Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grey, Thomas (d.1614)

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GREY, THOMAS, fifteenth and last Baron Grey of Wilton (d. 1614), son of Arthur Grey, fourteenth baron [q. v.], by his second wife, served in the fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He succeeded his father as Lord Grey of Wilton in 1593; and, although he was anxious to gain a military reputation, prominently identified himself with the puritans. He took part as a volunteer in the Islands' Voyage of 1597. In October 1598 Chamberlain writes: 'There was some snapping of late twixt [Sir Francis Vere] and young Lord Grey, who went about [i.e. sought] to have a regiment, and to be chief commander over the English in the Low Countries' (Chamberlain, Letters, temp. Elizabeth, Camd. Soc. 24). Grey's ambition was not satisfied on this occasion. But when Essex went to Ireland as lord deputy in March 1599, Grey was one of the 'great troop of gallants' who went with him. Despite rumours that the queen withheld her assent (ib. 38, 42, 49), he received a commission as colonel of horse. Grey, who was by nature of a choleric temperament, did not find Essex a congenial commander. Soon after his arrival in Ireland Essex begged him (he writes, 21 July 1598) to declare himself `his friend only,' and to detach himself from Sir Robert Cecil. Grey declined on the ground that he was deeply indebted to Cecil. Henceforth Essex and Essex's friend Southampton treated Grey as an avowed enemy. In a small engagement with the Irish rebels fought in June `he did charge without direction' from Southampton, who was general of horse and his superior officer. He was accordingly committed for one night to the charge of the marshal (Winwood, Memorials, i. 47). The disgrace rankled in Grey's mind, and he henceforth sought opportunities of vengeance. In May 1600 he abandoned Essex in Ireland, and with Sir Robert Drury went 'over with twelve or fourteen horse to serve the states' in Flanders (Chamberlain, p. 75). His departure, and the reports of his misconduct in Ireland, temporarily excited Elizabeth's anger, but in July his friend Cecil sent Lord Cobham and Sir Walter Raleigh to meet him at Ostend, and assure him of 'the queen's gracious opinion and esteem of his poor desert' (Edwards, Raleigh, i. 317-18). This meeting at Ostend brought together for the first time Grey, Cobham, and Raleigh, who were afterwards charged with joint complicity in a treasonable conspiracy. It is, however, the only recorded instance of their coming together. Fighting under Prince Maurice, Grey took part in the memorable battle of Nieuport, 2 July 1600, in which the Netherlander gained a decisive victory over the Spanish forces under Archduke Albert. Like Sir Francis Vere he was in the thick of the fight, and was 'hurt in the mouth.' He sent home an account of the victory two days later. Grey was again in London early in 1601. The queen, aware of the bitter hatred subsisting between him and Southampton, seems to have personally warned each of them to keep the peace, but, in spite of the warning, Grey (in January 1600-1) assaulted Southampton while on horseback in the street, and was committed to the Fleet prison. Essex was deeply affronted by this insult to his friend. It confirmed him (he afterwards declared) in his resolve to forcibly remove from the queen's councils all his personal enemies. Grey was quickly released, and on 8 Feb. 1600-1 acted as general of the horse in the 'little army' sent out to suppress Essex's and Southampton's rising (Letters of Sir Robert Cecil, Camd. Soc. 67). On 19 Feb. he sat on the commission which tried Essex and Southampton at Westminster, and condemned them to death. When at the opening of the trial his name as commissioner was read out in court by the clerk, Essex, according to an eye-witness, laughed contemptuously and 'jogged Southampton by the sleeve.' In May 1602 Grey returned to the Low Countries, but he was disappointed at the little consideration shown him by the leaders of the States General. He attributed his neglect to Sir Francis Vere's jealousy, and came home in October much embittered against Vere. Early in 1603 Elizabeth granted him lands worth 500l. a year 'to hold him up a while longer,' according to Chamberlain.

