Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Chancellor, Richard

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CHANCELLOR, RICHARD (d. 1556), navigator, accompanied 'Roger Bodenham with the great Barke Aucher' on a journey to Condia and Chio in 1550. He was in 1553 chosen to be captain of the Edward Bonaventure, and 'pilot-general' of the expedition which was fitted out under the command of Sir Hugh Willoughby [q. v.] in the Bona Esperanza, 'for the search and discovery of the northern part of the world,' and especially to look for a north-east passage to India. Chancellor is described as 'a man of great estimation for many good parts of wit,' and as having been 'brought up by one Master Henry Sidney,' the father of the better known Sir Philip. He seems to have been a seafaring man. Sidney said in commending him to the merchants adventurers in this expedition: 'I rejoice in myself that I have nourished and maintained that wit, which is like by some means and in some measure to profit and stead you in this worthy action. ... I do now part with Chancellor, not because I make little reckoning of the man, or because his maintenance is burdenous and chargeable unto me. . . You know the man by report, I by experience; you by words, I by deeds; you by speech and company, but I by the daily trial of his life have a full and perfect knowledge of him.'

The ships, victualled for eighteen months, dropped down the river on 20 May, but were delayed for several days at Harwich, waiting for a fair wind. During this time it was discovered that a considerable part of the provisions was bad, and that the wine casks were leaking. It was, however, too late to get the evil remedied before the expedition finally sailed. In a violent gale of wind off the Lofoden Islands the ships were separated, nor did they again meet. Vardohuus had been given by the general as a rendezvous, and thither Chancellor made his way; but after waiting there seven days without hearing anything of the other ships he determined to push on alone, and came some days later into the White Sea. Thence he was permitted and invited to go overland to Moscow, where he was entertained by the emperor, and obtained from him a letter to the king of England, granting freedom and every facility of trade to English ships. Of the barbaric splendour of the Russian court, of the manners, religion, and laws of the Russian people, of the Russian towns and trade, an account, furnished by Chancellor and his companions, and written by Clement Adams [q. v.], was published in Hakluyt's 'Navigations,' and is curious, as the earliest account of a people then little known and still on the confines of barbarism. It was not till the following spring that Chancellor rejoined his ship, which had wintered in the neighbourhood of the modern Archangel, and in the course of the summer of 1554 he returned to England. His voyage, his discovery of a convenient port, and his successful negotiation at Moscow, at once opened the Russian trade, and led to the establishment of the Muscovy Company. Chancellor himself, still in the Edward Bonaventure, made a second voyage to the White Sea in the summer of 1555. He was at Moscow in November 1555, and on 25 July 1556 started in the Bonaventure on his journey home. The ship was cast away off Pitsligo (10 Nov.) on the coast of Aberdeenshire in Aberdour Bay. Chancellor and the greater part of the crew perished with her. Of his family nothing is known, except that in 1553 he had two sons, still boys, of whose orphanage he is said to have had a melancholy oreboding. The orthography of his name, too, is quite uncertain. No signature seems to be extant. Hakluyt, whose spelling of names is always wild, wavers between Chanceler and Chancelour, and Clement Adams latinises it as Cancelerus. Hakluyt prints Chancellor’s ‘Booke of the great and mighty Emperor of Russia . . .’ dedicated to the author’s uncle, Christopher Frothingham.

[Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, &c. vol. i.]

J. K. L.