Windebank, Francis (DNB00)
|←Winchester, John||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62
WINDEBANK, Sir FRANCIS (1582–1646), secretary of state, born in 1582, was the only son of Sir Thomas Windebank and his wife Frances, younger daughter of Sir Edward Dymoke of Scrivelsby, Lincolnshire (Metcalfe, Visit. of Lincolnshire, p. 42; Lodge, Scrivelsby, 1893, p. 71). His grandfather, Sir Richard Windebank, was serving at Calais in 1533 (Chron. of Calais, p. 137; Letters and Papers, xv. 750), at Guisnes in 1541, and was knighted in 1544. He acquired lands at Hougham, Lincolnshire (ib. xv. 831 ), and in 1547 was one of the council at Boulogne; he was deputy of Guisnes at the end of Edward's reign, and proclaimed Mary on 24 July 1553. He was in 1556 granted an annuity of a hundred marks for his ‘age and long service,’ but was still acting as deputy of Guisnes in 1560. His wife Margaret, daughter of Griffith ap Henry, was buried in St. Edmund's, Lombard Street, on 10 Dec. 1558 (Strype, Eccl. Mem. iii. i. 22, ii. 174, Annals, i. 46; Cotton MS. Titus B. ii. f. 206; Cal. State Papers, For. 1547–53, p. 294; Acts P. C. 1554–6, p. 383; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. i. 23, 150). His son Sir Thomas owed his fortunes largely to his Lincolnshire neighbour, Sir William Cecil, who secured his appointment to the fourth stall in Worcester Cathedral in 1559, and sent him as travelling companion to his son Thomas (afterwards Marquis of Exeter). Many of Windebank's letters, describing his vain efforts to keep his charge straight and teach him French, and their travels in France and Germany during 1561 and 1562, are extant in the Record Office. He also took every opportunity of sending his patron lemon trees, myrtle trees, and tracts on canon and and civil law (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–1580, pp. 177–202). After his return he was made clerk of the signet, and occasionally acted as clerk of the privy council. He continued his friendly relations and correspondence with Burghley until the latter's death, and afterwards with Sir Robert Cecil (cf. Harl. MS. 6995, arts. 31, 39, 47, 49, letters wrongly ascribed to Sir Francis Windebank). He was knighted by James I on 23 July 1603, settled at Haines Hall, Berkshire, and died on 24 Oct. 1607. He left one son, Francis, and three daughters, of whom Mildred (d. 1630) married Robert Read of Linkenholt, Hampshire, and was mother of Thomas Read or Reade [q. v.] the royalist (Inq. post mortem, 6 James I, pt. ii. No. 200; Harl. MS. 1551, f. 57 b; Egerton Papers, pp. 134–5; Burgon, Gresham, i. 422 sqq.; Court and Times of James I, i. 175; Cal. State Papers, 1547–1610, passim; Cal. Hatfield MSS. vols. i–vii. passim).
Francis was baptised at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London, on 21 Aug. 1582 (Register, Harl. Soc., p. 15), and on 18 May 1599 matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. on 26 Jan. 1601–2, and in the same year was entered a student in the Middle Temple. While at St. John's Windebank came much into contact with Laud, who exercised great influence upon his views and subsequent career. On 21 Feb. 1604–5 his father procured for him a grant of a clerkship of the signet, in reversion after Levinus Munck and Francis Gage, who themselves held only a reversionary interest in the office; and this somewhat distant prospect was no bar to a few years' sojourn on the continent. In the autumn of 1605 Windebank was at Paris, which he proposed to leave on 29 Jan. 1605–6 ‘to avoid the profligate English;’ the summer he spent in Germany, and the following winter in Italy; he was at Lucca in July 1607, and at Piacenza in October, returning to England in February 1607–8. Though the clerkship of the signet did not fall to him for some years, he was almost at once employed in that office. In 1629 he spoke of having served ‘nigh three apprenticeships’ (probably nearly twenty-one years) in the clerkship, and having passed through ‘the active and strict times of Lord Salisbury without check’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1628–9, p. 252), and he first got access to the king in 1611 (ib. 1611–18, p. 71). He was placed on the commission of the peace for Berkshire, and became clerk of the signet before 1624. He also served on various other commissions, in one of which George Wither [q. v.] was a colleague (12 Feb. 1627–8; ib. 1627–8, p. 557), and was able to befriend John Florio [q. v.] and Laud, who afterwards spoke of Windebank's ‘great love and care’ during his ‘great extremity,’ probably in 1614 (ib. 1619–23 p. 101, 1629–1631 p. 297).