On the death of Elizabeth (24 March 1602-3) Grey attended the hasty meeting of the council, at which it was resolved 'to maintain and uphold King James's person and estate,' and the proclamation thereupon issued bore Grey's signature. According to one account of the proceedings of this meeting, Grey, 'like a zealous patriot, stood up and desired that articles might be sent to the king for the reservation of the liberties and 'fundamental laws of the kingdom;' but Sir; John Fortescue alone supported Grey's motion (cf. Wharton MS. in Bodl. Libr. lxxx. f. 439, quoted in Edwards, ii. 474). Grey obviously did not view James's accession with equanimity. A casual meeting with his enemy Southampton, who had been lately released from the Tower, in the audience-chamber of Queen Anne at Windsor in June 1603, seems to have intensified his dislike of the new regime. He complained of the Scotchmen crowding to court in search of office. His friend, George Brooke, Lord Cobham's brother, who was similarly discontented, had fallen in with William Watson, a secular priest, Sir Griffin Markham, and other catholics, who were plotting to seize the king, and obtain from him promises of toleration for the catholics by personally intimidating him. Grey's pronounced puritan opinions could not have allowed him to sympathise with the aims of these conspirators, but he allowed Brooke to introduce him to Markham and his allies, and seems to have assented to the desirability of forcing on James's notice a petition for general toleration. Grey was clearly not so enthusiastic as his colleagues wished; he did not conceal his dislike of their religious views, and he afterwards declared that he contemplated disclosing their designs to the government. Watson, on the other hand, proposed to his catholic friends that Grey should be induced to take the chief part in the projected seizure of the king's person, and that they should be at hand to rescue James from Grey's hands so that they might pose as patriotic catholics, and gain increased influence in the country and at court. Before the day (24 June 1603) for the attack arrived Grey announced his refusal to take any part in it. By that time the government knew all, and the conspirators fled without attempting anything. Grey seems to have hurried to Sluys, but he was arrested there in July, and was brought prisoner to the Tower of London (July). When interrogated by the lieutenant of the Tower (3 Aug.), he denied any traitorous intention, but in a letter to his mother he wrote that he had come within 'danger of law' through investigating the aims of the catholics in the interest of James I. Coke drew up an `abstract of treasons' in which Grey was stated to have engaged to bring together a hundred gentlemen of quality for the purpose of seizing the king. The plot in which Grey was involved was known as the `Bye' or `Priest's' plot. Another plot, known as the Main or Cobham's plot, had been tracked out at the same time, with the result that Cobham [see Brooke, Henry, d. 1619] and Raleigh were arrested soon after Grey, Markham, and their friends. The government tried to identify the two conspiracies, but Grey was undoubtedly innocent of all complicity with Cobham and Raleigh. Nevertheless Grey and Cobham were tried together at Winchester (18 Nov.) before a court composed of thirty-one peers, presided over by the chancellor. Grey made a spirited defence, which occupied the best part of the day, and referred to the patriotic services of his ancestors. He was condemned to death, and on 10 Dec. he and Cobham and Markham were taken to the scaffold. But after each had made a declaration of innocence, a reprieve was announced, and they were taken once again to the Tower of London. Grey had haughtily declined to beg for his life, but after his return to the Tower he wrote to thank the king for his clemency, and presented many petitions subsequently for his release. He was allowed to correspond with friends, and watched with interest the course of the war in the Low Countries. In 1613, when Frederic, the elector palatine, came to England to marry the Princess Elizabeth, he appealed to James to grant Grey's release. The elector had no personal knowledge of Grey, but had learned much of him from Prince Maurice and other generals under whom Grey had served. James indignantly refused the elector's request, and Grey is said to have been kept subsequently in more rigorous confinement, on the specious ground that he had 'had conference with' one of the women-attendants of Lady Arabella Stuart, a fellow-prisoner. He died in the Tower, after eleven years' imprisonment, on 9 July 1614.

The barony of Grey of Wilton became extinct at his death. Of the family estates, Wilton Castle, on the Wye, had been alienated before the attainder of 1603 to Grey Brydges, fifth lord Chandos [q. v.] The confiscated estates of Whaddon were granted to George Villiers, the king's favourite. Many of Grey's papers passed, through a sister, to the Wharton family, and thence to Carte the historian; they are now among the Carte MSS. at the Bodleian Library. Others of Grey's letters are at Hatfield.

[Brydges's Memoirs of the Peers of England during James I's reign, 1802, i. 75-82; Edwards's Life of Raleigh, passim, but especially ii. 469-83, where Grey's connection with the Bye plot is fully discussed, and a letter of his given in facsimile; Gardiner's Hist. i. 110, 138-9; Stow's Chronicle, s.a. 1603; Chamberlain's Letters, temp. Eliz. (Camd. Soc.); Sir R. Cecil's Letters (Camd. Soc.); Cal. State Papers, 1588-1614 ; Winwood's Memorials.]

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