwood [q. v.], was his first wife). His son Thomas (1617–1690) married Anne, daughter of Theophilus Howard, second earl of Suffolk, and was buried at Saffron Walden. This Thomas's son James (1646–1728) was master of the buckhounds in 1670 and master of the beagles in 1693; he died, unmarried, and was the last male representative of the chief branch of the Walsingham family.

[Information for this article has been most kindly supplied by Mr. G. W. Miller and Mr. J. Beckwith, authors of the History of Chislehurst. See also Hasted's Kent; Archæologia Cantiana, xiii. 386–403, xvii. 390–1; History of Chislehurst, by E. A. Webb, G. W. Miller, and J. Beckwith, 1899.]

S. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.274
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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229 i 14f.e. Walsingham, Sir Edmund: for Somerby read Somerley