Windebank's political importance had, however, been very slight, and the court was considerably surprised when, on 12 June 1632, Sir John Coke [q. v.] informed him that the king had ‘taken notice of his worth and long service,’ and selected him as Coke's colleague in the secretaryship in succession to Dudley Carleton, lord Dorchester [q. v.] He was sworn in ‘in the inner Star Chamber,’ took his seat at the council on the 15th, and was knighted on the 18th. Sir Thomas Roe [q. v.], himself a disappointed candidate, wrote, ‘There is a new secretary brought out of the dark.’ Windebank owed his appointment partly to Laud's friendship, but more to the influence of Richard Weston, first earl of Portland [q. v.], and Francis, lord Cottington [q. v.], with whose Spanish sympathies and Roman catholic tendencies he was in partial if not in full accord. The three formed an inner ring in the council, by whose advice Charles was mainly guided till 1640, and with whose help he frequently carried on negotiations unknown and in opposition to the rest of the council. He was one of those of whom Fontenay said in 1634, ‘L'interest les fait espagnolz, tirans plusieurs notables avantages du commerce et des passeports que le Cte d'Olivarès accorde aux marchands qui négotient pour eux’ (Ranke, v. 447). In 1633 he, Portland, and Cottington were appointed to negotiate in secret with the Spanish ambassador Necolalde (see Addit MS. 32093, ff. 57–91), and in March 1635 with Richelieu's envoy, the Marquis of Seneterre. On Port- land's death, in that month, he was one of the commissioners to whose hands the treasury was entrusted, and his conduct in this office led to a breach of his long standing friendship with Laud. The cause was Windebank's consistent support of Cottington over the soap monopoly and his opposition to the archbishop's endeavours to check the peculation and corruption rampant in high quarters.
Windebank's Roman catholic tendencies found vent in his negotiations with the papal agent, Gregorio Panzani, with whom he was appointed by Charles in December 1634 to discuss the possibility of a union between the Anglican and Roman churches. ‘Morally and intellectually timid, the secretary was thoroughly alarmed at the progress of puritanism, and looked anxiously about for a shelter against the storm, of which he could avail himself without an absolute surrender of all the ideas which he had imbibed in his childhood and youth. By the side of Portland and Cottington he shows to advantage. If he was a weak man, he was not without a certain honesty of purpose; and if he missed the way in his searchings after truth, it was at least truth that he sought, and not pelf in this world and exemption from punishment in the other’ (Gardiner, viii. 90). Anxious for the reunion of the churches, he thought it possible, were it not for jesuits and puritans, and suggested that the latter might be got rid of by sending them to the wars in Flanders. He proposed the despatch of a papal agent to reside with Queen Henrietta Maria, pointed out to Charles the advantage of having some one to excommunicate unruly subjects, and referred to the sacrilege committed by ‘that pig of a Henry VIII.’ Later on, in August 1639, he talked to Rossetti, Panzani's successor, ‘like a zealous catholic,’ and offered to give him any information of which he stood in need.
Meanwhile, in 1636, Juxon vainly endeavoured to effect a reconciliation between Laud and Windebank, and in July of the same year the secretary was in temporary disgrace. He was confined to his house in August for issuing an order for the conveyance of Spanish money to pay the Spanish army in the Netherlands, but was soon at liberty. In 1637 Charles sent him to the Spanish ambassador Oñate to propose one more secret and abortive treaty for the settlement of the palatinate difficulty, and in the same year he was engaged in an equally ineffectual attempt to induce Dutch fishermen to take out English licenses to fish in the Narrow Seas. In July 1638 he was one of the committee of the council consulted by Charles with regard to Scotland, and, like Arundel and Cottington, he voted for instant war. In May 1639 he was directed by the king to spread exaggerated reports as to the number of men at his disposal, and in June supported a scheme for compelling the city of London to contribute towards their equipment and maintenance. On 9 March 1639–40 he was returned to the Short parliament as member for Oxford University, and on 16 April he read to the house the Scots' letter to Louis XIII. In May he conveyed a letter from the queen to Rossetti, asking him to write to Rome for help in money and men; and even in June he saw no difficulty in collecting an army to fight the Scots. His unpopularity was so great that in the elections to the Long parliament even Oxford University preferred Sir Thomas Roe and John Selden, and Windebank found a seat at Corfe, for which he was returned on 22 Oct. He did not retain it long; for on 1 Dec. Glynne reported to the house that Windebank had signed numerous letters in favour of priests and jesuits, and Hyde declared that ‘it was not in the wit of man to save Windebank’ (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, i. 212; cf. Prynne, Popish Royal Favourite, 1643, p. 22, and Rome's Masterpiece, 1644, p. 33). The house drew up ten articles, and sent for Windebank to answer them. The messengers were told that he was ill in bed, and that night he fled with his nephew and secretary, Robert Read, to Queenborough, whence he made his way in an open shallop to Calais (Addit. MS. 29569, f. 336 b; Harl. MS. 379, f. 75; Letters of Em. Lit. Men, p. 364; for the articles see Lansd. MS. 493, f. 188, Harl. MS. 1219 art. 29, 1327 art. 34, and 1769 art. 3).
Windebank's flight was the subject of some contemporary satire. In the ‘Stage-player's Complaint’ Quick refers to ‘the times when my tongue have ranne as fast upon the scaene as a Windebankes pen over the ocean’ (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. iii. 61); and in a print by Glover to illustrate ‘Four fugitives meeting, or a Discourse amongst my lord Finch, Sir Francis Windebanke, sir John Sucklin, and Doctor Roane’ (London, 1641, 4to, Brit. Mus.), Windebank is represented with a pen behind his ear. He was coupled with Laud in popular hatred, and in a ballad against the pair is described as ‘the subtle whirly Windebank’ (ib. 2nd ser. x. 110; cf. Cat. Brit. Mus. Satiric Prints).
From Calais Windebank wrote an eloquent appeal for compassion to Christopher, first lord Hatton [q. v.] He defended himself from the charge of having been bribed by the Romanists to introduce popery into England, declared that he held the English church to be ‘not only a true and orthodox church, but the most pure and neere the primitive of any in the Christian world,’ and that he had not added one foot of land to the five hundred pounds' worth left him by his father—a poor return for their eighty years spent in the service of the state (Addit. MS. 59569, ff. 336–7). He wrote in a similar strain to Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex [q. v.]; but at Paris, where he arrived early in January 1640–1, his behaviour belied the pitiful tone of his letters. ‘He is as merry as if he were the contentedest man living,’ wrote Aylesbury to Hyde; and the letters of introduction which, in spite of his hasty flight, he had obtained from Charles I and Henrietta Maria smoothed his way in the French capital, where he was not likely to be popular on account of his Spanish sympathies. Probably with a view to increasing his difficulties, parliament in 1642 published an account of an alleged plot hatched by Windebank against the life of Louis XIII and Richelieu because they refused open aid to the royalists (New Treason plotted in France, being the Project of Finch and Windebank …, London, 4to). He also appears to have had a hand with his friend Walter Montagu [q. v.] in a scheme for rescuing Strafford from the Tower (Harl. MS. 379, f. 88; Letters of Em. Lit. Men, p. 369).
In spite of the dangers on which Windebank dilated to his son (Addit. MS. 27382, ff. 239–44) he remained in Paris till his death, with the exception of a visit to England in the autumn of 1642, when he was refused access to the king at Oxford. He was back at Paris in July 1643 (cf. Cal. Clarendon State Papers, i. 243), and died there on 1 Sept. 1646, having shortly before been received into the Roman catholic church (‘Mem. of the Capuchin Mission’ apud Court and Times of Charles I, ii. 400–1; Dodd, Church Hist. iii. 59).
By his wife, whose name has not been ascertained, Windebank had a large family. Laud referred in 1630 to his ‘many sons’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1629–31, p. 297). He had five at least, and four survived him. The eldest, Thomas, born about 1612, was intended to follow in his father's footsteps. He matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford, on 13 Nov. 1629, aged 17, but did not graduate. In 1631 his father secured for him the reversion of a clerkship of the signet, and soon afterwards he entered the service of the earl marshal. In 1635–6 he was travelling in Spain and Italy, whence he returned to take up his duties as clerk of the signet. He was M.P. for Wootton Basset in the Short parliament of 1640, sided with the king in the civil war, and was created a baronet on 25 Nov. 1645. He compounded on the Oxford articles (Cal. Comm. for Comp. p. 1465), and left a son Francis, on whose death in 1719 the baronetcy became extinct (Burke). The second son, Francis, was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 19 March 1632–3 (Reg. 1896, i. 220), entered the service of Thomas Wentworth, first earl of Strafford (Strafford Letters, i. 256, 361–2, 369, 416), was made usher of the chamber to Prince Charles (ib. ii. 167), became a colonel in the royalist army, and was appointed governor of Bletchingdon House, near Oxford. This he surrendered at the first summons to the parliamentary forces in April 1645, and was consequently tried by a royalist court-martial and shot. He was married, and left a daughter Frances (Carte, Original Letters, i. 84; Dodd, iii. 59; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. i. 150; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661–2, p. 631). Another son, Christopher, born in 1615, was a demy of Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1630 to 1635 (Bloxam, Reg. v. 124–7). He was then sent to Madrid ‘to understand that court,’ and lived for a time with the English ambassador, Sir Arthur Hopton [q. v.] In 1638 he made an imprudent marriage, which cost him his post, and on 5 Aug. 1639 Hopton suggested that his wife should be placed in a convent. Subsequently, being ‘a perfect Spaniard and an honest man,’ he was found useful as a guide and interpreter by English ambassadors at Madrid (Clarendon, Rebellion, ed. Macray, bk. xii. § 103 note). The fifth son, John, baptised at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on 11 June 1618, was by Laud's influence admitted a scholar of Winchester in 1630 (Kirby, p. 174; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1629–31, p. 297). He matriculated from New College, Oxford, on 23 Sept. 1634, graduated B.A. on 5 April 1638 and M.A. on 22 Jan. 1641–2. He was fellow from 1636 to 1643, when apparently he went abroad. He compounded on 9 Aug. 1649, being fined only 10s., and was created M.D. on 21 June 1654 on Cromwell's letters as chancellor. In these letters it was stated that he had spent some time in foreign parts in the study of physic, and had practised for some years with much credit and reputation. He practised at Guildford, and was admitted honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians on 30 Sept. 1680. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 16 Aug. 1704 (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Munk, Coll. of Phys. i. 409; Chester, Westm. Abbey Reg. pp. 202, 204, 254, 347).
Of Windebank's daughters, Margaret married Thomas Turner (1591–1672) [q. v.], and was mother of Thomas Turner (1645–1714) [q. v.], president of Corpus Christi, Oxford, and of Francis Turner [q. v.], bishop of Ely; Frances married, on 12 July 1669 (Chester, Marr. Lic. col. 605), Sir Edward Hales, titular lord Tenterden [q. v.]; one died unmarried at Paris about 1650, and two became nuns of the Calvary at the Marais du Temple, Paris.[The principal authority for Windebank's biography is his own voluminous correspondence in the Record Office, of which only the Domestic portion has been calendared. See also Brit. Mus. Harleian MSS. 286 art. 179, 1219 arts. 29, 107, 1327 art. 34, 1551, f. 87, 1769 art. 3, 4713 art. 125, 7001 art. 90; Lansd. MS. 493, art. 39; Addit. MSS. 27382 ff. 239–44, 29569 ff. 336–7; Bodleian MSS. Rawlinson A. 148 passim, B. 224, f. 40 (notes of dates in his life), f. 41 (‘daily devotions ex autographo’); Tanner MS. lxv. f. 224, lxvi. f. 104, and ccxc. f. 59; Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ed. Macray, vol. i.; Rushworth's Collection of State Papers; Winwood's Memorials; Laud's Works, vols. iii–vii. passim; D'Ewes's Autobiography; Commons' Journals; Clarendon's Hist. of the Great Rebellion; Court and Times of James I and of Charles I; Anthony Weldon, Arthur Wilson, and Sir William Sanderson's Histories; Panzani's Memoirs, ed. Berington, 1793, pp. 190, 237, 244–5, and the Panzani transcripts in the Record Office; Dodd's Church History; Devereux's Earls of Essex, i. 489; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Off. Ret. Members of Parl.; Masson's Milton; Gardiner's History of England, vols. vii–ix.; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. iii. 373, 2nd ser. x. 110, 4th ser. ix. 394, 454, and 8th ser. i. 123, 150; tracts catalogued s.v. ‘Windebank’ in Brit. Mus. Libr.]